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Voyage of the 'Steadfast'

New Zealand Bound

The Canterbury Association vessel 'Steadfast', Thomas Spencer, Commander, John Gundry, Surgeon-Superintendent sailed from London, for Canterbury on 27 February 1851 and arrived Lyttelton, New Zealand 8 June, 1851. Passenger list

This vessel sailed from Gravesend on the evening of Feb. 27th, having been detained there one day in consequence of Capt. Spencer being obliged to procure another carpenter, the ship sailing upon "temperance principles," which, it seems the carpenter shipped in the Docks did not very rigidly adhere to.  Soon after noon on the 28th we were off Dover, where the pilot left us, and we proceeded with a stiff breeze from the N.N. E. down the channel.  We passed Beachy Head about midnight, and Portland Bay on the morning of March 1st, when we bid adieu to the shores of Old England, some amongst us doubtless with sorrowing hearts, but the bright prospects of the new colony quickly dispelled the gloom that hung over us. On the following day, the poulterer (himself a true son of the Emerald Isle) went into the forehold for provisions, when he unshipped two fine specimens of the "finest pisantry in the world." who, it appeared, had heard such extraordinary accounts of the Canterbury Settlement, that "sure, and they wouldn't stay at home at all, at all," and had smuggled themselves on board in ordered to procure a passage thereunto.

In crossing the Bay of Biscay, sea-sickness, with all its horrors and selfness, was, of course rife amongst us.  The females especially suffered, but the "Steadfast" showed a clean pair of heels, and we quickly left the Bay behind us, and sea-sickness was spoken of as a thing that had been; some indeed braved the visitation.  Up to the 9th we had strong favourable winds, and we steeped along most gallantly, with studding sails generally set.  This day, being Sunday, our chaplain (the Rev. Horace Hodgekinson) read the Morning Service, and preached upon the main deck.  An inverted tub, with the Union Jack thrown over it, answered the purpose of reading desk and pulpit, and all the passengers, with a greater portion of the crew also, were present. The scene had a peculiarly solemn effect upon the mind, which will not readily pass away, and much devotion was observable in the demeanour of those present. Daily morning and evening service was now regular established, and well attended.

On the 11th we were off Madeira, distant about 25 miles west of it. The oranges, dates, &c., we pictured to ourselves as growing in such great abundance there, made the island the object of intense interest to us; but we consoled ourselves, like the fox with grapes beyond his reach, by assuring each other that the fruit must be unripe and uneatable.  We enjoyed the view, however, greatly, and were probably more disposed to enjoyment of every kind by our dashing along at the rate of eleven and twelve knots.  On the 13th we were first becalmed, but only for a short time, as a breeze springing up from the N.E., we were again bounding over the deep blue waves, and on the 15th we were fairly within the tropics; very proud of our ship, and speculating upon the probabilities of our arrival of the "Duke of Bronte" at Lyttelton. This evening all hands were mustered on the main deck for dancing, both cabin and steerage passengers untied most cordially in the amusement, which was prolonged until ten o'clock, when "God save the Queen," and three hearty cheers for Capt. Spencer, was the signal for turning in.  Up to the 22nd we had alternately light variable winds and calms.   The evenings were remarkably fine, and were passed by us right joyously; singing, dancing, and music were the order of the day.  Our excellent Captain appeared delighted with the passengers, and his kind manner to one and all, will be long remembered by us with deep and heartfelt gratitude.  Dr Grundry, also, (our Surgeon-superintentendant) although somewhat invalided, did everything possible to promote harmony and good feeling amongst us, and usually opened our balls with one of the ladies, but whether she was located in the cabin or steerage he did not appear one jot particular, provided the dance was set going.  During the hot weather he had baths erected, and the demand for sea water every morning was immense. Some indulged in the shower bath, others dipped themselves, or were dipped, in the tubs, but either way the luxury was certainly very great, and was so fully appreciated, that there were but few on board who did not avail themselves of it. The heat was at times most oppressive and our costumes became singularly light and picturesque, with it all we engaged by some kind of diversion or other to survive it, and even to enjoy ourselves highly.

