Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Schooner Mercy T. Trundy ~ 24 April 1882

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

The schooner Mercy T. Trundy, of Calais, ME, bound from Philadelphia, PA, to Wilmington, NC, with a cargo of railroad iron, and carrying a crew of 6 men, ran ashore on Frying Pan Shoals, Cape Fear, NC, at half past four in the morning, during prevalence of thick weather, the captain having mistaken his position in supposing he was outside the Frying Pan Shoals light-ship, as in the case of the Minnie, wrecked a few days previous on the same shoals. The schooner was discovered soon after daylight by the patrol from Station No. 25 (6th District), 8 miles distant (Smith’s Island), and as quickly as possible the life saving crew put off to her. With a favoring wind from the north they made good progress, and when about halfway out to the schooner spoke the tug Italian, bound in, which reported passing the wreck, and that the crew were still on board with a signal of distress flying. The vessel was reached at 8 o’clock. She lay, as the keeper described it in his report, in a bed of breakers, with the seas dashing completely over her, and there was no one on board. It was evident that the crew had either been washed away, or that they had sought refuge in their boat, the absence of the latter from its davits creating this presumption. The schooner had commenced breaking up, and as nothing could be done in way of salvage, and they had about all they could do to prevent their boat from swamping in the heavy sea, it was resolved to turn back and keep a sharp lookout for the missing crew.
     Upon heading about, the wind was full in their teeth, and after pulling steadily for three hours, during which time they made but four miles headway, the wrecking schooner Charlotte Ann Pigott, of Wilmington, was fallen in with on her way to the wreck. Anxious for the safety of the wrecked crew, the life savers boarded the Pigott and accompanied her out, believing such a course would afford them a better chance of finding the missing boat. This action was fully justified, for upon arriving the second time in the vicinity of the stranded vessel, their search was rewarded by the discovery of the yawl in tow of pilot boat No. 6, which was standing in, on the wind, towards Cape Fear. They at once shoved off from the Pigott, and upon reaching the pilot boat found the wrecked crew safe on board of her, the yawl having been picked up some miles to leeward. Upon comparing notes it was learned that the sailors must have abandoned their vessel but a few minutes before the station crew arrived, the roughness of the sea, no doubt, preventing their seeing one another. They were at one transferred to the surf boat and taken ashore to the station to await an opportunity to save their effect, the men having brought nothing but what they stood in. An unsuccessful attempt was made the following day (25th to board the vessel, but the sea was still too rough and breaking clean over her. The weather moderated, however, during the following night, and on the 26th the life saving crew again went out, hoping to save something. The vessel had then become a complete wreck, and everything belonging to the crew was swept away. Under these circumstances there was no need of the wrecked crew remaining longer at the station, and they were therefore conducted the same day in the surfboat to Smithfield, several miles distant, whence they could take passage to their home.

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