Logbook of the Steam Yacht “Waturus”

Normally ship’s logs can be more than a little boring, recording little more than time barometer reading, position, weather observations and occasionally the sighting of another vessel to break the boredom.  And this, by and large, is a description of the log of the steam yacht Waturus. But there are exceptions. Sometimes even the captain’s calm observations give a hint of unusual circumstances.

waturus001The 200 ft. Waturus was built as a yacht for one of the several archdukes of the Austrian Empire in 1900. Two years later it was purchased by Randal Morgan an American millionaire and in 1906 he took it on  a cruise to the Mediterranean and north to Holland and England returning to home port in Philadelphia via St. John’s Newfoundland.  Morgan had the ship’s log for the 1906 cruise privately published and presented copies to those on the trip.  Luckily the captain, John F. Cushman, also included his observation on many of the ports of call and the activities of his passengers, for whom this was the “grand tour” of Europe.

And what, you may well ask, does this have to do with Charlottetown and Northumberland Strait? Well, after other adventures the Waturus became the Hochelaga. The vessel was a fixture in the Strait as the daily summer steamer between Charlottetown and Pictou from 1924 until 1940.

For those involved with sailing the log is also an interesting document.  Some of the most riveting passages deal with the encounter with the remains of a hurricane the ship met with in mid-Atlantic.   Following are a few excerpts

Sunday, September 2nd 1906 – Gale continues with unabated fury. 4:00 a.m. Tremendous seas running, ship laboring hard and shipping small quantities of green water, with a gradually rising glass.

8:00 a.m. No change in the conditions … Tremendous sea running, ship rolling 45 degrees.

10:45 a.m. Crew occupied in setting up the starboard fore rigging. About this time carried away both bowsprit guys and foot ropes, also sections of port rail forward and a number of feet of bow plating on both starboard and port sides together with the gratings. Mustered all hands forward to secure the bowsprit. Ship down to three knots,  practically hove to.   …

Monday, September 3rd 1906  7:30 am Slowed to seven knots and at 8:00 a.m. was down to five; violent gale, high capping seas; ship buried in spray and taking some green water. Unbent the fore-sail and secured it on the after sun-deck. Barom. 29.60; temp 58. It is blowing harder than at any time yet – at least 65 miles  

Tuesday, September 4th, 1906  5:00 a.m. Wind gusts of great violence, and at 7:30 a.m. sea half-mast high, with terrific gale raging, glass having dropped to 29.64. and still going down. All this time we are hove to, and in all my years at sea I have never experiences such continuously terrible weather, in which any ordinary ship would have to fight for her life. The mid-winter gales of the North Atlantic could not be worse…

Wednesday, September 5th, 1906 12:00 noon. No improvement in the condition. Lat. by dead reckoning 51 degrees 5 minutes north; long. 35 degrees 30 minutes west … Our passage across the western ocean, this far has been a record breaker for weather, this being the fifth consecutive day of continuous gales from forty to seventy-five miles an hour, with mountainous seas, combing and dangerous, hovering over the little ship like a great wall ready to topple in their seething course. She responds, however, to the call in a manner that would put a gull to shame.   

Thursday, September 6th 1:30 a.m. No change is perceptible; still, the ship is riding easier, the sea being lashed to a milky whiteness and flattened by the fury of the blast. One’s anxiety finds momentary relief in the grandeur and weirdness of the scene, when now and then the moon sheds its silvery rays through the rifts of dark driving scud, as the little ship crystalized with spray from truck to deck , wrestles with the mountains of the deep, climbing to the crest of the big fellow, only to fall into a valley beyond, and  taking the next one quite as bravely; this, without doubt being the worst night yet, simply a roaring gale, attended by uncertain conditions, ass one realizes that no ordinary state of affairs exists.

8:00 am – We were able to send a man forward and ascertain the conditions in the fore-castle, which we found full of water, having been untenantable for the last three days, the crew finding shelter in the shaft alley of the engine room.  Barom. 29.69.

4:00 p.m. – Frequently the bowsprit disappears to the anchor davits. Mr. McKowan, the first officer of the ship, is off duty with a fractured knee, having sustained a heavy fall on the bridge; while the chief engineer is suffering from an ugly cut on the chin, received by a similar fall, also on the bridge.   

Finally on the morning of September 9th they made St. John’s Harbour. After  two days in port they left again into the teeth of another gale, finally reaching Philadelphia on September 16th.

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