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Notre Dame Bay - Fogo District

Historical Information

The Portuguese Shipwrecks

There were two ships wrecked in Western Tickle, Fogo harbour in situations that were very similar and only thirteen years apart. Local people claimed they carried the same pilot. Foreign ships visiting Newfoundland outports would pick up a coastal pilot at St. Johns and then pick up the local harbour pilot outside the entrance to the port. The coastal pilot had the option of bringing the ship in to harbour without calling the harbour pilot if he was confident in his knowledge of local waters.

To enter Fogo harbour, a ship coming from the South would pass Joe Batts Arm, Shoal Bay, and Middle Tickle, Fogo about a mile or so off shore, avoiding the many shoals and ledges. Some would keep outside all the islands for an extra margin of safety. When the ship was abeam of Fogo Head, course would be changed to Port, heading for the West entrance to Western Tickle. She would then steam East down the channel past Harbour Rock buoy, then turn to Starboard leaving the buoy to starboard. From there to dock at either Export Co. or Earle’s wharf.

On September 4, 1935 the Portuguese motor vessel Fayal was entering the harbour, but instead of entering through the West channel, tried to pass between Boatswain’s Island and Barnes Island. She struck bottom and was an instant loss with the bottom ripped out. This channel has a low water depth of thirteen feet, about six or seven less than the ship’s draught.

Fishermen from the area took everything salvageable from the ship. My father obtained a lifetime supply of red and yellow ochre for making paint, [one twenty gallon drum of each], and enough upholstery material to cover all our chairs and couches for many years. The Fayal broke up and disappeared in the Fall storms and only a few steel plates were visible on bottom by the nineteen fifties.

The Portuguese motor vessel Maria Joana was entering Fogo harbour on September 28, 1948 carrying a load of salt for Fogo merchants and intending to load with salt fish for the return trip to Portugal. The pilot started the turn into Western Tickle a little too soon and the ship hit an under water ledge at the West end of Boatswain’s Island tearing through the plates in the after hold and engine room.

With the engine room flooding the pilot ordered “Full Ahead” and steered for the opposite side of the channel grounding off Garrison Point in twenty feet of water.

The wreck commissioner was called from Seldom, but before he arrived on the scene the locals were busy doing some salvage work, even though the crew had not abandoned ship. The captain ,who was not having a good day was pacing back and forth in the wheelhouse. He looked up to check the time only to see the back of someone going out the door with the clock under his arm.

After the Commissioner and the Policeman arrived things settled down, several people were charged with theft, paid fines and had to return the stolen goods.

The magistrate had abusy Fall session .Most of the offenders claimed they thought the ship legal salvage, notwithstanding the fact the crew was still on board.

The crew of the Maria Joana stayed with local people for a few days while they waited for passage back to Portugal.

Earle Sons And company bought the wreck from the insurance company. The ship had been fitted with a new Atlas Imperial Diesel engine in Philadelphia only seven weeks before going on the rocks. Brian Earle and the construction crew from Earles started work trying to salvage the ship. Diver were brought in to patch the holes in the engine room. This compartment was pumped out and the engine removed.

In the next phase Air tanks were attached to the stern of the ship and barrage balloons placed inside the holds. Water tight compartments were blown with compressed air as were the holds where it was thought the balloons would contain the air allowing the ship to be raised and moved to shallower water where temporary repairs could be made before more permanent repairs could be done in dry dock.

The ship actually floated, free, but the barrage balloons began tearing inside the holds, and the air compressors couldn’t keep up. The stern settled on bottom in a deeper spot than it had been in originally, so the attempt at salvage was abandoned. Everything above decks was stripped and sold. The wheelhouse was taken to Earles and became the foreman’s office. It was occupied by Garf Bennett until 1951 then by Arthur Oake.

© 1999 Don Bennett and NL GenWeb