Sunday, February 12, 2012

Schooner Mary L. Vankirk ~ 5 February 1882

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882:

The schooner Mary L. Vankirk, of Philadelphia, PA, to which port she was bound from South Creek, Pamlico Sound, NC, with a cargo of pine lumber and carrying a crew of 5 men, encountered heavy weather during the trip, and lost sails and sprung a leak, so that before long she became water-logged and almost unmanageable. In this condition it was determined to run to leeward and seek refuge in Hatteras Inlet. Before that point could be reached, however, matters became so much worse that it was decided to beach the vessel to save the lives of those on board, her crew being apprehensive of her capsizing at any moment. She was discovered heading for the land by the crew of Station No. 18 (6th district), Chicamicomico, North Carolina, with her colors in the rigging, union down, at about seven in the morning (February 5). The surf boat was at once run out on its carriage for service, but the life saving crew finding there was little prospect of getting off to the vessel against the heavy surf then tumbling in upon the beach, returned to the station for the breeches buoy apparatus, the latter arriving abreast of the schooner at a quarter past eight, fifteen minutes after she struck the bar about half a mile north of the station. The schooner came so close in that the keeper was able, by wading out into the water, waist deep, to cast a heaving line to the people who were huddled together in te rigging. The sea at that time was breaking all over the ill-fated craft, and the situation was critical.
     As quickly as possible the men in the rigging hauled off the whip line, and that being followed by the hawser, the breeches buoy was soon rigged and went spinning out to the vessel. From that onward the work was comparatively easy, the 5 men being safely landed within 15 minutes after the hawser was set up; all being profoundly thankful for their escape. It was extremely fortunate that the tide was high, the vessel coming in over the bar and much nearer the beach than would have been the case with the receding tide. The rescued men were conducted at once to the station and made comfortable, the life saving crew going on board at low water and saving their effects. From the time the men arrived with the apparatus abreast of the vessel not a hitch occurred to mar the success of their operations, the entire affair being very skillfully managed. A portion of the schooner’s cargo was subsequently saved, but the vessel became a total wreck. It is due to the crew of the adjacent station north (No. 17) to state that as soon as the wreck was discovered they proceeded down the beach to the assistance of their comrades of No. 18, with all the dispatch possible, although the soft and yielding condition of the beach rendered travel so difficult that participation in the work of rescue was impossible, the sailors being snugly housed at the station long before their arrival on the ground. The captain of the vessel sent the following statement to the general superintendent, in acknowledgement of the services of the life saving crew:

FEBRUARY 5, 1882

When a little north of Winter Quarter Shoals I lost my sails and vessel sprung a lead and became unmanageable, and about 8 a.m. stranded about half a mile north of Station No. 18, when there was the promptest assistance rendered by the keeper and crew in landing me and my crew. They were abreast of the wreck in a few minutes after she struck, and in fifteen minutes after they arrived we were all safely landed on the beach and taken to the station and cared for. J.G. BALANCE, Master Schooner M. Vankirk 

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