Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Unfortunate Bark Sharpshooter -- January 8, 2017

San Francisco Call, 07-January-1896
The drawing is from the 07-January-1896 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.  A libel is some kind of a suit in maritime law. 

The Sharpshooter Has Been in Trouble for Over Three Months.
She Was Dismasted, Towed From Guaymas, and Now Libel Suits Are Threatened

Of all the vessels that have ever entered the port of San Francisco the British bark Sharpshooter has had the hardest luck.  She was dismasted in the Gulf of California, was at the mercy of the winds and waves for weeks, drifted past ports of safety that it was impossible to reach and was passed on several occasions by vessels which did not notice the signal of distress flying from the remains of the mainmast.  Finally the bark was picked up by a steamer sent out to look for her and she was towed into Guaymas.

The Sharpshooter was consigned to Grace & Co. and when that firm learned of her whereabouts they sent the tug Fearless to tow her to San Francisco. On her arrival here Captain Watts and his crew thought all their troubles were over.  They soon found out their mistake.  They had only just begun. Grace & Co. at once took possession of the cargo and held the freight as security for the towage bill. Captain Watts could not get a cent of money and the crew are still hanging by the ship in hopes of getting paid. For over two months the Sharpshooter has lain at Harrison street, with the captain and men hoping day after day for the settlement that never came.

While Grace & Co., the underwriters, and Captain Watts were discussing the situation, the wharfage bill, the grocers' and butchers' bills and bills for sundry other necessaries kept growing, and the men began clamoring for their money. The captain could not satisfy them, and the chances are that half a dozen libels will be filed on the hull to-day.

 Captain Watts finally became convinced yesterday that there was no hope of an immediate settlement, so he decided to move the bark to Oakland Creek. At 1 p. m. she was taken in tow by the Alert, and an hour later was hard and fast in the mud of the creek. The crew are still aboard, and they intend to stay there until they get their money. The greatest sufferer in the whole affair is the master.  He is the principal owner in the bark, and outside of her has not a cent in the world. He is accompanied by his wife and children, and in order to raise money to pay some small necessary expenses he has been compelled to sell many an article that was prized aboard the ship. Of course no repairs have been made to the vessel, and she is to-day in the same dilapidated condition as when she entered port.  During the months she has lain at Harrison street she has been an object of curiosity and wonderment to the thousands who have passed and repassed her. 

What the outcome of the present entanglements will be is hard to predict.  The chances are, however, that the hull will be sold and when all the expenses are paid there will be very little left for Captain Watts.

The Sharpshooter came from Peru with a cargo of nitrate. During the storm that dismantled her part of the load was thrown overboard. A curious circumstance in connection with the disaster is that when all hopes failed Captain Watts wrote a letter and putting it in a bottle dropped it overboard. It reached land and was picked up by some fishermen, who forwarded it to the United States Consul at
Guaymas. The latter appealed to the Mexican Government and it sent out the steamer that picked up the unfortunate bark.

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