Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Wreck of the Annie L. Spindler, 1922

On the morning of December 29th, 1922, the British Schooner Annie L. Spindler, sailing out of Yarmouth, in the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia, ran aground on the shoreline of Race Point Beach. The ship, dubbed "The Rum Runner" by those who knew her, came ashore almost exactly in front of the U. S. Coast Guard Station at Race Point, carrying what else but around 600 cases of Canadian Whiskey!
A lookout on duty at the station had spotted the vessel some ten minutes before she struck the shoreline. A terrible storm had churned up the waters, and the lookout could see that the ship's captain and his crew of five men had lashed themselves to the ship's rigging to keep from being swept overboard as the ship was tossed about by the enormous waves pushing it ever closer to the shoreline, its distress signals flying.
The seas were too rough to launch the surf boat to rescue the ship's crew, so Coast Guard Captain Irving Collins used a small canon called a Lyle gun to shoot a line out over the bow of the ship, and a breeches buoy was set up to rescue one man at a time as the pounding waves began slowly breaking the ship apart.
Picture a rope pulled taught between the mast of the ship and a crew of men on the shore, with a lifesaving ring, or buoy, hanging like a doughnut floating in the fryer from a pulley attached to that rope. Got the picture? Now imagine a pair of breeches (a pair of pants,) attached to the buoy as if it were a huge waistband for the pants, which were hanging beneath the buoy, with the legs dangling in mid air. One at a time a man on the ship would climb into that pair of pants, with the buoy circling his waist, and be pulled ashore by the crew of men on the beach. This breeches buoy, or beach apparatus, as it was sometimes called, was used to save the lives of hundreds of sailors over the years. Click this link to see a four minute movie showing how the breeches buoy worked.
Despite the snow flurries in the air that day and the bitterly cold wind from the north, local people gathered on the beach by the hundreds all day long, watching as the receding tide left the ship lying broadside on the beach, completely out of the water, as the waves continued to thunder ashore and slowly dismantle the ship.
This was in the early days of Prohibition in the United States, when it was illegal in this country to manufacture or distribute alcohol. Some of the folks gathered on the shoreline cared less about the rescue of the ship's crew than they did about the possibility of getting their hands on a case or two of whiskey, but no such luck. They all went home empty-handed after spending most of the day waiting for cases of whiskey to be washed out of the hold of the ship, all the while trying to keep themselves warm against the winds of the storm.  I'll write more about the rum runners, shipwrecks, and the U. S. Life-Saving Service, which evolved into today's Coast Guard, in future posts. Meanwhile, read the original New York Times article on the wreck of the Annie L Spindler here.

2 comments:

  1. I used to play in the wreck when I was a kid growing up in Ptown (1930s).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading my blog. I've got more great images of this shipwreck, so watch for more posts about it eventually. I'd like to talk to you about growing up here. I hope you'll get ahold of me. My contact info is found in the upper right corner of this page.

    ReplyDelete