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Sea StoriesLoss Of The Nautilus Sloop Of War On A Rock In The Archipelago
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The Loss Of The Peggy
On the 28th of September, 1785, the Peggy, commanded by Capt. Knight,
sailed from the harbor of Waterford, Ireland, for the port of New
York, in America.
Here it is necessary to observe, that the Peggy was a large unwieldy
Dutch-built ship, about eight hundred tons burden, and had formerly
been in the Norway, and timber trade, for which, indeed, she seemed,
from her immense bulk, well calculated. There being no freight in
readiness for America, we were under the necessity of taking in
ballast: which consisted of coarse gravel and sand, with about fifty
casks of stores, fresh stock, and vegetables, sufficient to last
during the voyage; having plenty of room, and having been most
abundantly supplied by the hospitable neighbourhood, of which we were
about to take our leave.
We weighed anchor, and with the assistance of a rapid tide and
pleasant breeze, soon gained a tolerable offing: we continued under
easy sail the remaining part of the day, and towards sunset lost sight
Sept. 29th, made the old head of Kingsale; the weather continuing
favorable, we shortly came within sight of Cape Clear, from whence we
took our departure from the coast of Ireland.
Nothing material occurred for several days, during which time we
traversed a vast space of the Western Ocean.
Oct. 12th, the weather now became hazy and squally;--all hands turned
up to reef top-sails, and strike top-gallant-yards.--Towards night the
squalls were more frequent, indicating an approaching gale:--We
accordingly clued, reefed top-sails, and struck top-gallant-masts; and
having made all snug aloft, the ship weathered the night very
On the 13th the crew were employed in setting up the rigging, and
occasionally pumping, the ship having made much water during the
night. The gale increasing as the day advanced, occasioned the vessel
to make heavy rolls, by which an accident happened, which was near
doing much injury to the captain's cabin. A puncheon of rum, which was
lashed on the larboard side of the cabin, broke loose, a sudden jerk
having drawn assunder the cleats to which it was fastened. By its
velocity it stove in the state-rooms, and broke several utensils of
the cabin furniture. The writer of this, with much difficulty, escaped
with whole limbs; but not altogether unhurt, receiving a painful
bruise on the right foot: having, however, escaped from the cabin, the
people on deck were given to understand that the rum was broken loose.
The word rum soon attracted the sailor's attention, and this cask
being the ship's only stock, they were not tardy (as may be supposed)
in rendering their assistance to double lash, what they
anticipated--the delight, of frequently splicing the mainbrace
therewith during their voyage.
On the 14th the weather became moderate, and the crew were employed in
making good the stowage of the stores in the hold, which had given way
during the night;--shaking reefs out of the top-sails, getting up
top-gallant-masts and yards, and rigging out studding-sails. All hands
being now called to dinner, a bustle and confused noise took place on
deck. The captain (who was below) sent the writer of this to discover
the cause thereof, but before he could explain, a voice was crying out
in a most piteous and vociferous tone. The captain and chief mate
jumped on deck, and found the crew had got the cook laid on the
windlass, and were giving him a most severe cobbing with a flat piece
of his own fire wood. As soon as the captain had reached forward, he
was much exasperated with them for their precipitate conduct, in
punishing without his knowledge and permission, and having prohibited
such proceedings in future cases, he inquired the cause of their
grievance. The cook, it seems, having been served out fresh water to
dress vegetables for all hands, had inadvertently used it for some
other purpose, and boiled the greens in a copper of salt water, which
rendered them so intolerably tough, that they were not fit for use;
consequently the sailors had not their expected garnish, and a general
murmur taking place, the above punishment was inflicted.
A steady breeze ensuing, all sails filled and the ship made way, with
a lofty and majestic air; and at every plunge of her bows, which was
truly Dutch-built, rose a foam of no small appearance.
During four days the weather continued favorable, which flattered the
seamen with a speedy sight of land.
On the 19th we encountered a very violent gale, with an unusual heavy
sea:--The ship worked greatly, and took in much water through her
seams:--the pumps were kept frequently going. At mid-day, while the
crew were at dinner, a tremendous sea struck the ship right aft, which
tore in the cabin windows, upset the whole of the dinner, and nearly
drowned the captain, mate, and myself, who was at that time holding a
dish on the table, while the captain was busily employed in carving a
fine goose, which, much to our discomfiture, was entirely drenched by
the salt-water. Some of the coops were washed from the quarter-deck,
and several of the poultry destroyed.
