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Wreck Report for 'Nereide' and 'Southerfield', 1885

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Unique ID:15019
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Nereide' and 'Southerfield', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Date:1885
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown

Transcription

(No. 2752.)

"NEREIDE" AND "SOUTHERFIELD."

The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at Westminster, on the 7th and 8th days of December 1885, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captains RONALDSON and KENNEDY and Rear-Admiral MORESBY, as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the loss of the sailing ship "NEREIDE," of London, and of the life of her master, through collision with the sailing ship "SOUTHERFIELD," of Maryport, in the English Channel, on the 15th ultimo.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that the said collision was due to the "Southerfield" not having kept out of the way of the "Nereide," as required by the Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea; and that the blame thereof rests with John Daw Werry, the pilot in charge of the "Southerfield," but that no blame attaches to any one on board the "Nereide."

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

Dated this 8th day of December 1885.

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report.

 

(Signed)

A. RONALDSON,

H. C. KENNEDY,

J. MORESBY,

Assessors.

Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at Westminster on the 7th and 8th days of December instant, when Mr. Muir Mackenzie and Mr. Arnold White appeared for the Board of Trade, Sir Walter Phillimore and Mr. Walton for the owners, master, and officers of the "Southerfield," Dr. Raikes for the owners and mate, and Mr. Stocken for the underwriters, of the "Nereide." Nine witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, Mr. Muir Mackenzie handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. An affidavit was then put in and read by Mr. Muir Mackenzie, and two further witnesses produced by the Board of Trade, and three witnesses produced by Sir W. Phillimore, having been examined, Dr. Raikes, Sir W. Phillimore, and Mr. Stocken addressed the Court on behalf of their respective parties; and Mr. Arnold White having been heard in reply, the Court then proceeded to give judgment on the questions upon which its opinion had been asked.

The case of the "Southerfield" is as follows. She is a wooden barque belonging to the Port of Maryport, of 731 tons gross and 706 tons net register. She was built at Maryport in the year 1881, and at the time of the casualty, which forms the subject of the present inquiry, she was the property of Messrs. Ritson, of Maryport, Mr. John Ritson being the managing owner. She sailed from Chili with a cargo of 1200 tons of nitrate of soda, and a crew of 16 hands all told, and in due course arrived at Falmouth, where she had to call for orders. There, for some reason which we are not told, the master left her, and another master having been appointed in his place, she left at about 10 a.m. of the 13th of November for London, having on board a Channel pilot, named John Daw Werry, to assist the master to navigate the vessel; and at 12.20 a.m. of the 15th of the same month, St. Catherine's Point bore north, distant about twelve miles. We are told that from this time the wind was baffling, varying from N.E. to N.N.E., and that the vessel was kept close hauled on the port tack, heading from E. 1/2 N. to E 1/2 S., under all sail, including main royal, and was making from 8 to 8 1/2 knots an hour. At 1 a.m. the master went below, leaving the deck in charge of the pilot and chief officer; at 2 a.m. the main royal was taken in, and shortly afterwards they passed the Ower's Lightship. At 4 a.m. the second mate's watch commenced, consisting of himself, four A.B.'s, and two ordinary seamen; and at about 5.15 a.m. the pilot and second mate were aft on the poop, there was a man forward on the look-out, another at the wheel aft, and the rest of the watch were about the deck, Beachy Head bearing E.N.E., distant from about 16 to 18 miles, when the loom of a vessel, which afterwards proved to be the "Nereide," was observed from 1 to 2 points on the starboard bow, and apparently without lights. On its being reported, the second mate, it is said, went forward; and having looked at her with his binoculars he returned aft to the poop, and he and the pilot then came to the conclusion that she was proceeding in the same direction as themselves. They accordingly continued their course, but in about 10 or 15 minutes afterwards the red light of the vessel was observed crossing them from starboard to port, upon which orders were at once given to put the helm hard down; but so close were the two vessels to one another then, that the "Southerfield" had not time to come up more than half a point before she struck the "Nereide" with her stem and starboard bow forward of the fore rigging on the port side, cutting her down below the water line. The "Nereide" then swung alongside, and the crew, finding that their vessel was sinking, clambered on board the "Southerfield," and almost immediately afterwards the "Nereide" foundered, going down head foremost, and carrying the master along with her. The "Southerfield" remained about the spot until daylight, when, seeing no wreckage about, and no traces of the master of the "Nereide," she obtained the assistance of a steam tug and, her bows having been stove in, she was taken into Newhaven.

