A History of Shipwrecks in Buzzards Bay

A History of Shipwrecks in Buzzards Bay

Buzzards Bay is littered with shipwrecks, though it is impossible be certain of how many ships have been lost in this area of shoals and reefs, dense fog, and strong tides. Some wrecks have survived to be explored by divers, while others have been salvaged. All leave behind stories of sadness and tragedy.

We’ve always been fascinated with the history of Buzzards Bay and the mysteries hidden on the bottom. With the help of the MetroWest Dive Club (www.mwdc.org) and www.wreckhunter.net we have assembled this list of notable shipwrecks around Buzzards Bay

U.S.S. Yankee

(Dive Site) The iron hulled, 406’, steam powered auxiliary cruiser, a veteran of the Spanish American War, was recommissioned into the United States Navy in the capacity of a training ship. The summer of that year was spent cruising between Boston and Chesapeake Bay, with either Naval Academy midshipmen or naval militia reservists learning the rigors of shipboard life. On December 5, 1908, while on one such training maneuver Yankee ran aground five miles south of what is now the New Bedford Hurricane Gate. A dense fog compounded by smoke from nearby forest fires, obscured visibility in Buzzards Bay and led to the steamers demise. There were no fatalities.


The wooden 76’ steam-powered tug was rammed and sunk by the steamer Robert E. Lee on December 12, 1927, just north of Penikese Island. Several months later, the wreck was raised and sold at a public auction 

Col. William B. Cowin

(Dive Site) The 185’, steel-hulled, steamed-powered ferry struck Hens and Chickens reef off of Westport and sank within 30 minutes on December 17, 1941.

Corvan (Registry Unknown)

The freighter Corvin is located one half mile west north west from the flashing bell buoy due north north west of Penikese Island. She sank for unknown reasons, before World War II, no date for the sinking can be found. In recent conversation with fishermen who work in the area, they report that they hit this large wreck every now and then when dragging in the area. They also indicate that there is some kind of aircraft.

USS Valor (AMC-108)

The 98’ U.S. Navy coastal mine sweeper collided with the destroyer escort, USS Richard W. Suessens on July29, 1944.  Off ofMishaum Point, Dartmouth. Seven crewmen were killed. The wreck was partially salvaged by the Navy.

Vineyard Lightship (LV-73)

The 112’, steel lightship was sunk about a mile east of Buzzards Bay Light in a hurricane on September 14, 1944.  The entire crew of 12 was lost.

HMCS St. Francis

(Dive Site) 314’ steel destroyer sank on July 14, 1945, 2 miles off Acoaxet, near Westport. One of the 50 “lend-lease” destroyers the United Kingdom received in exchange for land base leases on British soil, HMCS St. Francis served in rescue, escort and anti-submarine duties throughout the war. Finally replaced by more modern warships, she functioned as a training vessel until the end of the war. St. Francis was under tow of the tug Peter Norman, bound for Baltimore, to be broken up for scrap. After passing through the Cape Cod Canal a thick fog enshrouded Buzzards Bay. Near the entrance to the bay the collier Windward Gulf collided with the old destroyer opening a hole in her hull. Peter Norman tried to ground St. Francis, but she was shipping water too quickly. The aged warship sank on an even keel, in 60 feet of water with no loss of life.

Hilda Garston

(Dive Site) The 86’ steel fishing boat sank on February 20, 1961. After loading a cargo of scallops and heading for home. Passing the Buzzards Bay Light Vessel, a course was set which would take the fishing vessel near the Hen and Chickens Reef buoys.
    Soon thereafter and without warning Hilda Garston struck something that knocked out her propeller and ruptured the hull. Taking to their dories the crew cast off and watched transfixed as their vessel settled by the stern and sank from view. With some effort the Garston‘s crew rowed against a two-knot current eventually making landfall on a deserted stretch of Horse Neck State Beach. There was no loss of life.


The 309’ steel tanker collided in fog with the Norwegian freighter, Fernview on November 15, 1963. The accident happened off of the NW shore of Pasque Island. Dynafuel caught fire, capsized and sank; Fernview did not sink. Most of the wreck was later removed.

Bermuda Star

Not all of Buzzards Bay’s wrecks have ended in disaster. On July 10, 1990, while waiting for fog to lift before transiting the Canal, the 617’ cruise ship ran aground about a mile off of Old Silver Beach in West Falmouth. The impact caused two, foot-long holes and a 90’ gash in the ship’s double hull. The Bermuda Star took on about three feet of water and suffered a punctured fuel tank causing a mile-long slick across the bay. None of the 680 passengers or 311 crew was reported injured. The ship was later freed and towed away.