|Description:||Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'True Briton', 1889|
|Creator:||Board of Trade|
|Copyright:||Out of copyright|
(No. 3765.) "TRUE BRITON." The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876. IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Sheriff Court, Greenock, on the 26th, 27th, and 28th days of March 1889, before ALEXANDER NICOLSON, Esquire, Advocate, Sheriff-Substitute of Renfrew and Bute, assisted by Captains DAVIES and RICHARDSON, into the circumstances attending the stranding and subsequent loss of the ship "TRUE BRITON" on the Marquesas Shoal, Florida Reefs, on or about the 29th January last. Report of Report. The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the "True Briton" was stranded and subsequently lost on the Marquesas Shoal, in consequence of the default of the master, Charles Torrance, in shaping his course too near the Tortugas, as there was an open channel 100 miles wide to the southward he could take, and neglecting to ascertain and verify his position when steering for the Straits of Florida, and hereby suspends his certificate, No. 27,548, for six calendar months from this date. Dated this twenty-eighth day of March 1889. (Signed) ALEX. NICOLSON, Judge. We concur in the above report. (Signed) THOMAS DAVIES, Assessors. GEO. RICHARDSON, Annex to the Report. This was an inquiry into the circumstances attending the stranding and subsequent loss of the British sailing ship "True Briton" on the Marquesas Shoal, Florida Reefs, on or about Tuesday, the 29th day of January 1889. Mr. Blair appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Spens for the owners, and Mr. Macdonald for the master. The "True Briton" was a sailing ship built of wood at Quebec in the year 1865, and registered in Liverpool, her official number being 31,542. Her length as per register 204 feet. main breadth 38 feet, and depth in hold 24 feet 25 tenths, Her registered tonnage being 1390.40. This vessel was a full-rigged ship, and belonged to Mr. Robert Hunter, of 67, Rue End Street, Greenock, and others, Mr. Robert Hunter being the managing owner. She had three boats, two of which were fitted as lifeboats, and a pinnace. They appear to have been properly equipped. She had three pumps, two fly wheels, and a windmill pump. She had four compasses, a binnacle, a tell-tale, and two spare ones. The "True Briton," being in Pensacola in the month of January last, loaded a cargo of pitch pine timber, and bound to Greenock, and being so laden, her draught of water was 22 feet 2 inches aft and 22 feet 5 inches forward. This vessel left Pensacola on the 25th January last, under the command of Mr. Charles Torrance, who holds a certificate of competency, No. 27,548, and a crew of 22 hands all told. On the way out of the harbour she lost one of her boats. She proceeded to sea, and at 10.10 p.m. Pensacola Light was dipping and bearing about N. 1/4 E., distant about 22 miles. The wind at this time was variable from the eastward, and the ship making various courses; at noon of the 26th, the sun being obscure, the latitude and longitude by dead reckoning was 29.30 N., and longitude 87.18 E. From this to noon of the 27th, although the wind had veered to the N.W., the courses appear to have been various, from S.E. to S.S.E., placing the ship at noon of this day in latitude by observation 28.3 N., and by account 28.9 N., longitude by account 86.34 west; at or about 2 a.m. on Monday a heavy squall struck the ship, spitting her fore and mizen topgallant sails and mainsail. The weather at this time is stated to have been very dirty, blowing hard with rain ; at noon of the 28th, the ship's position is given as being in latitude 25.21 N., and longitude 85.23 W. The wind now appears to have been about N.W. and the course steered E.S.E. It is also in evidence that the ship steered badly at the best of times, but worse now, being by the head. At about 1 am. on Tuesday morning, a hand was sent aloft to see if any lights were to be seen, a bright light being reported, the ship was brought to the wind and a cast of the lead taken, when bottom was found, according to mate's evidence, at 24 fathoms, but according to the master's, 19 fathoms, coarse ground, sand, and coral. Ship appears after this to have been still kept on an E.S.E. course. The lead was also kept going, and showing that the water was shoaling. At about 2.30, 15 fathoms were got. After this the hand-lead was used, and kept going regularly. At about 4 a.m., it is stated a white and red light was seen, and taken for a revolving light, and supposed to be the flash light in Rebecca Channel. The wind by this time seems to have hauled to the northward, as the ship, we are told, was put on a west course. About 5.30 a.m., soundings are given, 7 fathoms; at 6 a.m. the soundings decreased to 6.5 1/2 and 5 fathoms; and about this time a vessel is seen ashore with her flag flying. According to the evidence of Thomas Wall, A.B., at 6.30 he heard the man at the lead give 4 1/2 fathoms. Rocks were now seen some distance ahead, and broken water on the starboard bow. At about 7, the course was altered to S.S.E., and a little after 7 a.m. she struck the ground forward. The course was now altered, and, according to the evidence of Thomas Wall, A.B., who went to the wheel at 8 a.m., she was heading E.S.E., and he was ordered by the master to keep her E. by N. The ship continued to forge ahead for some short time, until eventually she unshipped her rudder and remained fast about 9 a.m. The Court was informed that about this time the boat of this other vessel came alongside, and her master stated that he had shown a red and white light as a signal of distress, his vessel being on shore. The