Thursday, February 25, 2016

Granite Schooners

A large ship at sea turns the head of mariner and landsman alike.  Even when not under sail it exudes the aura of a champion, a master of campaigns in distant and alien elements. It waits impatiently at the wharf until released to the wind where intricacies of canvas and rigging propel its crew to business with grace and daring, in a fair breeze; or with tedium, or terror, during weather extremes.

We enjoy the sight of a Cape Ann schooner the way we admire the lines of swift and powerful creatures. Their utilitarian excellence impresses us as beautiful. Experiments over the centuries probed, refined, and probed again among the combinations of materials, capacity, seaworthiness, speed, safety, and economy  for given jobs.

On all schooners the fore mast is shorter than or the same height as the aft mast.
Loading stone on a granite schooner, Lanes Cove
Annisquam Historical Society, postcard from the Richard Lewis collection
As its cargo or fishing crew expands in size the schooner's concept must grow larger and require more sail. Masts either become taller or multiply to supply sufficient motive power. The vessel's two or more masts extend its sail reach more longitudinally than vertically (less height for the sailor to climb), present a lower center of effort than a single-masted craft (less tippy), distribute the forces (lower individual mast stress), and increase flexibility through a multiple sail plan, especially if gaff-rigged.
A granite schooner off Rocky Neck, Gloucester
Photo courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum
The gaff - a spar supporting the upper edge of a four-sided sail - and the bowsprit, to which forward stays and sails may be attached - increase the power dynamics of the craft as well as its visual pleasure to anyone who sees a schooner under way.

Compare the sleek outline of the vessel photographed above with the Annie & Reuben below. Although deeply loaded for this trip, as the waterline indicates, the close-set masts suggest it was originally designed as a fishing boat.

The schooner Annie & Reuben ready to discharge cargo.
John R. Herbert photograph from Peabody Essex Museum1
The Annie & Reuben was refitted to spread the masts as far apart as possible to allow a loading derrick to swing clear from the base of the foremast. It resulted in a tremendous foresail that in some cases was almost bigger than the mainsail and, "winged out" with foresail to one side and mainsail to the other, most of the stone vessels could walk away from other vessels when the wind was dead aft.1
Four-masted schooner approaching the Rockport Granite Company pier
Charles Cleaves photograph, Sandy Bay Historical Society
Gloucester Daily Times
The Pigeon Hill Granite Company on Saturday loaded the three-masted  sch Crescent with 44,500 New York paving blocks in 5 hours and a quarter or 141 1/2 tons per hour. The quickest loading on record. December 5, 1891.
      We foresee record granite prospects this season in Pigeon Cove. Last week Mr. Barker loaded a vessel with 900 tons burden, said to be the largest one ever loaded here, but that record has been broken by one that arrived here Sunday to load for Charles H. Cleaves. She is the Harry Messer and arrived in the tow of tug Nathaniel Jones and is 1,000 tons burden.
      A large 4-master, the Wm. Johnson, arrived at the Rockport Granite Co dock Sunday, the first 4-master, 1,200 tons. March 12, 1894.
A deep-loaded schooner at the Pigeon Hill Granite Company wharf
Charles Cleaves photograph, Sandy Bay Historical Society
The smaller schooners on the Boston run were almost invariably loaded just shy of the sinking point. I have seen the Annie & Reuben with something over 200 tons of stone aboard, lying at Crotch Island wharf with the water flowing through the scuppers to the height of an inch or more on the main hatch coaming over the deck. This in a flat calm. Loaded in such a fashion, the schooners resembled half-tide ledges when at sea, and it is sure the hatches were well battened down and the pumps going steadily the entire trip.1
Painting of a five-masted schooner by Emile Gruppe, c. 1920
Pigeon Hill Granite Company wharf, Rockport
Courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum
On April 12, 1894, exactly a month after printing the sanguine article above, the Gloucester Daily Times recorded awe and heartbreak in the community.
      The ocean is a fearful sight this morning. Yesterday afternoon we took a walk around by the shore as far as Way's Point. The waves were mountains high....
      The sad news was received here last evening of the wreck of the large three-master, Kate Markee, off the New Jersey coast. [She] sailed from the wharf of the Pigeon Hill Granite company last Friday with a freight of paving for parties in Philadelphia. We learn that all hands were lost, and what makes it doubly sad is that they were lost in sight of the life-saving crew who could not get their lines in the vessel, as the storm was so severe....
      The bell buoy on Avery's Ledge was washed ashore near Gully Point. At present there is no appearance of an abatement of the storm.
The Oliver Ames, largest of the two-masted schooners,
inbound to the Bay View granite works.
Lobsterman Ezra Harraden in foreground2
By getting stone to distant markets  the schooners became an indispensable partner to the burgeoning Cape Ann granite industry in the latter nineteenth century. They filled their holds with the millions upon millions of paving stones astonishingly cut by hand. They carried immense blocks on deck for public monuments. They navigated "outside" past Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard to reach ports as far away as New Orleans and the West Coast. 

