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The Loss of the Sarah Shubert
At Parramore's Beach, Virginia, 1884
by George and Suzanne Hurley

There was a fresh northeast wind blowing and the weather was hazy on the morning of October 14, 1884. The south patrolman of the Parramore's Beach Life Saving Station had almost reached the southern end of the island (Stingray Point), when he sighted a three-masted schooner stranded on the shoals off Little Machipongo Inlet. The vessel was being gradually driven toward the beach by the seas that were pounding against her. The surfman immediately lit a Coston flare to let the vessel's crew know that she had been sighted and then turned northward to alert the lifesaving crew. When he arrived at the station he found the rest of the crew making preparations for a launch. The schooner had been observed from the lookout, and his signal had been seen. The vessel now lay about four and one-half miles to the south off Stingray Point. The long pull southward through the turbulent seas slowed the crew, and it was a full two hours before they arrived on the scene.

By the time the lifesavers arrived, the schooner was within two hundred yards of the shore, and the seas were sweeping the deck fore and aft, forcing the crewmembers to seek shelter in the rigging.

The schooner was the Sarah Shubert, bound from Philadelphia to Petersburg, Virginia with a cargo of coal. The captain later reported that as he was running her down the coast with a following sea and wind, the steering gear had been disabled when the yawl had broken free and gone adrift in the heavy sea. The vessel had become unmanageable and had drifted toward the shoal before anything could be done to prevent it.

It proved impossible to board the schooner, and during the rescue atsitet the lifesavers? boat was nearly swamped and filled with water in the rough seas. Keeper Rich decided to make a landing on the beach to bail the water out, and then try again. After bailing the surfboat, the men hauled it alongshore well to windward to allow for the current before launching again. Soon the station crew once again approached the schooner. The crewmen had lashed themselves and their personal effects in the rigging and the lifesavers made a pass and threw a line to the sailors on the bowsprit, who failed to catch it. The little surfboat, whipped along by the seas and wind, went drifting rapidly by to the leeward, compelling the surfmen to once again head for the beach.

The boat was once more dragged well down the beach to the windward of the wreck location, and in this second atsitet as they were drifting by the now sunken schooner; the sailors caught a line and made it fast. The rescue of the men was especially dangerous, for each crew member had to time the rising and falling of the surfboat with his own location on the flying jib boom and at the right moment jump into the rescue vessel and land in such a manner so as not to swamp it. As the little boat tossed and turned and yanked on the line, one by one all the five crewmen were removed from the schooner. When all were safely aboard, Keeper Rich cast off and headed for the beach, landing safe. All hands then walked the four and one-half miles northward to the station. After all had been fed and made comfortable, two men were dispatched back down the beach with a team to retrieve the baggage that had been left behind.

The Sarah Shubert and her cargo proved to be a total loss. The next day, the station crew made two trips, taking the sailors and their effects to the inlet to assist in placing them aboard a wrecking steamer bound for Norfolk. Before evening approached, and they saw the shipwrecked sailors safely off, they had rowed twenty miles.

? Copyright 1984 Shipwrecks and Rescues: Along the Barrier Islands of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia by George M. and Suzanne B. Hurley. All Rights Reserved.

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