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The Mary Alice


February 27, 1952

Another Dragger Sinks
Three Fishermen Saved Northeast of Thacher’s
Mary Alice Sprang A Leak Following Fire—
Men Rescued by St. Francis

Three Gloucester fishermen forced to take to their dory after their 48-foot auxiliary fishing dragger Mary Alice had filled and sunk, six miles northeast of Thacher’s, Rockport, about 8 o’clock last night, were rescued an hour or so later by the 70-foot auxiliary fishing dragger St. Francis whose crew was attracted to the survivors by the rays from a flashlight held by the sunken boat’s owner-skipper, Capt. John M. Francis, Jr., 38, of Gloucester.

Capt. Francis’ crew included his son, John M. Francis 3rd, 18 and Frederick R. Sheehan, 52. The trio were landed at the State Fish pier in this port at 10.45 o’clock last night by the St. Francis whose skipper is Capt. Tony Bertolino. Capt. Francis estimated the loss at $17,000 partially covered by insurance.

Capt. Francis, who has been skipper of much larger fishing draggers and who plans to return to them as skipper, bought the Mary Alice last July from parties in Point Judith, R. I. They were shore dragging, and left early yesterday morning for the fishing grounds off Thacher’s.

They had some 700 pounds groundfish aboard when about 4.30 o’clock, there was a short circuit in the wiring, causing a flash fire. It looked serious for a moment, and the skipper ordered the crew into the dory. However, no real fire resulted, and the skipper got aboard again and took care of it, and the others returned aboard.

They were proceeding along, towing the drag for fishing when about 5 o’clock, the skipper said, "The dragger slowed down suddenly and rumbled like everything. We must have struck something submerged but when she came out of it all right, I didn’t give it any more thought. Somewhat later, Sheehan went down into the engine room and saw a lot of water there. He reported to me right away and we manned the pump. Whatever struck us, must have forced a leak through the outside stuffing box around the wheel. Then the pump went out of kelter and while we were making repairs to it, the incoming water got ahead of us. That was close to 8 o’clock. Our only chance was to get into the dory again and we did. The Mary Alice sank within a minute or so afterward. She went down mighty quick.

"The only thing I was able to get off the Mary Alice was a flashlight and I kept this on, flashing it in every direction in an effort to attract help. We must have been in that dory at least an hour - it seemed like ages, when the St. Francis came down by us, bound for Boston with a trip of fish. They had seen the rays of the flashlight. But for that, we would have spent the night out there."

Meanwhile, news of their plight was radioed into Boston division of U.S. coast Guard by the St. Francis, and a party in New York picking up the message on the short wave, telephoned to the skipper’s wife in this city that the three men were rescued. It was the first news she had that anything was amiss. However, her anxiety was not relieved until she learned that the three men were landed at the State Fish pier.

Capt. Francis said he had bought the boat primarily to help teach his son how to fish and to have a boat for him to help him make a living. He himself had planned later to return to the offshore draggers.


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