January/February 2014 Issue 215: The short-lived schooner Columbia


  Puritan  ,  Mayflower ,  Colum bia ; these were the names of some of the great Gloucester fishing schooners that elbowed their way into public consciousness during the early part of the 20th century. When they raced against the Nova Scotians in the International Fisherman’s Cup, these vessels made front page news. The short-lived Columbia was one of the very best.

These fishermen had a dim view of the carryings-on of the America’s Cup competition and when the New York Yacht Club cancelled a race in 1919 at Sandy Hook because of a 23-knot wind, the fishermen thought they could show those yachtsmen how it should be done. So, in 1920 they announced a race between Gloucester and Nova Scotia to be sailed by working vessels.

The first race was held between  Esperanto , representing Gloucester, and Delawana, from Lunenburg, and it was the only tim e that the Americans won. The Nova Scotians couldn’t abide defeat and so a group was formed to build a new boat. The result was Bluenose, designed by William Roué, built in Lunenburg, and launched in 1921. After a season fishing on the Grand Banks, Bluenose met the Gloucester schooner Elsie, and brought the trophy and bragging rights back to Nova Scotia. They did that for the next 18 years.

Of all the contenders that raced against    Bluenose    perhaps the fairest and most tragi c of them all — and the one that actually bested   Bluenose   — was  Columbia . W. Starling Burgess, whom we wro  te about last issue, was the designer of  Columbia . Burgess was hired by the Columbia Associates of Gloucester. 

Fishing schooners of the early 20th century were already being eclipsed by gas-powered trawlers yet these vessels were also reaching the apogee of their perfection. Evolving over a period of more than 100 years, the northeast fishing schooner was the most elegant, hard-working vessel anywhere. They were always sailed hard because getting to the dock first meant the best price at the market.

 Columbia  was built by the Arthur Dana Story shipyard at Essex, Mass., and was 141 feet long with a 25-foot beam and a draft of 1 5 feet. Columbia continu ed working off the Grand Banks and was the last salt banker pursuing that aspect of fishing out of Gloucester. In July 1927, Columbia was lost with all 27 hands in a gale off Sable Island — the largest single loss on one vessel in the history of Gloucester. 

Let’s join Capt. Lewis Wharton aboard Columbia sometime in November, sailing to Newfoundland when he takes a morning sun line.

On the morning of Nov. 26 — we will be using the 2013 Nautical Almanac — Columbia was at a DR of 43° 15’ N by 58° 40’ W. The height of eye is 15 feet and we do a morning lower limb sight of the sun at 12:39:17 GMT, yielding an Hs of 13° 05’.

A. What is the Ho?
B. What is the Estimated Position?

A. Ho is 13° 13.4’
B. EP after plotting is 43°  15’ N by 58° 42’ W

By Ocean Navigator