The Edna Hoyt
last of the American five-masted schooners, at the port of Cardiff
Courtesy of the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum.
Several years ago we published this picture to illustrate both the old
trading relationships between America and the ports of south Wales and
the design of the large American schooners, so different from the traditional
two-masted British schooners. Just recently we were delighted to hear from
Mr. Ed Weaver, possibly the last surviving crew member of the Edna Hoyt,
the last of the five-masted schooners. Mr. Weaver was kind
enough to reply to my questions about himself and the vessel and his notes
" It was the last few days of May, 1937 that my
summer vacation from school started. The vacation would last until
the first week of September. This was going to be a great summer, sailing
aboard the last five-masted schooner, the "Edna Hoyt". Of course this was
not my first trip, for at ten years of age I sailed as cabin boy on
the "G. A. Kohler", a four-masted schooner out of the port of Baltimore,
Maryland. The "Kohler", in the hurricane of August, 1933, was beached
at Cape Hatteras and there died. At the age of fourteen, fifteen
and sixteen I sailed aboard the "Doris Hamlin", another four-masted schooner
out of the port of Baltimore. The "Doris Hamlin", with a load of
coal for the Canary Islands, set sail in 1940 and has never been
heard of since. The "Edna Hoyt" in 1937 was unloading a cargo in San Juan,
Puerto Rica. I sailed from New York on the steamer "Ponce" to San
Juan to board the ship there. From San Juan we went to Turk's Island and
there loaded a cargo of sea salt. This cargo was discharged in Boston.
There it was announced that the "Hoyt" had a charter for a load of lumber
from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This news made my heart drop since I knew that
it was impossible for me to continue on with my vacation. My mother,
however, contacted the principal of my high school, and he consented for
me to miss a half year of school and make it up when I returned.
He told my mother that for someone to have an opportunity in life this
he would never stand in the way. With his permission I carried on.
On August 9 we sailed from Halifax to Belfast with a full load, including
the deck load. Seventeen days later we sighted Fastnet Light at Cape Clear,
Ireland. It took three weeks to discharge our cargo at Belfast. Early
in October the "Hoyt" sailed for Newport (in south Wales) for a cargo of
coal briquettes to be taken to La Guaira, Venezuela. At Newport complications
set in and the "Hoyt" had to be towed to Cardiff to continue the loading.
November 2nd found the "Hoyt" starting on her long
passage to South America. While crossing the Bay of Biscay the ship
encountered a raging North Atlantic gale. For three weeks she battled
We lost some canvas, the 'tween deck collapsed,
her cargo shifted and her pumps ran continously to no avail. On the
night of November 23rd Captain Hopkins fired several flares and that evening
a Norwegian steamer took us in tow. On November 25th, Thanksgiving Day,
early in the morning we were being towed into Lisbon, Portugal. Each
year since I remember how fortunate we all were. After five weeks the "Edna
Hoyt" was condemned and sold for $3500. Most of the crew was sent
home in a few weeks, but the Captain, his wife and myself stayed until
the business was completed. The complement for such a ship
as the "Edna Hoyt" was Captain, mate, donkeyman, cook and four able bodied
seamen. While at sea we worked four hours on and four hours off.
During our time on it was two hours for watch and two hours at the wheel.
My mast was the jigger, the fourth mast from the bow. This mast was
my complete responsibility. My pay was $1 per day plus keep.
I earned extra money by doing laundry for others in the crew. The
memories of my trips on these ships are priceless to me."
Mr. Weaver's career was somewhat similar to that of Britain's best travel
writer, Eric Newby. As a boy, Newby also saw that the great days of sail
were drawing to a close. He decided to sign up as an apprentice on one
of the last of the great square riggers, the four masted barque
Moshulu. (Vessels like this were still employed in the Australian grain
and Baltic timber fleets in the 1930s). His memories
of hardship, humour and joy combine with his technical knowledge
to provide one of the best ever books about life on the sailing ships,
Last Grain Race.
Both men must have valued their early training in self reliance when
they later had to face the rigours of war. Eric Newby was taken prisoner
in Europe but escaped, and after the war married a lady who had helped
him survive and elude re-capture. Ed Weaver served in India (where he survived
a plane crash) and in China. While serving at the time of the Korean conflict,
he survived another plane crash in Virginia.
A note on the Edna Hoyt. There follows a digest
of the relevant entry in Britain's Lloyd's Register of Shipping
for 1936-37. The 1937-38 Register contains the same information,
except that the owners are given as H.G. Foss. (Thanks to the overworked
but ever helpful staff at the Newport Reference Library in south Wales,
for digging out the heavy, dusty volumes.)
Dunn & Elliott, Maine
|(under dk. net. 1384)
||& Transportation Co.
John Weston, 2000
You might also like to look at a picture of two
British competitors for the America's Cup.