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meridian of Greenwich 18 days from line.)

(I have given this week fully, as it is a fine example
of what could be done in re-rigging at sea on a

28th May.— Lat. 47° 30' S., long. 23° 31' E. Course S. 73° E. Dis-
tance 232 miles. A.M., strong wind N.N.E. and gusty. Set main royal.
P.M., moderate decreasing breeze S.W. Made all plain sail.

29th May.— Lat. 48° 29' S., long. 32° 51' E. Course S. 83° E. Dis-
tance 380 miles. Wind W.N.W., unsteady and gusty, light rain.
P.M., increasing with hard gusts.


(The log gives this run as 418 miles, but worked out
rigorously it only comes to 380. This is the biggest
day's work ever made by a Blackwall frigate.)

30th May.— Lat. 48° 7' S., long. 39° 9' E. Course N. 83" E. Dis-
tance 254 miles. and winds. Squally, snow at
times, split first jib and shifted it.

3Ist May.— Lat. 48° 7' S., long. 45° 35' E. Course east. Distance
258 miles. Wind N.W., strong and gusty with thick misty weather.
Shipping much water overall. P.M., strong and gusty with ram.
4 p.m.. heavy sea struck ship, flooding the cuddy and poop. Reefed the
mainsail and took in main royal.

1st June.— Lat. 47° 58' S.. long. 52'' 45' E. Course N. 88° E. Dis-
tance 288 miles. Strong N.W. wind and gusty with snow and hail
squalls. Tremendous sea following astern. Ship rolling heavily and
shipping seas.

2nd June.— Lat. 47° 2' S.. long. 58° 45' E. Course N. 89° E. Dis-
tance 241 miles. Wind N.W., fresh and gusty, set main royal. Found
fore lock of main topgallant backstay had carried away. Rigged and
set it up again. P.M., unsteady and squally with snow. Made sail to
main topgallant sail.

3rd June.— Lat. 47° 34' S., long. 65° 4' E. Course S. 83° E. Dis-
tance 256 miles. Fresh wind with hard squalls and hail. Split
fore topmast stunsail. In light sails. P.M., strong wind and squally
with snow. Furled mizen topsail. Heavy sea.

4th June.— Lat. 47° 11' S., long. 71° 10' E. Course N. 48° E.
Distance 256 miles. Wind W.S.W., unsteady, fresh and squally with
hail at times. Made sail to main ro3al.

(The week's work from 28th May to -l-th June totals
1925 miles. This is a verj^ fine performance indeed
for a little Blackwall frigate.)

lOth June.— Lat. 47° 10' S., long. 104° 52' E. Course S. 80° E. Dis-
tance 306 miles. Wind N.N.E. to N.N.W., increasing to a strong gale.
SpHt the mainsail and look it in.

18th June. — 8 p.m., sighted Otway Light.

19th June. — 2 a.m., sunk Otway Light bearing W.S.W. 6 a.m.,
hauled the mainsail up. In a heavy gust carried away new main
topmast staysail sheet and split the sail, at same time carried away new
jib pendant and split the sail. 7 a.m., sighted Port Phillip Heads and
pilot boat. Wore round on port tack and hove to for pilot. Mr. Hanson
came on board and took charge. Piped to breakfast, during which
rope of fore topmast staysail carried away, also starboard upper fore
topsail sheet. Tacked to N.E., shifted stavsail. Got the anchor ofl the


boards and got up more chain. 2 p.m.. put helm up and stood for
Heads. 3 p.m., passed through the Rip. 3.30 p.m., let go starboard
anchor, and paid out 60 fathoms of chain. Found ship dragging,
carried away lip of starboard hawse and started the chock. Let go
port anchor and paid out 45 fathoms to hawse. Continuing to blow
from S.E. all night with heavy gusts.

21st June. — i p.m., hauled alongside Sandridge Railway Pier.
(Start to Port Philhp, 72 days.)

Melbourne to London.

10th August. 1871.— Noon, anchored off Queenscliffe. 8 p m.,
Roberts, third-class passenger, taken out of the ship by police, his wife
accompanying him.

11th August. — 8.30 a.m., passed through the Heads.

16th August.— Lat. 48° 26' S., long. 163° 28' E. Wind S.W. Baro-
meter 3 a.m., 29.22. 7 a.m., shortened sail to lower topsails, now
blowing with terrific violence, ship laying over so that the water was
over lee rail. P.M., strong gale with hard squalls, very heavy sea.
6 p.m., made sail as required, split upper fore topsail.

