The vaunted Colossus of the deep is at length accessible to the investigation of the curious, however timid they may be, and the lovers of sight-seeing may gratify their whim and fantasy without encountering a heavy sea, a fearful lee-shore, or blue-water banyan days. Thanks to branch pilots, steamboats, warps and the capstan, the Columbus is now off Folly House, in Blackwall Reach, where she is likely to be easy in her berth without moorings or even a kedge. Her arrival has excited so much interest and conversation that, though we have already given her dimensions, the nature and quantity of her cargo, and some account of her appearance, we are induced to recur to the subject and speak from "occular demonstration".
The Columbus is of the following dimensions: Length of keel, 294 feet; length of deck, 301 feet; breadth of beam, 51 feet 4½ inches; depth of hold, 29 feet 4½ inches; from the top of her bulwarks to the bottom outside, 37 feet; tonnage, 3690 tons; mainmast above deck 72 feet; best bower cable, 27 inches; anchor, 80 cwt, 2 qrs., 17 lbs. She is of perfectly flat bottom, with a keel of about 12 inches, wall sided, sharp forward, and rather lean aft. Her cargo capacity is 6300 tons.
This Columbus is exceedingly deceitful in her appearance, especially when she is seen end on; she scarcely looks half her size. She is like a wedge forward, has no cutwater, is wall-sided, carries her beam, we should imagine, to abaft the second mainmast, for she has four masts and has a square tuck. Her run is very gradual, and from her length she looks extremely lean. She sits low in the water. A tolerable-sized light west Indiaman, or a thirty-eight-gun frigate in cruising trim, appear almost as lofty in the hull when you are alongside.
At a broadside view from a distance, the Columbus looks a tremendous length and, though seemingly hogged or broken-backed and very much under-rigged, there is something sneaking and dangerous in her show. As you approach her, however, she looks as she is — an immense mass of timber knocked together for the purpose of commerce, without any regard to beauty and little attention to the principles of naval architecture. She has two sets of beams; the upper ones, which sustain the deck, project through the sides. She has also an inner frame, for the better security of her cargo -- to prevent any starting of the timber.
Her blocks were laid in October, 1823; she is perfectly flat-bottomed, and her shell was completed before a plank of her cargo was stowed. Previous to her being launched, however, 4000 tons of timber were run on board by horses, through the bow and stern ports, and she drew about thirteen feet when she first sat on the water. Unlike large ships, her galley and bitts are above deck; and between the foremast and the first mainmast there is a fore hatchway and a cable tier and messing place for part of the crew, which look like a rude gap made in her cargo after it had been stowed. The height from the timber on which the cable is coiled and where the men have two or three berths, is about 6 feet; so that there must be even there about 30 feet deep of timber but from the first mainmast to the second, the cargo runs from deck to kelson. And abaft the latter mast, close to the wheel, where the binnacles stand, is a place for the accommodation of the officers and the rest of the crew. The provisions, we believe, are stowed abaft the try-sail mast. Her rudder is hung like that of any other ship, but its head comes above the taffrail, and the tiller is above deck.
A great deal of the timber she has on board was, we understand, fresh hewn — it now looks extremely wet — it is principally red pine, and, like most Canadian timber, it runs large and long. The rigging of the Columbus was naturally a minor consideration with her owners, and, though it has answered the purposes for which it was intended, it presents nothing worthy of commendation to the eye of a seaman, and nothing striking to that of a landman. The masts are ill-proportioned for beauty, injudiciously placed so far as the labour of the crew is concerned. The lower masts are too taunt — there is too much of them above deck, and this necessarily gives the courses a tremendous drop. One of the crew, an intelligent, sailor-like man, said the foresail had 50 feet leach. The bowsprit and jibboom are but one spar; they steeve little, and the hoist of the jibs is consequently great. The topmasts and topgallantmasts are also in one. They are exceedingly short, and a royal can only be set on one of the mainmasts. She is not more square-rigged than she is taunt; her foreyards do not measure more than 70 feet. The only studdingsails she carried were topmast ones on the first mainmast. Her topmast rigging is rove through holes in the cross trees, and is set up with lanyard to a grummat round the lower mast. There are, therefore, no cat-harpings, and the rest of the rigging is of the same temporary speculative description. Her hemp cable measures 26 inches in circumference, and the chain is in proportion. She crossed the Atlantic with a single bower anchor, and a kedge of about 7 cwt. It is said she worked easily and surely; that she was perfectly under the government of her rudder; that she was, in general, steered with facility by a man and a boy; that she went from nine to then knots when sailing free, and that at six points and a half from the wind she went six knots, and made but little leeway. In a seaway she was, of course, heavy, and shipped much water, as she could not rise, from her length and want of beam. In fact, she could have been but as a log of wood in short chopping sea, one of which might have broken over midships almost without anybody forward or aft knowing of the circumstances. We are, however, rather sceptical as to whether we should conclude that she actually possessed of all the good qualities attributed to her. We cannot believe that she ever sailed at six points and a half or even at seven points from the wind, or that she ever went nine or ten miles and hour. We do not think that a square sail in her would stand at six points and a half, and she has no buttock for running. On the whole, however, she is an extraordinary piece of workmanship; and, though vastly inferior to a first-, second-, third- or fourth-rate man-of-war in beauty and capacity, the Columbus is well worth visiting. We think, however, that a bear and swab, if not a holystone, would improve the appearance of the deck extremely.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.