Steamer Story


Built 1867 – by Thomas B. Seath & Co.
County of Lanark.

Length: 117 feet.   Beam: 20.1 feet   Depth: 9.2 feet
2 x 45 H.P. Engines.
Owned by: W.W. & C.J. Johnson – Wellington.

Went Ashore 2 Miles South of Kidnappers – Hawke Bay — 20th May 1887


Loss of the “Go Ahead” – The Captains Story.

Captain Plumley, who was in comand [command] of the Go Ahead, gives the following account of the disaster:- We left Wellington on  Wednesday evening. The weather was terribly thick and dirty, and continued so all along the coast, getting worse if possible as we went along. We sighted Cape Turnagain and Blackhead, but after that were never able to distinguish the land at all, everything being totally obscured by the thickness of the weather, at about quarter to 2 o’clock on friday morning we found ourselves in the breakers, no land being visible even at that time. The engines were at once put Full Speed Astern, but the vessel struck and remains fast. It was impossible to see the shore, but efforts were at once made to lower a boat, as the sea was breaking over the vessel, and it was feared she would break up. I had two narrow escapes, the first time a sea washed me clean overboard, but another one washed me back again and I caught hold of the rails. I had a hard fight, and I think if it had not been for the thoughts of those at home I should have given up, for I was nearly done. The vessel had a list to the land, which made it difficult for me to recover my footing, and I had to hang on with my hands while several seas swept over me. In the intervals I took fresh grasp, so to speak, and at last managed to put myself right. After that I was again swept off, but was caught and held by some of the crew. While we were lowering the boat it was pitch dark and there was nothing to be seen but the break under us and nothing to hear but the wind howling while the boat was being lowered a terrific sea came, and everything was carried away, boats and davits and all, not a bit left. It was a dreadful time, and we were not very hopeful.

We had to wait till daylight before we could attempt to lower the big boat as she was on the windward side of the ship and before the boat could be lowered she had to be got across the deck. This was accumplished [accomplished] ‘somehow’ I have no other way to tell how it was done and I do not believe anyone on board could describe how that boat was got off the davits and across the deck. The sea was breaking over all the time. However, we managed to lower it and all of us got into her except one man, a fireman named Gunning. He would not come in the boat as he was afraid she would not reach the shore, all of us who went in the boat got ashore safely, although with great difficulty, the fireman stayed on the ship till low water, when he started to swim to shore, but succumbed on the way and went down.

We went across the hills and fortunatly [fortunately] fell in with a shepherd who piloted the whole party to the station which was reached at about 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, we were all treated with the greatest possible kindness, nothing being neglected that could be done.

The vessel was a total wreck, lying in the breakers bottom upwards and practically all to pieces. We only escaped with our lives. The accident would not have happened had there been a light on the Kidnappers for although the storm was a terrific one if I could have known where the land was everything would have been right.

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