The "Sugarboat" Disaster

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On April 29, 1930, the 560-ton vessel Thames caught fire and sank about 100-yards off Greenwich Point.  Sixteen of the twenty-four crew members lost their lives.  A red buoy in Long Island Sound marks the remains of the boat, and at low tide some of the wreckage can still be seen.  Today, there is still some controversy which surrounds the disaster.

The converted freighter was originally built in 1884 as a 142-foot passenger ship.  It was called the City of Gloucester, and sailed primarily in Boston Harbor.  In 1927, it was sold to the Thames Company and was converted to a freighter.  She was renamed the Thames.

On that fateful night in April, Captain Roger Sherman of Stratford was carrying 100-tons of sugar, 20 bales of wool shavings and 25 barrels of oil - a very lethal, flammable mix.  About 8 pm when the boat was about 2-miles off Great Captain's Island, a fire broke out below deck near the boiler room.  Rumor has it that a cigarette butt was thrown into the volatile cargo near the boiler room.  Although it was only 100-yards off  Greenwich Point, there were no rescue boats or communications systems in place like there is today.  Spectators viewing the firery glow from shore could only watch helplessly as crew members jumped into the frigid Sound.  Only one crew member appeared to be wearing a life jacket.  There is also some question as to whether all the crew members could swim.

The controversy concerns the final destination of the Thames.  Some reports claim the boat was headed toward New Bedford.  Others claim the sugar may have been destined for bootleggers in Byram.  After all, Greenwich had more "speakeasies" in Connecticut than any other town during Prohibition.  Because of its sugar cargo, it has been named the "Sugarboat".

Years later, the "Sugarboat" was still causing trouble.  In August 1954 a cruiser struck the wreckage and sunk.  Then in July 1961, another boat struck the remains and sank.  For this reason, it has been called "The Ghost of the Sound".

1 Comment

Carl,
Thanks for this local history information. Just this past week my nephews and I were talking about the sugarboat wreck and we attempted to google information about it, but only found one reference. Very informative!

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This page contains a single entry by Administrator published on July 2, 2010 11:03 AM.

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