The captain having done all in his power to save his ship, next turned his attention to the preservation of his officers and men, determined to use every possible means for their safety. Minute guns were fired, in the hope that they might attract the notice of some of our cruisers, and procure assistance.
At this time it blew a gale from the south-west, and the sea ran so high, as to endanger the boats which were lowered in order to lighten the ship.
The two cutters were sent to a galliot and a schuyt, that were in sight near the land, to ask for help, but they failed in obtaining it; and one of them in returning to the Romney was upset in the breakers, and a master’s mate with her crew perished. Lieutenant Baker, who commanded the other cutter, finding it impossible to reach the ship again, bore up to the Texel, in hopes of being more successful in obtaining assistance there than he had been with the schuyt.
On board the ship, in the meantime, the minute guns were fired, and officers and men looked anxiously for a responsive signal that would tell them of approaching succour—but they waited in vain; no help was at hand. The people were therefore set to work to make rafts, and three were soon finished. Between two and three o’clock in the afternoon the ship struck again, with such violence, that the rudder broke away, and she seemed likely to go to pieces immediately. The captain seized the first moment of the weather-tide slacking to order the masts to be cut away, which was promptly done, and fortunately without causing any injury in their fall. After this, the ship became more easy, although the sea still made a clean breach over her. Captain Colville saw that the slightest alteration in her position would be attended with imminent danger, and he therefore ordered the bower anchors to be let go—her head then swung to the wind, and this enabled her to settle gradually on the sand, where she lay comparatively easy. Darkness was fast gathering around, and the hearts of the crew were becoming dreary and hopeless.
Nor sail nor shore appeared
Nought but the heavy sea and coming night.
When the tide flowed, no part of the ship below the quarter-deck was accessible. To add to the misery of their situation, out of the four bags of bread which had been put for safety into the cabin, one only could be got upon deck, and that one was so soaked in salt water, that the bread could scarcely be eaten. This, with two cheeses, and a few gallons of wine, composed the whole of their stock of provisions, and during the day they had had no leisure to take refreshment of any kind.
Such was the condition of the crew of the Romney, who passed that awful night on the quarter-deck, the starboard side of which was under water at high tide. The wind blew in violent gusts; sleet and rain were falling, and the sea dashed over the vessel every instant. Although the men were shivering with cold and hunger, not a murmur escaped their lips, not a whisper of complaint; but they patiently awaited the break of day. At length the morning dawned, and with it hope dawned upon the hearts of those patient sufferers, for the wind and the waves subsided, the clouds gradually dispersed, and the sun shone forth with glorious and invigorating light and warmth.