ever had. The North Yorkshire coast is notorious as a graveyard for ships. It abounds with rock scars eager to sink their teeth into the keels of badly handled or unsuspecting vessels. Then are switching currents, winds that veer direction without warning and some of the most challenging harbour entrances in all England. Some ports had no harbour, forcing the colliers to run in and beach at high tide. Left high and dry they would discharge at low tide and be reloaded in time for refloating on another tide. Even flat-bottomed as the cat-barks were, built for beaching, it was a manoeuvre none but the most confident masters cared to handle.
It was also a fact of life that owners squeezed every penny from their business. Many of the colliers were poorly equipped, often with coal rotted sails, and before Samuel Plimsoll’s line laid down the law, it was common for merchant vessels to be loaded down to the gunwales. Probably undermanned, theirs was not an enviable position when the sea started to ‘come away’. The wreck records for the Yorkshire coast confirm this. No wonder young James Cook learned to handle a ship expertly.
But there were greater challenges ahead than the North Sea.
The rear of the Walkers' Grape Lane house from the harbour wall. The attic where young James Cook and the other apprentices slept can be clearly seen. From here, the view would include all the vessels in the upper harbour & across to Fishburn's yard where the cat-barks Cook would later chose for his voyages of exploration would be constructed.
The large bush on the left conceals the passage-way from Grape Lane into the yard and the entrance to the Memorial Museum is to the right, in the brick section of the building, just out of shot.