THE  CATERINA  on 17-18 JANUARY 1887


The barque MABEL, 454 tons net, was owned by Thomas Daniel and Sons, West India merchants of Bristol. She left Demerara on 3 December 1885 with a cargo of sugar and rum bound for her home port. She was under the command of Capt Thomas Jones, who lived in the St Pauls district of the city. There were fourteen crew members and one passenger - the son of Robert J. Johnson of Queens Square, Bristol. Young Johnson had lost a few fingers when at work in the city and had stowed away on another ship. Capt Jones, who knew his father, was bringing the lad home.

The Mabel had a good passage across the Atlantic and arrived off Lundy on the evening of Sunday 3 January 1886. There she was hailed by Bristol Pilot Cutter No 15 James and Sarah, and boarded by pilot William Ray one of the most experienced and respected of Pill pilots. Ray's son then sailed the cutter back to Pill arriving on Tuesday, expecting the Mabel to arrive shortly. A gale was blowing when the vessels left Lundy and the weather was thick with poor visibility. Over the next few days cargo and wreckage from a vessel were found floating off the Nash and washed ashore at Breaksea. Then on Friday 8 January Capt Pomeroy, dock master at Cardiff, telegraphed Bristol with the news that the wreck was seen on the east Nash bank at low water.

There were no survivors.

List of the crew:

Captain Thomas Jones

William Oatwy - first mate

E. Perkins - second mate

William Ray - Bristol Channel pilot of Pill

L. Smith  - carpenter

W. Oipin - steward


E.H. Cathcart -   Ernest Cathcart, of Cotham Brow, was the nineteen year old eldest son of Mrs J. Cathcart, late of Coronation Road, Bristol. His body was found off Nash Point and buried at Llantwit Major on 8 April.

T. Scott

W. Clark

W. Minchin  - a Russian

R. Mueller   - a German

W. Spencer

A. Essery

R.H. Fowler

T. Sandell

G. Newcombe

Passenger -   Johnson,  the fifteen year old son of Robert Johnson of Bristol.


On Tuesday 26 January the underwriters of the insurance on the Mabel, accompanied by pilot William Ray's brother, went out to the Nash sand. They found the wreck in 10 fathoms. They waited for low water and made a careful inspection of the wreck. The port side of the hull was stove in abaft the fore-mast. Another wreck was found near by which also showed signs of having been in collision. Who knows what happened on the night the Mabel was lost.


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The barque  CATERINA  was registered at the port of Camogli near Genoa, Italy. She left Cardiff on Saturday 15 January 1887, under the command of Capt Olivari, with a cargo of 827 tons of coal for Colon (Panama). As there was thick fog in the channel she anchored between Sully and Barry to await more favourable conditions.

At about 9 on the evening of Monday 17th a bright light was seen in the direction of the Nash. The light was seen from Porthcawl and from Southerndown. It was a clear night and those at Southerndown said they could see the light reflected from the sails of a vessel and could also see men on the deck. James Pearce, the coxswain of Porthcawl lifeboat, was called from bed at 9.20 by his uncle. He got to the watch house in ten minutes and saw what he believed was a "flash" light used by vessels signalling for a pilot. Pilots were preparing to leave but the light disappeared and the boat did not sail.

The next morning a portion of the after deck of a vessel came ashore to the west of Nash Point. Clothing and a chronometer, which had stopped at 5 a.m., were also found. The chronometer carried the makers name "John Poole 57 Gracechurch St.London. No.4,069". Verity, Lloyds agent at Southerndown, reported the information to London.

Then on Wednesday a lifebuoy and log book both marked "Caterina, Camogli" were picked up.

The vessel had stranded a little to the west of the middle buoy of the Nash. There were no survivors of the crew of eleven. A Cardiff pilot was also lost, though he does not seem to be named in any account that I can find.

There was a certain amount of criticism of the Porthcawl lifeboat coxswain. As a result the RNLI sent two of its inspectors Capts. Nepean and La Primandaye to the town. They held a meeting on Tuesday 22 February to hear all sides. A report was prepared and sent to the RNLI. What conclusions it reached I have failed to discover.

The one thing that was clear was that merchant ships were very slack in their use of signals at that time. What was presumably a signal of distress appeared to those on shore to be a signal for a pilot.