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The Thelma


April 4, 1927

Thelma Rammed and Sunk Out South
Local Seiner Struck by Railroad Tug During Heavy Fog Saturday
Capt. Welch and Crew Saved

The Pennsylvania railroad’s tug Salibsury, towing a railroad barge containing 33 cars and feeling her way slowly through a heavy fog early Saturday morning, crashed into the local mackerel seiner Thelma, a week out of port, commanded by Capt. Martin L. Welch on International racing fame, sending the latter to bottom in 10 fathoms of water. The crew barely had time to escape before the waters closed over their craft. One man, John Brennan, was injured, but just how badly cannot be learned at this time.

The Thelma was one of the local mackerel seiners cruising along the Virginia Cape in search of mackerel, and the collision which occurred off Norfolk, near Old Point Comfort, came after the craft had felt her way into harbor to anchor for the night in a heavy fog.

Capt. Welch was on deck at the time, when suddenly there loomed in front of him a large towboat, headed slowly but surely for the craft. Capt. Welch shouted all hands on deck and there was a mad scramble form those below to reach the deck before the steamer went down. The captain of the towboat swung his wheel hard and fast down, and the tug cleared the fisherman, but the barge behind hit her just forward of the forward rigging, ripping her open like a can opener. The anchor chain parted and the Thelma driven from four fathoms of water out into about 10 fathoms of water, where she sank.

Immediately the tug stopped and the men from the Thelma were taken on board uninjured except Brennan. Not a stitch of clothing was saved, and none of the men had as much as a nickel in their pockets when they landed on the deck of the tug. The railroad took care of them, however, and saw that they didn’t want for anything, and arranged for their transportation to this city, where they arrived this morning.

The Thelma was launched in Essex in 1913, was 53 tons gross, 25 tons net, and 70 feet long. She was equipped with a 60 horsepower engine and valued at around $25,500. She was owned by Capt. Welch. It is understood that she is partially covered by insurance.


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