Tahiti

After taking counsel with his officers, he anchored the ship as far off shore as possible; loaded and ran out his two cannon from the bows; stacked his muskets on the poop; and warning the Islanders not to approach the ship at their peril, took one man with him, and setting the sail of his best whale-boat, steered straight before the wind for Tahiti, five hundred miles distant, to procure a reinforcement to his crew.

—The Town Ho’s Story

Lands visited. Though a mid-19th century whaleship has no need to touch at any port for provisions on her cruises of 3 or 4 years, carrying with her all the bread, beef and water needed, unexpected desertions or needed repairs may bring her to various ports-of-call around the world. It is well recorded that most whaling men did not return to the harbor from which they sailed in the same ship, i.e. most men deserted at some point on a 3 year cruise,[1] and so Tahiti was known as a reliable place to refresh one’s crew, either with native Tahitians or sailors of any nation temporarily inhabiting the port, waiting for a new job

The irony is, touching at a port is both an excellent way to replenish one’s crew and simultaneously an excellent opportunity for any sailor remaining on your crew to desert. Desertion was a concept we stayed away from in our game, simply because less sailors usually equals less fun, and so it was conceptually tied to both Tahiti and The Azores, where sailors are recruited from the discard pile.

(see Nantucket, The Azores)


[1] Charles Olson, Call Me Ishmael (San Francisco: City Lights, 1947), 22.

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