The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.
IN the matter of a formal investigation held at the Magistrates' Room, Dale Street, Liverpool, on the 1st and 2nd days of May, 1901, before JOHN KINGHORN, Esquire, Deputy Stipendiary Magistrate, assisted by Captain W. ERSKINE and Captain HUGHES, into the circumstances attending the stranding and subsequent total loss of the British sailing ship "Stuart," of Liverpool (official number 76,549), at or near Porth Ty Mawr, Carnarvonshire, on the 6th day of April, 1901.
Report of Court.
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 stranding and subsequent loss of the said ship was caused by her being kept too long on the starboard tack. The loss of the vessel was caused by the wrongful act and default of the master and of the chief officer. The Court suspends the certificate of competency of the master, Robert Logan Mitchinson (No. 025,875), for a period of six months from this date, and the certificate of the first officer, Arthur Samuel Blues (No. 032,451), for a period of three months.
Dated this 2nd day of May, 1901.
We concur in the above Report.
E. M. HUGHES,
Annex to the Report.
This inquiry was held in the Magistrates' Room, Dale Street, Liverpool, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 1st and 2nd days of May, 1901, when Mr. Paxton appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Miller representing the master, while Mr. Pedder watched the case on behalf of the owners of the vessel, and the first and second mates attended in person.
The "Stuart," official number 76,549, was a British sailing ship, built of iron by Messrs. Alexander Stephen & Sons, at Dundee, in the County of Forfar, in 1877, and registered at the Port of Liverpool. Her length was 202.5 ft.; her main breadth, 34.2 ft.; and her depth of hold amidships, 19.1 ft.; and she had three masts and was barque rigged; her gross tonnage being 911.78 tons and her registered tonnage 881.58 tons. She was owned by John H. Lea and sixteen others, and Mr. W. M. Richardson, of 14, Irwell Chambers, Liverpool, was her managing owner.
The "Stuart" left Liverpool at noon of the 5th April under the command of Mr. Robert Logan Mitchinson (who held a certificate of competency numbered 025,875), and had a crew of nineteen hands all told, two of whom were apprentices, with a general cargo of about 1,000 tons, bound for Wellington, New Zealand, her draught being 15 ft. 9 ins. forward and 16 ft. 2 ins. aft. There were four compasses on board, viz., a standard compass on the bridge, a steering compass aft, and two spare compasses below. She was supplied with a patent log and also a handreel and glasses, and there was an old deviation card on board which had been used by a previous master. When the vessel left Liverpool she was in charge of a pilot and in tow of the tug "Knight Templar," the owners' instructions to the master being that he was to tow to Holyhead. The pilot left at 2 p.m. of the 5th April, and the tug cast her off at 1 a.m. of the 6th April, at which time the South Stack bore E. by S. 3/4 S. by the steering compass and by the standard compass E.S.E., there being about 3° of westerly deviation on that course, and distant about six miles. The wind, which on leaving Liverpool had been from the N.W., was now blowing fresh from S.S.E. and increasing fast, the barometer was also falling fast, and the master stated that he anticipated a gale or a stiff breeze, but the weather was clear, so that the shore lights could then be seen well, and he did not anticipate any danger, though he stated that had he considered himself entitled to use his discretion in the matter he would have kept the tug till off Tuskar Rock. When the tug left they had the fore and main lower top sails and the fore topmast staysail and inner jib sot, and the main upper topsail was set soon after, and the ship was then on the port tack keeping as close to the wind as possible, making about a S.W. course. The wind increased as the morning went on and shifted more to the south, and at noon the ship broke off to the west. Fr m 1 a.m. on the 6th to noon the master stated that four points of leeway had been allowed, and the mean course was W.S.W. At 8 a.m. a sounding had been got of 55 fathoms, and at 11.30 a.m. another of 30 fathoms, and this he said agreed with the position as ascertained at noon by observed latitude, which placed her in latitude 53° 14' N. and longitude 5° 38' W. (by distance assumed 27 miles), and also confirmed his calculations from observation as to her speed.
At noon the ship was wore round on the starboard tack, and she was then heading S.E. and S.E. 1/2 S. (magnetic), the tide which was then on the ebb tending to take her to the south, the weather being then clear and the wind having moderated. At 1 p.m. the inner jib and mizen staysail were set; the weather got hazy between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and then cleared up again, and went on getting hazy and clearing again at intervals, and the wind gradually veered to the westward.
