The 3 masted schooner Ramona shortly after she struck
the Bermuda reefs and sank in 4 fathoms 
Researched and compiled by 
George. F. Rose CPM
This article sets forth a shocking sea-horror over 55 years ago during the evening hours of a December night in 1967 when a luxurious three-masted schooner, the S.V. “Ramona” foundered on Bermuda’s reefs with the tragic loss of five of the ten crewmembers aboard. Soon to follow in the weeks before Christmas were allegations by four of the five survivors concerning the captain’s drunkenness and incompetence in the days and hours immediately preceding the wreck. Their accusations, which carried serious legal implications on many fronts, were subsequently supported by the findings of a Bermuda Marine Board of Inquiry into the incident.

The story also reveals the nerve and seamanship displayed under difficult weather conditions by numerous local fishermen and a lone Bermuda marine police officer together with a private pilot, all of whom risked their own safety during the search and rescue operation which they launched some 12 hours after the tragedy had occurred.

Also documented below are the tenacious efforts over the ensuing years by three local men who purchased and salvaged the floundered yacht. Due in the main to matters over which they had little control, it became an immense challenge for them to finalize their dreams of continuing Ramona’s voyage beyond the horizon and into the open oceans.

Admirable to the end was the trio’s relentless hard work and determination to succeed, as they grappled with all that was laid before them by Island bureaucracy, and mother nature in particular. In the end their pursuit was not the glorious affair it had set out to be, but their undertaking had, nevertheless, proved them worthy of their effort.

During my research and compilation of this narrative, I was most fortunate to have the valued assistance of Stephen Dallas the sole survivor of the trio, together with John “Jack” Chiappa JR. whose father, John Chiappa SNR. has since passed away leaving “Jack” to recall his own memories of assisting the trio in their endeavors. I found both seafarers keen-minded with detailed memories of their experiences with the Ramona during the late 1960’s – as if they were reliving an experience from the day before. In particular, I was able to capture from Steve Dallas many aspects of the tragedy not otherwise publicly known and which have substantially enhanced the reported accounts of the time. Those insights are recorded below as – COMMENT from Steve Dallas 2023. The third member of the trio, Rudolph "Silks" Richardson is also deceased.

NOTE: You will see that the terms ‘barquentine’, ‘brigantine’ and ‘schooner’ are frequently used interchangeably in news reports of the day. In simple terms, the differences in this nautical parlance have to do with the set of the sails on the vessel in question. There are also references to the name “Ramona” and “Ramona C” – for the avoidance of doubt both such names refer to same vessel at various periods during its forty-seven years sailing around the globe.

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, all news reports on the dates below refer to the Royal Gazette (RG) as the source.

Throughout reports of the tragedy – including the report of the Marine Board of Inquiry – there remains to this day considerable ambiguity surrounding the spelling and arrangement of the names of the three deceased St. Lucian crew members. Research efforts are underway to more accurately identify by corrected name the three St. Lucian sailors named below – two of whom are known to have been teenagers: 

  2. Hendrickson Rene / Rene Hendrickson / also seen as Henrickson, and 
  3. Winston Thomas Simon or Thomas W. Simon 
COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“Ramona C” was built in 1920 as a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner at Bristol, Rhode Island by Nathanael “Capt. Nat” Herreshoff. Prior to her fatal voyage in late 1967 however, her rig was changed by the owner Walter Boudreau to a barkentine – that is, yardarms on the fore mast and the addition of a mizzen mast. Her main mast stood 110’ above the deck. She reportedly had two sister-ships – one of them, the "Merry Weather”, still to this day a gaff-rigged schooner – was in Bermuda for the America’s Cup in 2017.”
During the summer months of 1967, the 47-year-old gaff-rigged Herreshoff schooner Ramona had been in dock at a ship-repair yard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada where she had undergone a substantial refitting and conversion including the addition of new bulwarks from stem to stern, and a total re-rigging. In the early afternoon of Tuesday, November 28, she departed Lunenburg and set her course for the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia where she was to begin charter work. 
   Ramona in Lunenburg immediately following
her refit and rigging changes
(Image credit Stephen Dallas)

Five days later – at about 8.0 pm on the evening of Saturday, December 2 – the Ramona floundered on the reefs north of Bermuda with the tragic circumstances described below.

Shortly after daybreak on Sunday morning, December 3, 1967 Bermudians awoke to learn of a terrible tragedy at sea having occurred during the preceding hours of darkness. The wreck of the three-masted schooner “Ramon C” was first spotted about 7:30 a.m. that morning when St. George’s fisherman Mr. Leonard Astley “Speedy” Dickinson sighted her at a distance and immediately made haste to return to land and telephone police. So began what was then believed to be a rescue operation involving as many local assets as were then available in 1967.

As the news filtered throughout the community, the heavy pounding of north-westerly waves could still be heard along the North Shore following the aftermath of widespread damage throughout the Colony from the continuing unexpected high winds and tides which had begun on Friday.

The following morning, Monday, December 4, Islanders read of the dreadful happening that had occurred near the treacherous North Rock over the weekend. They learned that of the ten crew members on board, five had died in the shipwreck horror and the remaining five survivors were in a state of shock after their yacht had floundered during the hours of darkness some seven miles off Bermuda’s North Shore. The five survivors, four men and a woman, had been picked up on Sunday morning and brought ashore after spending a 12-hour overnight ordeal at the mercy of the cold and sea. 

The tragedy had stricken the impressive looking 120-foot yacht, at around 8 p.m. on Saturday night when she ran aground on the white-capped reefs near the blinking North Rock light. In a desperate bid for life the crew had sent up all the flares they had on board but, strangely, their signals went unnoticed. Finally, the survivors decided to abandon the steel hulled barquentine lying at a crazy angle on the reefs and, after breaking out life jackets, they eventually took to small boats. 

Wrecked yacht
An underwater reef cants the bow 
of the Ramona upwards at a perilous
angle as the big yacht lies awash near North Rock.
In the left corner: the wing of Mr. John
Ellison's aircraft, one of the search planes.
Within minutes of “Speedy” Dickinson’s alert a full-scale air and sea search had begun which involved military and civil aircraft, police and deep-sea fishermen – even local boat owners raced to help. First to reach the shipwreck was Captain Roy Taylor who put out of St. George’s in his ‘Wally III’. “There was a heavy swell breaking over North Rock and the area was alive with water. She was lying on her port side and her gun whales were awash,” he said.
Also on the scene was Hamilton boatbuilder Mr. Musson Wainwright, who rescued the five survivors. Mr. Wainwright, who served on R.A.F. rescue boats during the war, said: “I went down the North Shore and I came upon two bodies in the water. I continued another 300 yards and I found a man in the water. After pulling him aboard I went to the landing jetty near the Civil Air Terminal and put him ashore.”
As the man was being rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Mr. Wainwright rejoined the search and later spotted a submerged dory with the remaining survivors. “They were sitting very calmly although they were blue with cold. We hauled them in, put our coats around them to warm them, and then headed back to the shore,” he said.

By this time a fleet of small boats were combing the area in a vain bid for survivors. They were being helped from the air by a four-engine U.S. Air Force HC-130; a U.S. Navy helicopter and a civilian aircraft piloted by ex-R.A.F. flyer and lawyer Mr. John Ellison. As the search went on, bodies of the rest of the crew were picked up and ferried to the shore. Also brought in were pieces of debris from the white schooner. Patrol cars took the wreckage to police headquarters for later examination. 

Mr. John Ellison's aircraft coming in for a 
landing at Kindley Airfield after searching
for survivors along the North Shore


According to a description given by Mr. Ellison the overall wreck site when viewed from above, was of the vicious reefs of the Great Breaker Ledge Flat, with the high ocean swells breaking over them.

As the survivors were landed, they were strapped to stretchers and waiting ambulances rushed them to the King Edward. A police car raced ahead with its bell ringing to clear a path through the busy Sunday morning traffic.
As Bermudians swiftly learned of the night’s events it became clear that the tragedy had touched the entire community. Throughout the rescue operations crowds of people had gathered at the landing stage and watched in silence as the bodies, wrapped in tarpaulins were brought ashore. Dr. MacIntyre is thought to have been a resident at King Edward during his internship some time ago. Medical Superintendent at the hospital Dr. Morley Nash, said that the survivors were put under sedation after being admitted, "Although they are suffering from severe shock and exposure, we do not think there is anything seriously wrong with them other than that. We were not able to learn very much from the survivors when they were brought in,” he said.

The Ramona had departed Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, on November 27 and was heading to St. Lucia to begin winter cruising. She is thought to have been battered by recent storms and was putting into Bermuda when disaster overtook. 

The early belief was that she had misjudged the North Rock light, crashed over the barrier reef, and travelled half-a-mile to where she was then lying at a 45degree angle. Mr. Harry Cox, who dived under the Ramona with colleagues Tad Baran and William Gillies said she had gouged a channel through the reef. “She is lying on a reef on a horizontal plane and I would not like to say if she can be salvaged.”

The trio actually boarded the vessel and managed to recover the compass, a pair of binoculars and some other articles.  Said Mr. Cox: “I asked permission from Harbour Radio as to whether or not there were any articles of value which her owners might want to retrieve. We decided to dive after the captain requested his log book and asked for the general condition of the vessel."  [It is unknown whether or not the Ramona ever carried a ship’s bell or clock but no such items were ever recovered in subsequent years.] 

Although they managed to clamber over various parts of the Ramona it was too dangerous for them to go below decks because of weather conditions. 

Said Mr. Cox: "Her rudder has been wrenched off but her entire starboard side is undamaged. The port side is lying on top of the reef and the only way to determine how much damage has been caused is by someone going inside her. Conditions made it absolutely impossible to make this type of examination. The dive was exceptionally dangerous and to go any further we would have run the risk of maximum danger.”

Mr. Cox said that he had asked the skipper if he could be of any further assistance. “I will ask if there is anything of value to the crew and I will dive if conditions have improved.” It was only after having completed their dive and returning to their boat, that the three men had discovered a delayed message from two U.S. Para-rescue men advising that conditions that day were prohibitive of their rescue should it have been necessary.  

The mystery of why the Ramona did not send S.O.S. messages had been a talking point with local boatmen – but that would be clarified in the days ahead. 

A Harbour Radio spokesman said: “We think that she may quite easily have lost some of her equipment due to recent storms – but that is pure conjecture.” 

After being warned of the shipwreck, Harbour Radio officials alerted several key people in the search – “And the rest came up on the radio and asked if they could help.” 

The search, which was coordinated by Acting Police Commissioner Francis (Frank) Williams, was called off after the last body had been taken from the water shortly after noon. The deceased were taken to the King Edward mortuary. The circumstances which led to the tragedy continued to be discussed, although no one could pinpoint the cause. Captain Taylor said that he thought that a mistake had been made as the yacht was being brought in. "But really it is anyone’s guess. It is difficult to believe that this sort of thing can happen in this day and age.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police
Francis (Frank) Williams
Said Mr. Wainwright: "I do not know what could have gone wrong. The people were in such a state when we took them from the water that they could not talk.” Some people who did speak with the survivors said that three of the men who died had, in turn, jumped over from a small lifeboat because of sheer terror. 

The Ramona, owned by Vagabond Cruises, was heading to the warm sunshine of the Caribbean to begin charter work. Reports said that an inquiry was to be held to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

The 3 masted schooner Ramona shortly after she struck
the Bermuda reefs and sank in 4 fathoms 
Shown at Dockyard is a replica of the North Rock Beacon
after its rebuild in 1960 -  This was the light that was
in situ at the time of the Ramona Shipwreck in 1967
On Monday, December 4, 1967 the St. Petersburg Times of Florida, U.S.A. carried the following story in their World News report :-
HAMILTON, Bermuda (UPI) –
“A schooner carrying Canadians on a vacation cruise sank after hitting a reef 15 miles north of Bermuda yesterday. A lone American aboard the 70-foot Romana (sic) was rescued. Most of the West Indian crew were lost. Five of the 10 persons aboard took to a dinghy and were saved. The bodies of the five others were found floating near the wreck.


THE SURVIVORS WERE identified as: Captain William Ross MacKay, 35, of Sunny Dale Avenue, Nova Scotia, Canada:  Bernard Phylas Beaupre, 23, of Melrose Avenue, King City, Ontario: Mrs. Penny Gudgeon, 20, of Cedar Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia: Joel Dressel, 27, Oakley Drive, York. Pennsylvania: and Rosemond Harold, 22, Hospital Road. Castries, St. Lucia.

THE DEAD WERE identified as: Dr. Kenneth Ross MacIntyre, of Prince Edward Island, Canada: Crewmen Joseph Modeste, 32, of Grasilslet,[Gros Islet], St. Lucia: Louis Martin Deparest, 16: Thomas Simon,17: Rene Hendrickson, 24, all [three] of Castries, St. Lucia.

The yacht was out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. MacKay said the [c]raft ran aground during the night. He said he fired flares to alert passing ships but none was in the area. A search began at daybreak. The yacht sank in relatively shallow water, and parts of the wreckage remained above the surface. Investigators said preliminary inquiries determined the yacht was operated by Vagabond Tours and had left Lunenburg on November 27, 1967.”

By Tuesday, December 5, 1967 all five survivors of the ill-fated barquentine Ramona had been discharged from the hospital and had spent the night at the Bermuda Mariners Club. A spokesman at the club said the survivors were still quite shaken and did not wish to see anyone.
Meanwhile Coroner the Wor. Walter Maddocks clamped down on comment over the disaster as he formally opened an inquest into the five victims. Mr. Maddocks said he regarded the matter as sub-judice and added that details concerning the five deaths could not be given without his authority. He said he took this step to prevent “improper speculation” concerning the disaster which he said “was fortunately a somewhat unusual happening.”

Adjourning the inquest until 2:15 p.m. later that day, Mr. Maddocks then told the nine-man jury that it was proper that it should be empaneled to deal with the matter – "as speedily and effectively as possible." Mr. Maddocks said he expected the jury would be able to begin hearing evidence that same afternoon. Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel, assisted in the inquiry and told the court that it was believed that the owner had arrived in Bermuda, but this could not be confirmed. His name was given by one of the survivors as Mr. Boudreau.

The five deceased were named as Kenneth Ross MacIntyre, Joseph Modeste, Louis Martin Frances Departest, Rene Hendrickson and Winston Thomas Simon. 

Superintendent of the Mariners Home, Mr. Caleb Wells, disclosed that the barquentine had been in difficulties for several days before she was finally wrecked on the reefs of the North Shore at the weekend. Club officials said they would not allow the press to speak to the survivors. 

The five survivors all recounted their ordeal to Bermuda Police officers before sitting down to a steak barbecue in the Mariners grounds. The barbecue was organized by local businessman Harry Cox who ‘knocked up’ the steak on his own barbecue travelling stove. It was noticed that Mrs. Gudgeon was limping as she hobbled to the stove.

The Government were quick to issue a warning to ‘scavengers’ who were considering boarding the wrecked yacht. The Government quotes the 1898 Revenue Act in which it is stated that “all goods being derelict, flotsam, jetsam, or wreck being landed in these islands must be landed in the presence of a Customs Officer on duty or reported to such officer and all such goods not being landed in this manner are liable to be dealt with as goods illegally landed.”

