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The Edna Hoyt 
last of the American five-masted schooners, at the port of Cardiff in 1937.
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 follow:
 


" 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 the storm. 

 

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, The 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.)
 

Master: R.W. Rickson Built: 1920 Length: 224.0 ft.
Reg. Tonnage: 1512 By: Dunn & Elliott, Maine Breadth: 41.1 ft.
(under dk. net. 1384) Owners: Superior Trading  Depth: 20.8 ft.
Port: Boston, Mass. & Transportation Co.

John Weston, 2000
 
 

You might also like to look at a picture of two 
Beautiful Ladies
British competitors for the America's Cup.

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