Extracts from a Diary maintained
by Nathan Lucas

1803 and 1811.

Extracts from a Diary maintained by Nathan Lucas where he mentions HM ships that he saw during his travels in 1803 and 1811.

Many thanks to Peter Covey-Crump who transcribed his 4 x great grandfather's diary ©. Peter notes that Nathan was a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and that his primary interests were Natural History and the management of the sugar, coffee and cotton plantations.

Journal of a voyage to Demerara, & during my stay there, in March, April, May & June 1803

April 7th Thursday, moderate weather – the color of the water changed to dirty green the day before yesterday – yesterday it began to be muddy – struck soundings – at 10am made the Land, or rather the Trees – about Abary – three small woods, in front, about Quaker’s Hall, put me exceedingly in mind of the formal plantations in the dead level of Norfolk! At 3 got abreast of the Fort [Stabroek – now Georgetown], from which they fired & made us anchor – shortly after a vessel from Greenock passed us, & she got a shot, & then brought up the entrance of the river of Demerara very grand indeed. The Master went to the fort to get leave to land; & brought off an Officer from the Hippomane Sloop of War, who conducted us to the Governor’s House – he was from home, but we were directed to call upon him in the morning & report ourselves.

Journal of a voyage from Barbados to England in the Ship Ash, James Reed master, bound to Bristol. July 21st, 1803 (arriving 28th September)

The convoy being appointed to sail on the 20th, I got all my stores on board; but Capt J O Hardy of His MS Courageux being our convoy, he did not think proper to sail till 21st of July, Thursday; at noon on that day I went on board, & was soon joined by my fellow passengers; & at 3 pm we made sail out of Carlisle Bay, after having once more taken leave of my good friends whom I was to leave behind me!

July 24th Sunday, at 9 am saw land, taken at first for Marygalante; but found ourselves mistaken; & after much anxiety found it to be the North side of Antigua. The Commodore in the Courageux shortened sail, & sent for some of the masters – Brenan among others – they told him his situation. No single vessel, much less a fleet, ever ventures along the North side; being too dangerous to be approached on account of rocks &c. On shore we learnt, that the whole fleet was momently expected to be lost - & so did we! The Commodore knew not his situation; & indeed he does not appear to be a crack officer.

July 28th Thursday, moderate & clear weather– at daylight the Courageux made the signal for sailing; & at 8 am we got under weigh from St John’s Road – soon cleared Sandy Island and reef, & saw Monserrat on our larboard side – the Sandy Reef is planted with coconuts, & will be a good guide into St John’s. Thirty three square rigged vessels joined us here. We lay too till 11 pm & the Antigua ships had not all got out then; they deserve to be left behind. Saw Redanda; then Nevis & St Kitts – in the mid-channel saw them all, as well as Antigua, at the same time. At ½ past 9 pm passed about twelve ships at anchor in Nevis Road; at ½ past 10 anchored in Bassetere Road, St Kitts. We found no ships there but those belonging to the island, the others having all fallen to leeward to Tortola. It was very ill judged in the Commodore to bring a fleet to anchor here so late at night; & fortunately only one ship was injured, one of the island ships; & she had her bowsprit carried away.

July 31st Sunday very moderate breezes & very hot weather. Running down to Tortola, to join the remainder of the fleet. At 9 pm anchored abreast of Salt Island, in thirteen fathom water.

August 1st Monday - Tortola Roads. The Venus frigate, which we imagine will convoy us to Europe, & the ships from Tortola are very far astern.

August 2nd Tuesday, thick hazey weather. Not more than forty sail with the Courageux; the fleet completely scattered, & many far to windward. Seized by signals to tack – then countermanded &c. There is great confusion, & it is impossible to know Capt Hardy’s wishes – indeed, I suspect he does not himself know them. The fleet 176 sail – ten missing. Lat by account 19:27 Long 64:56.

August 3rd Wednesday, moderate & fair weather – lay too nearly the whole day! for the fleet to get instructions from the Venus Capt. Matson, who is to be our Commodore to England.

