Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Racing Home - to Dead Mother: Schooner Days MCCLXXXVII (1287)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 15 Sep 1956
Full Text
Racing Home - to Dead Mother
Schooner Days MCCLXXXVII (1287)

by C. H. J. Snider

HASTENING back after winning the sailing ship derby from Devon to Portugal the training ketch Moyana of the Southampton School of Navigation was almost home by July 27, Capt. Harry Stewart, her skipper, 20 years master in steam and sail, had never felt so strong an urge as the mysterious something which told him to get home, get home. He drove the Moyana hard, day and night. Yet in the Chops of the Channel, watching his falling barometer, he shortened down to reefed mizzen and storm jib, even though the weather bureau forecast was "moderate gale."

But the gale instead of holding steady in force and direction, jumped back and forth six points, a fifth of the compass circle. It passed hurricane force. It unroofed houses in Normandy and blew down trees and brought floods in England.


The Moyana got to within 10 miles of the Eddystone Light that night.

At 2 o'clock' Sunday morning, in an 88 mph gust, she was laid flat on her side. The mizzen blew out and she fell off into the trough of the sea. The storm job went next. She could not be brought head to wind and sea because of the tremendous pressure on the high bow and mainmast. The wind was so strong the boys could not stand up. They tried to get her to ride to a sea anchor, and wore themselves out in the effort.

Fifteen merchant service cadets, some of whom had never been in a storm before, were at the end of their strength. Yet not one cried quits. And after it was all over one and all were keen as mustard to go on with their sea careers.

Capt. Stewart and the mates, men in their forties, could have held out. But Moyana, unmanageable, was being driven on a lee shore - France or England alternately - as the tide changed and the hurricane backed and veered.


The Moyana was well equipped with radio. Like the rest of the crew "Sparks" never faltered. French and British navies, air force and coast guards were already searching for distressed craft. Of 22 English and French yachts that had started on a Channel race 10 were missing. At 6 a.m. "Sparks" picked up assurance that rescue was on the way. The wind had let go, and they had managed to get some sail on the Moyana, but she was being swept by huge seas and boiling tide across to Cherbourg.

At 7 that wild morning an R.A.F. plane roared around and dropped flares to guide rescuers. The Moyana was out of sight in the hollows of the seas, from bridge level. By 7:30 the steamer Peruvian Rover appeared. At 7:40 the steamer Clan Maclean, 6,000 tons, was to windward making a lee.

The 68-year-old master of Clan Maclean, Capt. Henry Cater, hailed: "What do you want?"

"Abandon ship," roared back Capt. Stewart.

Capt. Cater edged the Clan Maclean alongside, her wall-like black flanks festooned with heaving lines, cargo nets, scramble gear and rope fenders. Up hove the Moyana on a sea but the steamer rolled away from her. Back she rolled and snapped off the ketch's 20-foot bowsprit.

Back she rolled. This time the Moyana's bow was stove in. Robert Fewtrell, 16, who had been lashed to the wheel for the last three hours, hung on until Capt. Stewart said: "Cast off and jump next roll, Fewtrell."

Then the "petties," and the mates, and last of all Capt. Stewart, as the wild rolling alternately hurled the vessels up and apart and rolled them together.

Twenty minutes of this and every man and boy was safe aboard the Maclean, uninjured.

"Cast off" was Capt. Stewart's last order. The Moyana rolled away and dropped astern.


The Navy was on the job too. The frigate Orwell, 1,540 tons, got a line on the wreck but she filled with water through the burst bows. The Orwell slipped the towline. Slowly, for she was heavily built of mahogany, the Moyana disappeared.

So went the King's Cup winner of 1900, with the Red Duster still defiantly flying. Whites of Southampton had built Moyana for the Earl of Dunraven in 1899.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
15 Sep 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.18379 Longitude: -4.26804
  • Lisbon, Portugal
    Latitude: 38.71667 Longitude: -9.13333
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.46198 Longitude: -3.52522
Richard Palmer
Creative Commons licence
by [more details]
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Racing Home - to Dead Mother: Schooner Days MCCLXXXVII (1287)