Instruction on Ship Troubles c. 1796-1810

While the document is included in the Kilham collection, there is no indication for whom this document is written. It contains instructions for what to do if you encounter problems with a China Trade ship (getting caught on a shoal, breaking the ship’s “ribs”, etc.) The instructions detail how to protect the cargo, and the interests of the ship’s owners and stakeholders in the voyage

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Should you happen to get on a shoal and the vessel make much water, or have her ribs broken, do not attempt to get her off if you are anywhere where you can be saved by the boats, it is generally better in such a case to abandon the whole to the elements than to let it become a prey to the land sharks, who in such cases generally manage to pocket the whole & sometimes bring the owner in debt.  Of course, if you have any valuable goods as specie & you will endeavor to save with yourself in the boat, should you have a valuable cargo on board your exertions should be increased to endeavor to save the vessel & bring her into port.

Should you have occasion to make a port to repair damages, take the preliminary steps of noting protest, & calling a survey who will generally declare what ought to be done to meet your wishes, after which make the repairs in the most economical manner. Do not think that by swelling the bill of expenses you benefit the Owners as they have to bear 1/3 of all the expenses of repairs, therefore when some articles are more expensive in a place than in another avoid increasing that expense at the expensive place if possible.  

For example, should the vessel want spars at Canton where they are usually ver dear, if by fishing the old ones they can be made to answer till she reaches some other port (where you are bound) Manilla for instance where they are comparatively cheap, you ought to do so making mention

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In the log book of so doing, and on reaching Manilla if the fished spar is not so good as it ought to be, get it replaced by a new one, which cost with the additional expense of fishing the old one is recoverable of the underwriting; this case is mentioned merely as illustrative of the principal that no more repairs should be made at an expensive port than will enable a vessel to reach her destined port, or to a port where they can be done cheaper, if the damage sustained and repairs to be made are not serious it will come under the head of partial loss in which case the repairs not including Notary, Consul & Surveyors fees nor any other expense which is not actually for materials to repair the damage, to make an average which is 5% or the value of the policy after deducting 1/3 new for old. Therefore in all cases of repairing he bill should amount to this sum, or a little more without regards to exercising that nice economy if the repairs will evidentally exceed that amount (?) the (?) economy by substituting 2ndhand materials or defer replacing them as above mentioned, but all the repairs necessary to make her safe & seaworthy should in every case be done.  Of this the master is reckoned the only competent judge although it will be best to be borne out by the report of the Surveyors who as is before stated will report what the Master desires.  Recollect the Average is not made up by a number of successive losses, or damage but must be the result of one disaster at sea.  


“Instructions on Ship Troubles”. Abraham Kilham Papers, 1787-1847.. Historic Beverly, Beverly, MA.