Visitors to The Exmouth Museum and Heritage Centre now have the opportunity of owning a memento of local maritime history, relating to a Russian schooner that was shipwrecked off Exmouth.

A specially designed mug commemorates the Tehwija, which broke up at sea in October 1907. Lifeboats went to the aid of the crew and helped them get ashore, and the wreckage of the ship was washed up at Orcombe Point.  Many years later a mug was found buried deep in the sand at Orcombe Point which was believed to be from the shipwreck. It was decorated with a picture of a Russian peasant, with pre-Revolution Russian script on the reverse.

The Tehwija was a Russian schooner captained by Una Baarman from Lappvik, Finland. She had set off to Exmouth with a cargo of timber in August 1907, but was forced to take shelter due to bad weather, and was battling her way though a storm as she approached Exmouth on the afternoon of 9th October 1907.

Getting into difficulties, Captain Baarman signalled for a pilot, but it was impossible for the pilot boat to reach the ship so the captain turned the vessel to the leeward side of the storm and lowered the anchors. However, during the storm the port anchor chain broke and the ship drifted towards Pole Sands, where the rudder snapped.

The Exmouth lifeboat was unable to reach them as the schooner was drifting in a north-easterly direction towards Exmouth, but the lifeboat crew were rowing into the teeth of the gale. A call went out to the Teignmouth Lifeboat, which was launched to join the rescue operation.

It proved to be a very hazardous journey with seas breaking right over the lifeboat as the crew were trying to negotiate the bar. One particularly vicious wave bowled over the coxswains and unseated all the crew. When the lifeboat finally reached open sea and approached the Tehwija she was a wreck and the cargo of planks had washed overboard, creating hazards for the lifeboat. It was impossible to get alongside the Tehwija so the lifeboat anchor was dropped and they veered down on the cable as close as they could get and threw ropes to the crew of eight, who were dragged through the surf to the lifeboat and eventually landed at Exmouth.

The captain’s Pomeranian dog was so terrified it refused to board the lifeboat, but miraculously it survived the wreck and was re-united with the captain after being found washed up on Exmouth beach.

This original 'Tehwija' mug, the ship's wheel and the Captain's testimony of events can be viewed in The Link at Exmouth Museum, along with images of the crew and the Captain's dog.

The commemorative mug was designed by Tricia Cassel-Gerard, a museum volunteer mainly focusing on design and communication.

She said: "The original design on the mug from the Tehwija (Tevia) consists of the ‘old Russian‘ text and the illustration of the traveller meeting geese being driven to market. There is a large amount of empty space which I felt could be filled by a short explanation of the story and the provenance of the mug. As part of a series of mugs available that I have designed for Exmouth Museum & Heritage Centre’s shop, I have also included the name of the Museum.

"The box contains a translation and the full story together with some information about the ship."

The commemorative mug is priced at £10 with a 10 per cent discount for three.