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Old 10-30-2015, 09:38 PM   #1
charlene
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Default 50th anniv. of Yarmouth Castle sinking

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/br...030-story.html SONG @ VIDEO AT article link:
Anne GeggisContact Reporter
Sun Sentinel
50 years pass since sea tragedy that claimed Pompano seniors

Like a scene from a disaster movie stuck on replay, it's haunted Roswita Pellowski for half a century.

A cruise ship, 13 miles from land, being consumed by a fire in its belly in the wee hours of the morning. A series of small screw-ups a night watchman's missed checkpoint, failure to sound a general alarm, difficulty lowering lifeboats added up to one of the worst shipwrecks in South Florida waters since 1622.

Ninety-one souls perished in the calamity of the S.S. Yarmouth Castle after it caught fire on a 186-mile cruise from Miami to Nassau. The 1965 tragedy was deeply felt in Pompano Beach: nearly two-dozen of its senior citizens were listed among the dead.

Included in the count was Leonie Pellowski, 47. The mother of three daughters was lost at sea and presumed dead.

But through sheer coincidence and Internet sleuthing, Pellowski, her youngest daughter, found a place to mourn her at last: a hulking stone monument in a city cemetery.

It's in Pompano Beach and Pellowski, who lives in Greater St. Petersburg, will mark the 50th anniversary of the ship's sinking on Nov. 13 by making the trip with her sister, Ingrid Hunter of Sun City, to gaze for the first time upon their mother's name inscribed on a brass plate with 90 other victims.

"It's going to be an emotional thing I've always had nightmares about what happened," said Pellowski, now 70. "But at least there is a remembrance for this horrible thing."

The memorial in the northeast section of the Pompano Beach Cemetery will get a buffing for the 50th anniversary, Mayor Lamar Fisher promises. A wreath-laying ceremony might also be in the works.

She'll be headin' south through Biscayne Bay

Into the open sea

Yarmouth Castle, she's a-dyin' and don't know it*

The disaster made the front page of The New York Times the next day. Gordon Lightfoot wrote a ballad about it four years later. In Pompano Beach, the toll was particularly painful. Twenty-three of the dead were North Broward Senior Citizens Club members who paid $52 each for the three-day cruise to the Bahamas. The community wrestled with the image of elderly people trapped in their cabins below deck as smoke filled their rooms.

Deep within the Yarmouth Castle

The fire begins to glow

It leaps into the hallways

And climbs and twists and grows

The 28-page report the Coast Guard published three months later wouldn't offer much comfort. It paints an excruciatingly detailed picture of how everything that could possibly go wrong, did.

First, the 38-year-old, 379-foot vessel that began its life as a trade ship had been allowed to forego flame-retarding improvements, such as replacing wood with steel, on its conversion to a cruise liner, according to the report.

The report says the fire catching quickly on the ship's wooden innards started either because of a mattress pressed up against a jury-rigged lighting unit or smoking material carelessly disposed into the bedding.

The crew also gets plenty of blame in the report. A watchman had skipped an inspection of the fire's ignition point. When smoke was discovered at 12:45 a.m., word didn't reach the bridge until 25 minutes later. By that time, smoke kept the crew from sending a distress signal. A general alarm to the passengers, and the signal to abandon ship, never sounded.

Passengers in the bar and ballroom didn't learn about the fire until someone burst in and screamed, "Fire!" according to the report.

All amidships, oh she's blazin' now

It's spreadin' fore and aft

The people are a-scramblin'

As the fire blocks their path

Further chaos ensued as the crew tried to get the fire hoses to fill. Instead of sending water to the hoses, though, the opened valves filled up the swimming pool. Also, just five of the Yarmouth Castle's 13 lifeboats were launched, according to the Coast Guard.

One lucky stroke came when two ships the S.S. Bermuda Star and the M.V. Finnpulp spotted the 150-foot flames and arrived to rescue 466 survivors from the sinking liner.

Now the heroes, they are many,

But the times are growin' slim

And now from stern to bow

She's a-blazin'

Less than six hours after the fire was discovered, the Yarmouth Castle slipped under the waves, her drowning hastened by the many valves opened to fill fire hoses.

Pellowski, then 20, hadn't even known her mother was onboard the Yarmouth Castle. Her mom, she said, was a free spirit who alternated with the seasons between hotel work in New York and South Florida. She was out with friends when she heard about the ship going down, yet ignorant of any connection to it.

But there was a message waiting when she returned home.

"When I called back, I was connected with one of my mother's friends in West Palm Beach, and then I found out my mother was on the ship," said Pellowski, a retired Lufthansa cargo agent.

It took several days before Kenneth Vincent, now of Plantation, learned his parents, Charles and Sadye Vincent, members of the North Broward Senior Citizens Club, were among the dead. A former Naval officer, he was able to get the Coast Guard to ferry him and other survivors of the Yarmouth Castle to the site where the ship went down.

"We had wreaths that we put out in the water," Vincent said. "Two weeks later, you could still see the oil coming up from the ship."

For years Pellowski has been chilled by the story of that tragic night recounted by her mother's traveling companion, who survived.

"She told me that she woke up because the cabin was filled with smoke and she woke up my mother," Pellowski said. "What she told me is that my mother had taken a sleeping pill. She started to leave the cabin, but she turned around to get her purse.

"And that was the last she ever saw of her," Pellowski added.

The Congressional Quarterly credits the Yarmouth Castle disaster for spurring changes in a number of maritime laws. Now, all passenger ships must meet upgraded safety standards. Ships registered in other countries, as the Yarmouth Castle was, must meet international safety standards to operate in the United States.

Vincent, however, felt the victims should be honorably remembered. He raised the money to build the monument in the cemetery.

"It was something to recognize them," said Vincent, now 93.

Pellowski lived for nearly 10 years in the area without knowing it was there.

She was looking for her father, whom she hasn't seen since age 5, when she came across the memorial on a grave-searching website in September.

"I was totally blown away," she said.

ageggis@sun-sentinel.com, 561-243-6624 or Twitter @AnneBoca

*Lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot

Copyright 2015, Sun Sentinel
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Old 11-02-2015, 03:16 AM   #2
Auburn Annie
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Default Re: 50th anniv. of Yarmouth Castle sinking

I've always loved this song. It's one of his best "story" songs..
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Old 11-02-2015, 06:43 AM   #3
Jim Nasium
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Default Re: 50th anniv. of Yarmouth Castle sinking

It is strange that the article does not mention the actions of the Yarmouth Castle's Captain.
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