Three survivors (one is hidden behind the man on the left) photographed with officials 
of the Mariners Club on Monday, December 3. They were Bernard P. Beaupre, Joel Dressel
and Rosemond Harold, and were the first to be released from the King Edward VII Memorial
Hospital. Later Mrs. Penny Gudgeon and Captain William MacKay were released.
On Wednesday, December 6 the weather conditions seven miles out where the Ramona had grounded, had made survey work on her impossible. For that reason alone, a decision on salvaging the vessel had not yet been taken and that a representative of the barquentine's owners, Vagabond Tours, Mr. Walter Boudreau, said that he had seen several local people in an independent inquiry into the tragedy.

"I have not got the full information yet,” he said. “I have one more thing to check out before I give my opinion on this business.” 

Meanwhile the wreck of the doomed 120-foot Ramona was still being pounded by wind and surf on the killer North Rock off Bermuda and a Coroner’s Inquest into the five people who had died in the tragedy was again adjourned to allow time for the collection of documented evidence. The coroner, the Wor. Walter Maddocks, who had earlier warned the press that full coverage of the wreck story could lead to a case of contempt of court, apologized to the jury for the inconvenience but said all the evidence “readily available” should be in statement form before the inquest could proceed. Crown counsel Mr. Anthony Palmer had told the court earlier there had not been sufficient time to complete the taking of statements from witnesses he hoped to call.

The skipper of the Ramona, Mr. W. Ross MacKay and the remaining four survivors were staying at the Mariners Club under the care of superintendent Mr. Caleb Wells who said the five were still “shaken up after such a terrible experience.” 

The RG reported that the survivors from the Ramona, had made allegations of “drunkenness and incompetence” against the master of the vessel. The captain, William Ross MacKay, and the four other survivors of the disaster appeared before a hastily-convened Marine Court of Inquiry at the Colonial Secretariat. After less than an hour the court had adjourned until 10 o’clock the following Thursday morning, with Captain MacKay being advised to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.

The proceedings of Marine Court of Inquiry had been delayed by about 30 minutes because of the non-arrival of the survivors. Television and Press cameramen awaiting their arrival outside the Colonial Secretariat thought that two of them had arrived when two men dressed in sea going clothes arrived at the court. After allowing themselves to be filmed entering and leaving the building, the men revealed that they were spectators who had come for the hearing “out of interest.”

Captain William Ross MacKay, Master of the barquentine Ramona,
which sank off North Rock over the weekend claiming five lives,
pictured outside the Colonial Secretariat after the Court of Inquiry hearing.
One of the Ramona survivors,
Engineer Mr. Bernard Phylas Beaupre,
arrives for opening of the Court of Inquiry.


At the opening of Wednesday’s shortened hearing Mr. C. A. Plumber, on behalf of the court, had outlined the facts which led up to the Marine Court of Inquiry. 

He said: "On Monday the Coroner had opened his inquest on those who died. At the same time the police were taking statements from the survivors, and in view of the matters that became apparent from the statements it became clear that wider issues were involved than could not be covered by a Coroner’s terms of reference. It was therefore deemed necessary to inhibit the inquest and convene this court.” 

The Inquiry Court was in session for only a few hours after a government statement announcing that it would be convened “in the public interest." It had been set up under the Bermuda Merchant Shipping Act of 1930, with the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon as chairman and Captain John S. Cowie and Mr. Frederick Yearwood as members. 
Pending the Marine Court findings, the Coroner’s Inquest on the victims was to be inhibited. The order came from the Governor’s Deputy-in-Council. The survivors who appeared in Marine Court were Mr. William Ross MacKay, Mr. Joel Dressel, the mate; engineer Mr. Bernard Phylas Beaupre; deckhand Mr. Rosemond Harold and Mrs. Penny Sheila Jane Gudgeon, the stewardess. Mr. Francis Daly appeared on behalf of the Bermuda Government.
Mr. Plumber said that the inquiry might a “lengthy business,” and Mr. Barcilon issued verbal summonses for the witnesses to attend as required. The court was also asked by Mr. Plumber to appoint a marine assessor. And under Section 38 of the Act the survivors, said to be without resources, were granted detention allowances while they remain in Bermuda. “There is urgency in this case, if for no other reason because of the fact that the survivors are not residents of these islands,” said Mr. Plumber. He added that although statements had been taken from all the survivors there were still other statements to be gathered. Members of the Marine Board and people who took part in the rescue operation would also be giving evidence, he said. 
The purpose of the inquiry, said Mr. Plumber, was to ascertain why the Bahamas-registered Ramona, on her way south, ran aground near North Rock, and how five of the 10 persons on board lost their lives. "There are also serious allegations of misconduct and incompetence which have been made against Captain MacKay," Mr. Plumber continued. 

"Copies of their statements have been given to the master of the vessel before this court began its investigations." He did not specify how many of the surviving crew-members had made the allegations. Mr. Plumber went on: “These allegations fall under two heads, drunkenness and incompetence as master; inattention to his duties, inattention to navigation and the safety of the ship.” 

When asked by Mr. Barcilon if he had legal representation, Capt. MacKay replied: “I didn’t think that there was anything like this against me up to this point. I don’t know if I can be ready by tomorrow morning. I don’t know anyone in Bermuda, but I would like legal representation.” 

Mr. Barcilon told the other witnesses, including Mr. Walter Boudreau, who is here representing the owners of the Ramona, Vagabond Cruises, that they were entitled to the services of a lawyer. Mr. Barcilon said that when the hearing resumed it may have to be adjourned to give Capt. MacKay more time to brief counsel. Under the Act the Court of Inquiry is empowered to withdraw the Master’s Certificate by cancellation or suspension, and to take action against any other officer if it finds that officer guilty of misconduct or want of care or skill, provided they were dealing with an incident involving a British ship. An expert on maritime law had advised that a Bahamas-registered vessel would be considered to be British.

An update from a Harbour Radio spokesman advised that the Ramona had apparently slipped off the reef and was lying in about 40 feet of water. Her hull was submerged, but her masts were showing above the water.

A further adjournment of the Marine Court of Inquiry occurred after Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel for the court, said that he would like more time to prepare his case, and asked for the adjournment. His proposal was welcomed by Mr. E. W. P. Vesey, M.C.P., and Mr. Nicholas Dill, newly retained counsel for the vessel's owners and captain respectively.

Both had only been consulted after the captain had heard that allegations of "incompetence and drunkenness" had been made against him by survivors from the barquentine. In granting the adjournments the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, chairman of the court, said: “I don’t think a matter of this gravity and importance should be rushed.” 

Before adjourning however, the court appointed Mr. Martin Douglas Hutley, a member of the Marine and Ports Authority, as Marine Assessor. A Marine Assessor must be a man of some nautical experience. Besides assisting the court in its findings, he has an important part to play in the event of the court deciding to take action against any officer or the crew. The Marine Assessor must concur with any decision of the court regarding punitive action before that decision can be put into effect.


Two of the survivors, Mr. R. Harold and Mrs. Penny
Gudgeon, outside the Secretariat after a brief hearing.


On Friday, December 8, the Bermuda Recorder reported that:–

Mr. Rosemond Harold was a St. Lucian national and that Capt. John S. Cowie was a retired Royal Naval Officer.

The proceedings were held in the Secretariat and were open to the public.

The Ramona, registered in the Bahamas, left Nova Scotia on November 27 bound for St. Lucia via Bermuda.

The Ramona hit the North Rock at about 8.30 pm [last Saturday night] but it wasn’t until some 12 hours later that people on the shore became aware of the tragedy. In the meantime, the ship’s doctor Dr. Kenneth Ross MacIntyre of Prince Edward Island and four teenaged seamen from St. Lucia had lost their lives. The survivors were found in a flooded dinghy suffering from exposure and shock.

During the morning of Friday, December 8, 1967 four of the five crewmen who had lost their lives in the tragic wreck of the barquentine Ramona were buried in the cemetery of the Anglican St. Paul's Church, Paget. The dead crewmen who were buried were all St. Lucians. They were Joseph Modeste, Louis Martin F. Departest [Departeste] [Desparest], Rene Hendrickson and Winston Thomas Simon. Nobody could imagine the extent of the challenges faced by the crew throughout their twelve-hour ordeal.
St. Paul's Church, Paget. 


A Roman Catholic committal service attended by about 35 people was conducted by Father C. Clark, Priest in Charge of St. Michael’s. The four St. Lucian crew members were laid to rest in the merchant marine grave [later determined to actually be the Sailors Grave of the seafarers’ plot] which is maintained by the Guild of the Holy Compassion and which is associated with the Missions to Seamen in London. Standing around the grave were the surviving crew members of the Ramona and also the sister and brother-in-law of Joseph Modeste, who had flown here from New York to be at the funeral.
Others at the funeral included representatives of the Ports Authority, HM Bermuda Customs, Pilots, Local Seamen’s organizations, The Guild of the Holy Compassion, the Bermuda Sailors Home, The Royal Canadian Liaison Officer, representatives of the company that owns the yacht, together with a number of people who had assisted in the rescue, including Mr. Musson Wainwright. A large wreath in the shape of an anchor was laid on the grave in addition to a number of smaller ones provided by the Guild of the Holy Compassion on behalf of the families of the dead men. 

The fifth man who lost his life was a Canadian, Dr. Kenneth Ross MacIntyre, whose body was returned to Canada. A memorial at the Community Park Cemetery, Kings County, Prince Edward Island, Canada bears his name and date of birth.


Following the funeral, boats had set out for the wreck of the Ramona to study the possibility of salvaging the 120-foot steel-hulled barquentine. Four separate interests were involved. The Bermuda Police went out in Mr. Harry Cox’s ‘Shearwater’’ to carry out certain investigations for the court of inquiry, and aboard Mr. Eldon Simons’ boat ‘Sea Bob’ were representatives of the owners of the yacht, Harnett and Richardson which represents Lloyd, and the Ports Authority.

On returning late on that Friday afternoon, Mr. Walter Boudreau, who represents the yacht company, said that the possibility of salvage was still being considered but that there were some legal questions to look into. “We want to bring her up,” he said. He added that the Ramona was in “surprisingly good condition,” considering the terrible beating she had taken. Lloyds surveyor, Mr. James Parker said that her condition was remarkably good. No holes had yet been found in her hull and most of her rigging was still standing. The yacht, he said, was not in 40 feet of water as had previously been thought, but in only about 19 feet. Mr. Parker noted that the vessel had moved off of the hard reef rock onto a softer base and salvage would depend a lot on how the weather held up.

Both Mr. Boudreau and Mr. Eldon Simons of the Fibre Glass and Body Shop at Darrell's Island had commented on the striking sight presented by the tall masts of the vessel sticking up through the water. Her decks could be seen just below the surface and the water was so clear and calm that the whole hull could be seen through the water. 

An extensive survey had been made of the big yacht itself to see if she could be raised from the North Shore reefs and her salvage at that time seemed a definite possibility. 

About six divers, some using underwater cameras, had made a study of the yacht's condition. Mr. Simons had noted that considering the possibility that good weather might not last long, any salvage work would probably have to be done as quickly as possible. He thought that probably special rubber floatation bags might have to be flown here from the United States for the job.                   

A number of items were salvaged from the yacht and will be temporarily stored at Darrell’s Island. These included one of the vessel’s sextants, a wheel (not the main wheel), a number of papers and other items. Also towed ashore by the ‘Sea Bob’ were two gaffs and a boom and a team of divers and surveyors were planning to go out to the yacht again in the days ahead. 


One of the yacht Ramona’s sextants is examined after being brought to shore 
by a team of divers and surveyors who had gone out to study the possibilities
of salvaging the vessel. A number of other items were also brought ashore.
The big yacht itself is described as being in "remarkably good condition" 
and is lying in only 19-feet of water.


COMMENT from Steve Dallas June, 2023
Both ships, like the Ramona, were converted to wartime service in 1939 as armed merchantmen and troop carriers. They were refitted for passenger service after the war and I know the Queen returned here in 1949 after an extensive refit. I believe that Furness Withy became the Furness Bermuda Line around this time.
Her new Captain was Captain Leslie Banyard who lived in a (then) new house at the end of Fairyland’s Creek next to the bridge to Point Shares. Captain L. Banyard died in 1958 of a heart attack while playing golf at Riddell’s Bay and while the Queen was in port. The Staff Captain, Magnus Musson, was immediately appointed Captain for the return voyage and remained the Captain until the Queen was scrapped in 1966. I acquired the sextant in 1970 and was taught celestial navigation by the late Vivian Branch.
A further survey of the big yacht and the problems involved in salvaging her was to be made over the weekend of December 9 and 10, 1967. A decision was imminent on whether or not to try and raise the Ramona. And upon returning ashore on the evening of the tenth, Lloyd’s surveyor, Mr. James Parker, said, “I think she’s worth salvaging. The vessel, in her present condition, can be raised. I don’t see any reason why not.” 

But an all-important factor was the weather. “It certainly depends on how long a spell of good weather we get,” added Mr. Parker. He noted that the barometer the previous night was about a tenth of a degree above 30, and was still steady. 

Other questions involved in deciding whether to salvage the vessel were the cost of the operation and the damage already sustained by the yacht. Mr. Parker said he would be calling the New York office of London Salvage, the company insuring the yacht, to see what they want to do. "Probably we will know then what we will do. We would certainly have to get in some special equipment,” he remarked, adding that during the survey work they had just completed, measurements had been taken of the yacht's compartments to determine the size of the special rubber flotation bags that would have to be brought here, installed and then pumped full of air to bring the vessel to the surface.

Once raised in this manner, Mr. Parker said, at high tide there would be enough water in the area to float the yacht through the reefs to a channel. A possible route had already been investigated and some temporary buoys would have to be installed. One ninety-degree bend is the only really difficult part of the route. 

"If we are fortunate enough to raise her, I don’t think there will be too much trouble getting her to a clear channel,” said Mr. Parker, adding, "I don’t think it would take too long, depending on the weather. She is in a place where we can get to her quite easily.” 

Besides the floatation bags, about all that would be needed would be several small boats with pumps and air compressors on board; there is adequate water for such boats in the area. 

The yacht herself, having moved a short distance from where she first stranded, was then resting in a protecting cradle of soft coral at a 45-degree angle, with her three lofty masts sticking out of the water. The depth of the water was about 19 to 20 feet. After sinking, the steel-hulled yacht withstood almost five days of gales with remarkably little damage, “So I don’t think another gale would do too much more damage to her,’’ commented Mr. Parker. “The bottom of the hull seems to be in fairly good condition, the high sides of the hull are in good condition, as are the docks (?), and the rigging and masts are still standing and in alignment. With the bulk of the survey work completed, there were no plans to go out to the vessel again for now.” 
Two boats had been out to the yacht the previous day, Mr. Harry Cox’s diving boat ‘Shearwater’ and Mr. Eldon Simons’ boat ‘Sea Bob’, carrying five divers and Parker.

Mr. Cox’s crew were attempting to find the yacht’s log book, “But that’s a hard thing to find,” said Mr. Parker. The divers from the ‘Sea Bob’ found some other and less important papers, all in poor condition. “We even found some outside and under the keel,” he said, adding that the divers had even found a child’s arithmetic book. 

