Thursday, April 5, 2012

Schooner Thomas J. Martin ~ 9 January 1883

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

About one o’clock at night, the wind being north-northeast, the weather thick and a heavy sea running, the schooner Thomas J. Martin, of Bridgeton, NJ, bound with a cargo of phosphate rock, from Charleston, South Carolina, to New York, and having a crew of 8 men, stranded about 400 yards from shore and a half a mile to the north of the Caffeys Inlet Station (6th District), North Carolina. The station patrolman was over two miles north of the wreck when he discovered her, which was about 20 minutes after her stranding. He at once fired his red Coston light and ran for the station, where he arrived at two o’clock, badly exhausted with the speed of his course. Keeper Austin immediately threw up some rockets, both as a signal of cheer for the ship and to recall the patrolman on the south beat for service with the rest of the crew.
     The night was so black and thick and the surf so high, that it was judged prudent to operate with the wreck gun rather than the boat, and this, with the beach apparatus, was accordingly taken, the rescuing party arriving abreast of the wreck by half past two. Nothing cold be seen of her, looking through the misty darkness across the tumbling waste of water but the red and green lights in her rigging, except when at intervals she burned a torch, which made her bulk start out vaguely upon the gloom; but even these appearances were not sufficient in the thick atmosphere to enable the crew to determine her distance from shore, and it was therefore deemed useless to fire the wreck gun, since the shot would necessarily be thrown at random. In the enforced interim of waiting, the keeper left one man with orders to build a fire upon the beach, and hurried back with the remainder of the crew to fetch the surf boat for use if it should be required.
     Upon re-arrival the weather had cleared a little overhead, and the vessel could be dimly seen working on the rising tide, over the outer bar to the south, impelled by wind, current, and sea. A little before daybreak she brought up solid on the outer rise of the inner bar and the wreck gun was at once planted and fired, the shot line falling handsomely in the forward rigging at the first essay. The whip line was then sent out, followed by the hawser, but the men on board worked so slowly in getting up the lines that the keeper grew impatient, and as day was on the point of breaking, and the coming light would enable the crew to see what they were doing, the surf boat was launched and made speedy work of the rescue, the 8 men on board being brought ashore at the first trip, and most of their baggage at the second. By half past 7 o’clock all hands were in the station, where the rescued men received proper attention; 5 of them were fed and sheltered at the station for a day and a half, when they left for their homes; the other three remained for eight days.
     At one o’clock on the day of the rescue the life saving crew again went out in the surf boat, taking with them the schooner’s mate, and made an effort to recover the shot line, which had been left attached on board, and furl the vessel’s spanker, which was flying loose, but were baffled by the strong current, which made it impossible, in the absence of assistance on deck, to hold the boat near the hull, or to get over her sides. The effort was successfully renewed later (January 12), when the water was low and the surf had abated, and some provisions were brought away, the shot line being found irrecoverable, so snarled up had it become with everything near it. The vessel and cargo proved a total loss.
    Two patrolmen from the two stations on either side of Caffreys Inlet, not meeting with the patrols therefrom, pushed on to see what was the matter, and finding them at the wreck turned in and rendered good service. The colored cook of the Caffeys Inlet Station, Appollus Owens, also volunteered, and helped all he could.

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