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Wreck Report for 'Lady Dufferin', 1888

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Unique ID:15443
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Lady Dufferin', 1888
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 3503.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Guildhall, Plymouth, on the 28th, 29th, and 31st days of March 1888, before the Mayor, H. J. WARING, Esquire, and CHARLES F. BURNARD, Esquire, Justices of the Peace, assisted by Captains GEORGE RICHARDSON and Z. B. DRAGE, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British sailing ship "LADY DUFFERIN," of Plymouth, near the Lizard, on or about the 10th of March 1888.

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 master, Walter Garner, is alone in default, and suspends his certificate, No. 01,945, for the period of 3 calendar months.

Dated this 31st day of March 1888.






We concur in the above report.






Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at the Guildhall, Plymouth, on the 28th, 29th, and 31st days of March 1888. Mr. Thomas Wolferstan appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. John Shelly for the master, and Mr. Meager, instructed by Messrs. Lowless and Co., on behalf of the owners Seven witnesses were called and examined on behalf of the Board of Trade, and it was stated that the Board were of opinion that the master's certificate should be dealt with. Three witnesses were also examined for the owner. Messrs. Shelly, Meager, and Wolferstan addressed the Court on behalf of their respective clients, and the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions upon which its opinion had been asked.

The circumstances of the case are as follows:—The "Lady Dufferin," official number 71,439, registered at the Port of Plymouth, which forms the subject of this inquiry, was a wooden sailing ship, built at Port Hill, Prince Edward's Island, by Donald Ramsay, in 1874. Her dimensions were: length 178 ft. 4 in., main breadth 36 ft. 1 in., and depth of hold 20 ft. Her gross tonnage was 915.69 tons, and net register 894.28 tons. She had 1 deck and poop, 3 masts (2 iron and 1 wood), was rigged as a barque, and carried 3 boats—1 long boat, 1 cutter, and 1 gig (dimensions of which were not given). They were, however, fully equipped, and ample for the accommodation of the crew. Two were stowed on skids at break of poop, and I on forward house, and appear to have been got out easily after the casualty. The ship was bought by her present owner, Mr. William Warren Dingle, of Plymouth, in June 1885, for 1,500l., he being appointed managing owner on the 4th of June 1885. After purchase, the owner stated he spent 500l. upon her in repairs, at Plymouth, viz.: new iron main mast, 2 new yards, rider kelsons, and new stanchions between the latter and the beams, and in the following summer of 1886 she was towed round to Apple Dore and put in dry dock for re-classing at Lloyd's, carrying all repairs for that purpose to the satisfaction of their surveyor, which cost about 1,000l. She had been classed by her former owners for three years, but although the time had not expired, her late owner wanted the work done in the long days. He wished Lloyd's to put her on for a six years' class to make nine; but the surveyor insisted on her being put through on the six years' table, and that her time should be reckoned from the date of her first classing, so that he was really only getting three years, though in an improved class. About 200l. was spent on sails at this time. When she left on her last trip she appears to have been abundantly provided and equipped. The captain stating that whatever he asked for he always got from the owner. The latter valued the ship at 2,500l., and the only insurances effected on her at the time of her loss were 500l. in the Plymouth Club, and 500l. at Lloyd's. Two-thirds of the freight was advanced, but he had made payments on account of outward voyage to the amount of 682l.; that included a bill of 40l. for rope (which was handed into Court), which was on board when she struck. He calculates he is a loser of at least 1,200l. She had her full complement of anchors and chains; 4 compasses on board, viz., a steering one, a standard on poop, and tell-tale in captain's cabin, also a spare compass in box; and the captain stated that although he had no opportunity of correcting them by observation, he had no reason to suppose that they were incorrect; they were all in good order and were sufficient for the safe navigation of the ship. She had 2 main pumps and a windmill one, all in good working order.

The vessel left Newport on the morning of the 5th of March at 10.30 a.m., tide three-quarters flood, bound to Monte Video, under the command of Walter Garner, whose new certificate of competency is numbered O 1945, with a crew of 17 hands all told, and a cargo consisting of 485 tons of railway iron, 52 tons of iron fastenings, and 680 tons of wood sleepers, the bill of lading being signed under protest, as the owner considered she had some 40 tons more weight than the above on board, which would make in all 1,264 tons. This, the owner stated, was some 50 tons less than she had carried on a previous voyage. Her Plimsoll mark was level with the water in dock, and her freeboard 4 ft. 3 in., and as 50 per cent. on her registered tonnage would make her dead weight capacity 1,341 tons, and also considering the "rise" she would make in salt water, she could not be said to be overloaded. Her draft of water on leaving the docks was 18 ft. 8 in. forward, and 19 ft. 8 in aft.