When asked if there were any legal questions involving the salvage of the yacht, Mr. Parker said he was not a legal expert but added, “I wouldn't think there are any legal problems. She is just a stranded yacht. In my view she still belongs to the owners and the underwriters.”

RG Tuesday, December 12, 1967

Page 1 ……. could not be recovered. 
The report continued on Page 4 as follows: 
……. Mr. Beaupre has made no allegations against the captain the court was told.

Captain Boudreau said in evidence that Vagabond Cruises had acquired the Ramona in 1964 or 1965. She was a steel-hulled yacht, 116 feet in length and 24 feet in beam, drawing 15 feet, and weighing 126 tons. She was powered by a 200 hp diesel engine, in addition to her total of eight sails, including storm-sail.

COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“There was only one 271 hp GM 6-71NA (General Motors aka Detroit Diesel) non-turbo Marine Diesel Engine on the Starboard side for power. I still have her prop and shaft at home. Was going to make a coffee table with the prop but never did.”

[Of note here is that Ramona was powered by one diesel engine only, which is contrary to a report in a publication elsewhere that she was powered by two diesel engines].
The Ramona was valued for insurance purposes at 90,000 Canadian dollars but Capt. Boudreau said that the boat was his livelihood and was worth about $150,000 to him. He said that one of the survivors, Joel Dressel had been captain of the yacht for nearly four years. She had been put into port in Nova Scotia for an extensive re-fit before being sent to the West Indies for charter work. Capt. Boudreau said that the overhaul had taken longer than anticipated, and that he and Mr. Dressel had agreed that a captain with a master’s certificate should be hired to take her across the Atlantic to St. Lucia during the stormy period.
Eventually Capt. MacKay was hired, and after the signing of agreements he had been offered a drink – "He said, ‘no thank you’ and told me he didn’t bother much about it,” said Capt. Boudreau. The Ramona, he went on, was fitted with some new sails, a completely new deck, and all her machinery was checked in dock. She carried radar, radio, a radio direction finder, and a fathometer. She also had a very expensive steering compass, but no bearing compass.
On Capt. MacKay’s suggestion, he said, several new items of equipment were bought, including parachute flares. All the life-saving equipment was checked and some lifejackets which were rotten were thrown away. "We were both concerned that the depth-finder was not working, although our concern was not serious. The fathometer has a transducer which was fitted under the hull while the ship was in dry dock. It was told to me by the electronics people that the frequency of the transducer and the fathometer did not coincide, and a faulty reading would result. However, I did not consider this of any serious importance, and Capt. MacKay was in agreement with me.” he said, and added: "There was no Very pistol aboard, as the flares were of the self-igniting type.” 

Asked Mr. Palmer: “Were any of Capt. MacKay’s requests for purchases relative to the safety of the ship refused by you?” — “No.”

Capt. Boudreau said that he and Capt. MacKay worked in cooperation on fitting out the Ramona with safety equipment. Mr. Dressel had been in agreement with hiring a master to take the vessel to the West Indies as he had little experience of handling the ship in rough Atlantic weather. And, he said, he had selected Capt. MacKay from about six applicants, and from inquiries made about him was satisfied with the man’s ability. 

He told the Court that it was the policy of his company not to allow crewmen to have liquor on board. Before the ship left port, he had removed liquor that was on board, leaving only a half bottle of rum for medicinal purposes. "Knowing Joel Dressel, I felt confident that he would carry on the regulations of our company, and he and Capt. MacKay were on terms of cooperation,” the witness continued. He said that Mr. Dressel, who sailed on the Ramona as mate, had worked himself up to a position of responsibility with Vagabond Cruises, and was a minor shareholder. 

Speaking of the attitude to drinks on the ship, Capt. Boudreau said that shortly before the departure of the Ramona [some] crewmen had approached the captain to ask him about securing bonded stores. "Capt. MacKay came to me and said that this was not a good idea. I agreed with him and told him that I had no intention of permitting any liquor at all.” 

Questioned by the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, Capt. Boudreau said that there was "absolutely no need for a fathometer.” He further said that the Ramona’s boats could hold a total of about 20 people. 

Opening his evidence, Capt. MacKay said that he had been master on several large sailing ships, and had also done some time as a trials master, taking new ships on trials before delivery to their owners. He said that he inspected the Ramona carefully, and “had no question in my mind about her seaworthiness as a yacht.”

After describing, with the aid of a diagram, the layout of the Ramona, Capt. MacKay told the story of the voyage.

The ship had left Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday, November 28, in the early afternoon. They had calm weather until about midnight the following night, when a gale blew up. During the Thursday the wind, from the north-northwest, reached hurricane force, force 11 to 12 on the Beaufort scale. During that day the Ramona suffered extensive external damage and some internal. Sails were lost, and radar equipment damaged.

In addition, most of the crew were seasick, and unable to help. "I did not deem it prudent to bring the ship round in those mountainous seas and ride it out. I decided to let the ship run before the wind. I knew before leaving Lunenburg that it was likely that I would run into some bad weather, and I had decided in my own mind to call at Bermuda for any repairs. It was my intention to call at St. George’s as our stay would be as brief as possible,’’ the captain stated. He said that because of the state of the crew only he, Mr. Dressel and occasionally Dr. Kenneth MacIntyre who was due to leave the ship at Bermuda but died in the tragedy, were able to take turns at the wheel.

He went on:

"At some time on the Thursday I had gone down into the ship to check out damage. When I came down the forward hatch a member of the crew was standing with his lifejacket on. I was happy to see him up on his feet, but as I went aft some other crew members were getting on their lifejackets. I asked them what was going on, or something to that effect. Rene Hendrickson (another of the victims) said that the skipper said for them to get their lifejackets on because we were sinking,” said Capt. MacKay. "I told them that I had not ordered it, and there was nothing wrong with the ship.” 

Questioned by Mr. Palmer, he explained that the crewmen sometimes referred to Mr. Dressel as the skipper, and to himself as captain. He went on: "On Friday the weather moderated, although the seas were still high. The radar wire had been ripped down during Thursday. It was torn adrift from aloft, and I would not go up myself or send anyone else up there.” 

“On Thursday I had tried to use the radio, but could not contact anyone. On Friday when I tried the radio was dud. I asked the engineer to try and see if it was a power failure." The following morning, [Saturday] he said, he was up before dawn hoping to get a chance to obtain a “fix” by the sun. By noon he had been able to estimate his position, about 75 miles from Bermuda. 

"I thought I would be further east, but I didn’t think I was too far out. We had been crossing the Gulf Stream which would have carried us east. I was also further south than I had anticipated, as the ship was apparently making a better speed. At that point it was clear to me that I would not make Bermuda in daylight.” For this reason, said Capt. MacKay, he decided to go east of Bermuda and lay up in the lee of the islands. 


At 3.34pm the same afternoon [Saturday] he took another fix on the sun, and from this he judged that he would pick up the lights of Bermuda at about 7 o’clock. Approaching Bermuda, it was decided to take down the only sail they had been using, and the ship was turned to allow the hauling in of the sail. There were difficulties with it, and it took about 20 minutes to get it in. After identifying the North Rock Light and St. David’s Lighthouse, the Ramona was headed towards the island, to take the shortest way along the reef.

“If I had gone west, I would have had about 17 miles of shoal to contend with. The other way I had two or three miles. The wind was north by east, at about 30 knots,” he said in reply to Mr. Palmer.

(Post 1990 rebuild)

"Dr. MacIntyre was at the wheel when we changed course. I was very concerned. I knew that I was going to be driven into the reef unless I could get more power. I called for more power, but they told me that was it. I believe that Dressel said to me that she was airlocked. That would mean an air lock in the fuel system." 

A shallow part of Rim Reefs constituting the largest coral reef in Bermuda. 
Covering a 1000-meter radius from the North Rock Navigational Beacon, the raised land 
mass was visible above the surface until the early 1900's when picnics took place thereon


He continued: 

"I saw the breakers. The first ones I saw were on my port quarter. I still had clear water otherwise. Mr. Dressel was around the engine room. I had asked him to go and bust the governors off the engine. Then I hit, lightly. I was headed out to sea, and the next sea was able to carry her up and over the reef. I was mainly concerned to keep the ship from rolling over at this point. I gave the order for everyone to get on deck with their lifejackets.” 

Capt. MacKay, who was still in some pain from the injuries he received in the shipwreck, said that he called for the main lifeboat to be lowered, but due to storm damage it could not be moved. He went below and collected a gun and ammunition, to sound an alarm, some papers and some flares. In all, he said, five parachute flares were tried, but failed to work properly. The gun was thrown overboard.

"The crew began jumping into the water, with no order from me to abandon ship. I said stay with the ship. All the crew left the ship except me, then I left the ship myself.” 

Mr. Palmer: "Did the fact that you can’t swim have anything to do with your leaving the ship when you had advised the others against it?” — “Yes, I suppose it did. But I wanted to keep the crew together.” 

Capt. MacKay told the court that before the crew left, the ship had taken on a list of about 35 degrees, and a dinghy and a dory had been launched. He said that he jumped into the water, and climbed into the dory, which had four people in it. The dory and the dinghy were tied together, and the dory eventually became waterlogged and overturned. It was righted again, but with six or seven of them in it, the dory remained swamped. Dr. MacIntyre and Mr. Beaupre were in the water clinging to the dinghy.

Capt. MacKay said that his lifejacket did not make him float. “I went down. I grabbed hold of someone, and then realized that they were going down with me, so I let go. Finally, Beaupre grabbed me by the hair, and held me above water.” Eventually, he said, the two boats became parted, with the main group in the dory.  MacKay said that he was in the back of the little boat, trying to balance it. Mr. Hendrickson was the first to go, he said. The man went over the side, and was clinging to the boat. They tried to get him but without success. 

Then Winston Thomas Simons started to fall asleep and eventually drowned. 

Capt. MacKay said that he thought that Louis Depareste had jumped into the water, although because he was facing backwards, he could not see much of what happened. 

The other St. Lucian victim, Joseph Modeste, was the last to die. 

“Joseph had been doing some paddling,” said Capt. MacKay in a voice strained with emotion. "Then he stopped. He wanted to go with the rest. He said something, and he and Harold [Rosemond Harold, a survivor] spoke to each other in their own language. He came up close to me, and put his hands on my shoulders. 

I said, “That’s right, Joseph. You hang on to me and I’ll hang on to the boat. Don’t go with the rest. It seemed to help him. Later I turned and saw him. His eyes looked glassy and sightless. He suddenly let go of me and fell back into the boat.”   Capt. MacKay said that before this Joseph had been going out of the boat, although Harold had tried to stop him. 

Capt. MacKay said that he felt he had acted calmly and in a clear-thinking way at the time of the disaster. He wanted to keep the crew together, and tried to use the flares and warning equipment to the best of his ability. 

Mr. Barcilon asked him: “What instructions did you receive about drinking?”

He replied, “I was given no instructions,” but added: “I don’t allow liquor in my ships."

He also told the court that he had only had one night’s sleep since the journey started. The rest of the time he had hardly eaten or slept.”

As the Marine Court of Inquiry continued to hear evidence on Tuesday, December 12, a possible cause of the Ramona disaster emerged.  After engineer Bernard Beaupre, aged 23, had told the Court that the vessel’s diesel engine had failed to give full power at a crucial moment, Crown Counsel Mr. Anthony Palmer, asked him:

“If you had known that a length of line was around the propeller shaft would you have come to the conclusion that that accounted for the loss of power?” 

The engineer replied: "Yes, it sure would.” 

At the opening of his evidence Mr. Beaupre, who gave his evidence all afternoon, said that he had been a sailor for about 30 months. He told of the death of Dr. Kenneth Ross MacIntyre, whose body had been flown back to Canada last week. He said that after the yacht had hit the reef and had been abandoned, he and Dr. MacIntyre tried to reach land by propelling a small dinghy with their feet through the water. 

Earlier, the court heard, Mr. Beaupre cut the line connecting the dinghy with the rest of the crew in a dory. The dinghy was eventually abandoned, and Dr. MacIntyre set off for land, swimming. 

"He didn’t say anything, he just left.” said Mr. Beaupre. I had suggested waiting for daybreak, so that we could get a better concept of the distance. But he said he thought he could make it. 

“I had to make a decision, and I joined him. He was a personal friend. Within half an hour he was exhausted. I told him to keep his head up and hang onto my lifejacket. I continued to swim. The time was about 4:15 a.m. on the Sunday morning.”

He went on: “I’m sure I passed out. I have no memory of what happened until I came to and it was daylight. Dr. MacIntyre was on my back, and I gave him a shot of air, mouth to mouth. He looked to be in a rough shape.” 

Mr. Beaupre said that just before he tried the kiss of life, Dr. MacIntyre gave a small sigh, and his eyes opened briefly. He died shortly afterwards, still on the man’s back. 

"I had to leave him. The next thing I remember is being in the boat which picked me up, and then waking up in hospital." 


Questioned by Mr. Palmer, the engineer said that before the Ramona sailed from Lunenburg, he had taken a 26 oz. bottle of rum and a similar size bottle of rye on board, as well as seven cans of beer. He said that the ship left port on Tuesday, and ran into rough weather the following night. Twice during the voyage, he said, Capt. William Ross MacKay had asked him for a drink — on Thursday and on Saturday.

On the Saturday that the Ramona struck the reef, he said, he had stood the 4 to 8 a.m. watch at the wheel, and then went to bed, getting up at about midday. The weather was then still "nasty” with heavy seas, although the wind had subsided. That afternoon the crew were told that the vessel was only 35 miles off Bermuda, and there was a “sing-song” with some of them “hopping around in bare feet.” 

Mr. Beaupre went on to tell the court that at about 4:30 p.m. he was told to go down to the engine room to check the engine, which was not running at the time. “I was told to turn the engine on at about 7 o'clock,” he said. “A light had been spotted I believe. I remained in the engine room, and sometime later Joseph Modeste [victim] came down and said ‘Grab your lifejacket.’ I was infuriated because I didn’t think it was the mess boy’s duty to tell me to leave the engine. My place of duty was with the engine.” 

He told the Court that he went on deck, but later returned to the engine room. Later, Louis Depareste [victim] came down and told him that more power was needed from the engine.

“I increased the engine to maximum by opening the throttles, but it had no effect. The revolution counter stayed where it was. I took the throttle linkage out and turned the engine to maximum by hand, but it still had no effect, according to the rev. counter.” 

At this point Mr. Palmer mentioned the question of a line around the shaft. He also asked if the engine had been functioning normally prior to the emergency. Mr. Beaupre said that it had, but had only been in use at the cruising power of 1200 rpm. “While I was in the engine room, I felt the boat strike. Mr. Dressel [the mate, survivor] called to me through the hatch and I went up on deck. I had a life jacket.” 

 Mr. Palmer asked: “When you were up on deck what was the state of the crew?”

“It was chaotic”, said Mr. Beaupre.  “The West Indians were standing talking in their own tongue. The other people were standing around. Dr. MacIntyre had a lighted flare in his hand. The vessel was listing to port, around 12 to 15 degrees, I’m really not sure.”

He said that surf was breaking over the boat, and he timed the waves and shouted warnings to the crew each time a wave was due. He told them to keep to the starboard side of the ship, and he protected Mrs. Penny Gudgeon [survivor] by huddling over her. 