The case of the "Nereide" is as follows. She was a barquentine belonging to the Port of London, of 432 tons gross and 428 tons net register. She was built in the year 1858, where however is not known, but at the time of her loss she was the property of Mr. John Huison, of 14, Belle Vue Road, Sunderland, Mr. Huison being the managing owner. She left Blyth on the 22nd of October last, with a crew of nine hands all told, and a cargo of 597 tons of coals, bound to Colon in South America; but meeting with very bad weather she put into the Thames, and remained there until the 12th of November, when she again got under weigh, and at 4 a.m. of the 15th the Royal Sovereign Lightship bore N.N.E., distant about 5 miles. From there, the wind being about N., she was kept upon a W.N.W. course, close hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, under all plain sail, and making some 5 or 6 knots an hour. At 4.15. a.m. the chief mate went below, leaving the master, the boatswain, and two hands on deck. At about 5.30 the master and boatswain were on the poop aft, there was one man at the wheel, and the other was forward on the look out, when the green light of a vessel, which afterwards proved to be the "Southerfield," was observed a point and a half to two points on the port bow, and distant from two to three miles. The "Nereide" continued her course, but as she neared the "Southerfield," seeing that, if they continued their courses, there would be a collision, all hands began shouting to her to keep out of the way, and at the same time the master ordered the man at the wheel to keep his luff. The "Southerfield" however continued her course, and a collision occurred, in the way, and with the result, which has been already stated.

These being the facts of the case, the 1st question on which our opinion has been asked by the Board of Trade is, "Whether a good and proper look-out was " kept on board both vessels?" So far as the "Nereide" is concerned, there seems to be no reason to suppose that a good look out was not being kept on board of her. The master and boatswain were walking the poop aft, and there was a man forward on the look out, and they all seem to have seen the green light of the "Southerfield" when she was yet at the distance of between two and three miles, and when therefore there was ample time to take the necessary steps to avoid a collision. As regards the "Southerfield," we are told that the pilot and the second mate were on the poop aft, and that there was a man forward on the look out; and, although they say that they saw the loom of the "Nereide" some 10 or 15 minutes before the collision, they do not appear to have seen that vessel's red light until the two vessels were within a hundred yards of one another. Now, if the "Nereide" had her lights in position and burning brightly, there seems no reason why they should not have seen the red light sooner, if there had been an intelligent look out on board the "Southerfield."

This then brings us to the 2nd question, which is as follows, "On the night of the collision were the lights " required by Article 2 of the Regulations for Prevent- " ing Collisions at Sea exhibited by the 'Nereide' at " the proper time mentioned in such Regulations?" We were told that the lights of the "Nereide" were placed in the fore rigging, standing some four or five feet above the rail, that they were good lights, that they ordinarily burnt through the night without requiring to be trimmed, and that they could not be obscured by the sails which would be some feet above them. We were also told by the chief mate that before going below, which he did at 4.15, he looked at the lights and found them burning brightly. The second mate also told us that, when the green light of the "Southerfield" was reported, he went forward by the master's directions to see whether their lights were burning; and that he found them burning brightly. The man on the look-out forward also stated that both lights were burning brightly at the time. There is, therefore, no reason to think that the lights of the "Nereide" were not in their proper positions, or that they were not burning brightly at the time of the collision.

The 3rd question which we are asked is, "Under " the circumstances was it the duty of the 'Souther- " field' to have kept out of the way of the 'Nereide;' " and, if so, is any and what person who was in charge " of the 'Southerfield' to blame for that vessel not " having kept out of the way?" I will first dispose of the last part of this question, namely as to who was in charge of the vessel at the time. The pilot, it seems, had been taken on board at Falmouth to assist the captain in navigating the vessel up Channel; and when the captain went below, he left the pilot and the chief officer on deck, and according to the pilot himself he was in charge and responsible for the navigation of the vessel; and this, I am told by the assessors, would be the usual course in such cases.