August 4th Thursday, moderate & nearly a calm. Lat 21:38 - Long 65:5. Two very large French Prizes in the fleet, brought in by the Venus, taken out of Courland Bay Tobago – one a Brig, Le trios annés De Dunquerque – the other the Phonix, a very large ship, formerly an English East Indiaman.

August 5th Friday, moderate & clear weather. The Courageux bore up for some hours to the West! Entirely out of our course. Why? We know not. Lat 22:45 – Long 64:58.

August 6th Saturday, moderate & clear weather. The Courageux bore up again to the West; & we cannot understand the reason of so doing. Lat 24:10 – Long 65:1.

August 10th Wednesday, moderate & nearly calm – still keeping away to the Westward. The cause of this we know not, unless the Commodore fears cruisers from Cape Francoise to the East of Bermuda. Lat 28:12 – Long 64:45.

August 11th Thursday, moderate & clear weather – still keeping away westward. Some of the masters of the ships wish to prevail upon the Commodore in the Courageux to proceed on to England with the fleet, the convoy being very insufficient indeed, almost incapable of any defence. He has no objection to grant their request, provided a sufficient number will fill up the petition. Lat 29:17 - Long 64:35.

August 12th Friday, moderate & clear weather. Surely signals were never less attended to than by the present fleet; & never did I see so little order & discipline in a fleet – the fleet frequently goes ahead of the Commodore! This is common with us. Lat 30:10 – Long 65:19. Thermometer 82 – but the weather feels cold.

August 15th Monday, moderate & very calm. Passing to the west of Bermuda. Lat 32:18 Long 65:44 – Therm 84.

August 16th Tuesday, moderate & fair weather, & a fair wind at south. A strange sail to windward, & the Stanley has made the signal for an enemy; & bore up immediately for the Venus. The Courageux is still with us. Lat 32:51 – Long 65:39.

August 24th Wednesday, very thick weather with rain. Wind NW. Signal guns occasionally from the Commodore. Lat by account 39:15 – Long 55. Therm 73. At 4pm wind NW Therm 70,

August 27th Saturday, very fresh breezes with squalls and rain. Much lightning last night. At eleven this forenoon the Courageux spoke an American ship, but never sent a boat on board to examine her, How times have altered! At 4pm the Courageux brought an American ship too, & sent a boat on board. Lat 40:32 – Long 51:28 – Therm 78.

August 28th Sunday, moderate & cloudy weather. A continued flood of rain fell very heavily indeed all night. Only 145 sail in sight. The Courageux in chase of a strange sail & so is the Brig. At ten the Courageux carried away her main top sail yard in the slings & gave over the chase; it was not till one pm that she got another across! Hardy never will be a Nelson. At 12 the Venus brought an American schooner too, & we afterwards spoke her. She proved to be the Mayflower of Providence, 20 days from Corunna, and bound to Rhode Island – her Longitude 49:40 very near to ours. We now learn with certainty that we passed Westward of Bermuda, for the Courageux saw it on the morning of the bearing ESE. Lat by account 41:3 Long 49:50 Therm 76.

August 30th Tuesday, peak gale all night, & pretty heavy all day. At 4pm the Stanley a large St Kitts’ ship close alongside us, made a signal of distress; we found she was very leaky, the men stript & at the pumps. She spoke the Courageux; who sent a boat load of men on board her – at six we again made sail. Three years ago this ship when sailing in a Convoy was about to be sunk on account of her leaks, but was got into port. She is very old, & not seaworthy; & it was shameful to send her to sea. Heavy gale & much sea. Wind S – Lat 42: 25 – Long 45:14 – Therm 72.

1st September, Thursday – very heavy gale, with floods of rain, much sea, fog &c. We learn the Stanley went down last night at nine, the people saved; at 3 she had five feet of water in the hold, & going fast under her. No sight of the Courageux, & a great part of the fleet. At noon the Venus altered her course a point to South, without signal. This looks like a determined resolution in Capt Matson to get rid of the Courageux, by parting company by design. But what have we to do with his Disputes, jealousies & disappointments? I never saw such proceedings before. Lat 43:30 – Long 39:30 – Therm 74.

