ID: DJG_VOY / Douglas J. Gurton

TitleThree Voyages
AbstractNowadays it is quite common to read of venturesome and hazardous voyages completed single handed or with crews, but it is not generally known or has been forgotten that at least three epic voyages were completed successfully by men of this village. In 1911 the schooner "Sunshine" re-rigged as a ketch, sailed from Rickus Creek bound for New York having been purchased by an American. Skippered by Capt. Harry Pettican with Ernest Appleton as Mate, Uriah Lewis, Cliff Rice, Harry Redhouse, Sydney Mills, Harry Milgate and Peter Owen, the last two named from Mersea, the vessel took its departure from Falmouth in April of that year. The yacht was subjected to gales right from the start and for days on end was under jury rig or laying to a sea-anchor. After fourteen days the storms abated, but a more serious problem was discovered. The standard compass situated amidships and the chronometer in the saloon had developed serious errors. Consequently Capt. Pettican was not sure of their position. A change of climate for warmer weather and the presence of quantities of "Gulf weed" in the sea confirmed his opinion that they were too far south of their estimated position, and a more northerly course was set. On the 28th day at sea, provisions were getting low, but they saw their first ship made signals and closed with her, finding that they were 500 miles south-east of New York, where they safely arrived on 1st June 1911. For years afterwards Capt. Pettican with mainly a Tollesbury crew went out to New York to sail "Sunshine" for its owner Mr Newcomb Carlton, head of Western Union.

Another long and hazardous voyage was that of the schooner "Dwyn-Wen", skippered by Capt. Isaac Rice, Junior, with Jack Townsend as Mate, Dan Clarke, Lew Barbrook, Sam Gurton, John Reuben Frost, Christopher Elmer, Clarence Rice and two men from Southampton, sailed from Weymouth on 8th August 1921 for Hong Kong, where they arrived on 28 Februry 1922 after many adventures in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

The full stories of the aforegoing two voyages make most interesting reading, and I am indebted to Miss Birdie Pettican, daughter of the late Capt. Harry Pettican, and Messrs Clarence Rice and Sam Gurton for full details and photographs which have enabled me the write the full accounts of these epic which it is hoped can be published in due course.

One voyage which can be recalled by three survviving crew members in this village, viz. Ted Heard, Horace Chatterson and Cyril Coates, is that of the "Endeavour I" which acted as a pace-maker for "Endeavour II" the America Cup Challenger in the races of 1937 off Rhode Island, U.S.A. At the conclusion of the races, Endeavour I left Rhode Island, U.S.A. on Sunday 12th September 1937 escorted by the motor yacht "Viva" which later took "Endeavour I" in tow, ostensibly for return to Gosport England. On Monday 13th September the vessels encountered a southerly hurricane. At midnight it was found that the tow-rope had parted, and it was impossible to raise "Viva" by signals. Capt. Edward Heard decided to ride out the storm raging to a sea-anchor. On Tuesday 14th September the sotrm abated, but it was still impossible to contact "Viva" or any other vessel which might have been in the vicinity, and Capt. Heard decided to set course for home taking advantage of the prevailing westerly wind.

In the meantime "Viva" had returned to Rhode Island to report that "Endeavour I" had broken adrift, and a search by Coastguard vessels and aircraft was organised. By Sunday 19th September it was feared that "Endeavour I" had foundered, there was no trace of her to be found. Prayers were offered in the local churches, but on Monday 27th September the s.s. "Cheyenne" reported having sighted "Endeavour I" under sail 26 miles S.W. of Fastnet, and found "All Well". The "Lutine Bell" was rung at Lloyds. On Friday 1st October 1937 "Endeavour I" arrived off Portsmouth to the sounds of much jubilation, ship's syrens, etc, after a most momenous voyage of 19 days.

I am most grateful to Messrs. Ted Heard, junior, Cyril Coates and the late Neville Gurton for details of the hazardous voyage which has enabled me to write the full story for publication with those of "Sunshine" and "Dwyn-Wen".

The framed photograph of "Endeavour I" leading "Endeavour II" signed by Capt. Heard and his crew was given to me by Capt Heard, and is now displayed in our Club premises.

There are two articles on the voyage of the "Sunshine":
DJG_SH1 by Douglas Gurton
DJG_SH2 by Harry Redhouse.
For the voyage of "Dwyn Wen" see DJG_DWW .

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
Published13 February 1980
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton