The Epic Voyage of the 'Red, White and Blue'
Into shelter at Margate Harbour on the 16th of August 1866 sailed a most unusual little craft at the end of an epic voyage across the wild Atlantic Ocean. Her journey had begun far away at New York and was somewhat unique, not because such a small boat had attempted such a voyage, that had been done before, or due to the miles she had travelled across the oceans, what made RED WHITE AND BLUE a bit special was her square rig. It is a fact that despite the undoubted achievement of this little vessel the newspapers of the day seemed less than excited or inspired, with the result that her arrival here went almost unreported. And you will not find her voyage well recorded in the pages of maritime literature either, which is very sad as her achievement is almost
‘RED WHITE AND BLUE’ was an unusual craft too, inasmuch as her hull was made entirely from galvanised sheeting, cleverly pressed and moulded to a clinker built configuration by her manufacturers. She had originally been built by the well-known American company of Ingersoll, better known for their clocks and watches, but who were also at the time well-respected as innovative designers and manufacturers in the field of engineering.
They had designed the metal hull to be carried aboard ships as the ‘Ingersoll’s Improved Metallic Lifeboat’., it being thought that an all metal and galvanised hull would save owners the substantial costs involved in maintaining wooden lifeboats and, of course, the metal ones were much lighter and easier to handle. The dimensions of the class were 26 feet long by 6 feet, with a beam of 6 feet, 1inch, and a very shallow depth of moulded hull of only 2 feet, 8 inches.
The original idea behind her voyage was to exhibit ‘RED WHITE AND BLUE’ at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and she was taken to New York for alterations and fitting out. Once there her original rig was stripped out and replaced by three masts, to which were fitted the rig of a barque in perfect miniature.
Her crew for the epic voyage consosted of Captain J.M.Hudson as Master,with Francis E. Fitch as Mate and Fanny the dog completing her roster. On the 9th of July, 1866 preparations for the voyage were complete, and RED WHITE AND BLUE put out from New York bound for England. Despite the choosing of the summer months, the elements were not very kind and the tiny cockleshell of a boat experienced some very heavy weather, which she overcame very well. It should be noted here that for her intrepid crew there was no shelter to be had from the weather in th eopen boat, just a canvas dodger to break the worst effects of the wind, so conditions for Messrs. Hudson, Fitch and Fanny the dog were rather Spartan, to say the least. After a respectable passage of 39 days, she put into Margate after roaring up the Channel with a favourable wind at her stern. Greeted at the Harbour by a large and enthusiastic crowd, she was the centre of much attention whilst moored here for just a brief stay, and then she was off again on her travels, but this time only to London where she went on display at the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham Hill.
All too often somebody bobs up with an attempt ot sour an achievement, and in this case one suspects the hand of a business rival. rumours were spread about that ‘RED WHITE AND BLUE ‘had not in fact sailed all the way here from the States, but had been carried part of the way across the Atlantic by the ship WILLIAM TAPSCOTT. This rumour was soon discounted as worthless, and what scant information existed confirms beyond any doubt that she did indeed sail all the way on her own thus earning for herself a place in the annals of the sea and one in the history of our town.