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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Cutter caused chaos at Cape tip

Hurricane force winds hit Provincetown Harbor 90 years ago, and the U.S.S. Morrill was in the way. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The cutter known as the U.S.S. Morrill had already seen a tough stretch of luck as the day dawned over Provincetown Harbor on Nov. 16, 1926.

The Morrill, known as the "mother ship" of the rum-chasing fleet along the New England coast, had seen eight of its men perish as one of its surf boats capsized off the coast of Nova Scotia one year earlier, but what was to come later on this day defied explanation.

The Morrill, which was fitted with machine guns and had captured a British schooner transporting over 2,500 cases of alcoholic beverages off Highland Light just a few months earlier, was anchored in the harbor as winds began to pick up steadily out of the southeast during the day.

By late afternoon, wind speeds reached gale force, increasing the waves battering up against the vessel. By nightfall, the winds were up to hurricane force, forcing the chains and anchors to snap.

The 300-foot vessel was on the loose, drifting about helplessly and headed for the docks of the harbor. The 50-man crew could do little to stop it, except to issue a warning via megaphone to those onshore to get off the wharves and out of the buildings.

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