ID DJG_DWW Article from Mersea Museum

TitleThe cruise of the "Dwyn Wen"
AbstractShortly after the Great War a Mr T.Belilios acquired a fine spoon bowed schooner yacht named "Dwyn Wen" 150 tons, which had been built at Beaumaris, Anglesey, and appropriately enough given a Welsh name which means "White Leader". Mr Belilios the new owner had business interests in Hong Kong and wished to have the yacht based there, and consequently sought a reliable and experienced yachtmaster. He was recommended, to Captain Isaac Rice junior, who like his father was already well known in yachting circles and held in highest esteem by yacht agents, owners and crews alike. Capt.Isaac Rice accepted the appointment and sought out a local crew from Tollesbury, men whose capabilities he was already aware. Preparation for the long voyage to Hong Kong, more than half way round the world were put in hand, and in 1921, a nucleus of the crew joined the vessel at Southampton, and were later augmented by two additional members from that port. The Tollesbury men concerned were Capt. I. Rice, Master, Jack Townsend, mate, Dan Clarke, Lewis Barbrook, Sam Gurton, Clarence Rice; John Reuben Frost and Christopher Elmer.

It was anticipated that the voyage would take approximately six months, as "Dwyn Wen" would have to rely upon her sails, she only being provided with an auxiliary motor of then unknown qualities. Under the guidance of Capt. Rice and the devoted co-operation of his crew "Dwyn Wen" was soon ready for sea, and the yacht was joined by Mr. T. Belilios and guests for trial and sail stretching in the Channel. It was soon found that the engine was not proving too reliable, but time did not allow for a change. On return to Southampton Mr Belilios provided the yacht's crew with recreational aids, including musical instruments, as he considered that the voyage might take longer than intended, and time might drag for the crew in their watch below. Mr John Frost kept a diary and in it recorded that the Captain did not regard the musical instruments too favourably as they might cause dissension amongst the crew, however a happy compromise was made that they would only be used when all members were awake and not during the "silent hours" or when watches were resting.

The crew signed Board of Trade Articles at Southampton, and before departure a number of the owner's guests boarded the yacht to take passage to Gibraltar.

The first night was spent at anchor off Yarmouth I.O.W. and barely had the yacht come to anchor when motor yacht was seen to be sweeping down on the tide towards the Needles apparently with no one on board. Immediately a boat was lowered from "Dwyn Wen" and went off in pursuit. It was found that the motor yacht had broken from her moorings and she was brought safely to anchor, and the harbour authorities at Yarmouth were informed. The first adventure augured well for their voyage to the Orient.

However, on the run down Channel, head winds were encountered, and the repeated tacking changing course and consequent pounding, pitching and tossing, rather upset the passengers, and "Dwyn Wen" had to put into Weymouth. Head winds did not abate, and after brief stops at Weymouth and Torquay, the yacht eventually arrived at Falmouth, where the passengers left the vessel, "Dwyn Wen" in spite of her size proving too lively for them.

If anything the weather deteriorated, but there were signs that there would soon be a change, so after taking on fresh water and provisions, a start was made for Gibraltar. After nine days tacking through the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Spain and Portugal "Dwyn Wen" arrived without incident at Gibraltar'. Here the crew were able to have a run ashore to stretch their legs, and stocks of food and water were obtained to carry them through to Malta, the next port of call. However, whether it was some item of food or other, one or two members of the crew became ill on leaving Gibraltar and it was about to be decided to put in at Almeria, Spain, when due to careful doctoring the patients recovered and course was set for Malta.

The weather had taken a decided change, there were light airs, and midway between Cap de Gata and Sicily an Italian barque was seen becalmed with flag signals saying "short of provisions - starving". "Dwyn Wen" hove to and supplied the Italians with biscuits and preserved beef for which they were most grateful and they offered to pay for same but Capt. Rice declined payment with the words that "the food is given in the tradition of the brotherhood of the sea".

