"Mohawk's" Tragic End
In 1875, she was the queen of New York's racing fleet and the largest
competitive yacht on American waters. Mohawk's owner was a 35-year-old
textile magnate named William Garner.
Wide-bellied and flat-bottomed, Mohawk
carried over 20,000 square feet of canvas and measured 140 feet overall. She had
an extraordinary 30-foot beam and a draft of only six feet with her centerboard
up. These unusual features made Mohawk difficult at the helm, but
extremely fast downwind. She performed well during her first season of
competition: Which became her last.
On the afternoon of Thursday, July
20, 1876, the schooner was anchored at Stapleton, Staten Island, NY, under a
cloudy sky with occasional showers. In spite of the dreary weather, Mohawk's owner
boarded along with his wife and five guests for a short sail. As the crew
hoisted the schooner's sails a sudden shower sent the visitors below.
About 4 p.m. the captain ordered
the anchor raised. But as the crew began to hoist a sudden gust of wind raced
across the harbor and tipped Mohawk violently to port. Abruptly, however,
she began to right herself to the relief of all aboard.
Suddenly a stronger gust hit and
knocked Mohawk flat. The wind held her down and she literally sailed
under the waves. Garner, realizing the schooner's fate, rushed below in search
of his wife.
cabin, fast filling with water, was in chaos. A number of 150-pound lead ingots,
carried as ballast, had smashed through the deck and slid down the port side on
top of her. Garner attempted to pull her out, but it was useless. In addition,
the dislocated ballast made it impossible for the yacht to right herself.
Two guests managed to escape up the
companionway and another was able to swim out through a smashed skylight. The
rest of those on board sank with the Mohawk in less than 10 minutes.
Garner, his wife, two friends and a cabin boy perished in the sinking.
A coroner's inquest found the
captain innocent of any wrongdoing and blamed the schooner's design for the
tragedy. Her broad beam, shallow draft and dependence on unsecured internal
ballast for stability was deemed the cause of the yacht's capsizing.
Soon after this tragedy, a new
breed of lean, deep draft racing yachts appeared in competition in America.
From: YCA "YACHTING WORLD" NEWSLETTER