This is a verbatim transcript of Louie's diary covering the passage of the American barkentine "Puako" from Cape Town to Sydney and onward to San Francisco. I have omitted some repetitive entries (as I'm sure she would have loved to have ommitted certain repetitive days of little or no wind herself!). The voyage across the Southern and Pacific Oceans took some six months in all, including over 14 weeks in Sydney in quarantine and working cargo, and represents a distance of more than twelve thousand miles as the crow flies - as you will appreciate from this account, sailing ships rarely follow the same itineraries as crows! My comments are in this colour and typeface.


Bktn "Puako", Cape Town, November 1918

15th November 1918

Met Eric at 11 a.m. Took us down to Pier Head in a cab. It was raining but Lu wouldn't have the top up because she wanted to see the "gee-gee". Took a motor boat out to the ship & arrived there just in time for lunch. Lu was quite good - we got her up the ladder without any trouble. She is very anxious to know why the ship wobbles so & and what all the cloth (sails) is for.

16th Saturday

Still out in the bay. George (Louie's brother) came on board for tea. Saw Reg O'Connor (Cousin) in a yacht this afternoon.

17th Sunday

Still out in the Bay. George stayed all night and left about 5.30 this morning.

18th Monday

Saw someone waving from the pier this morning, took it to be our Nan so flashed back. We left the Bay at about 1030 but had only got around as far as Green Point when Lu began to feel seasick & wanted to go down, so I went below with her and very soon the pair of us were very busy filling up the basins.

Louie & Lulu on deck of "Puako"

19th Tuesday
It rained all night & has been raining nearly all day, so Lulu & I have been in our pyjamas all day feeling very groggy. We stayed in bed all the morning but put on dressing gowns and sat in the other room in the afternoon. Last night we had one of our sails blown to ribbons & two men nearly flattened out. The noise on the deck of the chains rattling & men shouting was terrific.

20th Wednesday

Lulu and I were up on deck before 6 o'clock this morning, both feeling very much better; in fact Lulu has quite recovered. We have been going along at the rate of about a mile an hour today. We seem to be just wobbling around.

21st Thursday

Today we averaged about 5 miles an hour. I hope we will soon get out of this calm. It is a work of art getting meals. The things on the table shoot right over the top of the fiddles. I don't think we will have any crockery left by the time we get to Sydney. I wish I was there now having a cup of decent tea.

22nd Friday

Still tacking up & down.

23rd Saturday

Still tacking. We did the noble sum of 72 miles today.

24th Sunday

Had plenty of rain today & a little more breeze.

25th Monday

Had some more rain and a little better breeze. Expect to get a good blow tomorrow. We have only done 600 miles in the week, at this rate it will take us 10 weeks to get to Sydney.

26th Tuesday

Had a much better run today.

27th Wednesday

Another good breeze today.

28th Thursday

Today being a public holiday (Thanksgiving Day, the anniversary of the end of the Civil War) the boys all had had a holiday (Puako, of course, was a US ship, registered in San Francisco, and presumably subject to US public holidays even though there was apparently only one American on board)

29th Friday

The wind is gradually fading away.

30th Saturday

Still very little wind.

1st Sunday

A little more breeze today.

2nd Monday

Very showery today with a little breeze.

3rd Tuesday

Still getting along slowly.

4th Wednesday

Getting along better today.

5th Thursday

Still getting along good. Puppy went over the side today, been getting too much to eat.  (..since they were "getting along good" I would assume that Puppy, Lulu's dog, would not have been recovered - she assured me he fell and was not sacrificed for being greedy)

6th Friday

Breeze died down again today.

7th Saturday

Not doing very much today.

8th Sunday

Passed Amsterdam Island at 2 a.m.

9th Monday

Did 173 miles today.

10th Tuesday

Still doing fair.

11th Wednesday

Breeze getting stronger.

12th Thursday

Did 240 miles today.

13th Friday

Wind not so strong.

14th Saturday

Drizzle nearly all day.

15th Sunday

Still doing well.

16th Monday

We have reduced our distance to Sydney to 1520 miles.

17th Tuesday

Our good breeze still keeps up. I wonder what the war news is today, being the last day for the Germans. ("Lulu" conjectures that this refers to the Germans having to leave SW Africa - now Namibia - where her Uncle Len Geater was gassed in the fighting.)Had a bit of a rumpus this morning. (Lulu recalled that her dad had to break up a fight, a not uncommon occurrence on a long passage, and that she was hustled below and was concerned by the lump on his wrist afterwards. Arthur remembers Eric telling him that fight had arisen when the newly-promoted bosun was having trouble exercising his authority)

18th Wednesday

Just a month since we left C.T.

