Charles S. Haight

Overview

Haight Chart 2The Liberty Ship Charles S. Haight was shipwrecked off of Rockport in 1946. Remnants, including the large engine block, are located a short distance northeast of the outer breakwater in the "Flat Ground" area and are marked by Red Nun "2". The ship's binnacle now resides at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club.

  • Description: freighter, steel
  • Dimensions: length 422.8 feet, width 57 feet, depth 34.8 feet
  • Tonnage: gross 7198
  • Propulsion: steam, propeller
  • Cargo: none

The Shipwreck

  • Date Sunk: April 2, 1946
  • Cause: stranded
  • Location: Flat Ground, Rockport
  • Coordinates: latitude 42° - 40' - 38" N; longitude 70° - 35' - 03" W

The evening of April 1, 1946 found the Charles S. Haight off Cape Ann, returning "in ballast" (without cargo) to New York after delivering coal to Newport, England. Visibility was poor, the seas were rough and a strong southeast wind was blowing. At the helm, Richard Young of Detroit, Michigan, reported the freighter on a course of 215° traveling in a southwesterly direction. At 12:07 am, April 2, the Haight suddenly ground to a halt. Without radar and with poor visibility, the freighter was blown inshore by southeasterly winds and onto the Flatground inside the Dry Salvages, 1.5 miles east of Rockport.

Light as it was, without a cargo, the steamer slid high on the ledge and resisted all attempts to free it. The vessel radioed that its double-bottomed hull had been punctured near the Number 5 hold, but otherwise, the rest of the freighter was intact. Heavy seas pounded the stranded steamer against the ledge and soon water was flooding the rest of the ship. At first, the pumps kept up with the deluge. However, by noon, Captain Mano ordered 29 of his crew to the lifeboats as rising waters in the engine room threatened a boiler explosion. For two hours, the crewmembers sat it out until the danger passed. At 3:30 pm, they were removed to the Coast Guard Cutter Ojibwa (comment: not sure if this photo is the same vessel), standing by the vessel in case it broke up in the heavy seas.

By late afternoon, seas had moderated and the Haight stopped pounding, but the damage was done. The vessel had been pushed atop the ledge to the midship section. The holds were flooded and there was 30 feet of water in its engine room. A representative of the vessels' Boston agents declared that the ship was "dead."

On April 5, the Boston newspapers reported there was no hope of saving the grounded vessel as it was breaking in two at the Number 4 hold. By April 9, the Charles S. Haight was considered a total loss.

Dive Site Conditions

  • Depth in feet: maximum 30, minimum 10
  • Visibility in feet: average 20

Over the years, Charles S. Haight's remains were reduced until only a vestige of its huge triple-expansion steam engine can be seen at low tide. This can be found on the West Side of the Flat Ground.

Between high and low tides, strong currents flow over this wreck making even anchoring a difficult task. By late summer, it is often hard to discern rock from wreck due to a thick mat of algae. Most of the "wreckage" consists of steel beams and plates scattered atop the ledge. Hank Keatts (1988) reports that the bow remains can be found at "one-half the distance between the engine and the breakwater."

Historical Background

  • Constructed: in 1944, at Brunswick, Georgia by the J.A. Jones Construction Co.
  • Construction details: Liberty Ship
  • Crew: 49
  • Master: Capt. Joseph.A. Mano
  • Owners: U.S. War Shipping Administration; Peabody and Lane, Boston Agents
  • Operated by Marine Transport Lines
  • Home or Hailing Port: Brunswick, Georgia
  • Official number: 246541
  • Country: USA
  • Other Comments: The Charles S Haight was one of over 2700 Liberty Ships built during World War II. This class of vessels made a significant contribution to the war effort in the transport of supplies.

Salvage

Merritt Chapman and Scott of New York began salvage operations on the vessel, within days of its stranding. The vessel was not, at the time, considered a hazard to navigation.

Much of this vessel was removed as scrap by various salvers over the years. In 1958, shipwreck researcher/writer Brad W. Luther reported that "the bow and stern broke away from the mid-section and the stern disappeared from view. The bow projects about 10 feet above the water and the mid-section was 40 feet above the water at last report." By 1965, he reported that the vessel was reduced until only the main engine was above water.

Today only a remnant of the freighter's huge triple expansion steam engine bares at low water.

Sources

  • Boston Globe; April 2, 3, 4, 5, 1946
  • Fisherman Magazine; August 22, 1991
  • Merchant Vessels of the United States; 1947
  • Merchant Vessels of the United States, Vessels Lost Chapter; 1948
  • New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks; Keatts, 1988
  • New England Shipwrecks; Luther, 1967
  • New York Times; April 3, 4, 9, 1946
  • The Liberty Ships; Sawyer and Mitchell, 1985
  • Wrecks Below; B.W. Luther, 1958

Resources

Thanks to Ted Dow for the photos and the research for this information.

Photos of Liberty Ship Charles S. Haight

The first I remember about Charles S. Haight was seeing an aerial photo of the grounded ship in the Globe (or the Times) in the spring of 1946. I was living in Danvers winters, Rockport summers. I located the photographer in Lynn and got an 8x10 glossy print - (which I am still looking for) - and I looked forward to the summer when I could see the wreck. I was sixteen.

As soon as school was out, we moved to Rockport for the summer and I got my sailboat, an 18-foot Alden-designed "O" boat, the Cirrus, into the water. The wreck was a magnet, and several of my friends and I soon sailed out to the Haight and climbed aboard. There was nothing of value left by then, but we had fun running all over the ship. We made numerous visits that summer.

At some point - I can't remember just when - the stern section broke off and capsized as can be seen in the photos. I was interested in photography and took the series of photos that are shown here, some while aboard, the rest while sailing around the wreck. The negatives have been stored in the attic all these years until this winter (2004) when I found them and scanned all my old B&W negatives into the computer. I had thought they had been lost.

Later in the summer of 1946 (as I recall), the stern disappeared and the bow broke off, capsized, and drifted or moved about halfway toward the breakwater - then later, it disappeared also.

- Ted Dow

View the photos and captions of the Liberty Ship Charles S. Haight, by and courtesy of, Ted Dow.