The History of Yachting/Chapter 9

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CHAPTER IX

THE CUMBERLAND FLEET

Tilt Boats—The yachts Royal, Charlotte, Dorset, and Plymouth—The Mandarin house boat—Lord Ferrer's yacht—First regatta (so-called) in England—The father of yacht racing, the Duke of Cumberland, 1775—First racing cup won by the Aurora—Foundation of the " Cumberland Fleet," 1775—Review of this fleet in 1778—The King's Fisher, Hawke, Cumberland, Caroline, and Eagle—Recovery of the Cumberland cup from a San Francisco pawnbroker's shop—The yacht Lively visits America and her owner entertains George Washington—Schank's sliding keels adopted by the British Admiralty.

IN 1727 the royal yacht Mary was built at Deptford; length of gun-deck, 76 feet 9 inches; keel, 61 feet 6 inches; breadth, 22 feet 4 inches; depth, 9 feet 8 inches; 164 tons. This yacht mounted 10 guns.

In 1732 the yacht Anne appeared in the London Custom House list. She was 30 tons, carried a crew of four men, and was the only yacht so registered at that date.

In March 4, 1734, the Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of the United Provinces, was married to Anne, Princess Royal, daughter of King George II; and on April 22d the Prince and his royal bride, attended by many personages of distinction, left London in carriages for Gravesend, where they embarked for Holland on board the royal yacht Fubbs. The wind being unfavorable, they came on shore in the evening, and remained at the house of Doctor Holker. On the 23d the Prince and Princess dined on board the yacht, "in view of great numbers who went off in boats to witness the spectacle." On the 24th, after again passing the night at the house of Doctor Holker, they embarked early in the morning, and, with a fair wind, took their departure to Holland.

In those days the route between Gravesend and Windsor by water was known as the Long Ferry, and heavy barges were used for many years to carry passengers to and from various places along the banks of the Thames.

In 1737 a craft known as a tilt-boat had superseded the ancient barge, and in this year an act was passed for regulating the watermen on the Thames between Gravesend and Windsor. For some years boats and wherries had been built in imitation of tilt-boats, with closed decks, many lives having been lost in consequence.

To prevent this, it was enacted that, "after the 24th of June, 1737, it should not be lawful for any person to use any boat or wherry with a closed deck, commonly called a Gravesend wherry, or with bails (frames) which were nailed to the boat and not moveable. The dangerous properties of such small boats are obvious; for, when the bails, or semicircular hoops upon which a tilt (awning) was supported, are immovable, the passengers are so confined as to render it difficult if not impossible to escape in times of danger." It was further provided, by the same act, "that no tilt-boat should be of less burthen than fifteen tons, and the number of passengers to be conveyed in each was limited to forty, including three to be taken up by the way. No boat of less than three tons burthen was allowed to be used in the Long Ferry, and these were to carry no more than ten passengers each, including two to be taken up by the way." At the same time, it was enacted, "that, for regulating the more punctual departure of the boats employed in the Long Ferry, there should be a bell put up at Billingsgate, and another at Gravesend; the former to give notice of the time of high water, when the boats were to depart; and the latter, of the time of low water, when the boat was to leave, Gravesend, and proceed to London.

On the 15th of September, 1738, the five tilt-boat masters, licensed by the Corporation, were George Sarmon, George Eglintine, John Caram, Leonard May, and Richard Turner. It appears that in the following year, upon a vacancy occurring, John Humpage was licensed as master of the Joseph and Mary tilt-boat; it was therefore subsequently that all of the five tilt-boats were named the King George. The regulations, introduced by the Act referred to, proved effective; for the smaller boats were no longer used; the tilt-boats were also discontinued in a few years, and larger boats with decks were employed. They, however, retained the general name of tilt-boats, and were each called the King George until, with the introduction of steam, sailing boats were no longer run on the Long Ferry.

The portrait is here given of a Gravesend tilt-boat, from a print by Canot, 1753. It is interesting, as showing the sloop rig of that period, the jib being set on a stay, also as being an early portrait of a Thames sailing boat,—a type that came into use among the yachtsmen of London at a later period.

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A GRAVESEND TILT-BOAT, FROM AN ENGRAVING, BY P. C. CANOT, 1753

In 1727 the royal yacht Mary was built at Deptford by R. Stacey; length on gun-deck, 76 feet 9 inches; keel, 61 feet 6 inches; breadth, 22 feet 4 inches; 164 tons; 8 guns. This yacht appears in the Navy List of 1800. In 1741 the royal yacht Chatham, 74 tons, was built at Chatham by J. Ward. In 1742 the royal yacht Portsmouth, 83 tons, was built at Portsmouth by P. Lock.

In 1745 Monamy painted a picture, in which one of the royal yachts appears, which is here reproduced and gives a good idea of the royal yacht of that period.

