Description: schooner barge, wood.
Dimensions: length 195 ft. , width 35 ft. , depth 19 ft. 9in.
Tonnage: gross 974 , other
Propulsion: under tow
Cargo: coal

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: November 17, 1944
Cause: foundered
Location: Sandwich, Cape Cod Canal, northeast of the Scusset Breakwater
Coordinates: latitude 41° - 47.1' N ; longitude 70° - 37.6' W
Loran: 13997.8 and 44033.7

Monday afternoon, November 16th, 1944, the tug Wathen, of the Red Star Line, anchored the schooner barge Pottstown near the eastern entrance of the Cape Cod Canal. A thick fog had set in and Wathen's captain thought it prudent to wait until daybreak before continuing his voyage. Earlier, Wathen had anchored the schooner barge Glenside and another barge. As visibility decreased Wathen proceeded back through the canal with one of the other barges and tied off at the State Pier, Buzzard's Bay, for the night.

Early the next morning, a strong northeaster began to blow. As the storm reached 8 on the Beaufort Scale, heavy seas tore loose Pottstown's hawsepipe through which ran the anchor chain. The hawsepipe is "a cylindrical or elliptical pipe made of cast steel or iron, situated near the stem", which protects a vessel's hull timbers from the abrasive action of the chain. Now with that protection gone, the Pottstown's anchor chain began to saw down through the hull toward the waterline. The anxious skipper sent up distress rockets and signaled the Sandwich Coast Guard.

Notified of the situation, the tug Wathen raced back through the canal with the plan of beaching Pottstown. As Wathen neared the entrance of the canal, a heavy towline was made ready on the stern. But, just as Wathen cleared the lee of Scusset breakwater, a wave swept the line overboard fouling the tug's propeller. Now, Wathen was the vessel in distress.

Meanwhile, a small Coast Guard vessel rescued Pottstown's crew just as the barge sank from beneath them. Attempts to save the tug failed when the much smaller Coast Guard vessel's towlines parted. At the mercy of the storm, Wathen cleared the breakwater only to be driven ashore off Sandwich Town Beach. Its crew was removed by breeches buoy. The schooner barge Glenside reportedly drifted ashore at Scusset Beach. Both vessels were a total loss.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 60, minimum
Visibility in feet: average

Pottstown's shattered remains lie in about 60 feet of water on a sandy bottom. The hull is flattened with only the timbers showing above the sand, giving the wreck a very low profile. Here and there, small amounts of coal can be found. The remains of machinery can be seen at one end, possibly the windless or donkey engine.

Although the vessel's registry information indicates that it was constructed using galvanized iron fastenings, some early divers recovered bronze spikes and nails from the wreckage.

Historical Background

Constructed: in 1917 at Baltimore, Maryland by Coastwise S.B. Co.
Construction details: 1 deck; originally 3 masts, dismasted for use as a barge; oak, chestnut and pine construction; galvanized iron fastenings.
Crew: 5.
Owners: Sound Chartering Corp.
Home or Hailing Port: New York, N.Y.
Official number: 215678 Country: U.S.A.
Other Comments: Morris lists Pottstown as owned by the Reading Company, Twelfth and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA; Luther lists the barge owned by H.P. Dikes Company, PA.

Salvage

No salvage was attempted as it was wartime and there were insufficient divers available to do the job. Close enough to the eastern entrance of the strategic Cape Cod Canal to pose a hazard to navigation, Pottstown was slated for removal. Early in 1945, Army Engineers rigged the barge's deck with dynamite. The resulting explosion lifted a column of water 200 feet in the air demolishing the upper deck superstructure, and scattering the vessel's cargo.

Sources:

Dave Daly, MetroWest Dive Club Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles; Coleman & Soares, 1989
International Maritime Dictionary; De Kerchove, 1983
New England Shipwrecks; Luther, 1965
Schooners and Schooner Barges; Morris, 1984
Ten Years at Ten Fathoms; Luther
The Fisherman, magazine; March 1989
The Record, "American Lloyds", American Bureau of Shipping; 1944
Wrecks Below; Luther, 1958