Hilda Garston

Find information on this shipwreck and dive site managed by the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR).

BUAR classifies certain shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological resources as "Exempted Sites" for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to): commonly known location, previous salvage, recreational value, educational value, or lack of significant archaeological or historical value. Recreational diving activities on these sites, including casual artifact collection, do not require a BUAR permit. However, any major disruption of the site is prohibited. The intent of creating an exempted shipwreck site is to preserve such sites for the continued enjoyment of the recreational diving community, who is encouraged to protect these sites for the continued enjoyment of all.

Note: All dives are conducted at your own risk. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts accepts no responsibility for loss of any kind, including personal injury or property damage. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts assumes no liability for inaccuracies in dive information contained in these pages including site locations and dive conditions.

Vessel Details

Description: Fishing Vessel, Steel.
Dimensions: length 86'7", width 22' 6", depth 12' 9".
Tonnage: gross 159.
Propulsion: Diesel, Single propeller.
Machinery: 1, Fairbanks, Morse & Co. engine, 8 cylinders, 10 inch diameters, 12.5 inch stroke, 320 Brake Horse Power.
Cargo: 13,200 pounds of scallops.;

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: February 20, 1961.
Cause: Collision, with Ledge.
Location: Buzzards Bay, South of Gooseberry Neck, off Westport.
Coordinates: latitude 41° 16.4' N; longitude 71° 02.1' W.
Loran: 14238.8 and 43953.3.

After loading a cargo of scallops from a rich bed off Block Island, Rhode Island, the dragger headed for home. Passing the Buzzards Bay Light Vessel, a course was set that would take the vessel near the Hen and Chickens Reef buoys.

Soon thereafter and without warning Hilda Garston struck something that knocked out her propeller and ruptured the hull. A mayday was dispatched but the scalloper was going down too fast to await rescue. Water was pouring in under her engines and would soon overwhelm the craft. Taking to their dories the crew cast off and watched transfixed as their vessel settled by the stern and sank from view. With some effort the Garston's crew rowed against a two-knot current eventually making landfall on a deserted stretch of Horse Neck State Beach.

Until divers inspected her hull dockside speculation into what sank the Hilda Garston included an iceberg, and a submarine. Divers Bradley W. Luther and Oly Smith were contracted to find the wreck and prepare her for salvage. Luther's initial survey showed the propeller had not been lost as originally speculated. Rather the blades had been bent. Although the starboard propeller guard was intact, the port guard was twisted beyond recognition, as if struck by something very hard.

Following the brace for the port guard gave him part of the answer. A brace plate, welded to the hull, attaches the brace. The force of whatever struck Hilda Garston pealed back that section of hull to which the brace plate was attached. Not a very large hole, but large enough to flood the fisherman.

Luther theorized that the vessel might have sideswiped Old Cock Rock, a part of Hens & Chickens Reef. If she struck a floating object damage should have been evidenced around the bow where there was none.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 45 ft.

In the 1960s many divers had visited the wrecked dragger, which was still largely intact and many interesting souvenirs were recovered.

Historical Background

Constructed: year 1945, in Somerset, Massachusetts by Somerset Shipyards, Inc.
Construction details: 1 Deck; Raised Quarterdeck, 32' 8"; Forecastle, 13' 6"; Metal, Arc Welded, Transverse Framing; 4 Watertight Compartments; 2 Hatches, 5' X 3' 6"; 1 Hold, 28' 3"; Bar Keel, 5"; 23 tons, fuel capacity.
Crew: 13; Master: Captain Joseph C. E. Maillet.
Owners: Carjo Inc., South Middleboro, Massachusetts.
Home or Hailing Port: New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Official number: 247675. Country: U.S.A.
Other Comments: Somerset Shipyards, Inc., Hull No.16.

Salvage

Garston's owner purchased the salvage rights to the scalloper, from the insurance agency.
Some weeks after the dragger sank, divers Luther and Smith were hired to salvage as much gear as they could. The fishing vessel Laura A. was contracted. All totaled they removed the vessels steel scallop dredges, barrels of scallop bag rings, tools, coils of rope, shackles and hundreds of fathoms of towing cable.
Attempts were made to raise the vessel but winter storms damaged the wreck beyond what was worth recovering.

Sources

Boston Globe; February 20, 1961
Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles; Coleman and Soares, 1989
Merchant Vessels of the United States, Vessels Lost Chapter; 1965
New England Shipwrecks, Luther; 1967
The Record, "American Lloyds," American Bureau of Shipping; 1961

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