Schooners epitomize the many specific achievements of technology and determination that sustained people and industry. 

1. John F. Leavitt, Wake of the Coasters, 1990.
2. Pictures from the Past, volume 1, published by the Lanesville Community Center

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter Shoreline, Halibut Point

Deep blue splashes rocks
Green tissues
trace the limits of yearning. 

Rising sun glimpses,
then melts
the rime of night.

Wind shares its energies
with tumbling water
and spectator clouds. 

Tide line turmoil,
a niche of
hospitality for harlequins.
Free! exults the wave
to its vapors
and rivulets. 

Sandpipers adept
at withstanding
the way it is.
Sun animates all weather
lights the theater
of the visible.

Men dare
to dream
of fortunes.
Men's industry
frames an aperture
closing the sky.

Fragments balance testimonies
of canny minds willing
innocent enterprise.

Shoreline partners
clarify in winter
their sovereign surrender.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tragedy at Sea

Two Lives Lost
Paving Sloop Albert A., of Rockport, Founders off Marblehead
Captain and One Man Saved After Perilous Experience
Gloucester Daily Times, October 18, 1897 

        Philip E. Conley and Merrill Dean of Rockport, two of the crew of the stone sloop Albert A., owned by the Rockport Granite Company, were drowned about four miles off Egg Rock lighthouse, caused by the foundering of the sloop, early Sunday morning. Capt. Albert Pittee and John Allen, another of her crew, were saved, after a miraculous escape from death.
        Saturday afternoon about four o'clock, the sloop, heavily laden with stone, set sail from Rockport, bound to Boston. The weather at the time was clear and moderate, with a good westerly sailing breeze. During the evening the wind began to freshen, and by midnight it was blowing pretty heavy.
        At 12 o'clock the watch of Conley and Bean was changed, and they were relieved by Capt. Pittee and Allen.
        During the last watch the wind steadily increased and was blowing a small-sized hurricane. Capt. Pittee saw at a glance that the weather was going to be nasty, and seeing Conley standing on the floor of the cabin, fixing the fire, he sang out to him, "Come up, we're going to reef the  mainsail."
        When the vessel began to settle forward, both endeavored to reach the small boat which was towing behind. Allen was successful in reaching the craft, but Capt. Pittee, was less fortunate and when the sloop took a final plunge, was carried down with her. The captain had fortunately cast off the boat's painter none too soon, for the derrick boom swept down across the house and striking him a terrible blow.
        Capt. Pittee says that after that he cannot remember anything about the accident until he found himself struggling in the water. Allen and Capt. Pittee were aft together, and without any warning whatever the craft was struck by a terrible gust of wind. The vessel seemed to shiver for a second, and then took a tremendous plunged forward.
        Allen was now alone in the small boat, with but one oar to work with. The brave man knew that Capt. Pittee was on the sloop when she sank, and that he must be in the water nearby. With pluck and courage he made up his mind that if it was possible he would save his comrade. He sculled the boat about and soon discovered not far away Capt. Pittee. He hastened to the place, but before reaching saw the captain rise and go below the surface twice.
        Just as he reached the spot Capt. Pittee again came in sight, and with uplifted arms went down again. Allen, who is noted for his strength, made one herculean effort, reached over the side of the boat and was successful in grasping Capt. Pittee by the tips of the fingers, and after a terrible struggle pulled him on board. Allen then watched the place in search of the other men, but he saw nothing of them, and then made up his mind to reach land.
        Capt. Pittee, besides being nearly drowned, was very severely injured, and was able to render but little assistance, so the work came on Allen, who was suffering from a terrible gash on the leg.
        It was impossible to reach the Lynn and Nahant shores, so the boat was kept to the wind and headed for Marblehead. After being tossed about in the open boat, wet and thoroughly chilled for several hours, the survivors of the terrible accident reached Devereaux beach. They landed just in time, for they had scarcely time to get out of the boat before a terrific squall came and swept it off shore.
        Allen, in his disabled condition, carried Capt. Pittee to the Marble head police station, where everything was done for them.
        Dr. True summoned Dr. Morse of Salem, and together they examined the injured men. Capt. Pittee was found to be in a very serious condition, his injuries being received by the boom of the derrick. Three ribs were found to be broken, his shoulder was dislocated, his nose was terribly bruised, and besides hurt about the head, it is feared that he is injured internally.
        Allen's leg was badly gashed, necessitating the taking of seven stitches.
        Capt. Pittee and Allen, the survivors, were taken to their homes in Rockport over the road by chief of police Atwood of Marblehead.
        Capt Pittee is severely injured and is at his home on High street. Allen was taken to the home of his sister, Mrs. Howard Mitchell.
        When the vessel went down, Long island light bore south west half west. She lays in about 26 fathoms of water.
        The Rockport Granite Company sent their tugboat H. S. Nichols, lighter West End and a diver this forenoon to locate the wreck and if possible recover the bodies of the unfortunate men.
        The men who lost their lives were well known in Rockport, and their families have the deepest sympathy of the whole community.
        Mr. Merrill H. Reed, a native of Boothbay, Me., leaves a wife and son. He was about 55 years of age, and has followed the sea nearly all his life. He was highly respected and possessed a genial disposition and was very companionable.
        Mr. P. Everett Conley was a native of Rockport, and leaves a widowed mother, a brother and sister, his father, Philip Conley, having been drowned at sea when he was a boy. Everett was a popular young man about town, and had a host of friends, who are greatly shocked by this sad ending of his. He was a member of Granite Lodge, I.O.O.F., and Wonasquam Tribe of Red Men. He was about 35 years of age and unmarried.
        Great credit is due J. Roscoe Allen to whose ponderous strength, courage and endurance is probably due the saving of the life of Capt. Pittee as well as his own.
        The rescued men are very grateful for the great kindness an attention shown them by the police of Marblehead.
        The Albert A. was owned by the Rockport Granite Company, and the vessel and cargo were worth about $4000. Both are uninsured.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Granite by Sea