Mr. Palmer asked, “Did you see what the captain was doing at this time?”

“If I remember right, he was back at the wheel. I told Louis to get buckets for bailing, and told Winston Simon [victim] to look after the oars. I also told Rosemond Harold [survivor] to make sure the plugs were in the dory. These instructions were carried out. Rosemond made temporary plugs out of tarpaulin. One of the plugs was not in the dory. I gave instructions to Louis about fresh water.”

Asked Mr. Palmer: “Did you give all these instructions on your own initiative?” – “Yes.”

“Did you give them because you heard no-one else give them?” – “I don’t know why I gave them.” 

Continuing with his story, Mr. Beaupre said that most of the crew were trying to launch the lifeboat, but were unsuccessful because of a broken ring-bolt. He and Captain MacKay tried to send up parachute flares. One burned his leg, but his second went up successfully, well above mast height. A flare launched by Capt. MacKay did not go up, but travelled horizontally over the water.

Mr. Beaupre said he thought he was the last to leave the stricken Ramona. When he jumped into the water he jumped between the dory and the dinghy, and held the two together, while someone lashed them together.

He told the court that he knew Capt. MacKay could not swim, and grabbed him by the hair to stop him going under.

Asked by Mr. Palmer if he would say that Capt. MacKay was in “bad shape” he replied, “I would say so.”

“I swam between the skiff and the dory for a while,” Mr. Beaupre went on. 

“Dr. MacIntyre, who was in the water beside the skiff, suggested we cut the line and make it for the shore. I didn't think it was the right thing to do. I told him to keep up his morale, that I thought the land was only about five miles away, although I thought it was further. Dr. MacIntyre thought it was nearer than five miles.”

He said that eventually he shouted across to the dory, which contained the other eight crew members, to tell them that they should cut the line and try to make the shore. Someone replied “O.K.,” he said.

Cross-examined by various counsel, Mr. Beaupre said that he had never seen Capt. MacKay act irrationally, and had seen nothing to signify that the man had been drinking when the two of them were on deck together trying to light flares. He said that it would have been wiser to stay with the other survivors. He added that Capt. MacKay appeared “relatively calm” during the time the ship was on the reef.

In reply to a question from Mr. Francis Daly, for the Government, Mr. Beaupre said that visibility was good at the time the flare went up.

In re-examination, Mr. Palmer asked, “Before you abandoned the Ramona did you hear any of the survivors say anything about the captain drinking?” – “No.”

“While you were swimming between the dory and the dinghy, was there a state of panic among the people in the dory? – “I would not call it panic necessarily, it was disbelief, and shock.” 

"Do you have any comments on the captain’s conduct during the voyage?” – “No.”

“Any comments on his conduct after the Ramona had been abandoned?” – “No.”

Mr. Beaupre was asked by the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, if he thought an air lock in the fuel system could be responsible for the loss of power. He replied that it could have been an air lock, but it was “highly unlikely” that one would have occurred.

Further to his comment on the state of the crew immediately after the shipwreck, he said that the West Indians appeared to be almost in a state of panic.

After the hearing Mr. Guy Boudreau, president of Vagabond Cruises, Ltd., owners of the Ramona, said that insurance underwriters were at present investigating the possibilities of salvage. “It will be a few days before we know for sure what can be done,” he said.

“If he had put more into his job this disaster would never have happened”
The hearing resumed the following day when first mate Joel Dressel gave his evidence before Bermuda’s first Marine Court of Inquiry for 17 years.

The court heard from two witnesses that the captain of the doomed yacht Ramona had been drinking before the vessel grounded on the killer North reefs. The charges were made by the vessel’s first mate, and her former skipper, Joel Edward Dressel, and West Indian deck hand Rosemond Harold.

Mr. Dressel also backed up his previous statement to local police when he repeated that had Captain Ross MacKay “put more into his job this disaster would never have happened.” The court was also told how the four other West Indian crewmembers had abandoned the Ramona’s dory after the boat was drifting inland inside Bermuda’s reefs – and they had died. 

Mr. Dressel told the court that a representative of the Ramona’s owner, Captain Walter Boudreau, had decided that Capt. William Ross MacKay, a master mariner, should take the yacht from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to the West Indies and that before the voyage he had offered Captain MacKay a drink of rum which he had refused saying that he only drank beer. After leaving Lunenburg, Mr. Dressel said, the Ramona hit a heavy blow on the Thursday, and by Friday the “winds were well over hurricane force and the seas were mountainous.” By Saturday, he said, the wind had reduced to about force six with 25 to 30 feet seas. 

It was on Friday at about midnight, he went on, that the captain told him that he had tried to radio Boston for a weather forecast and had failed to get through because he thought the radio was dead.

Mr. Dressel said Capt. MacKay’s voice was “a bit slurred,” and added: "I thought he had been drinking.” Mr. Dressel explained that he had been on the deck of the Ramona from 10 p.m. on Thursday until 1.0 a.m. on Saturday and said that during that time the captain had appeared on the deck only periodically. “It seemed to me that he was below more than he was on deck. He only came up for short periods,” he stated.

At 1.0 p.m. on Saturday, Dressel explained he was in the wardroom of the ship when Capt. MacKay asked Mrs. Penny Gudgeon, the only woman on board, for a drink.

“Mrs. Gudgeon's bottle was not there,” he went on, “and Bernie (Beaupre), who had a bottle of rum, offered him some and he took a drink.” 

Mr. Dressel said that the captain poured himself more than half a tumbler of rum and he saw him drink “some of it."

At about 6.10 p.m. that evening lights were sighted and Mr. Dressel said he thought that they could have been either North Rock light or St. David’s light. Mr. Dressel suggested that the square sail should be lowered. Captain MacKay tried to help them with the task, even though he told him that he thought the Ramona was on a dangerous course and to get it back on a proper one. Later the Captain agreed to start the engine and one of the crew took the wheel when the captain went below. 

After Mr. Dressel and the Captain had eaten a meal, Mr. Dressel said that the ship was hit by a large breaker and lurched over. It was then that one of the crew on deck yelled that they were on the reefs. Mr. Dressel said that when he got on deck he felt the Ramona touch the reefs and shudder. After denying that they were on the reefs the captain ordered everyone to get into their life jackets and called for power from the engine.

Mr. Dressel said that no more power came from the engine because, as he thought then, there was an air lock in the system or trouble with the engine’s governor. He added that by now he had seen at the wreck a length of rope wrapped around the propellor shaft of the ship and this, he said, had come from the Ramona and would cause friction and drag on the propellor.

He said that two flares were fired. One reached only as high as the masthead and the other shot straight outwards and landed in the sea as soon as its parachute opened.

Eventually, after the crew abandoned ship, all but Doctor Kenneth MacIntyre, who eventually died and Mr. Beaupre (who had taken to a skiff) found their way into the dory.

That night one of the West Indian crew, Mr. Louis Depareste, told Mr. Dressel: “I will do a deal.” And later, he said: “Skipper, I will go and let you get ashore.”

Mr. Depareste then went into the water but, Mr. Dressel said, he managed to pull him back into the dory but the crewman only left the boat again and disappeared.

In the night two others, Mr. Hendrickson Rene (sic) and Mr. Winston Simon, also left the boat. With daylight the fourth West Indian, Mr. Joseph Modeste, who was the second mate, tried to leave the boat, but was pulled back two or three times, before he eventually left altogether after unfastening his lifejacket.

Asked his general impression of Captain MacKay’s command of the Ramona, Mr. Dressel told the court: "I thought he was too lax in his attitude towards everything in this storm and approaching Bermuda. I expected him to be more nervous than he was and remain on deck more.”

Twice on the voyage, Mr. Dressel said, – on Friday night and when he helped take down the sail on Saturday, – he formed the impression that the captain was drunk. He also confirmed a statement which he made to local police in which he stated: “If he had put more into his job this disaster would never have happened.” 

Crewman Mr. Rosemond Harold said that the captain spent little time on deck during the storm and the first time that he saw MacKay take a drink was at 4.0 a.m. on Friday. He called into the captain’s cabin to relieve his watch, said Mr. Harold, when he saw the captain drinking beer.

On Saturday at about 6.0 p.m., he maintained that he saw Captain MacKay drinking a glass of rum in the galley of the vessel. He added that during the hurricane he formed the impression the captain was so drunk that he could not keep a straight course at the wheel and appeared unsteady later when walking about below. 

Mr. Harold also told how three of the West Indians left the dory and when describing the last one to leave – Mr. Joseph Modeste, – Mr. Harold said that the second mate said to him: “Why do we want to stay in this freezing water. Let’s go home.”

He said that by this he gathered that Mr. Modeste wanted him to jump in the sea with him. He grabbed the second mate and pulled him back into the boat and this happened some five times until, on the fifth occasion, Mr. Modeste tried to drag him into the water. He pushed him off and Mr. Modeste sank out of sight.

Master of Ramona on Bail on Canadian Charges of Driving Under Influence of Drink or Drugs
The following day, Thursday 14, Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel for the court revealed that Captain [William] Ross MacKay, master of the Ramona was at that time facing charges in Canada of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and was then on bail. Mr. Palmer also referred to previous drinking charges against the 35-year-old captain. The actual charge Captain MacKay faces, under Canadian law, is one of “impaired driving.”

A deadly hush settled over the court as Mr. Palmer stated that he had a cable from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Halifax. He asked Captain MacKay if in July, 1961, he had been convicted on a charge of impaired driving. The latter admitted he had. 

Mr. Palmer asked Captain MacKay if he had been convicted on a charge of intoxication under the Liquor Control Act in 1966. The captain also agreed to this. 

The court counsel then asked if on November 15 this year, less than two weeks before the Ramona sailed from Lunenburg. Nova Scotia, he had been arrested and charged with impaired driving, and if he was at present on bail in respect of that charge in the amount of $2,000. “No. $500," Captain MacKay replied. 

Earlier Captain MacKay had branded as lies the evidence given by three of the survivors who had charged him with drunkenness and incompetence. He had also claimed that Mr. Bernard Beaupre, the other survivor not laying charges against him, was lying when saying the captain had accepted two drinks from him. Captain MacKay said he had only had one drink

“And this is the gentleman who saved your life, is he not?” asked Mr. Palmer, after referring to Mr. Beaupre having come to the aid of the master in the sea and lifting his head out of the water, since Captain MacKay could not swim. 

“Yes,” replied the captain quietly.

The first witness of the day was Mr. Rosemond Harold, the St. Lucian deckhand, who had given the first part of his testimony on Wednesday.

Replying to a question put by Mr. E. W. P. Vesey, M.C.P., appearing for the owners of the yacht, Vagabond Cruises, he said, “I don’t drink at sea,” adding that this was the policy of the company. He said he had seen the captain drinking a can of beer and a glass of rum during the trip.  

Replying to Mr. Nicholas Dill, for Captain MacKay, Mr. Harold said he thought the master was drunk and unsteady on his feet. He also maintained Captain MacKay had said “abandon ship”, which caused Mr. Dill to remark: “You are the only who has said that.”

Mrs. Penny Gudgeon, 20, of Halifax, one of the five survivors and the only woman of the 10 crew, said she had one 40 oz. bottle of Canadian Club aboard. She claimed the captain had twice asked her for a drink, and each time filled the tumbler half to three-quarters full, adding a small amount of “coke, which is a very strange combination.” The bottle had been about three-quarters full when the yacht sailed, and shortly before they abandoned ship, she noticed only about two to two-and-a-half inches of liquor in the bottle. She had had none herself at sea and knew “no one else on board was touching the bottle.”

She maintained the captain did not appear sober at about 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 2, approximately 2 hours before the Ramona was abandoned on the reefs on the North Rock. Wearing a smart black suit with black velvet trimmings with her long blonde hair drawn back over the nape of her neck, Mrs. Gudgeon said she found “there was a lot of confusion” when she went on deck after the yacht had struck the reefs.

"Did you hear the captain give any orders?” asked Mr. Palmer.

“No, Mr. Dressel seemed to be in charge,” she replied, referring to the first mate Mr. Joel Dressel, who had been master of the Ramona for the last four years but who is not a master mariner.

She recalled Mr. Beaupre, Mr. Dressel and Dr. Kenneth MacIntyre [one of the five who drowned] were getting the boats ready in case they were needed. 

“The captain came back from the wheelhouse and said, “What are you getting the boats ready for? Don’t leave the ship.”  “I think he was very afraid,” said Mrs. Gudgeon.

She alleged that as she was getting into the dory which was in the water she thought she heard Mr. Joseph Modeste [another of the five victims] saying ‘abandon ship’, but Captain Mackay was saying, ‘Don’t leave me.’ 

Later the captain also got into the dory. After the dory capsized several times and was eventually righted, eight of them got into it, while Dr. MacIntyre and Mr. Beaupre, both Canadians, were alone in a skiff. 

“Anything else you remember about the captain?” asked Mr. Palmer.

“I remember the strong smell of liquor,” replied Mrs. Gudgeon.

“Do you feel any person was in command of the dory?”

“Yes, definitely Mr. Dressel,” was her reply.

She remembered how the three St. Lucian galley boys – Winston Simon, Hendrickson Rene (sic) and Louis Depareste – “became so incoherent and listless they just did not know what they were doing. They were completely uncoordinated – I just don’t know how to explain how they were. They just sat in the boat. They didn’t want to help keep it afloat. They sat on the side, instead of in the middle as instructed. They were really dazed and didn’t seem to hear much of what we were saying.”

She did not see Winston and Hendrickson leave the dory, she told her lawyer Mr. Robert Motyer, – “but I heard [Winston] Simon give a moaning scream several times. He must have been quite close.”

She repeated what the other witnesses had said – how they had all tried to stop the three Saint Lucians from going into the water, – “but I don’t think there was anything any of us could have done,” she said.

Referring to the other two Saint Lucians, the deckhands Mr. Harold and Mr. Modeste, Mrs. Gudgeon remarked: “They were completely in control, but by daylight and shortly before the first rescue boat arrived, Mr. Modeste was attempting to get out of the boat repeatedly, and became quite violent. In the end, he went over the side and disappeared.” 

Questioned by Mr. Vesey as to whether Captain Mackay looked alright after taking a drink from her on Saturday evening, the witness replied: “He hadn’t looked alright for a long time.”

Mr. Dill asked how the master looked on the Saturday afternoon. “He always seemed so happy and joking,” she said.

“Would you say he was drunk?”

“I wouldn’t say he was feeling any pain.”

“How do you come to that conclusion?” asked Mr. Dill.

“His general attitude and bearing.” This reminded her of the way Captain Mackay always crossed the wardroom from the galley. “He would count the waves, and after three he would consider it would be calm, and then he would tippy-toe across the wardroom. I used to like to watch him,” she remarked, causing amusement.

Mr. A. (Tony) Block, a signalman at the Fort George Signal Station [Harbour Radio], said he was on duty from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, December 2. He said he had not been able to see the North Rock light at 7.30 p.m. or 9.37 p.m. with binoculars, and visibility was down to about three-and-a-half miles. He saw no flares from the North Rock beacon during his watch, and thought there was “a very slim chance” of a rocket fired 120 feet in the air being seen from land. These last questions were put by Crown Counsel Mr. Francis Daly, appearing for the Marine and Ports Authority.