22nd August to 3rd September. — Anglesey ran from 51° 50' S., 162'
25' VV. to Cape Horn. 3397 miles in 13 days, an average of 261 miles a

31st August.— Lat. 58° 42' S., long. 95" 48' W. Distance 294 miles
(best run of the passage). Winds N.W. to S.W., strong breeze with
hard squalls. Ship taking a great deal of water overall, starboard boat
on skids washed to leeward. Lee rail constantly under water. 6 a.m.,
struck by a heavy sea on weather quarter, much of it finding its way
below, filling cuddy and cabins. 8 a.m., heavy untrue sea running, set
main royal to keep her before the tremendous sea running. Shipping
much water over poop and main deck. P.M., hard squalls of snow.
Ship rolling heavily, taking much water over both rails, frequently
floating lifeboat on starboard davits.

3rd September.— Lat. 57° 29' S., long. 70° 47' W. Distance 285
miles. Wind S.W. Barometer at 4 a.m., 28.50. Wind increasing with
hard gusts, and squally with hail. Tremendous sea running, shipping
green seas all over main dock. Furled mainsail. 4 a.m., increasing
with hard squalls. Furled main topgallant sail but loosed it before the
men were off the yard and set it, finding she would not keep ahead of
the sea without. 6 a.m., a terrific high sea running, washing over poop
and rolling in on main deck. Sometimes 3 feet of water on the decks,
pressing in port awning cabin and damaging front of cuddy and filling
cabin. 8 30 a.m., struck by a heavy sea on stern, staving in deadlight
in port cabin and starting quarter gallery. P.M., very heavy gale with
hail. Ship with difficulty keeping ahead of the sea and rolling quantities
of water over everywhere, pumps kept constantly going all day, the


men never leaving them. Skylight washed off the poop. 5 p.m.. struck
by heavy sea on starboard side, completely staving m lifeboat, un-
shipping davits and starting the whole starboard rail. Cut remamder
of boat away to save the rail. Port upper fore topsail sheet gomg at
same time, turned the hands out and rove sheet and set sail agam. Set
fore topgallant sail. 7.30.. blew fore topgallant sail away. Sighted
Islands of Diego Ramirez, ported and passed them. 8 p.m.. shipped a
tremendous heavy sea, smashing main booby hatch. Furled foresail
and remains of fore topgallant sail. Midnight, pumps sucking.
(Port Phillip Heads to Cape Horn, 23 days.)

30th September.— Crossed the line in 27° 58' W.

29th October.—Wind S.W., 7.15 p.m., sighted Start light on port


(Melbourne to Start, 79 days.)

This voyage is a most rema'-kable performance, and
ha3 never been beaten by a Blaekwall frigate.

Captain Maddison was a real sail carrier, as can easily
be seen by the few extracts which I have made.

The Anglesey was a short, deep little ship with her
mizen pitched very far aft, her measurements being
182 feet long, 34 feet beam and 22 feet depth. To look
at she was very like Green's second tea clipper, the
Highflyer, which was launched nine years later, both
ships having the same cut away bow ; it is indeed highly
probable that Anglesey had some influence on the
design of Highflyer, though I have no evidence that
this was the case.

Anglesey was sold by Green about 1S74, and she
disappeared from the Register in 1882.

♦♦Roxburgh Castle" and Will Terris.

The Roxburgh Castle, launched the same year as
Anglesey, was a slightly larger ship, having 3 inches
more length, 5 inches more beam and 1 inch more

Will Terris started life in her, but his desire for a sea


life was soon quenched and he left the ship as soon as
she reached the Downs outward bound.

The Roxburgh Castle was a well known ship in the
Melbourne passenger trade, and along with the Anglesey,
Dover Castle, Monarch, Prince of Wales, and Lady
Melville formed one of Green's Blackwall Line of
Packets to Australia during the sixties and early

She was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands in 1876.

The "Northfleet" Tragedy.

The NorthJIeei, which made some remarkable
passages in the China trade, is chiefly notorious for the
tragedy of her end. In January, 1873, she anchored
off Dungencss when bound out to Tasmania with a large
number of emigrants, mostly railway navvies. During
the night she was run into by an unknown steamer and
sunk. The steamer, which was afterwards identified
as the Spanish Murillo, steamed away and left her to her
fate. The North] leet sank in half-an-hour, 293 of her
350 emigrants being drowned. Many of these would
have been saved if a panic had not started amongst
the emigrants, who tried to rush the boats. Captain
Knowles went down, revolver in hand, having done
his best to save the women and children; and his wife,
who was saved, was granted a Civil List pension in
recognition of his bravery.

