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The William B. Crowin Shipwreck  Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, & Maine Shipwrecks
Historical and current New England Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers, fisherman and marine historians.
             

 

 

 

   Capt. Dan Berg's Wreck Valley Collection   

 

WILLIAM B. CROWIN

Text by Captain Eric Takakjian

When thinking of shipwrecks in New England that consistently produce impressive artifacts, several come to mind, such as the Suffolk, Yankee, Trojan, Port Hunterm and the Mars. But no wreck has produced nearly as many "Kodak moments" as the Col. William B Crowin.

Launched as a passenger and freight steamer for the Maine Central Railroad in March of 1911,as the Moosehead, she was an iron hulled ship, 185' long and powered by two1350 horsepower steam engines. The Moosehead served the Maine Central Railroad well for a number of years. From her home port of Portland, she carried passengers and freight to various ports and islands along the Maine coast.

In the mid 1920's the ship was sold to a Mr. William Mills of New York, who renamed her the Porpoise. The Porpoise was placed in service on a daily run from Bridgeport, CT to the Battery in NY City. During the winter of 1927-8 modifications were made to the ship while she was laid up in Newburg, New York on the Hudson River. The most notable modification was the addition of windows on both sided of the hull, extending forward to a joint just aft of the bow.

The ship was sold a third time in July of 1931, to Captain Frank Drake, also of New York. Captain Drake renamed the ship Mayflower and kept her on the Bridgeport to New York run, adding a stop in Hoboken, NJ. Captain Drake operated the ship successfully for ten years, and the Mayflower became a common fixture on the New York harbor waterfront scene.

Unfortunately for Captain Drake, as the war in Europe escalated, American involvement became even more imminent. The United States government did not have enough ships to service their needs in time of war, so Uncle Sam began to look towards the private sector to fill the void. The Mayflower was ideally suited for use as a small troop transport ship, and was commissioned into the US Army Transportation Corps on July 1, 1941. Captain Drake was paid #125,000 for his ship, far below the appraised value of $350,000.

Renamed the Col William B. Cowin, the ship's new homeport became New London, CT. Her primary duty was the transportation of men and supplies out to Fort Wainwright of Fishers Island in Long Island Sound, a task she was especially well suited for. In December of that same year the Army decided to send the Crowin to a ship yard in Boston to have some repairs done. Under the command of Captain William Evans, the Cowin departed New London on the morning of December 17, bound for Boston. Two of the ships officers automobiles were stowed in the forward hold. While approaching the entrance to Buzzards Bay the Cowin struck Hens and Chickens Reef, the same reef that the USS Yankee struck thirty three years before. With a large hole in her hull, the Cowin's fate was sealed, thirty minutes later at approximately 7 PM the Cowin slipped beneath the waves. Fortunately, her crew of 17 escaped unharmed, and rowed ashore at Smiths Neckin Dartmouth, MA.

Shortly after the sinking, the salvage firm of Merritt, Chapmaan, and Scott estimated the cost of raising the ship at 75% of her value. The government decided the cost was not justified, and abandoned all hopes of salvaging the Cowin. With the exception of the salvage of the ship's propellers in 1966, the wreck has lain forgotten at the bottom of Buzzards Bay, until recently.

Several factors combine to make the Crowin one of New England's best artifact wrecks. The shallow depth, 75 fsw max, provides ample bottom time to search for and recover artifacts. Many divers dive this wreck on Nitrox, and are able to make one hour-plus dives with minimal decompression penalties. The ship's hull rests upright and largely intact, with a list to port, providing unrestricted access to all of the ship's compartments. When the Cowin was built no expense was spared, and only the best fittings and equipment available were used in her construction. The wreck has seen a minimal number of divers, since it was first located by Grey Eagle Charters in 1992.

Each trip out to the Crowin divers are filled with anticipation of what they might find. Some divers have ongoing projects; many look forward to digging on their favorite spot. Portholes, cage lamps and various other brass fittings are commonly recovered. Large amounts of china, including dinner dishes, bowls, and large serving platters have been found near the stern. Also found in the after portion of the ship are brass door locks and knobs from the passenger cabins. Some of the most notable finds include large ornately engraved brass steam gauges from the engine room.

As is the custom with all US Army vessels, the transportation or Quartermaster Corps insignias are affixed to either side of the ships bow. This insignia is usually cast in steel and welded in place. The Cowin was no exception to the tradition, but in the Cowin's case the insignias were made of brass and bolted to the outside of the hull. The insignia itself is an American eagle with outstretched wings, holding a wagon wheel in its claws. The wheel is crossed by a key and sword and the outside rim of the wheel is decorated in five point stars. The two insignias on the bow of the Cowins were recovered on May 9, 1993, by Eric Takakjian and Kevin Nord.
 

William Crowin Shipwreck. Courtesy Captain Eric Takakjian

Captain Eric Takakjian

Courtesy Captain Eric Takakjian

Courtesy Captain Eric Takakjian

Courtesy Captain Eric Takakjian

 
   
 
 
 
 

Shipwreck Diving ebook
The complete diver's guide to mastering the skills of shipwreck diving.

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6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file


Shipwreck Diving is a complete how to ebook about the sport of wreck diving. This downloadable PDF e-book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs. Daniel Berg, a noted wreck diver, instructor and author of ten shipwrecks related books, describes all the basics of wreck diving. Topics include everything from equipment modifications, communication, and wreck penetration to artifact preservation. Dan also tells how to navigate on a wreck and be able to return to the anchor line after the dive. Why some divers find more artifacts and explains how to catch lobsters. Shipwreck Diving also covers such diverse topics as shipwreck research, photography, spear fishing and how to use an underwater metal detector. This exciting book tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Shipwreck divers of all caliber will find Shipwreck Diving informative, rewarding and entertaining

Check out Capt. Dan's other shipwreck and Diving eBooks

 

 

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All photographs, sketches, images and text

Copyright Capt. Dan Berg / Aqua Explorers Inc

2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510
E-Mail Wreckvalle@aol.com

 
 
 
 
 
   


 
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