Watersprite

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A Jersey stamp depicting the Watersprite
Watersprite between St Helier Harbour and Elizabeth Castle
Official accounts for the Watersprite in 1833-84 - click on image to enlarge

The Ariadne and Lord Beresford having proved their superiority to sail cutters, caused some agitation to provide a steam mail service and on 26 June 1826 George W Freeling, assistant secretary to the General Post Office, and other officials came to Jersey to make arrangements for steam vessels to operate the mail service, their crossing from Weymouth taking eight hours.

Watersprite

On Saturday 7 July 1827, under the command of Captain Frederick White, the Watersprite, a 162-ton paddle steamer, arrived at St Helier with the first official mail carried by a steamer. The Watersprite had cost £8,770 and had a crew of 12, including the Commander. Watersprite had a boiler pressure of eight pounds.

In June, 1836, the Watersprite was lengthened 20 feet at Cowes and had new engines of 80 hp fitted. She arrived back on her station on 25 December 1836.

Race

This account from the Star records a race between the lengthened Watersprite and Atalanta:

"She [Atalanta]is unquestionably one of the finest boats that ever ploughed the British Channel. A trial of speed between her and his Majesty's packet Wildfire, Capt White, Commander, took place on Tuesday, which more than ever served to display the superiority of the Atalanta. The former vessel was some months since lengthened by Messrs White, of Cowes, and new and powerful machinery put into her, by which her speed was so accelerated that Capt White declared he would not fear to run her with the Atalanta. An opportunity offered last Tuesday, both vessels having to start from Jersey for this island at six o'clock in the morning. The weather was remarkably propitious for a trial of this nature, there being scarcely wind enough out to cause a ripple on the water. The Wildfire had six minutes start of the Atalanta, but the latter vessel overtook her a short distance off Corbière Point, and arrived here 16 minutes before her, making a difference of 22 minutes on the passage.

Renamed

The Flamer was renamed HMS Fearless in May, 1837, and the Watersprite was renamed HMS Wildfire. In addition to the commander, a master and pilot were attached to each vessel. HMS Fearless and HMS Wildfire were withdrawn in 1845 when the mail service was transferred to vessels of the South Western Steam Packet Company.

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