September 24, 2020
This Week in Herreshoff History: September 24
A devastating hurricane makes landfall in Rhode Island and HMCo. prepares for winter at Walker’s Cove
The Hurricane of 1938
September 21, 1938
This past week marks the 82nd anniversary of the Hurricane of 1938 in the Northeast. HMCo. was badly affected, estimating their losses in the days after “running to hundred of thousands of dollars,” with “many valuable yachts stored away for winter… scattered in all directions, many of them very seriously damaged” the Phoenix reported the following Tuesday. If you’d like to learn more about the impact across New England, follow the links to watch this ten minute video containing historic footage of the hurricane and its aftermath, or to watch this 45 minute documentary produced in Fairhaven, MA to commemorate the 50th anniversary.
Winter Storage and Maintaining the Ways
Hurricane season is an especially hectic time for commercial boatyards in the Northeast. It coincides (for good reason!) with the start of hauling season in New England. Seasonal storage and maintenance was and remains an important source of income for many boat building businesses. This was particularly true for HMCo. in their later years. Judging by frequent mentions in the Phoenix, the last week of September at HMCo. was also the time for underwater marine railway maintenance before the main rush for winter storage really set in. There is a particular focus across the following articles on Walker’s Cove. This was the property adjacent to Love Rocks just south of HMCo.’s main campus along Hope St. Here, HMCo. developed a yacht storage and maintenance facility beginning in the winter of 1894 and 1895. HMCo. rented the site until they were able to purchase it sometime between 1926 and 1932.
September 23, 1898
Captain John Terry of Fall River helps prepare the ways at HMCo.’s main piers for DEFENDER’s (HMCo. #452) return, reports the Phoenix. J.B. Terry Co. (and their steam tug ANCHOR) would also contract with HMCo. again the following June to make sure DEFENDER’s relaunch would be unobstructed. DEFENDER was refitted over the course of the winter of 1898 – 1899 to serve as a trial horse for COLUMBIA (HMCo. #499) in the 1899 trials.
September 26, 1905
The Bristol Phoenix reports that the marine rail at the Walker’s Cove site is being extended by the J.B. Terry Company of Fall River. Divers are being used to cut the old pilings, and “as yet, only a few boats have been hauled up for their winter berths…”
September 21, 1909
Four years later, the Bristol Phoenix reports on further repairs to the HMCo. marine railway at Walker’s Cove again requiring the services of a professional diver.
This time, 21 year old Nathanael Herreshoff Jr. was reportedly so interested in the proceedings that he “obtained permission to take a trip under the sea” himself. Mention of the “heavy regalia” he wore suggests standard diving dress (those helmets and suits!) and compressed air delivered from the surface. Self contained breathing apparatus (later, SCUBA) technology, where divers carry their own air supply, had long been in development by this time but did not overtake the widespread use of surface-supplied diving until the 1930s frogmen and 1940s aqua-lung.