Mr. Harry Cox, local skin diver, identified a half bottle of rum, which he said had floated up from the Ramona on Friday, December 8. He said he found no ship’s log or papers bearing on the tragedy.

Det. Sgt. John “Sean” Sheehan identified one unopened bottle of white rum found on board last Friday.

John Gerrard "Sean" Sheehan
(served 22 February 1957 – 31 December 1978)
Recalled to give evidence, Captain Mackay denied accepting any drinks from Mrs. Gudgeon during the journey, but admitted to having one from Mr. Beaupre. He also denied Mr. Harold’s testimony that he had been drinking a beer. “I had no beer on the ship, and had no beer on the voyage,” he said.

He said it was his firm belief the Ramona “was driven in by sea and winds,” and insisted he had kept a log and made entries every hour, or during the bad weather periods, every four hours.

“Did you give an order to abandon ship?” asked Mr. Dill.

“No,” was the reply.

Cross-examining, Mr. Palmer asked what he had to say about Mrs. Gudgeon’s evidence. The captain said she was deliberately lying and, when asked what reason she could have, he said: “It could be some of my strictness in the ship. And she was interested in one of the part-owners (Mr. Dressel), but these are things I can only surmise.”

The captain could give no reason why Mr. Beaupre and Mr. Harold would have said they had seen him drinking, but maintained they were also lying.

Mr. Palmer: "Do you agree for some years you have had a drinking problem?”

“No, I don't have a drinking problem. I have a bad stomach.”

“Do you know it was dangerous for you to have one drink, which leads to another drink, and another?”

Captain MacKay did not give any concrete answer.

Mr. Palmer then referred to the cable from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and after reading the previous charges, asked if Captain MacKay had been demoted from mate on the ‘Bounty’ to navigator?

“No, I later became her master,” claimed the captain.

“Do you consider yourself to have a drinking problem?”


“Do you consider yourself to be an alcoholic?”


“Anyone who thought you were would be mistaken?” asked Mr. Palmer.


The Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, asked if he was suggesting that because Mr. Dressel was part owner and former master he wanted him off the ship. 

“Yes,” replied Captain MacKay. 

“And the suggestion is that Mrs. Gudgeon, being friendly with him . . . has gone into this conspiracy?” 


Mr. Barcilon also queried the course the captain had taken when approaching Bermuda, but Captain MacKay maintained he had done all in his power to keep the Ramona off the reefs. 

Captain W. G. Boudreau, representing the yacht’s owners, was recalled by Mr. Palmer and questioned on the inquiries made about Captain MacKay before engaging him as master.

Captain Boudreau said he had made verbal enquiries from three captains in Canada, including the master of the schooner ‘Bluenose II’, and had checked the master’s references and documents.

“Were you completely satisfied?”

“I received no adverse opinion,” he replied. 

“Did you have any reason to believe Captain MacKay was a drinker as a result of your inquiries?”


The witness agreed these inquiries must have taken place after November 15, when Captain MacKay was arrested for impaired driving.

Captain Boudreau added he was satisfied after the investigation he had made that – “Captain MacKay was completely capable of taking the Ramona down to Bermuda. I had no reservations whatsoever.” 

On December 14, the owners of the ill-fated Ramona were “still hopeful” of salvaging the 120-foot yacht ……….. Mr. Walter Boudreau, a representative of the owners, Vagabond Cruises, explained that divers were still probing the steel hull of the vessel to try and assess her damage.

Asked if any salvage attempt would be made, he added: "We are still hopeful.” 

Meanwhile, the Bermuda Recorder of Friday, December 15, 1967 reported that a week of sensational testimony by five survivors of the wrecked yacht Ramona had reached a climax when the master of the ship captain William Ross MacKay, 36, of Nova Scotia was recalled before the marine court of enquiry. The captain was asked for his reaction to accusations by three of the survivors that he was drunk and incapable when the ship ran aground with the loss of five lives. Captain MacKay said his accusers were lying.

And when asked by the Crown counsel if he had a drinking problem and was an alcoholic the captain had replied no, – but then his face flushed heavily.

It was revealed on Friday, December 15, that counsel for Captain William Ross MacKay….. was trying to obtain a character witness from the United States to speak on behalf of his client. This was revealed to the resumed Marine Court of Inquiry into the disaster which was expected to conclude on Monday.

Mr. Nicholas B. Dill, appearing for Captain MacKay, told the court that as a result of the earlier evidence when it was made known that Captain Mackay was on bail for impaired driving and had previous drinking charges against him, he “had made a call to the United States for an additional witness in respect of his client’s character. I don’t know whether he will be able to come.” 

Mr. Dill informed the court president, the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, that the witness – if he could come to Bermuda – would be here in time for Monday morning, when the court resumes. 

During the hearing, the court also heard from Mr. John Ellison, whose Cessna aircraft helped in the air sea rescue operation on December 3. Mr. Ellison criticized the lack of coordination in the search and he emphasized the need for grid maps which would specify where each boat would go, rather than having them go in unspecified directions.


Other witnesses were Mr. A. (Speedy) Dickinson of St. George’s, who first spotted the Ramona on the reefs while he was fishing, and Mr. Miles Outerbridge of Bailey’s Bay, who with the aid of a telescope was the first person to spy the five survivors in a dory and relay their position to Harbour Radio.

The first witness of the day was Police Constable Derek Singleton, who was duty officer at Operations in Prospect on Sunday morning, December 3. He received a telephone call at 7.45 a.m. that a yacht had struck the reefs at North Rock, and he telephoned Harbour Radio.

Constable Derek Singleton
(served 18 April 1961 – 21 May 1969)

The next witness, Mr. Musson Wainwright, owner of Tugboat Annie, told the court that he was informed about the Ramona at about 8 a.m. on December 3, although it was not at that time known if there were any survivors. He approached the yacht from downwind, since he thought anything off the boat would come in that direction.

“The first thing I came upon were two West Indians — drowned,” he said. “I realized we had a disaster on our hands, and after informing Harbour Radio of this, I continued full speed up wind, feeling there might be survivors in the water.” 

Asked by Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel for the court, if the Saint Lucians were dead, Mr. Wainwright replied: "Yes, their heads were down in the water. They wore life jackets, which were supporting them.” After proceeding at full speed, without picking up the dead men, – “I came across a survivor in his life jacket.” said Mr. Wainwright. [This was the Canadian engineer, Mr. Bernard Beaupre.] 

“Was he in any condition when you picked him up to inform you about the wreck?” asked Mr. Palmer. The witness said he was not, and he had been wrapped in warm clothing once in the boat. They took him ashore to St. George’s and it was not until he was being put in the ambulance that Mr. Beaupre was able to say how many people were aboard the Ramona.


Mr. Wainwright then took Tugboat Annie back to the disaster area and was directed to the dory by Harbour Radio. He found the four survivors in the dory and picked them up.

Mr. Dill: “When you arrived there can you say anything about the attitude of the captain?”

“When I came alongside,” Mr. Wainwright replied, “everybody was well behaved, sitting very tight, arms each side holding the boat upright.”

He ordered all of them aboard his boat, and personally helped Captain Mackay aboard.

“Did you smell anything on him?” asked Mr. Dill, referring to the evidence of Mrs. Penny Gudgeon, one of the survivors charging Captain MacKay with drunkenness and incompetence, who on Thursday had said his breath smelled of liquor in the dory.

“I did not,” Mr. Wainwright answered, adding he thought he would have been able to smell the captain’s breath, since in the process of helping him aboard Tugboat Annie, the two men had necessarily had their faces close together. 

Asked how the sea was at that time, the witness said: "There were conditions I had never seen before. Surge and tide were all the way in, the tide was very strong out of the north.”


Witness Mr. Ellison, who makes his Cessna aircraft available for air-sea rescue when he can, assisted in the search. He said he received a telephone call “from someone who announced himself as Fort George.” A second call at 9:20 a.m. asked for his help in searching for survivors. Based on his inspection from the aircraft he was reasonably certain no one was aboard the Ramona. 

Asked by Mr. Palmer if he had any comments to make on the way the search itself was carried out, Mr. Ellison replied: “That is difficult from the point of view of someone in the air, but one did have the feeling a more coordinated search could have been made if each of the boats had had specific areas to search, rather than being in one block with no one knowing quite where they were searching.”

He emphasized the importance of grid search maps being available, so that each boatman could be assigned a specific area to search. Mr. Ellison said he saw from his plane an upturned dinghy, with no one in the vicinity. This was the one used by Mr. Beaupre, and his friend Dr. Kenneth MacIntyre of Canada, who drowned in the tragedy. 

Mr. Francis Daly, Crown Counsel for the Marine and Ports Authority and therefore representing the Bermuda Government, asked Mr. Ellison if he were not a member of aircraft search committee. The witness replied he belonged to a “loosely formed organization,” and in answer to another question said he had discussed having grid maps with others. He added the committee had no terms of reference.

Mr. Daly pointed out between 15 and 20 boats assisted in the search – “so the area was getting pretty good coverage, even though it was not well organized?” Pointing out there was no official flight pattern for the searching aircraft or map references, Mr. Ellison said: "I suppose if blue bottle flies were in a bottle long enough, they would fly through all the space.” 

Mr. James A. Pearman, chairman of the committee appointed by the Marine Board to make a report on the advisability of establishing an Air Sea Rescue operation in Bermuda, said he was informed about the wreck at about 8:50 a.m. on December 3. 

"Are there any standing instructions drawn up with regard to putting air-sea rescue into operation?” inquired Mr. Palmer. “There are no standing instructions as such,” was the answer. Mr. Pearman explained there was a committee, including representatives of the Marine Board and Fort George, and the voluntary services of the United States Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy were available as they were needed. 

"Who coordinates search and rescue?” asked the counsel for the court. 

"Harbour Radio,” replied Mr. Pearman. 

Mr. Palmer asked: “It is not part of your function as chairman of this committee? — “No.” 

Questioned further, Mr. Pearman said the Police volunteered their services on land, and also assisted with their motor launch if it were available.

Several boat owners made their vessels available, and the owners of four private aircraft also assisted when they could.

Have you made any recommendations regarding a search map?” asked Mr. Palmer. 

Mr. Pearman: "Not to any official body, no.” 

Mr. Palmer: “Would you wish to make any recommendations?” 

Mr. Pearman: “Yes, I think that this would be an advisable thing to have for all boat owners, aircraft, and certainly would facilitate the restriction of one’s whereabouts.” 

Answering Mr. Barcilon, he explained the procedure which is now followed when a search is launched. He added: “I think the committee need to go into the question of facilities further, and would like to make recommendations to Government in respect to certain facilities which we think we need.”

He told Mr. Daly the committee members were all volunteers who had been asked by the Marine Board to assist in air-sea rescue when necessary. They were not an official organization. 

Captain J. S. Cowie, a member of the Marine Court of Inquiry, said he presumed the committee was set up at the time the U.S. Coast Guard pulled out of Bermuda. Mr. Pearman agreed. 

Witness Lt. Col. Paul W. Rudlop of Kindley Air Force Base, who was operations officer and acting commander of the base on December 3, told the court the base received a call concerning the Ramona at 9.45 a.m. that day from the St. George’s Police Station. A rescue aircraft was airborne 12 minutes later and reached the wreck at about 10 a.m. 

He informed Mr. Daly: “We will respond to any emergency.”

“You don’t have to go through a local procedure?” asked Mr. Daly.

“That is right,” replied the colonel.

The court was told that two helicopters had also been called in – one was the United States Navy helicopter based at Kindley, and the other was an R.C.N. Sea King helicopter from the Canadian aircraft carrier ‘Bonaventure’ which was nearby the island at the time.

HMCS Bonaventure underway in 1961
R.C.N. Sea King helicopters approaching Bonaventure - 1968


Witness Mr. Terry Salter, assistant signal officer at Harbour Radio, said he was on duty at 7:30 a.m. on December 3, and received a call from the Police at 7.45 a.m. concerning the Ramona. He told the court that at that time she was listing to port, inside the first line of breakers and inside the reefs, at about 2 miles east of North Rock. He assumed those aboard her would have remained aboard, since there was – “a considerable amount of the vessel above the water,” including her masts. It appeared about half her deck was out of the water, although she was listing at about 45 degrees”.

Mr. Salter said he did not like to request Kindley’s help until sufficient facts were known to put before them. He agreed there had been some confusion as to the number of people in the water, since it was first assumed that Mr. Wainwright had picked up the two drowned Saint Lucians he had seen in the water. But for this, there would have been no confusion, he remarked. 

Witness Police Constable David Garland, who was in command of the police boat ‘Blue Heron’ that day, said he had received an emergency call from Police Headquarters to proceed to the wreck of the Ramona, which he was told was two miles west of North Rock.

"That was a mistake,” he said, since he sighted the yacht two miles east of the rock, and accordingly changed course. He reached her about the same time as the ‘Wally III’, owned by Mr. Roy Taylor. 

The ‘Blue Heron’ went downwind, where they recovered the body of a West Indian from the water.

“The body was upright, but completely submerged, and the life jacket was behind his head. The top strap was in place, but the bottom ones had the strings hanging down,” said Constable Garland.

David Garland
(served 18 Apr 1961 – 11 Sep 1976)


Questioned by Mr. E. W. P. Vesey, M.C.P., for the owners of the Ramona – Vagabond Cruises – PC Garland said he learned the drowned man’s name was Mr. Joseph Modeste. The policeman said he would have taken another, quicker course to the Ramona, if he had known she was east of North Rock. Mr. Vesey pointed out – after noting which course the policeman would have taken – that this would have brought the ‘Blue Heron’ to where the five survivors were in the dory.

Blue Heron 

CLICK HEREto read an excellent article about the building of Bermuda’s first police boat the Blue Heron.


Referring to the confusion over east and west, Mr. Daly asked: 

“This information you had, originated from Police Headquarters?”

“Yes,” agreed Constable Garland.

Contrary to reports circulating at the time, the Ramona actually floundered on the rim reef 1¼ miles (2.01168 kilometers) to the east of the North Rock Beacon. She hit the bar at a point between the North Rock Beacon and the North East Breakers more locally known among fishermen of the day as the North East Pointers – about 7-8 miles out from the mainland at (GPS 32.47955 – 64.7652).

COMMENT from Steve Dallas June, 2023:
“At the time of Ramona’s grounding there existed the North East Buoy (light) which vessels approaching Bermuda from the North had to leave to starboard before proceeding outside of Kitchener and Mills Breaker Buoy and on to Spit Buoy – which is the start of the ship channel into St. George’s and the Narrows Channel leading to the two inshore channels up the North Shore. All these navigational aids are well lit with very different light characteristics as is the North Rock Beacon.

It was Dressel’s contention that MacKay had misread the North Rock Beacon for the N.E. Buoy light and steamed Ramona right into the reef line. When MacKay spotted the breakers, he attempted to turn the boat out to seaward but, with her limited power, she hit the breakers before he could clear them. Dressel was in the engine room at the time of impact as the boat was not exhibiting its usual performance. I found a heavy rope wrapped around her prop when I first dove on her which had probably washed off the deck in the heavy weather they were experiencing and fouled the prop. The North East buoy has since been replaced with a fixed beacon on the reef-line.

