|Abstract||Shortly after the Great War a Mr T. Belilios acquired a fine
spoon bowed schooner yacht named "Dwyn Wen" 150 tons, which had been built
at Beaumaris, Anglesey, and appropriately enough given a Welsh
name which means "White Leader". Mr Belilios the new owner had
business interests in Hong Kong and wished to have the yacht based there,
and consequently sought a reliable and experienced yachtmaster.
He was recommended, to Captain Isaac Rice junior, who like his
father was already well known in yachting circles and held in
highest esteem by yacht agents, owners and crews alike.
Capt.Isaac Rice accepted the appointment and sought out a local
crew from Tollesbury, men whose capabilities he was already aware.
Preparation for the long voyage to Hong Kong, more than half way
round the world were put in hand, and in 1921, a nucleus of the crew
joined the vessel at Southampton, and were later augmented by two
additional members from that port. The Tollesbury men concerned were
Capt. I. Rice, Master, Jack Townsend, mate, Dan Clarke, Lewis Barbrook,
Sam Gurton, Clarence Rice; John Reuben Frost and Christopher Elmer.
It was anticipated that the voyage would take approximately
six months, as "Dwyn Wen" would have to rely upon her sails,
she only being provided with an auxiliary motor of then unknown qualities.
Under the guidance of Capt. Rice and the devoted co-operation of his crew
"Dwyn Wen" was soon ready for sea, and the yacht was joined by Mr.
T. Belilios and guests for trial and sail stretching in the Channel.
It was soon found that the engine was not proving too reliable,
but time did not allow for a change.
On return to Southampton Mr Belilios provided the yacht's crew
with recreational aids, including musical instruments, as he considered
that the voyage might take longer than intended, and time might drag for
the crew in their watch below. Mr John Frost kept a diary and in it
recorded that the Captain did not regard the musical instruments
too favourably as they might cause dissension amongst the crew,
however a happy compromise was made that they would only be used when
all members were awake and not during the "silent hours" or
when watches were resting.
The crew signed Board of Trade Articles at Southampton, and before
departure a number of the owner's guests boarded the yacht to take
passage to Gibraltar.
The first night was spent at anchor off Yarmouth I.O.W. and barely
had the yacht come to anchor when motor yacht was seen to be sweeping
down on the tide towards the Needles apparently with no one on board.
Immediately a boat was lowered from "Dwyn Wen" and went off in pursuit.
It was found that the motor yacht had broken from her moorings and
she was brought safely to anchor, and the harbour authorities at
Yarmouth were informed. The first adventure augured well for
their voyage to the Orient.
However, on the run down Channel, head winds were encountered, and
the repeated tacking changing course and consequent pounding,
pitching and tossing, rather upset the passengers, and "Dwyn Wen"
had to put into Weymouth. Head winds did not abate, and after brief stops
at Weymouth and Torquay, the yacht eventually arrived at Falmouth,
where the passengers left the vessel, "Dwyn Wen" in spite of her
size proving too lively for them.
If anything the weather deteriorated, but there were signs that
there would soon be a change, so after taking on fresh water and
provisions, a start was made for Gibraltar. After nine days tacking
through the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Spain and
Portugal "Dwyn Wen" arrived without incident at Gibraltar'.
Here the crew were able to have a run ashore to stretch
their legs, and stocks of food and water were obtained to
carry them through to Malta, the next port of call. However,
whether it was some item of food or other, one or two members
of the crew became ill on leaving Gibraltar and it was about to
be decided to put in at Almeria, Spain, when due to careful
doctoring the patients recovered and course was set for Malta.
The weather had taken a decided change, there were light airs,
and midway between Cap de Gata and Sicily an Italian barque was
seen becalmed with flag signals saying "short of provisions -
starving". "Dwyn Wen" hove to and supplied the Italians
with biscuits and preserved beef for which they were most
grateful and they offered to pay for same but Capt. Rice
declined payment with the words that "the food is given
in the tradition of the brotherhood of the sea".
