In the month of December, 1810, the Pallas, a 32-gun frigate, commanded by Captain Paris Monke, was returning, in company with the Nymph, Captain Edward Sneyd Clay, from a month’s cruise on the coast of Norway, and was steering for Leith, with a prize in tow. She had not got far to the southward, when, on Tuesday morning, the 18th, between nine and ten o’clock, land was discovered, but the weather was so thick, it could not be clearly defined. The pilot, however, gave it as his opinion that they were north of the Red-head. Towards the middle of the day they fell in with some fishing-boats, and Captain Monke having requested one of the fishermen to come on board the frigate, he learnt from this man that the ship was at that time off Stonehive and the Tod Head. At four o’clock, P.M., the usual order to pipe to supper was given; the wind was blowing from the north-west, and the vessel going at the rate of four knots an hour. Supper being over, the drum beat to quarters, and the captain, having received the usual reports, ordered the watch to be called. At six o’clock, in compliance with the wish of the pilot, the course was altered from south-west to south-south-west. For the last quarter of an hour the ship had been increasing her rate of sailing from five and a half to six knots an hour; the top-gallant scudding sails were therefore taken in, and the royal and top-gallant stay sails hauled down, as also the jib and the spanker. Soon after this the pilot, pointing towards the coast, said to the captain, ‘There’s Lunan Bay;’ and shortly afterwards he said, ‘There’s the Red Head;’ but it was too dark, then, to see the land, much less could the outline of the coast be distinguished. The captain inquired if they should not soon see the Bell Rock Light, and he was answered in the affirmative. He then ordered the officer of the watch to hail the forecastle, and direct the men to keep a vigilant look-out for the Bell Rock Light.
Ere many minutes had elapsed after the order was given, a light was perceived before the starboard beam, which the pilot declared to be a signal hoisted on the pier at Arbroath to show that there was water enough for vessels to enter the harbour. The captain then went below to consult the book of sailing directions, and when he returned upon deck, he said to the pilot, ’If that light be on Arbroath pier, as you suppose, we ought most certainly to be in sight of the light on the Bell Rock.’ The pilot replied, ‘We shall soon see it;’ and Captain Monke repeated to the officer of the watch his order to keep a sharp look out.
As the light on the Bell Rock did not appear, the captain became exceedingly anxious; the more so, as he was convinced, by reckoning the distances from the Tod Head to the Red Head, and from the Red Head to the Bell Rock, and comparing their sum with the run from four o’clock, that the ship had run as many miles to the southward as would bring her up to the Bell Rock. To ascertain exactly the position of the ship, he desired the master to work off the run by the log up to eight o’clock, P.M., and in a short time the master reported that by his calculation the light which they saw was no other than the floating light of the Bell Rock, and that they had now only to bear up and shape a course for the Isle of May.