Style and nobility mobilize the human spirit into enterprises beyond our solitary capacities. They captivate even the pragmatist at sea with his eye toward the responsive curves of the sail and the sobering demands of his voyage. He attunes to the awesome forces of the marketplace, of the maritime elements, of buoyancy with a load of stone. He has employment. Someone, somewhere, has put value on his freight.

Cape Ann granite sloop Albert Baldwin, 1896
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photograph
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
A barge, the simplest cart afloat, maximizes cargo capacity but can't move by itself. Add a sail, make it longer than wide, reduce the bluntness up front, and you have a scow. The scow never was a thing of glamour on the sea nor on the tongue. But it had virtues of economy in the coastal trade and could operate with minimal shoreside facilities.

Scow lifting stones at Knowlton's Point, Rockport
Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum
 Scows proved their worth in ferrying stone for construction of the breakwater close offshore for the Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge. A self-dumping type could discharge grout directly onto the submerged breakwater foundation by opening gates in the bottom of the craft. Some scows were moved by tugboats, some by their own sails.
A hybridized granite coaster
Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum
We might liken the subtle variations of sailing vessels that granite shippers co-evolved with the ship yards to the complex assortment of vehicles on our roads today. The photograph above, as received from the Maritime Collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, labels its subject "Rockport Sloop," though the square-ish lines and bulky rudder suggest a more utilitarian, scow-like  lineage.1

Granite sloop shooting the gap inside Straitsmouth Island, Rockport
Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum
Sloops comprised the more typical, graceful, and numerous single-masted freighters in the coastal trade. They specialized in short-distance coastal hauling within Massachusetts Bay. Granite companies filled their holds and decks until water reached the scuppers.

Sloop America and schooners at the Rockport Granite Company wharf, 1905
Postcard photo from the Sandy Bay Historical Society
Schooners carried the larger cargoes, especially those "going outside"-- navigating the more formidable routes around Cape Cod to distant ports.

Gloucester Daily Times, October 18, 1897
The full newspaper account will appear in next week's essay.
Every seafaring community lives in the promise and the challenge of the natural elements. At every embarkment the mariners weigh their readiness for unknown tests.
        The sad news of the drowning of two of our highly respected citizens, an account of which is given in another column, seems to bring a calamity home to all of us who have known the men and were as intimate with them as if they were brothers. Of all the sea faring men these who are in the carrying of stone have the most hazardous lives. The vessels load deeply,  and when the moment of danger comes there is little chance for the crew, as the vessel with her solid freight soon goes to the bottom.

All the participants in the granite trade, from individuals to corporations, made their decisions within perceptions of cost, risk, efficiency and competitive circumstances. Mechanization increasingly influenced business on land and sea with increasing capability and, potentially, with improvements to working conditions. Steam-powered boats brought new advantages to the granite shippers from the 1870s forward.

In the face of an important deadline the Cape Ann Granite Company incurred an unexpected expense to complete delivery. For the past week the sloop Albert Baldwin icebound at Bay View having on board the last of the polished granite for the Boston Court House; steam tug expected today to tow the sloop to Boston - Gloucester Daily Times, Jan 20, 1893.

Steam Lighter William H. Moody with a load of grout, outside Pigeon Cove
A naval warship, one of the potential beneficiaries of the Harbor of Refuge,
lies offshore.
Charles Cleaves photo, courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
Tugboats often maneuvered the sailing freighters within the confines of harbors. Steam lighters became more dependable and cost effective than sloops for localized granite shipments early in the twentieth century. In those decades the larger capacity stone schooners transitioned toward barges in the tow of ocean-going tugboats. Engines at every stage of the industry supplanted human, animal, and natural power in producing useful stone.

1. See E. D. Walen and Howard Chapelle, "Rockport Granite Sloops," in The Mariner, The Quarterly Journal of the Ship Model Society of Rhode Island, April 1931.
2. John Leavitt, Wake of the Coasters, 1970.
3. I am indebted for research guidance to Erik Ronnberg, ship model maker par excellence and Adjunct Curator for Maritime Collections at the Cape Ann Museum.