Crossing the Bar

My aunt has given me a sheaf of articles, and newspaper clippings about the ketch ‘Ceres’, which, as I have mentioned before, was in our family for 73 of her 125 years active service.

Many of these articles were copied over the years from issues of Sea Breezes, which started life in 1919 as the house magazine of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. The subtitle changed later to “The Ship-Lovers’ Magazine’. It ceased publication in October 1939 only to restart in 1946.

I had thought I would stop posting blogs on ‘Ceres’ but I am finding that publishing them as individual pieces from different sources gives a colourful history and allows the reader a personal insight that is sometimes lost in a formally-presented, official ‘history’. This is partly because the ‘facts’ sometimes differ from article to article.

Talking of ‘colourful’, I hope you enjoy the following. I curled up with embarrassment when I first read it, then laughed out loud for the sheer joy of it.


Crossing the Bar

By C.L.Lilbourn, Newport, Mon.

Editor’s Note:- The June issue gave (on page 90) a wonderful picture of the ketch Ceres crossing the Bar at Bude, Cornwall; more of her history was promised and this is contained in the following article:-

The ketch Ceres, of Bude, Cornwall, has been crossing Bude Bar for over 200 years in practically all weathers. Owing to sunken rocks the channel is very narrow, and the Ceres has been kept close enough to the Chapel Rock, seen in the photo, to knock the shell fish off without damaging the rock or the Ceres. Some steering, I guess, but Captain Walter Petherick is at the helm and nothing is impossible to this 24-carat sailor, who has been master of the Ceres for 46 years. He is now nearly 80 years of age, as upright as a lifeguardsman, with a good head of hair as strong as rope yarns. He is one of the best known and most respected coasting captains living today. He has made thousands of passages up and down the Bristol Channel, and if all the lights in the lighthouses and lightships were extinguished, and their fog signals silenced, he could probably make a passage in the Ceres from Newport to Bude in a dense fog, by the use of the lead and the assistance of the different herds of cattle along the coast bellowing.

Call everything “he” except the tomcat.

For instance, if he heard a cow bellowing in a soprano voice he could say to his mate, “Ben, us be off Minehead; that is Farmer G’s cow a-bellowing: can’t you hear he (Cornish sailors call everything ‘he’ except the Tomcat, and they call ‘he’ ‘she’)? Drop the lead over the side and see what water us have got.” Ben would retort so many fathoms and hard sand. The captain would say, “Yes, I knew us was off Minehead.” Some hours later another cow would bellow in a contralto voice. The Captain would know it was Farmer T’s at the Foreland. Some hours later they would hear a bull roaring in a bass baritone voice, the Captain would know they were off Bull Point. The last cow would be heard at Hartland Point, where they would get their departure. When they arrived in Bude Bay they would have to wait for the fog to clear before they could cross the Bar.


I wonder what my great grandfather – (he of the ‘hair as strong as rope yarns’), thought of this!

This is the Boys Own writing of the time, of course, and maybe a little embellishment for the reader was considered worthy.

I must admit, the more I find out about him, the more fond I grow of Captain Walter Petherick; and I can’t help feeling he had earned the right to a short piece about him without the need for any superlatives.

I will post the remainder of the articles and clippings over the next few months.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. 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.

If you are interested in maritime history or would like to read more, please use the Search facility at the top right hand side of this page (‘Ceres’). If this is not available on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.








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  1. Pingback: Ceres – a suitable resting place « bill's boatblog

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