Sonoma Democrat > 19 November 1857
THE PILOT RECOVERED.
Truth is often stranger than fiction. The following thrilling incident, related with admirable spirit, is taken from the Newburyport Journal :
The day of miracles is past — so it has, and let it go; but so long as Michael Stephens, Jr., shall live, we shall look upon him as one risen from the dead. While we were all lamenting that this worthy man had gone, and the flags had drooped in mourning for the dead; while people were stopping each other at the corners of the street to talk over the matter, and some were raising a subscription for the benefit of his family—after we had published his obituary, and already had another paragraph written, calling for material testimonial to aid the widow and orphans—as suddenly as though he had fallen from the heavens above, Capt. Stevens, yesterday, at noon, appeared in our streets. Wildly the story goes about town ; speedily he is rushed home to a family mourning his demise; instantly the flags from half-mast are run hard up, and gladness is upon all faces, for the lost is found, and the dead is alive again.
With the tide of men moving to south-end, we go greet him and learn his story. Almost immediately after his companions had retired below, as he was standing in the quarter with the spy-glass to his eye, the main boom jibed over, striking him in the back of the neck, and sweeping him into the sea. Instantly the boat filed away and started off with a six knot breeze. He turned in pursuit, but one hundred yards swimming satisfied him that that was useless. He halloed; but the noise of the sails, the rushing of the waters, and the intervening decks shut off all communication. There he was in the midst of the ocean ; the boat receding, and no friendly sail in sight; it is not desirable to die, and he lay some time upon the surface, when, by and by, five miles away, a sail appears standing towards him; it is only hope; a faint hope, but the last. He did not swim to her, but reserved his strength, and when she was within two miles it was evident that she was going a long way to the windward. He then coolly—oh, how can a man be cool with the deep water below and naught but the deeper heavens above—coolly he struck off to head her off. For three-quarters of a mile or more he swam for dear life; but now he begins to fail. His legs are already cold and stiff, and hung down deep, the waves breaking into his mouth. ’Tis the last chance ; he raises his head and shouts; and a woman—a woman’s ears are always open to the cry of distress, God bless her! says, ‘”I hear a voice.” All hands look round. It is now or never; and as a last effort, he stretches himself above the waves and says, .“I’m drowning!” They hear—they see; “ease off sheets, up helm, man the boat!” It is done as quick as said—quicker than written. “ I shall drown,” calls the brave, struggling, but sinking man, “ before the boat can row.”
The captain turns the craft full upon him, and, minus of help, gives the helm to his wife, while with the coil of rope he stands in the bows. The rowers pull strong, but many yards are yet between them and the sinking man, when the vessels prow nears the spot, and with the captain’s call, “ catch hold,” the rope falls upon his head, and is turned around the wrist. The rope is paid out, the sails shake in the wind, and in two minutes more—after he had been in the water an hour and a half-—the captain and his wife pull him over the side, helpless; and for a long time clouded and wandering of mind.
This yacht proved to be the Bloomer, from Salem, Captain Dudley Davis, who was taking his family on a trip to Portland, Maine. He rendered all the assistance needed ; landed him in Portland on Sunday, and with the first train that reached here at noon on Monday, he was returned to his family —returned, to startle, to gladden, to change! Great God, what a change! The father, with three score and ten years upon him—the young wife stricken to the soul —the little children to whom home was gloomy—they can tell; we can’t.