Courtesy of the Martha's Vineyard Museum
R. G. Shute, image #235
“It was heartbreaking to see those boats go to pieces,” Capt. Fred Vidler, keeper of the Edgartown Harbor Light said yesterday. He was speaking of the boats, torn from their moorings in Edgartown harbor, which were carried by the current against the lighthouse bridge at the height of the storm. As soon as the craft hit the bridge they seemed to go to pieces like matchwood.
From the lighthouse yesterday afternoon it was possible to see at least nine wrecked boats from the harbor entrance all the way to Cape Pogue. Some were swamped, still held at improvised moorings, others were out of sight save for the tops of masts, and others were being worked on by salvage crews. These were some of the twenty odd boats which went past the lighthouse during the storm.
A number of boats lay in ruins under the bridge, the fragments high and almost dry yesterday afternoon as the ebb tide bared the sand flats near the bridge. The Edgartown fifteen, Iolanthe, owned recently by the Nisleys and raced in years past by Miss Clara F. Dinsmore, was broken to bits. The blue paint of her hull identified the remains.
Close by the fragments of the Iolanthe lay part of the hulk of the Chappaquiddick ferry, entirely destroyed. A part of the canvas under which passengers used to be sheltered remained attached to the wreckage.
Patrick Delaney, more fortunate than some, was pumping out his catboat which had reached the bridge but had not been badly damaged so far as could be seen.
The Meteor, owned by Lowell Jeffers, wound up in the storm against one of the piers of the bridge, with Capt. Joe Benefit’s Celia on top of her. Yesterday the two boats lay side by side, almost buried in sand. The side of the Meteor was badly crushed.
Five of the six piers at the lighthouse bridge were so badly damaged that they might be classed as total losses. Some timber was being saved yesterday which may be used again, but the piers had lost their identity as piers. Of the five destroyed, probably the Litchfield pier had suffered least.
The storm inflicted considerable damage on the lighthouse itself. The outer corner of the stone base of the structure, on the harbor side, was badly undermined, some of the big rock being displaced. When the waterfront awoke yesterday the shed at the side of the ligthouse was hanging over this undermined corner.
Captain Vidler, all packed and prepared to move from Edgartown to his new station at Nauset, had stored the packing cases with his household goods in this shed. When the foundation began to go out from under it in the storm, he moved out all the cases single handed, handling by himself boxes which two or three men had placed in the shed. If it had not been for the removal of this weight, the shed would have gone over the side.
The lighthouse bridge, formerly almost a straight line, now has one bend in it. One of the boats striking the bridge put in a curve.
The water at the light was up to the threshold of the door, the platform being awash. Mrs. Vidler spent the night at the Lovell house. Bob Vidler spent the night aboard the Roamer, helping her to ride out the storm.
Among the requests broadcast by radio Wednesday night was one from Barbara Vidler in Boston asking her father to get in touch with her. The Island was cut off from all communication, and alarmist reports were in circulation about conditions here.