Description: freighter, steel.
Dimensions: length 422.8 ft., width 57 ft., depth 34.8 ft.
Tonnage: gross 7198.
Propulsion: steam, propeller.
Cargo: none.

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: April 2, 1946.
Cause: stranded.
Location: Flat Ground, Rockport.
Coordinates: latitude 42° - 40' - 38" N; longitude 70° - 35' - 03" W.

The evening of April 1, 1946 found the Charles S. Haight off Cape Ann, returning "in ballast" (without cargo) to New York after delivering coal to Newport, England. Visibility was poor, the seas were rough and a strong southeast wind was blowing. At the helm Richard Young of Detroit, Michigan, reported the freighter on a course of 215° traveling in a southwesterly direction. At 12:07AM, April 2, the Haight suddenly ground to a halt. Without radar and with poor visibility, the freighter was blown inshore by southeasterly winds and onto the Flatground inside the Dry Salvages, 1.5 miles east of Rockport.

Light as it was, without a cargo, the steamer slid high on the ledge and resisted all attempts to free it. The vessel radioed that its double-bottomed hull had been punctured near the No.5 hold, but otherwise the rest of the freighter was intact. Heavy seas pounded the stranded steamer against the ledge and soon water was flooding the rest of ship. At first, the pumps kept up with the deluge. However, by noon, Captain Mano ordered 29 of his crew to the lifeboats as rising waters in the engine room threatened a boiler explosion. For two hours, the crew members sat it out until the danger passed. At 3:30 PM, they were removed to the Coast Guard Cutter Ojibwa, standing by the vessel in case it broke up in the heavy seas.

By late afternoon, seas had moderated and the Haight stopped pounding, but the damage was done. The vessel had been pushed atop the ledge to the midship section. The holds were flooded and there was 30 feet of water in its engine room. A representative of the vessels' Boston agents declared that the ship was "dead."

On April 5, the Boston newspapers reported there was no hope of saving the grounded vessel as it was breaking in two at the No.4 hold. By April 9, the Charles S. Haight was considered a total loss.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 30, minimum 10.
Visibility in feet: average 20.

Over the years, Charles S. Haight's remains were reduced until only a vestige of its huge triple expansion steam engine can be seen at low tide. This can be found on the West Side of the Flat Ground.

Between high and low tides, strong currents flow over this wreck making even anchoring a difficult task. By late summer, it is often hard to discern rock from wreck due to a thick mat of algae. Most of the "wreckage" consists of steel beams and plates scattered atop the ledge. Hank Keatts (1988) reports that the bow remains can be found at "one half the distance between the engine and the breakwater."

Historical Background

Constructed: in 1944, at Brunswick, Georgia by the J.A. Jones Construction Co.
Construction details: Liberty Ship.
Crew: 49; Master: Capt. Joseph A. Mano.
Owners: U.S. War Shipping Administration; Peabody & Lane, Boston Agents Operated by Marine Transport Lines.
Home or Hailing Port: Brunswick, Georgia.
Former Name(s) and date(s):
Official number: 246541. Country: U.S.A.
Other Comments: The Charles S. Haight was one of over 2700 Liberty Ships built during World War II. This class of vessels made a significant contribution to the war effort in the transport supplies.

Salvage

Merritt Chapman and Scott of New York began salvage operations on the vessel, within days of its stranding. The vessel was not, at the time, considered a hazard to navigation.

Much of this vessel was removed as scrap by various salvers over the years. In 1958, shipwreck researcher/writer Brad W. Luther reported that "the bow and stern broke away from the mid-section and the stern disappeared from view. The bow projects about 10 feet above water and the mid-section was 40 feet above water at last report." By 1965, he reported that the vessel was reduced until only the main engine was above water.

Today only a remnant of the freighter's huge triple expansion steam engine bares at low water.

Sources:

Boston Globe; April 2, 3, 4, 5, 1946
Fisherman Magazine; August 22, 1991
Merchant Vessels of the United States; 1947
Merchant Vessels of the United States, Vessels Lost Chapter; 1948
New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks; Keatts, 1988
New England Shipwrecks; Luther, 1967
New York Times; April 3, 4, 9, 1946
The Liberty Ships; Sawyer and Mitchell, 1985
Wrecks Below; B.W. Luther, 1958