The Sophia Jane
20 May 1831
Since this handsome specimen of naval architecture arrived, under the disguise of a square-rigged schooner, which she did on Saturday morning last, she has been a focus of attraction to the curious.
Immediately on dropping her anchor in the stream, crowds pushed off to visit her; but the decks being lumbered, and the machinery not arranged, her commander, Captain Biddeworth [Biddulph], R. N. declined receiving visitors, greatly to the disappointment of many. She has since hauled into the Cove, and now lies moored head and stern in, at the Heaving Down Place, East-side. We observe, the engineers, smiths and carpenters are actively at work, and when the fittings up are completed, but not till then, and we think very reasonably, she will be thrown open to visitors. To a nautical eye, the Sophia Jane presents a beautiful model for capacity and fast sailing. She sailed from London on the 15th December last, called at Pernambuco, and stopped for some days at the Cape, yet working with her sails only, which present but a very moderate spread of canvas, she has made the passage to this port, short of four months. Her paddles are now shipped for the first time, we believe, since leaving England; and a few days more will put her in a capacity for plying.
Not having had yet the opportunity of a personal inspection, we take the following particulars at second hand:- She measures 256 tons; is 126 feet on the deck, and at least 30 on the beam. She has three cabins elegantly fitted up. The chief cabin furnishes 16 bed places; the ladies' cabin abaft, 11; and the fore cabin or steerage, 20. Eleven can be added easily; in all, 54.
She was built in 1826, by Barnes and Millar, and her cost value is estimated at £7500. A meeting of merchants was called at the Cape, when she lay there, with the view of purchasing her. The price was stated to be £8000; and the expense of navigating her, including insurance, £3610 per annum, upon the calculation of her making eighteen voyages to Algoa Bay and Table Bay in the year. The returns for freight and passage money were estimated at £5760 for the same period, exclusive of the profits of contingent employment.
The Cape merchants did not like the terms, and they hauled off. She has followed up her original destination; and now enriches our increasing little naval force. Steam navigation will help greatly to raise the character of this Colony abroad, and to improve it at home. The addition of such a vessel as the Sophia Jane to our coasting trade is a most gratifying event. It is almost in the trading world what a new Governor would be in our political hemisphere. A fresh spirit will be infused into all our settled and unsettled districts that can be approached by water.
Persons will shortly be able, we expect, to breakfast in town, lunch at Newcastle, dine at Port Stephens, and put up comfortably at Port Macquarie next morning, at half the present expense and in quarter the time, of the journey to Wallis's Plains. Should she not find enough to do between this and Newcastle, the route to and from Hobart Town lies open, and to Western Port, when the fine line of coast about there shall be settled.
The Surprise steamer is getting in her engine over at the North Shore.
Mr. Grose's steamer at William's River is also getting forward fast. Mr. Patterson completes her machinery. The owner of whichever steamer plies first, will richly merit a grant of land. Government, it is to be hoped, will not shew a backwardness in clearing the Parramatta channel.
The Surprise, it is estimated, will draw 3 feet when laden. The Sophia Jane draws 6, it is said, with her machinery (of which she carries a duplicate set complete) and 100 tons of goods on board. Captain B. and Mr. Lamb her consignee, will doubtless lose no time in fitting the Sophia Jane out for the inspection of the curious.