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York City - Wreck Report

Official No. 84533: Code Letters WFCK.

Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'York City', 1888

(No. 3468.) "YORK CITY" (S.S.) The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876. IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Public Board Room, Post Office Chambers, Middlesbrough, on the 31st day of January, and the days of February 1888, before CHARLES JAMES COLEMAN, Esq., Judge, assisted by Captains PARISH and HARLAND, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship "YORK CITY," of West Hartlepool, on or near Salvor Reef, Faro Island, Baltic, on or about the 22nd December last. Report of Court. The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the stranding was caused by the master, (Cert. of Coy. 03,049) Edward William Benn, having over-estimated his distance from Gottska Sanda and setting a course too close to Faro. The Court finds him in default, and suspends his certificate for three months from this date. Dated this 1st day of February 1888. (Signed) CHARLES JAMES COLEMAN, Judge. We concur in the above report.   (Signed) ALFRED PARISH, Assessors.  ROBERT HARLAND,
Annex to the Report. The "York City" was an iron steamship-official number 84,533, built at West Hartlepool in 1881. Her gross tonnage was 2,325.43, and net tonnage 1,530.01, registered at West Hartlepool. She was owned by Mr. Christopher Furness, of West Hartlepool, and others, Mr. Furness being the manager. She was schooner rigged, and fitted with two engines of 200 H.P. combined. Her length was 279.6, breadth 40.1, and depth 22.35. She was not fitted with water ballast tanks. She had four boats, namely, two life boats, one pinnace, and one jolly boat. All the boats were carried inboard, resting keel down on chocks, with the tackles kept hooked. The two life boats only were originally fitted with sails, but the sails of one of those boats had been previously burnt. She was provided with Imray's chart and sailing directions. She had three compasses, said to have been made by Berry & Son, of West Hartlepool, by whom they were last adjusted in 1885. One compass was in the wheel-house aft, one on the poop, and one on the bridge, by which all courses were set and steered. She had steam steering gear. She left Revel on the 21st of December last, under the command of Edward William Benn, who holds a certificate of competency as master, No. 03,049, and with a crew of 25 all told, consisting of master, 2 mates, boatswain, 7 A.B., cook, steward, engineer's steward, 3 engineers, 1 donkeyman, and 7 firemen. Her cargo consisted of about 2,240 tons of oats, and her draft on leaving was 22 ft. 7 1/2 in. aft, and 20 ft. 9 in. forward. At 11.50 p.m. of 21st December, Dagerort Light was abeam, bearing S. by E. 1/4 E., and distant, by four point bearings, 12 miles. The wind was light from S. and E. with passing snow squalls, sea smooth. The course was then set S.W. 1/2 W. magnetic, going at full speed (about 9 knots). About 10 a.m. 22nd December, when the log showed 104 miles from the ship's position off Dagerort, and the course placed the vessel about 37 miles from Gottska Sanda, that island was sighted for a short time between the snow squalls at a distance which the master estimated at 15 or 16 miles, bearing N.W. No steps were taken to verify the distance, which a cast of the lead would have given him, and it appears probable that the distance was much less. The vessel had therefore been set at least twenty-one miles to the northward and westward of her course; but, ignoring this warning, the master altered the course then to S.W. 1/2 W. magnetic, so as to pass only four miles off Holmudden Lighthouse. The snow squalls became thicker, and although between the squalls they could see five or six miles, at times, according to some of the witnesses, they could not see more than one or two ship's lengths. Full speed was continued. Shortly before noon the deep sea lead line was passed along, and the chief engineer warned to be prepared to stop for a cast of the lead. A look-out man had been placed on the forecastle head at 10.30 on the weather becoming thicker. At about five or ten minutes to twelve o'clock land was seen on the starboard bow. The helm was put hard-a-starboard and the engines were stopped, and reversed full speed. Her head came round to E.S.E., when she struck on what proved to be Salvoreen Reef and remained fast. The engines were worked ahead and astern until six o'clock on the following morning, but the ship did not move. On sounding around her it was found there were 15 feet of water forward and 4 fathoms aft. They then commenced to jettison cargo. She made little or no water up to between 6 and 7 a.m. on the 23rd December, when it came into Nos. 2 and 3 holds, and into the engine room; one of the lifeboats was washed out of the chocks and lost. At 1 p.m. on the 23rd the master went ashore in a fishing boat to telegraph for assistance, and then returned to his ship. At 1 a.m. on the 24th he again went ashore to hurry off assistance. It was then blowing fresh from the westward, and after drifting about for about six hours the master met the salvage steamer towing off a lifeboat, and he returned in her to the vessel. At 2 p.m. on that day all hands left the ship in the shore lifeboat and their one remaining lifeboat, the ship being then full of water. They were landed at Faro Island, and were ultimately sent on to England. On the day after they were landed at Faro Island the master returned to the ship, and found her full fore and aft, and she subsequently became a total wreck. At the close of the evidence the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court on the following questions: 1. What was the cause of the stranding of the vessel? 