Days of flat calms and repeated changes of sail "Dwyn Wen" eventually arrived off Valetta Harbour, Malta, some twenty days after leaving Gibralter. Advantage was taken to have the auxiliary engine overhauled and re-stock with provisions for the run down to Port Said. Before leaving the ship chandler, for some reason best known to himself presented a shaggy mongrel dog to the ship's company, and he was promptly named "Nipper", for the habit he had of nipping any person's ankles. The gift did not meet with the approval of the Skipper or mate, but he was considered as a diversion for the crew and steps were taken to have him shipboard trained. The short leg to Port Said passed off without incident and within eight days "Dwyn Wen" raised the prominent light house in Port Said harbour and the statue of de Lesseps on the breakwater. A brief stay in port and arrangements were soon completed for the passage through the Suez Canal with a Pilot on board. The auxiliary engine did not prove too temperamental and all went well as far as the Bitter Lakes when a call was made at Ismailia. Early next day having ascertained movements of shipping in the Canal, another start was made and "Dwyn Wen" completed the final leg to Port Suez without incident where the Pilot took his departure.

It was soon found that the voyage down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean was going to be no sinecure. Only light airs were encountered and the engine had to be carefully nursed for use in the event of an emergency. One of the hazards all had to put up with was the unbearable heat, sometimes 112F in the shade. The crew were employed dowsing down the decks with salt water, but nonetheless the heat was unbearable especially down below. For days "Dwyn Wen" ghosted along, and the forbidding rocks of Jeb-el-Tier never seemed to be far away, but at last the island of Perim, was sighted and "Dwyn Wen" passed through the Straits of Beb-el-Mendeb, known as "Hells Gates" twenty one days after having left Suez. A brief stay was made in Aden to replenish stores and have essential work done. "Nipper" fell into disgrace as he licked the laundryman when he came on board, and nearly caused a riot amongst the natives as it was considered to be an evil thing to be licked by a dog.

The days passed too quickly in port and essential work being done it was time to start the other leg of the voyage to Malaya. Before leaving Aden the skipper was advised to Socotra a wide berth as the natives were hostile there and also to be wary of any Arab dhows as there had been instances of piracy. The yachts armoury of one pistol was augmented with two .3035 Lee Enfields. The skipper and crew took leave of their British friends in port and blistering heat set off into the Gulf of Aden.

Shortly after getting clear of Aden the auxiliary engine packed in, and the light airs prevailing the yacht was more or less at the mercy of the ocean. For some days the yacht drifted along, and frequent changes of sail to keep the crew occupied had little effect on the progress of the yacht. By his observations and reckoning the skipper placed the yacht just south of the Arabian states and steadily drifting to the north east. To make matters worse a number of the crew were suffering from a form of "food poisoning" which the skipper diagnosed correctly as due to contaminated meat purchased in Aden. "Dwyn Wen" possessed no ice box or refrigerator and fresh meat etc. had to be preserved carefully but notwithstanding all precautions taken, the heat being experienced soon rendered foodstuffs unpalatable. It was decided to make for Makalla to seek medical aid and await the change in weather the Indian monsoon seasons were about to start.

"Dwyn Wen" had a right royal reception at Makalla and caused great interest amongst the populace, a sailing yacht not having been seen there before. The Sultan sent his chief serang to visit on the skipper and ascertain if anything could be done to help during the stay in port. The skipper wished to send a cablegram home to the owner and also send letters, but to everyone's dismay it was found that Makalla in that day was not blessed by posts or telegraphs. However, having been unable to get dry-docking facilities at Aden, and "Dwyn Wen" now becoming in a foul state below the water line, the Sultan was pleased to arrange for a number of his men to dive with scrapers and complete the task of cleaning off the growth of sea-grass and barnacles which had formed on "Dwyn Wen's" hull. To round off the warm welcome given to "Dwyn Wen" the skipper and crew were invited to dinner and entertainment at the Sultan's palace, where they sampled exotic foods and also witnessed some exotic entertainment by native dancing girls.

There were signs that the weather was going to change, and the skipper decided to take advantage of this. All gear having been overhauled and sails in good shape, a start was made, and "Dwyn Wen" was soon bowling along into the Indian Ocean under full sail with a force 4 wind from the NW just 26 days after leaving Suez.

