Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Old ship news now new!

In their January 2009 issue (page 28), Maine Coastal News has compiled an interesting rundown of maritime history in the form of various articles on ship affairs from newspapers around the turn of the century. I found out about the article when a member of the Maritime Maine group on Yahoo was kind enough to post them.

Those interested in maritime matters in general will likely enjoy Maine Coastal News, which is presented in an appealing online format that is very easy to use. Check it out!

To tantalize you, here are some tidbits from the article, including delightful and mysterious boat names (Little Buttercup! Annie Gus!) and place names like Gingerbread Shoal, which sounds like it is a lot less friendly in reality than its name implies. There are tales of derring-do, dynamite, and wild seas, one narrated by "the King of Seal Island," as well as small moments in which boats are christened with flowers. Please also notice in this sample, and in the article at large (which is very extensive), wonderful names for things which few remember today, such as donkey engines, catboats, and sneak boxes.
The following was compiled from the Bangor Daily Commercial.

9 April – The steamer MARJORIE was launched at Hunnewell’s dock in Brewer just before noon. She was then taken to Rollin’s wharf where the remaining work will be completed. She is owned by Captain Benjamin Arey and Captain George Arey and will be used on the route between Bangor and Penobscot. She will be replacing the LITTLE BUTTERCUP, which ran this route for years.

7 December – The Harrington three-masted schooner E. I. WHITE, Captain Mitchell, wrecked on Gingerbread Shoal and became a total loss. Two crew members were drowned. The E. I. WHITE had departed Philadelphia on 26 November. The 410-ton E. I. WHITE was built at Harrington in 1895 and was owned by E. I. White.

7 January – It was thought that the schooner ANNIE GUS, Captain French, had foundered with all hands. She departed Boston for Portland in ballast and is thought to have gone down in the gale last week. Several vessels left Boston and sailed to Portland since and have not seen the schooner. It was also reported that she had not gone into any coastal port. The only hope was that she was blown out to sea. The 94-ton ANNIE GUS was built in 1871. She carried a crew of two, who were believed to be from Perry.

10 January – The four tugs breaking ice on the Penobscot River, RALPH ROSS, BISMARCK, ADELIA and SEGUIN, have retired to Bucksport. They will return the following day to try and open up a channel above Hampden. Cyrus N. Stackpole tried to clear some of the ice using dynamite. Without the assistance of the tugs, he felt that the dynamite did not have the effected results.

21 June – There was a report this day that the mosquito fleet was a growing past-time along the Penobscot River, with most yachts belonging to the Conduskeag Canoe Club. A new type of boat for the river was the Swampscott Dory, which was light, fast and shoal draft. They can either be sailed or rowed and are very easy to handle. Other boats on the river include the 21-foot sloop JEWEL, owned by H. O.
Miller. He also owns a 30-footer on the waterline. The Admiral of the river was Alpheus C. Lyon, who owned two sloops, a catboat, a rowboat and a flatiron. The GOLD ROD is the biggest vessel and she was owned by Freeland Jones. She was worked on all last winter by Captain Charles W. Veazie and is in the best shape ever.

Another major yachtsman of the river was W. C. Bryant, who owned the NORSEMAN. He also owns a 21-footer built by Thatcher. There was a Barnegat sneak box, which was owned by Harry B. Wyman. She is similar to a flatiron and leave all competitors in her shadow. There are several catboats. One is the NICOLETTE, owned by the son of Captain Edwin G. Hutchinson. The Barbour yard was said to be building a cruising yawl for a Bangor customer. She will be 45 feet length overall. They hope to have her completed in August. Another boat under construction is a power boat for the president of the Eastern Manufacturing Company, Fred W. Ayer, where she is being built.

2 July – The first iron bark ever to call at the port of Bangor, the Italian TERESITA, was lying at High Head. She was loading shooks for T. J. Stewart Company for the Mediterranean.

19 August – The schooner ALICE M. DAVENPORT, which was wrecked off Seal Island ledges a week ago, was raised using pontoons. However the pontoons failed and she immediately sank again in 120 feet of water.

The ‘King of Seal Island’ Captain W. F. Hill said, “Monday night about 6:15, we were snug in my camp on Seal Island. There were seven of my men, my wife and myself. It was so thick outside that one could not see five yards ahead. Suddenly my four watch dogs began to bark and we knew that there was trouble near the ledges. We all ran out and going to what we call Myrrh Cove, could just discern the bowsprit of a vessel sticking up over the ledges. We could hear excited cries aboard and jumped into our dories and pulled out. We found a three-masted schooner fast on the ledges, her stern awash and with a bad list to port.

