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OBSERVATIONS ON THE NAVIGATION OF the Baltic, AND GULF OF
FINLAND, TO PETERSBURG, with the customs of the trade.-By the
Commander of a British Merchant Ship. While the commanders of merchantmen, employed with East and West India, American, and Mediterranean trades, have at various times, with a praise-worthy zeal for the improvement of navigation, and the information of strangers, contributed valuable information to the pages of the Nautical ; I do not recollect since the commencement of that Magazine, any attempt at conveying information respecting the Baltic trade. Whether this proceeds from diffidence, on the part of those regularly employed in the trade, or whether they consider the Baltic so near our own shores, and so familiar to themselves, that it must be so to every one, I cannot say; but I feel satisfied, that information regarding this trade, cannot be too widely disseminated, particularly at the present time, when our mercantile intercourse with Petersburg has increased so much, and when so many vessels are now employed carrying cargoes to that port direct from the West Indies, Spanish Main, Mediterranean, &c., which were formerly carried to England, and thence shipped in the regular traders to Russia. A great many have proceeded in this manner to the Baltic, lately, quite unacquainted with the navigation and the customs of the ports ;-and men of education and ability, who have successfully navigated their vessels across the Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, have found themselves very much at a loss when entering the North Sea, on their way to the Baltic;a place, which if they previously thought of it at all, it was with a contemptible sort of feeling for the pond-like sea, and all connected with it. And not only did the navigation of this sea, with its various narrow and tortuous channels, studded with rocks and shoals, give them uneasines and alarm, but the much traduced arbitrary laws of Russia, and its mis-called tyrannical custom-house regulations, all tended to harass the stranger, and make him unnecessarily timid and uncomfortable. Although not a regular Baltic trader, still I have some experience in the trade, and I have gathered, particularly on a late trip to Petersburg, from the West Indies, as much information as I could from the constant traders, some of whom, especially those from Hull, are as respectable men, and as well informed in matters relating to their profession as any traverser of the ocean. From a well informed respectable Hull trader of twenty years experience, I learned the substance of the following remarks, which I offer to the notice of your readers, trusting that they may prove of benefit to some of the uninitiated proceeding to Petersburg for the first time.
Proceeding from the English Channel, or from the Pentland Frith, or passage between the Shetland and Orkney Isles, a vessel may be steered for the entrance of the Sleeve, according to the winds, and follow the directions in the book, accompanying Norie's chart. Be particularly careful to give the coast of Jutland a wide berth, as a very strong current runs towards the Horn reef with westerly winds; the coast of Jutland is low all along, and not easily seen until the vessel is close to it. Prom Borenbergen however, to the Scaw, it is easily ENLARGED SERIES.-NO. 4.-VOL. FOR 1841.
recognized when seen, even by a stranger, from the chart and book. On the Norway side the shore is bold and rocky, and particularly about the Naze may be seen a considerable distance; approaching the coast, the vessel's position is easily recognized from the land; and various beacons, which when seen, are easily known from description.
Passing the Scaw, give the point a good berth to clear the Scaw reef, and in shaping a course for the Trindelen light-vessel, and indeed on all other occasions in the Cattegat and Baltic, make allowance for a current which is generally found setting in the direction of the wind, and with greater or less strength according to the duration of the wind. From the Trindelen, and steering to pass outside the Knobben be particularly careful. This is a shoal with a rock at its extreme end running about seven miles from the island of Anholt. There is a lighthouse on the end of the island, and a red buoy on the Knobben, but if the weather is not very clear neither can be seen in time to warn the navigator of his danger, particularly at night; and with strong southwesterly winds, a vessel bound downwards, and wishing to pass close to the buoy, to keep on the weather shore, runs great danger, as, if the weather is at all thick the light cannot be seen at the buoy. The loss of a very valuable vessel commanded by a friend of mine, took place last season from this circumstance; the wind was strong from southwest,—the vessel bound down under double-reefed topsails and courses, and a course steering to carry her outside the Knobben, but rather weatherly to avoid the Swedish coast; a bright look-out was kept, but all to no purpose ; shortly after 8 P.M. she struck, and remained until 4 A.M., during which time the light was never seen ; it then became visible. At daylight the vessel was found to be a very short distance inside the buoy. She beat over the reef,—was abandoned, and drifted over to the Swedish coast a wreck. This is no solitary instance, and all connected with this trade ought to petition the Danish government, and use every means in their power, to have a light-vessel stationed close to the extremity of the reef.
