On the Mode of Improving the Navy.

Appendix, No. VIII.

Copy of a Letter from Captain Lowis to Mr. Snoddgrass, respecting the Ship "Woodcot", July 4, 1795.


In consequence of your request, that I would state to you the damage sustained by the Woodcot, in the Hurricane she encountered on her last outward-bound Passage, I shall, to the best of my recollection, relate the particulars.

On the 28th of April, being in latitude 15°30' south, longitude 70° east, the weather dark and squally, with a confused Sea, the Wind veering from E.S.E. to E.N.E. and increasing; at eight P.M. we wore Ship to the northward, and at eleven laid her to under a mizen-stay-sail, as it looked very unsettled; soon after midnight the Hurricane came on with excessive violence, and the Sea rose almost instantaneously to a tremendous height. In a very few minutes the mizen-mast went into three pieces, about eight feet above the poop, and the main and fore-top-masts almost at the same time. The Ship then fell off in the trough of the Sea, and rolled with such violence that it was with the utmost difficulty we could keep ourselves fast upon deck, and utterly impossible to make any attempt to get aloft to cut away the wreck of the top-masts. Soon after this the fore-mast went about twelve feet above the deck, and the main-mast by the board almost immediately after. The Sea was by this time breaking over the Ship in all directions, so that it was with the utmost danger we got clear of the wreck of our masts. One heavy Sea, in particular, came over our starboard gangway, broke the wheel, stove in the bulkheads of the cuddy and round-house, and nearly filled the cabins. Almost at the same time one of the dead-lights in the great cabin was stove in, by the wreck of one of the masts going astern, and the Sea rushed in with such violence that it was with the greatest difficulty we could get it secured again; and, had the dead-lights not been fitted on the plan you have lately adopted, I have reason to think we never should have got it done. Your new doors for the quarter-galleries we found equally beneficial, as our galleries were both gone, and a heavy Sea beating continually against the doors, which, upon the old plan, never would have stood. We now expected every minute that the Ship would founder, as she rolled and strained in such a manner that we thought it impossible she would keep together. The sea broke over the poop almost continually, and we could not venture from under the Poop-deck without the greatest danger of being washed overboard. Fortunately our tarpaulins were strongly battened down, our Boats scuttled, and our booms secured in such a manner as gave us hopes of saving them if the Ship outlived the Storm. Fortunately towards the day-light the Hurricane began to abate, and soon after it fell little Winds; but as it still looked threatening, we immediately set about securing and examining every thing we could; we found our larboard main-channel gone, and most of the bolts of the fore one started, our quarter-galleries shattered to pieces, and great part of the balcony-rail and carved work of the stern. Before we could get our decks cleared the Hurricane came on again from the N.W., if possible with greater violence than before: indeed we seemed to be quite in the vortex of a whirlwind, for the wreck of the bulk-heads, and even the heavy doors of the cuddy, were carried up as high as the poop, and thrown down upon the deck again with great violence. The spray of the Sea was carried up in such quantities as to darken the air all around us; and, from the change of the Wind, the Sea made a dreadful breach over us. The whole frame of the Ship seemed loosened, and the Water forced in through every seam of her upper works, so that we had every reason to fear that she must have gone down, as it was with the utmost difficulty the People could stand at the pumps, from the heavy and continued rolling of the Ship. Fortunately, in the evening, it again became moderate; but the Sea continued so high it was impossible to do any with the ship. Next morning the weather was moderate and fair, we got a close-reefed mizen-top-sail set upon the stump of the foremast, and wore Ship, and in the evening a top-gallant-mast up abaft; but the Sea continued so high, and the motion so violent, we were afraid to cast loose our booms. The day following, the Sea being more regular, we got up a jury foremast and main-mast, and proceed to Madras, where the Cargo was landed and the Ship surveyed; and, to the surprise of every body, not one of the iron knees were found in the least strained, or a bolt broke; and, as I am certain they never can have a more severe trial, I am convinced they may be depended upon at all times. Indeed, during the Woodcot's first Voyage, I had a sufficient proof of their goodness, as we met with a tiffoon in the Eastern Ocean, which lasted three days; we afterwards beat round the Cape in the middle of winter, in most severe weather, and did not arrive in England until the middle of November; and, upon the whole, went through as much bad weather as most Ships; and at that time you may remember the iron knees turned out equally well. I can therefore declare, as far as I can judge from the experience of three Voyages, that iron knees answer every purpose of strength and security, and of course give great additional room for stowage. I shall be happy to give you any further information in my power upon this subject, and am, Sir,

Your obedient humble Servant,
July 4, 1795.
Naval Chronical Vol. V (1801). pp 326-327.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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