The largest and finest royal yacht built in

Queen Charlotte at Cuxhaven. 1761.

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To their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Ancaster This Representation of the Embarkation
Of her Majestic Queen Charlotte at Stade:
With a View of the Royal Yachts, &c, &c, is humbly Inscribed By their Graces' Most Devoted & Obliged Servant. Thomas Allen.

England during the eighteenth century was the ship Royal Charlotte, built at Deptford in 1749 by J. Holland; length on gun-deck, 90 feet; keel, 72 feet 2½ inches; breadth, 24 feet 7 inches; depth 11 feet; 232 tons. She carried 10 guns and a crew of 70 men. A portrait is here given of this yacht, from a drawing by Pocock, engraved by Nesbit. In 1761 Queen Charlotte crossed from Cuxhaven to
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THE "ROYAL CHARLOTTE," 1740

Harwich on board of her, accompanied by the royal yachts Mary, Catherine, and Fubbs.

Two pictures of this expedition were executed by Thomas Allen, and were engraved by Canot, showing the departure of the fleet from Harwich under command of Lord Anson, the embarkation at Cuxhaven, and in a gale during the passage to England. Her Majesty went aboard the Royal Charlotte at Cuxhaven, August 26, 1761. "The moment she entered her cabin she saluted the officers who crowded the decks in order to have the pleasure of seeing her, and who were charmed with her condescending and affable behavior. The fleet put to sea on August 28th; and after encountering three successive storms, often being in sight of the English coast, and repeatedly in danger of being driven on that of Norway, arrived safely at Harwich, September 6th. Notwithstanding the fatigues of the voyage her Majesty mostly amused herself with playing the harpsicord, and continued in good spirits and health, endearing herself to all on board by her fascinating manners. It being night when she arrived at Harwich, her Majesty remained on board the Royal Charlotte until 3 o'clock the next afternoon when she landed in state."

The royal yacht Dorset, 164 tons, was built at Deptford by Sir Thomas Slade in 1753, and the royal yacht Plymouth, 88 tons, was built at Plymouth, in 1755, by J. Bucknall. This completes the list of royal yachts built in England during the eighteenth century.
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THE "MANDARINE YACHT," 1753

It is probable that from the first introduction of yachts during the reign of King Charles II. there have always been private yachts owned in England, though few records of them have been preserved. In 1753 an engraving was published by T. Haynes,

Arrival of Queen Charlotte at Harwich.

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London, of the Mandarine Yatcht, owned by the Duke of Cumberland. This curious craft appears to have been the grandmother of the fashionable house-boat of the present day on the upper Thames; and seems well suited to the purpose for which she was intended.

Falconers Marine Dictionary (1771) defines a yacht as follows: "A vessel of State, usually employed to convey princes, ambassadors, or other great personages from one kingdom to another. As the principal design of a yacht is to accommodate the passengers, it is usually fitted with a variety of convenient apartments, with suitable furniture, according to the quality or number of persons contained therein. The royal yachts are commonly rigged at Ketches, except the principal one reserved for the Sovereign, which is equipped with three masts like a ship. They are in general elegantly furnished and richly ornamented with sculpture, and always commanded by captains in his majesty's navy. Besides these, there are many other yachts of a smaller kind, employed by the Commissioners of Excise, Navy and Customs; or used as pleasure-boats by private gentlemen."

In 1773 Earl Ferrers owned a yacht which is thus described in the Gentleman's Magazine, "Earl Ferrers arrived at Deptford in his yacht from a cruise of about three weeks, which he took in order to make a trial of his new method of constructing ships, and we are informed by a person who has conversed with one of the officers belonging to her, that nothing that was ever built answered all purposes so well, as they say that she is not only a fast sailer, but also carries sail remarkably well, and has every good quality which a vessel can possibly have in utmost perfection, and more particularly in a large head sea. What is very extraordinary in the vessel is, that in turning up to windward from the Downes to Blackwall, where she arrived on Sunday evening, she beat every vessel between three and four miles an hour, right in the wind's eye, though there were at least a hundred sail of vessels coming up the river and the wind all the time blew very fresh, and right down the river, yet on Saturday evening she turned from about two miles to the westward of the Isle of Sheppy to the mouth of the river Thames in within four hours against the ebb tide, though at the height of the springs, which it is imagined was never done before, nor can be done by any vessel."

The same volume of the Gentleman's Magazine records that "In a letter from Dover mention is made of a late trial between the celebrated vessel constructed by Lord Ferrers, and two small shallops belonging to Lieutenants Friend and Columbine, when on a stretch from that port to the opposite coast and back again, his lordship's vessel was weathered full two leagues in coming in with Dover cliffs. A vessel launched lately for the captain of the Speedwell has since beat the shallops, and is thought to be the fastest sailing vessel on the coasts of the kingdom."

