The Voyage of the Fairlina

NARRATIVE

Of

A voyage from Liverpool to Peru

I left Jersey in the beginning of March 1864, to join the brig Fairlina, as chief-officer. She was lying at Liverpool loading a general cargo for the port of Huanchaco in Peru (A port near to the town of Trujillo in northern Peru about 200 miles north of Callao/Lima). The voyage was the first I had undertaken, as chief-mate, I was highly pleased with the appearance of the craft, she being new and evidently a smart vessel. On the 22nd of March - the loading of the cargo being completed, the crew and pilot came on board. The vessel was then cast loose from the basin and towed into the river. We brought up off George’s pier and the master returned on shore. On the following morning at eight o'clock the master returned. An able seaman was either taken very ill, or pretended to be so. He was taken on shore and another man brought in his stead. We had been employed setting up rigging, lashing water casks, spars, &c., and preparing the vessel for sea, which was by this time completed. Next day we got under weigh in tow of the steam tug Flying Childers. At two p.m., the pilot and tug left the vessel off the Bell-buoy. On Saturday the 26th, being off the Tuskar, we stowed away anchors and cables. The wind was blowing fresh from the northward and the vessel was shipping great quantities of water. Being now only 48 hours away, I could have wished myself anywhere but on board the Fairlina, for out of our crew I really believe only one had been to sea before; the rest could not steer and hardly knew one end of the ship from the other. Nearly all the work now, devolved on the boatswain and myself. Our task was not an easy one, but it was sunshine compared with what awaited us thereafter.

 

On the morning of Saturday the 27th of March it blew very fresh, but towards noon, the wind had increased to a gale. The wind was north-east and the vessel scudding before it under main top-gallant sail, at the rate of 10 knots an hour. At 4 p.m., while the captain was in bed taking a little rest, having been up most of the previous night I went below to write. Before leaving the deck I had given orders to the boatswain to heave the log. They were in the act of doing so when the vessel gave a heavy roll. William Harris, a young man, about sixteen years of age was holding the reel for the boatswain, and was rolled against the side. He overbalanced himself on the rail and went overboard. At once the cry arose, all over the ship, "a man overboard." Every one ran aft to give what assistance he could. I ran up from below and saw the poor fellow on the top of a high swell, with the reel in his hand. All exertions were made against a heavy sea, to rescue the poor fellow from a watery grave, which proved the less successful, seeing that out of our small complement of nine we were already one short, and he was about the best out of the miserable lot. It should he mentioned that we were bound on one of the most trying voyages that a vessel could undertake. Going round Cape Horn in the height of winter is anything but very pleasant. Amongst our cargo there were cases of brandy, gin and whiskey, and one night, the man who was the only sailor in the vessel was relieved from the helm. He went forward, broke open the fore-hatch, and having forced some of the cases helped himself freely to the contents. He was found in a beastly state of intoxication and threatened with severe punishment as soon as we got into port. While next day we were engaged removing the spirits aft into the cabin we saw the terrible sight of a vessel on fire. There was another vessel alongside of her which shortly left the burning craft and made for us. The wind did not allow her to fetch us and she passed about a mile off. We signalled but she did not answer. The burning ship went down and what these two vessels were is a mystery to this day. As we gained southward we felt the rigours of winter and the furious pemperoes1 off the river Plate were very severe; but it must he remembered that our vessel was a small overloaded one. A bucket of water could be bailed up alongside without a rope so that we were very frequently under water. On Monday, May 16th,in a fresh gale with a very high sea, our main-top-gallant-yard was carried away. We managed to supply its place.

 

Pamperos: a thunderstorm often accompanied by violent hailstorms caused by a dramatic climatic change brought about when a cold westerly wind from the Argentinian pampas follows hard on the heels of a hot northerly wind coming out of the Uruguyan interior.

 

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