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The Knysna

Early voyage to the Buffalo River mouth

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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The Knysna was a double-masted brig of between 140 and 180 tons, owned by John Rex, a Cape Town merchant. In September 1836 Rex offered the services of his vessel to convey a cargo of military supplies to the troops at Fort Peddie, using the mouth of the Buffalo River for the first time as the point of disembarkation.

The Knysna reached the river mouth in mid-November but Captain John Findlay, the ship's master, anchored in the roadstead until he could plumb the depth of the sand-bar. He estimated that a vessel of up to 80 tons could cross the bar at high-tide but the Knysna was clearly too large for that and so she remained at anchor for the full six weeks that it took to discharge her cargo.

The ships long-boats were used to ferry the goods into the river, where they were off-loaded at a natural rock jetty. From there they were carried up the "Grog Stairs" to the military camp, and stored under canvas until they could be transported by wagons to Fort Peddie.

The task of off-loading the cargo took until the end of December and, in the meantime, John Rex journeyed inland where he battered hides and horns from the Xhosa people.

When he eventually set sail, therefore, he had an extra cargo on board although, upon reaching Cape Town, he discovered that he was liable for customs duties because his goods were regarded as imports from beyond the Cape Colony.

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