Bates letter

Extract from a letter by Rudyard Kipling to
Sir Percy Bates, 15 August 1929

Dear Bates,

… As to lading, I am cutting out as much as I can of direct reference to St Paul’s ship from Mysia. The tale is told by her Captain, after he had lost his job and had got a billet as Port Inspector at Marseilles where he inspects cargoes of wheat from Spain – Malaga way. He tells his tale to the skipper of a Spanish boat (108′ between perps; 35′ beam; and, say, 16′ hold. What would that tonnage be?) She is ballasted on Spanish pigs stitched into hide, and concentrated copper ores, bagged in hide-bags. (Hides can be sold full value at Port of Rome, remember.) The grain is in bulk in grain-tight bins of inch and a half Spanish chesnut (sic) and live oak planking (all saleable at Ostia) and each of the two holds is practically bulkheaded as the planking is spiked against the big X-pieces that stiffen her laterally. They have topped off the loose grain with several layers of bagged wheat – hides again. Now comes the question of dunnage at the sides. What do you think? The bins would be clear of her sides by more than usual allowance, to permit of the wheat swelling. Would the bins be like ore-bins? And would it be good stevedoring to put say horns and horn tips for side-stuff. The point of all this fuss, is to have a row between the Port Inspector and the skipper on account of alleged “dunnage” (Captain’s private venture) which the Inspector insists ought to come in as low freight. From that argument the tale of the loss of the Eirene (St Paul’s ship) begins. The only reference to her cargo is one about “filthy Egyptian wheat-half mud and no wonder seeing how they pull it up by the roots and where they thresh it.” All the interest appears to be thrown on the big competent Spanish skipper with his
natural contempt for a man who has lost his ship. The ex-master is merely a worried and perturbed man who has run up against yet another new God on the seas.

Your notion of wheat in the ear as cargo is fascinating but I won’t venture on it till I know a heap more. Clay amphorae are obviously impossible. Tell me what you can about bagged wheat (100 lb bags) and hides. Spain produced both. I allow a four foot square bale-hole in each hold. One at the foot of the main mast and one in the eyes of her almost at the foot of the artimon. Also one aft. She is trimmed by the stern. Her hatches are small. She carries her proper compliment (sic) of cats and previous to loading has been smoked out ‘tween decks with raw cinnabar over lamps – to destroy the rats. Further information and advice will be thankfully received …