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Bootleggers Lost at Sea

 

December 1, 1925

Tale of The Rescued Thrilling in Extreme--
Burned $355 in Bills to Keep from Freezing.

With one of her crew lying delirious on top of a small iron stove in the cabin, and the other two alternately hoping for delivery from what was apparently a slow but certain death, the 30 foot open motor boat Mary Scola, registered under the numbers 662D, was picked up about three and one half miles form the edge of Georges banks on Sunday, after having been adrift and at the mercy of a raging, pounding, wind-swept ocean for nearly a week.

That the men,Vito Lochuco, Frank Ventimiglia and George Martin, are alive today is due to the fact that they were taking a rum laden schooner 20 miles off shore, the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner, and, the ship failing to show up, the food was all that remained between them and starvation. Although only half cooked, it served to keep life in the bodies of two of them, while the third, badly frostbitten and nearly given up for dead, was kept alive by the forcible feeding of boiled salt water by his two fellow members of the trip.

A week ago yesterday, the Scola put out of the harbor for a point 40 miles off shore. The men admit they were going for a load of liquor, and had the vessel been there to deliver the stuff and the little boat loaded, perhaps this story would never have been written, for the craft would either have some back safely or sunk off of Eastern Point when she sprang a leak.

With the fixings of a Thanksgiving dinner on board and an extra piece of fresh beef thrown in the men left here about 9 o'clock and motored to where the ship was to be met. Failing to find her there they cruised around and then started for home. For six hours they beat back in a northwesterly direction, and then their troubles started. Pounding, the boat evidently strained, began to open up and take in water.

Martin by this time, unused to rough going, had succumbed to the dread of all travelers --seasickness-- and was stowed away aft in the space called the cabin, but in reality nothing more than a hole in her deck, housed over. For an hour, the two members of the crew, one with a five-gallon alcohol can with the top torn off and the other with a hand pump, tried to stop the water from filling the craft. In an hour's time the men were exhausted and they were forced to give up their efforts.

All that afternoon and night and the next morning, the little craft swept along ahead of a fresh breeze which stiffened as the day grew, and when daylight came, they were about 20 miles southeast from Highland light...... With the engine crippled by salt water and useless, the men could do nothing but make the best of it.....They ripped the bunks for fuel and over the open flames singed the turkey. For three days they subsisted on turkey and a piece of fresh beef. They had no water, yet by taking sea water and distilling it on the stove, they managed to quench their thirst a little.

.... Matches gave out, and their paper was gone, so in order to light what remained of the bunks, Martin took his $3500 in bills, dipped them one at a time and on different occasions, into gasolene, and with the bills soaked in this fluid, the men be sparking the battery, lit them and started fire in the stove. This act was repeated until nearly all of the $3500 was gone and then the men gave up...

Wednesday morning the men were pretty well exhausted, and all day they drifted seaward until dusk, when they sighted a three-masted schooner heading down upon them...Taking off their overcoats, the men saturated them with gasolene and set them on fire to attract attention....(but the schooner) steered away.

That night it was extremely cold, and with no overcoat for covering. ...During the night their boat began to creak and groan and started to split in twain. Seizing a heavy piece of three-inch line, Lochuco and Ventimiglia managed to sink it over the side and pull one end over the rail, and by putting a heavy twist to a piece of wood, they tightened the line and kept the boat from breaking apart.

Thursday they sighted a knockabout schooner bound in to market, and although they shouted and blew their whistle, the craft which was only a quarter of a mile away did not see the helpless boat, tossing on the bosom of the raging sea, for she kept on her course.

Saturday, the men sighted a beam trawler about two miles away, but their drifting boat was like a mere speck on the water and this steamer, too, passed by without seeing them

Sunday broke fair and calm and the crew of the beam trawler Ripple were making ready to set for a sweep of the bottom. The position was 123 miles from Highland light..........The pilot house had sighted the boat, and rescue, delivery from six days of torture and Hell was at hand.

Ventimiglia and Lochuco rushed to the cabin and cried to Martin, "We're saved!", but Martin, eyes open and glassy, lay motionless. His companions thought he was dead, but a heavy kick form the boot of Ventimiglia soon aroused him enough to get him on his feet. They had to hoist on board of the Ripple, for he was unable to climb the ladder lowered over the side.

Once aboard the Ripple the men were given warm food and put to bed, where they sank into a slumber, sound and solid, and the first they had had in nearly a week. The boat, its cracked and twisted bull, lashed together by the heavy rope, was cut loose. By wireless, the seam trawler Spray, sister ship of the Ripple, was communicated with Monday and the men transferred to her, on which they were carried to Boston, reaching there early this morning and coming here in an automobile of friends.

[From other articles about the missing men, I gather that cousin Frank's nickname at that time was "Twenty Mile Frank", in reference to his quick trips to "Rum Row".]

 

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