Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lady St Aubyn - Kaipara 1901

Lady Luck it seemed for the 150 ton schooner Lady St Aubyn didn't run on her side. Another victim of the notorious Kaipara Bar she ran aground on the February 25th 1901. No lives were lost in the stranding, but for the Lady St Aubyn this was to be her last voyage.

Her figurehead is on display at the Dargaville Museum a beautiful lady that didn't bring the vessel she was meant to protect in maritime tradition mercy from the perils of the sea. According to the information on the display board Lady St Aubyn was registered in Penzance, Cornwall, England. And thanks to Timespanner who consulted her book of NZ Shipwrecks I can now verify her year of 1871"The Lady St Aubyn, No. 58,381, 150 tons register, built at Penzance, Cornwall, in 1871 by Martin Matthews. Length 101ft., beam 25.6ft., depth 11.7ft. Owned by J. Pitcaithley of Christchurch (however I have noted a purchase of the vessel by Captain Savident and as being chartered by Messrs Pitcaithley,Wallace & Co see below), and commanded by Captain Alexander McDonald."

There is some question here as to the correct ownership of the Lady St Aubyn. I have noted a purchase by Captain Savident in July 1899 and during my research I also found this article in the Evening Post dated 21st May 1900 as follows:

Yesterday the Schooner Lady St Aubyn arrived in harbour with 135,000ft of timber, half of which is for Messrs Stewart & Co and Pronse Brothers and the remainder for the Gear Company's works at Petone. Captain Saivdent reports favourable N.E winds in his 87 hours passage from Kaipara. The vessel has been chartered by Messrs Pitcaithley, Wallace & Co to proceed from this port to Mercury Bay to load timber for Dunedin, thence to Lyttleton to take a quantity of machinery for Picton, and from, the latter port to the Manukau and back to Kaipara.
My question is did Savident sell the vessel to Pitcaithley? And was Savident still on board when she wrecked?

The first mention I have of her was from the Daily Southern Cross 21 September 1871. The Lady St Aubyn arrived in the port of Adelaide from Mauritius. From there she was mentioned numerous times as crossing from New Zealand to various ports around the Australian coast. She was a trader taking different goods back and forth to New Zealand and other ports. A well seasoned voyager with a list of mishaps to her elegant name.

In a report from the Grey River Argus 14 January 1897 a telegraph message had arrived from Melbourne reporting the schooner had put in to Melbourne after spring a leak in bad weather three days out from the Kaipara to Freemantle. The only thing keeping her afloat was the cargo of timber she was carrying...The schooner Lady of St Aubyn, bound from Kaipara to Freemantle, put in here disabled. She sprung a leak when three days out. Tempestuous weather prevailed throughout, and she had a terrible time, with five feet of water in the hold, and was only kept afloat by her cargo of timber.

In July 1899 Lady St Aubyn was purchased by Captain Savident for the Kaipara-Wellington-Lyttleton trade (Evening Post 29 July 1899).

1900 it seemed was a bad year for the schooner. June 1st 1900 the Lady St Aubyn dragged her anchor in a southerly gale while unloading timber at Petone Wellington, ending up beached.

"During a southerly gale yesterday the schooner Lady St Aubuyn, which was discharging timber at Petone wharf, dragged her anchor and drifted onto the beach. She lies on an upright keel, and is making a little water." Poverty Bay Herald 2 June 1900

Then in late October/Early November 1900 the vessel almost came to grief in the dangerous Cook Strait...

The Brigantine Lady St Aubyn had a very narrow escape of being wrecked in the Cook Straits on the passage from Wellington to Kaipara during the heavy gales a fortnight back. The vessel was caught in a heavy gale and driven to Long Island, getting close to the high cliffs of the island. Being in danger of being driven ashore, the anchors were let go, but before they brought the vessel up she was within fifty yards of the cliffs.. The boats were got in readiness, and as the vessel began to drag still further in-shore, Captain Savident, and the crew left the vessel to her fate, and taking to the boats, made for the island. After a most trying experience they landed in an exhausted state. Some time later the wind suddenly changed, blowing off the land, and the deserted vessel commenced to drift away from her perilous position. Seeing a chance of saving her, the captain and crew put off from the shore again and boarded the vessel. The schooner was got well off the land, and the weather moderating, she continued her course for Kaipara, where she arrived safely.
- Poverty Bay Herald 13 November 1900

On the 25th of February 1901 the sea had the final say on the fate of the Lady of St Aubyn. Entering the Kaipara Heads the schooner was becalmed...

The crew of the Lady St Aubyn, which was wrecked at Kaipara have arrived in Auckland. The captain states that the brigantine was beating over the bar, and had got between the Tory Shoal and the North Spit when the wind suddenly dropped to a flat calm. The tide and swell swept the vessel towards the North Spit, and on this she struck about twenty minutes after the wind had dropped. The heavy swell tide carried the vessel further and further up the beach, bumping all the time. The crew walked ashore when the tide fell. The vessel bumped a great deal at the next tide, and the iron fastenings and seams started, water coming in between the planks. A nautical enquiry will be held tomorrow.
-Evening Post 14 March 1901

The day after the crew's arrival in Auckland on March 14th the nautical inquiry was held on March 15:

A Magisterial inquiry was held at the Magistrate's Court before H. W. Brabant S.M, into the circumstances surrounding the wreck of the schooner Lady St Aubyn on the North Spit Entrance to Kaipara Harbour on the 25 ult. the enquiry was held on the application of the Collector of Customs, who conducted the examination of witnesses. The finding of the Court was that the master had committed a grave error of judgment in not letting go his anchor when his vessel was drifting towards the North Spit, but the error in judgment was not considered grave enough to necessitate interference with the master's certificate. The master was ordered to pay half the costs of the enquiry, the proportion to be paid by him not to exceed L5.
- Grey River Argus 18 March 1901

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