I’ve heard the term N.E. Pointers all my life and always assumed it was the shallow area North of N.E. Breakers. There is no “point” as the 10-fathom line is curved in this area. The fishing fraternity refer to the area to the N.W. of North Rock that sticks out, again in a long curve, as “Long Point” – but there is no “point”.  Other popular fishing spots like Peter Riley’s, Sally Tucker’s, The Short Course, The Hind Grounds, etc. you will not find on a chart and many amateur fishermen may never have heard of them. I have been fishing offshore and the Banks since I was 12 years old but still don’t know everything.

Ramona came across the Great Breaker Ledge Flat one and a quarter miles to the east of North Rock Beacon. This would place her grounding approximately a third of the way along the breaker ledge and east of what could be [referred to as the] N.E. Pointers.” 

Location of the Great Breaker Ledge Flat
Image credit Stephen Dallas


Witness Mr. Roy Taylor said he took the ‘Wally III’ from St. George’s to Fort St. Catherine, and then a direct course to the wreck, adding he would have gone to leeward of her had he known people were not aboard but in the sea. He reached the Ramona about 9:30 a.m. and found no sign of life after searching the area. He also picked up debris from the yacht, when asked to do so by Harbour Radio. Mr. Taylor said there was a very strong tide “running up to maybe three to four knots,” and he noticed a very heavy surge.
Witness Mr. George S. Llewellyn Hollis, owner of the ‘Jay Lou’, also took part in the search. He said he found a body in the North Channel – that of Doctor MacIntyre and later also picked up the body of another West Indian.
Witness Mr. Miles Outerbridge said he heard the news of the Ramona at about 9 a.m. on the radio on December 3. He set up his telescope at his Bailey's Bay home, and was able to spot a boat “with people in it.”

Having heard on his radio – which picks up Harbour Radio’s conversations with boat captains – that there were 10 people aboard, he telephoned Harbour Radio and gave them his own position and bearing, after which he saw Mr. Wainwright’s boat heading towards the dory.    

Mr. Outerbridge said he went with Mr. Jack Lightbourn in a Boston Whaler to search the area, and came across the bodies of the two other West Indians, which they removed from the water. 
Witness Dr. Terence H. A. Wickham, pathologist at the King Edward, VII Memorial Hospital, said he performed an autopsy on each of the five men on December 4.

“The cause of death in all cases was drowning,” he said. 

“Was there an additional cause?” asked Mr. Palmer.

“In one of the coloured persons – Joseph Modeste,” replied the pathologist. “He had suffered a congenital abnormality in his blood.”

“Was that a fatal disease in itself?”

“No.” answered Dr. Wickham.

Witness Mr. Dickinson of St. George’s said he went fishing at about 6 a.m. on December 3. His boat was just to the east of North Rock “when I saw something sticking up, like a spar,” he recalled. “It startled me, and I headed straight back to St. George’s.” With the aid of his nephew’s spy-glass he made out the wreck, and telephoned the Police. 

Character Witness Flies In For Ramona Hearing 
On Sunday, December 17, a New York businessman flew into Bermuda to be called as a witness when the Marine Court of Inquiry into the Ramona disaster resumed on Monday.

Mr. Nicholas Dill, attorney for Captain William Ross MacKay, had called the man to testify as to the character of the captain who had been accused of drunkenness and incompetence by some of the Ramona survivors. Mr. Dill met the surprise witness, Mr. Julian K. Roosevelt, at the Civil Air Terminal, and said later that Mr. Roosevelt, a keen yachtsman, knew Captain MacKay well, and had sailed with him on the ‘Bounty’. 

Meanwhile, at least one of survivors was preparing to go back home after his stay on the island for the duration of the inquiry. Mr. Bernard Beaupre, the engineer of the Ramona, and the only survivor who did not make allegations against Capt. MacKay, told the RG that he hoped to fly back to Canada on Wednesday. He said that the disaster had not turned him against sailing, and he intends to go back to sea when he gets home.

Survivor Mrs. Penny Gudgeon said that she was not yet sure when she would be leaving Bermuda, and it is understood that the remaining survivors have not yet made definite plans to leave the island. During their stay here they had been living, free of charge, at the Bermuda Sailors' Home.

Captain William Ross MacKay, (left) captain of the yacht 
Ramona, pictured with his attorney, Mr. Nicholas Dill, 
leaving the Colonial Secretariat after a lunch adjournment 
in the Marine Court of Inquiry into the disaster last week


Court Cancels his Master’s Ticket
Captain William Ross MacKay, Master of the yacht Ramona, was guilty of incompetence and misconduct. That was the verdict of the Marine Court of Inquiry into the Ramona disaster, which claimed the lives of five crewmen. The verdict was handed down on the afternoon of Monday, December 18, 1967 by the Hon. Mr. Justice Barcilon, president of the court. While it was being delivered Capt. Mackay sat, head bowed, at the back of the crowded courtroom.

The main result of the inquiry, which was convened by a Commission set up on December 6, was the cancellation of Capt. Mackay's master’s certificate. But while the court decided that Capt. MacKay was to blame for the Ramona foundering on the reef off North Rock, they did not feel that his misconduct and incompetence were sufficient to render him liable to criminal proceedings, and no order for costs against him or the owners, Vagabond Cruises, Ltd., of the Bahamas, was made. 

The court returned verdicts on the causes of death on the men who lost their lives after abandoning the Ramona. In two cases the verdict was suicide while the balance of mind was disturbed; there was one verdict of accidental death, and open verdicts were returned on the remaining two victims. [See the court’s findings below] 

Vagabond Cruises were cleared of blame in hiring Captain Mackay to take the Ramona from Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, to the West Indies. Also cleared of any criticism were the people and organizations which took part in the rescue operation on the morning after the Ramona had struck the reef, and four of the survivors who gave evidence during the course of the enquiry were praised for their “courage and conduct.” 

Only a few hours before the court delivered their findings, one of the world’s top yachtsmen, Mr. Julian K. Roosevelt, had described Capt. MacKay as "the finest seaman and navigator I have ever been to sea with." Mr. Roosevelt, a gold medal winner in the 1952 Olympic yachting, had flown from his New York home specially to give evidence for Capt. MacKay. He told the court that he had sailed on the ‘Bounty’ as chief officer under Capt. MacKay, during a difficult voyage, and with three fires at sea, 55 knot winds, fog, and a near-collision, Capt. MacKay had taken the right decision for the safety of the ship and crew every time. “If he had not, I would not be here today,” he said.

Mr. Roosevelt, who has competed in five Olympics for the United States, and sailed on the Newport-Bermuda yacht race on several occasions, said that he did not know Capt. MacKay before joining the ‘Bounty’.

Asked Mr. Nicholas Dill, Capt. MacKay’s attorney: "What impression did you get on first meeting Capt. MacKay?”

Mr. Roosevelt replied: “Capt. MacKay is not a very impressive looking chap, and as chief officer I was prepared to be a little wary of sailing under him. I thought that I would have to take command if anything went wrong. After I had been on board with him for half-a-day I forgot all my worries on that score, and I formed the opinion during that voyage that he was at least the finest seaman and navigator I have ever been at sea with.” He added that he had not seen the captain take a drink during the voyage of the ‘Bounty’. 

Asked to draw on his experience of the approaches to Bermuda from the north, he said that the course plotted by Capt. MacKay was the right one.

Mr. E.W.P. Vesey, M.C.P., for the owners of the Ramona, said in his closing statement that there was no evidence that the vessel or her equipment were defective in any way when she put to sea from Lunenburg. 

Mr. Francis Daly, for the Government, submitted that, in view of the complete lack of information about the wreck, no criticism could be made about the search for survivors. The boats put to sea quickly to rescue survivors quickly, he said, and it was thought at the time that there would be no search. Once the boats were at sea it would have been difficult to allocate search areas to them.  

Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel for the court, said in his closing address that the search and rescue operations were run on a voluntary basis, and as the Ramona survivors in the dory had first been spotted from land, it might be advisable to maintain a land watch during such operations in the future.

He also said that the Bermuda Government took part in such operations in a voluntary capacity. “This court may wish to recommend that in future the Government take less of a voluntary part, and give a lead and assistance to the people who perform the search and rescue operations.”

Mr. Daly replied: “The Government made £1,000 available this year for search and rescue.”

Mr. Palmer: “I was thinking not only of financial aid, but of the guidance and expertise of the Marine Board. The provision of grid maps for rescue boats might be worth discussion.”

A few moments earlier he had told the court: “If this can, now that five people have died, do anything to recommend, or ensure, that future mariners do not die that will be a fitting memorial to the people who lost their lives.”

The last attorney to make his closing address was Mr. Dill for his client Captain MacKay. He said that some evidence of the survivors and the captain conflicted. But there was also conflicting evidence between the survivors. The captain was exhausted because of the storm, he said, but still navigated accurately to Bermuda. He asked the court to say that conditions beyond Captain MacKay’s control drove the Ramona on to the reef.

Mr. Dill continued: “The main question is this. If the crew believed Capt. MacKay was affected by drink, and unable to perform his duties correctly, and was placing the ship in danger, why did they not remove him from duty? They had on board the mate (Joel Dresser) who was a former captain of the Ramona.”

Speaking of the events after the Ramona had struck, he said: “Had the crew stayed with the ship, as the captain commanded, there would probably have been no loss of life.”  

Salient Findings of Ramona Court of Inquiry
“His Misconduct Consisted of Excessive Drinking” 
After twelve days of testimony inclusive of some twenty-one witnesses, the three-man Court of Inquiry submitted their findings in an 8-page report to His Excellency the Governor. [The Rt. Hon. Lord Martonmere, PC, KCMG]

In a 2-page covering letter to the Report dated 18th December, 1967, the President, Mr. Justice Barcilon wrote: 

Your Excellency,

“We have the honour to submit the Report of the Marine Court of Inquiry appointed by your Deputy to inquire into the stranding of the vessel “Ramona C” on the reefs to the north of Bermuda.

The court was convened by a Commission issued on the 6th of December, 1967 to inquire into –

(1) the stranding of the vessel “Ramona C”; 

(2) the deaths of five members of her crew; 

(3) allegations of incompetency and misconduct of the captain of the vessel.

Dealing first with the allegations of incompetency and misconduct of Captain William Ross Mackay, we find these allegations have been proved. He was incompetent in his handling and navigation of the vessel as from the moment the lights of Bermuda were seen and in his complete lack of direction and authority over the crew. His misconduct consisted of excessive drinking which, combined with natural tiredness, affected his judgment considerably. In any event, we consider that having established his position to his own satisfaction during the day it was imprudent under the prevailing conditions to attempt to make a land fall that day, bearing in mind the captain's knowledge of the local hazards.
On the issue of excessive drinking, we relied entirely on the evidence of the four survivors which we accept without reservation. We did not take into consideration the evidence of Captain Mackay's past record, for it is well-known that the drinking habits of ship’s officers may well vary according to whether they are on board or ashore.

We find that the stranding of the vessel, “Ramona C”, was due to the incompetence and misconduct of her master, Captain William Ross Mackay, as above described. 

With regard to the death of the five members of the crew, we are satisfied that Louis Martin Francis Desparest and Joseph Modeste committed suicide by drowning, while the balance of their minds was disturbed through physical and mental exhaustion.

To what extent they accelerated their own deaths can only be a matter of conjecture, but we find that they did shorten their lives to an uncertain extent by their own deliberate acts and consequently that they committed suicide.

We find that Dr. Kenneth Ross MacIntyre's death was due to accidental drowning. 

The evidence regarding the death of Hendrickson Rene (sic) and Winston Thomas Simon was inconclusive, other than that it was due to drowning. We are unable to say with any degree of certainty whether they deliberately left the dory with the intention of accelerating their deaths or whether they passed out through sheer exhaustion and fell overboard. In respect of these two men, therefore, we return an open verdict. 

We do not think the incompetence and misconduct of Captain Mackay was such as to render him liable to a criminal prosecution for manslaughter or under section 220 of the U.K. Merchant Shipping Act, but we feel bound to order the cancellation of his Master's Certificate. Mr. Hutley, the Nautical Assessor, has concurred in this decision. 

We have considered whether the owners of the vessel were in any way neglectful in their selection of Captain Mackay as Master, and we have come to the conclusion that on the information available to them, they were not at fault in appointing him. It can only be a matter for conjecture whether the owners would have engaged Captain Mackay if they had known of his previous convictions for offences connected with drink.

The Court also considered whether any lives could have been saved by action taken by persons ashore. We find that with the limited information available to them regarding the wreck, and particularly the total absence of information regarding the time at which the vessel had stranded on the reefs, persons and organizations ashore did everything they could to rescue the survivors and to minimize the loss of life.

The Court is empowered under section 40 of the Bermuda Merchant Shipping Act 1930, to order the payment of the costs of this Inquiry by the Master or owners of the vessel, but in all the circumstances of this case, the Court will make no order under that section. 

We would like to commend the courage and conduct of Mr. Dressel, Mr. Beaupre, Mr. Harold and Mrs. Gudgeon. It would be invidious to mention any one of them in particular. They all behaved with the greatest courage and utmost propriety. 

In conclusion, we would like to convey our sincere condolences to the families of the five men who died in this tragic disaster. 

In accordance with section 33 of our 1930 Act, a report of these proceedings will be submitted to His Excellency, the Governor. That report will amplify in detail our findings in this matter.”

Dated: 18th December, 1967.
H. Barcilon, President.”

[The Report itself, which formulates in detail the pertinent facts relative to the tragedy together with a keen evaluation of the witness’ evidence presented before the Court, can be viewed in its entirety at the Bermuda Archives, Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12.]


It will be noted in the above Report that when the Marine Court of Inquiry delivered their findings, they also pronounced their own verdicts on the cause of death of the five disaster victims.

It will be remembered that the Coroner, the Wor. Walter Maddocks, had been quick to announce that he would take no action over the proposed inquest on the five victims of the disaster until he received orders from the Governor-in-Council – who were to meet two days hence on Wednesday, December 20. 

Mr. Maddocks said: “When the Marine Court of Inquiry was set up, I was inhibited from continuing with the inquest, and that position has not changed. I expect I shall hear from the Governor-in-Council in the near future.” [On this point I could find no further communications setting forth a conclusion to this matter].

Immediately following the disclosures of the Bermuda Marine Court of Inquiry the Canadian Department of Transport asked Bermuda for a full report on the Inquiry’s findings. Lawyer for the captain of the big Canadian charter yacht, Mr. Nicholas Dill, said that the Canadian Government would probably now conduct their own inquiry into the tragic wreck which killed five of the ten crew members on board.
However, a brief cable from the Canadians thereafter was silent on whether or not another inquiry would be held in Canada, but it did note that the decision of the Bermudian court to cancel Mr. Ross MacKay's licence applied to the territory of Bermuda only. Mr. Dill thought that a formal Canadian inquiry based largely on the inquiry here and without calling all the witnesses to testify again might be held by the Canadian authorities. In the meantime, Mr. MacKay remained in Bermuda, but Mr. Dill said that he would probably be returning to his home in Canada shortly. 

Two of the survivors, Mrs. Penny Gudgeon and Mr. Rosemond Harold had left the Bermuda Sailors’ Home where they had been staying since shortly after the rescue and it was thought that they had already left the colony. The remaining two, the mate, Mr. Joel Dressel and engineer Mr. Bernard Beaupre, were thought to still be in Bermuda.  

