Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Waratah - Mr. Merry damns the steamer.

Northern Times (Carnarvon) Saturday 1 January, 1910
Mr. W. G. Merry, of Cowell, on theWest Coast, worked his passage outin the steamer Waratah as a stewardon the last voyage of that vessel fromLondon to Port Adelaide. Mr. Merryis a mason by trade. Desiring tobetter himself and his family, be signed on as steward in thethird saloon of the Waratah. He wasgreatly interested in the narrative ofMr. Claude G. Sawyer, a passenger,who joined the Waratah at Sydney,but left her at Durban. 
His interest prompted him to speak of his own experiences on the ship during her last voyage out to the Common wealth, and he gave the following interesting account of the ship when interviewed by our correspondent at Cowell:
The vessel, remarked Mr. Merryleft the Royal Albert Dock, Londonand in the voyage to Port Adelaidefailed to encounter any rough weatherduring the whole of her trip. Soonafter leaving the dock Mr. Merrynoticed that the steamer had a decidedlist to port, and when righting herselfdid so sluggishly. At no time wasshe horizontal for any length of time.Owing to the decided list the chieffireman was called before the purserand asked which bunker he was unloading coal from. The fireman wastold to unload from the port side soas to right the vessel, there being aprobability that the vessel would turnturtle if the list increased. The unloading on the port side caused the vessel to right herself considerably, but there was still a list to starboard.
A bath in one of the compartmentsunder Mr, Merry's supervision, whichhe visited about 50 times a day toswab up the overflow of water, stillshowed enough list to overflow whenhalf full. This list was present allthe time, notwithstanding that theweather was exceptionally fair andthe passengers wondered what wouldhappen if the steamer encounteredrough weather. During this trip outthe steamer carried 350 passengers,including many emigrants for NewSouth Wales, who held assisted passages from the New South Wales Government.
The Waratah, remarked Mr. Merry,was the highest vessel out of thewater in the Royal Albert Dock whenshe left. Her action in the waterstruck him as being most peculiar, asshe seemed to wallow in the waves"like an old duck." He did not,however, attach much importance tothis, although he heard some of theseamen say that the steamer wouldnot stand severe weather.
When asked concerning the distribution of weight on the decks of thesteamer, Mr. Merry stated that thebalance of the ship when loadedseemed to be badly adjusted, as therewas practically no weight betweendecks, and a big weight above andbelow; consequently if she listed therewould be a tendency to dip sideways,and it would be difficult for her toright herself if her bulwarks gotbelow water level. There were occasions when the bulwarks were onlyabout 2 ft. from the water's edge, andit was extremely difficult to stand ondeck. Very often the crockery wouldnot remain on the tables in the calmest weather owing to the list.
The steamer was well provided withboats and life-saving apparatus. Therewere about 20 lifeboats on her, andabout 18 cigar-shaped rafts. Theselatter were so attached to the shipthat they could easily be cut adriftwhen required, and were about the sizeof a large boat.
Mr. Merry referred to a rumor,fairly well substantiated, that thevessel nearly turned turtle in SydneyHarbor after being loaded and takeninto deep water. The vessel on thatoccasion was reported to have listedso much that she had to put back toport where her cargo was adjusted.A suggestion was made then that hertop deck should be taken off when shereached London, but when the captainreported a splendid voyage out nothing was done.
Mr. Merry spoke highly of theofficers and crew of the steamer.Captain Ilbery was especially considerate to his passengers. He would eventurn a few points to save the inconvenience of encountering a heavy seasand once the vessel was kept southfor a few days out of her course toavoid a storm.
This is an interesting account in a number of respects. It is well known that the Waratah experienced teething problems on her maiden voyage with regard to the cargo loading plan and ballast. These problems were corrected by the final voyage.
It is strange the Mr. Merry misjudged the passenger numbers for the voyage out - 689 emigrants + upper deck passengers. This immediately casts an element of doubt on his narrative.
If Captain Ilbery was concerned about the cargo loading on the maiden voyage out, he would undoubtedly have avoided stormy conditions where possible - in fact a captain is obliged to avoid severe storms ref. perils of the sea and insurance.
There were many such accounts at the time and unfortunately readers often did not differentiate between the maiden and subsequent voyages, two vastly different steamers in one due to the cargo loading plan and ballast.


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