In May 1865, having signed off from the barquentine ‘Forest Prince’ in Liverpool, my great grandfather, W.W.Petherick, returned to Newport, Monmouthshire. Ready to go to sea again, he signed on the barque “Annie Breganton” for a voyage to Shanghai, Montreal and London, leaving on 1st June.
This is his story, in his own words:
A few particulars of a Voyage from Newport, Mon. to Shanghai, thence to Montreal and back to London, by W.W.Petherick.
In 1865, I shipped as A.B. at Newport, Mon. in the Scotch Barque “Annie Bragenton” of Alloa, Firth of Forth, Capt. Alexander McDougall, Master of a crew of 12 all told, loaded with about 860 tons (of) coals for the English Government at Shanghai. I had the magnificent wage of £2.15.0 per month, signed for a voyage of three years if we remained abroad so long, or be paid off at the first English port we arrived at.
We towed away from Newport on June lst 1865 at 5 a.m. I might say here our owner was a great economist. He showed it in every trait. He went out of Newport with us and when just got passed the Flat Holmes, the tug came alongside and the owner and pilot left us instead of towing us to Lundy Island some fifty miles farther as was usually done on such voyages.
The Captain, over 70 years of age, had not been in the Bristol Channel before. The wind was up from the West against us, light. We set all sail and soon saw it was a poverty stricken outfit, but was in hopes it was the summer suit and that there was better in the sail locker, but found to our regret later there was not much improvement.
We got down off the Huntstone at low water, when the Captain should have anchored as the wind was so light, but he allowed her to drive near all the strong spring tide and about half an hour before high water he sighted a buoy which I knew was the buoy at the west end of the Culver Sands. He got rather excited and called to the mate to range the chain and let go the anchor. We ranged the chain, when I told the mate I was sorry it meant a lot of work for us and we should immediately have to heave it up again as the tide would soon turn, that there was no danger of the Culver Sands as we was 2 or 3 miles to the North of them. He went and told the Captain, when I was called aft and explained to the Captain that I had served 4 years at sea mostly in the Bristol Channel. When I was appointed pilot.
We worked down the north shore to the Nash when the wind went a little more to the north, and the next morning we was going between Lundy Island and Hartland Point. We had a fine time down passed the Scilly Islands.
The Captain was very pleased with my pilotage and thanked me very much. He hoped to repay me before we parted, which he did by lending me books and instruments and learning me navigation, that, within a fortnight of terminating the voyage, I went in at Plymouth and passed my first examination!
A few days after passing Scilly, it came on to blow fresh from the west. Out main topgallant sail soon went to tatters and the boom jib soon followed suit. It was then we soon found out what we had got in the sail locker. It was a sorry sight. There was 2 A.B.s then chosen as sail makers. I was one of them which I did not regret. We did very little else all the passage other than our ordinary duties of steering, bending and sending down and up sails when blowing away in bad weather etc.etc.
Then we found more economy in the quality of our food. Beef, pork, bread etc. etc. we thought was about the cheapest and worst that he could get. After three days at sea, we had not a potato nor any green vegetables for the whole of the passage, neither a taste of butter etc. etc.
We had a nice north wind that ran us through the Bay of Biscay and onwards. The next land we sighted was the Canary Islands, then we took the N.E.Trade Winds and crossed the Equator in Long. 24 W. We then took the S.E.Trade Winds and went away on a wind.
The next land we sighted was the islands or rocks of Trinidade off Pernambuco, South America. We then went away on the starboard tack, edging down for the Roaring Forties which we soon found. We had some very strong gales, with the usual amount of blowing sails to ribbons and unbending and bending fresh of which we had great experience, but the little ship was a great sea boat and ran well before before a gale.
The next land sighted was the Island of St Paul in the South Indian Ocean when we hauled up passed Australia about 70 miles off.
