Posted by: towmasters | February 7, 2011

Third Time’s The Charm?

The F/V Damariscotta sank within yards of the dock in Galilee, RI on January 3, 2011, after a 7-mile escort into Point Judith Harbor by the U.S. Coast Guard. Fortunately, no lives were lost. The Coast Guard rescued the crew and news reports indicate that the vessel is expected to be salvaged and, perhaps, resume its fishing career once again. If true, let’s hope that the third time’s finally the charm.

The Damariscotta was, in a former incarnation, known as the Heather Lynne II. Does that name ring a bell? It should. Back in 1996 the Newburyport-based Heather Lynne II collided with a barge towed by the tug Houma in the vicinity of Jeffreys Ledge off the coast of Cape Ann, causing it to capsize. The three crewmen survived the initial casualty but subsequently drowned before they could be rescued. A huge controversy erupted regarding the Coast Guard’s response, the availability and use of rescue swimmers, and the details of the search and rescue protocols that were in place at the time, but that is not the point of this post.

What happened after the fact is important, but not nearly as important as what led up to the collision in the first place. The mate on watch on the Houma failed to give way to the Heather Lynne II, which was making way towards Jeffreys Ledge (but not fishing) as it approached on a crossing course from the tug’s starboard side. Meanwhile, the Heather Lynne II failed to have a proper lookout or, apparently, even anyone at the wheel.

The simple and tragic fact of the matter is that, regardless of the actions or in-actions of the other, if either one of the two vessels had simply fulfilled their duties this “accident” never would have happened.

This sad story was investigated and chronicled in Kate Yeoman’s excellent book Dead Men Tapping…..

…..which belongs on every mariner’s bookshelf. This book, along with many other worthy titles, is listed on our Library page.

Click here for the recent news article that inspired this post.


  1. interesting that this leads me back to newburyport. i worked and lived in nbpt a few years, know of kate yeomans, remember this incident, found out here recently that houma was the tug, but didn’t know the subsequent history of heatherlynne II. thanks.

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