Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 387 pages of information about Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849.

It is to be hoped, for the honour of the Dutch officers, that they did really put out to the relief of the Minotaur, and that they considered the attempt an impossibility, which a British sailor deemed one of little risk.  It is evident that there must have been considerable danger for boats, from the fact of the second yaul being lost, and Captain Barrett’s hesitation before he allowed the gunner to leave the ship in the first yaul; and in charity we must give the Dutch the benefit of this evidence.  At the same time, we have the equally conclusive testimony of the safe landing of two boats from the Minotaur, that it was not ‘impossible’ for even a somewhat crazy boat to live on such a sea.  At daylight, on the 24th, the survivors of the Minotaur’s crew were marched off as prisoners to Valenciennes.  From which place, the gunner, Mr. Bones, contrived to make his escape on the 3rd of February.  After suffering the greatest privations, concealing himself in barns and stables by day, and travelling by night, on the 17th of March he got on board a smuggling lugger, about a mile from Ostend, the Master of which agreed to land him in England for the sum of L50.

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The loss of the Minotaur may be attributed to their not knowing their position; the pilot’s desire to put the ship on the starboard tack at twelve o’clock at night, with the wind from the south-east, showed that he thought himself on the English coast.  This fatal error in the navigation of the ship is not easily accounted for; it arises in a great measure from the dread of approaching the dangerous shoals on our own coast, many of them far off the land, such as the Leman, and Ower, Smith’s Knowl, the Ridge, and others further in shore.  Great fear of these shoals is felt by all hands, and no doubt the man at the helm would be cautioned not to bring the ship to the westward of her course, and he would therefore be apt to err on the other side—­currents also may have carried her to the eastward.  I am tempted to offer this opinion from having experienced a similar danger.  In the year of the Battle of Copenhagen, I was in the Lynx sloop of war on her return from the Baltic, and when we supposed ourselves in mid-channel, between Yarmouth and the Texel, about two o’clock, in the middle watch, we touched the ground in broken water; happily the weather was moderate, and, by hauling to the westward we soon got into deep water again.  The following morning, about ten o’clock, we spoke a lugger, and were informed that we were seven or eight leagues from the coast of Holland.  The distance ran from the time we struck, told us that we must have been on the Haacks.  A happy escape!


[13] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxvii. p. 183.


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