Saturday, November 28, 2009

The wreck of the Marwell

In 1869 Captain Jack was back in Auckland sailing the 'Marwell' a 28 ton, 52ft cutter, owned by John Smith, draper of Queen Street. On 2nd February he sailed her in the "Trading vessels, over 25 tons" section of the 30th Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta. The prize was a silver cup presented by Mssr. Shaw, Savill and Co. and a purse of 25 guineas.
It was a great race with stiff breeze increasing until "the sea was now anything but pleasant, and the boats were dipping their noses into it breasting the waves right gallantly!" The 'Donald McLean', was an early leader when "smash went the foretopmast-head which, in its fall, broke off the main-top-mast close to the crosstree, thus rendering every sail in the ship useless".
But worse was in store for the 'Marwell' her topsail was carried away, and when near Tiri Tiri she missed stays (a tacking manoeuvre) and was driven onto the rocks and wrecked.
In February there was an inquiry into the wreck of the 'Marwell' where John Austen gave evidence-
"I was on deck when she missed stays. I had been in the cabin previously for about twenty minutes sitting on the locker. I was not drunk. I drank three glasses of brandy previous to this, but I was not in a state of intoxication." However another witness John Bucket, a friend of the owner, reported that "the master, Austen, was drunk, I saw him have seven or eight glasses of brandy at least. He was not capable of taking charge of the vessel in my opinion". Other witnesses reported that it was the mate who was in charge at the time and it was a mistake of judgement on his part in not putting her round in time that caused the vessel to founder.
The Bench decided that the master's certificate of John Austen should be cancelled.
An application for costs was declined and a separate court action by the draper whereby Captain Jack was charged with the theft of a quantity of brandy, rum and beer was dismissed.
Sadly the mate who had been in charge when the boat foundered drowned the next day when trying to salvage the 'Marwell'.

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