Secondly, was it the duty of the "Southerfield" to have kept out of the way of the "Nereide?" The answer to this question would depend entirely upon whether the "Nereide" was or was not close hauled. If the "Nereide" was close hauled, it would be the duty of the "Southerfield" to keep out of her way, whether she was close hauled or was going free; and it would be only in the event of the "Nereide" being free, and the "Southerfield" close hauled, that the latter would be entitled to keep her course. It was said by Sir Walter Phillimore that it was a very onerous duty to impose upon a vessel close hauled on the port tack, that she is either to give way or to keep her course, according as the other vessel may or may not be close hauled, a point which it may be very difficult, and indeed almost impossible to decide at night; and that it would be better to have a rule, which said that vessels with the wind on one side should always keep their courses, and vessels with the wind on the other side should always give way, whether they were close hauled or not. This may perhaps be so, but with that we have nothing to do, we have only to administer the law as we find it, and the law is that a vessel on the port tack, whether she is close hauled or going free, shall always give way to a vessel on the starboard tack, unless the latter is going free, in which case the port tack vessel is to keep her course. Whether then it was the duty of the "Southerfield" to keep out of the way of the "Nereide" will depend, not only upon whether she was herself close hauled, but also whether the "Nereide" was close hauled or was going free.

According to the "Southerfield's" witnesses the wind at the time of the collision was about N.N.E., and their vessel was beading about cast; according to the evidence from the "Nereide," the wind was about north, and she was heading about W.N.W.; each seeks to make out that she was herself close hauled, and that the other had the wind about two points free. Now a good deal of evidence has been brought in with a view to show what was the direction of the wind at the time and place of the collision; and first we have the log book kept at St. Catherine's Lighthouse, which says that at midnight the wind was north, that at 3 a.m. it was E.N.E., and at 6 a.m. N.E.; on the other hand, the log at the Owers Lightship says that at 3 a.m. the wind was N.N.W., at 6 a.m. N.E; and the log of Beachy Head Lighthouse gives it both at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m. as N.N.E. The master of the Royal Sovereign Light-ship also told us that, according to their log, the wind at midnight was north, and that both at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m. it was N.N.E. A Captain Edmondson, the master of the "Drumlanrig," bound from Hamburgh to Cardiff, was produced, and he has told us that at midnight Dungeness bore from them N.W. distant about ten miles, and that at that time the wind was north, that at 3 a.m. they were abeam of the Royal Sovereign Lightship, and that the wind was then N.E., that at 4 a.m. Beachy Head was abeam distant about six miles, and that the wind was then N.E., and that at 8 a.m. the wind had gone round more to the eastward. There was also a Mr. David Evans, the chief officer of a vessel called the "Sarah Anderson," bound from Plymouth to Newcastle, who told us that at midnight St. Catherine's Point bore E.N.E. distant 13 miles, and that the wind was then north, that at 2 a.m., by which time they would have been about off St. Catherine's Point, the vessel making about 6 knots, and having the tide with her, it was N.N.E., and that at 6 a.m., when they would be between the Owers and Beachy Head, it was still N.N.E. Lastly, we have the evidence of William Moss, the master of a Deal lugger called "The Pride of the Sea," who stated that during the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th he was cruising off Beachy Head, and that at 5.30 a.m. Beachy Head bore N.E. distant 12 miles, and that at that time the wind was from N.N.E. Now no doubt much of this evidence seems to point to the wind having been about N.N.E. at the time of the collision; but then it must be remembered that the places, from which we have the records of the wind, are for the most part very far distant from the place of collision-St. Catherine's Point having been between 40 and 50 miles, and Beachy Head from 16 to 18 miles off, and both these places were on the land, where, owing to local causes, the wind might very easily be very different to what it would be at the same time out at sea. The two witnesses who seem to have been nearest to the place of collision were David Evans, the chief officer of the "Sarah Anderson," which was at the time between the Owers and Beachy Head, and William Moss, the master of the Deal lugger "Pride of the Sea." Now David Evans told us that at 6 a.m., when he gives the direction of the wind as N.N.E., the vessel's head was east by the compass, and that on that course the compass had a deviation of about a point, making the course E. by N. magnetic, and therefore the direction of the wind N. by E. magnetic. William Moss again says that at 5.30 a.m. they were heading E. by N., but that his vessel could lie within 5 points of the wind, and that, therefore, he believed the wind to be N.N.E. at that time. The evidence, therefore, is not conclusive that the wind was N.N.E., but if we are to take David Evans' evidence it would seem to have been about N. by E., that is to say, about intermediate between the north deposed to by the witnesses from the "Nereide," and the N.N.E. deposed to by the witnesses from the "Southerfield."

