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Wreck Reports for 'Mary Coverdale', 1885

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Unique ID:15005
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Reports for 'Mary Coverdale', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2796.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Public Board Room, Post Office Chambers, Middlesbrough, on the 12th and 13th days of January 1886, before CHARLES JAMES COLEMAN, Esquire, Judge, assisted by Captains PARISH and HARLAND, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the S.S. "MARY COVERDALE," of Hartlepool, near Hantsholmen Lighthouse, Denmark, on or about the 17th December last.

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 of the "Mary Coverdale " was brought about by reason of her master (Thomas A. Tait, certificate of competency as master, 010,054) neglecting to obtain proper sounds, and in carelessness in the navigation of the ship. The Court found him in default, and suspended his certificate for six months from this date.

Dated this 13th day of January 1886.





We concur in the above report.









Annex to the Report.

The "Mary Coverdale," official number 58,767, was an iron steam vessel, belonging to the Port of Hartlepool, in the county of Durham, of 792.79 tons gross, and 510.49 tons register. She was rigged as a schooner, and fitted with two compound surface-condensing direct-acting inverted engines of 90 horse-power combined. She was built at Hartlepool, in 1873, and at the time of the stranding was the property of Mr. Robert Hauxwell Coverdale (and others), who was appointed managing owner on the 19th March 1885. Her dimensions were: length 196 feet 2 inches, main breadth 28 feet 4 inches, and depth of hold 16 feet 5 inches.

From the evidence it appears that the ship was in good condition, having recently had extensive repairs, at a cost of about 3,000l. She was well found and complete in all her equipments. She had three compasses, viz., one pole compass, elevated 12 feet above the bridge deck, one steering compass on the bridge, and one aft. The master stated in evidence that she was swung at Hartlepool before proceeding on her present voyage, and her compasses adjusted by Mr. Harris, a professional adjuster, and deviation cards given which were produced in Court. The pole compass had very little deviation, and that he found the deviation cards fairly correct.

She sailed from Memel on the 10th December 1885, bound for Hull, with a cargo of about 854 tons of linseed, and about 50 load of wood sleepers, the latter being stowed on deck. Her draught of water was 15 feet 9 inches aft, and 15 feet 4 inches forward. She had a crew of 16 all told (5 of which were A.B's.), and was under the command of Mr. Thomas A. Tait, who holds (or held) a certificate of competency as master, numbered 010,054.

All went well until they passed North Rose Light at the entrance of the "Grounds" passage, when it became hazy, which, together with her own smoke, obscured the leading marks. She took the ground on the outer edge of Saltholm, at 10.30 p.m. on the 11th December.

The engines were reversed full speed, but she remained fast for 16 hours, when with the assistance of a tug she was got off and taken to Copenhagen, where she was examined by a diver and found to have sustained no damage. The vessel made no water, and on the 15th December, at 8 a.m., she left Copenhagen in charge of a pilot who conducted her to Elsinore, and left at 10.30 a.m. the same day. She proceeded from Elsinore in charge of the master, there being a fresh breeze from the W.S.W., with clear weather. The Anholt Light was seen in passing, and also the Trindelen Light (or lightship), and passed the Skaw Light Vessel at 7 a.m. on the 16th December, at a distance of about 3 miles bearing S.W. by W. magnetic. A course was then set N.W. by W. magnetic, and continued until 8.15 a.m., when the patent log showed 10 miles. The Skaw Lighthouse then bore S. 1/4 E. magnetic about 9 or 10 miles; the course was now altered to W. by S. magnetic, and continued until 1 p.m.; when the log showed 37 miles it was again altered to W. by S. 1/2 S. magnetic going full speed (nine knots). At 6 p.m. the wind and sea were increasing, and the engines were stopped, and a cast of the deep-sea lead taken. The chief mate took the sounding, and reported no bottom at 56 fathoms. The captain stated he referred this to his chart, and finding deeper water than he expected concluded he had been set to the northward, and that the short sea on the port bow would act in this direction, and to counteract this at 6 p.m. he set the course W.S.W. magnetic (the log showing 25 only from 1 p.m.), and continued to the time of the vessel's stranding at 1.25 a.m. on the 17th instant.

At 8 p.m. the engines were stopped and another cast of the deep-sea lead was taken by the second mate, who reported no bottom at 37 fathoms; and at 12 o'clock another cast of the lead was taken by the second mate, and no bottom at 35 fathoms reported to the captain. It appears from the evidence of the second mate he was not quite satisfied with the last sounding, and that he suggested to the captain another cast should be taken, but the captain declined, saying another cast should be taken later on. The weather was now hazy in the direction of the land, but clear to seawards.