September 2nd Friday, much rain and wind &c all night & this morning – real floods – wind WSW. In the night the Courageux and many of the missing ships came into the fleet. Lat by account 45: 29 – Long 37:51 – Therm 71 – wind SSW.

September 10th Saturday, fair & calm weather – we were becalmed all last night. The Courageux we see has lent her Cable; of course her reckoning is much ahead of ours. Lat 48:58 – Long 22:37 – Therm 68 – 41 miles in 48 hours!

September 11th Sunday, very calm till near noon. By our reckoning we are more to the West than most of the vessels – the Courageux was in 15 yesterday - & the Venus in 19, by a Lunar Observation. Lat 49:19 – Long 22:10 – Therm 68.

September 14th Wednesday, at 2pm a two-decked man of war without a Poop, a 44 gun ship, with blue colours – perhaps a cruiser from Lord Gardner at Cork, or Adm. Cornwallis at Brest. Small land birds about the ship. The 44 has a smart commander on board, & seems to know his business much better than those we have been sailing with so long a time. He has already made the ships astern make more sail, and driven them into the fleet much faster than has been done since we left port. He knows what to do with his shot. At midnight the Venus tacked, without any signal gun; & by God’s mercy there being but very little wind afterwards we still kept company till morning. He seems impatient of the control of the Courageux, but surely we ought not to be sacrificed to his private resentment. Great deal of rain in the night, & very calm weather. Lat 49:15 – Long 20:19 – Therm 64.

September 15th Thursday, very calm, & then moderate breezes from the West. The 44 seems to have prisoners on board. Lat 49:8 – Long 20:1 – Therm 63.

September 16th Friday, peak breezes, but not very fair, & we cannot lay our course – an American Schooner & two ships passed through the fleet. They are a brutish, vulgar, uncivil set of fellows; for after being brought too by the Venus they would not permit a single vessel to speak to them, & they always do so. Three or four of the ships are very leaky, & speaking to the Venus. Fresh breezes all night, but not fair. Lat 49:9 – Long 19:6 – Therm 64.

September 17th Saturday, very moderate & fair weather. We learn from the Argo, Capt. Hallowell (a man of the Nile), the 44 gun Man of War that joined us some days ago, that we are almost three degrees to the westward of our reckoning, & of course we are near Soundings. Whether because we wish it, I cannot say, but the water appears to be changed in colour. She captured a French Privateer of 16 guns the day before we joined company, & we saw the prisoners on board. She was fifteen days from Portsmouth. Lat 48:32 – Long 17: 28 – Therm 62.

September 19th Monday, fine day, & a fair wind from the West since two this morning; before that, quite calm. At 5pm the Courageux & Venus lay too; it became squally & very thick, & at dark they had not made sail, at seven they could be seen with our night glasses under sail, without any signal! Blowing very strong. How injudicious is such conduct. We have been carried to the Southward , & sailed in the Latitude of Brest, for them to pick up homeward bound vessels we suppose. The fair winds have not been made the most of now it is NE & we cannot enter the Bristol Channel. We have been all along sacrificed to their private resentment & views; & I hope never again to honor them with my company. But what is a fleet of Merchantmen, when we recollect they have before now sacrificed a fleet of Men of War to party. I never saw a British Man of War navigated as badly as the Courageux; there cannot be any discipline on board; & God! Forbid any skill should be required before our arrivals. Lat 48: 42 – Long 14:50 – Therm 63.