In consequence of the vessel shipping so great a quantity of water,
the pumps were doubly manned, and soon gained on her. The gale had not
in the least abated during the night. The well was plumbed, and there
was found to be a sudden and alarming increase of water. The carpenter
was immediately ordered to examine the ship below, in order to find
the cause of the vessel's making so much water. His report was, she
being a very old vessel, her seams had considerably opened by her
laboring so much, therefore, could devise no means at present to
prevent the evil. He also reported, the mizen-mast to be in great
The heel of the mizen-mast being stepped between decks (a very unusual
case, but probably it was placed there in order to make more room for
stowage in the after-hold) was likely to work from its step, and
thereby might do considerable damage to the ship.
The captain now held a consultation with the officers, when it was
deemed expedient to cut the mast away without delay: this was
accordingly put into execution the following morning, as soon as the
day made its appearance. The necessary preparations having been made,
the carpenter began hewing at the mast, and quickly made a deep wound.
Some of the crew were stationed ready to cut away the stays and
lanyards, whilst the remaining part was anxiously watching the
momentary crash which was to ensue; the word being given to cut away
the weather-lanyards, as the ship gave a lee-lurch, the whole of the
wreck of the mast plunged, without further injury, into the ocean.
The weather still threatening a continuance, our principal employ was
at the pumps, which were kept continually going. The sea had now rose
to an alarming height, and frequently struck the vessel with great
violence. Towards the afternoon part of the starboard bulwark was
carried away by the shock of a heavy sea, which made the ship
broach-to, and before she could answer her helm again, a sea broke
through the fore-chains, and swept away the caboose and all its
utensils from the deck; fortunately for the cook he was assisting at
the pumps at the time, or he inevitably must have shared the same fate
as his galley.
Notwithstanding the exertions of the crew, the water gained fast, and
made its way into the hold, which washed a great quantity of the
ballast through the timber-holes into the hull, by which the suckers
of the pumps were much damaged, and thereby frequently choaked. By
such delays the leaks increased rapidly. We were under the necessity
of repeatedly hoisting the pumps on deck, to apply different means
which were devised to keep the sand from entering, but all our efforts
proved ineffectual, and the pumps were deemed of no further utility.
There was now no time to be lost; accordingly it was agreed that the
allowance of fresh water should be lessened to a pint a man; the casks
were immediately hoisted from the hold, and lashed between decks. As
the water was started from two of them, they were sawed in two, and
formed into buckets, there being no other casks on board fit for that
purpose; the whips were soon applied, and the hands began bailing at
the fore and after hatchways which continued without intermission the
whole of the night, each man being suffered to take one hour's rest,
The morning of the 22d presented to our view a most dreary aspect,--a
dismal horizon encircling--not the least appearance of the gale
abating--on the contrary, it seemed to come with redoubled vigor--the
ballast washing from side to side of the ship at each roll, and scarce
a prospect of freeing her. Notwithstanding these calamities, the crew
did not relax their efforts. The main-hatchway was opened and fresh
buckets went to work; the captain and mate alternately relieving each
other at the helm. The writer's station was to supply the crew with
grog, which was plentifully served to them every two hours. By the
motion of the ship the buckets struck against the combings of the
hatchways with great violence, and in casting them in the hold to
fill, they frequently struck on the floating pieces of timber which
were generally used as chocks in stowing the hold. By such accidents
the buckets were repeatedly stove, and we were under the necessity of
cutting more of the water casks to supply their place. Starting the
fresh water overboard was reluctantly done, particularly as we now
felt the loss of the caboose, and were under the necessity of eating
the meat raw which occasioned us to be very thirsty. Night coming on,
the crew were not allowed to go below to sleep; each man, when it came
to his turn, stretched himself on the deck.
Oct. 23. Notwithstanding the great quantity of water bailed from the
vessel, she gained so considerably that she had visibly settled much
deeper in the water. All hands were now called aft, in order to
consult on the best measures. It was now unanimously resolved to make
for the island of Bermudas, it being the nearest land. Accordingly we
bore away for it, but had not sailed many leagues before we found that
the great quantity of water in the vessel had impeded her steerage so
much that she would scarcely answer her helm; and making a very heavy
lurch, the ballast shifted, which gave her a great lift to the
starboard, and rendered it very difficult to keep a firm footing on
deck. The anchors which were stowed on the larboard bow were ordered
to be cut away, and the cables which were on the orlop deck to be hove
overboard in order to right her; but all this had a very trifling
effect, for the ship was now become quite a log.
