10th February 1970 Eppleton Hall
On Tuesday 10th February 1970 Eppleton Hall was off the western coast of Mexico steaming on a north westerly heading towards Manzanillo.
She had left the Panama Canal on 17th January and steamed NW along the coast of Costa Rica. Then as she approached Nicaraguan waters a sudden storm of great ferocity sprung up within a few minutes and seemingly from nowhere. These are called locally “Papagayos” and are described in the Sailing Directions as “wind storms of a very high velocity but of short duration”. After an hour or so the storm subsided but it was replaced with a gale. The tug began to pitch into the growing swells which were crowned by breaking whitecaps. The wind continued all night with spray crashing against the wheelhouse windows until by the following morning it began to abate and Eppleton Hall continued on her way to the safety of the harbour at Corinto.
There the crew were offered a great welcome and were entertained and fed as visiting royalty ashore.
Whilst lying at anchor in Corinto the indefatigable Bill Bartz painted the entire ship while she lay at anchor in preparation for her grand arrival in San Francisco planned for later in March. Then it was time to be off again and continue the voyage north thrashing her way along the tropical rainforest coastline of Central America.
A call was made at San Jose in Guatemala to drop off John Kortum who had become quite seriously ill with a stomach issue despite being dosed with the necessary medications aboard. As she steamed north the the weather started to turn colder and the awnings, which had provided welcome shade from the baking heat, were taken down and stowed away in preparation for encountering the fierce northerly winds much associated with the Gulf of Mexico.
After further stops in the Mexican ports of Salina Cruz and Acapulco Eppleton Hall continued on her way towards Manzanillo.
There, just as she had done for her trans-Atlantic crossing, a tremendous quantity of spare fuel was loaded and stowed in drums on deck with the intention of steaming straight across the Gulf of California to Baja California and on up the coast to San Diego. However more gales and other mechanical issues would lead to changes to that particular passage plan.
To be continued.
For the full story of this epic voyage from Newcastle to San Francisco try to get hold of the account by her master, Captain Scott Newhall, called “The Eppleton Hall” and published in 1971 by Howell North books in Berkeley California, ISBN 978-0831070854. It is a great read.