19th Thursday

Quite a gale blowing today, had to take in most of the sails. Only 875 miles to go to the Bass Straights (sic).

20th Friday

There is a terrific swell on today and everything is on the wobble.

21st Saturday

The new Spanker was finished today & put up & all the men had a tot of brandy.

22nd Sunday

Northerly gale blowing all day.

23rd Monday

Raining all day.

24th Tuesday

A fine breeze blowing today. The pig was shot this afternoon for Xmas dinner.

25th Wednesday

Xmas Day. Had roast pork for dinner minus the apple sauce and stuffing. Passed through the Bass Straights today and caught a snoek. (Barracuda)

26th Tuesday

Our good breeze is dying away. We have been in sight of land all day & passed several ships.

27th Friday

Sydney at last. The tug came alongside at 7 o'clock this evening & we tied up inside the harbour at about 2.30. We have come 6587 miles in 38 days 22 hours & our average speed has been 7.1 knots. Eric is patting himself on the back for having beaten any of Pedersen's runs in this ship by 6 days. Owing to the influenza epidemic at the Cape, the ship has to go into quarantine. (This must have been the start of the great flu pandemic which killed thousands worldwide in 1919)

28th Saturday

We were towed over and tied up at the quarantine station this morning at 9 o'clock, where we have to remain for a week. A doctor is to come on board every day to take the temperatures of everyone on board.

29th Sunday

All hands fishing all day long. All temperatures taken.


Puako scene - perhaps this is the doctor? - Seems to be watched with some suspicion...
(Click to enlarge)

30th Monday

All temperatures taken and five men inoculated.

31st Tuesday

All temperatures taken. Everything very quiet News Years Eve.

1st January 1919

Everybody on board except Lulu had to have a vapour bath in the mess room and then all temperatures were taken. Had duck, green peas, ham and stuffing for dinner.

2nd Thursday

All had a vapour bath again this morning and all temperatures taken.

3rd Friday

Tomorrow we make for Sydney - all being well. Today we had an extra long vapour bath and all temperatures taken.

4th January

Arrived at Snails Bay this morning and went ashore. Had dinner and then went over to Manly & saw Arthur and Jean Tom and Norman (Arthur & Jean Heffer - cousins of Louie) Got back to Circular Quay by the last ferry & no motor boat waiting to take us to the ships. After waiting about we got a boy to take us to Balmain by ferry & then row us over to the ship in his boat. We arrived on board about 12.30.

Lulu on deck with Arthur and Jean Heffer (Click to enlarge)

5th Sunday to 14th Tuesday

Went to Manly this afternoon to stay. Had 10 days at Manly.

15th Wednesday

Came over this morning to stay at the Hotel Metropole in Sydney.

(Apparently stayed at the Metropole till 3rd February while the ship was working cargo -  loading copra for the States)

Puako working cargo from lighters in Sydney (Click to enlarge)

   The above photo is from a postcard produced by the noted Sydney marine photographer Alfred Dufty. Louie sent it to Eric's mother Emma in Cape Town, writing on it:

Dear Nan                                                        Sydney 22.1.19
 This is a photo of our yacht. Hope you are keeping fit & having a good time with only one little pickle to worry you. Has Nellie had her holiday yet? Hope to get letters by the "Saxon" next week. Eric has bought a straw hat & looks fine in it. He sends his love. Have you heard from Pom lately? Lu has had a nice long sleep every afternoon so that she can stay up late. 
                    Best love & kisses, 
Lu sends lots of kisses for "Our Nan"

  The "little pickle" would have been Lu's baby sister Doris, left behind in Cape Town, and "Pom" was the family nickname for Eric's brother Otto.

4th February

Came on board to stay this morning, finished loading Copra, & left for Snails Bay again at 1 o'clock.

10th Monday

Left Snails Bay this noon for America.

11th Tuesday

Very little breeze, only made 65 miles.

12th Wednesday

Made 101 miles today.

13th Thursday

No wind at all today. We are just drifting about very slowly - only did 89 miles. The boys caught some very big fish but they were very dry. Polly (Lulu's pet parrot)jumped overboard & it was lucky for him we were not moving at the time. Someone threw the end of a rope over to him, & and he crawled up it & is none the worse.

14th Friday

A little more breeze today. Did 169 miles. We are not very far from Sydney.

15th Saturday

Did 164 miles today.

16th Sunday

Only 160 miles today.

17th Monday

Did a little better. 211 miles.

18th Tuesday

Wind dropping again only 146 miles.

19th Wednesday

Absolute calm again today only 76 miles.

20th Thursday

No wind again - only 99 miles.

21st Friday

A little breeze last night 116 miles. Wind gone again.

22nd Saturday

No wind today only logged 21 miles.

