A FASCINATING LOOK INTO THE LESIURE AND SAILING ACTIVITIES OF LORD KELVIN
THOMSON, WILLIAM. (1824-1906). First Baron Kelvin; Irish and British mathematical physicist and engineer from which we get the Kelvin measure. Uncommon and lengthy, Autograph Letter Signed “William Thomson” on black bordered The Athenaeum impressed stationery. Eleven very full pages, octavo. [No place], May 10, 1871. To Mr. Smith, Thomson writes:
“Thanks for your letter. I was just on the point of writing to ask you for intelligence. I am glad Archy continues to improve. I hope Leith Hill will prove very beneficial to you both. June will be the best time for a cruise, and I look forward with much pleasure to Archy being able to come and you too I hope may be tempted and you could at least try for a day or two, making up your mind to go ashore if you found the sea not agreeing with you. I left Gourock on Saturday evening the 28th April, two nephews (J.T. Bottomley who has been my assistant in Glasgow since the beginning of the session, and a son of Dr. King’s) with me. Two of us (who could swim) jumped overboard next morning off the Cumrae light, and in the afternoon we gave a lesson in swimming in 40 fathoms water off the Holy Isle to the third by putting him overboard with a towel round his arms, held by a rope. So you may judge of the wind, the weather was very fine. In the evening a good breeze sprang up, favourable but not more than a fresh breeze, and we got over ground from Pladda to Ailse carefully measured on the charts, at decidedly over 10 knots, nearer 11 then 10 I think. The tide was — us what was of it but of course very slight as it was reap tide, & there is never very much current there; we were becalmed a good deal in the Bristol channel, then got a good breeze, to beat us ainst round Land Ed, which we had thus Charming opportunities of seeing both the North & South sides. We landed on Wednesday afternoon at Penzance and got away in time for the night train Plymouth to London. I thus missed only Wednesday meeting of the committee and was told afterwards I had not missed much. Thursday was spent at Shoeburyness. You have probably seen the account of coppermines there, in last Saturday Times. On Friday night I went to Plymouth to join the L R there. Admiral Houston Stewart (one of many Colleagues of the –) was in the train & he had telegraphed to have the L. R. towed up the Hamoaze to his own buoy. The sailors seem to have been much pleased to have had the pass word to pass in and out of the dockyard at any time from 6 in the morning till —- while their friends, the sailors of the Blue Bell, could not get farther than the dockyard Yate. I got under way and beat down the Hamoaze about noon, an hour before low water spring tides, and was somewhat anxious lest I would touch in the narrowest part of the passage but go t through quite clear on getting out. I found the Blue Bell (schooner, 170 tonnes, belonging to an old Glasgow college class fellow of mine, James Stevenson (which had left the Clyde two days after me and was bound for Spain & the Mediterranean). As I passed within short hailing distance they told us they were on the point of sailing for Cadiz. My nephew, Bottomley, and his father were with me and I wished to show them something before sailing for Portsmouth we stood out for the Eddystone [lighthouse] and weathered it very nicely on one long tack sailing quite close to it, and weaving round to the South to return to Plymouth Sound. While still sailing outward the Blue Bell came out of the round after me, with “jibheaded” jaff topsail yet she drew somewhat upon only I having no topsail, but my captain set his “squareheaded” topsail, and I thing we then rather increased our distance, then lost. It felt very calm just as we got back to the sound so we lay there all night and set out next morning against a strong eastwind. The whole afternoon till 4 o’clock we had spring tide against us, and three times after Standing out about 4 miles to sea came back within 100 yards of the same shot, a coastward station a little west of the Start. As there was every prospect of continued east winds and I had to be in London Tuesday forenoon, determined to run into Dartmouth. The tide turned according to the books at 4″30 and instantly we shot Eastward. We got quickly through a heavy sea — a tide race off the Sherries, and Shoal two miles East of the start, and were soon in Dartmouth Harbor. The L.R. behaved beautifully. Yesterday Lord Dufferin announced that he was ordered to Balmoral and must, with much regret, adjourn the committee for three weeks. I therefore sail for Lisbon from Southampton or Portland, on Wednesday night. I go to Southampton to the L. R. tomorrow and may probably rail to Portland, as so far on the way to Lisbon, before I have to return to London on Monday forenoon, for the first of three days of the committee before adjournment. I shall make a point of being back by the 10th of June, and I hope by that time that Archy and you may be able to look forward to taking a little sailing immediately. My meetings will still no doubt be Wed., Thursd, & Fri in London & I should live on board the L.R. for the rest of the time. I would keep her probably in any case chiefly in Southampton water, but if you prefer any other place, I am not at all bound to it. How would a sail to Chadbourn or the Channel Islands do? With kind remembrances to Archy, I remain, Yours always truly, William Thomson”.
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