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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900

The Christian McCausland

The Christian McCausland.

A vessel that was very well known in Otago in the early 'seventies was the Christian McCausland (a sister ship to the Jessie Readman), built in 1869 by Scott, of Greenock, for Patrick Henderson. She was an iron craft of 962 tons, and was specially fitted up for the conveyance of passengers to New Zealand. The only port she visited in the colony was Port Chalmers, to which she made six voyages between 1870 and 1874. She made good average passages out and Home.

In 1873 the ship had an exciting experience when bound Home round the Horn, and Mr. R. E. Smith, who is living in Auckland and was an A.B. aboard at the time, has been good enough to let me have some particulars of that eventful trip. The skipper was Captain Tilly, who had as his first mate Mr. Kerr, who subsequently commanded the Wild Deer and other vessels trading to New Zealand. The second officer was Mr. Angus, who afterwards joined the P. and O. Company, commanding their well-known steamer China, and now for many years past has been nautical adviser to the company. The late Hon. J. A. Millar of Dunedin was an apprentice aboard the Christian McCausland on the trip I am speaking about.

A Smashed Wheel.

Sailing from Port Chalmers in March, 1873, the Christian McCausland experienced strong westerlies on the run to the Horn, and early on the morning of the ninth day out a heavy sea broke aboard, smashed the wheel, and washed the chief officer and the man at the wheel (James Kay) right forward, Kay being swept into the top-gallant forecastle before he could pick himself up. Fortunately the ship did not broach-to, or there would probably have been added the name of another gallant craft to that long list of "missing." The watch was just about to turn in at the time, but all hands jumped aloft, and the relieving tackles being manned the ship was kept on her course until temporary steering gear was rigged. Topsails were then set, and the ship behaved splendidly.

Later in the day when the weather moderated the carpenter unshipped the nave of the wheel, and a search for some temporary gear revealed the fact that one of the main winch handles fitted the spindle nicely. When this was rigged the ship was steered by the helmsman facing the ship's side and turning the handle as though he were hoisting with a winch. To watch the course he had to look over his shoulder at the compass—a very awkward job, but rather ingenious. Subsequently this make-shift device was improved upon by the captain who lashed a small handspike to the vertical arm of the winch handle, and this allowed the steersman to stand upright. Within a few days the carpenter had fitted the rim and nave of the broken wheel with a new set of elm spokes, and made such a good job of it that when the ship got home the wheel was not replaced with a new one.

the Christian McCausland made the following voyages to Port Chalmers:—

Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Oct. 30, '69 Jan. 18, '70 Brown 80
Oct. 28, '70 Jan. 23, '71 Brown 87
Sep. 28 Dec. 28, '71 Tilly 90
Sep. 6 Dec. 5, '72 Tilly 92
Aug. 22 Nov. 21, '73 Tilly 91
June 21 Sep. 27, '74 Duncan 98