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An Awful Gale

 

October 1900

Vessel Was Hove Down and Destruction Threatened

"A close call for vessel and all hands," is the report of Capt. Alex McEachern of sch.Maggie and May, which arrived from a Bank cod trip this morning.

The captain's remark had reference to an experience in the heavy gale of October 11. The vessel at the time was anchored on the northern part of Quero Bank and the crew were busy making hauls to complete the trip. The wind breezed up form the southeast in the forenoon, and at 10 o'clock a strong gale was blowing, accompanied by a heavy sea.

Two hundred fathoms of cable were put out and every thing movable about deck put below and the hatches battered down, and with the wind blowing so that the vessels would clear Sable island if she should go adrift and every thing ship-shape above and below, everybody felt easy, and all went below except the watch John Doucette and Leo Clemming.

The wind was all the time gaining in force, and was blowing with such fury as to pick the water right up, making it impossible to see over 15 feet away. The trysail had been taken in and stowed below to save it from blowing to pieces, and under bare poles the schooner tugged at her anchor and pitched into the heavy seas which every now and then threatened to engulf her.

Suddenly one huge wave rose like a green wall and came hissing toward the vessel, striking her on the port side about amidships, and heaving her down so that she lay with her side all under water.

All hands rushed on deck to find that both Clemming and Doucette had been washed overboard by the sea, but both were powerful swimmers and were soon back aboard the vessel.

The cable did not part when the vessel was hove down, and she did not come back, but lie on her side like a wounded duck. The trysail was again put on her , but this had no effect and the situation was most serious. Capt. McEachern had one of the crew stationed forward with an axe to be ready for an emergency, should some vessel be discovered drifting down on them.

Soon Capt. McEachern, who was standing aft, saw another big wave coming which he knew would strike the disabled craft. He realized that if it did, it was all over the crew and vessel. Quickly he raised his hand and gave the sign, at the same time reversing the wheel, while the sturdy fellow forward, in obedience to the signal, cut the cable. Then the vessel righted and was wore round and all was safe.

Shortly after 5 o'clock the gale began to abate and the vessel suffered no farther accident. An examination below showed how far the vessel wend down. Forward and aft the clothing in windward berths was all hove across into the leeward bunks. The salt, which was under the forecastle floor, burst the trap door open and part of it lodged on the upper lee shelves where the cook kept his stores. The kenches of fish in the hold were also every one shifted.

On deck the dories had been tossed about. One nest was found up against the fore gaff, while the other nest had twisted its gripes and turned completely over topside up.

Capt. McEachern says the gale was as hard as he ever experienced. Among his crew are men who have engaged every winter for years in the West Indies and Porto Rico trade, and they say it was the heaviest wind they ever felt, being cyclonic in force and resembling a southern storm in its violence.

 

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