The shore was thronged with the inhabitants of Cape Town, anxious for the fate of the vessel. An attempt was made to send a rope from the land to the wreck, but the rope broke. Rockets were fired with lines attached, and one was thrown across the foremast stay, where none of the men could reach it, on account of the fearful rolling of the sea. After some extraordinary delay, a whale boat was brought from the town, and manned by six daring fellows, who dashed through the surf, and were soon alongside the vessel.
All except the carpenter, fifteen in number, got into the boat, and pushed off. At this moment a terrific sea upset the boat, and twenty-one persons were struggling in the surf for life. The people on the beach were horror-stricken; and men on horseback were seen plunging into the sea, risking their lives to save their fellow-creatures; but eighteen sunk to rise no more. The masts of the vessel fell with a tremendous crash, but the carpenter still clung to the wreck. At length a surf-boat, towed by a smaller one, proceeded towards the wreck. One of these boats was capsized, and two lives lost. But the carpenter was rescued. This man, (James Robertson,) and John McLeod, seaman, were all of the crew that reached the shore. The inhabitants of Cape Town were all anxiety in regard to the fate of the vessel; and those daring heroes who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their fellow men were worthy of a monument as lofty as those erected to the bravest warriors.
The place where the Francis Spaight went ashore had been, a short time previous, the scene of a far more terrible disaster. This was the wreck of the ship Waterloo, by which two hundred persons were lost, in spite of the most extraordinary and heroic exertions on the part of the inhabitants of Cape Town.
The bay is very much exposed to storms, and its shores are particulary dangerous, on account of their shelving character. The Francis Spaight had just put into the bay for the purpose of obtaining a supply of provisions, and it was intended that she should sail the next day. But the Ruler of the elements intended it otherwise. Her cargo was nearly a total loss.
The ship Golden Rule, Captain Austin, sailed from Wiscasset, with a cargo of timber, September, 8, 1807.
On the 29th, she experienced a severe gale from the south-east; and at eight o’clock, A.M., they discovered that she had sprung a leak, and had four feet of water in her hold; at nine it had increased to eight feet, notwithstanding they had two pumps going, and were throwing her deck load overboard, which they were enabled to do very slowly, from the sea driving the planks about the deck, and wounding the crew.
About ten o’clock, the water had risen to twelve feet, and the gale had also evidently increased; the crew and all on board were quite exhausted; and on going into the cabin they found she was welling fast. The main and mizzen masts were now cut away, to prevent her upsetting, and she was quite clear of her deck load. At eleven o’clock she was full up to her main deck, and all her bulk heads were knocked away.