Running or steering upwards from the Knobben, the land, when the Narrows are approached is easily distinguished ; the mountainous land about the Koll, and the high land about Nakke Head being easily known. Steering towards Elsinore Roads, strangers invariably keep too near the Swedish shore, and make an unnecessary circuit to avoid the Lappen sand. This shoal does not extend so far out as the charts lead us to suppose, and a mid-channel course will take a vessel well clear. Moreover, it is well pointed out by buoys and brooms, and if the wind is scant, time and distance may be saved by a prudent approach. These brooms are a large quantity of birch, in the shape of a common broom, fastened to the top of a pole, which is attached to the shoal. They are considerably elevated and more readily seen than buoys. If the wind and current are down so as to prevent the vessel turning into the roads, she may anchor on the Danish side, under the Lappen sand. The old absurd custom of lowering royals or top-gallant sails, on passing Cronberg Castle, is now abolished.
From England, and intending to proceed upwards as soon as cleared, a vessel should be anchored in a suitable position for getting underway, or if it be daylight she may be kept under courses by the mate, while
the master proceeds on shore and clears out. Vessels however, from the West Indies and other places, su bject to quarantine, should be taken well up in the roads, above the town of Elsinore, and well inshore where the anchorage is good, and good holding ground. Opposite the town, and farther out the ground is too much cut up to hold by well, and in the strong westerly gales, which frequently occur, much damage is often done from vessels driving foul of each other. From the West Indies with cargo, on arrival, hoist a quarantine flag ;-the quarantine boat will soon visit the vessel, giving the requisite orders as to the duration of the quarantine, &c. From the West Indies with sugar it is six days. This is a most absurd and ridiculous law, creating a detention and expense to the vessel quite unnecessary; it is not imposed by the Danish authorities, but by the Russian government, who are so timorous, as to require the performance of quarantine thus far from their territory. It often occurs, that the vessel placed under quarantine in Elsinore, has called at Cowes for orders, the master and crew been on shore, and sometimes a fresh crew shipped, still no abatement of the quarantine takes place. In my own case last year, I came to London with a cargo of logwood,—entered the London dock,—discharged the crew, and prepared for unloading; when the cargo being sold, and the purchaser wishing to send it to Petersburg, urged me to take it there at an additional freight,–I did so, shipped another crew, and after being a week in London proceeded to Elsinore, when the vessel was put in quarantine, and but for the strenuous exertions of the agents on shore, and my having the original clean bill of health from a loading port, I should have been detained six days. This is really too absurd, and calls loudly for redress. What infectious disease can a vessel loaded with sugar or logwood bring from the West Indies, after a sixty or seventy days passage? The only disease prevalent in these places, and that only in the few months of the rainy season, is the yellow fever, and I am confident that it could never exist in the climate of Russia, or ever linger on board the vessel so long. The matter should be represented to the British minister, at Petersburg, who certainly could point out the absurdity of the present law, and obtain redress.
Freed from quarantine, I would recommend the master of a vessel to proceed on shore in a shore-boat. They are very convenient, save time, prevent the crew getting grog, and enable the vessel's stores to be brought off at once, and in safety. The charge is moderate, and regulated by the authorities, so that no imposition can take place. At the entrance of the small harbour of Elsinore, the master will be questioned as to his port of loading, destination, &c., and receive a ticket, with which he will proceed to the custom-house, where he delivers his bills of lading and manifest. Thence he proceeds to the agent he may have chosen, who soon transacts the necessary business, and all of whom will be found very attentive and complaisant. Provisions generally, are moderate in price at Elsinore, and spirits, wine, tea, coffee, and sugar, should be purchased for the voyage, as they bear high prices in Russia. In order to induce the masters of vessels to give a true account of their cargoes, his Danish niajesty allows them 4 per cent. on the amount of duties paid by the cargo. Leaving Elsinore for the Baltic, a pilot should always be obtained for the Grounds, a narrow channel between Sand Banks on the one side, and Salt Holmes reef on the other, and extending from Copenhagen to Dragoe. The currents in the Narrows are often very strong. and uncertain in their direction. The Mutual Assurance Societies formed amongst shipowners, on the east coast of England and Scotland. permit vessels insured by them to navigate this passage without pilots, which often leads to accidents, and I am surprised that they should pay the losses so frequently occurring through this cause. Besides, the pilotage is very moderate, and the pilots are a careful attentive set of men, well acquainted with their duty.
