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The Marguerite

 

Tuesday, January 12, 1932

Crew of Coaster Marguerite Had Tough Experience
Oil Laden Craft, Partly Dismantled Towed in Last Night by
Gill Netter Serafina II

Battered and bruised, foremast gone, her tattered jib wrapped around her bobstay and trailing beneath her stern, the former Gloucester salt banker Marguerite, once owned by John F. Wonson of Rocky Neck but of recent years in the coastal trade out of Eastport Maine, was picked up in a bad condition 20 miles east of Thacher’s yesterday afternoon by Capt. Leroy Curtis in the gill netter Serafina II, owned by John Chiancola.

The crew of three men on the Maine packet were willing to abandon ship, but because they only had a tiny punt which could not have lived in rough seas, they were forced to take their punishment and await the arrival of some messenger of mercy. The craft was towed in here at 7.30 o’clock last night, a watch placed on board b the owner of the Serafina II. The craft is tied up at Chiancola’s wharf pending a claim for salvage.

To be adrift at the mercy of a nor’wester for many hours, in danger of being drawn under by the sinking of their craft, is not a pleasant experience for hardy seamen, but Capt. Will Hicks of Eastport, Me., Hoyt Chaney of Lubec, and Leroy Little of West Pembroke, Me., had to take it on the chin for 14 hours, hoping that their craft would not sink beneath their feet.

The Marguerite, owned by the McNichol Packing Company of Eastport, Me., left that place two weeks ago today. Bad weather caused her to seek harbor along the Maine coast, and four times she sought shelter en route to Boston. First she was forced into Matinicus, then to Rockland, Port Clyde and finally Portland. On Sunday afternoon, she left Portland on what she believed to be her last leg to Boston, 452 barrels cod off stowed beneath decks, consigned to Marden-Hill at Charlestown. She left Portland in a light easterly, but barely had she passed from sight of land than things began to happen.

The wind freshened up considerably, yet it was astern and aided the old-time salt banker on her way. The sea, however, had increased considerably also, and the craft nose-dived into breakers that sent a smother of foam flying high into her rigging, besides washing her decks repeatedly. About 11.30 o’clock in the evening, according to Capt. Hicks, the wind hauled off to the northwest and hit the craft a smashing blow that sent the freighter staggering for breath. Gamely, she came up out of the trough of the sea, shook herself free of water, and staggered on. Without warning, the fore rigging let go at the dead-eyes and with it went the headsails. The skipper and his crew managed to take in the foresail, however but the jib and jumbo were beyond rescue.

For many an hour the foremast swayed, held only by its own weight, and then, with a crash, it went by schooner’s deck, carrying with it all of the fore rigging, the head stays, and part of the windlass which had been caught in the debris. When the foremast let go, the slackening of the rigging caused the mainmast to lurch aft, and the mainboom on which the mainsail had been furled shot backward and caught in the ship’s davits. On the davits hung a power yawl which is used by all of the Maine coastal craft to tow with in calm weather and for emergency if necessary. The main boom poked a hole in the side of the yawl, ripped the davits from their fastenings and davits, boat and the small engine sank from sight.

Capt. Hicks and his men tried as best they could to clear the wreckage from the deck and succeeded fairly well for when she arrived here all of the forerigging had disappeared. Her main rigging hung slack and the mainmast wobbled back and forth like a flag in the wind, threatening at any moment to fall out of her. The shattered stump of the foremast was flush with the deck, the windlass twisted, the windlass box shattered and headsails tangled in the water beneath her forefoot.

After the spar went, Capt. Hicks took in the situation carefully, cautioned his men about remaining calm and then set to work to signal for aid. The three men facing what they believed was certain death in the heavy rollers which made a plaything of the 49-year-old craft, gritted their teeth and set to work to do what they could.

All of the okum in the craft was gathered on deck and torches made. These were lighted in the hope that some Coast Guard craft would sight the burning flares and steam down to the rescue. But no boat came and the night wore on into the early hours of yesterday morning. A quilt, then a blanket, then a mattress were brought up on deck, soaked with kerosene and set on fire, but even these did not attract attention.

At daybreak, the signals were still burning, clouds of black smoke being drawn skyward in the nor’west wind. Capt. Hicks then broke open a barrel of the cod oil and set part of this on fire and it was this, evidently, that Capt. Curtis of the Serafina II saw as he looked out of the pilot house of the gill netter. The rest of the oil was thrown over the rail in an effort to flatten the water, but it was so thick that it had little effect.

Capt. Curtis saw the smoke of the derelict and started for it. The going was tough, but Serafina II made the distance in fairly good time considering the rough weather. When the gill netter bore down on the Maine boat, Capt. Curtis spoke her and the men begged to be taken off. They had packed their suitcases and gunnage bags, and piled them on deck, but feared to take to the small boat because three men could not possibly have entered it in hopes of escaping, and it surely would have capsized with the load.

Because it was so rough, Capt. Curtis did not dare to go alongside to take the men off, only an extreme emergency, but he made a tow line fast, 200 fathoms of heavy line, and started to tow the Marguerite to port. The heavy hawser parted under the strain and much time was lost in getting another line on board. The second line held, and at a rate not over three miles an hour, the Serafina II towed her prize. Had the gill netter not been a staunch craft, she never would have accomplished the task for the Marguerite was deep in the water.

Capt. Hicks told a reporter this morning that he though his time had come. When the rigging went the strain of the mast opened up a leak and every time the mast rolled the craft would leak faster. When the spar finally did let go, the leak eased up a bit and there was at that time, no danger of the craft sinking. But, with the Marguerite being tossed around beyond control of her rudder, wave after wave would break over her stern and rush forward, which made it extremely dangerous for Capt. Hicks and his crew.

"We had to stay on board," he said, "for as much as we wanted to leave her, we had no way to go. The only boat left was a small punt, and it wouldn’t hold three men. We all felt sure that we were goners, but what could you do? There was nothing to do but stay there, and pray that something would turn up, and when the Gloucester boat came down form astern of us, we were a mighty tickled gang, I’ll tell you."

It was indeed fortunate for Capt. Hicks that he was picked up by the gill netter, for she was the only one of the fleet fishing yesterday and the story might have been a different one today.

The vessel is being held at the Chiancola wharf pending a settlement for a salvage claim, entered by the owner of the Serafina II.

 

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