'[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sri,—The missing s.s. Waratah,' which has not been heard of now for three weeks, brings to the fore a question of most urgent importance,—viz., the fact of steamships being allowed to leave British ports without any sails.'
'It is only is times of accident to the machinery or steering-gear that a steam- ship cannot get along without sails, but at such times she needs them badly, and to be disabled off a coast such as ours, with no immediate assistance at hand, may easily mean total loss.'
'Has not the time come for a short Act of Parliament insisting upon every steamship sailing in deep waters having at least one good suit of sails, and at least two spare spars, which could be rigged up as jury-masts in time of necessity, for the small poles which some of our tramp steam- ships carry nowadays are in themselves, though better than nothing perhaps, most inadequate for times of disaster?'
'The Waratah is reported here not to have had a stitch of canvas on board. As she was practically a new ship, I trust that that report is a mistake; but the fact remains that many steamships are leaving our home ports every month that have no sails on board, or even canvas to make them of.'
'It is just one of those questions which few, if any, landsmen will realise the importance of, but which every sailor will acknowledge without question. It is also something which needs legislation on account of the cost of sails, and the temptation in these days of competition for owners and ship-masters to reduce the actual costs of sailing their vessels to the lowest minimum possible.—I am, Sir, &c.,'
Tarkastad, Cape Colony. ALFRED J. HUTTON.
My personal belief is that sails would not have helped the Waratah. A steamer, the Waikato, 1899, suffered a broken propeller shaft and drifted for several months on the Southern Indian Ocean. The crew rigged a sail on the main mast, 'but it might just as well have been a flag mast' ... 'continually blowing away without giving the ship steerage way'.