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Briefly about the shipboard work:

An able bodied seaman could practice all the skills of his trade when he could ‘hand, reef and steer’. ‘Hand and reef’ meant that he could work the sails. He could climb masts 30 metres or higher. He could hand or furl sails, that is, draw them into compact rolls to stop them catching wind. He [...]

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Posts related to: shipboard work

Week 06 – a ‘perfect Hurricane’

An oil painting by Washington Allston of ships in a storm at sea, 1804.

On 26 March the John Pirie seemed to be making progress, as it finally cleared the English Channel and struck out for the Atlantic Ocean. But just west of the Bay of Biscay the weather worsened dramatically into what one of our informants described as a ‘perfect Hurricane’.  All but overwhelmed by ‘a most tremendious Sea’, the little ship was literally [...]

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Week 08 – adieu to old England

By 10 April the Duke of York was on its way once more, although not without anxiety on Captain Morgan’s part. The recent storm still weighed on his mind. He and the mate prayed together for guidance and then he sought extra consolation in reading the 121st Psalm. Reassured, he gave the order to get underway [...]

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Week 09 – to sea at last

Model of the ship Duke of York

Clear of the Channel at last, the Duke of York was finally making progress, although conditions were still uncomfortable for the passengers.  Captain Morgan reported that the seas were high and that ‘great quantities’ of water continued to swamp the decks.  This was bad news for those below, who would have been wet, cold and [...]

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Week 11 – ‘dangers stand thick all around’

1849 sketch of men bathing on deck.

At long last fair conditions prevail for the travelers and they make good progress.  But danger still stalks the Duke of York. Lucy Beare becomes dangerously ill and almost dies.  Reading between the lines, it seems likely that she gave birth to a child (family history says it was a daughter) who was still-born. Her health [...]

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Week 14 – steady progress

Image of a ship's chronometer housed in its wooden box

All six ships are making steady progress, sailing south in the Atlantic. The weather is fine and conditions pleasant, but relations on board the John Pirie and the Cygnet are tense. On the John Pirie the and the ship’s carpenter come to blows over a seemingly trivial matter – the supply of nails, but it seems there is a [...]

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Week 17 – wet weather and wild tempers

Both the Duke of York and the John Pirie are making good progress, as freshening winds drive the ships forward at speeds of between eight and nine .  But the wintry conditions bring other discomforts.  On the Duke of York weather swamps the ship, wetting all the bedding and clothing in the deck cabins and spoiling some of [...]

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Week 19 – farewells and new beginnings

This week sees the unhappy passengers and crew of the Cygnet still anchored in Rio Harbour.  While Boyle Travers Finniss chafes under continuing delays, the crew mutinies, refusing all work.  Brazilian soldiers come to arrest four of the ringleaders, but the defiant crew insists on a mass arrest.  The captain seeks solace in drink. We finally [...]

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Week 20 – infectious disease

The Duke of York is now in the Southern Ocean, making good progress. It is Captain Morgan’s wife’s birthday and he reflects endearingly on his love for her and his happiness in the married state. On board the Africaine Mary Thomas is not so happy, as she struggles to nurse her sick children in the confined intermediate [...]

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