Days of flat calms and repeated changes of sail "Dwyn Wen"
eventually arrived off Valetta Harbour, Malta, some twenty days
after leaving Gibralter. Advantage was taken to have the auxiliary
engine overhauled and re-stock with provisions for the run down to
Port Said. Before leaving the ship chandler, for some reason
best known to himself presented a shaggy mongrel dog to the
ship's company, and he was promptly named "Nipper", for the habit
he had of nipping any person's ankles. The gift did not meet
with the approval of the Skipper or mate, but he was considered
as a diversion for the crew and steps were taken to have him
shipboard trained. The short leg to Port Said passed off without
incident and within eight days "Dwyn Wen" raised the
prominent light house in Port Said harbour
and the statue of de Lesseps on the breakwater.
A brief stay in port and arrangements were soon completed
for the passage through the Suez Canal with
a Pilot on board. The auxiliary engine did not prove too
temperamental and all went well as far as the Bitter Lakes when
a call was made at Ismailia. Early next day having ascertained
movements of shipping in the Canal, another start was made and
"Dwyn Wen" completed the final leg to Port Suez without incident
where the Pilot took his departure.
It was soon found that the voyage down the Red Sea to the
Indian Ocean was going to be no sinecure. Only light airs were
encountered and the engine had to be carefully nursed for
use in the event of an emergency. One of the hazards all had
to put up with was the unbearable heat, sometimes 112F in the shade.
The crew were employed dowsing down the decks with salt water, but
nonetheless the heat was unbearable especially down below.
For days "Dwyn Wen" ghosted along, and the forbidding rocks of
Jeb-el-Tier never seemed to be far away, but at last the
island of Perim, was sighted and "Dwyn Wen" passed through the
Straits of Beb-el-Mendeb, known as "Hells Gates" twenty one days
after having left Suez. A brief stay was made in Aden to
replenish stores and have essential work done. "Nipper"
fell into disgrace as he licked the laundryman when he came on
board, and nearly caused a riot amongst the natives as it was
considered to be an evil thing to be licked by a dog.
The days passed too quickly in port and essential work being done
it was time to start the other leg of the voyage to Malaya.
Before leaving Aden the skipper was advised to Socotra a wide berth
as the natives were hostile there and also to be wary of any Arab
dhows as there had been instances of piracy. The yachts armoury of
one pistol was augmented with two .3035 Lee Enfields. The skipper
and crew took leave of their British
friends in port and blistering heat set off into the Gulf of Aden.
Shortly after getting clear of Aden the auxiliary engine packed
in, and the light airs prevailing the yacht was more or less at
the mercy of the ocean. For some days the yacht drifted along,
and frequent changes of sail to keep the crew occupied had
little effect on the progress of the yacht. By his observations
and reckoning the skipper placed the yacht just south of the
Arabian states and steadily drifting to the north east.
To make matters worse a number of the crew were suffering from a
form of "food poisoning" which the skipper diagnosed correctly as
due to contaminated meat purchased in Aden. "Dwyn Wen"
possessed no ice box or refrigerator and fresh meat etc. had to be
preserved carefully but notwithstanding all precautions taken,
the heat being experienced soon rendered foodstuffs unpalatable.
It was decided to make for Makalla to seek medical aid and await
the change in weather the Indian monsoon seasons were about to start.
"Dwyn Wen" had a right royal reception at Makalla and caused
great interest amongst the populace, a sailing yacht not having
been seen there before. The Sultan sent his chief serang to
visit on the skipper and ascertain if anything could be done
to help during the stay in port. The skipper wished to send a
cablegram home to the owner and also send letters, but to everyone's
dismay it was found that Makalla in that day was not blessed by
posts or telegraphs. However, having been unable to get dry-docking
facilities at Aden, and "Dwyn Wen" now becoming in a foul state
below the water line, the Sultan was pleased to arrange for a
number of his men to dive with scrapers and complete the task
of cleaning off the growth of sea-grass and barnacles which
had formed on "Dwyn Wen's" hull. To round off the warm
welcome given to "Dwyn Wen" the skipper and crew were invited
to dinner and entertainment at the Sultan's palace, where
they sampled exotic foods and also witnessed some exotic
entertainment by native dancing girls.