The Famous "Kent."

The best known, perhaps, of all Wigram's
fleet was the grand little Kent, whose passages out to
Australia were simply marvellous considering her size
and build.

She was Wigram's pioneer ship in the booming
passenger trade to Melbourne, the port of entry for the


wonderful Eldorado of the mid-Victorian fortune
seeker; and as such she was the finest specimen of a
first -class passenger ship that Wigram's Blackwall
Yard could turn out.

Measuring 927 tons, she was 186 feet long with a beam
of 33 feet. Her poop ran almost to the mainmast and
she had a large topgallant foc's'le. She was, of course,
full in the bow compared to the Liverpool clippers;
she had the heavy square frigate stern with large stern
windows and quarter galleries, and great heavy channels
to drag through the water.

Her main royal masthead was 130 feet above the deck,
which gave her a tall sail plan for her size and length,
and her bowsprit and jibboom were of unusual length,
even for a Blackwall frigate. She came out with
single topsails, with the usual four rows of reef points.
Her yards were banded every 3 feet with iron, and
strength was given to her for sail carrying by every
device of the riggers' art then known.

For many years she was considered one of the finest
ships trading out of the port of London, which was
tantamount to saying that she was one of the linest
ships in the world.

And during her whole career she was always a "pet
ship" and a great favourite, both of her owners, her
passengers and crew.

Here is a Melbourne shipping notice of the year 1856 :

Blackwall Line of Packets. — For

LONDON direct— To sail in May—

The Magnificent armed Clipper ship


Al at Lloyd's, 1000 tons, George Coleman, commander, belongins;
to Messrs. Money Wigram & Sons.

This renowned Blackwall clipper now stands unrivalled in the
accomplishment of no less than eight passages to and from Australia,
the average duration of which has not been equalled by any vessel afloat.


She will be despatched from this port for London at the time
indicated above, and intending passengers should therefore ensure
superior accommodation by making timely application at the olEces
of the undersigned.

An experienced surgeon will accompany the ship.

Cabin passage, including wines, beer and spirits, 80 guineas.
Second cabin . . . . . . • • • • £35

Third cabin £25

For plans of the cabins, dietary scales, etc., apply to W. P. Whit^ &
Co., agents. Wharf.

The first point to notice in this advertisement is the
tall claim about the Kent's first eight passages. The
writer of a shipping notice was no expert at his job
unless he knew some way of showing up his ship and her
wonderful qualities: yet he dared not go beyond the
truth in claiming sailing records, or he would soon
have an irate correspondence to deal with.

The Kent, according to the testimony of her captains,
was a 12 -knot ship, and never logged 13 except for a few
minutes in some passing squall.

How then did she make her passages? In light
weather she would fan along in the faintest of airs
when other ships of her type were motionless, and like
another historic ship, the George of Salem, was rarely
known to lose steerage way. Twice she was 49 days
to the line from IMelbourne, and once she Avas 63 days
to the Western Isles, truly wonderful work for a ship of
her type.

This little frigate had the scalps of many famous
ships in her locker. Twice she beat the Marco Polo.
On the first occasion the two ships left Port Phillip
Heads together on 4th December, 1854 ; and after the
usual strong fair winds to the Horn they encountered
very light weather in the Atlantic, never reefing topsails
from Cape Horn to soundings.


This light weather was, of course, the little Black-
waller's opportunity, but the Marco Polo could slip
along in any kind of weather, and in the end the two
contestants arrived within a day of each other.

Kent landed her mails off Hastings on 27th February,
1855. 84 days out from Melbourne, whilst the Marco
Polo arrived in the Mersey on Wednesday evening, 28th
February, 85 days out.

The champions of Marco Polo argued that the
Blackballer carried 1000 tons of cargo besides her
passengers and drew 22 feet of water, whilst the Kent
had no cargo and only drew li| feet of water. In
1859 the Marco Polo again had to lower her flag to
the Kent, and this time she had the celebrated Blue
Jacket as a companion. The three ships left within a
day of each other, Kent from Plymouth and Marco Polo
and Blue Jacket from Holyhead, all bound for Melbourne.
When off the Island of Trinidad, the Kent entered the
northern semi-circle of a cyclone, and Captain Clayton,
whose first voyage it was in command, altered his
course so as to pass to the northward of the storm circle.
In this way he held a strong fair gale which kept the
Kent going at her top speed right down to the Cape.
Meanwhile the Marco Polo and Blue Jacket, steering to
the south of the centre, were held up by head winds and
made a very slow run between Trinidad Island and the
Cape meridian.