Three days prior to Christmas there had still been no decision whether to try and salvage the big Canadian charter yacht Ramona from the North Shore reefs. But it was understood that the owners of the yacht were considering abandoning the 120-foot barquentine because the cost of repairing the damage to the vessel may exceed its insurance coverage. A final decision, however, was still awaited from the owners and underwriters. “We have lost a lot of days now,” said Lloyd’s surveyor Mr. James Parker. “It’s too bad. I think we could have got her up after that bad storm.”

In the calm days that followed the storm the yacht had been surveyed by a team of divers and the damage was not considered too great. The weather since then had not permitted further checks of the condition of the vessel, said Mr. Parker. He thought, however, that the steel-hulled Ramona may not have suffered very much more damage.

The Mid Ocean News (M.O.N.) dated December 30, 1967 advertised that the public was being invited to tender for the purchase of the yacht Ramona – “as she now lies stranded on the northern reef.”



The RG reported on January 4, 1968 that the Bermuda Air-Sea Rescue organization would be looking into the possibility of polishing up their charts of local waters following some criticism of their efficiency over the Ramona sinking. Although the Court of Inquiry had cleared the local Air-Sea Rescue group of any inefficiency charges, one of their number, Mr. John Ellison, an aircraft owner, had thought that the search could have been more efficient. He also suggested that better charts of the waters could be provided.

The chairman of Air-Sea Rescue Mr. James A. Pearman said: “We will go ahead and look into this chart business and in the next two or three weeks we should be holding a meeting.

“We will eventually be making a report about it to the Ports Authority since they were the people responsible for our formation.”


"Official" Rescue Group Should Be Set Up Here
In their 10-page report submitted to His Excellency the Governor by the President of the Court of Inquiry, the Court urged that an “official organization” be set up to conduct air-sea rescue work in the Bermuda area. This recommendation had been contained in the 10-page report which had been made public the previous day, – although the court’s basic findings of incompetence on the part of the ship’s master had been revealed some weeks before. The report stated, in part:

"It appears that there has for some 18 months been in existence in Bermuda a loosely-formed committee, composed of volunteers, having as its object to assist in search operations when called upon to do so and to make recommendations to the Marine and Ports Authority regarding search and rescue operations. No such recommendations have as yet been made and it is to be hoped that the tragic stranding of the “Ramona C” with its consequential loss of life will spur the committee to submit such recommendations as they think fit, as soon as possible, in order that steps may be taken to set up an official organization for the conduct of these operations.

The Court presented their analysis of the evidence of the five survivors stating, in part, as follows:

"In these circumstances, considerable allowance must be made for faulty recollection or observation and for honest mistake on the part of the five survivors. In respect of Captain MacKay, we made additional allowance for the fact that he was virtually standing trial on very severe charges and that he appeared to be temperamentally very nervous. Having made all reasonable allowances, we formed a very poor impression of Captain MacKay as a witness as compared to the other four survivors. There was direct conflict between the captain and the other witnesses regarding the quantity of alcoholic liquor he had consumed during the voyage and the conflict could not be accounted for by some honest mistake. One side or the other was deliberately lying, and we had no hesitation in accepting the evidence of the crew as against that of Captain MacKay.

“The captain said that the other four survivors were deliberately lying and he agreed that it was unlikely that each had made up his or her story independently of the others – in fact, he was suggesting that they had put their heads together to get him into trouble ........ We rejected the captain’s suggestion of a conspiracy as highly imaginative. Once we accepted the evidence of the crew, it became evident that captain MacKay had been sufficiently under the influence of drink to affect his judgment, and we have little doubt that it was his excessive drinking while on passage which was the cause of the stranding of the “Ramona C” . . .

“However accurate or otherwise the navigation of the vessel may have been until about 6 p.m. on the Saturday evening, it is certain that from then onwards the captain was guilty of culpable incompetence, no doubt induced by his excessive drinking. At 15.34 that afternoon, he had been able to fix his position to his satisfaction as being about thirty-five miles from Bermuda, and it was then clear to him that he would not be able to enter Bermuda waters in daylight. In our view, it was imprudent of Captain MacKay, under the prevailing conditions, to attempt to make a landfall that day, bearing in mind his knowledge of local hazards. As a competent navigator (as he is reputed to be) he should have realized that his observed positions, established by sextant under extremely difficult conditions, could well have been ten miles in error the wrong way.

The report noted that persons and organizations in the colony did all they could to help the Ramona and her crew. The report concluded, in part:

“When the “Ramona C” foundered on the reefs, attempts were made by various persons on board to send up distress flares, with little significant success. Some failed to ignite, one backfired . . . only one flare went any height. Unfortunately, visibility conditions were poor that night – not more than five miles – and that one successful flare was not seen by anyone ashore. Consequently, it was not till about 7:45 next morning that anyone ashore knew of the stranding of the vessel.

“She had been sighted at a distance by Mr. “Speedy” Dickinson who was going out fishing that day. With commendable speed and initiative, he returned home and telephoned the police and from then on all possible local facilities were recruited to assist in what was then believed to be a rescue operation. It should be remembered that there was no information as the when the vessel had struck and for all anybody knew the survivors could well have remained on board to await rescue. In consequence of this absence of information, all available assistance was sent to the vessel in distress and no attempt was made to search the area between the “Ramona C” and Bailey’s Bay for survivors ….””

The January 1968 edition of the Bermudian Magazine under the Heading Landlubber’s Log, published on page 27 the following photograph of the Ramona – described in the accompanying text as being then owned by Vagabond Cruises and registered in the Bahamas.
Tragedy at North Rock
The 120-foot yacht, the Barquentine "Ramona" which was wrecked
on the reefs early last month. Five members of her crew perished. 

The text continued, in part: 

“At a Marine Court of Inquiry held in Bermuda the yacht’s captain, Master Mariner William Ross Mackay, when asked by Mr. Anthony Palmer, Crown Counsel for the Court, to explain in one sentence why the tragedy had happened, said: “It was due to the ship being under-powered, and being unable to navigate her out of trouble.” 

“Capt. Mackay said that about midnight of the 29th a gale blew up with winds reaching hurricane force, and the RAMONA sustained extensive external damage and some internal. Sails were lost and radar equipment damaged. In addition, most of the crew were disabled by seasickness. Capt. Mackay decided to put into St. George’s, Bermuda, for shelter and repairs. Meanwhile, on the 30th the radar equipment became useless and the radio was dead. Just before RAMONA struck the reefs, Capt. Mackay sighted breakers, but the yacht’s engine lacked the power to extricate the vessel from the danger area. At this writing the Court of Inquiry was still in progress. Divers who inspected the wreck when the seas had abated believed that the yacht was salvageable.”  

Source: Bermudian Magazine, Vol. XXXVIII No.11.


Commenting on remarks made in the official report of the Court of Inquiry into the Ramona disaster, the Marine and Ports director Mr. Stanley Gascoigne said that if the voluntary Air-Sea Rescue organization or others should become an official government group, the move would cost Government money. He said that Air-Sea Rescue as they are now set up had been “very effective in the past” and did “good work” in the case of the Ramona disaster – “but unfortunately, some people drowned this time,” he added.

Mr. Gascoigne noted that while no official report has been made to his board by the Air-Sea Rescue who were set up when the U.S. Coast Guard left Bermuda, the two groups have had valuable discussions together.

Mr. James Pearman, chairman of the Air-Sea Rescue Group revealed that his Group would be holding a meeting shortly at which the subject of a grid map of the Colony would be discussed. Such a map had been urged by some of the witnesses at the Ramona inquiry. It will help boats and aircraft engaged in a search, to know exactly where they are in relation to each other.  

On the subject of the Air-Sea Rescue becoming an official group, Mr. Gascoigne commented: “The Air-Sea Rescue is doing good work, and costing Government nothing. If it’s to become official, Government will have to decide whether the cost is worth it.”


COSTS: £324 
The Court of Inquiry had cost the Government a total of £324.4.0. and at first the Court considered whether they should order that the cost be paid by the Master of the Ramona, or by her owners.

“We came to the conclusion," the report stated, “that we were not empowered to make an order against the owners, “Vagabond Cruises”, as they are not in these Islands, and we took the view that an order made against Captain Mackay would probably be of little value. 

“In an event, bearing in mind the substantial financial loss suffered by the owners and the probable termination of the career at sea of the Master, we did not deem it either just or practicable that an order for costs should be made.” 

The costs of the Inquiry were broken down as follows: Detention allowance paid to the survivors – £52; Witness money – £48.12.0.; fees payable to members of the Court and the Nautical Assessor – £117.12.0.; fees payable to the Clerk to the Court – £100; hiring of Typewriter – £6.   

The report noted that the fees and allowances payable under the Act governing this Inquiry, in almost all respects, appear “totally inadequate.” The rest of the report went into a detailed analysis of the evidence and the court's opinion of it. 
In mid-January, it was reported by the owner’s agents Harnett and Richardson, that three tenders had been submitted for the sunken death yacht Ramona. Tenders for the big barquentine had been invited just before New Year’s – "as she now lies stranded on the northern reefs.”

On Wednesday, January 24, 1968 the RG published the two photographs below, each with a legend. There was no additional comment reported.   

A diver perches in the tilted stern of the ill-fated yacht Ramona 
which sank on the reefs off the North Shore of Bermuda on 
December 3, taking the lives of five of her ten crew. 
The picture was taken by another diver, Jan Leppin, 
during survey work to determine the extent 
of the damage and cause of the tragedy
A broken end of rope trails from the propeller shaft of the 
yacht RAMONA, as a diver searches for further clues to the 
sinking of the vessel off the North Shore on December 3.
The picture was taken by Jan Leppin, who was diving with
Mr. Harry Cox in conjunction with the police investigation


The following letter to the editor from a survivor was published in the RG on Tuesday, January 30, 1968. The following day, an Editorial in the same newspaper spoke to the excellent work of volunteers in search and rescue efforts around the Island’s coast. 

Dear Sir: 

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all the people of Bermuda who assisted us both verbally and materially after the tragic sinking of the yacht Ramona on Dec. 2 last. I would like to give special mention to Mr. Musson Wainwright and all those who took part in the rescue operations; Mr. & Mrs. Caleb Wells and the staff of the Bermuda Sailors’ Home for their kind understanding and benevolence; the Bermuda Police and all those too numerous to mention who made our stay on the island as enjoyable as possible under the circumstances. 


An editorial in the RG on the same date opined as follows:  

The arrival of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter here is welcome, even though it does not indicate a move to re-establish the station here, unfortunately for Bermuda. The excellent voluntary work now being done by a group of local boatmen and airmen cannot engender that same sense of confidence that the professional Coast Guard presence brought about. 

Although it is doubtful that the Coast Guard could have improved on the work done in connection with the Ramona sinking, at the same time it was lucky for the people on the yacht that the waters inside the reefs were calm, the sky clear, and the wind, on that Sunday, from the north so that the survivors were being pushed toward the shore instead of out to sea. 

The committee on air-sea rescue are known to be actively working on their report, but what their findings will be is not known. It may be that they will find a need at least to call for some special training for the signalmen at Fort George, to whose multifarious duties have been added the responsibility for coordinating sea search. 

Bermuda would be wrong to rely on Kindley’s Aerospace Search and Recovery Squadron. As the name indicates, their job is far more than attempting to look after downed planes, boats and ships in trouble in this area, for they are also responsible for taking an important role in space shots. 

This not only means that on occasion they will be strained to the limit; it also means that sometimes most of their aircraft will be called on duty elsewhere. The squadron have done their best to help with local problems, but their job is a far bigger one. 

So Bermuda must feel its way to its own organization. With Fort George and the Police boat and the volunteers we have the nucleus; with the much-discussed grid map and training (perhaps this might be little more than an exchange of ideas), we would be on our way towards a considerably stronger arrangement than we have at present.

The RG on Wednesday, February 7, 1968 revealed that the Ramona, still lying stranded on the reefs off the North Shore, had been sold by tender.

“It is understood that the yacht, ………., has been bought by three local men who submitted the highest tender of £2,500. A spokesman for Harnett and Richardson, who have been handling the arrangements for the sale of the 120-foot vessel, had confirmed that the deal had gone through. The owner Capt. Guy Walter Boudreau, of Nova Scotia, has been informed of the price offered by the local buyers.”

Revelations the following day named the new owners and told of their ‘simple plans’ to first recover the yacht.

The three local men who have purchased the sunken yacht Ramona have what seems to be a fairly simple plan to raise her. Mr. John Chiappa SNR. told the RG that he together with Mr. Stephen H. Dallas, manager of Standard Hardware and Mr. Rudolph F. "Silks" Richardson, charter boat operator, had a number of plans for the future of the Ramona. The immediate problem is to get her up out of the 20 feet of water (at low tide) in which she has lain since she sank on the North Shore on December 2. Asked how the group planned to raise her, Mr. Chiappa said briefly: "Stand her up and pump her out.”

Elaborating, he explained that they intended to heave the Ramona into an upright position with the use of heavy anchors and chains. They hope that at low tide her deck will then be out of water. If the deck is not quite clear of the surface they intend to erect "coffer dam” constructions around the hatches to raise the effective height of the deck. After sealing any cracks in the hull or broken portholes, etc. the yacht will then be pumped out. Mr. Chiappa said the group had no immediate plans on what to do with the yacht once she is up, the main concern for the moment being to raise her. He said that they had dived on the wreck to examine her and she seemed to be in very good shape. Asked if he knew what was on board he said they had heard rumours of a cargo of linen and silver destined for a hotel in the Bahamas. 

A Notice in the same edition of the RG warned the public to keep away from the sunken yacht and further advised them that any items removed from the yacht were the property of the new owners.



On February 9, it was revealed that work on righting the yacht Ramona and bringing her off the reefs near North Rock was to start as soon as the weather was favourable.

Mr. Stephen Dallas, one of the three new owners said,  

“There’s a lot of work to be done before we can bring her up. I’ve been down and inside her, and although she looks a bit of a shambles at present you can tell she’s a lovely yacht.” 

Mr. Dallas said that he will be doing most of the diving work involved, and will carry out a thorough inspection before the hull is pumped out.

“I have no idea at this stage just how long it’s going to take,” he commented. “These things often take longer than estimated anyway. I think we’ll get her up, though.”

