Ref Number: 00160
Ref Number: 00160
Captain MacIntyre sailed the Sirenia from San Francisco to Dunkirk through Cape Horn with 25 crew members including his wife, three children, and a lady servant. The Sirenia, weighing in at a hefty 1,588 tonnes, was a three-masted, full-rigged ship made of iron and steel.
Under full sail in a deep fog and shockingly heavy sea on March 9th, 1888, when there was no wind, she went aground.
It was a Harry Cotton, son of Brighstone Lifeboat crew member Rufus Cotton, who sounded the alarm. Coxswain Moses Munt of the Worcester Cadet lifeboat set sail just after 4 o’clock despite a lack of wind and a strong sea. The children and the two ladies were securely beached at 6:30 p.m., after being exposed to big, freezing surges for an hour. As landing a full boat at high tide in such a surge posed a significant risk, Munt and MacIntyre agreeded to return for the crew at low tide.
Unfortunatly the William Slaney Lewis lifeboat was also having issues six miles away at Brook, but the Coxswain, John Hayter, judged it was too risky to launch from the chine. On the Military Road, the carriage was rolled out and towed to Brighstone. They set sail from Grange Chine but quickly overturned, damaging their oars and injuring two of the crew members. The process of reloading the boat onto the carriage took an hour. Next, it was transported to Chilton Chine, where it was carefully lowered into the water and released into the sea.
The wind was picking up and the waves kept coming back at Atherfield. Since there was little time to spare, Munt set sail at midnight, when the tide was low. The Worcester Cadet eventually docked with the Sirenia, occasionally twenty feet up and down below the rail as waves were high and relentless. There were 13 men waiting to be taken off, and they all jumped in or slid down the ropes when the time came. Almost immediately after the lifeboat set sail, it was nearly vertically lifted by a massive wave. The men crashed into Munt from the stern as they fell. After that wave passed, the boat was broadside to the following one, which flipped it over, sending its occupants into the ocean. Twenty-two of the crew members returned to the ship after the lifeboat righted itself, but Moses Munt, Thomas Cotton, and a member of the Sirenia’s crew were still missing. Leonard Procter Dozier, another member of the Sirenia’s crew, was discovered dead in the lifeboat’s ropes after the vessel righted itself.
Now only 300 yards separated the William Slaney Lewis and the Sirenia when a monster wave hit both of them, washing overboard the Sirenia’s second coxswain, Reuben Cooper, and Ben and Phil Jacobs. The Jacobs brothers, clinging to ropes, were quickly brought back on board, but Reuben Cooper was nowhere to be found. After exhausting their resources, the Coxswain had no choice but to drop anchor and wait for daylight to resume their search.
At first light the weather was still terrible. Hayter finally gave up his effort after a long, hopeless struggle and departed on his return voyage to Brook. It had been fifteen hours since the William Slaney Lewis had been launched.
The Worcester Cadet crew could only send three members out to the Sirenia for the third time. Due to the loss of their officers, Rufus Cotton was promoted to the position of Coxswain. The other two were named David Cotton and a 19-year-old named Frank Salter. Coxswain Edmund Attrill of the Bembridge boat, who had to walk 15 miles across the Island to get there, was among the new recruits. One travelled from Ventnor, and the other two travelled from Sandown. Crew members included Walter White (later Atherfield Coxswain), Fred Bastiani (a renowned local smuggler), John Cotton, Percy Wheeler, and Charles Orchard.
She took off at midday and returned with the rest of the crew two hours later.
On the same evening, the bodies of Moses Munt and the Sirenia crewman came up on the coast, but Tom Cotton’s wasn’t discovered for several more days, washed up at the base of Blackgang Chine. Brighstone Churchyard is still there, and you can visit the graves of Moses Munt, Leonard Dozier, and Thomas Cotton.
A routine investigation was conducted by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to examine the actions taken by both Coxswains. Hayter and Monk were cleared of any wrongdoing. Silver medals were awarded to rescuers John Hayter, Rufus Cotton, David Cotton, and Frank Salter.
Just over two years later, on October 27, 1890, the first Catherine Swift lifeboat entered service at a new station established at Atherfield.