September 20th Tuesday, very fresh gales from NE & heavy sea. We shall hardly weather Scilly in the course we are steering; & we are in an awkward predicament, from the neglect of the Men of War. Wind NE. We must be in Soundings; & the water is of a dirty bottle-green colour. At 11am the Courageux made the signal for vessels bound up St George’s Channel to follow the Venus, & we parted from the London ships. We are sixty three in number. Two days ago, the fleet exclusive of the Convoy were 137 in number. An American ship passed us, probably from France. About half of each fleet, I understand always go up St George’s Channel. Lat 49:4 – Long 12:13 – Therm 58.

September 22nd Thursday, fair & quite calm – sounded in 65 – yellow with black specks, coarse sand. at 3pm a Sloop of War with blue colours, certainly a channel cruiser, came into the fleet, made the private signal & stood to the Venus – she proved to be the Plover. Many vessels leaving the Convoy, under a press of sail. Abreast of Scilly by the Argo’s reckoning at 6pm.

September 24th Saturday, fine day & moderate weather – very smooth water. At daylight saw St Gowan’s Head in Wales (or we supposed) & the entrance to Milford Haven. Fourteen sail in sight, much scattered. A strange Frigate is convoying us. Lat 51:27 – Long 7:15 – Therm 62.

September 25th Sunday, moderate & clear weather. At daylight we were very much surprised not to see any land! When we had expected to be at the Holms! And we too soon found to our great sorrow & disappointment, that we had mistaken the land yesterday; which must have been the Poor Head off Cork harbour, instead of St Gowan’s, & of following the reckoning of the Argo we have fallen into this error; for at eleven am we saw Lundy ahead, & makes our reckoning accurate to ten miles – which is wonderful! At daylight saw a Pilot’s Skiff , & at 8 o’clock took the younger Dickins aboard. What will become of the Liverpool ships? For they are as much deceived as ourselves; & they run a great risk of being taken or wrecked in beating round Cape Clear. We are the first vessel of the convoy, ahead of the others. We have been expected by the Pilot sixteen days ago. At one pm saw the coast of Devonshire, about Hartland Point; & the wind dying away, we were totally becalmed at 4pm, in spite of all the Pilot’s whistling. We saw many large & beautiful blubbers like flowers - & some very like to large Poppies. At 6 the boat of the Plover, Capt Hancock, with Lieut Hall in it, came on board to fuss the men.

My voyage from England to Barbados commencing August 17th, 1811, & ending November 10th following

August 9th Friday. Arrived after breakfast at Falmouth; the Wind fair, & sailing Day for the Packet - I saw HM Ship Mercury & her Convoy of Troops for Portugal getting under weigh.

August 17th Saturday. Lucas sailed from Falmouth for Jamaica in the Swallow, Captain Morphew.

August 21st Wednesday. A strange sail in sight, & found ourselves Chased, & prepared for Action. Made the Private Signal; but it was not answered; very anxious all Night. Lat 46:32 – Long 10:20.

August 22nd Thursday, the Chaser nearer to us, & she now answered our Signal. A Lieutenant of the Scylla Sloop of War came on board & his face proclaimed him the very High Priest of Bacchus; all hands must have been tipsy last night when we made the Signal. Lat 45:30 – Long 11:37. (NB this was by mistake inserted today instead of yesterday) Chased by a large Vessel, & on her answering the Private Signal, hove too. She was HMS Peacock, Commanded by a Townsman of the Captain’s - & we lost 3 hours by it!

