WRECK OF THE SCHOONER NELLIE.
JUDICIAL ENQUIRY. (Before E. M. Edgcumbe, Esq., and Major Scannell, J.P.s, and Captain Joseph Ellis, Nautical Assessor.) A judicial enquiry into the loss of tho schooner Nellie was held at the Resident Magistrate's Court on Thursday morning, before the above gentlemen. The application was made by Dugald McKellar, Esq., Collector of Customs: the information against the captain of the vessel, Alexander George Armstrong, being as follows : — " That on the 13th of January, 1878, at the Astrolabe Reef, off Motiti Island, he did cause the wreck of the schooner Nellie, as far as has at present been ascertained, through want of sufficient caution on his part in the navigation of the ship, taking into consideration the vicinity of danger, no special lookout being kept." Mr Quintal conducted the case on hehalf of the Crown. Mr Brookfield appeared for Captain Armstrong. Mr W. M. Commons attended on behalf of the Union Insurance Company. Mr Dugald McKellar, Collector and Principal Officer of Customs at Tauranga, deposed : He knew Captain Armstong of the schooner Nellie, and remembered the day on which he reported the loss of the vessel. . He had never seen her. William Henry Candy deposed : Ho was mate of the schooner Nellie. On Sunday evening, the 13th of January, aboutaquarterSast seven, tacked ship, and stood out from Eotiti. The wind was westerly. They were on the port tack. All the afternoon, until a quarter past seven they were on the starboard tack. At about twenty minutes past eight they struck on the reef. They were on the port tack when they struck. They were between half a mile and a mile from Motiti when they tacked. The reef was about four or five miles from Motiti. When they put about at Motiti, the N.E_ point of the island was hearing S.W. from where they were. The Astrolabe Reef was on the North side of the island. They saw nothing till they struck. He was always instructed by the master to keep a lookout. They saw nothing of the rock when they were coming in. The captain, remarked, " We must have passed within a quarter of a mile of it." he aid not say on which side. The vessel made a N.W. half North course from the time they left Motiti until . the time they struck. It was the captain's watch when they struck. He was relieved about six or eight minutes past eight. He was below in the cabin when the vessel struck. The master was also below. He was relieved by the other man (Silya), who was with, the Captain in hie watch. Silva was at the wheel when the vessel, struck ;. Silva was an able seaman. Silva was the only man on deck. Silva relieved the man at the wheel previously, named '■-Nelson. It was the usual tiling for an able 1 seaman to relieve the mate of a vessel, as the captain did not always come up at the exact , moment. There was no lookout forward j when the vessel struck. There were five j men on board all told. Nelson was in his i watch.. The captain and Silva were in the other watch'..Thecookworked all day and slept ' all night.. About ten minutes elapsed from the time he went below till the time the vessel struck.. It was about low water when . the vessel struck.. He camo ou deck directly. He saw the rock about a foot I out of water ;, the part out of water was about three by four feet. He did not know of any means being' taken to ascertain what leeway she was making. When the vessel struck, the captain gave orders to lower the fore and mainsail ; he said then that he was hurt by the wheel , and told. witness to haul the jib-sheet to windI ward and hack her off. Thoy then stood in to wards Motiti again-, and the captain gave orders* to see if she was making any water, and he (witness) went below and set the men at the pumps ; she was making about two feot of water an hour. When. off. Motiti, tho
captain ordered the crew to put their clothing and some provisions in a boat.. They then : looked out for the best place to; heach the vessel, hut becoming unmanageable, they were obliged to let her go on the rocks ; the boat was then got ashore with provisions and clothes.. It was a clear moonlight night. He gave orders to Silva to keep a good lookout, and to steer full-and-bye. They were all sober, there was no grog on hoard. Thero were two compasses on board; they were both good as far as he know. There were no soundings taken before she struck. Ho liad been three years on the coast, mostly on the West Coast. Ho could not navigate. Thoy had every sail sejfc. He thought the rock was properly laid down on the chart. He did not think there was too much sail set. The captain only spoke to him about the rocks when they were coming in. Tho captain was aware of his having left the deck, as he spoke to him below. The captain also knew that he had been relieved. He had no certificate. The captain had not told him that the vessel was insured. He was at Motiti tho evening before ; the vessel was now a total wreck. By Mr Brookfield : The whole affair occurred about ten minutes after ho had left the deck. On tacking out from Motiti he apprehended no danger, as from the course they were steering he considered they would have weathered the rock by a mile or a mile and a-half. The sea was quite smooth: there was not a ripple even on the rock. The captain acted the same as captains of any other vessel. All