23rd Sunday

No wind again - only 17 miles.

24th Monday

A little breeze - 87 miles.

25th Tuesday

Did 133 miles today.

26th Wednesday

Good breeze blowing now. 151 miles (This was regarded as being rather pitiful a week before - the frustration of not even making triple figures must have been great, day after day)

26th Wednesday

164 miles today. Being 8 days in this week we have two Wednesdays the 26th. (must have finally crossed the International Dateline)

27th Thursday

142 miles today.

28th Friday

No wind much. Only 66 miles.

March 1919

1st Saturday
Going South again. Did 77 miles today.

2nd March 
                               " " " " 85 "  "

(Entries continue with ditto marks like this until Saturday 8th, going south and making 229, 164, 72, 100, 113 and 114 miles respectively.)

9th Sunday

For the last week we have had head winds & have done about 14 miles back West instead of going East. Today we have a fair wind for a change which I hope will last for weeks. We have not had nay sunshine for over a week.

Puako under sail (with thanks to Walt Bulski)

10th Monday

Still have a fair wind 102 miles.

11th Tuesday

Our fair wind has gone and turned into a head wind again. We are down nearly to Latitude 49 (South)& it is miserably cold and dull. We did 113 miles today.

12th Wednesday

A thick fog today. Did 107 miles.

13th Thursday

Still fog. 178 miles.

14th Friday

Still fog and dead calm most of the morning. A light breeze trying to spring up this afternoon. 88 miles. We have come down South 700 miles out of our course to find wind, but up to the present have not found much.

15th Saturday

114 miles today.

16th Sunday

172 miles today.

17th Monday

No wind again. 85 miles.

18th Tuesday

130 miles. Rain and fog all day long.

19th Wednesday

140 miles. Rain and fog all day.

20th Thursday

Thick fog all day long.

21st Friday

Thick fog all day again. Only 50 miles.

22nd Saturday

Thick fog all day.

Entries continue in this vein for the remainder of March and the first half of April, with only a couple of days of decent wind and a lot of rain. Puako must have been slowly working North again for on 14th April:

14th April

No wind. Very near the equator. Only 61 miles.

15th April

Still calm. Only 29 miles. Drifted over equator. ( This is a rather prosaic entry noting, as it does, Louie's first crossing into the Northern Hemisphere - an event of some significance among seafarers for first timers "Crossing the Line", and often marked by some ceremony - as the next entry shows, superstition and tradition were obviously still alive aboard Puako. Perhaps it reflects the disheartening effect of drifting haphazardly through the doldrums)

16th Wednesday

Still calm. Only 11 miles. Caught a shark last night about 7 ft. long. Hung his tail on the jibboom, but has not brought us any wind so far.

In fact it did not bring any wind until 22nd April, and that only lasted a week or so. The entry for 25th April reads: Joe was killed today, all we have left of livestock now are 4 fowls. Lulu thinks Joe was a pig. Little or no wind prevailed until:

Wednesday 14th May

Splendid breeze today - if only it will last.

15th Thursday

Still a good breeze.

16th Friday

Very little wind this morning. Flat calm this afternoon.

17th Saturday/18th Sunday

A light breeze all day took us to within a few miles of San Francisco & all thought we would be safely at anchor for the night, but at about 8 o'clock in the evening a light breeze sprang up from offshore & we were unable to make 'Frisco until this morning. The Pilot came on board at 7 a.m. & at the same time a tow-boat took us in tow, and we dropped the anchor at the quarantine station about 9.30. The Doctor & all the rest of the Port Officials came aboard, but we have seen nothing of the owners and they have not even had the decency to send off our mail or any fresh meat. (My own experience can vouch that nothing much changes in this respect - I can sympathise with her frustration!) Expect they will be on board at 6 a.m. in the morning (sic).

19th Monday

As no-one turned up by 8 o'clock this morning to take us into dock & tell us what was going to happen, Eric went ashore to see if the whole town was dead. No-one is allowed to leave the ship until all the passports have been examined & passed & everyone has their photo taken. We are all considered foreigners except Delaney who is the only American on board. We were towed into dock this afternoon at Oakland next to the shipyard Puako was built in.

This is where the Puako diary ends. Eric and Louie stayed only a couple of weeks in San Francisco while they bought their Dodge Tourer car and prepared for their epic drive to New York, an account of which can be found here. They apparrently ended up staying  with a certain Captain Helms in Oakland, possibly trying to keep a low profile  to avoid involvement with the Pedersen trial. Captain Helms was the new Master of Puako and his grandson Walt Bulski has provided a few pictures on this site.

Puako with timber Cargo in San Pedro (Thanks to Walt Bulski)

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