It was the mate's watch, and at 0.45 a.m. the captain left the bridge, and at 1 a.m. went into the chart room and pricked off his estimated position on the chart, placing his vessel on the edge of the second bank of soundings, where there is from 30 to 40 fathoms of water. At 1.20 a.m. he came on deck, and, standing under the upper bridge, saw a "white streak" on the port bow; he went to the upper bridge, when the mate called out hard-a-port, and immediately after the vessel struck. The engines were at once reversed full speed, and kept so for half an hour, when the vessel slewing her head to seaward, the engines were put full speed ahead for a time the ship striking violently. They commenced to jettison the deck cargo, but, on sounding with the lead and finding ten feet water only, they ceased throwing cargo overboard, and cleared away the lifeboat. At 2.30 a.m. the chief engineer reported the propeller striking the ground. The engines were stopped, and orders given to run up the ballast tanks to keep the ship steady, and signals of distress were made with flare-ups.

At 4 a.m. lights were seen on the shore, and at 5 a.m. a rocket was thrown from the shore in the direction of the ship, followed by several others, all of which missed, until 7.30 a.m. when the rocket line crossed the ship and communication with the shore was established.

At 9 a.m. a lifeboat was launched from the shore which took all hands off the wreck and landed them safely. At that time the stoke-hole, engine-room, and cabin were full of water, the rudder was unshipped and the sea making a complete breach over the ship. The linseed was washing out of her bottom and floating alongside.

On landing the captain telegraphed to Copenhagen for assistance, and at 7 a.m. on the 18th a salvage steamer came and made efforts to get her off, but did not succeed, and the vessel became a total wreck.

The Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court on the following questions:-

1. What was the cause of the vessel getting off her course?

2. Was the lead used with sufficient frequency and properly?

3. Was the lead-line used of sufficient length?

4. Whether the vessel was sufficiently manned?

5. Whether proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel when the Scaw Lighthouse was seen on the morning of the 16th December?

6. Whether safe and proper courses were set and steered after passing the Scaw Light, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide and current?

7. Whether proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at midnight on the last-mentioned date; whether the master and the second officer, respectively, took proper measures to satisfy himself that the soundings at midnight were accurately taken, and whether the second officer was then justified in-reporting to the master 35 fathoms, and no bottom?

8. Whether the weather became thick, and the master thereupon and at other times on 16th and 17th December, duly reduced speed?

9. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept?

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?

The Board of Trade were of opinion that the certificates of the master, Thomas Arthur Tait, of the mate, Over Marius Petersen, and of the second mate, William Henry Triggs, should be dealt with.

To which the Court replies as follows:-

1. Assuming that the course given was duly steered, and the distance stated, run, the result showed that the current set the ship E. 3/4 N. 29 miles, or 1 3/4 miles per hour, between 8.15 a.m. on the 16th and 1.30 a.m. on the 17th.

2. The lead was not used with sufficient frequency. No proper soundings were obtained at any time as they might have been.

3. The lead line was not of sufficient length, but that fact did not affect the matter before the Court.

4. We are not prepared to say the vessel was undermanned, but we think it would have been better had the captain been enabled to have had three hands in each watch besides the officer.

5. Proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel when the Scaw Lighthouse was seen on the morning of the 16th December.

6. The courses set and steered up to 6 p.m. on the 16th were safe and proper ones, but the alteration then made in the course was not safe and proper, and with the uncertainty attending the exact direction and strength of the current, a thick haze over the land, the master should have satisfied himself by the frequent use of the lead that they were made good.

7. Proper steps were not taken to verify the position of the vessel at midnight of the 16th, as the master did not repeat the casts of the lead, which he ought to have done when the second mate had intimated, as we think, that the cast was not satisfactory.

8. The weather was clear enough to seaward to justify the master in continuing the speed of the vessel, but not having made the Light he must have expected to make had he consulted his chart, he should have slowed until he had ascertained his position.

9. We think a good and proper look-out was kept.

10. The vessel was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.

11. We think that the master alone is in default.

It is clear to the Court that, at the time when the casts were taken and given respectively as 56, 37, and 35 fathoms, and no bottom, the ship never was in more than 18 fathoms. Had the soundings been properly taken the casualty would not have occurred. It is in vain that the Court looks for a redeeming feature in the case; for something which would justify it in dealing with the master as though what had been brought about had arisen from an error in judgment. The Court is of opinion that there was such a want of seamanship, such culpable neglect on the part of the master, that it is bound to find him in default, and suspend his certificate for six months from this date.

The Court makes no order as to costs.

Dated this 13th day of January 1886.




We concur in the above report.









L 367. 2574. 180.-1/86. Wt. 408. E. & S.


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