Master Mariners of Canada

Memorial of the 50th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Saint John Pilot Boat No.1

Saint John Pilot Boat No.1


January 14, 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Saint John Pilot Boat No.1.


Pilot Boat No. 1 was cut in two at 7:13 a.m. January 14, 1957 by S.S. Fort Avalon while on station in thick vapor, temperature –22 degrees Fahrenheit.


From the Evening Times Globe dated January 15, 1957:


“A pall of gloom hung over the Port of Saint John today as the unrelenting search went on for the seven occupants of pilot boat No. 1, missing since the vessel was in collision with a freighter in the Bay of Fundy yesterday morning. The anxiety and tension could be felt in every household, whether or not the family had any direct association with the day-to-day activity of the harbour front. For the accident had occurred very close to home, and it had involved several members of the intrepid group of men who follow an adventurous, rigorous and often risky life throughout the year, their goings and comings are a familiar sight to all.”


The melancholy quest directed the spotlight of public attention to the essential job the harbour pilots perform faithfully and unobtrusively with never a thought of personal acclaim, with even, in fact, a characteristic reluctance to have notice drawn to their exploits.


All hands lost: William J. Murray Pilot John V. Cunningham Pilot William P. Traynor Pilot Ward Poole Apprentice Frank Coughlan Seaman Blanchard Cosman Cook Ronald Johnson Chief Engineer.


Although not the official account, the S.S. Fort Avalon was found to be proceeding at full speed in restricted visibility without a proper lookout, coupled with evidence that the vessel was some 2-3 miles off its estimated position. A marine radar on the S.S. Fort Avalon was also in use at the time and it was determined that there was a 4 degree blind spot on the bow.


Two years later the wreck of the Pilot Boat No. 1 was recovered from the bottom and confirmed that the pilot boat was on station at the time of the collision. The memorial service was well attended by members of the Fundy Division including our National Master, Capt. Peter Turner. A church service followed the memorial ceremony.