Speak up for the horses

You carefully pilot your ship into harbour at the top of the tide. You wait until the tide goes out and there is clear ground around the ship. Then you bring the horse and a cart to offload into. The cargo is heavy – coal, or slag, so you harness two horses in tandem to haul the load across the beach and up to the stores.

Continue reading

The Eye of the Beholder

Thank you, Max, for your comment. I have taken it on board. This is for you.

I stopped writing the blog for a while because the rest of life took over. Now I’m looking back again and wondering where the cumulative experience lies – what am I learning? Hence the following:

Image

I slipped the mooring and motored the mile down to the Citadel. There was no wind, and very few boats out this early. I had Plymouth Sound more or less to myself.

With sails set – mainsail and genoa, we barely made headway, the tide doing most of the work. I poured a coffee from the flask and found a biscuit. Time to enjoy the moment. Time to reflect.

Two or three fishing boats emerged from Sutton Harbour, hustling their separate ways past me and out to the open sea.

This one caught my eye.

Image

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, there is beauty here but not necessarily the beauty of lines and colour, not in the magazine-image sense anyway. The beauty here comes from all that has gone before and all that is to come from this boat. It’s not so very different from the Ceres that I have posted on a number of times. We do like her lines but, in reality, she was a Westcountry trading ketch – it was the work she did that made her. (Tugster will understand this).

Passing in front of me now was someone’s livelihood – with all the political, economic, environmental, maritime safety, health and safety, technology and science issues that surround it. Those same issues that are increasingly pressing on you and me.

But, even in the face of all that, there were still elegant lines. For this one moment, for me only, this slightly ungainly metal workshop had created an almost perfect wave in an otherwise table-flat sea. And it was beautiful.

It’s those moments that I go to sea for – not to forget all the other stuff, (how can we?), but to add to the total experience of life.

Ceres – a suitable resting place

On 24th November 1936, Ceres went down in Bideford Bay.

“The 125 years old “Ceres”, veteran of the merchant service, her course now run, lies at the bottom of Bideford Bay, somewhere off Baggy Point.

The “Ceres” sprang a leak on Tuesday night while on a voyage from South Wales to Bude, and foundered after her crew had put off in her boat and had been picked up by the Appledore lifeboat. The Captain is Mr Oswald Jeffery, a married man, whose home is in Richmond Road, Appledore, and the mate Mr Walter Ford, a married man of Irsha Street,  Appledore. They reached Appledore in the lifeboat at about 11 o’clock, and on arrival the Rev Muller offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for their safety.

Captain Jeffery said,” We left Swansea on Tuesday bound for Bude with a cargo of slag.  Because of the weather we intended to go in over the Bar for the night as it was too rough to venture on to Bude.  At 8 o’clock I went below to rest for an hour, leaving the mate in charge.  An hour later he told me there was water in the engine room. We manned the pumps. We tried to get the ship over the Bar, but the water made her roll badly, and I gave the order for the ship’s rowing boat to be launched. I fired two rockets, and we abandoned the vessel. We lay in the shelter of the “Ceres” which was sinking, and were taken onboard the lifeboat.”

Dr. Valentine stood by in case medical assistance was needed, but although wet through, neither the captain nor his mate appeared any the worse for this ordeal.

The “Ceres” was owed by a Bude firm of coal merchants, and was built in Salcombe.

~~~

“. . . lies at the bottom of Bideford Bay, somewhere off Baggy Point.”

On 12th March 2011, 74 years and 108 days after she went down, we took a walk on Baggy Point.

The day was hazy with rain forecast for the afternoon.  The air was warm for March – the sea calm, Lundy Island almost lost in the haze.

There is a green navigation buoy off the Point, guiding ships away from the rocks that mark this coast.

I wondered if it was there the day Ceres went down.

(Which reminds me, the original charts still exist. I will check and let you know.)

You have to get close to the Point and then start to climb down before you discover just how spectacular it is.

The sea and the weather whittle away at this coast hour on hour, day on day, year on year, century on century.

The climbers on the rock face are lost in the sculpture.

~~~

This is no place to be late at night in a westerly gale.

“. . . Because of the weather we intended to go in over the Bar for the night as it was too rough to venture on to Bude.”