Now it is well known that vessels when on a wind will, as it is called, draw the wind ahead, so that, if the wind had been N. by E., it might very well appear to the witnesses from the "Nereide" to be north, and to the witnesses from the "Southerfield" that it was N.N.E. And that, in the opinion of the assessors, is what was actually the case; they think that with the wind blowing strongly as it was, these two vessels would not be able to lie within six points of the wind, and that they would not lie nearer than within seven points of it. With the wind then at N. by E., the "Nereide" steering a W.N.W. course and the "Southerfield steering an east course, both would be on a wind and both close hauled. They think too that, even with the wind half a point or so free, the "Nereide" would be on a wind and practically close hauled, and that it would be a very dangerous doctrine to lay down that a starboard tack vessel on a wind, with the wind half a point free, is bound to give way to a vessel close hauled on the port tack; they think that it would lead to endless collisions. The "Nereide" then being close hauled on the starboard tack, and the "Southerfield" close hauled on the port tack, it was the duty of the latter to have kept out of the way.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "When " the red light of the 'Nereide' was reported, were " the pilot and second mate of the 'Southerfield' " justified in ordering the helm to be put hard down?" This is a question entirely for the assessors, and they are clearly of opinion that, even assuming that the "Nereide's" red light was not seen until they had got to within a hundred yards of her, it was not a proper measure for the "Southerfield" then to have put her helm hard down, which must inevitably bring the two vessels together; her proper course was to have let go the lee braces, and to have put her helm hard up, which would have given her a chance of going clear of the "Nereide."

The fifth question that we are asked is, "After the " green light of the 'Southerfield' was seen from on " board the 'Nereide' was it, under the circumstances, " the duty of the 'Nereide' to keep her course; did " she keep her course; and if not, is any and what per- " son to blame for her not keeping her course?" The "Nereide" kept her course, and being practically close hauled on the starboard tack it was her duty to do so.

The sixth question which we are asked is, "Were " both, or was either, and which, of the vessels navi- " gated with proper and seamanlike care?" The "Nereide" was in our opinion navigated with proper and seamanlike care. But as regards the "Southerfield," we think that she ought to have seen the red light of the "Nereide" sooner than she did, and that, if she had had a good and efficient look out, she would have done so. She was wrong also, when she did see the red light, in putting her helm hard down; she should have put it hard up, and at the same time let go the lee braces.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "What " was the cause of the loss of life, and was every " possible effort made to save the life of the master of " the 'Nereide'?" it appears that the master of the "Nereide" had got on to the rail of the "Southerfield," and that he was there when he was last seen by the mate of the "Nereide;" and it is conjectured that he was knocked overboard by some of the yards or rigging of the "Nereide" when that vessel went down; and as we were told by the mate of the "Nereide" that the master could not swim, in all probability he sank at once, and no effort on the part of those on board could have saved him. The master of the "Southerfield" told us that he did not hear that he was missing until nearly half an hour after the casualty, and it was then too late to do anything.

I will take the eighth and ninth questions together; they are as follow: "(8) Are the master and officers of " both vessels, or is either, or which of them, in de- " fault?" and "(9) Does any blame attach to the pilot " of the 'Southerfield'?" And it is added that "the " Board of Trade are of opinion that the certificate of " the second mate of the 'Southerfield' should be dealt " with." In our opinion the whole blame for this casualty rests with the pilot of the "Southerfield," who was on deck and in charge of that vessel, and no blame rests with the master or officers of either vessel, except perhaps with the second mate of the "Southerfield" for not keeping so good a look out as might have been expected of him; it is not, however, a case in which we should be disposed to deal with his certificate

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.

 

(Signed)

A. RONALDSON,

H. C. KENNEDY,

J. MORESBY,

Assessors.

L 367. 2530. 180.-12/85. Wt. 408. E. & S.

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