Newport, RI Launch ALLEGRO Fire, Aug 1909


The Allegro Afire in the Sound, They Take to the Tender, Which Upsets.


Picked Up by a Catboat and Taken to Newport--$14,000 Launch and All Their Effects Lost.

NEWPORT, R. I., Aug. 21.--Four men had a narrow escape from death late this afternoon when the fifty-one foot cabin launch Allegro caught fire and burned at a point about three miles east of Brenton's Reef Lightship. Thrown into the water by the capsizing of the tender in which they had taken refuge from the burning launch, the four kept themselves afloat for nearly an hour until rescuers arrived.

W. J. Mills and G. F. Lemson, members of the Edgewood Yacht Club of Providence, the owners of the launch, were on board of her, and with them were Fred J. Laason and J. J. Mathewson, also of Providence. Besides the launch, which was valued at $14,000, the men lost many personal effects.

The Allegro had started out for a week's cruises. She left Block Island this afternoon, and was headed for Seaconnet Point, where the party intended to pass the night. When they were about three miles off Brenton's Reef Light Vessel, Mathewson, who was steering, smelled smoke, and Mills, who was also in the pilot house, went to the cabin to investigate. He found an oil stove in the galley ablaze. The flames spread so rapidly that the interior of the cabin was soon completely enveloped.

Seeing that it would be impossible to save the craft, the men hastily cut away the tender from the davits so that the little boat dropped into the sea right side up. By this time the fire was shooting through the deadlights and the men had barely time to jump for the tender before an explosion occurred which tore away the roof of the cabin.

Three of the party got into the tender, but it capsized when Mathewson, who had missed it when he jumped from the launch, tried to crawl in over the side. All the men are good swimmers, and fortunately there were life preservers in the tender. Clinging to the sides of the capsized boat, the men managed to kick off their shoes, and divest themselves of all their outer clothing except their trousers and then put on life preservers.

For nearly an hour they remained in the water, partly supported by the capsized tender, until they were picked up by the catboat, Priscilla, which brought them to Newport.

Commander Mark L. Bristol, the officer in charge of the torpedo station, ordered the torpedo boat Morris to the scene when the burning craft was sighted, and the sailors lost no time in getting up steam and heading the swift little war vessel for the blazing boat. By the time the Morris reached the scene, however, the men had been taken from the water.

The New York Times, New York, NY 22 Aug 1909