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Cuba

This was a small vessel of only 273 tons and although advertised as a fast-sailing barque, was not a fast craft.

On 31 July 1839 this, the second ship of the New Zealand Company's settlement scheme, got under way from Gravesend, England, with Captain Newcombe at the helm. On board was the survey party of 3 surveyors and 21 labouring assistants, under Captain William Mein Smith, RA., chief surveyor to the Company. Cuba called at Plymouth, but not before the second mate had attempted suicide by stabbing himself 23 times, and then trying hanging - unsuccessfully. He was replaced at Plymouth and the ship left there on 8 August, then called at Praya in the Cape Verde Islands on 31 August. Here she very nearly went on the rocks when she dragged anchor during a storm. She put to sea for four days, and after the storm, picked up a party that had been left on shore, and continued the voyage to New Zealand. Unfortunately the people who had been ashore had brought yellow fever aboard, and 2 of the 30 passengers died.

The voyage was longer than expected, as the ship lost the south-east trade winds soon after leaving Cape Verde Islands, and had other unfavourable weather to contend with. When the Cuba had left England, no definite plans had been made as to where the new settlement was to be founded, so on arriving in New Zealand waters, she had to locate Colonel Wakefield and the Tory. Land was sighted on 23 December at Kaipara, where the travellers expected news of Wakefield. It was found to be impossible to enter the harbour as the shoals had not been properly surveyed and charted. The ship's boat could proceed only a short distance into the bay, and Mein Smith decided that the Tory was not there.

Had he moved another mile or so into the bay, he would have seen her just out of sight around the headland, and been able to take Wakefield on board. As it turned out, this would have saved two or three weeks in finding the intended site of settlement, and so he would have had that much extra time surveying before the settler ships began arriving, avoiding much of the chaos that ensued on Petone beach.

However, thinking that Wakefield was not at Kaipara, the Cuba made for Port Hardy, D'Urville Island, entering on 26 December, where she remained for four days, parties going ashore to gather wood and water. One of the party, Wyeth, became separated. He encountered a Maori and was invited to join in a meal of roast eel and kumara. He then found that the boat had departed, so returned to the pa where he slept for the night. In the morning a boat party came ashore to recover the body, but found a well-fed, happy man, very much alive.

They proceeded to Kapiti Island, a noted whaling station from an early date, where they learned that Port Nicholson was to be the settlement site. Well-known whaler, Captain George Young, boarded Cuba off Kapiti Island and piloted her into Port Nicholson, where she dropped anchor on 4 January 1840, 149 days out from Plymouth, or 157 from Gravesend.

The "New Zealand Gazette", published for the first time on 18 April 1840, listed the following immigrants as having been brought to New Zealand at the expense of the Colony in the Cuba:

2 Blacksmiths 1 Miner

2 Bricklayers 2 Sawyers

1 Butcher 1 Seedsman

1 Carpenter 1 Servant

1 Gamekeeper 1 Timber Cutter

3 Gardeners 1 Wheelwright

4 Labourers

The seedsman was George White Bennett

References:  "White Wings" Vol.II, - Sir Henry Brett;  "Early Wellington" - Louis E. Ward.  "Free Passage" - Philip Sykes in "Our Lesser Stars" .

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