Good progress was made and with a steady fresh breeze from the NW the yacht was soon well on her way to the Straits of Malacca. After days of steady sailing with an occasional shift of sail there were ominous signs that the monsoon was soon going to break. For what appeared to be days on end the yacht was subjected to torrential downpours of rain accompanied by screaming winds of hurricane force. Constant vigilance, reduction of sail and the many attendant cares necessary for good navigation and seamanship, "Dwyn Wen" weathered well and came through unscathed, except for some superficial damage to bulwarks and hatches, which were soon made good by the ship's carpenter. There was however a more serious problem affecting them all. "Dwyn Wen" had been driven far to the south, and at one point the skipper was considering making for the Straits of Sunda at the southern end of Sumatra. However there was a change of wind and apart from the serious position of provisions running short, it was decided to head NE for Sabang. Some members of the crew experimented with tackle to catch fish and one was successful in trapping seagull, which was killed, boiled and eaten. The flesh was reported to be very salt to the taste. When in position 7 30' N and 91 21' E what was taken to be a large craft flying a flag was seen. Course was made to meet the unknown object when it was found to be a large amount of earth, roots, vegetation and surmounted by a tree, floating in the water - in fact a veritable floating island. It was about this time that "Nipper" the dog, who never really settled down to shipboard life became more of a nuisance and danger to everyone. It was considered that the dog was going mad, and to avoid any dangerous complications it was reluctantly decided to put him down, which was done humanely, and the carcase committed to the deep.

It was in the Sea of Bengal that a great test was to come for "Dwyn Wen", for two days she was "hove-to" in a cyclone, tremendous seas and strong gale wind. The Captain had no sleep the whole time, he was watching the barometer which kept falling. At the end of the second day he decided, to change course. With only the staysail set and oil bags out on the weather side. After a few hours the barometer started to rise and "Dwyn Wen" was clear of the cyclone, but 30 miles off course.

Within a short time "Dwyn Wen" reached the Straits of Malacca and after three days of tacking and changing sail, Johore Straits were reached an "Dwyn Wen" berthed at Singapore. After their arduous and gruelling voyage from Makalla the crew were in need of a rest, but vital work had to be done as the yacht had to be delivered to Hong Kong. The sails and running gear after being subjected to tropical heat and intermittent rain for weeks on end, were showing signs of weakness. A great deal of repair work and reeving off halyards, etc., was to be carried out by the crew.

At Singapore the Captain made arrangements for "Dwyn Wen" to go into dry doc: for the copper bottom to be cleaned and oiled. The barnacles were the sise of old pennies. All this work completed "Dwyn Wen" sailed on the last leg to Hong Kong. On the day before Hong Kong was sighted, gale winds and heavy seas again subjected the yacht to severe buffeting. The Captain decided to heave-to until daylight, and by then most of the sails were in ribbons, but were able to take "Dwyn Wen" through the Lye Mun Pass into Hong Kong harbour.

After a good refit, top sides painted, etc. and new sails bent on, "Dwyn Wen" was her old self again. The owner, Mr T. Belilios, then joined her and after two months cruising around the coast, the yacht was laid up for a good rest she had so rightly earned.

The crew then said goodbye to their Chinese and British friends and left Hong Kong for England in the P.&.O.liner "Plassy".

Aforegoing narrative compiled from conversations with, and details given by Mr Clarence Rice, who was ship's carpenter during the voyage of "Dwyn Wen" from Southampton to Hong Kong in 1921, also by reference to a diary kept by Mr. John Reuben Frost during the voyage.

