Description: Schooner, 4 masted, wood.
Dimensions: length 103 ft., width 28 ft., depth 8 ft.
Tonnage: gross 172.
Date Sunk: November 28, 1898.
Location: Tarpaulin Cove, Naushon Island.
Coordinates: latitude 41° - 27' - 54" N; longitude 70° - 45' - 18" W.
Many nameless storms have ravaged the New England coast leaving in their wake untold tales of misery and destruction. One of the worst was the Portland Gale, November 26-27, 1898. Named after the steamer Portland that sank with nearly 200 persons aboard, this two-day Hurricane caused more damage to shipping in New England, than any other in history. Over 130 vessels were lost, 26 in Vineyard Haven Harbor alone.
After loading coal at Perth Amboy, NJ, the 4 masted schooner Lunet set sail for its homeport of Bangor Maine. As it entered Vineyard Sound on November 27th, the gale struck forcing its captain to seek refuge at Tarpaulin Cove, Naushon Island. Located on the western side of the island, largest of the Elizabethan Chain, Tarpaulin Cove was a weather hole for many vessels sailing the outer Cape. With winds from the southwest, Lunet anchored near the western shore. Under the lee of the lighthouse the schooner made ready for the coming storm.
The next day a change in wind direction from the northeast, accompanied by a blinding snowstorm, put the schooner in a dangerous position. Its proximity to the rocks and the reduced visibility prevented it from sailing further into the harbor. If its anchors could not withstand the strain of the 70 mile per hour gusts, the vessel would certainly be destroyed. Suddenly, the anchor chain parted and Lunet was flung across the reef at the southwestern entrance to the cove. The force of the impact tore its bottom out. Filling quickly the schooner sunk in 60 feet of water on the Sound side of the reef. There were no survivors. When the storm abated, only the crosstrees of Lunet's masts marked its final resting-place.
Dive Site Conditions
Depth in feet: maximum 60 ft.
Brad Luther first mentioned this dive site in his book New England Shipwrecks, 1967; "As you round the rocky reef on the southwest corner [of Naushon Island], you will be able to distinguish three distinct beaches separated by boulders." Off the second of these beaches, west of the reef, the shallows quickly give way to a sandbank sloping down to the bottom of Vineyard Sound. At its base, in 60 feet of water, lie Lunet's remains.
When first dove on in the 1960s the vessel was virtually intact. Its hull had rotted away in places and sections were partially buried, but many artifacts were retrieved. So many, that this vessel has probably been stripped by now.
Constructed: in 1876, at Calais, Maine.
Home or Hailing Port: Bangor, Maine.
Official number: 15896. Country: U.S.A.
No salvage was ever attempted.
Lippincott's Pronouncing Gazetteer of the World; 1874
Merchant Vessels of the United States; 1898
New England Shipwrecks; Luther, 1967
New York Maritime Register; December 7, 1898
Shipwrecks Around Maine; Quinn, 1983
Ten Years at Ten Fathoms; B.W. Luther