The crew were still employed in baling; one of whom, in preventing a
bucket from being stove against the combings, let go his hold, and
fell down the hatchway; with great difficulty he escaped being drowned
or dashed against the ship's sides. Having got into a bucket which was
instantly lowered, he was providentially hoisted on deck without any
During the night the weather became more moderate, and on the
following morning, (Oct. 25), the gale had entirely subsided, but left
a very heavy swell. Two large whales approached close to the ship.
They sported around the vessel the whole of the day, and after dusk
Having now no further use of the helm, it was lashed down, and the
captain and mate took their spell at the buckets. My assistance having
been also required, a boy of less strength, whose previous business
was to attend the cook, now took my former station of serving the crew
with refreshments. This lad had not long filled his new situation of
drawing out rum from the cask, before he was tempted to taste it, and
which having repeatedly done he soon became intoxicated, and was
missed on deck for some time. I was sent to look for him. The spigot I
perceived out of the cask, and the liquor running about, but the boy I
could not see for some time; however looking down the lazeretto (the
trap-door of which was lying open), I found him fast asleep. He had
luckily fallen on some sails which were stowed there, or he must have
On the 26th and 27th of Oct. the weather continued quite clear, with
light baffling winds. A man was constantly kept aloft to look out for
a sail. The rest of the crew were employed at the whips.
On the 28th the weather began to lower, and appeared inclined for
rain. This gave some uneasiness, being apprehensive of a gale. The
captain therefore directed the carpenter to overhaul the long-boat,
caulk her, and raise a streak which orders were immediately complied
with; but when he went to his locker for oakum, he found it plundered
of nearly the whole of his stock--all hands were therefore set to
picking, by which means he was soon supplied.
It was totally clear on the 29th, with a fresh breeze, but the ship
heeled so much that her gunwale at times was under water, and the crew
could scarcely stand on deck. All hands were now ordered to assemble
aft, when the captain in a short address, pointed out the most
probable manner by which they could be saved. All agreed in opinion
with him, and it was resolved that the long-boat should be hoisted out
as speedily as possible, and such necessaries as could be conveniently
stowed, to be placed in her. Determined no longer to labor at the
buckets, the vessel, which could not remain above water many hours
after we had ceased baling, was now abandoned to her fate.
I now began to reflect on the small chance we had of being
saved--twenty-two people in an open boat--upwards of three hundred
miles from the land--in a boisterous climate, and the whole crew worn
out with fatigue! The palms of the crew's hands were already so flayed
it could not be expected that they could do much execution with the
oars--while thus reflecting on our perilous situation, one of our
oldest seamen, who at this moment was standing near me, turned his
head aside to wipe away a tear--I could not refrain from sympathizing
with him--my heart was already full;--the captain perceiving my
despondency bade me be of good cheer, and called me a young lubber.
The boat having been hoisted out, and such necessaries placed in her
as were deemed requisite, one of the hands was sent aloft to lash the
colors downwards to the main-top-mast shrouds; which having done, he
placed himself on the crosstrees, to look around him, and almost
instantly hallooed out,--"A sail."--It would be impossible to describe
the ecstatic emotions of the crew: every man was aloft, in order to be
satisfied; though, a minute before, not one of the crew was able to
The sail was on our weather-bow, bearing right down on us with a
smart breeze. She soon perceived us, but hauled her wind several
times, in order to examine our ship. As she approached nearer she
clearly perceived our calamitous situation, and hastened to our
She proved to be a Philadelphia schooner, bound to Cape Francois, in
St. Domingo. The captain took us all on board in the most humane and
friendly manner, and after casting our boat adrift, proceeded on his
voyage. When we perceived our ship from the vessel on which we were
now happily on board, her appearance was truly deplorable.
The captain of the schooner congratulated us on our fortunate escape,
and expressed his surprise that the ship should remain so long on her
beam ends, in such a heavy sea, without capsizing. We soon began to
distance the wreck, by this time very low in the water, and shortly
after lost sight of her.
The evening began to approach fast, when a man loosing the
main-top-sail, descried a sail directly in the same course on our
quarter. We made sail for her, and soon came within hail of her. She
proved to be a brig from Glasgow, bound to Antigua. It was now
determined, between the captains, that half of our people should
remain in the schooner, and the captain, mate, eight of the crew, and
myself, should get on board the brig. On our arrival at Antigua we met
with much kindness and humanity.
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