Aquila

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Aquila


Aquila.jpg

Aquila at sea


The paddle steamer Aquila was a regular operator in Channel Island waters in the second half of the 19th century. As can be seen from this page, Aquila frequently made the news for all the wrong reasons


Aquila at Weymouth in the 1870s

In 1857 a new company commenced running from Weymouth to the Channel Islands and France, the Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Company, mainly financed by the Great Western Railway Company, who commenced with two vessels Cygnus and Aquila.

The almost identical ship to the Cygnus, the Aquila, followed six days later, built the same year and by the same company. She was originally intended for the North of Europe Steam Navigation Company for the Antwerp-Harwich service, which had proved unsuccessful. The two vessels were purchased by the Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Company in 1857. Cygnus and Aquila continued on the Weymouth-Channel Island station for many years until sold in 1889.

Breakdown near Alderney

13 May 1870: [1]

The Aquila left Weymouth at her usual time on the 11th, but within sight of the Casquets she was caught in in an increasing gale and heavy seas. She broke one of her crank pins, and even though a spare was carried on board, Captain Brache thought it prudent to seek shelter of Alderney harbour.

After a fearful journey she arrived in Alderney at 5 o'clock last night. Once repaired Aquila continued her voyage at 8 o'clock this morning.

On arriving in Guernsey the 13 passengers, headed by Mr W Harrison, were eager to tell their story and praise Captain Brache and his crew.

Collision at Weymouth

8 May 1879:[2]

Captain William Flisher in charge of the steamer Aquila:

"I left Jersey at 1700 yesterday evening and proceeded to Weymouth on our usual journey. On reaching Weymouth at 0400 today I could not get into the harbour as the Vulture had grounded and blocked the harbour entrance".
"At 0500 the tide being first flood the Vulture floated and started to move ahead.
"We steamed toward the harbour at full speed, passing Vulture to our starboard. We caught a glimpse of the steamer South of Ireland also on our starboard".
"The captain of the South of Ireland suddenly turned his steamer, and in doing so ran straight into the starboard sponson of the Aquila.
"Our sponson beam was carried away, and the grating etc. They hit us inside the harbour between the pile pier and Nothe Fort".
Aquila at Weymouth in the 1870s

Aquila rescues the Agnes Brown

Report of 17 February 1880: [3]

Captain Thomas Painter, Master of the Aquila steamer, a passenger and goods ship operating between the Islands and Weymouth.

"Aquila departed Jersey at 10:05 yesterday for Weymouth. She called in at Guernsey for half an hour at 12:30 pm.
"At 5 pm, while heading NNE on an ebb tide, in mid channel, Captain Painter spotted a vessel in distress. The wind was a fresh SSW and the sea was high. 'Three miles distant on our port side her ensign in the main rigging'.
"Thomas Painter continued: 'We altered course and steered for her, In a quarter of an hour we reached her, found her foremast missing, along with maintopmast, and mizzentopmast. She was under sail with a small mainsail, with another small sail to assist.'
"Capt Painter: 'Do you need assistance?' Reply: 'Yes'.
"The Aquila steamed around the ship, and by means of a lifebuoy attached a line and drew a rope on board, taking her in tow. After ten minutes the rope broke, and with Aquila's engines stopped, the stricken Agnes Brown drew alongside her starboard quarter. Another line was heaved aboard.
"Capt Painter: 'We put two of Aquila's ropes on board and continued our journey'.
"By now 11 pm last night, the 7½-inch rope broke. Capt Painter reduced his speed and continued very slowly with just the other, a 6½-inch rope.
"The Agnes Brown was towed safely into Portland at 4 this morning. The chief officer of the Aquila went aboard the Agnes Brown to make sure she was secure.
"After an eventful night Aquila finally delivered her passengers and mail and cargo, arriving in Weymouth at 5 this morning"

1883 wave damage

Report of 1 April 1883: [4]

Weymouth residents and harbour personnel are shocked at the damage done to the Aquila steamer, which returned to the port at 10 o'clock on Saturday morning (31 March).

She had left at her usual hour at midnight in calm conditions, but just after 1 o'clock, when off the Shambles Lightship, which is moored off Portland, Captain Painter saw a huge wave approaching, higher than the top of Aquila's funnels.

The captain just had time to order "Dead Slow", when the huge freak wave hit the starboard fore sponson and swept over the ship.

On returning to port the damage report showed that the starboard paddle box was broken in. Considerable damage was done to the skylight of the ladies cabin, into which water had poured. A basket of chickens was washed overboard and lost, along with potato barrels. A large Portland stone on deck had been broken into pieces.

Several shocked passengers said they had thought they had been in a collision, and Captain Painter reported that he had never seen a wave like it before.

Another breakdown

22 May 1891: [5]

The Aquila now belonging to the Plymouth, Channel Islands and Brittany Steamship Company, broke down this morning off Corbiere and had to lay an anchor in St Ouens Bay. She broke the intermediate shaft of her port paddle wheel.

The broken shaft was disconnected and at 2.30 the voyage was resumed on one paddle. She reached Guernsey at 6.15.

LSWRCo Steamer Dora passed on her way from Southampton and Captain Dyer shouted to the stricken steamer. Captain Collins of the Aquila refused any help. Having checked with the company this afternoon it was confirmed Aquila had arrived safely in Guernsey.

Mr Bryant (agent) Said "The Aquila was repaired and steamed on to Guernsey arriving 6.15. All crew and passengers are safe". We have hired the vessel Assistance to accompany the disabled Aquila to Plymouth. The journey is expected to take 16 hours. They are to leave Guernsey at 10.30 this evening".

Refit

25 June 1892: [6]

The Aquila, now owned by the Plymouth, Channel Islands and Brittany Steamship Company, has undergone a major refit. Over £6,000 (£640,000 at today's values) has been spent on the 38-year-old steamer.

New boilers, machinery, and paddles are expected to bring her speed up to 14 knots, while lowering her consumption of coal. A new bridge, Hurricane deck, and steam windlass have been fitted externally, while both fore cabin and saloon have been modernised.

This vessel - formerly with the Weymouth Company - now runs between Plymouth and the Islands as well as day trips and excursions.


Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  2. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  3. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  4. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  5. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  6. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
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