"It was so dark that we couldn’t see, but could hear the crew shouting on deck. We cried out to them and we could hear a woman’s voice asking that she be taken off. There was a heavy sea on and we had difficulty in keeping the dories by the vessel. I boarded the schooner, which proved to be the ALICE M. DAVENPORT, and found the crew the most excited set of men I have ever seen in my life. The woman proved to be Miss McKown, the daughter of the captain, and I consented to take her ashore. The vessel was not over 100 yards from the island. Miss McKown was lowered into the dory and was rowed ashore. They didn’t know where they were and reckoned that it must be Isle au Haut.

“The first inquiry of the young lady was: ‘Is there a woman on this island?’ and I assured her by introducing her to my wife. Such an affecting scene between two women I’ve never seen in my whole existence and her joy of finding one of her own sex on such a barren island in the Atlantic knew no bounds. Then we set about rescuing the belongings of the captain and crew and brought everything ashore that wasn’t screwed down. We got ashore all of the provisions and furniture. Then came such a deluge of rain as if the heaven had opened its flood gates upon us.

“The DAVENPORT began to pound on the rocks and almost turned turtle. We ran a line ashore and made her fast and the crew and Captain McKown came to my camp. I don’t exactly own a hotel, but we had 21 people in our camp that night and I stowed them away as best I could.

“Poor old Captain McKown broke down and cried like a child when he met his daughter in the camp. He had $5,000 in the DAVENPORT, with $2,000 insurance. He had set his whole heart on this vessel and loved her as a father would his child. He could not account for the accident except that the schooner had gotten away from him. She was new and he was unused to her. He had sailed side by side for miles that day with a son on another schooner, and had lost track of him.

“The next day Captain McKown set out in his launch for Vinalhaven, to notify the owners of the disaster and I was put in charge. Going away he gave me his revolver and I was placed in charge of the DAVENPORT. It was not long before a fleet of five or six sloops were seen coming up from Long Island with an unusual number of men on them. They drew up alongside the DAVENPORT and the men began to clamber up the sides to the deck, in order to loot the vessel I suppose.

“Get back there,’ I shouted. Don’t put a foot on the deck of this vessel.’ Save for the first mate, who was below, I was alone. They didn’t heed my warning and one of them had his hands on the rail ready to spring over, when I drew my revolver and pointing it at him said, ‘if you put your foot over that rail you are a dead man.’ and I’d shoot too.’ The revolver did the business and they went back into their boats, and finally seeing that I meant business sailed for home.”

[Source, see page 28]
Interested parties can contact the Maine Coastal News in a number of ways:
Jon B. Johansen, Publisher
Maine Coastal News
P.O. Box 710
Winterport, Maine 04496
(207) 223-8846

For those who are curious about the fate of the Annie Gus, I found a New York Times article reporting on the incident:
SCHOONER ON A ROCK.; Captain and Crew of the Annie Gus Escape to Great Wass Island.
April 3, 1905, Monday -- Page 1, 372 words

JONESPORT, Me., April 2. -- The little coasting schooner Annie Gus, commanded by Capt. Charles Berry of Machiasport, which left Calais on Friday with a cargo of lumber for Providence, met a heavy northwesterly gale off Moose Peak Light to-day and in running into Mud Hole Channel for a harbor struck on Freeman's Rock and will probably prove a total loss.

It is reported that her captain and crew of three men, who were also from Machiasport, reached Great Wass Island in safety in their own boat after a hard row of two miles against the wind.

I suppose that sort of thing is bound to happen in Mud Hole Channel!

So far as Gingerbread Shoal goes, the wreck of the E.I. White was not the first for this crunchy crag. An 1880 New York Times article describes its location as part of an account of another wreck, that of the steamship Edmonton: "This dangerous shoal lies about 35 miles to the southward of Great Bahama Island." [Source]

Curious about what exactly a Barnegat sneak box is? Look no further! There is an extensive and well-illustrated webpage about the boat type here, run by a man who admits that "this page is not an authoritative reference for the sneak box boat. This web page author has never even seen one. He has no plans to build one--although he has heard of plans, he has never seen plans either. There is no point in sending e-mail with any technical requests. This page simply lists some online resources you may find of further interest." Honesty is the best policy. The site includes a link to the remarkable Four Months in a Sneak-box: A boat voyage of 2600 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and along the Gulf of Mexico, by N. H. Bishop, 1879, presented in HTML with scans of the book's original illustrations.

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