Peter Wademan, The Puritan, 30″ x 40″, O/C
Three days after the defeat of the Elsie in 1921 by the new Bluenose, Gloucester promptly began two new vessels to claim the cup, the Henry Ford and the Puritan. Puritan slid down the ways of J. F. James and Son yard in Essex in March of 1922.
There was so much interest in the vessels that the town of Essex became a favorite place for sightseers; two thousand saw her launch. By all accounts she was the fastest vessel to come off the ways in Essex. All challengers for the cup had to be working fishermen, so the Puritan promptly went to the banks under the command of Captain Jeff Thomas. Thomas came back convinced that the Puritan was the fastest vessel ever built. Designed by W. Starling Burgess, who had designed the Mayflower, Puritan was similar, but smaller, with a longer traditional overhanging transom. She was fast, once sailing to Boothbay, Maine from Thatcher Island, in five hours, seven minutes, averaging fourteen and one-half knots. Capt. Thomas may have been right about the Puritan’s speed, but one will never know. One her third voyage, in June of 1922, Capt. Thomas was going full tilt through the fog, at twelve knots, carrying a full kit of sail off Sable Island when she overran her dead reckoning by twenty miles and crashed, striking the western bar. The Puritan was a total loss. The sternpost came up through the deck. The keel floated up alongside. The first dory put off capsized and only two of the three men survived. Seven men pulled for shore in the pounding surf, and another fifteen rowed offshore and were picked up by a passing schooner. Even Capt. Thomas had underestimated the Puritan’s speed. The great Gloucester fishing schooner, Puritan, 123 feet long and flying almost 9,000 square feet of canvas, the high flyer, didn’t last long enough to see the new year. She sank barely three months after her launching.