Fanny Breslauer belonged to Jersey merchants Robin, Collas and Company, with offices in St Helier and Gaspe, Canada, and operating in the Newfoundland fishery trade.
She was a barquentine of 262 tons, cross-rigged on foremast only, 154 feet long and A1 at Lloyds.
She had been registered in London in 1876 and in 1890 was sold to Robin, Collas and Company, which operated her from Jersey to Gaspe, South America and back to Jersey. This route had been developed over centuries by Jersey traders.
To Gaspe, 1907
In May 1907 the Fanny Breslauer sailed from Jersey with passengers, and, in her hold, an altar for the Anglican Church at Perce, Canada, made in the Oxford Road, St Helier, workshops of T R Blampied. She arrived safely at Gaspe and then set off for Santos, Brazil. She left there on 11 September 1907, not for Jersey, but back north again to Halifax, Nova Scotia.Joseph Short, of Gorey, and two young men aged 20 and 17. J Laurens was cook.
As events would show, this crew was too small for emergencies - a full complement should have been 12.
The ship arrived off Halifax in the middle of a storm, which had been raging for 12 days. The weather forced her to remain outside the port for 25 days.
Tragedy occurred 12 miles out of Halifax when a giant sea came over the stern, washed the captain away from the wheel, and dashed him heavily against the deck structure. He was so badly injured that he had to be carried to his cabin, where he eventually died. The bosun and Langelier also died during this wild storm.
The mate took command and decided to run before the wind, under a jury rig, back to Jersey. He could easily have sailed south to a safe port to revictual and re-crew, but for some unknown reason he took the decision to make for Jersey, in the depths of a north Atlantic winter. The much-depleted crew had to work the ship, trim the sails, cook, keep watch, take over the wheel, and, above all, work the pumps night and day. Food and water ran low and they had to depend on biscuits and salted fish and meat.
No help came until, 116 days out from Santos, a steam trawler, the Fishergate spotted their distress signals and made contact. Blampied decided to abandon the Fanny Breslauer and the trawler took the survivors off, and into Milford Haven, which was reached on 14 January.
Laurens, the cook, was taken to hospital, where he died. Charles Blampied was taken home to Jersey, seriously ill. The Fishergate sailed again from Milford Haven, found the Fanny Breslauer and towed her into port.
Captain J F Le Gresley took command of the vessel to bring her back to Jersey, where she arrived on 8 March 1908. The Evening Post reported great enthusiasm by Jersey people on her homecoming, and a subscription to benefit the survivors and families of the crew was suggested. However, the families of Captain Le Sueur and Blampied asked for any money to be given to those who had helped the crew at Milford Haven.
A combined memorial and thanksgiving service was held at Gouray Church for those who had lost their lives and for those who had returned safely. The church was full.
In the harbour work began to repair the damage to the Fanny Breslauer and new masts and sails were placed in position. She sailed again on 12 May for the Gaspe coast, with Capt Le Gresley in charge, and 19 passengers, employees of Robin Collas and Company, returning to their work.
The vessel was towed out of the harbour by the tug Duke of Normandy to the cheers of the crowd of well-wishers on the harbour wall. It was possibly the last time that passengers were taken by sail to the Gaspe.
Captain Le Sueur's grand-daughter Yvonne Walker added one sad detail to the story. He had a dog on board and when he and the other two fatalities were buried at sea, the dog leapt overboard to be with his master.