2. What number of compasses had she on board, where were they placed, and were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the ship? 3. When and by whom were they made, and when and by whom were they last adjusted? 4. Did the master ascertain the deviation of his compasses by observation from time to time, were the errors of the compasses correctly ascertained, and the proper corrections to the courses applied? 5. Whether proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel about 9.45 a.m. on the 22nd December, and from time to time thereafter? 6 Whether proper courses were set and steered, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide and currents? 7. Whether the weather was thick, and if so, whether the master was justified in neglecting to reduce the speed of the vessel? 8. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept? 9 Whether the lead was used, and if not, whether such neglect was justifiable, especially having regard to the thick state of the weather? 10. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care? 11. Whether the master and officers are, or either of them is, in default? In the opinion of the Board of Trade the certificate of Edward William Benn, the master, should be dealt with. To which the Court replied as follows: 1. The stranding of the "York City" was caused by the master having over-estimated his distance from Gottska Sanda, and setting a course to pass too close to Faro, without taking into consideration the strong current to the northward and westward which the vessel had experienced before sighting Gottska, and not taking all the precautions that a prudent man would have done. 2. There were three compasses on board, one on the bridge (the steering compass), one on the poop, and one in the after wheel house; they were in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the ship. 3 and 4. The compasses were said to have been made by Berry & Son, of West Hartlepool, in 1881, and last adjusted by them in 1885, and since that time the errors have been ascertained by the captain by swinging the ship at sea; the last occasion being on the 17th of November 1887, and they appear to have been properly applied. 5. Proper measures were not taken to verify the position of the ship about 9.45 a.m. of the 22nd December. 6. Safe and proper courses were set from off Dagerort, but were not made good. The alteration made in the course when Gottska Sanda was sighted was in the right direction but not sufficient, no allowance being made for the current, which had then carried the ship about 21 miles to the northward and westward of her course. 7. The weather was no doubt thick at times, and speed should have been reduced when the heavy snow squalls were passing over. 8. A proper look-out appears to have been kept from the bridge. A man was stationed on the forecastle head. 9. The lead was not used, and the neglect to use it was not justifiable. A cast of the lead would have given the master his distance from Gottska Sanda; and it should have been used in approaching Faro in thick snow storms. It appeared that the line was passed along and a cast about to be taken just when the land was sighted. Had it been used earlier it would have shown him that his course was not being made good. 10. Up to sighting Gottska at 10 a.m. on 22nd December the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care, but not afterwards. When Gottska was so unexpectedly sighted at a distance which the mate estimated at 15 or 16 miles, but which was probably much less, he must have known that the vessel was about 21 miles to the northward and westward of her course, either through an error of compass, or current, or from both causes, and in shaping his course to pass Faro he ought to have taken this into account and approached it with every caution, the more so as snow was thickly falling. The Court feels compelled to find the master in default for the loss of his vessel. He appears to enjoy the confidence of his employers, and has served them hitherto with credit to himself, and this commends him to our consideration, and induces us to deal more lightly with him then we otherwise would have done. He failed to exercise that caution in the navigation of his vessel after sighting Gottska Sanda that might properly and reasonably have been expected of him. To his want of caution as a seaman is the loss of his vessel attributable. After carefully considering all the facts of the case, and taking into consideration all that was urged on his behalf by his learned advocate, the Court suspends the master's certificate for three months from this date. The Court makes no order as to costs. Dated this 1st day of February 1888.   (Signed) CHARLES JAMES COLEMAN, Judge. We concur in the above report.  (Signed) ALFRED PARISH, Assessors.  ROBERT HARLAND

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