Captain Leander Foss and His Shipwrecks
Late November always brings Captain Leader Foss to mind. He and his crew, all seamen of the Kennebunks, were lost on the night of November 30, 1842, at Bald Head Cliff, with the Kennebunk-built barque Isadore. Captain Foss had insisted on sailing the Isadore on her maiden voyage despite objections from his superstitious crew after a difficult launch. The Isadore had even grazed Perch Rock on her way out of the Kennebunk River that morning under an ominous sky. Foss sailed on.
Previously, Captain Leander Foss had been in command of the Scarborough-built barque Horace. Four members of his crew had mutinied off the coast of Florida on her maiden voyage in 1838. The captain managed to wrestle a loaded pistol away from the ringleader, sequester the mutineers, and sail for Kennebunk to deliver them to authorities. Two of the accused pleaded guilty and were sentenced by a United States Circuit Court Judge to sixty days each in County Jail.
Meanwhile, the Horace remained anchored outside the Kennebunk River for four days. During a severe gale on Saturday night May 5, 1838, the barque parted both cables and repeatedly struck the ledges off Oakes Neck for a period of 15 minutes. She lost her rudder and false keel and started taking on water. The 389-ton Horace finally grounded on Boothby’s Beach near Lord’s Point, 150 yards below high-water mark. All onboard safely abandoned ship.
The following morning the vessel was found upright on the beach with her masts still standing. She had taken so much damage the night before that the insurance companies declared her a total loss. Her cargo of about 1300 bales of cotton was sold at auction on the beach. As much of the Horace as possible was salvaged. The remains of her hull can sometimes still be seen on the beach near Lords Point at very low tide.
The shipwreck was humiliating for Captain Leander Foss, who had been ashore in his cozy bed when the gale hit. He reportedly said many times that he wished he had gone down with the Horace. The salvaged spars and rigging of the barque Horace were used again to rig the ill-fated barque Isadore just 4 ½ years later.
This Thanksgiving, I am most thankful to the Kennebunkport Historical Society for allowing me to share my stories here every week and to all of you for reading them. I so enjoy this aspect of my job.
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