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The Dorcas


Friday, August 29, 1924

Skipper Swept To Death In Tuesday’s Big Gale

Capt. Joseph F. Silveira of Sch. Dorcas Perished
When Storm Hit Craft on Georges
Three of Crew Washed Overboard
But Wave Hurled Them Back Again—
Craft Cleaned from Stem To Stern—
Towed In Here by the Funchal

The swordfishing sch. Dorcas, torn by the fury of seas and gale of Tuesday’s storm, her captain lost, and a helpless hulk with masts, dories, rails and all loose gear swept into the sea, arrived here shortly after 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon in tow of the Provincetown sch. Funchal, Capt. Louis Sears. She was a picture of desolation and tragedy with the stars and stripes at half mast on an improvised pole lashed to the stump of the mainmast for Captain Joseph F. Silveira who was swept overboard and drowned when the giant waves and terrible gale hit and devastated the little vessel shortly before noon on Tuesday.

The surviving members of the crew, eight in number, one of them the brother of the unfortunate skipper, brought back the story of being hove down, the fearful tale of how they had been buffeted abut by sea and wind, of the battle with the elements for their very existence from noon on Tuesday until 2 o’clock on Wednesday morning when the Funchal came upon the helpless Dorcas, passed a line and started for Gloucester, more than 150 miles away.

Not yet fully recovered from the effects of the tragedy which robbed him of his brother, Sebastian J. Silveira a member of the Dorcas crew, sitting on the cabin house surrounded by curious ones attracted to the scene of the wreck by news which quickly spread throughout the city, told of how the vessel was made a floating derelict, unmanageable because of loss of steering power and swept as clean as though a broom had been faced across her deck. "The worst of it is, " said the man, "is that I’ve got to break the news to my brother’s wife and children."

Last Tuesday morning the craft fishing on the southwest part of Georges banks, in company with the sch. Funchal, was warned of the storm by a falling glass which gave no rise to great apprehension of any extraordinary blow. Many times the crew had seen the steel hand of the barometer perform the same stunt, so they thought little of it. Determined not to take any chances, however, the skipper , after the storm had hit upon them, gently at first around 7 o’clock in the morning, ordered the craft under shortened sail. A riding sail and jumbo were hoisted but all other canvass was taken in.

Around 10 o’clock the storm had become a veritable hurricane, so the only thing to do was turn to and face it. With motor going, sails bellying in the wind, the little craft held her own. Then, around 12 o’clock the unexpected occurred. Capt. Silveira was sitting on the wheel box, guiding the nose of the Dorcas into the mouth of it, keeping her on a course.

Joseph Brown of East Boston, Domingoes Nunes and Joseph Merico were standing on the cabin house, hugging the main boom for safety. Others of the crew were about the deck or below forward. Suddenly, and without warning, the Dorcas settled her stern in the trough of a heavy sea, she staggered, seemed to rise a bit and then a deluge of water breaking from a white crested wave mountain high, crashed down upon the little swordfisherman and she was hove down on her beam ends.

Brown and his three companions were hurled into the sea as the heavy wall of water ripped the mainboom and gaff from their crotch and hurled them seaward. The men went with the boom and gaff. They were swept away from the schooner, but, as has happened in similar instances of a like nature, the same wave, or rather the backwash which carried them overboard, washed them back on deck. They groped and half swam around in the water, blinded and stunned by the impact reached and clasped a rope and finally regained their feet. They climbed onto the port rail of the schooner, her starboard rail and both spars being under water.

Chopping away the rigging, and throwing over the sails, the men fought like demons to save themselves. One looked for the skipper and he could not be found. No one had time then to ask questions, for they were engaged in battling a howling hurricane to save themselves from death. How or when he went, no one knew. He was last seen by his men as he sat on the wheel box, the spokes of the wheel grimly between hands that were used to navigation, and had sailed over the spot where the accident occurred innumerable times. No one heard an outcry. Perhaps they wouldn’t anyway, for the wind howled fearfully and the rain beat down in torrents.

Hardly ever has a fishing schooner come into Gloucester in such a battered condition as has the little swordfisherman yesterday, her half-masted colors hanging limply from the pole. The Dorcas had everything stripped from her. Hew bowsprit was snapped off close to her stem, and the only rigging left on her were two foremast stays. It is said by those intimately associated with the drowned captain that he always had a feeling that sometime or other, the sea would claim him as its victim.

The surviving members of the crew are Tony J. Rose, engineer, Gloucester; Joseph Souza, cook, Gloucester; Sebastian J. Silveira, East Cambridge; Joseph Silva, Gloucester; Domingoes Nunes, Gloucester; and Joseph Brown, East Boston.

[On September 9, 1924, the surviving crewmen attended a memorial mass clad in their oilskins, sou'westers and rubber boots, in compliance with a promise made while in the throes of the hurricane.]


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