Thursday, March 15, 2012

Schooner John Floyd ~ 14 December 1882

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1883:

At about noon on this date the keeper of the Creeds Hill Station (6th District), near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, sighted a schooner apparently becalmed, as she had all sail set and was heading as though on the wind, although from her position he judged she must be on or very close to the outer edge of the inner shoals off the cape, four or five miles to the southeast of the station. She made no signal of distress, but after watching her closely with his glass for about three quarters of an hour he discovered that she had lowered a boat. This led him to suspect something wrong, and he at once ordered out the surf boat. The wind was light from the westward, with hazy weather. There was also quite a swell rolling in from seaward and breaking heavily on the shoals. An hour’s pull brought the life-saving crew alongside the schooner at about 2 o’clock. Sure enough she was hard and fast, the strong flood-tide toward Hatteras Inlet having set her onto the shoal.
     She was the John Floyd, of Jacksonville, FL, from New York, with a load of coal, and there were 8 persons on board, one being a passenger. The captain had already laid out a kedge in the hope of heaving the vessel off. This explained the lowering of the yawl, as seen from the station. The life saving crew lent willing assistance to the sailors at the capstan in their efforts to get the schooner afloat, but after two hours of hard heaving (4 p.m.) it was found she had not budged in the least. On the contrary, she was settled in the sand, and was then leaking badly, there being over four feet of water in the hold when the pumps were sounded, although when the life saving crew arrived she was apparently as tight as a bottle. The keeper also observed that she was breaking in two amidships, and as it was getting dark he advised the captain to leave her. The latter refused at first, saying he should stay by his vessel as long as possible. He soon changed his mid, however, when the keeper pointed out the condition of the vessel and expressed the opinion that there was no prospect of having her, and consented to her abandonment. The sails were therefore lowered and rolled up and the men told to get their baggage into the surf boat. Then, with the passenger, the mate, and the cook in the surf boat, and the captain and four seamen in the yawl, a start was made for the shore, the surf boat taking the yawl in tow.
     It was a long and dangerous pull, and as night set in before they had gone far the utmost caution was necessary. Upon nearing the beach, however, they were guided to the locality of the station by signal lights flashed by one of the station crew who had been left behind in charge of the house, and they were thus enabled to make a good landing by half past 7. As soon as the boats grated on the sand they were met by the crew of the Durant’s Station, some miles below, near Hatteras Inlet, who had come up, upon discovering the wreck at 4 o’clock, prepared to render assistance. The Creed’s Hill crew being quite tired out from their long pull of several miles with the deeply laden boat, the service of the Durant’s crew in hauling the boats up clear of the surf and assisting the shipwrecked men with their baggage to the station was very acceptable.
     On the next day the two life saving crews attempted to reach the wreck to recover some more of the crew’s effects which had been left behind, but the schooner had then settled deep in the sand, and there was nothing but her masts in sight above water, the vessel and cargo becoming a total loss. The rescued crew remained at the station for three days and then were assisted in procuring passage to their homes.
     It should be mentioned as showing the spirit which animated the men in going off to the wreck, that while the boat was being drawn down to the surf on its carriage one of the surfmen (A.B. Midgett) at the drag rope stumbled and fell, the wheels of the carriage passing over one of his legs. He told his comrades not to wait for him, that he would overtake them. He was as good as his word, for by the time the boat was ready to launch he came up nearly out of breath and took his place at the oar, as though nothing had happened. When, however, the people were safely landed and the excitement was passed, the poor fellow found he had been more hurt than he at first supposed. He was laid up, unfit for duty, for several days by it.

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