On the 31at we fell in with the "Eugenie" from Bally's Straits, and bound for Rotterdam. She hove to, and we sent off letters to our anxious friends at home; for those sakes it was that the "Eugenie" had such sincere and hearty wishes for her safe and speedy run. Soon after passing the line (which we did in April 2, in longitude 23� west), we hooked two sharks within a couple of hours of each other, one measured 10� feet, and the other upwards of 7 feet. They were unanimously condemned as hideous monsters, and the sailors did not forget their antipathy to "Sea Lawyers, in the indignity with which they treated them after being hoisted upon deck. During the afternoon we descried a strange looking object floating very easily to leeward, a boat put off, and a large flat fish called a "Squid," about 4 feet long by nearly 3 feet broad, was shipped, but not before it was broken up into several pieces, from its blubber-like consistence giving way under the hands. From April the 6th we had moderate trade winds, but somewhat variable in their duration, often ceasing altogether, when our patience was sorely tried by the horrible calms. The evenings became cooler, arrangements were made for getting up fancy dress ball, when such stores of finery and incongrnons articles were brought to light, and pressed into use for the occasion, that the unfortunate bachelors on board were utterly bewildered. Decidedly they saw more of the mysteries of a lady's wardrobe then, than ever dreamt of in their philosophy previously. The ladies' fingers were forthwith actively employed with scissors and needles and thread for three or four days, and on the 9th the ball came off. The captain very kindly had the poop covered in, and decorated with flags of every colour of the rainbow. A transparency formed the central ornament, although the design was somewhat obscure, but there was no mistaking the Union Jack which floated over and around it. The revellers assembled at 7 o'clock, and and where all the characters were well chosen, and ably maintained, it may be invidious to attempt any individual descriptions. dancing was kept up with great spirit until 10 o'clock, when a cold supper was served upon the poop, with as much negus as heart could desire. A bowl of punch was afterwards concocted, and after drinking the healths of our noble Captain and others, not forgetting our absent friends, we separated for the night, highly delighted with the evening;s amusement, and fully impressed with the knowledge that "where there's a will there's a way." to effect anything, even on ship-board! No bad conviction for intending colonists, by the way!

On April 13th we escaped from the tropics, and, as we heartily trusted, from the calms, and looked forward hopefully for some cooler breezes. We passed the Cape on the 2nd of May, at 165 miles south, off which our desire for a cool breeze was gratified with a vengeance. A very severe gale set in from the N.W., with a current against us, which cause the sea to rise mountains high, literally such, and truly, it was a sublime, although a terrific sight for a landsman to behold. Our vessel rode along like a duck, and scudded before the wind under double-reefed topsails. Some heavy seas struck her, and caused her to tremble fore and aft, whilst many a pretty, but involuntary scream, emanated from the women, who thought we were going forthwith to "Davy Jones's locker." A glorious war took place among the steward's crockery, and for the first time in our lives, we saw that portion of the nursery rhyme actually come to pass, which states that "the dish ran after the spoon," for no sooner were the plates and dishes set upon the table than they (spoons and all) started instanter, and "took" (in sporting phraseology) the guards set across the table for their preservation in gallant style, no thorough-bred steeple-chasers could have cleared them better. We were only thankful to be able to procure some food in pic-nic fashion, seated upon the deck. The gale itself lasted about twelve hours, but it was a day and a half before we had much canvas out.

Lyttelton Harbour 150 years laterOn the 6th May the number of our passengers was increased by a little lady, who made her appearance one fine afternoon, and was baptized by the doctor a week or two afterwards by the name of Elizabeth Steadfast. Our passage from the Cape was made express, indeed we had half a gale blowing nearly the whole time from S.W. to N.W.  One day was accomplished 285 miles, and 260, 240 and 220 miles on three consecutive days. Indeed, 200 miles we deemed an ordinary day's work. We were abreast of Van Dieman's Land on June 1, at about 85 miles south, and on 7th, at 3 p.m., we made Knight's Island, and the cry of "Land a-head" gave palpable evidence that none of us were asleep. All hands were on deck in a few seconds, and a person must be at sea for some three or four months, ere they can fully understand the delight with which "the Snares" were hailed.  More canvas was now shaken out, and the captain directed his course due E., to avoid 'the Traps" and "Stewart's Island." Clear of these, our course was almost due N., and at the 8th at 10 a.m., we first descried "Bank's Peninsula," looming in the distance. We stood directly for it, and our run up the eastern coast of "Tavai Poenammoo," was made I a manner the "Steadfast" only could accomplish. Daylight waned, but the moon, which shone out most gloriously to welcome us, as it were, to our new homes, gave us a delightful view of the coast, and in a measure compensated for a more distant view we should have had by daylight. In truth it was a magnificent and lovely night; and, had we not been colonists, we might probably, have persuaded ourselves that we were intensely romantic. At midnight we cast anchor off the mouth of Victoria habour and the next morning worked our way up abreast of Lyttelton, where we learnt that the "Duke of Bronte" had cast anchor 48 hours before us. Our voyage was made in 101 days, reckoning from the day we weighed anchor off Gravesend to casting it again in Victoria harbour, and we flattered ourselves that our passage has been the most rapid of any vessel chartered by the Canterbury Association. The treat "Old Boreas" condescended to favour us with on the night after our arrival, was regarded by the passengers with about as much indifference as it was by the "Steadfast" herself. True, her anchor came home with 75 fathoms of cable, but a second anchor with 45 fathoms of cable, made her as worthy of her name in being stationary, as she has herself in going a-head!

Reference: The Lyttelton Times June 28 1851

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