Nothing was seen during the afternoon. At 8.30 p.m. the master before going below told the first mate to keep a good look out and to take a cast of the lead at 10 p.m. and report the sounding to him as he expected to see the Carnarvon Bay light between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., and he intended to wear ship at 11 p.m. At a few minutes before 9 p.m. the man on the look-out reported a light on the port bow to the first mate, who looked but could see nothing, and immediately after the lookout reported land. The mate then called the master, who came on deck. The weather which had not been very thick when he went below had become much thicker, and the mate having directed his attention to what had been seen on the lee bow, he made out that it was land. He then called to the man at the wheel to "hard-up," and as he got back to the poop he could see land all round. The ship when he came on deck was heading S.E. by S. 1/2 S. and she went off about two points, and the men had begun to handle the sails, but it was too late to get her round and she struck just off the mainland about 9.10. p.m. at Porth Ty Mawr, Carnarvonshire. They then burned blue lights to attract attention, but no assistance came, and at 9.30 p.m. as there was a big surf on the shore and the ship was bumping heavily on the rocks and making water, and there was a danger of the vessel going to pieces, the crew took to the lifeboat and drifted about till daylight. They then rowed back to the ship and took off the ship's papers and all the belongings of the crew, and landed at 10 a.m. on Sunday, the 7th April. The vessel has since broken up and become a total wreck.
From the time when the tug left them at 1 a.m. on the 6th April till the stranding at 9.10 p.m. on that day no courses had been set, and the ship had been steered by the wind during the whole of that time; no use had been made at any time of either the patent log or of the hand log which were on board, to ascertain the vessel's speed, which had been calculated merely from observation, and by a rough guess arrived at by looking over the weather side of the ship, and in this way they had fixed it at 2 1/2 knots—though from the evidence of Francis Mayer, who was at the wheel from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the 6th April, it was more probably from 4 to 5 knots.
The Court desires to add that it cannot too strongly condemn the utterly reckless way in which this vessel appears to have been navigated from the time when she was cast off by the tug till the stranding.—
At the conclusion of the evidence, the following questions were submitted to the Court on behalf of the Board of Trade:—
(1) What number of compasses had the vessel, were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel, and when and by whom were they last adjusted?
(2) Were proper measures taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at about 1 a.m. of the 6th April last?
(3) Were proper measures taken at or about noon of the 6th April to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel?
(4) Were proper measures taken to ascertain the speed of the vessel from time to time after she was put on the starboard tack?
(5) Was the lead used after noon of the 6th April, and if not, should it have been used?
(6) Ought the vessel to have been kept so long upon the starboard tack, having regard to the state of the weather?
(7) Was a good and proper look-out kept?
(8) What was the cause of the stranding of the vessel, and subsequent loss of the vessel?
(9) Was the vessel navigated with proper and seamanlike care?
(10) Was the loss of the vessel caused by the wrongful act or default of the master, chief and second officers, or of any of them?
Mr. Miller having addressed the Court on behalf of the master, and the first mate having intimated that he did not desire to make any observations, judgment was afterwards delivered as follows:—
(1) The vessel had two compasses on deck, one a standard (Sir William Thomson's), the other being a steering compass placed before the wheel aft. There were two spare compasses below. The master stated they were in good order, and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel. No evidence was given when or by whom they were last adjusted.
(2) Proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at or about 1 a.m. of the 6th April last.
(3) Measures were taken at noon of the 6th April to get the latitude. No proper measure was taken for longitude by dead reckoning to verify the position of the vessel.
(4) No measures were taken by log to ascertain the speed of the vessel either before or after she was put on the starboard tack.
(5) The lead was not used after noon of the 6th April. It should have been used.
(6) The vessel ought not to have kept so long on the starboard tack having regard to the state of the weather.
(7) A good and proper look-out was kept.
(8) The cause of the stranding and subsequent loss of the vessel was by her being kept too long on the starboard tack.
(9) The vessel was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.
(10) The loss of the vessel was caused by the wrongfu. act and default of the master and of the chief officer.
On the application of the master and chief officer for a mate's and second mate's certificate respectively during the period of their suspension, the Court stated that they offered no objection to the Board of Trade doing so.
We concur in the above Report.
E. M. HUGHES,
Liverpool, 3rd May, 1901.
(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the
21st day of May, 1901.)
9125—180—5/1901 Wt 99 D & S—1