During the whole of her career under the Aberdeen house-flag, the only mishap Samuel Plimsoll suffered was the carrying away of a fore topmast : happily this was free from casualties.
This was the case with most of the well maintained Thompson’s green clippers.
On the occasion of this her only mishap a tropical squall carried away the bobstay, and down came the fore-topmast and main topgallant mast.
Samuel Plimsoll was in distress.
It happened that a Yankee clipper was in company.
This vessel beat up to the dismantled Samuel Plimsoll and sent a boat off with a message that she was bound for Australia and would gladly tranship the passengers and carry them on to their destination.
This offer, Captain Simpson, then commanding the Samuel Plimsoll, declined with thanks, so the American went on her way.
In the remarkably short time of a long day of hard work the Aberdeen flyer had fresh masts aloft.
Then the Samuel Plimsoll settled down to make up the lost time.
Nobly the Samuel Plimsollmade her time.
One week’s work in the ‘Roaring Forties’ totalling 2300 miles, and she eventually arrived in Melbourne, 82 days out.
Some days later the Yankee arrived and her captain at once went to the Samuel Plimsoll’s agents and reported speaking to her dis-masted in the Atlantic, at the same time he commented on her captain’s foolhardiness in not trans-shipping his passengers.
“Is it the Captain Simpson sitting over there you are referring to?” asked the agent.
Samuel Plimsoll” was noted for her record runs annually from Plymouth, mostly to Australia.
‘Samuel Plimsoll’, bound Plymouth for Australia.
A famous ship, the clipper ‘Samuel Plimsoll’ is moored on one of the most historic pieces of water in Britain, The Plymouth Cattewater.
The year is 1875, a warm August Moon is rising over Mount Batten with its distinctive Martello Tower.
Jenny cliff and Plymouth Sound glow with mysterious moonlight and moon shadows.
She will be to be noted for her record runs.
Samuel Plimsoll was a first quality ship, a green hulled clipper ship of the Aberdeen White Star Line.
Her anchor is hove short, sails shaken loose, she is in the final stages of loading emigrants, bound to go with the first of the ebb tide.
The ship is ready to sail.
She sails under government contract, having been specially converted when outbound for emigrants including with cabins and a surgeon.
She eventually made 17 voyages with emigrants, returning with wool, racing her clipper ship sisters.
Plymouth was already famous as the departure point of Mayflower with the Pilgrim Fathers.
By the 19th century Plymouth had became the 3rd busiest British point of departure.
Aside from a geographic advantage and the coming of railways, Plymouth had the most advanced [for the time], most popular, migration depot.
Plymouth offered, unique in Britain, a custom built highly organized emigration depot much favoured by emigrants, Plymouth having by far the best facilities including dormitories, medical, banking and security for people awaiting a ship.
The ship :
Samuel Plimsoll was an iron hull composite clipper built 1873 at Aberdeen by W. Hood & Co, for the Aberdeen White Star line.
Samuel Plimsoll had very similar lines to famous ‘Cutty Sark‘ and her great rival, ‘Thermopylae‘ regularly racing them and proving herself a very fast ship.
This fine clipper ship was christened and launched in the presence of Samuel Plimsoll MP in who’s honour she was named, by Mrs. Boaden, wife of her first commander, Captain Boaden.
Her first voyage took 180 souls from Plymouth on 19 November 1873 arriving at Sydney in the very smart time of 68 days.
Well maintained, her long career was largely trouble free.
Mr. Samuel Plimsoll and the Plimsoll Line :
At a time when literally some 5 thousand families per year where being made fatherless because ships were being overloaded so lost in storms, Samuel Plimsoll became a renowned campaigner for sailor’s rights and safety at sea.
It is no exaggeration to say seamen world wide today still benefit from Samuel Plimsoll’s lifelong campaign for sailor’s rights.
Mr. Plimsol was an ardent campaigner for sailor’s rights, innovator of the ‘Plimsoll Line‘, a mark protecting seamen, which today appears on the ships of 164 countries world wide.
Samuel Plimsoll literally has made his mark, a great achievement, a truly great legacy.
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The Cattewater :
this is a name strange upon the modern tongue.
Yet so very many famous voyages started from Plymouth Cattewater (older spelling Cat Water).
Upon the Plymouth Cattewater the Phoneticians, Saxons, Francis Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, the Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers, James Cook, Nelson, James Darwin and flying boats, American D Day shipping, solo ocean races and very much more have sailed … voyages that have changed lives and our world beyond measure.
The name ‘Cattewater’ derives from water were anchors were ‘a cathead’ or ‘catted’.
In old time wooden sailing ships anchors were as vital as they are today.
Anchors were big heavy beasts that if miss handled could seriously damage a ship, maim or kill men.
Meaning as ship design developed anchors came to be ‘handled’ via a primitive derrick, one each side of a vessel just abaft the bow which some ancient mariner, bit of a wag, pointed out were like two cat’s whiskers; the name stuck, has become sea lore, part of the mariner’s language.
Plymouth has been the third busiest point of departure from Great Britain.
Many a captain chose to have his ship lie to anchor in the sheltered river Plym, its mouth being The Cattewater.
I’ve seen many a full moon rise over the Cattewater where I used to race dinghies when had a family and where I moored my yacht “Music Maker”.
I’d long thought the scene deserved to be painted, this study is one of the results, enjoy.
Gordon Frickers, 14 rue du Bout de Ville, Théhillac 56130 France.
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Gordon Frickers © 02.03.12 Updated 04.01.2020
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