The Wreck and the Mutiny Of the Crew… HMS Wager

I dimly remember having read about this years ago.


I read about this again a week or so ago, in The Guardian (January 29th).

According to the article, a new book by CH Layman, a retired admiral and naval historian, includes a letter which heretofore now had not been published from the ships’s acting captain, David Cheap.

I have to confess I haven’t read the book yet (The Wager Disaster, at Amazon).  Nor is it clear in the article what new-found information there is contained in Captain Cheap’s letter.

Be that all as it may.  The Wager ran aground off the west coast of Chilean Patagonia, on an island now known as Wager Island.

From the article in The Guardian:

“Wager was driven on to rocks by hurricanes near an uninhabited island. There were 140 survivors, many of whom later died from starvation, drowning, hypothermia and violent ends. Only 36 people made it back home.”

Later, on the island:

“Then 62 men mutinied, abandoning Cheap and those loyal to him, and taking the best boats to sail, they hoped, to Brazil, without charts. He recalled that they “bound” his hands, and held him under guard.

Cheap and 18 men, including Byron [the poet’s grandfather], eventually set sail in two small and hardly seaworthy boats. During an appalling voyage Cheap faced new mutinies. He, Byron and one other survived helped by friendly strangers though eventually they were held by the Spanish, and returned to England five years after leaving Portsmouth.

The mutineers, too, suffered dreadfully – from starvation, accidents, murder, abduction. Most died. The 30 survivors endured a 107-day, 2,500 nautical mile voyage. Getting back to England in 1743, some months before Cheap, they found their name blackened and facing an Admiralty inquiry. Probably to save Admiralty faces no mutiny charge was laid, and one officer was reprimanded for Wager’s loss. Byron had a distinguished naval career and emerged as one of Wager’s few heroes.”

Mind you, this took place 50 years before the infamous Bounty incident, which was far more famous, thanks to the books by Nordhoff & Hall and subsequent movie.  From the above, we learned that the Wager mutineers embarked on a 2,500 nm voyage to safety.  Captain Bligh of the Bounty of course brought his crew to Timor in a small boat after rowing and sailing for 3,600 miles.

Has anyone read Admiral Layman’s book yet?  If so, what can you tell us?

Helpful articles:

The Guardian, January 29:


What do you think:  Are you interested in these sorts of accounts?

Thanks, Carl



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I Should Be Writing About Iceboats, Or Maybe About

the modifications I’m making to a surplus US Army flamethrower as a way to dispatch snow more effectively than my snowblower.

My house a couple of days ago:


And the boat shed…  It’s safe to say I won’t be getting in there until late in the spring.


I’m hardly the only one coping with snow and cold.  I think it’s good to be reminded of the little bit of Dr. Zhivago in all of us.

On my front, I am personally happy with all the snow.  I can imagine the gorgeous boats stored in the shed, chomping on their respective bits for new coats of paint and renewed running rigging.  Some deck repairs to the Classic Mint Moth — nothing more serious than using my favorite brand of epoxy.  The A Cat (not wooden) — she looked good when I put her away, but I hadn’t rigged her.  Great-looking sails.  The Classic Ventnor Moth seems ready to launch as she is, though I haven’t rigged her nor checked her sails.  But her previous owner was very fastidious, so I imagine she doesn’t need much beyond some trailer repair or replacement.  That’s true for the Mint Moth as well.  Maybe a new two-fer trailer.

I’m trying to remember what else is in there.  A Shellback, just needing paint.  The Tom Hill Illegal 9 — paint as well.

Just outside the door to the shed is an inflatable, turned over.  I wonder how she will fare?

Elsewhere in the yard is a Walker Bay 10, turned over as well.

Offsite is Deva, the 210, and the 24′ powerboat.

It’s the perfect time of year for imagining, and contemplating.  I could do this to that.  Or something else.

I think I’ll go back now and follow up the thread from last week’s post, on the WoodenBoat Forum:

I don’t really need to DO anything this time of the year.  Except to indulge in great memories, vague plans for this summer.  And to stir up trouble where I can.

What do you think?

Thanks, Carl




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