A classic ketch that was moored in Camden, Maine’s, outer harbor broke free during an early winter gale, drifting more than 10 miles across West Penobscot Bay before coming to rest on a rocky ledge. The vessel was discovered the following morning by a lobsterman from Vinalhaven, who spotted the wreck and reported it to the Coast Guard in Rockland. By the time salvors responded, the vessel had already broken its back and suffered numerous holes in its planking, including an 8-foot hole forward and a 10-foot hole aft. It was declared a total loss and not recovered.
“When I got out there with the insurance guy and surveyor, the salvors were on-scene. They looked at us and just shook their heads; they said she was broken up,” said Bob Hall, a lobsterman who ferried the owner’s representatives to the site.
The ketch Elda, reportedly built in Germany in 1921, was a wedding gift to a Montreal couple that had moored the vessel at Camden’s Wayfarer Marine for years. The vessel was reportedly in the same family since 1927.
Elda’s casualty appears to be related to dredging operations in Camden’s inner harbor, where Wayfarer’s docks are located. The vessel’s permanent berth is alongside, deep in the inner harbor, where exposure to swells and strong winds is usually minimal. All docks, floats and moorings were removed from the inner harbor in the fall, which meant that Wayfarer installed more moorings in the outer harbor, where shelter is poor. Elda reportedly broke free due to the mooring pennant chafing on its bob chain.
Elda came loose during the night of Dec. 14 and drifted a total of 11 miles southeast before grounding on Medric Rock about a mile west of Vinalhaven. “How it got there I can’t figure out,” Hall said. The drifting vessel would have had to pass through a series of shoals and islands that dot the edge of West Penobscot Bay along the shores of North Haven and Vinalhaven.
A lobsterman was able to investigate the wreck by clambering atop Medric Rock, only to discover the vessel’s starboard side stove in. “The insurance adjustor hired a team of divers from Southwest Harbor and for the better part of the day tried to utilize an airbag system,” reported Parker Laite Sr., a partner in Wayfarer Marine, to Camden’s news website VillageSoup.com a few days after the incident. The attempt was fruitless. “The airbags need a smooth surface against them or else they will break. The sharp protrusions from the hull make this impossible,” Laite added.