The cargo appears to have been well and properly stowed by an expert stevedore. A bed of sleepers at the bottom of from 5 to 6 feet high to keep the weight up, and the iron all stowed in main hold fore and aft without locking the first tiers, then cross battens of wood, and other tiers fore and aft, and filled up above the beams with wood balance of iron above beams locked with sleepers on top, and shored to the deck as she was not full The ship is stated in evidence to have been easy at sea. She was towed down outside Lundy Island. The tug cast off there, sail made, and ship started on voyage with a light westerly wind and fine weather. Nothing worthy of remark occurred except that the wind freshened until Wednesday evening, when the jib-stay carried away in the nip at cleat on martingale, and the fore-royal sail was taken in, halyard tackle put on the stay to secure it temporally, it being permanently secured next day. At 8 p.m. on Thursday, in a strong S.W. wind, the parral of upper maintopsail yard carried away when lowering it for reefing. The yard was secured and the sail furled. At noon on the 9th one seizing of the foretopmast backstay carried away. it was set up by a purchase and secured temporally, and afterward a new seizing was put on. At 1.30 p.m. the crew came aft and demanded that the ship should be put back to port, as the standing rigging was in bad condition, and the deck-house leaking. The ship was then about 100 miles to the north of Scilly Islands. The master and chief mate examined the rigging and found nothing wrong with it, and the crew were unable to point out to them any defect. As a proof that there was nothing wrong with the rigging, the coastguardman stationed at the Lizard stated that the masts stood several hours after the ship had begun to break up, and only fell half an hour before the vessel went to pieces with a crack like a gun. The master expostulated with the crew, and told them that there was plenty of stores on board to repair any defect that might be found in the rigging and house when the weather was finer. They however would not listen to reason, but said they would not prosecute the voyage, and demanded that the ship should be kept away for a port. This the captain refused to do. An entry was made in the official log (since lost), and read over to the crew and they are said to have acknowledged its correctness. At 4 o'clock on the 9th the crew refused to take the wheel and the second mate was sent there. At 6 o'clock they relieved the wheel and one of the men went on the look-out. At 8 o'clock the captain again had the men aft, but they still said they would do nothing until the ship was put back. At 4 a.m. on Saturday the 10th more sail was made on the ship, and she was kept away for Scilly, which was passed at 2 p.m. The master again called the crew aft and pointed out there was nothing wrong with the ship and that they had better prosecute the voyage. They however said they would not, and the master stated he had no alternative but to go back. At 5 p.m. the Wolf Rock was passed close-to, and getting it to bear N.W. by W., distance 2 1/2 miles, a course was set E.S.E., nothing to eastward, the weather was hazy, and the ship making a S.E. by E. 1/2 E. course was altered to S.E. by E., and she made 1/4 of a point to windward of this. The wind was now falling and very unsteady, with an inclination to haul to southward, which made the ship to break off. At 9.15 p.m., with Lizard Lights abeam, the master went below and came on deck again at 10. He asked the mate how far he thought he was off the land, and received in answer, about 4 miles. He then gave the order to luff, and as the mate went forward to look at head sails, the lookout man reported breakers on the bow. The order was then given "ready about," and the watch below called. They were some 15 minutes coming up, and it was now seen that the man at the wheel had not steadied the helm in time. She was all aback forward, and the way of the ship thus checked; when the helm was put down she had not enough way on to tack or stay. She was filled on again, but before she could gather any sufficient way the master saw the breakers closer than he thought they were, and made another attempt to turn her head off the shore, but without any success, and the ship drifted on to the rocks. The boats were got out, but the crew were observed by the master to wait for the lifeboat. As the wind increased soon after to a furious gale, the crew, in answer to signals of distress, were safely landed in the lifeboat. It was suggested by the Court, to the master, that, as the last resource, he might have tried club-hauling the ship to get her head off the land. He said it did occur to him, but he did not consider the manœuvre would have answered, as from the position of the ship, it would have had the effect of sending her broadside onto the reefs, and every man on board would have been lost.

The following questions were put for the opinion of the Court, viz.:—

1. Whether when the vessel left Newport the rigging was in good and seaworthy condition and whether it was properly set up?

2. Whether the vessel was properly equipped and furnished with a reasonable amount of spare rope and other gear, and if so, how came it that the main buntlines were used to make reef tackles?

3. What was the cause of the inner jibstay carrying away on the 7th March, the parrel of the main topsail yard on the 8th March, and the seizing of the foretopmast backstay on the 9th March?

