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 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.

    South Devon sunrise

    There are a few occasions in the year when my journey to work coincides with sunrise.

    from Labrador Bay, 1st December 2009

    These are the ships I mentioned in a post from Southwold last September – still there, still waiting for trade.

    I have learnt more about them since, in particular the concern they have created in some quarters – here.

    ~~~

    Fifteen minutes later, five miles further on, the sun higher, the perspective lower, the same ships . . .

    from Meadfoot Beach, 1st December 2009

    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.

    From the east coast

    Back online again.

    14th September

    There is no internet connection here. I have a chance to finish a couple of long posts that I started a while back and will feed them through as and when.

    ~~~

    We are on the east coast – in a cottage looking down onto Southwold beach. We fall sleep to the sound of waves breaking on sand and wake to the sun rising out of the sea – well, we would do if the cloud hadn’t followed us from the Wescountry.

    The lows that have affected the west all summer have given way to high pressure, causing a layer of cloud over this part of the coast and a very bracing north easterly. It does look better this morning, patches of blue sky, the sun spilling intermittently on the water and the wind lighter.

    Yesterday, a blue yacht about the same size as Blue Mistress motored up the coast, pitching into the seas, a lone figure at the helm, mainsail ready. I guess he had the tide but it looked a long hard slog into the wind.

    ~~~

    Ships off Southwold 2009

    The horizon here is full of ships. At night their lights spread into the distance – twenty four vessels at the last count.

    This is a sure sign of the recession.

    We have come all this way to see exactly what we see each night off Teignmouth. There are twelve vessels there, moored closer inshore.

    The last time this happened was in the early nineties.

    When the ships disappear, then we will know the recession is almost over – but not until.

    On sailing a Folksong – Saturday morning

    I went down to the boat on Friday evening to spend a few days on board.

    The following morning, having worked out the early routine, I made a cup of tea and sat with my head out of the hatch to enjoy the peace in the morning sunshine and watch the tide as it slackened towards high water. Today was the top of the spring tides – (0903, 5.4m; the still higher 5.7m due just after 2200). I cannot remember seeing the level so close to the top of the Cattedown Wharves (below).

    A blast on a ship’s horn and the bow of Bro Deliverer, registered in Goteborg, appeared from behind the sheds – adding a different shade of blue to the scene and totally changing the perspective. A tug and the pilot boat tripped alongside her.

    0756

    She nosed into the turning area and came around stern first. The tug scurrying around while the pilot boat stood off with an air of dignified watchfulness.

    A yacht motored briskly out of the Yacht Haven, promptly eased off and drifted gently, waiting for the ship to slip up river stern first.

    0800

    A few minutes later, a pleasure boat left its berth on the outside of the Yacht Haven pontoons and hurried around her bow to pick up its first passengers of the day.

    Meanwhile, Bro Deliverer came level with the wharves and, with a little help from the tug, eased sideways into her berth. Lines were thrown and she came to a stop, dwarfing the cranes and sheds.

    0815

    All was over in 20 minutes or so – a well rehearsed routine, neatly accomplished by the ships crew, the crews of the tug and pilot boat as well as the shore crew.

    My brother rang at this point to say he was five minutes away. Time to row ashore.

    On sailing a Folksong – those lazy jacks again

    Saturday morning around 0930, heading towards Mount Batten Pier with a following wind.

    All morning, Plymouth Longroom has been delivering a Mariners Notice of an impending powerboat race in Plymouth Sound, warning other boats to stay clear. There are few boats out. I am heading towards Mount Batten pier, preparing to downsails in the spot I usually use when solo so that I can motor back to the mooring.

    I start to wonder if today woould be a good day to sail the nautical mile, if not onto the mooring, at least close to it. Could I sail single-handed in restricted waters without making a complete scallops of it?

    This is a 25 foot boat with just me on board. There is a wide S bend to negotiate but enough width in a river that takes commercial shipping. The wind is southerly but will differ in the river. It will be heading me as I turn towards the Yacht Haven and it will be gusting in the river. The tide is still be dropping, and is towards the end of its run.  There’s certainly enough wind tot take me over it. Depth may or may not be an issue. The traffic is minimal . . .  And I would like the experience.

    There would have been a time when I would have done it without asking the questions. The trouble is, the more I know . . .

    So, now, decision taken, I am almost too far to the right of the end of the pier, the foresail is goosewinged and a gybe looks likely before I clear it. But as we get closer, the wind backs slightly, blowing along the pier, and we slip round the end with at least thirty yards to spare.

    There are three or four boats emerging from Sutton Harbour and a racing yacht circling as the crew work on the mainsail.There’s is plenty of room for Blue Mistress if we keep to the right of the fairway.

    The wind is now blowing downriver, more south easterly, with enough south in it to keep me outside the line of mooring buoys. Round the green fairway buoy, hardening onto the wind towards Victoria Wharves. A large yacht – (white, tall sides) is motoring downstream, passing swiftly astern. A fishing boat, closer to the Plymouth side, looks concerned, slows, turns to head us, (perhaps thinking I may tack early), realises I won’t, then passes well astern.

    By now, I am adjacent to the entrance to the Wharves, and the wall is coming up. Still plenty of water below us. A glimpse of a man above, hosing equipment. Foresheet to hand, tiller hard over, Blue Mistress comes about, sails flap, I drop the port foresheet, haul in the starboard one quickly before the wind fills the sail . . . and we are bounding up and across river. I ease the foresheet slightly to give more belly. Hauling the sheet  in  just before the sail fills is very easy but, in my enthusiasm, I tend to flatten the sail.

    The wind is coming in gusts now and we dinghy-sail, bringing her head up when the strength of the wind allows and noting the slight variations in direction. It comes across the Yacht Haven straight down this section of the river, and then begins to back a little as it draws across Turnchapel. We’re heading towards the moorings of boats of a similar size to Blue Mistress. There is plenty of depth of water here but I don’t want to get in among the moorings.

    A strong gust, we heel, head up, and then go about. This time I am more gentle on the helm, deciding not to push it hard over but to see whether being less forceful will still bring her about but keep momentum up. It seems to work and Blue Mistress moves smoothly onto the next tack. Despite my concerns about the rudder, it does the job.

    This is the narrowest section. We are head on to a corner of the river wall. It is approaching swiftly. At low springs, there is a rocky reef exposed off this point so, although there is probably enough water, I give it room, go about and head up towards what the chart designates as a ‘turning area’  for the larger commercial ships. Now Blue Mistress and I have navigated the S-bend in the river and have opened up the stretch towards Oreston and beyond.

    In towards the seaward end of the Yacht Haven, and we are headed upstream, slowing as we head into a more sheltered stretch. It seems the tide is running a little stronger here.

    When I put my head out of the hatch just after 0600 this morning, ‘Stability’ was docking at Cattedown Wharf. We pass along her starboard side.

    I bring Blue Mistress head to wind. . .

    and, just as I let go of the main, we get caught by a heavy shower of rain.

    Roundly cursing having to stow wet sails, I notice the lazy jacks are still led forward. Not only are the sails wet and slippery, but the mainsail is now in an untidy heap. I have sail ties in my pocket, but, by the time I have gathered it into a fairly neat bundle, tied it, let the foresail drop to the deck, and stowed it (wet) into its bag through the forehatch, the tide has taken us back down the river the whole length of ‘Stability’. Engine on, motor back to where we were and finish cleaning up.

    Then back to the mooring to complete the task.

    Single-handed, a lot more forethought is needed – forethought comes from experience.

    The lazy jacks should have been put back before we rounded Mount Batten Pier. I won’t forget again.