This gave the little Kent a lead of several days over
her huge and powerful antagonists; and making a
good steady average running the easting down, she
arrived in Hobson's Bay, 83 days out, beating the two
Liverpool clippers by several days.

The Kent's average to Melbourne was about 80 days.

On her maiden passage she left London 27th January,


1853, and arrived at Port Phillip on 20th April— 83
days out. On her second passage she left London on
26tii October, 1853, and arrived Melbourne on 12th
January, 1854 — 78 days out. On one occasion she
beat the clipper Empress of the Seas on the outward
passage ; this ship had a record of 66^ days to Melbourne
in 1861. Her greatest feat, however, was in beating the
tea clippers home from the line, which I have described
fully in my China Clippers.

It will also be noticed in the sailing notice above
that a cabin passage on the Kent cost 80 guineas. As
a rule with other ships this passage was a matter of
arrangement, the price depending a good deal on how
the ship filled up, but the little Kent was such a favourite
that a stiffish amount had to be asked for a first-class
cabin. Passengers had in those days to provide their
own bedding, linen and soap, but drinks were free,
champagne being provided twice a week on Thursdays
and Sundays. And Captain Clayton describes how on
these days the dinner finished up with a famous plum
duff which was always ablaze with brandy.

The Kent was a favourite treasure ship, the gold
being stowed in a strong room in the run beneath the
captain's cabin. A hatch led to this room through the
floor of the captain's cabin. This was caulked down
for the passage; then, on the ship's arrival in the
docks, the gold was transferred to the Bank in waggons,
protected by an armed escort. On one occasion she
had half-a-million in gold bars on board.

During the Trent excitement, at the outbreak of the
American Civil War, the North actually sent a cruiser
to the Channel with orders to seize any gold ship if
war broke out with England. This was in 18G1, and
the Kent arrived home soon afterwards with her usual


cargo of bullion, and Captain Clayton was considerably
surprised when old Money Wigram asked him anxiously
if he had seen anything of the Yankee cruiser.

The Kent was always a strictly disciplined ship and
a thorough Blackwaller in all her routine. No chanty-
inji was allowed : orders were carried out to the tune of
the bosun's whistle. Her bosuns were most important
petty officers, there being two bosun's mates, one of
whom had charge of the main and the other of the
foremast. They were always addressed as Mister.
The Kent's bosun, when in port, would always go off
in one of the boats, as soon as the decks had been
washed down, ropes coiled I'p and awnings spread, in
order to square up the yards. This was a most im-
portant function and required a most correct eye, for
the bosun would be sure to hear from the mate if one
of the yards was pointed the least bit too much or too

For a number of voyages a tall, active, powerful,
hard bitten seaman of a mahogany cast of countenance,
named Walker, was chief bosun of the Kent. This
man was such a sailor as it would be quite impossible
to find nowadays. His breed is as extinct as the dodo;
he was the beau-ideal of a sailor, a real Tom Bowling,
and could only have been produced in the foc's'le of a
sailing ship.

The Kent carried a crew of about 60, and from 8 to 10
midshipmen. The fiddler supplied the place of the
chanteyman. Topsail yards were always walked up
to the mastheads on the order to hoist topsails — passen-
gers joining with the crew in tailing on to the halliards.
Setting sail was always an inspiring scene, with the
fiddler scraping his best and the lines of men at "stamp
and go" on the main deck. The three topsails were





[To face Page 190.



always reefed simultaneously. Ten minutes was
considered time enough to put in the first reef, haul
out the reef tackles and hoist away. The Kent's first
captain was Captain Coleman; he was celebrated as a
polyphonist. He took her from the stocks until 1856.
Then Captain Brine had her for three years, with
Clayton as his chief officer.

Captain Brine was one of the real old sort. His
masts and yards had to pass the test of a plumb-line or
a sextant. The Kent had hemp rigging in his day, and
his masts had to be stayed to a hair ; so the handy billy
was not allowed much rest.

Captain Clayton succeeded Brine in 1859, and
celebrated his first passage out by beating Marco Polo
and Blue Jacket. He was a young man then, hardlv
more than a boy, and the command of a Blackwall
frigate was one of the plums of the Merchant Service,
so one may be sure that old Money Wigram valued
his capabilities very highly.

Captain Clayton.