the time they expected the rock the captain was on the lookout. They were taking bearings all the way from Mayor Island. Just about the time the captain made the remark about being near the island, he had taken healings. He did not think it unusual that the captain did not come up immediately after he (witness) went below. He considered the captain took as much care of his vessel as ever he could have done. The water was deep round the rock, so it was no use talcing soundings. All the ordinary precautions were taken in this case while danger was apprehended. By the Bench : The vessel was making her true compass course, N.W. half North on the port tack from Motiti to Astrolabe Koef. The reef bore North half West from the N.W. point. of Motiti Island. He did not know what the bearings were from the N.E. point ; He only went by what the captain said, when he said they were a mile and a-half to windward of the reef, when tacking from the N.E. Point of Motiti Island. They were going about four or five miles an hour when the vessel struck. He did not prick the position of the vessel on the chart when they tacked. They were hound from Lyttelton to Auckland. When they went on the port tack at a quarter past seven, the captain put the vessel about, himself. The captain gave him no caution about the Astrolabe Reef. He was told to keep a good lookout. The only man on deck at the time she struck was the man Silva at the wheel. When he went below there was no other officer to take j his place except the captain. By Mr Brookfield (through the Bench) : He always had free access to the charts. The Captain" from time to time pointed out to him the position of the vessel. Ho knew tho reef was about there, and when the Captain told him to keep a sharp look out he considered it enough. Frank Silva deposed : Ho was a seaman on board the schooner Nellie. He remembered the day she was wrecked, on Sunday the 13th of January. It was his watch on deck at eight o'clock, and he relieved Nelson at the wheel. Tho vessel was on the port tack. His orders were to steer by the wind, f ull-and-by. He was in tho Captain's watch, He was the only one on deck when the vessel struck. It was about twenty minutes past eight when the vessel struck. The Captain was down below lighting his pipe. All sail was set. The vessel was going about four or five knots. He was not told to look out for a rock. The Captain did not tell him to look out for anything. About ten minutes passed before the vessel struck after the mate went below. • Everyone came on deck when the vessel struck. The Captain ordered the fore and mainsail to be lowered, and the jib sheets to be hauled to windward. The vessel was on the rocks about three minutes. The water was coining in. Steering "by the wind made the course about N.W. The Captain did not blame him when he came on deck. Directly the vessel struck he ran forward. He had "been in other ships before ; he knew how to steer. He was Bteering the vessel according to the orders given him when she struck. It was a clear moonlight night. He saw no surf on the rock. Looking forward he could see ahead of the vessel. Everyone was sober. There was no liquor oh hpard. He did not expect any rock when they struck.. He thought it was a log until he looked over the side. The Captain did riot tell.him there was a reef about there. . By Mr Brookfield : He was below when the ship was put about at Motiti. He could see clearly all round when he was in charge of the wheel: He got no special orders about the rock. Beforo striking on the rock he saw no ripple or break. He saw nothing of the rock before they struck. He was looking out all the time. He w?s with Captain Armstrong before as cook. Captain Armstrong was a careful sailor, and was constantly looking at his charts. Charles Hannaford deposed that he was cook on hoard the Nellie, schooner. He remembered Sunday the 13th of January. He was on deck with all hands at a quarter past seven in the evening when they tacked out from Motiti on the port tack. The Captain was on deck. He had sailed with Captain Armstrong before.. Captain Armstrong was continually referring to his charts. Approaching land or rocks the captain would be at the mast-head looking out. In bad weather the captain was always up. From what he had seen since he had been with him the captain always attended to his duty. Captain Armstrong deposed that ho was master of the Nellie, schooner. He remembered Sunday the 13th instant. He was then on his way to Auckland. In the afternoon he was outsido tho Astrolabe Koef standing in towards Motiti. About half-past seven in . the evening as far as he coidd remeiriber (the log said half -past, seven) he had tacked out from Motiti [The chart which the captain had on board was here handed to him.] He stated that before tacking the vessel was coming in about S.S.W. . until she broke off S by W till the centre of the Island bore S.S.W. They came within about half a mile of tho island, and ho could see the ripple on the rocks. After tacking they went from N. W. to N.W. by N. Ho had been taking hearings all tho afternoon. He reckoned by his bearings that he was from a quarter to half a mile from the Astrolabe Reef. Running down from centre bearings marked on the chart to the ccutre of. Motiti Island ho 1
