The important lesson that Girard learned from this disastrous trading experience
was that Haiti did not need trinkets but food. He was resolved then to sell American beef and flour in exchange for sugar, coffee and cacao.
A series of voyages to New Orleans on vessels owned by Thomas Randall, who befriended the energetic Girard led to a highly profitable business association for both of them. Stephen Girard began to develop an appreciation for the potential of the American market, buying sugar and coffee in the West Indies to sell in the new nation, while in return shipping American goods to the West Indies, an arrangement that allowed him to quickly accumulate considerable capital.
As a consequence of his good work, Captain Randall promoted Stephen at every opportunity. And in a few years, he was given the command of a small vessel and sent on trading voyages. It was not done through smiles or making compliments or social maneuvers. Stephen worked harder that anyone on board and would volunteer for any job that was available.
July, 1774, Girard sailed for New York, taking with him sugar and coffee purchased with the proceeds of the sale of his Bordeaux goods. In New York he probably sought employment by some merchant who traded with San Domingo.
It was certain that Thomas Randall was fully confident in the ability of his young apprentice. Clearly it is not to be supposed that Captain Randall would esteem him so highly without first instructing him and testing him in the nautical knowledge of the day. A genius like Girard would learn quickly and well.
By the middle of April, 1776, Girard was at Cap Francais and a month later sailed from San Domingo, as master and half owner of the bateau La Jeune Bébé. (Which he had the pleasure of naming for a woman he had known in New Orleans) High winds and seas beset the boat from the start, and on the second day out, according to the log, a great wave "threw off two hogsheads of fresh water stowed to leeward." On the seventh day, "the sea frightful," says the log, several great waves broke over the ship, the third of which unwedged the masts, cracked the jury mast and swept overboard a third hogshead of fresh water stowed to starboard. The crew greatly feared that they would die of thirst.
Knowing that they would not survive with only one hogshead of water, Girard turned the ship into the port of Philadelphia. He explained his actions in this way:
"I believed that on these coasts I should meet with some vessels of the King of England which would supply me with water or grant me protection on entering some port.”