The Voyage of the Fairlina

From Huanchaco home to Liverpool

Taking all circumstances into consideration I deemed it prudent and resolved to put into Valparaiso in distress. Sunday 31st July; blew fresh during the night attended with passing squalls, but having a fair wind, which was quite a treat to us we made good use of it. We had carried our flying jib during the night. At daylight on going forward I found the jib boom bobbing up and down like a whip - the two martingale stays having broken (these were attached to the bowsprit). In that condition it was a miracle how it had stood the squalls we had had before with the pressure of canvas on.

On August 3rd we got cables on deck, bent and anchors over the bows. Sighted land on the lee beam. Next day sighted Valparaiso and by 5 p.m. got safely at anchor in the harbour after an unfortunate voyage of 134 days from Liverpool. I appeared before the British Consul, from whom I received much credit for the way I had acted under such trying circumstances. Although there were two or three ship masters in port, he agreed that I well deserved to retain command of the vessel. I tried without success to get the boatswain made mate. But he had not sufficient education and I sailed from Valparaiso without a mate. We had a good passage to Huanchaco where I regretted I had not taken a mate on account of the dangerous character of the roadstead in which we wore laying. The merchants had long since given us up as lost. Discharged cargo, took in ballast, and went back to Valparaiso for orders. Got orders to go to Constitution in the River Maule to load a cargo of wheat for Liverpool. Our passage to Constitution lasted 12 days.

As this narrative from beginning to end contains nothing but catastrophes, I deeply lament to have again to relate an event which caused the death to one of the crew of our ill-fated ship.

I went on shore one evening about six o'clock to pay some labourers I had engaged during the day; there was only about twice the length of the vessel to go on shore.

The youngest lad was always attending to the boat, to scull backward and forward. As soon as I had landed I sent the boy back on board, but I had not walked up a great distance when the boatswain came running after me in great agitation, and told me the boy was drowned. I ran back to see if any thing could be done, but alas it was too late; the poor boy had ceased to exist. He had been seen by a man on shore when he fell into the water, and there being an under current in that river a person disappeared at once.

I grieved very much for that boy when I considered he had gone through all our previous troubles, and then met his death in the still waters of a river, with dozens of persons nearly within reach of him and the vessel on the point of sailing for home. After a stay of 10 days in Constitution the vessel got loaded, and we sailed for Liverpool. Nothing of much importance occurred during the passage home; we encountered very severe head winds, especially in the Channel, where I had a great deal of anxiety and very little rest - being short of a mate as I was. After a passage of days the Fairlina was again safely fast in the George's dock in the port of Liverpool; whence she had left 11 months previously. Out of the 9 that had left in her the boatswain, an ordinary seaman, and myself only returned, the able seaman having gone ashore in Valparaiso. The captain and four others having perished.

  1. Constitución (lat 35 18’ S, long 72 30’ W) port at the mouth of the Maule river in central Chile which was reputed to be the southernmost limit of the Inca empire. The distance between Valparaiso and Constitución is about 140 miles so 12 days to make the voyage is a little excessive.
  2. Sauvage states that apart from himself, the bosun and an ordinary seaman returned out of the original crew who left Liverpool in March. By his own reckoning five died - the captain of illness and four drowned (Harris, the cook, Walsh and the boy) and the AB who was paid off in Valparaiso. However, in his own account there should be at least one other boy and another ordinary seaman who are mentioned in the outward passage.

 

 

Here ends the account of James Sauvage

published by M Wrankmore of the Albion Press in Cape Town in 1866

 

However, there are a number of inacuracies in Sauvage's story. These are probably the result of a sailor's love of story telling and Sauvage probably had an eye on his potential sales.

As first mate Sauvage would have appointed by the owners not the captain and he would have been responsible for keeping the log, yet apart from Harris and Walsh no one else is called by their name - even in death, the captain remains anonymous. Far from being an old seadog James Sauvage is only recorded as having served on only two Jersey vessels. He sailed on the Echo between September 1861 and January 1864 which was described as his first payment and then joined the Fairlina two months later for the voyage which lasted from 21st March 1864 until 2nd March 1865. Sauvage’s sailing career appears to have been limited to these two vessels although he may have worked his passage down to South Africa on an English ship out of Liverpool which would have been his third. As far as the Fairlina was concerned, apart from the two apprentices, he was possibly one of the most inexperienced men on board.

The typical crew of a brig the size of the Fairlina would be about 10 to 12 men


  • The Master or captain;
  • The mate or bosun who was the officer below the master;

  • The bosun or 2nd mate;

  • Sailors who were rated either AB - able seaman able to hand, reef and steer or else OS - ordinary seaman;

  • Day men such as the cook and the carpenter; and

  • Boys/apprentices who were learning the "ropes"
  • Sauvage's memory seems to let him down as in his account he names or refers to nine men while the crew list has the names of thirteen. He mentions himself and the master, the bosun, an able-bodied seaman, three ordinary seamen and two apprentices. He also names certain people and describes crucial events such as young Harris drowning in the Irish Sea, the cook being lost overboard, ordinary seaman Walsh falling from a yard and drowning (it was probably James Walter), the death of the master, (Helier Amy) of a mystery illness once they had rounded Cape Horn. He writes of how the youngest apprentice drowned in Constitución sometime in August /September and how the one and only able bodied seaman signed off in Valparaiso. Unfortunately there was no one called Harris signed on board and Walsh was on the crew which took over in 1865.

    The names of the crew on the voyage to Huanchaco are recorded as set out as


    Helier Amy 35 Jersey (St Saviour)
    James Sauvage 24 Jersey (St Ouen)
    RJ Brown 45 Essex
    James Walter 44 Penzance
    Charles Fielding 20 Jersey
    George Morgan 30 Newport
    Geo Shortland 39 Jersey
    Philip Rondel 37 Jersey
    William Sinclair 48 Scotland
    John Randell Jersey (1st pay)
    James Wight 41 Hampshire
    John Duffyn 32 Scotland
    Charles Booth Jersey (1st pay)

    Of these thirteen seamen, eight completed the voyage and paid off on 2 March 1865 - James Sauvage, RJ Brown, George Shortland, William Sinclair, John Randell, James Wight, John Duffyn and Charles Booth made it back to Liverpool - these Included both apprentices. Of the remaining five crew men who left the boat we have the dates


    Amy 14 July (died)
    Walter 12 June (died)
    Fielding 30 May (died)
    Morgan 20 August
    Rondel 14 November

    None of the returning crew appear on the list for Fairlina’s next voyage which ran from 21st March until 5th November 1865. It was a completely new crew – two Jerseymen, three Norwegians, two Englishmen, one Frenchman and an Irishman called Walsh - nine men in all.

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