Mystery Of The Madeline & Flora
On November 20, 1939, the 65 foot scallop dragger Madeline & Flora left Feylor's Wharf in Rockland for a 10-day trip to Georges Bank. At the time the temperature was only 19degrees, and the sun was shining.
Aboard were nine local men.
7.Crew:-Bob St. Clair ( my grandfather )
The boat was hailed by an incoming vessel as it sailed past Martinicus Island. It was the last anyone ever saw of it.
MADELINE & FLORA: USCG-- Official #226437,
43gt wood hull fishing boat (scallop dragger),
built Damariscotta, Maine 1927.
Owned by Charles B. Craver, Rockland, Maine.
Foundered at sea,
22 November 1939.
All 9 aboard lost.
Sailed from Rockland for Georges Banks and never heard from again.
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Start of the day
Information pieced together from different newspaper articles sent to me by Carol Hemmingway from South Freeport, ME.
The morning of Monday, November 20, 1939 , was clear and cold, only 19 degrees when the men started arriving at Feyler’s Wharf with their sea bags packed for a 10 day trip to the George’s Bank.
One of the first to get there that morning was Bob Hickman, who had signed on just the day before. When it was obvious that George Dyer would not be well enough to go ---- he was still in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy --- Capt. Frank “ Snip “ Manning got in touch with Bob. He agreed to take George’s position as cook.
Bob found the Madeline & Flora tied up alongside Feyler’s dock. He’d already stopped at Perry’s Market on Main Street to order beef, pork, canned beans, spaghetti, potatoes, cans of corn and peas, eggs, bacon, bread and more that would be needed to feed nine men for 10 days.
Captain Manning was there early that morning, as well, to see that everything went smoothly.
Howard Anderson and Lowell Day rode from Camden together. One by one the rest of the crew arrived ---- Herman Drake, Larry Kirk, Roger Smith and Bob St. Clair ( my grandfather ) came in from Owl’s Head, some of the men making last minute stops at Newberry’s to pick up personal items -----like toothpaste and soap.
Ed Kelly, living just up Tillson Avenue from Feyler’s, had the shortest walk to work of all the men.
The crew had mixed feelings about the upcoming trip. The Madeline Flora had just finished a two-week overhaul at Snow’s Shipyard. A mishap off New Bedford, MASS., earlier in the fall had resulted in some damage to the boat; the boat made it back to Rockland under it’s own power, but then had come the repairs. Most of the men stayed right with the boat those weeks, working on the overhaul. It helped, but it wasn’t fishing money.
As every fisherman knew, there were good trips and bad trips: a good trip had to make up for the bad ones, as well as carry the family through the day by day. The men with families particularly felt the pressure, yet all of them had responsibilities for someone.
Herman Drake had promised Maude Tolman, his late wife’s mother , that he’d buy shoes and clothes for his little son Donnie, as soon as he got back.
Bob St. Clair(my grandfather ), Ed Kelly and Bob Hickman each had big families to provide for.
Howard Anderson still stung from the loss to the bank last year of his own dragger, the Alice May.
Yet the men were also aware that they were going out when the weather was most likely be foul, especially on George’s Bank. Bob St. Clair ( my grandfather ) , for one, tended not to fish in the winter, spending those months cutting wood.
Seasonal work like Christmas trees occupied some fishermen.
The Carvers and Manning’s were looking forward to taking the Madeline & Flora down to Florida after this trip as in the winter of 1936 when Charles and Snip had taken the boat and their families south, staying in Daytona Beach in a rented house. A warm Florida winter would be welcome after the coming trip to George’s Bank in November.
After the supplies were aboard, and the captain had paid the grocer, the boat was moved alongside Feyler’s ice plant on the other side of the wharf. The building was kept full of ice blocks that had been cut on a pond and stored in sawdust up on Beechwood Street in Thomaston the previous winter.
The blocks were hauled down to the wharf as needed to supply the fishing boats. The 50 - pound blocks were slid into a huge open grinder, then the resulting ice chips were blown into the hold of a boat, a process that took a few hours. A few men supervised the filling of the hold, seeing that the heavy load was evenly distributed. Once out on the Banks the shucked scallops would go into cloth bags and be packed in the ice until the boats return.
At midday the temperature went above freezing to about 37 degree, as warm as it would get that day. By the time the fuel and fresh water tanks were filled, and Roger Smith, the engineer, had checked the engine and mechanical systems, it was past noon.
All the men knew they had to be off by early afternoon to make the Banks by dawn Tuesday and get in a full day of fishing. Charles carver, owner of the Madeline & Flora, was frequently in poor health, yet he arrived in time to see her off.
Finally, with all preparations completed, the men cast off the lines and the Madeline & Flora slowly headed away from the dock. Carver watched her as it steadily moved out from land, past the old Eastern Steamship wharves and through the choppy waters of the harbor. He stood watching until it cleared the breakwater light, and then walked slowly back to the Feyler office.
If Charles Carver had any trepidation about this trip he kept it to himself. The captain, Snip Manning, was his own son-in-law, and Carver felt confident he could handle most any situation that arose. She had a good crew and most had been with her for several seasons; the Madeline & Flora was in good hands.
Only one more detail of the November 1939 trip of the Madeline & Flora is known for sure. Some time toward evening, as it motored out beyond Matinicus Island, the boat passed another dragger coming in, the Muskegon, Arthur Bain, its captain, hailed the Madeline & Flora, and perhaps they spoke. With only megaphones to amplify their voices --- neither vessel carried a radio --- Bain urged Manning to turn back. A terrible storm was ragging out there, he gestured , with huge swells.
Did the crew vote? Did Snip Manning decide? The story of the warning can not be corroborated, although two things are known. Arthur Bain had reason to be fearful of a heavy sea. In 1934 his son, Alexander Bain was lost along with Raymond Dow while fishing near Monhegan. And the crew of the Madeline & Flora needed a successful voyage. They did not turn back.
Thus it was the crew of the Muskegon and Bain who saw the last of the Madeline & Flora.
( no Picture )
Welcome To A Tribute Page For The Crew Of
The Madeline Flora
Lost At Sea 1939
( My Grandfather )
( Roberta Ann St. Clair -- Wilson )
Dear Grandpa Bob St. Clair and all 9 crew members, you are loved and thought of frequently, even after 70 years of being lost at sea. You and your families are always close in my prayers.......
If by any chance you are a family member or friend of any of these crew members please contact me at BobbieW@aol.com
Created by God
and Bobbie Wilson
April 22, 2012