- Rivett, Norman C
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
She was launched on Thursday December 12, 1878. Her cost was in excess of £100,000, some sources state it was as high as £130,000. She was of composite construction, teak on iron frames, was fully rigged as a three masted schooner, having yards on the foremast and her spread of canvas was 18,000 square feet which gave her a speed of 14 knots under sail alone. The sailmaker was Lapthorn. Wanderer was 338.85 registered net tons, 559.82 gross tons and 708 Thames measurement tons. Registered dimensions were 185.4 feet length, 29.2 feet breadth and 16.1 feet depth. Her port of Registry was Cowes and she was entered in the Royal Yacht Squadron.
The original high pressure triple expansion engines designed by Mr. J. E. Spencer on the system designed by Mr. Loftus Perkins were state of the art and several years in advance of machinery used in the Royal Navy. Mechanical defects were a feature of early compound and the few triple expansion engines in use at the period. This was one of the factors which retarded their universal adoption by the Admiralty. The problems were mainly associated with the HP bearings, the design of which failed to take into account the different working conditions of compound engines compared with simple engines. The former revolved in excess of twice the revolutions of equivalent simple engines.
Wanderer was not exempt from these problems which manifested themselves from the start of her career and delayed the owners’ intended world cruise in her. It was not until 20th September 1879 that Wanderer sailed on what by then was intended to be a month long shake down cruise to the Mediterranean. Heavy weather encountered in the Bay of Biscay on the 23rd September caused considerable damage to the vessel and she arrived back at Cowes on the morning of September 26 much the worse for wear. In addition to the storm damage she had experienced a fire caused by the heat from the high pressure steam igniting the engine room bulkheads causing damage to the panelling of the Officers’ Mess adjoining the engine room.
The difficult decision was taken at this time to abandon the Perkins patent engine and Wanderer sailed for Southampton where she was taken in hand by Messrs. Day, Summers and Co. on September 30 1879 to be re-engined and repairs and alterations made to the vessel. The new engines manufactured by Day, Summers and Co. comprised a two stage compound set with cylinders of 25 inch and 50 inch diameter, a stroke of 30 inches, rated at 113 IHP and developing 110 IHP at 801bs per square inch pressure.
After engine trials Wanderer was back at Cowes for “The Week” in 1880, after which she sailed on August 5 on her much delayed world cruise. She arrived back at Cowes on July 19, 1882 having covered 44,890 miles, 13,875 of which were under sail alone.
Wanderer was sold by Mr. Lampert in 1889 to Principi di Torlonia Duca di Ceri, who renamed her Vagus and her port of registry became Genoa. By 1894 this was changed to Civita Vecchia, the seaport of Rome. Fortunately she remained in Lloyd’s Register. The vessel was re-boilered in 1890. Whilst in the ownership of Mr. Lampert the ship was at least twice the subject of a painting. In early 1885 the artist Giacoma Gianni was commissioned to paint a picture of Wanderer in Malta Harbour and Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey, HRHA, produced a painting of her under full sail. In this latter painting and in a photograph taken of her in Tahiti in July 1881, Wanderer is shown to carry a figurehead, presumably the same one she carried as Sealark and which is now at GardenIsland. This refutes any suggestion that the figurehead represents, or is in the likeness of, either of the two ladies named Consuelo.
In 1894 the ship returned to Cowes and was now owned by A. E. Marvin who renamed her Consuelo. Just who A. E. Marvin was and who or what inspired him to name his new acquisition Consuelo, I have never been able to determine. It may simply have been a fanciful whim for in that same year the eighteen year old Consuelo Vanderbilt made her debut in Paris and went on to London for the society season before returning to the United States of America. Consuelo had journeyed from the USA to India with her family in her father’s yacht Valiant and travelled overland to Paris from the Mediterranean.