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Wreck Report for 'Maid of Orleans', 1885

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Unique ID:14999
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Maid of Orleans', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2553.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at Greenock, on the 21st of May, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captains CASTLE and HARLAND, and J. H. HALLETT, Esquire, as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the foundering of the steamship "MAID OF ORLEANS," off the Isle of Arran, Firth of Clyde, on the 13th of February 1885.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that the loss of the said ship was due to her having sprung a leak, and to the port boiler having shortly afterwards given way; and that, so far as appears, no blame attaches to the master, but that the owner is to blame for not having had her overhauled before sending her to sea.

The Court is not asked to make any order as to costs.

Dated the 21st day of May 1885.




Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report,













Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at Greenock on the 21st of May 1885, when Mr. Auld appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Orkney for the owner and master, and Mr. Aitken for the underwriters on the "Maid of Orleans." Five witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, Mr. Auld handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Mr. Orkney having then produced two witnesses, addressed the Court on behalf of his parties, and Mr. Auld having been heard in reply, the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions on which its opinion had been asked. The circumstances of the case are as follow:-

The "Maid of Orleans" was a wooden paddle wheel steam tug, belonging to the Port of Glasgow, of 63 tons gross and 3 tons net register, and was fitted with engines of 32 horse power. She left Greenock on the 11th February last to proceed down the Clyde, "seeking," with a crew of five hands all told, and about 15 tons of coal in her bunkers. In going down she encountered a strong breeze from the S.W., which obliged her to bring up under Cumbrae Head; but in the night of the 12th she arrived off Pladda, and remained there until 11 a.m. of the 13th, when, the wind having come on to blow more strongly, she ran for shelter into Whiting Bay, on the east coast of Arran. There she remained until about 4 p.m., when, having orders to be at Greenock on the following morning, she got under weigh and proceeded to the northward. At this time, we were told by the engineer, that there were from 13 to 14 inches of water in the bilges, but that did not strike him as extraordinary, as she always, he said, made a little water when the pumps were not working. About half an hour afterwards, when abreast of Holy Island, the engineer observed that the water had gained considerably upon them, and he accordingly informed the captain, who told him to keep the pumps attended to. Accordingly the bilge injection was put on, but this soon afterwards became choked, and when he had succeeded in clearing it, he had to put it on to the condenser, which was getting hot. In the meantime the water continued to gain upon them, and the wind being from the westward, the vessel took a list to starboard. About half an hour afterwards the bottom of the port boiler gave way, and the water all ran out into the bilges, which caused her to fall over still farther to starboard, until at length the water began to come in at the end of the shaft; and although the starboard boiler was emptied, and weights were carried over from the starboard to the port side, they were unable to right her, and the water continuing to gain they were at length obliged to take to the boat, and in about 10 or 20 minutes afterwards the vessel foundered.

These being the facts, the first question upon which our opinion has been asked is, "What was the cause of " the loss of the vessel?" The loss of the vessel seems to have been due to her having first sprung a leak, and to the bottom of the port boiler having then given way, and to the pumps also having become choked.

The second question which we are asked is, "Whether " she was in good and seaworthy condition when she " last left Greenock?" The owner and his servants have told us that when she left Greenock she was in a good and seaworthy condition, and that her loss was due to the extreme severity of the weather, which caused her to labour and strain so violently that she sprang a leak; but there was, in our opinion, nothing in the weather to account for the condition in which we find her just previous to her going down, the more so as she had, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., been lying in Whiting Bay, and consequently under shelter of the land. It appears to us that she must, when she left Greenock, have had some defects both in her bottom and in her port boiler to have reduced her to the state she was in in so short a time after leaving Whiting Bay.

The third question which we are asked is, "Whether " she was properly and sufficiently examined and re" " paired from time to time?" Mr. Mills, senior, bought her in March 1884, and it was admitted by Mr. John Mills, the son of the owner, and who seems to have had the entire management of the vessel, that she was not then in a seaworthy condition, her hull being in bad condition, and the brasses entirely worn away. She was accordingly put into graving dock, and from time to time money was spent upon her to put her into a state of repair; but it does not appear that she was ever, from the time she was purchased, submitted to a thorough overhaul and survey as she ought to have been.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the boilers were properly examined and repaired, " and whether the owner was justified in neglecting to " take any measures, other than filling up the boilers, " to test them?" The boilers, we are told, were second hand, when originally put into her some four or five years since, but how old they were at that time they could not say. When Mr. Mills purchased her the port boiler had a patch on the front of it about 20 inches long by 10 or 12 inches wide; and about two months before the casualty this patch gave way, and they had to put a longer patch in its place, some 3 1/2 feet long. After this the boiler was filled, and she continued running from that time to the time of the disaster, without anything being done to test the efficiency of the boiler. Now, although it is quite true that the new patch seems to have been properly put on, and that it was not there that the boiler gave way, the Assessors are of opinion that it would have been a proper and reasonable precaution, not knowing the age of the boiler, to have had it thoroughly overhauled and examined, if not when she was first purchased, at all events when the patch gave way, to see if there was any other defect at any other part, but this was not done.

