Norseman

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OK, so after all the research on the internet, at the library, surveys and talking directly to local inhabitants what has been found out about the life of the Norseman?

Norseman_Lincoln

The Norseman in full sail during her heydays

We now know that the ship, a keel schooner, was specially built for a multimillionaire, Ogden Goelet, a financially prominent building developer. It was built under his instructions at C & R Poillon of Brooklyn in 1881 and at launch had the following specifications:-

  • Length overall = 131 feet
  • Length along waterline = 112 feet
  • Breadth = 25 feet
  • Depth = 11.6 feet
  • Draught 11.0 feet
  • Tonnage = 154.32 tons
  • Sails by Carl Bany of New London

Furthermore the Record of American and Foreign Shipping 1883, (see line reference 489), provides additional information. It could be established that the Norseman was built from oak, a North American larch known as Hackmatack and yellow pine and constructed with galvanized and copper fittings. The master of the vessel was John Cauley who remained, according to the “Record of American and Foreign Shipping”, its master until at least 1897.

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BuiltWithNOF
Record

There was significant interest in the ship at the time of launch and the details of the ship were published in the local press. A section of the report given in the New York Herald is shown below:-

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Herald

(It was these details that provided final proof that the wreck at Swanwick was in fact Ogden Goelet’s yacht, the Norseman).

Once it was established that the yacht was the Norseman then the history could easily be tracked using “Lloyds Register of Yachts”, “American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign Shipping”, “American Yacht List” and “Record of American and Foreign Shipping”. From this it was established that the yacht remained under the ownership of Ogden for some 15 years until the time of his death. (Strangely enough he died at Cowes on the Isle of Wight just a short distance from the final resting place of the Norseman).The ship then vanished from the records for some eight years (presumably whist the estate was being wound-up) during which time it was fitted with a 35 hp auxiliary engine. The Lloyds Register of Yachts then showed it reemerge as the Alsacienne with a new owner, Arch. McNeil. W. T. Van Brunt of the New York Yacht Club maintained the name of Alsacienne during his ownership whilst Charles Mayer returned the yacht to her original name of Norseman in 1910. Somewhere between 1916 and 1917 the yacht was registered with Lloyds of London and in 1925 was registered in Southampton England. The Mercantile Navy List shows W. Greenhill owned the boat 1926 – 1936. The final recorded owner was Ronald Brewis who kept the boat from 1938 until 1949. Around this time the yacht was gutted by fire and official records come to a halt.

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Another view of the Norseman

hookerFrom this point local memories and records come into play. Discussions with local residents who still remember her say she was converted to a floating houseboat around the time of the Second World War and kept in a mud berth at Luke’s Boatyard in Hamble. This cannot be proved as, unfortunately, the yard caught fire around 1950 and all records were destroyed. Some people remember the boat being a “place of ill repute”, a brothel used by service personnel during the Second World War, and it was soon “run out of town”. For a brief period the Norseman was kept at Lands End near the Jolly Sailor public house before finally coming to rest on the banks of the River Hamble at Lower Swanwick.

A local resident, Mr Gillett now in his 90’s and living in one of the six listed Victory Cottages used to house the ship builders from the Napoleonic War, provided further background information. One night, sometime after moving to Swanwick, a “Kelvinator” aboard the Norseman caught fire and the family on board forced to flee. Mr Gillett rushed up the gangplank and helped save a mother and baby. Many years later the baby, now fully grown, returned to Mr. Gillett to trace his family history.

Recently it was discovered that the Norseman suffered a final indignity when someone (the council or private individual?) attempted to scatter the wreck with explosives!

The fire and explosives were the final undoing of this once proud racing yacht and today the effects of time, tide and people removing timber for firewood have taken a heavy toil. If considered important enough the wreck needs to be protected before the remaining timber and metal artifacts are lost forever. However, it is suspected that the remains will gently slide beneath the mud and lie hidden and forgotten................

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