Lynn (1951)

Less than an hour after leaving the Boston Fish Pier for George’s Fishing Bank off Cape Cod, the crew of the 170-ton trawler Lynn  sat down for an early evening dinner. It was just after 5:00 p.m. on November 29, 1951.

Lynn wreckSuddenly, the 10,500-ton tanker Ventura  struck the Lynn  from behind and plunged the fishing boat under its colossal flaring bow.

The 13 men sitting at dinner didn’t have a chance, and perished as their trawler heeled over and sank.

Thrown from the wheelhouse into the frigid waters were four members of the crew, including the helmsman, 46 year-old John J. King of Winthrop, and Lynn‘s captain, James C. McNamara, age 41, of Medford.

All four were rescued by the fishing boat M. C. Ballard, which rushed them to the Boston fish pier to waiting ambulances.

However, the other two, Mate Jim Hayes and crewman John Rogers who had come up to invite McNamara to join them for dinner, died on the way.

The Ventura's huge bow struck the aft of the trawler Lynn.

The Ventura’s huge bow struck the aft of the trawler Lynn. (Photo: Auke Visser)

The Ventura,  having delivered its cargo of fuel at the Union Oil dock in Chelsea, had just passed the Ballard  at a speed of 13 to 14 knots. At the scene of the accident, the tanker reversed its engines, radioed for help and stood by to render assistance.

“More than 12 Coast Guard, harbor police and private boats searched the dark water for possible survivors as a Coast Guard plane dropped flares to provide illumination,” United Press reported.

Why the Ventura  struck the Lynn  in Broad Channel is unclear. The sun had just set behind Boston, leaving calm seas. “The Coast Guard said the weather was clear at the time of the accident which occurred between Graves Head and Finn’s Ledge about 5:15 p.m.,” according to United Press.

Lynn‘s running and deck lights were properly operating, and Ventura‘s skipper and crew had each other’s vessels in sight. The tanker even whistled and rang bells to tell Lynn  that it was overtaking the trawler, but the fishing crew couldn’t hear. Then Ventura  struck a rear davit on the smaller boat, causing the wreck.

A legal case later established the circumstances in a detailed report.

The 102-foot Lynn  was a Boston boat; the Ventura, a T-2 tanker (hull # 73) built for World War II service at 504 feet in length, was registered in Wilmington, Delaware, and owned by the Ventura Steamship Corp., apparently a subsidiary of The Texas Company (Texaco).

Months later, the wreck of the Lynn  was located and raised to the surface under what Edward Rowe Snow called “dramatic conditions.”

The collision occurred not far from where, just a decade before, 18 fishermen drowned aboard the Mary E. O’Hara  in Boston Harbor’s worst maritime disaster.

Though an admiralty court found Ventura  solely responsible for the disaster, Texaco appealed the case, which dragged on for years. After Texaco lost its legal appeals in 1955, the Ventura  was renamed Tuscarora  with ownership transferred to another apparent shell company called the Tuscarora Corp., and re-flagged in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. It was renamed World Tempest  in 1956. In 1965 it was sold to an Italian ship breaking company for scrap.

A T-2 tanker similar to the SS Ventura, which sunk the trawler Lynn off Graves Ledge in 1951, with a loss of 15 men.

A T-2 tanker similar to the SS Ventura, which sunk the trawler Lynn off Graves Ledge in 1951, with a loss of 15 men.

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  1. Some time after the wreck, Captain McNamara went back to sea as captain of the trawler Sturgeon Bay. He retired some years later after a fall in rough weather. He had a badly broken leg that never mended properly. As his next door neighbor I never tired of listening to his salty stories. (I was 12 years old then)

  2. I am interested in this story as it as the John .J(likely James) King was at the helm. He is my 2nd cousin. He would have been my fathers 1st cousin.
    Their history is from Cape Breton ,Nova Scotia.
    I am also interested in the background of the Captain James McNamara as my grandmother was a McNamara also from C.B.

    • My grandfather George Proctor was also on the boat. If there is something you want to know. They were all related on the ship- cousins.

      • Could anyone tell me the names of the other crew that perished. I am the great grand daughter of a member that may have been on this ship. I also would love to know if all of us are related, as I see your note regarding cousins…

        please email me if any of you would like to meet up

  3. My grandfather was John Rogers. This tragic accident has held my interest since I can remember. I wish I had been able to meet my grandfather. RIP all crew members of the Lynn.

  4. Thanks for writing in, Stanley and all the others. Even though the wreck happened so long ago, its effects are felt for decades. We just hosted two survivors from the more recent wreck of The Bounty, a tall ship that went down in 2012 with a loss of two people, so its safe to say that as long as there are ships, there will be shipping accidents. We here at Graves Light echo your words – RIP to all crew members of the Lynn.

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