It is approximately 12 nautical miles across Bideford Bay from Baggy Point to Hartland Point and another 12 nautical miles or so down an inhospitable, west-facing coast to the difficult entrance to Bude Haven.

Better to make for shelter inside Bideford Bar and accept the twelve nautical miles from there back to Hartland Point as a cost worth bearing.

In noting the features of navigating the Bristol Channel  the Cruising Almanac states:

“There are races off many headlands in particular Hartland Point and Bull Point on the S side and St Gowans Head, Oxwich Point and Mumbles Head on the N, together with dangerous races, the Hen and Chickens and White Horses off the NW and NE of Lundy and also S of Lundy. Overfalls are widespread, sometimes in mid-channel and a short, steep sea sets up quickly with wind against tide . . .”

~~~

There are two footpaths from Baggy Point to Croyde.

The lower one gives a perfect view of the Bay across to Bideford Bar.

The Cruising Almanac again: ” Bideford Bar has about 1m (at LAT – the lowest depth at the lowest of low spring tides). Bar and sands are continuously shifting and buoys may be moved to allow for this. It is dangerous if a heavy ground swell is running. Oc Ldg Lts are moved to suit the fairway. If a sea is running on the bar a good rise of tide should be waited. Under bad conditions the entrance may be difficult and dangerous . . . The tide may be awaited in Clovelly Bay with winds S of W. . . 

“Approach: In thick weather make Downend or Westward Ho! and thence shape a course for Bideford Fairway RWVS with sph topmark Fl.10s NNW of Rock Nose, Westward Ho! . . .”

So there it is: in the middle of the thin line of sunlit water across the Bay, the Bideford Fairway buoy can be faintly seen . . .

. . . and somewhere beneath this Bay lies Ceres.

~~~

The others walk on and I sit for a while . . .

forget the photographs, forget the newspaper cuttings, forget the family stories, this is here and now.

She’s been down there for nearly 75 years . . .

. . . . and I am left wondering how the loss of a sailing vessel so long ago can be so deeply moving to someone who wasn’t even born then.

What was it about those ships?

~~~

But time it comes to ships and men when sailing days are past,

Even such as hail from Devon where they mostly build to last,

And her seams began to open and the Severn tide came through

And the water kept on gaining spite of all that they could do.

They did their best to beach her but they couldn’t do no more

And she foundered at the finish there in sight of Appledore.

And her bones’ll never flicker blue on any ‘longshore fire,

For she’ll lie there and she’ll moulder as an old ship might desire

And hear the vessels passing by, and dream about the past,

And the great old times in Devon where they built her once to last.

from The Ketch “Ceres” 1811 – 1936 by C.Fox Smith

Ceres – putting to sea

~~~

Watching the merchant ships leaving Bude must always have been a event

~~~

On the back of this photograph, my grandfather has written, “Can see her noble shape in this.”

~~~

~~~

From a series of recently rediscovered photographs that had lain pressed in a book for the past ten years.

For the previous sets hereherehere and here, for an overview of the harbour at Bude here

Ceres – between trips

Taking advantage of low tide.

Enjoy the detail in this photograph – rudder, blocks, hobble boat, people on beach, men working.

“Mr Health and Mr Safety, all of these children gained from the experience.”

The definition is not so good in the photo, but the sentiment is.

~~~

From a series of recently rediscovered photographs that had lain pressed in a book for the past ten years.

For the previous set herehere and here, for an overview of the harbour at Bude here

Ceres offloading

The turn-around had to be quick and slick between tides . . .

. . . with an eye on the weather

~~~

Horses worked better then vehicles on the beach, but . . .