It would be interesting to know the rig, tonnage, build, and names of these vessels, but no particulars relating to these matters have been preserved.

In 1775 Richard Paton painted a picture of the

A Royal Yacht. 1775.

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dockyard at Deptford. In it one of the King's yachts—represented with the royal standard at the main—is firing a salute in honor of the royal party, just started for the shore. This picture was engraved by Woolett, and is here given.

On June 28, 1775, a new entertainment called a regatta, introduced from Venice into England, was held on the Thames. As we have seen, rowing matches had been held on the Thames between watermen for many years, but this first regatta was probably more in the nature of a social function or fête, not unlike the Henley Regatta of the present day, although on a less extensive scale.

At this regatta "several very respectable gentlemen, proprietors of sailing vessels and pleasure-boats on the river, agreed at their annual meeting at Battersea, to draw up their boats in line off Ranelagh Gardens, in order that they might be able to witness the rowing matches, without interfering with them." It is probable that these men were the first to organize a yacht club on the Thames.

Yacht-racing in England dates from the year 1775; and while many a man, at various times and places, has been called the "Father of Yachting,"—so that yachting in this respect resembles the wise child of the Scriptures,—there can be no doubt that the Duke of Cumberland is justly entitled the "Father of Yacht-racing." He was a brother of King George III., was an admiral in the Royal Navy, and was greatly interested in yachts and yachting.

On July 6, 1775, a notice appeared in the Public Advertiser,—a newspaper published in London, —which read as follows; "A silver Cup, the gift of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, is to be sailed for on Tuesday the 11th Inst, from Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge and back, by Pleasure Sailing Boats, and constantly lying above London Bridge. Any gentleman inclined to enter his Boat may be informed of particulars by applying to Mr. Roberts, Boatbuilder, Lambeth, at any time before Saturday Noon Next."

This match, however, was not sailed until July 13th, owing to the weather. When it did occur, the cup, valued at 20 guineas, was won by the Aurora, which belonged to Mr. Parkes, "late of Ludgate Hill." And "His Royal Highness, who honored the sport with his presence, filled the Cup with wine, drank out of it, and delivered it to Mr. Parkes." This though not the first open sailing-match held in England, was the germ of yacht-racing as we know it at the present day.

On August 7, 1775, the Duke of Newcastle gave a magnificent regatta at Oaklands on the Thames, at which the Prince of Wales and the Princess Amelia were present. In this year also the Cumberland Fleet, or Cumberland Sailing Society, as it was sometimes called, was founded, and was the earliest yacht club in England. The members were called captains. And not without reason; for, by the rules of the club they were obliged to steer and handle their own yachts with the assistance of only two men. This title possessed then a real significance, and a resolution was passed that members should appear in "aquatic uniforms."

Review of the Cumberland Fleet off Sheerness.

1778

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And each yacht, when racing, was required to fly at her gaff-end a white flag with a red St. George's cross, and the number of blue balls answering to the number of her position at the starting line, yachts being obliged to get under way from moorings with sails furled. The first commodore of the club was Mr. Smith, who appears to have been the proprietor of Smith's Gardens, known later as Cumberland Gardens. He held office until 1779, when Thomas Taylor became commodore.

Commodore Taylor appears to have been an enthusiastic yachtsman and an excellent commander. He built and owned several yachts,—celebrated in their day. One of his notes, attached to a list of signals issued in 1779, reads: "Amusement being the principal Business of the Society the Commodore hopes every Captain will answer his signal as soon as the situation of the Vessel he commands will Admit: he flatters himself the rather in this, when he considers the Spectators will Judge from thence of the Excellence of the respective vessels, the Propriety of the Management of each and the good disposition of the Whole. N. B.—Each Signal to be kept flying only about five minutes, yet still to be observed until another is hoisted."

From which it appears that the fleet not only raced but cruised under the orders of the commodore, and in the year 1776, went up the Thames with "colours flying and music playing, in honor of the King's Birthday." In 1778 the fleet held a review off Sheerness, commemorated by Kitchingman in an engraving, which is here reproduced.

In 1776 the Duke of Cumberland's Cup was won by the King's Fisher, owned by Commodore Taylor. She was 20 feet in length, 7 feet in breadth, and was built by Adams & Doe, Butt Stairs, Blackfriars.

In 1777 a yacht named the Hawke, one of the Cumberland Fleet, while cruising in the English Channel, was chased into Calais by an American privateer.
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THE "CUMBERLAND"

In 1780 Commodore Taylor, with his yacht the Cumberland, won the cup given by the Duke of

The Cumberland 1780.

