W.A. Sharman: Gallant Little Ships of the Past The Bridgwater Coasters

W.A.Sharman; Gallant Little Ships

First published in Sea Breezes, the house magazine of the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. September and October 1934, and reproduced here by permission of the publisher.


Bridgwater, my native town, was once a busy little port, but now, like many other of the smaller ports, has fallen on slack times. Years ago it was the home port of a fleet of fine little ketches and schooners, and as these have now almost all disappeared, from wrecks, war losses and breaking up, it may be of interest to mention a few of the gallant little ships of the past.


During the War, owing to so many local seamen being called up in the Naval Reserve Volunteers, it was impossible to get crews, and the Sunrise sailed from Bridgwater to Glasgow and other voyages with the captain and- one man. Many other coasters were, of course, in the same plight. Naturally, the sailing coasters, from the nature of their trade, going all directions round about these islands, often were held up by head winds, and I have notes in 1912 that there was a succession of gales, and many were wind bound in different harbours: the Meridian was 34 days from Plymouth to Liverpool; the schooner Industry 52 days from Bridgwater to Padstow; Ermenilda 40 days Liverpool to Bridgwater; Charles 50 days Bridgwater to Penzance; New Design 100 days Clonakilty to Plymouth, during which time she was driven right up the Bristol Channel to Burnham, where she arrived with gaff broken, sails blown away, and decks swept. After the weather quietened down, the Meridian went to Liverpool in 4 days, Industry to Manchester in 4 days, and Ermenilda to Glasgow in 5 days.

Out of 30 coasters owned at Bridgwater in 1913, three went missing with all hands, four were sunk by German submarines, ten were wrecked, three broken up, two were sunk by collision, three or four were sold, and there are now only four left, two of which have been tied up for over two years.

For individual ships see this index