The fifth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the engineer took proper measures to ascertain the " condition of the boilers from time to time?" The engineer, who was an unskilled man, and without a certificate, stated that he never examined the boiler, except on the occasion on which the patch was put on, and that even then he did not go inside of the boiler. We are, therefore, not prepared to say that he took proper measures to ascertain her condition from time to time.

The sixth question which we are asked is "What was " the cause of the vessel making water on the evening of the 13th of February?" It is impossible for us to say how the vessel came to make so much water, we can only presume that there must have been a leak in her bottom.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "What " was the cause of the pumps becoming choked?" The pump seems to have become choked by the small coal that had got into the bilges.

The eighth question which we are asked is, "Whether " every possible effort was made to ascertain the " whereabouts of, and to stop the leak; and also to " clear the pumps?" We have no reason to think that every effort was not made by the engineer to discover the position of the leak, and to clear the pumps, when they became choked; but the condenser had then become heated, and it was necessary to shut off the bilge injection, and during that time the water continued to gain upon them, rendering it impossible to save the vessel.

The ninth question which we are asked is, "What " was the cause of the port boiler giving way within a " short time after the vessel had sprung a leak?" There is no evidence to shew why the port boiler gave way, but it was no doubt due to some defect in the bottom.

The tenth question which we are asked is, "Whether " every possible effort was made to save the vessel? " We think that every possible effort was made, both by the captain and the engineer, to save the vessel, but the water gained so quickly upon them, that it was impossible for them to beach her before she foundered.

The eleventh question which we are asked is, "Whether she was prematurely abandoned?" She was certainly not prematurely abandoned, for she seems to have foundered within ten or twenty minutes of their leaving her.

The twelfth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the master and engineer are, or either of them, is in " default, and whether blame attaches to the owner?" As to the master and engineer, we are not prepared to say that any blame for the casualty rests with them. The owner, however, is in our opinion to blame for having sent this vessel to sea without having had the hull as well as the engines and boilers thoroughly overhauled, well knowing that she was a very old vessel, and that when he bought her she was in a bad condition.

The thirteenth question which we are asked is, "What " was the cost of the vessel to her owner?" Mr. Mills, senior, stated that he gave 302l. for her, and that he had since spent from 150l. to 200l. upon her to put her in good condition; but he produced no books, and kept no account of the expenses, and it was admitted that it was a mere guess. To this has to be added about 20l. for new hawsers and other materials, and about 30l. for his profit on the repairs that he had put into her, making a total of something like 500l.

The fourteenth question which we are asked is, " What was her value at the time she last left " Greenock?" Assuming that she had cost him from first to last about 5001., we have to set against this, the wear and tear during the twelve months that she had been almost continuously running. Mr. Mills said that he thought that he should have got 550l. for her at public auction, and that he would not have sold her for under 650l.; and a Mr. McKinnon, a large tug owner belonging to this port, told us that in his opinion the vessel, at the time of her loss, was worth between 500l., and 600l.; not that Mr. McKinnon had been on board her and overhauled her, but he formed his opinion simply from seeing the speed at which she went, and the way in which she did her work, which led him to think that she must be in very good order. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that this was a wooden vessel about thirty years old, and that there is nothing to shew that either the hull or the boilers were in good condition, as she had never undergone a thorough overhaul, since she had been bought by Mr. Mills; and the fact of her having foundered in such weather, as she encountered, is strong evidence in our opinion that she could not have been in very good condition. Under all the circumstances of the case, we are of opinion that, when she last left Greenock, she could not have been worth more than between 400l. and 500l.

The last question which we are asked is, "What " were the insurances effected, and how were they " apportioned?" We are told that there was only one policy upon the vessel, and that that was for the sum of 500l., and against total loss only.

The Court was not asked to make any order as to costs.




Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.













L 367. 2330. 180.-6/85. Wt. 403. E. & S.


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