Monday 5 December 1836

[, on board the wrote. | Read source notes.]

5 December-At eight a.m. we reached in between Boston Island and Cape Donington; at this moment the gusts of wind were so strong we were obliged To [take] in top-gallant sails, lower the topsails on the caps, up courses, and down jib. A merchant vessel bound for this port not expecting anything like this after a long passage, may here have her rigging rather slack and not think it necessary to set it up before coming into so fine an harbour; a ship thus situated would have most certainly been dismasted, gone on shore, and on a rocky coast. Trading vessels coming here must anchor at least one mile from the shore, and then landing goods is by no means easy. I much doubt the safety of Gulf Spencer altogether, whether the season of the year was better when Flinders and the French navigators were here I cannot say, but from the little I have seen I think if this be the principal port many ships will be lost.

I will now compare the two Gulfs:

1st.The mouth of the Gulf has many obstructions by rocky Islands and Reefs, and during the prevalence of the westerly gales a most tremendous sea must be thrown there if we may judge by the high swell we had in crossing it in fine weather.
2nd. (Query) Can a strange ship, making Thistle Island, Wedge Island, or any other part just before dark, and a gale coming on, with thick weather, shape her course and run without danger into the Gulf? I say no, for the winds may, and most likely would baffle at the most critical part, that is, between two Islands; her safest plan therefore would be to run for Investigator’s Straits if she could fetch it, if not, she must lay to, and the flood tide in such case being much stronger, she might be drifted into a very unsafe situation. If unfortunately she should be driven upon any of the rocks or shoals it would be destruction to all.
3rd. Port Lincoln is certainly a fine capacious harbour, but a great part of it is open to the N.E. and the mouth of it is surrounded, as the chart will show, by islands and reefs, and if we had so much trouble in getting in, and sudden shifting gusts of winds at this season of the year, what may we expect in winter. The westerly gales that would bring a ship up to its mouth would prevent its getting in, when there, and she runs, as I said before, great risk of carrying away her masts.
4th. Merchant vessels after getting in must land their cargoes at a distance of one or two miles from the ships; and in blowing weather, would not be able to land them at all – and I believe it blows hard full half the year round. From what I have seen these two days here, nothing could have been landed even if lighters were prepared, therefore I have reason to say that in this port many days in the year would be entirely lost to trading vessels.

1st. There are no obstructions whatever, and it is certainly much more sheltered from westerly winds than Gulf Spencer.
2nd. If a ship be bound to Gulf Saint Vincent she would make the land at the S.W. end of Kangaroo Island, or go the other passage, in either case a westerly gale coming on she is soon out of danger and under shelter. In the next place should the vessel be at the mouth of Gulf Saint Vincent when a gale comes on, she may steer right up the Gulf even in the night by compass, and the farther she goes the less sea she will have, and finally may let go her anchor in seven, six, five, four, or three fathoms water, where, if well found in ground tackle she will most likely ride out well (I speak this from experience), and should even the last disaster happen of going ashore, lives and property would be saved, and most likely the ship herself.
3rd. The harbour in Gulf Saint Vincent is long and more like a river, and sheltered from every wind. The heaviest gale from any quarter can never hurt; and when the entrance is properly buoyed down there is no difficulty whatever; but the material point in favour of this harbour is that in Gulf Saint Vincent there is no fear from any winds except westerly from N.W. to S.W., and these are all fair to run into the harbour with, the only fault is that ships must wait for the tide; but with two of the mud vessels for deepening channels, the shallow parts could easily be made free for ships drawing from 16 to 18 feet water, as they extend but a short distance, and over these shallow parts there is now three fathoms at high water, spring tides.
4th. In the harbour above Holdfast Bay a ship once in may lay alongside a wharf when it is erected, and until that time land her cargo in boats in perfectly smooth water, in the heaviest gale, and not one day lost in any season of the year.

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