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The Patara

 

September 24, 1932

Look For Local Craft Three Weeks From Labrador

Sch. Patara, Capt. Matt Critchell, of this port, laden with fish and a hundred barrels of cod oil, is overdue, although her owners say that the situation is not unusual, on account of the recent storms.

Wreckage of a dory known to have been carried by the Patara, was found off Drum Head, N. S., giving rise to reports that the schooner had been wrecked.

The craft left Labrador three weeks ago.   It is chiefly because of the presence of the oil that Capt. Ben Pine, part owner of the craft, believed the craft safe.  "She is one of three last New England fishing schooners depending on canvas alone, " he said., "and recent winds have not been favorable to a fast passage.  We know that she covered at least half the distance home and that would mean she was becoming lighter all the time, as brine from the salted fish was being pumped overboard.  Also, she had two recent spells of heavy weather, and if she did encounter heavy going, her skipper had only to open a barrel of oil to abate the seas.

"If the Patara had foundered the barrels would have broken up and the oil spread all along the coast and some one would have reported it.  The Patara was well bound.   She was re-rigged and caulked before she sailed for Labrador and she was wearing a new suit of sails.  I am not giving her up."

October 7, 1932

Give Up Overdue Sch. Patara As Lost
Craft with Six Men and Boy Believed To Have Perished in Gale
No Trace of Wreckage

Overdue a month today, the local freighting schooner Patara, largest two-master on this coast, has been officially give up as "lost" by Capt. Ben Pine of the Atlantic Supply company, from which firm the vessel sailed.  She carried a crew of six men and a youngster from California, here on a vacation, and making his first trip to sea.

On August 13, in command of Capt. Matthew L. Critchell of Dorchester, the Patara sailed form this port for Labrador coast to load salt fish and cod liver oil.  Her destination was Domino Run, and at that port, she took on board 700,000 pounds of salt fish and 105 barrels of cod oil.  She left Domino Run on September 3, headed for home, but was forced into Long Point, Quebec, and left that port on September 7.

From then on, no one knows what happened, for she simply seemed to sail straight into the atmosphere and disappear.  No portion of her cargo or broken oil barrels have been found, and the only definite evidence that the owners have that she went down was the finding of a dory from the L. A. Dunton, which was carried on the Patara's deck, off Drum Head, Nova Scotia.

Reports have reached here from Halifax recently that the master of the British steamer Hazelwood had passed a wooden superstructure of a schooner off of Southern Labrador, and this is in Capt. Pine's mind, the location where she would have been.

How the Patara went to her doom no one knows, and no one probably will know, for there is not the slightest possibility that the crew were picked up, for had they been, their whereabouts would be known by now.

Just before the Patara sailed on her last voyage, a youngster named Arthur Schmidt, 18 years old, asked permission to sail on the schooner.  He told Capt. Pine that he was on a vacation, and his home was in San Francisco, and this is verified by the fact that Capt. Pine has received a telegram from the boy's mother, asking if he had sailed on the schooner.  Capt. Pine wired back that he had sailed on the Patara as a "guest."

The Patara was one of the very few remaining schooners which depended wholly on sail.  She was built about 10 years ago in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and was used first in the fisheries and then for rum-running.  As a rum runner, she was apprehended by the Coast Guard and taken to New York, where she was sold and purchased by the Atlantic Supply company, and later brought here and sent salt fishing.

For about a year, however, she has been tied up at the wharf of the John Chisholm Fisheries company, and early in August was put on the railways, her seams caulked and made sea-worthy.

Capt. Matthew Critchell signed on five men before he left here, all of whom gave their residences in this city, except Schmidt, the boy passenger, and William Delaney, who claimed Waltham as his home.

The crew list, as registered at the Custom House, is as follows:

Capt. Matthew L. Critchell, Dorchester
James F. Hallett, Gloucester
Francis Lloyd, a native of Maine, but rooming in Gloucester
John Rose, Gloucester
William Delaney, Waltham
Philip Mason, Gloucester
Arthur Schmidt, San Francisco, California.

The Patara, aside from her cargo of fish and oil, was valued at $12,000, and was partially covered by insurance.


Additional information provided September 1999 by James Johnson.

The Loss of the schooner Patara

Many of us are intrigued, yes, fascinated by stories of the sea...the joys the sorrows, even tragedies. This event which occurred off Drum Head in September of 1932 is a story of loss, by the sinking of the schooner Patara and her crew. In spite of this terrible tragedy, the resilience of the human spirit prevails.

During a recent visit to Port Bickerton I was given the name of a vessel and a few facts about this ship. In an effort to find out more I started searching for information which eventually led me to Blue Rocks in Lunenburg and Gloucester in Massachusetts.

The schooner Patara was built in Mahone Bay in 1921, owned by Ernst Shipping Company of that Town. She was typical of a Lunenburg County vessel, well founded and well built. She was 132.8 feet long and weighed 180 gross tons.

She was pressed into the saltfish trade, and as all Lunenburg vessels of that time, was soon fishing on the Grand Banks. Little is know about her success or failures but as time passed we discover that the Patara was soon engaged in running rum and illicit alcohol from St. Pierre to the U.S. Atlantic East Coast. Prohibition was at its peak and fortunes could be made if one could successfully land spirits on the coast without being apprehended by the US authorities. Alas, the fate of the Patara was sealed after she was seized by the US Coast Guard. Towed to New York she was sold to Atlantic Supply Company.

Gloucester became her home port and under the stewardship of Captain Ben Pine she was once again in the saltfish and cod liver trade. Her voyages would take her to Labrador for fish and many barrels of cod livers which were destined for the markets of New England.

In 1932 while under the command of Captain Matthew Critchley, originally from Belleoram in Newfoundland, she sailed from Labrador loaded with fish and cod livers. Bad weather forced Captain Critchley to put into Long Point, Quebec to wait out a storm. Accompanied by another schooner they departed the St. Lawrence passing through the Straits of Canso. Again bad weather hampered their passage but Captain Critchley pressed on.

The Patara completely disappeared , although a dory bearing the name "L.A. Dunton" was found off Drum Head along with some barrels of cod livers. The dory was know to have been carried by the Patara. Sixteen men went down with that schooner, mostly Maritimers. Captain Critchley left a wife and family in Bucksport.

I recently enjoyed a visit with Jean Critchley Clothier, the youngest of Captain Critchley's daughters, a lady now in her 70th year. She visited Drum Head and gazed over the ocean from a commanding viewpoint... trying to make sense of her loss, some sixty six years ago.

She discussed with me at length the hardships she and her family experienced with the loss of their father. Her mother... in later years told Jean that on the day she was advised of the loss of the Patara, she had 10 cents in her pocket.

The strength of the human spirit knows no bounds... the passage of time heals the wounds but the search for meaning continues in our lives.

Jean Critchley Clothier returned to Canada after many years living in the US, residing in Murphy's Cove, Halifax County, she continues to piece together the events of so long ago.

 

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