Out of Gloucester


Monday, April 5, 1943

Three Perish When Netter Foundered
Dragger Picks Up Body Giving First Inkling of Tragedy

Grim indication of a sea tragedy costing the lives of three Gloucester gill net fishermen and their 40-foot auxiliary deck boat, the Idle Hour, came to light yesterday when the local dragger Famiglia, Capt. Salvatore Passonini, Boston, arrived at the Producers' Fish company wharf here about 2.45 o'clock in the afternoon with the body of 33-year-old Herbert P. Wennerberg, married, two young daughters.

The missing boat on which Wennerberg was a crew member, had as owner, Everett W. Staten, 30 years, married, two little children and also Manuel Viator, 18 years.  There was no sign of the missing boat or the two other crew members.  The Famiglia picked up the body of Wennerberg on Middle Bank, 17 miles southeast of Eastern Point.

The last seen of the Idle Hour was early Saturday morning when she cleared the Coast Guard patrol at the entrance to Annisquam river.   The Idle Hour, built in Kennybunkport, Maine in 1933 for John D. Gillis, local barber, left the Jordan wharf where she docked at 5 o'clock Saturday morning, bound for Ipswich bay, nine miles north northeast of Annisquam light, where she had set her nets last Thursday.  She went there Friday to lift, but it was too thick for her to find the nets.  It was her first set of the spring season.

Capt. Passonini of the Famiglia left yesterday morning for the redfishing grounds.  About noon, her crew sighted the body in the water.  The body, which had turned purple from the zero water, had a life preserver secured around the body, a half gallon Thermos jug of water secured by a line around the neck, and a gill net buoy lashed about it.  Nearby were floating three gill net boxes.  The Idle Hour had nine boxes of gill nets.   Wennerberg had evidently been dead since sometime Saturday. Dr. Ira B. Hull who viewed the body said death was due to drowning.

The fate of the Idle Hour remained a mystery up to noon today.  There was slight hope that a passing craft may have picked up Staten or Viator or both, but the hope was a very slim one.

Her former owner, Capt. John Leveille of the gill netter Nomore, said he believed that the boat could not have been swamped.  He said she had a V-bottom, was a deck boat, and had stood many a strong sea while he had her.  He voiced as his opinion that the boat had either caught fire, or that she had been going at full speed through a heavy sea and pounded out her bottom.  The Idle Hour had a Chrysler auto engine for power.  Capt. Leveille reported that there was a 40-mile-an-hour north northwest wind and this may have proved too much for the boat.  He sold the boat to Staten, his brother-in-law, last summer.

It was apparent that Wennerberg's body had been carried by wind and tide from the area where the boat had been fishing to where the body was found by the FamigliaWennerberg and Staten were partners in gill netting and had looked forward to a profitable spring, with fresh fish high in price.  Right now the gill netters are getting fair amounts of large cod in the bay.  Cod is selling upwards of 12 cents a pound.

It was a shock to the families of the three men, although they clung to hope that they might turn up alive.  The arrival of the Famiglia soon brought a throng to the Producers Fish company wharf.  The Coast Guard were summoned by Capt. Benjamin Curcuru, manager of the firm.  He also notified the local police, Officer Earle C. Reed was dispatched to the wharf by Sargt. Marshall R. Mcdonald, who then sent the cruising car with Officers Edwards Hinckley and John W. Stack to investigate.  After Dr. Hull's arrival, the body was removed by Undertaker Harold S. Pike.

For the Wennerbergs, it was an especially sad event, for it was the second time in 14 years that the sea has claimed one of the family.  On November 16, 1929, 17-year-old Carl Wennerberg, son of John Wennerberg and brother to the late Herbert Wennerberg, took a voyage on the local mackerel netter Naomi Bruce III, Capt. Oliver "Cy" Tysver, only as a passenger.  While at sea, jogging, Carl and another young man decided to take a dory to see if there were any mackerel in the nets.  In some manner, the boat capsized and both men were drowned.  Edward Wennerberg, his brother, was on the netter and yesterday afternoon, it was Edward Wennerberg who identified his brother's body.

The tragedy recalled the fate of the gill netter Virginia and Joan II, Capt. Austin Wonson, back on Armistice day, 1936, when Capt. Wonson and five others were all lost with the netter as the latter was inbound with a load of pollock. 

The late Herbert P. Wennerberg was born in this city, May 18, 1909, the son of John H. and the late Nellie (Saunders) Wennerberg.  He married Lillian M. Grant who survives him, together with his father, two daughters, Marcia Ann and Lola Mildred; a brother Edward of Ipswich; and three sisters.

[Everett W. Staten and Manuel Viator were eventually given up as lost as well.]


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