Sankaty (steamboat)

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Hsl-pc-ob-Steamer Sankaty.jpg
Postcard image of the steamer Sankaty off of Oak Bluffs, MA.
Owner: New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket Steamboat Company[1]
Launched: 1911
Out of service: 1964[1]
Fate: sunk in 1964[1]
Notes: Designed for rough water crossing from New Bedford and Woods Hole to Nantucket.[1]
General characteristics
Length: 195 feet (59 m)[1]
Beam: 32 feet (9.8 m) (at water line) 36 feet (11 m) (on deck)[1]
Draught: 9.6 feet (2.9 m)[1]
Depth: 13 feet (4.0 m)[1]
Installed power: triple expansion type engine[1]
Propulsion: propeller[1]
Speed: 16 miles[1]
Sankaty at Union Wharf, Vineyard Haven, MA.
The steamer Sankaty.

The Sankaty (a.k.a. HMCS Sankaty a.k.a. Charles A. Dunning) was a propeller-driven steamer that served as a ferry to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts; in Rockland, ME; Stamford, CT and Oyster Bay, Long Island; Staten Island; Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island and Caribou, Nova Scotia; and served as a minelayer for the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II.


The Sankaty was designed by Chauncey G. Whiton,[1] built by the Fore River Works in Quincy, MA[2] and launched in 1911.[3] It was 188 feet (57 m) long,[2] a slim vessel with twin propellers and twin smokestacks.[4] It had a 36-foot (11 m) beam,[5] and drew 9' 6" of water.[6]

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Ferry

From its construction in 1911 until 1924, the Sankaty operated as a ferry serving the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. While not the first propeller-driven steamer to serve these islands (which was the Helen Augusta which substituted for the Monohansett during the Civil War) it marked the end of the paddlewheel steamer era for the Cape and Islands.[4]

The Sankaty rolled much more than the sidewheelers that preceded it. Because of this, the ladies' parlor and toilet was situated on the upper deck in a location to reduce the motion and vibration while on the rough waters of Vineyard Sound.[3]

1924 fire, Maine and New York Ferry Service

On the night of June 30, 1924, Sankaty caught fire and burned down to its steel hull while tied up overnight in New Bedford harbor.[3] It drifted across the Acushnet River in flames and crashed into the famous whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, setting it on fire as well.[7][8]

Sankaty was raised, sold and rebuilt with an open deck for use as a car ferry in Rockland, ME.[3] A few years later it was sold again to serve as a ferry between Stamford, CT and Oyster Bay, Long Island.[9] [10] It also evidently served as a Staten Island Ferry.[11]

Canadian service

In 1941 the Sankaty was purchased by Northumberland Ferries of Prince Edward Island, Canada, but before it began service it was requisitioned by the Royal Canadian Navy to serve in World War II as a minelayer, HMCS Sankaty. After the war it was renamed the Charles A. Dunning, and served from 1946 until 1964 in the waters between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island and Caribou, Nova Scotia. During this period its capacity was twenty-three cars and four trucks.[12] It was sold for scrap in 1964, but sank en route to Sydney, Nova Scotia.[13]

The new Sankaty

The M/V Sankaty at the wharf in Woods Hole.

In 1994, The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority began service of a new freight vessel Sankaty, named after this old steamer.[14]

Image gallery


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Dayton, Fred Erving (1925), "Nantucket Sound", Steamboat Days, Frederick A. Stokes company, p. 245–6, 
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Technology Review, Vol. XIII, No. 1. January, 1911. MIT Alumni Association.[1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Dukes County Intelligencer. Vol. 24, No. 4. May 1983
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Dukes County Intelligencer. Vol. 7, No. 4. May 1966
  5. Douglas-Lithgow, Robert Alexander. Nantucket, A History G. P. Putnam, 1914.
  6. Vineyard Gazette Online
  7. The American Neptune, 1941. Peabody & Essex Museum, Peabody Museum of Salem [2]
  8. Pacific Steam Navigation Company, Sea Breezes Vol. 56, no. 443 (Nov. 1982)[3]
  9. Snow, Edward Rowe, Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast Dodd, Mead. 1948. [4]
  10. Morley, Christopher. Streamlines. Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1936.
  11. 24 September 1940
  12. The PEI Ships Arrival/Departures Database - P.E.I.'s Coastal Vessels and Ferries
  14. The Steamship Authority, Serving the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket