Thursday, September 5, 2019

Perilous Trip of the Sloop Mack -- September 5, 2019

San Francisco Call, 13-April-1896
This drawing is from the 13-April-1896 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.

Perilous Trip of the Sloop Mack
All the Way From San
Luis Obispo.
An Encounter With the Gale That
Wrecked the Blairmore Off
Pigeon Point.

R. S. Eaton and C. Church, two young men from Morro, a little town a few miles north of San Luis Obispo, have just finished a noteworthy and very perilous feat in navigation.

In a twenty-foot sloop, only three feet deep, but illy fitted up for even small cruises in the bay, these adventurous young men sailed from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco, arriving here yesterday after a series of perilous and exciting adventures.

The purpose of this 200 miles voyage by sea, in what is practically an open boat, was to gain neither notoriety nor a wager. Church, the older of the two, is a married man with three children. He had met with reverses at home; work and money alike were scarce, so he set out to seek -- if not his fortune, at least a living -- in the new gold fields of Alaska. He, expects to do boating for hire in the northern waters, and perhaps some prospecting on the side.

Lacking the necessary funds with which to purchase a boat, and being a good mechanic, he built the present craft at Morro and sailed her to this port, where she will be shipped to Alaska on the steamer Albion, which sails Thursday.

His companion came along simply to help him out on the trip, and will return home by the next steamer.

The boat, which is named the Mack, is 20 feet overall, 18 feet on the water line, 6 feet beam, 3 feet deep and is fitted with a steel centerboard 4 feet high and 5 feet long.

She is staunchly built, her entire frame being of oak, and her only upper works consists of a curbing 10 inches high, which extends from a few feet forward nearly aft, making her practically an open boat. For ballast she carries pig iron placed beneath the floor.

Her spread of canvas is as follows: Boom 19 1/2 feet, hoist 12 feet, gaff 8 feet and a small working jib.

What makes the trip all the more remarkable is the fact that the boat bad no sooner taken her initial dip into the water from the stocks than the mast was stepped, sails bent, provisions stored and the men were off on their risky trip. They rowed a mile out from land, when sail was hoisted for the first time. They had yet to learn how she would act under her spread of canvas and whether she was tight or leaky, but they adjusted their compass, got the charts out and were ready to meet the worst -- which was not long in coming.

The first day out they encountered a stiff northwester that tossed the little boat about like a feather in the wind, but she managed to maintain her equilibrium, and, as the storm became more boisterous, they squared away and made for port San Simeon, which they reached in safety.

They made no more stops after leaving San Simeon until they reached Monterey Bay, where they put in and replenished their stock of provisions.

After leaving Monterey Bay their troubles began afresh and wore enough to quail the nerve of the bravest.

While scudding along under full sail, to a stiff breeze, the throw halyard carried away and the mainsail became useless. To remedy this it was necessary to climb the slender mast and reef a new rope through the block.

While one of the men was aloft fixing the tackle a heavy swell struck the side of the boat, and, the man's weight on the mast caused the craft to careen over until she became almost filled with water.

The sun was sinking in the horizon and in the distance were the outlines of a steamer bearing down on them.

They had no lanterns aboard to signal to the vessel, and their sail was out of order. Darkness was rapidly approaching and the lights of the steamer kept getting nearer and nearer.

They whipped out their oars and commenced rowing for dear life to get out of the course of the steamer, but they were badly handicapped by their boat being full of water, and when the steamer passed them she was not more than 200 feet away.

"It was a close shave," said Eaton, in speaking of the trip yesterday, "but we were placed in a still more perilous position later on.

"When off Pigeon Point we ran into the storm that sunk the Blairmore in the bay. "We had only the jib set, and a 200 pound rock attached to a long rope was payed out to keep the boat up to the wind. It was very squally and the waves were as big as mountains and seemed to be coming in three or four different directions.

"They kept continually breaking over the boat, and our bedding and ourselves were soaking wet. The boat was rapidly filling. Then all of a sudden three huge waves, each coming in a different. direction, met underneath the boat and fairly raised it out of the water. She dropped with a thud down between two waves, but owing to the centerboard she still maintained her upright position.

"It was a trying ordeal, but we both kept our heads, and by careful maneuvering we came through in safety.

"No, neither of us ever sailed along the coast before. We steered by our compass, and got our bearings by comparing our charts with places on land in the daytime, and at night we could tell where we were by the lighthouses along the coast. It was my first trip to sea, but Church is quite a navigator, having sailed on the lakes and around San Luis Obispo. We cooked on an oil-stove, and one handled the boat while the other slept.

"We were five days in making the trip, and in the daytime kept close inshore and at night we steered well off to be out of reach of any snags.

"All the way up it was exceedingly cold, and at times we became so benumbed that we couldn't pull on a rope."

The little boat is now lying in the placid waters of Mission Bay, and resembles very much a small fishing-boat.


Nick said...

That's a long ways to go in a small boat, with very little chance of making a safe landing along the way!

Joe Thompson said...

Hi Nick. Yes, I know that sailing north along our coast is tough. It must have been a terrible trip. I need to see if I can find out what happened in the Yukon.