Monday, 15 March 2010
CAPTAIN PEACOCK'S SWAN
The Illustrated London News of October 13, 1860 described her as ‘an elegant yacht , the very similitude of a gigantic white swan which may now often be seen sunning its wings on the shining waters of the estuary of the river whence it derives its appellation.’
Captain Peacock’s ‘Swan of the Exe’was the strangest vessel that ever sailed these waters. This fantastic 'pleasure yacht' was designed by Captain Peacock of Starcross and built by Dixons of Exmouth. She was launched in September 1860 and every inch of her lived up to her glorious name.
See now where the famous inventor, Captain Peacock, peruses Bewick’s ‘History of British Birds’ and takes the measurements of the mute swan that he finds there and scales them up fourfold.
This gives Captain Peacock a yacht only seventeen feet six inches in length but so broad in the beam that he has room for a table in the saloon large enough for ten persons to dine in comfort. While his guests sit at table they can dangle fishing lines through small oval apertures in the table which open to the water beneath. When a fish is caught it can instantly be cooked in a ‘multum in parvo cooking apparatus’. The smoke from this stove is drawn up the neck of the swan and is breathed out through the swan’s nostrils.
Imagine! It is a sunny afternoon on the Estuary. Captain Peacock’s ‘Swan’ is bearing down on us. Her vicious head rides sixteen feet above the dancing wavelets. Her wicked, beady, black eyes are looking straight at us. She is now so near that we can read, worked in letters of gold upon a silken azure banner, pendent from a brass rod which the bird carries in her bill, the proud name: ‘Swan of the Exe.’ Someone at the dinner table must have got lucky for as the great bird looms towards us she is breathing smoke.
Quick! Out of the way before the bugger pecks us!