4. Whether a safe and proper course was set and steered after passing the Wolf Rock at or about 5 p.m. of the 10th March, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide, currents, and leeway?

5. Whether a safe and proper alteration was made in the course at or about 9.15 p.m of the 10th of March, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide, currents, and leeway?

6. Whether, having regard to the hazy state of the weather, the total neglect of the lead was justifiable?

7. Whether at and immediately after 10 p.m on the 10th of March, when the vessel was found to be too near the land, prompt and proper measures were taken to keep her off it?

8. What was the cause of the master being unable either to tack or wear the ship, and whether he made every possible effort to save her?

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

10. What was the cause of the casualty?

11. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care?

12. Whether the master and officers are, or either of them is, in default? and

13. Whether blame attaches to the owner?

14. The Board of Trade is of opinion that the certificate of the master should be dealt with.

To which the following answers were given:—

1. From the evidence it would appear that when the vessel left Newport on the last voyage the rigging was in good and seaworthy condition and properly set up. Proof of which was given, in that the masts and rigging stood for several hours after the ship struck.

2. The ship was properly equipped and furnished with a liberal supply of rope and other gear. The reeving of the reef-tackles having been overlooked when the sails were bent it was easier to use main buntling whips for the purpose than to go below in bad weather to get new rope to reeve.

3. The cause of the inner jibstay breaking was the chafe in the nip of cleat on the martingale, coupled with the weight of the sail in a strong wind, and the plunging of the ship into a head sea. There is no direct evidence to show how the parral of main-topsail-yard was carried away, but from the evidence of the carpenter, who examined it on deck afterwards, there was an old flaw in the iron. The seizing on the fore-topmast back-stay that went had been chafed and not noticed. Captain Marshall, the late (previous) master, stated that this back-stay was carried away by a log striking it a few months ago when the ship was loading timber at Pensacola, and that it was then turned in afresh with new wire seizings.

4. A safe and proper course was set and steered after passing the Wolf Rock at or about 5 p.m. on the 9th of March. Allowance was made for the tide, current, and leeway.

5. The alteration made in the course at 9.15 p.m. on the 10th of March was not safe and proper, as the wind was not steady and the ship was breaking off. Up to this time a proper allowance was made for tide, current, and leeway.

6. As the Lizard Lights and the neighbouring land were in sight, and had been for some time, and there being no doubt as to the true position of the ship, there was not that necessity for the use of the lead that there would have been had the weather been foggy and position doubtful. Under these circumstances we consider there was no need to use the lead.

7. Soon after 10 p.m. of the 10th of March proper measures were taken to keep off the land, but without success, as the vessel refused to come round.

8. We gather from the evidence that when the breakers were sighted, and the watch below called up to put the ship round, they took some time to come, and in this interval the master ordered the man at the wheel to luff; he not steadying the helm in time, the sails on foremast were backed, and her way through the water considerably checked. When the men did get up to their stations, and the helm put down, the ship had not sufficient way to stay or wear. She was filled on again, heading towards the rocks, but the master finding her closer to the reef than he thought tried again to get the ship's head round before she had gathered sufficient headway, and not succeeding, she drifted on to the reef between a rock known as the "Stag" and another known as "The Man of War," about 1,000 yards to west of Lizard Point. Under these circumstances the Court is of opinion that the master at that time made every effort available to save the ship.

9. A good and proper look-out was kept.

10. The vessel having got too close to the land after missing stays had not sufficient room to gather way for the second attempt that was made to get her head off the shore, and not wearing in answer to the helm, she stranded on the rocks.

11. Up to 9.15 p.m. of the 10th of March the ship was navigated with proper and seamanlike care, but not afterwards. At that time, when the master found the inclination of the wind was to hawl to the southward, and he had any doubts of weathering the Lizard, he should have tacked to the westward.

12. The master is alone in default.

13. No blame can be attached to the owner.

14. The Court, taking into consideration the position the master was placed in with a refractory crew, coupled with all that has been so forcibly urged on his behalf, suspend his certificate for three calendar months for the default. They cannot also help expressing their surprise that he yielded so readily to the pressure brought to bear upon him by the dissatisfied members of the crew to make him return to port, especially as he had his officers on his side, the Court being with him in opinion that the ship was in every respect in good and seaworthy condition, with ample stores on board to have repaired any defect in rigging, and to have prosecuted the voyage she started on.

The Court are also of opinion that the seamen who refused to work should be prosecuted and punished as an example to others.

Dated at Plymouth this 31st of March 1888.











50022—429. 180.—4/88. Wt. 12. E. & S.


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