Two photos of the barkentine Doris, docked in Belfast, ME. Courtesy: Belfast Historical Society & Museum
NE end of wreck-site. Note the iron knee, ballast, rigging.
The two hawsepipes at SW end of site, and enlarged photo of them on the Doris.
Wreck of the barkentine Doris?
by Steven Danforth Singer
The four-masted barkentine Doris, of Baltimore, was built in 1894 at Belfast, Maine. She was 944 gross tons, 189.1’ in length x 36.8’ in breadth x 17.1’ in depth. She had left Tampa, FL, under command of Captain Edward Masterson, bound for Alexandria, VA., with a cargo of 1,160 tons of phosphate rock. The day after she wrecked, the New York Times reported a telegraph dispatch from Palm Beach: “The wreck is plainly visible from the towns of Lantana and Boynton, a few miles south of here, and can be seen by passengers from the Florida East Coast Railway trains.”
The Baltimore Sun published a portion of the captain’s report saying they ran into stormy weather after rounding the Tortugas, and on the evening of Jan. 4, 1902, at around 7 P.M. a heavy squall out of the northeast slammed into the vessel for about 20 minutes and the crew shortened the sail. Once subsided, they saw a steamer off their starboard beam and continued on. “At 8:30 P.M., wind moderating, set mizzen and flying jib. About this time made lights bearing about northwest by north which I took for another steamer. After watching these lights for half an hour, I was in doubt about them and immediately ordered the wheel to be put down so as to bring the ship on the other tack (the captain soon learned that these lights were not from another vessel but were from the Boynton Hotel). The current being so strong and the wind moderating all the time, could not handle the ship, I immediately ordered the square gaskets to be cut and set squaresails so as to wear ship, which was instantly done.” The winds and seas were now increasing and the strong current prevented them to tack the ship. They soon saw land, and the anchor was let go just as the ship struck. “I did not give any more chain for fear that the ship might ground on anchor and put a hole in her.” Anyone who dives the Palm Beach County area knows that the Gulf Stream comes closest to the Florida shore here, and the currents can be exceptionally strong. I can only imagine a sailing ship trying to fight the wind and currents here during a storm.
The Alexandia Gazette published additional details from the captain’s report: “The wreck occurred last Saturday night in front of the Boynton Hotel, at Boynton, Fla. At 10 o’clock the vessel struck the beach, head on, and then swung around broadside to the beach. Seas made a clean breach over her, every now and then picking up the ship and slamming it down on the bottom. In this matter she was carried a mile up the beach where the seas lifted her on a reef, broke her in two amidships and left her ‘hogged.’ All hands sought refuge on the roof of the cabin but subsequently sought the spanker boom, upon which they stood until daylight Sunday.” All twelve on board made it safely to shore, some swimming or floating on wreckage, and were helped by the local volunteer life-saving crew. The captain was the last to leave. Another report said the Boynton Hotel offered them shelter and food until they could return home. A telegraph the next day to the owners from Capt. Masterson stated: “Condition of wreck worse than before. Hull has broken in two amidships; forward house partly gone. The anchors, boiler and other machinery and gaffs and booms can be saved, but may have to send to Key West for wreckers, as none can be had here.” A later news report on Feb. 1 mentioned Captain Masterson’s return home and also described his “lame” foot due to a piece of metal that fell on it while removing the steering gear.
In 2021, while diving with my long-time dive buddy Don Kree off Manalapan, FL, we came across a ballast pile, an iron knee, hull sheathing, and other wreckage that had been recently uncovered, including a large capstan (top looks like a capstan, but the rest does not, so still can't say for sure what it is) indicating it was the remains of a fairly large sailing vessel. It was soon buried under sand again. We visited the area again in 2022, finding more wreckage closer to shore, another iron knee, ballast, etc. Closest to the shore were two hawsepipes (where anchor chain/rope would pass though at the bow) indicating the bow area and that the vessel had come to rest with the bow facing southwest. Not much is left of the site, as most had been salvaged soon after she wrecked. All indications so far point to the site as being that of the barkentine Doris. Hopefully we can do a more detailed survey of the site with measurements in the near future if still uncovered.
The wreck of the bark Lofthus, which I had submitted to the State of Florida to be considered for an underwater preserve and which it became, has recently been almost totally buried under sand again. It lies not that far south from what I believe is the Doris. It had uncovered almost completely back in the very late 1990’s, and remained uncovered until just about two years ago. It was a great shallow water dive and snorkel site. Another bark, the Coquimbo, uncovers for short periods every few years just south of Boynton Inlet off Ocean Ridge (see my story on this). All photos by S. Singer unless otherwise noted. Update: Early Sept. 2022 bow area of the Lofthus was exposed, so hopefully uncovering again.
Source: LR; Baltimore Sun, 1/2-7/1902, 2/1/1902; Alexandria Gazette, 1/11/1902; NYT, 1/6/1902; The Daily Herald, Pt. Huron, 1/16/1902; The Ocala Evening Star, 1/7/1902.
Unknown artifact (all metal) some sort rigging or block/tackle piece?
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