The Rescue of Obed G. Goffigon

October 9, 1893, Near Hog Island
Posted 15 October 1999 by Barbara Cox, a granddaughter of Obediah George Goffigon

Click here to see the ancestors of Obediah George Goffigon.

    An excerpt from Shipwrecks on the Virginia Coast and the Men of the United States Life-Saving Service by Richard A. Pouliot and Julie J. Pouliot, Centreville, Maryland, Tidewater Publishers, 1986, pp. 105 – 106.

    On 9 October 1893 several small boats came from the mainland through the passages and inlets that threaded the Eastern Shore’s barrier islands. The sea was slowly building up …

    Throughout the morning the wind and sea increased in strength and by early afternoon the surf line extended nearly three quarters of a mile offshore. The Hog Island station lookout watched as the seven small boats moved toward the inlet and lined up outside waiting their turn to cross the bar. With more luck than skill the first two boats successfully navigated the surf to reach the calmer waters. The third vessel was the small sailboat J.B. Denton from Red Bank, Virginia, manned by a crew of four. The Denton attempted to come in without any sails set, using only oars. The men tried to ride upon the crest of a wave, but their boat plunged ahead of the wave into the trough “and pitchpoled, flinging the occupants into the water.” The station lookout at once notified Keeper Johnson who had his men launch the surfboat and pull towards the sailboat.

    The four fishermen, dressed in oiled clothes and heavy rubber boots, managed to swim back and hang on to the overturned sailboat. The surf rolled the Denton over again and again. Willliam F. Bool and James E. Sharpley rapidly lost the strength to hold on to the boat and sank beneath the breakers. Both Obed G. Goffigon and C. A. Burton kicked free of their boots and held on.

     … The surfmen pulled their surfboat to a point above the sailboat then dropped down alongside her and picked Burton up as the current carried them by. Burton quickly explained how both Bool and Sharpley slipped away from the side of the sailboat; he last saw Goffigon drifting away holding on to the mast. The surfmen rowed after Goffigon and safely pulled him into the surfboat. The two rescued men were taken to the station…

     The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Obed G. Goffigon to General Superintendent Kimball of the United States Life-Saving Service:

      I was one of the crew of the fishing boat capsized off Hog Island on October 9 and I unhesitatingly say that Captain Johnson and crew did all that men could do to rescue us. I left the boat on a mast; my three companions stuck to the boat. Captain Johnson reached the upturned boat as soon as it was possible for a mortal man, but not soon enough, alas! to rescue two of my companions. But, thank God, one was saved, and he today owes his life to the prompt action and undoubted bravery of Captain Johnson and crew. I am a sailor and have been connected with the Life-Saving Service, but never in my life have I seen a surfboat driven faster, more skillfully handled, or in a worse sea.

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