Being left by the pilots at the entrance of the Grounds, the navigator will proceed onwards towards the Baltic, between Falsterbo Point and Steffens Head. The former must be approached and rounded with great care, as a very dangerous reef runs a long distance from the point, and there is nothing to indicate the vessel's approach to the danger, except judging of the distance from the land. This want of a beacon or mark, has caused, and continues to cause many accidents; a lightvessel ought to be moored at the extremity of the reef, as the light-house on the point is so low, as to prevent its being seen at a sufficient distance. This light-vessel, and the one at the Knobben before mentioned, are indispensably necessary to the safe navigation of the Baltic; and considering the vast amount of British property employed on this trade, I am surprised the matter is not urged upon the Danish and Swedish governments. The land on the opposite coast of Steffens Head is bold, and may be approached with safety. There is also an excellent light on the point. Round Falsterbo a course may be shaped for the north end of Bornholm, which is bold land, and clear all round the north end ; the south end is foul, and should never be passed except under peculiar circumstances. From Bornholm a course is generally shaped to sight the south end of Oland. On this course, if daylight, the land at Torhamn Head will most probably be seen; both this land however, and the island of Oland are low, and must be approached with caution, particularly in thick weather. From Oland a course is generally shaped for the south end of Gotland, this is also low land, and only to be seen at a very short distance, neither must any one trust to seeing any of the Swedish lights very clearly, or at any distance, as they are only of a second rate quality. From Gotland a course is shaped for Dagerort, the end of the island of Dago, at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland ; this island is moderately high and clear. At the north-west end there is also an excellent light. It must, however, be noticed particularly, that none of the Russian lights are lighted from the end of April, until the beginning of August; it being considered that the almost perpetual daylight enjoyed during that period, is sufficient for the purposes of navigation. All the Russian lights are from lamps with reflectors, and are very good, and well kept and attended to. In shaping the course from Gotland to Dago, great care ought to be taken, allowing for the vessel's distance off the former, and the distance she should pass clear of the latter. Numberless accidents occur from courses being taken from the Books of Directions. I am confident that several of the courses given in the book I had were wrong; moreover, they are there given direct from a point in Gotland, to a point in Dago, and the navigator
sometimes forgets that he is a certain number of miles distant from the one, having it on his larboard hand, and wishing to pass a certain number of miles clear of the other on his starboard hand.
On entering the Gulf of Finland, and navigating amongst the numerous shoals and reefs with which it is studded, great vigilance and circumspection must be used; but, every dependance may be placed on the presence of the brooms and flags which point out the various shoals. So soon as the navigation is clear in the spring they are placed, and during the summer they are attended to, by vessels specially appointed. The Gulf is also remarkably well lighted, and during the season when the lights are in use they may be depended on. These beacons and lights being placed and maintained, are more for the benefit of the Russian men-of-war which are constantly cruizing there, than the merchantmen bound to their harbours. These brooms and flags are very conspicuous and well moored; the light-houses and various stone beacons are also very easily recognized, and with care and the asssist.. ance of both, the Gulf may be navigated in safety. To a stranger judging from the appearance of the chart, it appears a very difficult matter to encounter, and most American and Italian vessels bound to Petersburg, take Baltic pilots from Elsinore, for whose services they pay about sixteen pounds for the voyage up and down; in my opinion however, they may as well bring pilots from England, and I am certain they are quite as much required in the Sleeve and Cattegat, as in the Gulf of Finland. I do not say so because I have sailed up and down in fine weather, and under favourable circumstances,-on the contrary, in the very last trip I turned up the whole distance from Dago to Cronstadt, with the weather occasionally thick and unpleasant.
I rounded Dago in the evening, in the beginning of May, the wind was light and abeam, the weather fine, and a nice twilight remained during the short night. Over head it was clear, but a fog bank lay all around, extending about 12° above the horizon. Having marked the vessel's position on the chart, assured myself she was in a fair way, and shaped a course at midnight, I gave particular directions to the second-mate, who was a careful young man, to maintain the course given, and keep a very bright look-out for beacons and brooms, describing to him what I supposed they would appear like; and as the course to be steered, run the vessel well clear of all dangers, and as the wind was light, I lay down above my bed without undressing, full of all sorts of fancies, and very anxious about brooms, &c. I had dozed into a sort of sleep, when just as one bell was struck, down came the secondmate in a great hurry, calling me with “ There is a broom right ahead Sir!" I instantly ran on deck and went forward, on my way calling the mate and watch below to jump up, and there, plain enough, stood the beacon as I thought, about a cable's length distant on the lee bow. I at once called out to look on the other bow : another broom was immediately seen there, and the brig was going very nicely between them, and right on a shoal. The vessel was immediately luffed to the wind, and the yards at the same time braced forward, the steering-sail tacks let run, the helm put down, and she stayed without any noise or confusion; I then told the man at the wheel to steer her exactly the