"Not only is the universe stranger than what we imagine,
it is stranger than what we can imagine."
Sir Arthur Eddington

Connections Part 2

Truth is stranger than fiction. After writing the last blog about the sinking of the El Faro, I did some more research on T-2 tankers, those World War II ships that were sold into the commercial maritime fleet after the war. Two of those were the Fort Mercer built by Sun Shipyard and the Pendleton, built in Oregon.

Last year at the Seven Seas Cruising Association GAM in Essex CT, hosted by our good friends and sailing buddies Bob and Brenda, s/v Pandora, we heard the true story of the T-2 tanker Pendleton. It was the subject of the book "The Finest Hours" by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. The talk was given by the author Mr. Tougias. Disney made a movie of the book a few years ago also. The story was about the heroic rescue of the crew of the ill-fated ship by four U.S.C.G men in their 36' rescue boat. It is deemed the most heroic rescue by the Coast Guard in its long history.

The stern of the Pendleton
The stern of the Pendleton

The ship broke in two during a Nor'easter storm off Cape Cod in 1952. The small 36' CG rescue boat managed to go out over the bar in the height of the storm from Chatham MA, find the stern of the ship, pull alongside and rescue 30 crewmen stranded on that part of the ship, and then take them safely ashore. It was a truly amazing feet of seamanship and courage of the four CG men.  At the same time, as told in the story, another T-2 tanker in the same storm, the Fort Mercer 30 miles further east out at sea also broke in two, but the CG could not get to them and only heard their SOS calls for help. What was left untold was what happened after the rescue.

The bow of the Pendelton
The bow of the Pendelton

The aft section of the Pendleton was on a sand bar. It was directed there by the engineers of the ship so it would stay afloat long enough for them to be rescued. That was itself some feat, steering half a ship without deck officers!  But that part of the ship remained on the sand bar for 26 years before the Coast Guard blew it up because it was a hazard to navigation. The bow part of the Pendleton never sank. It was found and towed to shore and eventually towed to the Delaware River to be scrapped.

Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer

The Fort Mercer, broken in two, 30 miles east of the Pendleton had a similar fate. The stern section was found afloat after the storm and the USCG cutter Eastwind rescued 70 crewmen off the stern section. The bow section was also found, and 6 crewmen were rescued by the cutter Yaktut while 9 others drowned in the attempt, only minutes before the bow sunk below the waves.

The stern of the Mercer
The stern of the Mercer

The stern (engine) part of the ship was towed to Newport RI and then a new bow and forebody built and added in Galveston TX. The ship was renamed the San Jacinto. In 1964 it broke in half again off the coast of Virginia! Both sections were salvaged. A new forebody was added to the stern and it became the Pasadena. It was scrapped in 1983. The bow section was married to the stern section of the Mission San Carlos, another T-2 tanker, and renamed the Seatrain Maryland. It was scrapped in 1986.

Pasadena
Pasadena

The tendency of these ships to break in two is disturbing enough. The lessons of their loss were not really addressed until the tragic loss of the Marine Electric in 1983 (Read "Until the Sea Shall Free Them"). That old T-2 tanker converted to a coal carrier for Marine Transport Lines was a wake-up call to the industry and CG. All but three crewmen were lost on that ship off the coast of Virginia in another Nor'easter gale. The connection? The Carbide Seadrift, the old T-2 tanker I sailed in on in 1969-74 was also operated by Marine Transport Lines for Union Carbide.

Comments

rone58 9/3/2018
SUBJECT: Re: Connections Part 2 Hey Bill, I really enjoy your blog..These maritime seaman really put there lives on the line.. I saw that movie, ''The Finest Hours''..I''ll have to read that, ''Into The Raging Sea''...On another note,I''m sailing a small 24 foot Corsair trimaran, that I keep right by the lighthouse in Breezy Point. It''s a short walk from the house and a short paddle from the beach. Getting a lot of use out of it, and most of the family enjoys it. I had Marshall out on it a week ago..Take care,Ron Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone -------- Original message --------From: Kalunamoo Date: 9/3/18 8:36 PM (GMT-05:00) To: rone58@[...] Subject: Connections Part 2
---Reply posted by Bill on 9/4/2018

Thanks Ron. Good to hear that your still sailing! Racing against Kevin in Sheepshead bay?


robertosbornjr 9/3/2018
SUBJECT: Re: Connections Part 2 Another really interesting chapter. You in the us? On Mon, Sep 3, 2018 at 8:36 PM Kalunamoo < blogcomments-PDJMB@[...]> wrote: >
---Reply posted by Bill on 9/4/2018

Here until Sept. 12, will call before we leave.