On September 21, 1938, around 2pm, The Great New England Hurricane slammed ashore at Suffolk County Long Island at approximately 60 miles per hour.  The day would end tragically for many across Southern New England with staggering and catastrophic losses; 564 people would be dead, 1700 injured, entire marine communities washed out to sea.  And yet DORIS, then HUNTRESS, survived, riding out the storm in Padanaram Harbor under the command of Captain Albert D. Tilton. 

The log for HUNTRESS details a harrowing five hours as she rolled with rough seas and strong winds. Picking up two additional moorings for a total of three, and with 35 fathoms of chain to one large anchor, HUNTRESS held her position while the boats around her washed ashore and the harbor filled with wreckage. 

The 1933 S&S designed Motor Sailer TAMERLANE shared the harbor but not the same fate.  Beginning the day close by to HUNTRESS, she was dragged ashore over marshes and pier before coming to a rest on the South Wharf.  Huntress-Log-Sep-21-1938

Looking through several contemporary souvenir publications, a photo is located of Pandanaram Harbor just before the storm – two boats are moored as dark clouds roll in – a daring photograph taken by the Standard-Time’s A.F. Packard just moments before the hurricane crashed ashore. Looking closely at the two boats it appears we’re looking at TAMERLANE and HUNTRESS, anchored side by side, as detailed in Captain Tilton’s log.  

AF Packard
Pandanaram Harbor looking east into Hurricane. Photo by A.F. Packard for Standard-Times

The boat in the foreground has the same spreaders, same house layout, and same life ring as TAMERLANE (see photo below).  

Motor Sailer TAMERLANE photo by Rosenfeld

Likewise looking at the boat to port as compared to a photo of HUNTRESS; two sets of spreaders on the mainmast, one on the mizzenmast, life ring position near mizzenmast, two sets of heavy gallows, same triatic stay and backstay.

DORIS as HUNTRESS photo by Rosenfeld


It’s unimaginable to place oneself in the position of Captain Tilton and his support crew – riding out one of the worst natural disasters in New England History – manning a 78 foot ketch in the midst of unprecedented storm surges and winds reaching 100 mph in order to save her. And yet he did it – and HUNTRESS was “none worse for her experience” being only 1 of 12 boats of 60 that remained afloat and undamaged. Now that’s a Captain worth his salt.

We want to extent our tremendous gratitude and appreciation to the family of Captain Tilton for sharing these treasured artifacts.  Supplemental information, available to subscribers only, can be found here


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