The next land sighted was the Island of Timor in the Indian Group when we drifted within shouting distance of a full rigged ship, the first we had spoken to since leaving England.We asked: “What ship? From where? Where bound? and How many days out?” “Ship ‘Mary’ from Cardiff bound to Shanghai, 119 days out.” We told him we was the Barque ‘Annie Bragenton’ from Newport for Shanghai, 130 days out.
We got up through the Indian Islands and crossed the Equator in 130 East and soon got in the China Sea, then our troubles commenced.
Heavy N.E. monsoons and were continually having near every sail blown away. We was for a day or two with nothing but our foretopmast staysail and 4 or 5 new tarpaulins lashed in the mizzen rigging and back stays. Our port bulwarks was near all gone from the fore to the main mast. Our crew were near all laid up with the scurvy, some very ill, and our ship, through the great heat when in the Indian Ocean, our top sides began to leak.
We had large iron fly wheel pumps that, when all the hands were there, we could strike them and throw a great volume of water, but now to be reduced to 4, and they not very strong. It was very bad. But it was, as the old nautical adage “pump or sink”, so we managed to keep her afloat.
Thankful when we sighted a Shanghai pilot boat, and when he came on board, he was rather amazed to see what straits we had got to. Only 4 hands on deck for over a fortnight. I took him to the cabin where the Captain was in bed. He asked if he should send his boat on shore and (run?) for a steam tug, which he did. He also asked if the Captain would like a few Irish potatoes. “Lend all you can spare.” He said he had only two or three bucketfuls, as they were 30/- per cwt. The Captain said he did not give a damn if they were £30. He sent us three buckets full. The mate gave us one which we ate raw like hungry ravenous pigs.
The next morning a tug came and soon got us up the river to Shanghai on December 12th after being 195 days at sea.
Annie Bragenton from Shanghai to Montreal to London.
Sailed from Shanghai on January 31st, 1866 bound to Montreal with a cargo of tea.
We had a beautiful run down the China Sea. Soon passed Hong Kong and Singapore and through the Bangka Straits where we had to anchor one night as very dark and the passage narrow. Then through the Straits of Sunda.
We had a bum boat come off from Sumatra when we purchased some monkeys, fancy Java sparrows, fowl, sugar, bananas, coconuts, pineapples, oranges etc. etc..
When we went out between Java and Sumatra and across the Indian Ocean and South Pacific for the Cape of Good Hope. We had one heavy breeze off the Cape. Had to heave to under a close reefed maintopsail, but at daylight in the morning when we set everything again, passed close to Cape Town. Could see the ships inside the breakwater.
Then steered for St Helena where we hove to. A boat came off. We made some purchases, sent some letters ashore and off again for Newfoundland.
The next land we made was Cape Ray, Newfoundland. Up to that time we had had a beautiful passage, only taking our main topgallant sail in once the whole passage, but we had a little puff in the Gulf of St Lawrence off Anticosti Island and blew away some more sails. We had no more canvas nor twine to repair them. We had to put stoppers on the leach ropes of the fore topsail, herring bone the cloths with marlin spikes and spun yarn etc, but we soon got a steam tug and towed to Montreal, arriving there on June 1st, 120 days out from Shanghai. Discharged our tea and loaded a cargo of maize and flour for London.
While at Montreal, the Captain kindly gave me leave to go to Toronto to see some relations, 300 miles distant. I remained with them 3 weeks visiting about, and had a good time.
We sailed from Montreal again in the first week of July and had a fine passage to London with one exception. One afternoon on the Banks, the weather came on very bad and that night it blew half a gale, rained heavy and thick fog. When daylight appeared, the weather cleared away and the sun came out and there was nine large ice bergs, and we cutting through one corner of them, 2 on our port side and 7 on our starboard. But fortunately escaped striking them and soon left them behind.
We then had light winds to London, arriving there in the middle of August, 35 days out, when that finished our voyage. The whole crew that sailed from Newport returned with one exception. One A.B. got in trouble in Shanghai and was left behind. Another one shipped.
This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres” – in this case her owner’s early years. They have been presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. They represent steps in a personal quest to find out more about one branch of my family.
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