HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

19 December 2014

Launch of the General Garfield 1882

As the ringing cheers of the visitors went forth, the top mast steamer unfurled the name “General Garfield”.

Example of a fore-and-aft rigged steamer.

The firm of Messrs. James Dent, shipbuilders of Jervis Bay, have added another to their large fleet of schooners and crafts, built at Jervis Bay.
On Saturday last as previously notified, the launch of the latest triumph in the shipbuilding craft too place, At an early hour there were a large number of visitors congregated from far and near. The vessel about to be launched was handsomely and liberally decked with bunting, the “Star and Stripes” occupying a conspicuous place, at the top of the main mast was furled the streamer, bearing the name which was to distinguish the vessel; and many an eye was turned towards the vessel as the time for the christening ceremony approached.

9.30 the “trigger” was struck.

And as the handsome craft began to glide smoothly down the ways, Miss Bessie Longfield, of Sydney, gracefully performed the christening ceremony, by breaking a bottle of cognac over here bow; as the ringing cheers of the visitors went forth, the top mast streamer unfurled the name General Garfield.
The launch was most successful, the vessel gliding smoothly into the water, without the slightest lurch from the perpendicular. The vessel having been moored the visitors were liberally treated to refreshments and success to the vessel and her builders was pledged in many a bumper.

On many occasions launches were often celebrated with a local dance, games, even shooting contests near the beach have occurred.
In this case, at noon, the visitors were invited to Mr. George Dent’s, where an excellent lunch was partaken of. The newly launched vessel is 100tons burthen, and was all ready for sailing as regarded rigging, etc.
In the afternoon a handicap pigeon match for a silver cup, value 8 pounds, came off, the winners being Mr James Dent, who was closely pursued for first place by his youngest brother, Master R.Dent.

Garfield dimensions.
Length over all 78ft: Keel 72ft: hold 8ft: beam 20ft 6in: The General Garfield is rigged as a fore-and-aft schooner, and is intended for the Sydney to Jervis Bay trade.
This vessel brings the aggregate tonnage of vessels launched by Messrs, Dent at Jervis bay, during the last 18 years to upwards of 3000 tons.

The Dents yard was not a place for idle hands.

Besides the one just mentioned the Brothers Dent have the hull of a pleasure boat – a steam launch of considerable dimensions, well advanced which they are building, to the order of Mr. Dent, son of Sydney.

Meaning of:
Fore-and-aft schooner is rigged solely with fore-and-aft sails. Two masted fore-and-aft schooners are small, fast and handy vessels, often used as fishing vessels in the 19th century.
A fore-and-aft sail is a sail that can take the wind from either side of the sail, depending on the direction of the wind, as opposed to the square sail that is always turned so that it takes the wind on the same side of the sail.
Currambene creek

The Garfield’s story doesn’t stop there. for many years she plied the N.S.W coast, being well known and highly regarded as a fine ship.

Lucky escape 1989.
Seven years after being launched, the Garfield, almost became a total wreck on the Manning Bar, where incidentally, she had almost been wrecked some time earlier, both incidents had her sitting on the bottom half full of water but was able to be refloated and repaired. “A lucky escape.”

Garfield’s luck ran out in 1998.
Her luck ran out in December 1898 after leaving Duck River,Tasmania and sailed thence on the 1st November to Adelaide. Contrary winds and rough weather caused him twice to seek shelter; leaving Hunters Island on the 11th. Shortly before midnight the alarming discovery was made that the land was only 5 miles to leeward. The master who was steering attempted to tack ship. Owing to the strong squally winds and heavy seas the vessel missed stays, and set rapidly towards land.
Nearing the shore the anchors were thrown out, but would not hold, and the Garfield struck on a sandy bottom sixty fathoms from the shore, on which a heavy surf was beating.

The crew had great difficulty in preventing themselves from being washed overboard by the sea which was continuously dashing over the vessel.
When daylight appeared all hands numbering five, landed in the boat, thankful for their escape.
It was found the vessel has struck on Lavinia Point, 12 miles from Wickham lighthouse, they camped there three days, and went to Wickham where they were received with great kindness.
The Garfield was launched in Jervis Bay in 1882 and till recently was in the New South Wales coastal trade.

January 18th 1899. 
Mr. Lyall arrived at the wreck site in January  18. He found the vessel lying with her bows to the beach, with a list of 7ft to starboard. For several succeeding days the 5 men employed were busy discharging the blackwood logs and effecting what repairs were necessary. the hull was comparatively uninjured..
A kedge anchor was run out and all was in readiness for launching the schooner.
 ketch anchor

Ketch Anchor.

February 12th 1899.
A strong easterly gale sprang up. A heavy sea was raised and the breakers carried away the decks of the wrecked vessel right from the stern to the middle of the main hatch, the masts disappeared over the side, the vessel “bilged.” and her owner was reluctantly compelled to abandon her.
He left the scene of operations and the Garfield became a total wreck.

What caused the Garfield to stray off course and become a total wreck.
Official findings and judgment.

At Carrie harbour and inquiry was held into the cause of the wreck.. The captain in his examination, attributed the wreck to the strong currents prevailing in the straights, which had been setting him ashore. After hearing the evidence of the crew the court acquitted Captain Peterson of all blame.

map-1 King_island_map


Missed Stays – An unsuccessful attempt to tac.
Fathom - A unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.8 m), roughly measured as the distance between a man's outstretched hands. Particularly used to measure depth.
Bilged - To spring a leak in the bilge.
Bilge - Is the lowest compartment on a ship, below the waterline, where the two sides meet at the keel.


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