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Cumberland; and in the following year the seventh cup given by the Duke of Cumberland was sailed for. This year's one was valued at 50 guineas and only yachts of the Cumberland Fleet that had won former prizes were permitted to sail. But the following resolution was passed subsequently: "Members of the Society, with the permission of His Royal Highness, challenge and invite all gentlemen, proprietors of pleasure-sailing boats, within the British dominions, to join with them in the contention." This match, accordingly, was sailed on July 9, 1781, and was won also by the
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LINES OF THE "CUMBERLAND"

Cumberland, Commodore Taylor, and " caused much excitement, and many thousand persons were assembled on the banks of the river."

In 1781 Naval Architecture, by Marmaduke Stalkartt, was published in London,—the most important work on shipbuilding that had appeared in Great Britain up to that date. Some twenty-eight pages of it are devoted to the construction of the yacht (pp. 28-57), also eighteen pages (pp. 177–195), to the construction of the cutter, but no reference is made to the schooner. On August 10, 1782, the first sailing-match of the Cumberland Fleet in the lower Thames took place, the course being from Cuckholds Point to the Lower Hope, for a wager of £40 between the Caroline, Captain Coffin, and Eagle, Captain Grubb. The Caroline won.

In the year 1782, the Duke of Cumberland for the last time presented a cup to the Cumberland Fleet. However, he continued to be its patron till his death, in 1790. This cup was won by the Caroline, Captain Coffin.—More than a hundred years afterward this cup was taken out of a pawn-broker's shop in San Francisco. A representation of the match,—as engraved and published by Henry Williams, London,—is herewith reproduced.

In the year 1783 the Duke of Richmond had a large yacht built at Southampton, on board of which he frequently visited France; but her name is not known, and no further particulars concerning her have been preserved.

In 1784 the yacht Lively, owned by Mr. Shutleworth, who also owned a beautiful villa on the Thames, visited the United States. This yacht was 140 tons, mounted 10 guns, and carried a crew of 25 men. Mr. Shutleworth was fond of ocean-cruises and made a number of them. This voyage occupied about fourteen months. During which he cruised from the coast of Florida to Hudson Bay, and entertained George Washington while in the Delaware; a beautiful French woman and several professional men sailed with him. His fortune was £20,000 per annum.

Pleasure Boats Sailing for the Duke of Cumberland's
Cup.


Racing Card of Vauxhall Garden Sailing-Match.

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Description of the distinguishing Colours of the PLEASURE BOATS which Sail on Friday, July 2, for the CUP given by the Proprietors of VAUXHALL GARDENS

1790

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Each of the Race Boats will be distinguished by St. George's board Pendant; viz. a red Cross on white ground, at her Peak; marked with blue spots or balls, as in the above Plan. The First in the subjoined List, will have the spot No. 1: The Second Nos. 1 and 2; The Third 1 2 and 3, and so on progressively.

LIST OF BOATS
Boats Names Of what Place. Tonnage Spots
Mercury, Capt. Simms, London, VIII. 1
Adventure, ----- Bailis, Westminister, X. 2
Eclipse ----- Astley, Lambeth, XVII. 3
Tartar ----- Walmsley Hammersmith, XII. 4
Cumberland, Commodore Taylor, London, XII. 5

N.B. the Cumberland is not intended to start; but entered by her Owner to establish her right to Sail

As we have seen, the first boat fitted with a sliding keel was constructed by Captain Schank, at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1774. Upon his return to England, Schank continued his experiments, and in 1778 built a boat at Deptford, fitted with
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three sliding keels. This proved so successful that in the year 1789 he prevailed upon the Navy Board to allow him to construct two boats of thirteen tons each at Deptford, one of the old type, the other with sliding keels. In 1790 a competitive trial was made on the Thames, in presence of the Commissioners of the Navy. Both boats carried the same quantity of sail, and although the boat of the old type had lee boards, and two Thames pilots on board, the boat fitted with sliding keels out-sailed her one-half the distance. This experiment was so satisfactory that the Lords of the Admiralty immediately ordered a cutter of 120 tons to be built under the direction of Schank. This vessel was the Trial, launched at Plymouth in 1791. Subsequently, the sloop of war Cynthia, and brig Lady Nelson, of 60 tons, was built by the Government. All these vessels were fitted with sliding keels, and, according to the evidence of their officers and crews, were in every way satisfactory.
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THE "LADY NELSON"

The Lady Nelson, under command of Lieutenant James Grant, made a successful voyage of discovery to New South Wales in the year 1800. In 1799 there were 43 gun-vessels in the Royal Navy fitted with sliding keels, mounting ten 18-pound carronades, two long 24-pounders, carrying crews of 50 men each, and commanded by lieutenants.

Commodore Taylor built and owned four yachts named the Cumberland. One, No. IV., was fitted with five sliding keels. A portrait of her model is
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here given. In 1795 he also built a yacht named the Columbus, fitted with three sliding keels. Why this useful invention was abandoned, except to be replaced by the more convenient centre-board, is difficult to understand.