The story behind SeaStar's song
The Little Western
Fae was looking for a great story of true passion and beating the odds. She happened upon the tale of the Little Western. How little was ‘Little Western’? She was a 16’ 7” lapstrake, double-ended dory that sailed from Gloucester, Massachusetts to Cowes, England in 1880.
Thanks to Google books, the journals of George P Thomas and Frederick Norman were available to read. The tale was amazing! Here is a snipet of the journal:
The Little Western sailed on June 12, 1880 manned by George P Thomas and Frederick Norman. She was 16' 7" long, 6 feet 7 inches wide, and 2 1/2 feet deep, clinker built, of cedar and pine, and sharp at both ends, being a fishing dory decked over. She was cutter-rigged, with a mast 15 feet high, hoisting a square-sail eight by nine, with a 10 foot hoist and 13 foot mainsail. She had a center board and a drag for heaving to, and carried 500 pounds of ballast, 50 gallons of water, 100 pounds of bread, 50 pounds of tinned beef and tongue, 48 cans of tins fruit, 12 of condensed coffee, besides chocolate, milk, corn, oatmeal, dried fruit, etc., and port wine. They cooked with kerosene and alcohol, and had hot coffee twice a day, she made an average of 63 miles a day, and at times 9 knots an hour.
She was spoken to June 30, by the British steamer 'Bulgarian' and again on the 10th July by the Bremen steamer 'Neckar'. The first steamer offered to take them off, but they declined. The officer of the latter steamer said, "we met the Little Western right slap in the mid-ocean. It was on the afternoon of July 10, shortly after noon, that we sighted a tiny speck on the horizon. It was a bright, clear day, but a stiff breeze had started the sea in a lively style, so that even the Neckar heaved about like a sick porpoise. You can imagine how difficult it was to get, through our telescopes, a glimpse of the black atom which danced in the distance. At first it was thought that some vessel had run into an iceberg and left her crew afloat. The captain ordered the lifeboats ready to pick up the wrecked men, and all the passengers crowded to the rail eager to see what they anticipated would be a dozen or more starving sailors. In a few minutes, the dark speck proved to be a white one, and then we made out a small boat, with mainsail and jib set, scudding about along at a spanking rate. We approach the tiny craft, the crew and passengers were thunderstruck. It was the strangest sight I ever saw. Just think of running across a vessel no bigger than one of our life boats, steering her on course as though merely cruising in New York Harbor. When we got near, I saw two men aboard. The boat was a large dory, decked over trimly, and they were seated in the hatchway, not seeming to have noticed our presence. When the captain yelled out to them, the two voyagers looked of an apparent surprise, and one of them cried out, "look out there! In another minute we'll run you down!" This raised a laugh among the passengers, who gave three cheers to the men, who answered the unusual nautical inquiries, "this is the ship Little Western, sailed from East Glouchester Massachusetts on June 12, we are bound for England and don't you forget it." The strangers faces were weather-beaten and bronzed, but they seemed happy. They said that the voyage was a pleasant one, and their boat was storm proof. Before we left them the occupants of the dory refused to take any provisions, saying that they were well stocked. As the two vessels kept together the difference in size, added to the independent demeanor of the men, made the scene humorous."
(From Bill's Log)
On 26th July, they raised Land’s End, after a voyage of 2,500 nautical miles in just 46 days. Their tiny dory had sailed an average of 54.4 miles a day, which was very good indeed for boat with a waterline length of probably no more than 16’. They continued to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, arriving there on 28th July.
Having sojourned in England for nearly a year while touring and exhibiting their boat, the intrepid sailors stoically set sail from London on 15th June, 1881, to attempt a return voyage to Gloucester. After a very arduous and wet passage taking 62 days they arrived back in Halifax, having beaten the Andrews brothers’ record for sailing the smallest boat across the Atlantic. Not only did they break the smallest boat record, but on the outward passage from Gloucester, they knocked 3 days off the time the Andrews took to sail from west to east. To understand the difficulty of the return passage you need to note that their average speed had only been 1.6 knots, almost half of that on the outward leg. They finally returned to Gloucester on 16th September, 1881. They had become the first to sail both ways across the Atlantic in a boat under 20’.