Captain Clayton, who is still alive, is one of the
few left who saw sea life at the zenith of the Golden A^e
of Sail. He belongs to a different order of seamen to
that of the present day. All days, all periods have
their romance and great adventure, but that romance
was purer, less sordidly tainted by the desperate
struggle for existence in the days of sail. If more
strenuous in some ways it was less in others. The
equation of time was not so all important and conse-
quently human nerve was less strained, less overworked:
and experience soaked into one, it did not come in a
flash and depart leaving only a blurred impression.
These old seamen had great memories of great adven-


From here the ship went across to Java in ballast,
and as usual on that coast the whole crew fell down with
Malay fever, from which young Clayton did not recover
until the London's arrival at Hongkong. The next
port was Manila, whence they went to Sydney, where
the ship was sold in 1847.

In June of that year, Clayton joined a South Sea
trader, the British barque Statesman, of 343 tons,
Captain David Dewar.

The South Seas in those days were much as they were
in Cook's time. The chief trade was sandalwood,
which fetched £40 a ton in the Chinese market and
was chiefly used for idols and rich men's coffins.
Copra was not yet known as merchandise.

The agent of the Statesman was the celebrated Captain
Bobby Towns, one of the early merchant princes in the
South Seas. His interests ramified through all the
Islands. His white traders ruled heavenly paradises
or existed on sufferance in savage atolls throughout the
whole Pacific, before the advent of the missionaries.
Some of them soaked themselves in gin. The unfortun-
ate or those lacking in tact were eaten by their neigh-
bours; the fortunate lived in fatty degeneration as
petty kings; but few broke with the life; they could
not leave it in spite of months of isolation, of lack of
contact with their own kind.

Into the midst of this life the boy Clayton found
himself and in three years of peril and adventure grew to
be a man; a man of cool nerve and infinite resource,
and a prime seaman.

On her first voyage the Statesman went to the wild
New Hebrides for sandalwood; and at Aneityum, one
Captain Paton, a white king, filled her up for the
Hongkong market.


On her second voyage she was fitted for a more
adventurous undertaking. Her 'tween decks were
turned into a trade room containing old iron tomahawks,
bright calicoes, blue beads, knives of all sorts, gaspipe
muskets, fish hooks and a plentiful supply of pipes and
tobacco. And she shipped five whaleboats for trading
among the reefs ; one being a longboat fitted with mast
and sail. Four apprentices, well-born Colonial boys
all athirst for adventure, joined the ship — boys whose
names were afterwards well known in Colonial history.
And lastly she took aboard a number of time-expired
Loyalty Island natives from Bobby Towns' Lifu Island

Space will not admit of all Clayton's adventures in
the South Seas, of escapes from hostile savages, of
capsizes on boating voj'ages within the reefs, of narrow
squeaks from drowning and from sharks. Nor can we
detail the method of trading with a hostile shore, the
boat crews armed, and the boats kept with their heads
seaAvard, ready to pull clear of arrow flights or hurtling

The natives looked upon white men sometimes as
gods, sometimes as devils. The ship was considered
to be a giant canoe, and it was a never-ending source
of wonder that she did not tip up when the secretly
frightened islanders were induced to step aboard.
The cabin mirrors terrified all dusky visitors, and were
dubbed " black magic. ' ' The water showing transparent
in the Statesman's rudder trunk was another cause for
savage amazement. Indeed it was a life of danger and
excitement, of new experiences for both white and
coloured, of new wonders, new worlds, new peoples,
such as is no longer possible in these days when every
corner of our planet has been explored.


But Clayton was not of the mould of an island trader,
savage kingdoms with all their charms could not hold
him; he was too virile for the do Ice far niente island
existence, and so we find him in October, 1856, signing
on as chief mate of the crack Blackwall frigate Kent,
back again in civilisation, back in the whirlpool of life,
the calm, lazy backwaters of the islands with their
sudden tragedies and primitive passions a thing of the

Rowing a Thousand -ton Ship.

Clayton, when he took over the little Kent, had a
difficult task. She was a very favourite first-class
passenger ship and so he had to find favour with his
passengers; secondly, she was a very steady passage
maker, and he had to maintain her reputation. In
both of these points he was eminently successful. He
was also a sailor of ideas, who was not easily beaten by
adverse circumstances.

This was well shown on the passage when he reached
the Western Isles in 63 days, and then ran into a flat
calm. He at once decided to try and row his 1000-ton
frigate across the calm belt, and the experiment is thus
described by a witness in a ncAvspaper interview:—

There was a slow undulating swell from the westward: the ship just
had steerage way and no more.

Captain Clayton told his chief officer that he intended to try and
pull the Kent along until he got wind, and instructed him to rig stages
outside on both sides of the ship, about 2 feet above the water and get

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Online LibraryBasil LubbockThe Blackwall frigates → online text (page 15 of 26)