~~~

. . . here, on the lower wharf in Bude Canal Basin, the trains are preparing to take over.

~~~

From a series of recently rediscovered photographs that had lain pressed in a book for the past ten years.

For the previous set here and here, for an overview of the harbour at Bude here

    Ceres at anchor

    These photographs were taken at full tide.

    A few hours later, she would be high and dry on the sand.

    The hobble boat taking a line to the mooring post

    ~~~

    ~~~

    ~~~

    ~~~

    From a series of recently rediscovered photographs that had lain pressed in a book for the past ten years.

    For the previous set here, for an overview of the harbour at Bude here

    The ketch ‘Ceres’ entering Bude


    Six pictures of Ceres found recently – pressed between the pages of an old volume.

    Several years ago years, a sudden flood swamped the old leather suitcase they’d been lying in. They were all damaged – water-marked and curled. The flattening-them-out-in-an-old-book trick seems to have worked.

    ~~~

    Here she is rounding Barrel Rock. A hobble boat is waiting just inside Chapel Rock

    The crew are working hard, preparing mooring lines; the helmsman barely visible in the stern.

    On another occasion, she enters Bude with her mainsail set.

    Bude seawater swimming pool is to the right of the picture

    By the size of the bow wave, the main seems to be helping the engine, perhaps on a falling tide.

    With hobble boat in tow

    ~~~

    There were several more old photos of Ceres in those pages.

    I will group together and post them as a series.

    On the Ceres – 73 years ago today – not forgotten

    Ceres 1811 – 1936

    As I write, I can hear the wind hammering the trees in front of the house.

    The inshore waters forecast for here gives southwesterly 6 to gale 8.

    For the Bristol Channel it gives:

    Lands End to St Davids Head including the Bristol Channel

    The outlook for the 24 hours following 1200 Tuesday 24th November

    Strong winds are forecast

    Wind: Southwesterly 6 to gale 8, increasing severe gale 9 at times, perhaps storm 10 later in west

    Sea state: Rough or very rough, occasionally high in west

    Weather: Squally showers.

    Visibility: Moderate or good, occasionally poor in west.

    I mention this because 73 years ago today, off Baggy Point on the north coast of Devon at the western end of the Bristol Channel, on a quieter, fog-ridden day, the Ceres foundered.

    The report in the Bideford Weekly Gazette on 1st December 1936 is recorded below.

    ~~~

    The following year, my grandfather commissioned Pelham Jones to commemorate her on canvas (above). The painting is a wonderfully optimistic depiction of a coasting ketch, albeit with her competition lurking in the background. It is a painting for her owner to enjoy.

    I find John Chancellor’s painting of the Ceres to be equally optimistic. I suspect he painted her purely because he enjoyed painting ships and boats. This is a painting for the artist himself to enjoy.

    Taking Bude After a Blow, by John Chancellor

    ~~~

    Taken from an article in the Bideford Weekly Gazette dated December 1st.1936.

    “FATE OF THE “CERES”

    The 125 years old “Ceres”, veteran of the merchant service, her course now run, lies at the bottom of Bideford Bay, somewhere off Baggy Point.

    The “Ceres” sprang a leak on Tuesday night while on a voyage from South Wales to Bude, and foundered after her crew had put off in her boat and had been picked up by the Appledore lifeboat. The Captain is Mr Oswald Jeffery, a married man, whose home is in Richmond Road, Appledore, and the mate Mr Walter Ford, a married man of Irsha Street,, Appledore. They reached Appledore in the lifeboat at about 11 o’clock, and on arrival the Rev Muller offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for their safety.

    Captain Jeffery said,” We left Swansea on Tuesday bound for Bude with a cargo of slag. Because of the weather we intended to go in over the Bar for the night as it was to rough to venture on to Bude. At 8 o’clock I went below to rest for an hour, leaving the mate in charge. An hour later he told me there was water in the engine room. We manned the pumps. We tried to get the ship over the Bar, but the water made her roll badly, and I gave the order for the ship’s rowing boat to be launched. I fired two rockets, and we abandoned the vessel. We lay in the shelter of the “Ceres” which was sinking, and were taken onboard the lifeboat.

    Dr. Valentine stood by in case medical assistance was needed, but although wet through, neither the captain nor his mate appeared any the worse for this ordeal.

    The “Ceres” was owed by a Bude firm of coal merchants, and was built in Salcombe.

    Ketch Ceres 1811 – 1936.

    Built in Salcombe, Devon in 1811.She carried stores as a revitaling ship at the blockade of Brest during the Napoleonic wars. Was the oldest sea-going vessel afloat until she sank in Croyde Bay one November evening in 1936. My late father Walter Ford always maintained that she sank because the vessel had recently had a new timber set in, and this had swollen and had displaced the much older timbers which surrounded it.

    The night she sank was flat calm and the sky clear.”

    For further posts on the Ceres here.