September 4th Wednesday, a fatal day to us! At daylight saw a Sail far to Windward; at 7 supposed her to be a Man of War; but not coming down directly upon us, suspected her; at 8 she fired a Gun. We were now pretty well convinced she could not be a friend, & found her in chase; set all sail &c &c. Got the Mails ready for sinking, at 10 she began firing at us, & hoisted her Colours; saw her to be a very large Frigate of the First Class; resistance was needless, & she outcarried us, by 11 she was close upon our Quarter; we then got the mails overboard; & when they had sunk, struck our Colours! – She soon boarded us, & the boat returned with the Captain & Mr Marlowe, as Interpreter, who was also authorised to ransom us; for detention during the War, perhaps for Life, in France, was total ruin to most of us. The first Lieutenant, a Creole of Marigalante, was sent on board as Prize Master, & it was soon rumoured that the Vessel would be given up to us, & the men &c exchanged on Cartel. This good fortune however we could not believe possible, till we saw them throwing our guns overboard &c. To such a Scene as ensued, it is impossible for me to give a just description. We learned she was La Clorinde, French Frigate, returning from the East Indies, after an ineffectual attempt to relieve the Isle of France. All were extremely cautious in giving the least account of their Voyage, but acknowledged they had had an action off Madagascar, & defeated a Squadron of ours. For why run away? She had wounded men on board, her Mizzen mast was Jury &c &c. She had lost sight of her comrades after the action, & put into the Isle D’Acunhas, where she had watered. They were in the greatest distress for provisions & water, though they had removed all from the Prizes they had made, but were now so low , they could not detain us. Our private property was secured to us, tho’ they took away my Petite Neptune Francais. Every thing else was carried off, stores, rigging, sails, provisions &c &c. The Prize Master was a considerate, Gentlemanly man, & behaved most nobly to us; but a little, squat, Dutch Lieutenant who came on board in the afternoon behaved most brutally &c &c. Such a scene of pillaged Drunkenness I never before beheld! Three distinct gangs of hands were at the same time loading their Boats, & ours. Every thing was carried off; & we really thought there were no provisions & water left; but we afterwards found some Pork & Potatoes. In the evening the Dutchman began to cut away the standing & running Rigging &c &c; a fatal stroke to us, not having a yard of Cordage or Canvas to refit us. At this time the Captain & Marlowe returned on board; & by the most concert entreaty, & after much altercation between the Prize Master & Dutchman, they desisted – We could hardly believe our good fortune when the last boat left us, & we saw the Frigate make sail, which was at dark; they asked us to steer 6 leagues to the South, & then return to Falmouth – The Captain and Officers &c had been so unmercifully plundered of their merchandize , that the profits of their Smuggling Voyage were quite done up; & no entreaties of ours could prevail upon him to go to the West Indies, tho’ within a weeks’ sail, & in full Trades He was determined; no doubt he had his reasons; but we thought ours better. Lat 24:7. Long 32:28.

September 5th Thursday, moderate; altered our course at 12 last night, & steered again for England. Saw a large Sail, but not the Clorinde. Lat 24:27 – Long 32:17 – The Captain reminded me of a Conversation I had with him at Falmouth, where I mentioned those very Frigates returning from the unsuccessful relief of the Isle of France, & that I said we had a great chance of meeting them in the very place we did! – I had almost told him the Peacock had done this.

September 17th Tuesday, moderate & fine. At daylight saw three Sail to windward, soon found them in chase. At half past 6 brought to by HMS Fox, 32 Guns, from the East Indies, where she had been fifteen years. The Vessels in company were the City of London, Indiaman & a South Sea Whaler, four weeks from St Helena – The battle of Madagascar turns out as we suspected; for two of the Clorinde’s consorts were taken by the Astrea, Phobe, Galatea & Racehorse, & she escaped after Striking; this in some measure accounts for St Cricque’s extreme agitation & dread of meeting men of war as we gathered from those who went on board – at 9 made sail again. Our Longitude is correct with their Chronometer, within a few miles. Lat 38:58. Long 34:19. Therm 79.

September 28th Saturday. Lucas returned to Falmouth in the Swallow. Learning that an Express Packet (Captain Bullock) was about to leave for the Windward Isles, he immediately joined this ship and left Falmouth the same day. He arrived in Barbados on November 10th.

November 9th Saturday, Squally & moderate – many small Flying Fish & Porpoises. Lat 15:5. Therm 80. Saw 75 Coblers. Saw a Brig; which proved to be HM Brig Swaggerer, cruising to windward of the Island; much haze over the Land; which we saw at 3 pm. Lay too all night; & on Sunday the 10th came ashore at Barbados at 9 am. Found there had been a very rainy year there to this day.

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