reckoned that' his port tack would take him from two to two and a. half miles clear of the Astrolabe Reef.. He did not apprehend the slightest danger to the vessel.- The mate came below, from, his watch shortly after eight. On first going on deck after the vessel struck he did not know what she had struck on. He got her off the rocks as soon as possible, and ran for the N.E.. end of Motiti, intending to hoach her on the eastern side of the Island. Ho did not succeed in doing this. He kejit tho pumps going until within one minute of beaching her on the rocks. He had been in the habit of running up and down tho coast for a long time past. His practice on neariug any rocks or liar-; hours was to be on deck himself. He kept his reckoning regularly. As long as he thought there was- any danger to he expected from the Astrolabe Reef he kept taking reckonings. By the reckonings he had taken during the afternoon he calculated that when on the port tack he would miss the Astrolabe Reef by at least two miles. By Mr Quintal : . He had received a statement from Mr McKellar. . Tho wind was westerly when the vessel struck- He was not on deck. The mate was below also ; his watoh being up. He had been up and down this coast scores of times.. He believed the flood tide set to the westward, and the ebb tide to the eastward; of course not exactly due west and east. According to his calculation it was dead low water, when the vessel struck. The weather, was fine and the night clear. He did not prick off the chart after tacking to go on the port tack, as ho had no occassion to do it. A very short time elapsed between the time the mate came below and the vessel striking. He did not think it was an unusual thing for the mate to. come below -without being relieved, as he, as master of a small vessel, was often in the habit of being on deck both watches. The Nellie's registered tonnage was 66 tons. She earned about 100 tons of cargo. There were 59 tons on board this trip. He knew that Silva was at the wheel when the vessel struck. He thought it safe for one' man to he left in charge of the deck in fine weather in a small four-handed vessel, but not if thero were rocks about. He knew of this rock when he was coming in on the starboard tack. The size of the rock might have been ten feet or might have been four, but he cou'd not Bay exactly. He was in great pain when ho sa# it, and did not pay much attention. He was occupied in getting the vessel < ff. ' By the Bench : He intended to go between the reef and Motiti— that would be tbe south side — unless tbe vessel broke off. He made very little allowance for leeway, the water being smooth and all sail sot. His compasses had not been adjusted lately. . hey were the same now as when they were first put in the vessel. There was a deviation of half a point in them when the vessel was heading anywhere in tbe N.W. quarter. By Mr Brookfiold : Ho did not consider it necessary to take his bearings when be went ■on the port tack, aa he knew exactly where he w.ie. On a fine night and clear of the rocks, as he supposed the Nellie to be, ho considered it guile safe to leave the boat in charge of tbe man nt tbe helm. By the Bench : The Astrolabe Beef waß not seen during the day, although they were on the lookout for it. Be did not know the strength of the currents, but should not think they would have much force at tbe time reforred to. He had frequently seen the sea breaking on the Astrolabe Teef; He would I say that, at the time he struuk on the, rock it wns about eighteen inches or at the most two I'eet out of the water. From observations taken at the extreme north- west point of Moliti Islund lie found the island to bear N.W. The B n^h asked Capt. Armstrong whether he believed the situation of the reef was cor» rectly indicated on the Admiralty Chart ? Captain Armstrong replied tbat he believed it was more to the westward than marked on tbe Chart. He attributed the vessel's going on the reef either to the set of tbe tide or to the reef being out of the position marked on tho Admiralty Chart, or both together. The Court gave the following decision — '" That the Court having carefully weighed the evidence adduced before it, is of opinion that not only was no spocial look-out kept, but that no lookiout whatever was kept between the time the mate's watch expired, at eight o'clock on Sunday evening, 33th January, and the time the vessel- struck the rocks, which neglect is et.tirely attributable to the said Alexander George Armstrong, who, 1 taking, into consideration the vicinity of tbe reef, should- either have provided for a looki out man or been on deck himself. The said Alexander George Armstrong in his statement attributes tbe loss of the vessel to the incorrectness of tbe position of the Astrolabe Reef as marked on tho Admiralty Chart, .or else to the set of the current, or both j. but no ovidence- tending to the- correctness of euob surmises on hia part is forthcoming. The decision of' the Court, in which the Nautical Assessor coincides, therefore, is that the certificate of the said Alexander George Armstrong be suspended for and during a period of one calendar month from this date, end that the cost of (be enquiry, viz , £2 155., be paid by the said Alexander George Armstrong."
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