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.

25 July 2015

Schooner Darcy Pratt – Jervis Bay


 March 1876

With much fan fair and celebrations the beautifully hand crafted Schooner Darcy Pratt slid into the calm waters of Currambene Creek Jervis Bay.
Built by Thomas Macaulay for Mr Willaim Peverley's of Balmain,  and launched at Mr Peverley’s  yard on the banks of Currambene Creek she measured 93ft on the keel and 22ft beam, and 10ft 6in depth of hold.
Made from local hardwoods, she was a fine looking ship.

William Macaulay’s yard was situated right next to the Dents yard.

The christening ceremony was performed by Miss S. Parnell,  many people came from all over the district to witness the launch.

Like many other launchings it was a time of great celebration,  months of work had finally ended in triumph,  the ships builder and his skilled workmen would breath a sigh of relief as their hard toil was finally floating safely in the cool element she was made for.

Much work would still have to be done  before she was ready for the open sea.  Secured to her mooring,  over the next few days she would be made ready for her first voyage.

The night of the launch a ball had been arranged to celebrate the successful launch.

She traded between  various ports in Australia and the South Sea Islands,  carrying all manner of cargo saw her on regular trips between New Zealand and Australia carrying Kauri Pine and other cargos..

Like all sailing vessels of the time,  her passage was determined by the conditions,  travelling vast distances over open ocean she would encounter fierce storms and sometimes have light winds and be calmed for days,   constantly having to adjust and re-adjust for changing wind direction to reach her goal.

 When good fortune is on your side.

1891 - She had a lucky escape on a voyage between Tairo to Australia,  two weeks of light winds ahead the whole distance, and a heavy rolling sea made the voyage  tediously slow.  Reaching Brighton  after dark, they sighted a small craft in shore,  convinced it was the pilot craft the captain ordered she be hauled to the wind to get near her,  coming grounded on a sandy beach.  An anchor was carried out and strain hove on the cable,  but she was hard and fast, with a strong list to starboard.
The next morning's tide a tug was in attendance,  and towed the vessel to harbour.

1891 - During a trip from Noumea to Australia in ballast, while in command of Captain Donald,  she battled heavy weather.    In sight of Port Stevens she met a strong south - south west gale which carried her off the land, requiring her to hove to for three days weathering the heavy conditions,  The conditions finally moderated and she was able to beat into land,  arriving safely.

1892 - After leaving port for New Zealand she encountered heavy going and was fortunate to be able to put into Port Stephens. Those who feared that the vessel would have a bad time of it will be pleased to learn of her safety.

1892 - Leaving Kaipara for Australia with 125, 000 ft of Kauri timber she ran into contrary winds that gradually increased to gale force and large seas.  For ten days she battled a succession of heavy gales,  swing from north east to north,  around to south- west and back again to north.    the weather finally moderated and she arrived in port at Newcastle.

When your luck finally runs out.
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1893 - The wreck of the Darcy Pratt
On a dark and hazy night the Darcy Pratt's luck finally run out,  In command was Captain Thomas Cogar,  leaving Rockhampton, bound to Auckland, New Zealand. with a cargo of 220 tons of bone and bone dust,  About ten pm on Friday in heavy rain and haze the Darcy Platt set a course to bear up for Cape Capricorn:  about half past one o'clock on Saturday morning she struck on a reef.

The sea started to breech over the ship,  the captain made the decision to get all hands into the boat and leave the ship. After leaving the ship the life boat grounded on the reef:  When the boat floated again they steered for Cape Capricorn,  arriving there about 6 o'clock. The boat had no water,  no sail,  three or four biscuits, and a bit of soft bread,  no mast or sail and no compass. Because of the dangerous, difficult position they found themselves in trying to leave the stricken ship,  there wasn't time to load any more provisions.

At the time of the grounding the sea was described as being heavy and confused with a stiff wind blowing. The captain thought  by his reckonings he would clear all reefs by 8 miles.

The captain and crew left the ship around 30 minutes after she struck,  by his description some of the bulwarks were gone on the port side,  and the decks appeared to have risen a little amidships:  the hatches were battened and wedged down,  at the time of leaving the captain didn't think she would come off on the next tide,  he thought there would be a rick to life by remaining any longer on the ship.


After two days of the enquiry,  where witnesses were tested on their evidence by (Chairman) Captain A. E. Sykes and Mr. F. J. Byerley, the findings came down hard on Captain  Thomas Cogar and his mate,  John Davis.

The decision was carried on 7 points that ended with the captain being censured for using inadequate charts.

(1) Not allowing enough distance between the vessel and the reefs,
(2) That the captain hadn't provided adequate lookouts,  which more that likely would have avoided the tragedy.
(3) Not taking soundings with lead to ascertain their depth,  which would have given the captain a clearer picture of his position.
(4) From the position of the steering compass,  it was utterly impossible to obtain anything more than approximate position.
(5)The master was guilty of negligence in not using the spare compass for this purpose.
(6) That cross bearings should have been taken before dark to fix the position at the time.
(7) The master instead of being doubly vigilant,  knowing that he was navigating a dangerous part of the coast with a practically useless chart for coastal navigation,  navigated his ship carelessly and negligently,  and to this cause we attribute the loss of the vessel.

Conclusion - We therefore censure the master Thomas Cogar for neglecting to procure the proper charts, and subsequently carelessly navigating his vessel. 
The enquiry ordered the master to defray the expenses of the enquiry.  one hundred and twenty nine pounds.

We also consider the mate,  John Davis gave his evidence in an evasive and unsatisfactory manner.

Captain Cogar made no statement.


Owner: Captain A. Gibbs of Auckland
Cargo" 220 tons of bones and bone dust. - Insured
Described as being 16 years old,  made of hardwood and well found,  making very little water up until the time she struck the reef.
Crew 8 hands including the Master.


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