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton
IDDJG_DWW
Related Images:
 DWYN WEN. 
 Back L-R 1. Christopher Elmer, 2., 3., 4. Daniel Clarke.
 Middle row 1. Isaac Rice Junior (with 3 rings on sleeve), 2., 3. John Townsend.
 Front 1. Clarence R. Rice, 2., 3. Lewis Barbrook. 
</p>
<p>Following is from Tollesbury to the year 2000, page 61.
 Capt Isaac Rice was master of the steam yacht WINIFRED owned by Major Hilder. He enlisted many local men as crew including his chief engineer Arthur Allen. After World War 1 Capt Rice was to command the steam yacht BANTAM. In 1921 he [ but see note further down ] undertook to take a gaff-rigged staysail schooner, the DWYN WEN to Hong Kong for her new owner. The voyage was to tax his abilities to the full and became something of an adventure. He gathered his mainly Tollesbury crew with Jack Townsend as mate and Clarence Rice as carpenter. Another crew member, John Reuben Frost, kept a diary. From this we know that they were beset by engine problems and expected to rely heavily on sail power, estimating six months for the duration of the passage.
</p><p>
Guests joined the ship, and she set off, encountering head-winds and rough conditions most of the way down to the Mediterranean. South of Sicily, they signed an Italian vessel which signalled - short of provisions - starving! Capt Rice gave them biscuits and meat freely. On they sailed suffering intense heat, shortage of wind, and food poisoning among the crew until, eventually, they got to Makalla (southern Yemen) for medical aid. The Sultan personally sent them as much assistance as was available including an invitation to his palace for exotic food and dancing girls.
Setting off again, DWYN WEN was driven on in monsoon conditions which included hurricane force winds. She arrived at Hong Kong after 6 months and 22 days with her sails in ribbons. 
</p>
<p>[ Note: It was Isaac Rice junior who took the DWYN WEN to Hong Kong, and this is confirmed by Clarence Rice's daughter Enid. ]
<p>
In 1926 Capt Rice snr commanded the steam yacht MEDEA. Tragically, he was lost when swept off the bridge in heavy seas off Sardinia. 
</p>
<p>DWYN WEN Official No. 120806 built 1906 Philip & Son, Dartmouth. [LRY 1914].
 In 1921 she was owned by Raphael Emanual Billy Belilios. [Doug Peterson].
 She was in the US Navy during WW2, and survived till January 2014 when she was sunk at Moyotte Harbor Comoros Islands. [ http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/46/46058.htm ]
</p>  DWS_033
ImageID:   DWS_033
Title: DWYN WEN.
Back L-R 1. Christopher Elmer, 2., 3., 4. Daniel Clarke.
Middle row 1. Isaac Rice Junior (with 3 rings on sleeve), 2., 3. John Townsend.
Front 1. Clarence R. Rice, 2., 3. Lewis Barbrook.

Following is from Tollesbury to the year 2000, page 61.
Capt Isaac Rice was master of the steam yacht WINIFRED owned by Major Hilder. He enlisted many local men as crew including his chief engineer Arthur Allen. After World War 1 Capt Rice was to command the steam yacht BANTAM. In 1921 he [ but see note further down ] undertook to take a gaff-rigged staysail schooner, the DWYN WEN to Hong Kong for her new owner. The voyage was to tax his abilities to the full and became something of an adventure. He gathered his mainly Tollesbury crew with Jack Townsend as mate and Clarence Rice as carpenter. Another crew member, John Reuben Frost, kept a diary. From this we know that they were beset by engine problems and expected to rely heavily on sail power, estimating six months for the duration of the passage.

Guests joined the ship, and she set off, encountering head-winds and rough conditions most of the way down to the Mediterranean. South of Sicily, they signed an Italian vessel which signalled - "short of provisions - starving!" Capt Rice gave them biscuits and meat freely. On they sailed suffering intense heat, shortage of wind, and food poisoning among the crew until, eventually, they got to Makalla (southern Yemen) for medical aid. The Sultan personally sent them as much assistance as was available including an invitation to his palace for exotic food and dancing girls. Setting off again, DWYN WEN was driven on in monsoon conditions which included hurricane force winds. She arrived at Hong Kong after 6 months and 22 days with her sails in ribbons.

[ Note: It was Isaac Rice junior who took the DWYN WEN to Hong Kong, and this is confirmed by Clarence Rice's daughter Enid. ]

In 1926 Capt Rice snr commanded the steam yacht MEDEA. Tragically, he was lost when swept off the bridge in heavy seas off Sardinia.

DWYN WEN Official No. 120806 built 1906 Philip & Son, Dartmouth. [LRY 1914].
In 1921 she was owned by Raphael Emanual "Billy" Belilios. [Doug Peterson].
She was in the US Navy during WW2, and survived till January 2014 when she was sunk at Moyotte Harbor Comoros Islands. [ http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/46/46058.htm ]

Date:c1921
Source:Mersea Museum / Derek Shakespeare


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The contents must not be published without the permission of the Museum. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.


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