Tuesday, February 18

A Letter from the Captain

In Bermuda

My Dear Commodore Hurlbut,

It gave me great Joy to host you aboard the Acasta when last we put into Halifax for Supplies.  Your kind and generous Remarks regarding efficiency of the Crew during the Exercise of the Great Guns were well received and much appreciated, as such Comments, when shared amongst the Crew, help to make for an efficient and successful ship in His Majesty’s Navy.

You may remember the Octant which my Father presented me upon my being accepted as a Midshipman aboard the HMS Dolphin, a fine Instrument upon which I learned the Principles of Celestial Navigation, and which I had occasion to loan to You during our service together aboard the Dolphin.  Alas, my poor Octant is no more, having been dropped from the Main Mast Top during our Passage to Bermuda where we currently are Wintering whilst making repairs to the Acasta.  The unfortunate Accident occurred not at My Hand, but by that of Midshipman Raley, whose own Instrument had been damaged previously, and was in need of one in order to make our Position, which in the Course of Events I allowed Him to use mine.  As Lt. Hamilton was instructing the Midshipmen in determining our Position, the Lookout hailed the Deck with the Sighting of a considerable amount of Debris in the Water along with several Men in a small Ship’s Boat, and desiring further Information, I bade Mr. Raley to go aloft and observe what He could.  In His zeal to comply with my Order, Mr. Raley quickly scaled the Shrouds, but in doing so, forgot to return the Octant to its rightful Owner, and in the Course of carrying out his Duty, accidentally dropped the Instrument to Deck whereupon it shattered beyond Repair.  The Look upon Mr. Raley’s Face was one of Abject Horror, as He most likely expected me to turn him before the Mast, but I realizing that it was an Honest Mistake committed by a valued, and promising, Officer, gave him Cause not to worry.

The debris and Ship’s Boat belonged to the Nancy, a small Sloop, out of Boston, which had been caught in an unexpected Squall and subsequently sunk with the loss of Ship, Cargo, and most of the Crew.  The Ship’s Boat held the Captain, a Mr. James Dawson, and two of the Crew, both of whom being capable of rated as Able Seaman were pressed into the Crew of the Acasta, and Mr. Dawson was most agreeable to remaining as my “Guest” for the remainder of our Journey to Bermuda, the Alternative, that of being put over the Side, holding little Attraction for him.  Both Dr. Roberts and I found Mr. Dawson’s Company quite pleasant over the next several Weeks, and he ours, such that upon our Arrival in Bermuda, he presented me with his Octant, which he had the presence of Mind to save, along with the Ship’s Charts and Logbook, having remembered my Tale of how I came to lose my own Instrument.  It is a fine Instrument, constructed of Ebony with finely inlaid Ivory Scales, being made by Edmund Blunt, of the Sign of the Quadrant in New York, though badly in need of being cleaned as Capt. Dawson himself admitted that he was quite remiss in caring for such Items.  

I graciously accepted his Gift and, in turn, made arrangements for him to be comfortably housed in Bermuda until his Exchange.  Upon closer examination of my “new” Octant, I noticed that Capt. Dawson had written his last Readings upon the left Arm of the Instrument, which I have subsequently copied and given to Mr. Raley to calculate the Nancy’s Positions until her loss.  I look forward to showing you the Instrument when next I am in Halifax.

I Remain Your Obt. Servant,
Robert Freyman, Capt. 
HMS Acasta

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