There were signs that the weather was going to change,
and the skipper decided to take advantage of this.
All gear having been overhauled and sails in good shape,
a start was made, and "Dwyn Wen" was soon bowling along into
the Indian Ocean under full sail with a force 4 wind from the NW
just 26 days after leaving Suez.
Good progress was made and with a steady fresh breeze from the NW
the yacht was soon well on her way to the Straits of Malacca.
After days of steady sailing with an occasional shift of sail there
were ominous signs that the monsoon was soon going to break.
For what appeared to be days on end the yacht was subjected to
torrential downpours of rain accompanied by screaming winds of
hurricane force. Constant vigilance, reduction of sail and the many
attendant cares necessary for good navigation and seamanship,
"Dwyn Wen" weathered well and came through unscathed, except
for some superficial damage to bulwarks and hatches, which were
soon made good by the ship's carpenter. There was however a more
serious problem affecting them all. "Dwyn Wen" had been driven far
to the south, and at one point the skipper was considering making
for the Straits of Sunda at the southern end of Sumatra.
However there was a change of wind and apart from the serious
position of provisions running short, it was decided to head
NE for Sabang. Some members of the crew experimented with
tackle to catch fish and one was successful in trapping seagull,
which was killed, boiled and eaten. The flesh was reported to be very
salt to the taste. When in position 7 30' N and 91 21' E what was
taken to be a large craft flying a flag was seen.
Course was made to meet the unknown object when it was found to be
a large amount of earth, roots, vegetation and surmounted by a tree,
floating in the water - in fact a veritable floating island.
It was about this time that "Nipper" the dog, who never really
settled down to shipboard life became more of a nuisance and danger
to everyone. It was considered that the dog was going mad,
and to avoid any dangerous complications it was reluctantly
decided to put him down, which was done humanely, and the carcase
committed to the deep.
It was in the Sea of Bengal that a great test was to come
for "Dwyn Wen", for two days she was "hove-to" in a cyclone,
tremendous seas and strong gale wind. The Captain had no
sleep the whole time, he was watching the barometer which
kept falling. At the end of the second day he decided, to
change course. With only the staysail set and oil bags out
on the weather side. After a few hours the barometer
started to rise and "Dwyn Wen" was clear of the cyclone,
but 30 miles off course.
Within a short time "Dwyn Wen" reached the Straits of Malacca
and after three days of tacking and changing sail, Johore Straits
were reached an "Dwyn Wen" berthed at Singapore.
After their arduous and gruelling voyage from Makalla the crew
were in need of a rest, but vital work had to be done as the
yacht had to be delivered to Hong Kong. The sails and
running gear after being subjected to tropical heat and
intermittent rain for weeks on end, were showing signs of weakness.
A great deal of repair work and reeving off halyards, etc., was
to be carried out by the crew.
At Singapore the Captain made arrangements for "Dwyn Wen"
to go into dry doc: for the copper bottom to be cleaned
and oiled. The barnacles were the sise of old pennies.
All this work completed "Dwyn Wen" sailed on the last leg
to Hong Kong. On the day before Hong Kong was sighted,
gale winds and heavy seas again subjected the yacht to
severe buffeting. The Captain decided to heave-to until
daylight, and by then most of the sails were in ribbons,
but were able to take "Dwyn Wen" through the Lye Mun Pass
into Hong Kong harbour.
After a good refit, top sides painted, etc. and new sails bent on,
"Dwyn Wen" was her old self again. The owner, Mr T. Belilios, then
joined her and after two months cruising around the coast, the yacht
was laid up for a good rest she had so rightly earned.
The crew then said goodbye to their Chinese and British friends
and left Hong Kong for England in the P.&.O.liner "Plassy".
Aforegoing narrative compiled from conversations with, and
details given by Mr Clarence Rice, who was ship's carpenter
during the voyage of "Dwyn Wen" from Southampton to Hong Kong
in 1921, also by reference to a diary kept by Mr. John Reuben
Frost during the voyage.