yards were now hauled backwards and forwards with the object of trying to back the ship off, but no other effort appears to have been made at any time. The pumps were sounded, and the ship so far was found not to make any unusual quantity of water, and continued in this state until the second day. On the 30th, the ship was dismantled, and a wrecking schooner from Kay West was loaded with her stores and proceeded for that place, taking on board also a part of the crew. The remainder, chiefly the officers, remaining by the ship until the 1st March, when they were also taken off and conveyed to the same port. There appears to have been 6 feet of water in the ship when abandoned. The Court was informed she was not insured. An accusation of drunkenness was brought against the master by a part of the crew, but on this matter there was a conflict of evidence. The carpenter, boatswain, and 4 able seamen saying that he was more or less under the influence of drink at the time of the casualty. The first and second mates positively denying the accusation, and saying they never saw the master under the influence of drink at any time. It is evident that there was some ill-feeling on the part of the men towards the master. From evidence and certificates produced he has borne and unblemished character up to this time. At the conclusion of the evidence Mr. Blair submitted the following questions, upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court:— Questions. 1. Whether, when the vessel left Pensacola, she was supplied with proper and sufficient charts and sailing directions for the voyage to Greenock? 2. What was the cause of the vessel steering badly on the 28th January and thereafter? 3. Whether the master took proper and sufficient measures to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at 4 a.m. of the 29th January, and from time to time thereafter? 4. Whether the master was justified in assuming that the lights seen and reported were those in the vicinity of the Rebecca Shoal? 5. Whether a safe and proper alteration was then made in the course, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide, currents, and leeway? 6. Whether the lead was used with sufficient frequency? Whether sufficient attention was paid to the soundings, and whether the master was justified in neglecting to alter the course earlier than he did? 7. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept? 8. Whether, on leaving Pensacola, or during the voyage, or at the time of the casualty, the master was under the influence of drink? 9. What was the cause of the casualty? 10. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care? 11. Whether the master and officers are, or either of them is, in default? Answers to questions. 1. The chart said to be in use on the voyage and produced by the master, was a general chart of the Gulf of Mexico and West India Islands. The Court is of opinion that if this was the only one on board for these coasts, it was not sufficient for the safe navigation of the ship. There was no evidence as to whether any sailing directions were used or not. 2. The "True Briton" appears to have been always a bad steering ship, and on this voyage, having been loaded two and a half inches by the head, her steering qualities were not improved thereby. 3. The master stated that he had taken several casts of the lead to verify his position, but as the ship was not hove to and properly stopped, the soundings would have been unreliable. He also stated that he sent the second mate aloft to see for the Rebecca Channel Light. A light was said to have been seen, but the position and character of that light was not properly verified. 4. If the master had kept a careful reckoning from his last departure, and consulted his chart when he first took soundings, he should have known that he was to the north of Tortugas, and consequently, that the lights he saw were not the lights in the vicinity of the Rebecca Shoal. 5. If the ship had been where the master assumed her to be, the alteration might have been safe and proper, but as there were grave doubts as to her true position, it was very improper to make any alteration until he had ascertained correctly where he was. The master stated that he made allowance for tide and currents. 6. The lead was used after midnight, but, as stated in answer to question No. 3, the soundings obtained were not sufficiently reliable. The master was not justified in neglecting to alter the course when soundings were first obtained. 7. A good look-out appears to have been kept. 8. The evidence on this point was conflicting. The carpenter, sailmaker, and four of the crew stated that on the morning of the casualty the master was under the influence of drink, but the chief and second mates positively denied that they had ever seen him the worse of liquor at any time during the voyage. The Court, considering the animus which appears to have influenced most of the sailors, is very reluctant to accept their evidence as conclusive against the master, and declines to condemn without clearer proof a man who has so long borne an unblemished reputation. 9. The primary cause was shaping a course to pass too near to the Tortugas, and thereafter by not altering the ship's course when the first soundings were obtained, as it indicated that she was running into danger. 10. Having regard to the answers to the foregoing questions, the Court cannot say that the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care. 11. The master alone is in default, and the Court suspends his certificate for six calendar months. (Signed) ALEX. NICOLSON, Judge. We concur. (Signed) THOMAS DAVIES, Assessors. GEO. RICHARDSON, 54010—288. 180.—4/89. Wt. 23. E. & S.