COMMENT from Steve Dallas June, 2023:
“Not only was the Winter of 1968 one of, or maybe the worst, spell of heavy weather that we have experienced it was also one of the coldest. There were days when the temperature never got out of the 50’sF and one day in February it plummeted to 45F. I used to burn through up to 8 SCUBA tanks a day working on Ramona and recall dreading having to get out of water to change tanks. The water was a lot warmer than the air and I couldn’t wait to get back in.”
Some three weeks later, on February 28, the new owners of the sunken 116-foot barquentine Ramona, reported having had only two days in the past four weeks to prepare for floating the big yacht due to bad weather, and they estimate they will need another four or five working days to complete the tricky salvage operation. But one of the owners, Mr. Stephen Dallas, appeared optimistic saying that he and his partners definitely intended to get the big yacht out of the North Shore reefs where she sank in storms on December 2, losing half of her crew of ten. 
Mr. Lloyd Webb, one of the men helping to salvage the yacht Ramona, 
exploring the tangle of rigging and debris on the vessel's deck. 
The ropes, torn sails and broken spars are being removed in preparation for refloating the yacht.
 Mr. David Gamble shackles a 45-gallon oil drum to the gunwale.  Dozens of  such
drums will later be pumped full of air to raise the yacht to a standing position.
Up to now the new owners have been tidying up the top sides of the vessel which were a tangle of lines and debris and attaching a chain to the lower gunwale of the tilted yacht. To this chain they are fastening 45-gallon oil drums which will later be pumped full of air to provide floatation to help right the vessel. Once standing on her keel, said Mr. Dallas, the Ramona’s deck will be just above the water at low tide and then, providing there is no serious damage to her under side, she will be pumped out.
Mr. Dallas said they would put as many drums on the lower gunwale as they could. He did not know how many there would be in all but noted that 50 drums would give a lift in excess of ten tons. The steel hulled Ramona is a heavy yacht, though, and there is no intention of trying to float her with the barrels alone, he added. Once righted and pumped out, it will be a race against time to move the vessel out of the dangerous reefs because she could not be safely moored there for long.

"We have already figured out a route through the reefs and we are making up marker floats now,” said Mr. Dallas. “She will have to come right out as soon as we get her up,” he said, adding with a chuckle that it would probably be just their luck that this would happen at sundown. 

There is also some urgency about getting the Ramona righted in the first place because she is gradually settling into the sandy bottom. "She is digging a grave for herself,” commented the part-owner.

Also, the longer she remains on the reefs, the more she will deteriorate. Mr. Dallas said it was still impossible to determine whether there was much damage to the lower side of the yacht, but he thought that as long as she was under water she was somewhat protected from further damage. This is why she must be brought to port as soon as she is floated. The current weather, however, is of some concern. In the last four weeks since they acquired the yacht the salvagers have been able to work on her only two days — last Friday and the Saturday the week before that. Last Thursday they started out on what began as a good morning but had to turn back even before they reached the Ramona when the weather worked up. They hope to go out today if conditions will allow it. 

Mr. Dallas said quite a number of people had volunteered to help in the salvage project but most could help only on weekends. So far most of the work has been done by the owners themselves, Mr. Dallas, Mr. John Chiappa Snr, and Mr. Rudolph Richardson and one of Mr. Richardson’s helpers. Asked what they planned to do with the yacht once they got her up and repaired, Mr. Dallas said, “That’s a very good question. We really don’t have any clear idea at this time.” He said it depended a lot on how badly damaged she was and how much it will cost to make her ship-shape. At present she is a barquentine, but there is a possibility that the owners may change her riggings, said Mr. Dallas.
A message from the Officer Administering the Government requesting £292.12.0 to meet the expenses of the Marine Court of Inquiry into the stranding of the yacht “Ramona C” ….. was given first reading in the House of Assembly on March 1, 1968.

[The “Ramona Resolve” was passed in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, March 6, 1968]

Meantime, rough weather during the past week has held up salvage work on the sunken yacht Ramona. “It’s all right underwater,” said Mr. Steve Dallas, one of the new owners. “There’s only a bit of a surge, but you need someone on the surface, and it’s almost impossible in this weather. We did go out one day last week but we didn’t get much done.”
On Sunday, March 31, 1968 the new owners of the yacht Ramona reported they were now ready to start raising the big steel-hulled brigantine from the reefs off the North Shore.

“If the next few days have good weather, it is possible that the yacht may be brought into port before the weekend”, said one of the owners, Mr. Steve Dallas after just returning from making final preparations. “Everything is going very well indeed and everyone is optimistic about getting the large vessel up. We are not planning to fail,” he added with a laugh.

Rows of steel drums that will be pumped full of air have been lashed along the lower side of the yacht as she lay in shallow water, and special rigging is in position to haul at her tall spars to bring the vessel upright. This will be done on the first good weather day - possibly tomorrow. The only problem is finding enough people to help on a week day, said Mr. Dallas. Once the yacht is righted, pumping operations will begin. With the powerful pumps available, this is expected to take about three hours, depending, of course, on how much water comes in through the temporarily plugged up leaks.

“It all depends on how much of the North Shore we pump through her,” explained Mr.  Dallas. Two leaks, one fairly serious, are known to exist below the vessel’s water line. In any case, Mr. Dallas is satisfied that the last stage of the long process of refloating the vessel has been reached. “She’s well on her way.” he concluded.

Plans for raising the Ramona on Tuesday April 2, were delayed by wet and windy weather. But the local men who bought the ship were hopeful of starting to raise her by this weekend. One of them, Mr. Steve Dallas, said: “The weather has been holding us up so we are going to use the time to make further preparations. We plan to use an extra cable to take the strain and we have also found a better channel further east of the reefs to bring her in, “We are hoping to get things under way by the weekend.” 

Rows of steel drums have already been lashed to the side of the Ramona, which is lying on the reef off the North Shore. These will be pumped full of air to help float her and special rigging has been erected to haul her giant spars upright once this starts.

On Friday, April 5 Mr. Stephen Dallas told the RG that it was hoped she could be raised over the weekend. He said, “An attempt will probably be made this weekend to refloat the sunken yacht. We’re not absolutely sure at the moment; it depends on a lot of things, including the weather.” 

Some 14 trips had already been made out to the North Rock where the Ramona lay, and buoyancy barrels have been lashed to her decks to assist in the refloating. “Apart from that we have done a lot of work on shore, preparing things,” said Dallas who planned to raise the vessel by hauling on spars, to bring her upright when, it was hoped, that her decks will then be above water, and she could be pumped out.

   Stephen Dallas and David Gamble tidying up wreck site work area to commence
salvage. Note groundswell between the spars. "She was so close to open ocean
that we spent more time redoing previous work than getting on with new work. 
In heavy weather the seas washed through where she was laying.”


Such hopes were not to be realized however, and the bid to raise the stranded yacht off the reefs at North Rock failed and she was still on the bottom.

On Sunday evening April 7, Mr. Dallas explained why the attempted refloating did not work. “I suppose it was our own fault really. We should have carried on with it on Saturday." He said that on Saturday floatation bags were put inside the Ramona's steel hull and at that time she began to rise slightly of her own accord. “But it was getting dark, and we left it. We were tempted then to stay out there, but it’s no good trying to work in the dark. 

“During the night some of the bags lost air, and so the ship lost some floatation. We were out there at first light this morning. At the first yank she came half-way up, but then a nylon line broke — there was some chafing on a block — and we lost another couple of hours while we restrung the line. During those two hours we also lost some more air from the floatation bags.” 

He said that the next time an attempt was made to pull the Ramona upright a steel hawser broke. “I think we’d lost too much floatation by then, anyway,” he added. 

“But now we do know that this method of raising her is going to work, and we’re certainly not giving up.” 

Together with his colleagues Mr. Dallas said he would be out again on Tuesday, packing floatation material into the hull. “I don’t think we’ll get her up then, but we should do it later in the week.” 

In fact, two boats did go out on Tuesday with about 20 helpers, six of them divers. A few pleasure craft gathered to watch as the salvage work went on in an attempt to refloat the stricken yacht.

The tough job of trying raise the Ramona continued the next day when Mr. Dallas packed more floatation material into the Ramona’s steel hull in preparation for a raising bid later in the week.

Once again, however, the Ramona raising by the three-man enterprise was delayed by bad weather. Over the weekend – which would have been an ideal time to raise the yacht from the point of view of tides – the weather continued to be too rough to undertake operations. 

According to Mrs. Dallas, (sic) the divers still have another day’s work on the hull before raising operations can begin. More flotation gear has to be put around the Ramona before she would come up. Mrs. Dallas added: “They will 'be making another try on her when the weather gets a little better.”


By Saturday, April 20, 1968 the RG reported that windy weather was still hampering the efforts to raise the Ramona. It remained almost impossible to work in winds above 20 knots, especially winds blowing from the north. There was still a chance, however, that a bid may be made to raise the vessel, provided that Mr. Dallas and his colleagues can get in a full day’s work today.
“We’re hoping, but unless the wind drops it’s not very likely,” he said……
Riots broke out in Bermuda during the evening of Thursday, April 25, 1968 followed by the declaration of a state of emergency during the early hours of Friday, April 26th

A night time curfew was imposed on the Island due to the continuing riotous behaviour accompanied by instances of firebombing. 

The curfew hit the raising of the Ramona project too, and seriously delayed work on raising the yacht from the seabed off the North Shore. 

The RG reported on the following Tuesday that although none of yacht’s owners had been available over the weekend, Mr. Stephen Dallas’ father had confirmed that they were all hard at work on the wrecked hull. “This is the first stretch of good weather they have had,” he told the RG, noting that because of the curfew they had spent the night at sea on Sunday night. However, the curfew is also preventing some of their volunteer helpers from coming along as they are reluctant to leave their wives and families alone at night in the present situation.

Asked how the work was coming along Mr. Dallas said. “They have really been too busy to tell us.”


The men who are trying to raise the stranded yacht Ramona off the reefs near the North Rock are planning to use a “coffer dam” to bring her up. One of the owners, Mr. Stephen Dallas, told the RG on Tuesday, April 30, that the vessel had been raised to a vertical position, as planned, but the bad weather had held up further progress. “She’s upright now, with the stern out of the water, and the bow about four feet under at low tide,” he said. “We’re just waiting for favourable weather, and hoping that she hasn’t been pushed back over by the swell.”

The coffer dam system – similar to that used in sinking concrete bridge supports into river-beds – involves sealing off most of the nine hatches. Plywood “dams” would then be placed in two or three of the hatches, coming up to above water level. Then pumps will be used to remove the water inside the hull. The plywood structures, which have already been made up, hold back the water, creating a funnel into the hatches, down which the pump hoses will be passed. 

On Thursday, May 2, 1968 attempts to raise the Ramona off the reefs, which had been going on since February, suffered yet another setback. The owners of the Ramona had sailed out to her through rough seas, to see what damage the recent bad weather had done. They had left the ship in a vertical position, almost ready to be floated, and took along the equipment to make coffer dams to enable water to be pumped from the hull. However, again the weather was not in their favour, and when they arrived on the scene they found that the yacht had slipped back on to her side, and two of the masts had been broken off. 

One of the owners, Mr. Stephen Dallas, commented: “It looks like we go back to square one. We know, however, that we can get her up, and we’ll go on trying. The weather just seems to be right against us, though.” The two boats which had also sailed out to the Ramona stayed only minutes before heading back for Flatts. However, on the way, a cargo of plywood – the materials for the coffer dams - came loose and one of the boats had to halt while Mr. Dallas secured the load. 

All that was now visible of the Ramona was one mast, two stumps, and the floating remains of the other two masts.

A few days ago the yacht Ramona was upright and almost ready
to be raised permanently, now, after a battering by recent bad
weather she’s back where she started, heeling over in several feet
of water. And for the men who are trying to raise her there was 
another shock. Two of the masts were broken off, probably 
when she shifted. But they still plan to bring the Ramona up
One of the owners of the wrecked vessel, Mr. Stephen Dallas said on Tuesday, May 7: “Losing two masts is a big setback. The yacht will probably have to be taken back to Nova Scotia after she is raised to have new masts fitted. We’ll probably have to take her to Nova Scotia to get new ones – tall straight trees are needed, and the rigging has to be fitted to the masts as well.” 
The masts had broken off several days ago after the Ramona had been nearly raised. One of them had been towed back to land, but an inspection revealed that it could not be repaired. The loss of the masts will not make the job of raising the yacht – which sank in December – much more difficult. The disadvantage of having less leverage is counteracted to some extent by the reduced weight. “We’ll have to pull her upright by the hull,” said Mr. Dallas. (The masts were being used to heave the vessel to an upright position). He said it would not be cheaper to bring new masts to Bermuda and fit them here because of the problems of attaching the rigging, and the masts themselves. Asked how much the job would cost he replied: “We hate to think.”
By May 14, after a series of setbacks – mainly due to bad weather – the new owners of the yacht Ramona were getting ready for another attempt to bring her off the reefs near North Rock and into Bermuda. The 120-foot yacht was back in a position from which she could be raised completely, with part of her decks above water. “She was in this position some two weeks ago, before heavy seas threw her back on to her side, breaking off two of the three masts. We can’t work in rough water,” said Mr. Dallas, “and it will take two or three more day's’ work to get up. We’re just hoping for good weather


It was now Tuesday, June 4, 1968 and the bad weather, which had been partly to blame for putting the Ramona on the reefs six months ago, continued to keep her there. Another attempt to raise the 120-foot yacht off the bottom had to be called off when the seas began to get too rough in the afternoon. And with more rough weather forecast, and the possibility of Hurricane Abby having some effect on local weather conditions, prospects for bringing the Ramona up this week were looking dim. 

The yacht, which struck the reefs in December, is still heeled over on the sandy bottom just southeast of North Rock. 

Two boats had gone out trying to beat the weather and bring her up. The previous day the owners and helpers had pulled the 116-ton vessel upright, and were hoping that the water could be pumped out of her hull. For several hours compressed air was pumped into the hull to make the ship more buoyant, to the point where she would begin moving in the swell. This created the risk of doing further damage on the reefs, and with the weather deteriorating it was decided to abandon the attempt and let all the air out. Said one of the owners: “The weather always seems to go bad on us just at the important stage.” 
If Abby moves towards Bermuda most of the flotation barrels would have to be emptied of air to reduce the risk of the ship moving about in heavy weather. If she does move, the salvagers would be almost back to where they started several months ago. It would also mean laying down new mooring lines for the working boats and a major re-inspection of the hull to check for further damage. “We’re just hoping the storm stays away from here,” said Mir. Dallas.
By Monday, June 10, 1968 word was spreading that it may soon be too uneconomical to salvage the Ramona. Work on the yacht may soon reach the economic point of no return, one of the owners had been heard to say. Mr. Stephen Dallas said: “At this rate it will soon become uneconomic to bring her up.” 

Mr. Dallas would not say whether attempts to raise the vessel off the reefs would be abandoned, but with some £3,000 already invested in her in time and money it seemed unlikely that the salvage attempt would be called off for some time to come. “We hoped to have her up long before this,” added Mr. Dallas. “It’s just unfortunate that circumstances have been against us.”

Bad weather has been one of the major factors in the delay so far. With last weekend's perfect conditions, the 116-ton yacht was stood up several times, but it was only after the pumping out had begun that new leaks were discovered. 

The leaks, mainly in the decking, were apparently caused by the ripping off during stormy weather of two of the Ramona’s three masts. “It makes our job more difficult, but it can be repaired once we have her up.” said Mr. Dallas. The salvage workers are satisfied that the ship can be raised – given time and weather. The coffer dam technique had been abandoned, and now attempts will go ahead on a sealed-hull pumping basis. Quick-drying underwater cement is being used to plug the leaks in the hull, and at the weekend the vessel had been almost out of the water, having compressed air pumped in, and water pumped out simultaneously. 

Raising the Ramona is turning out to be an almost fulltime job, and attempts to bring her up are being halted for a few days to give the owners and workers time to concentrate on business. “Actually,” said Mr. Dallas, “It’s quite surprising that we have come so far without much greater expense. I would like to thank those people – and there are many of them – who have offered their help and equipment. We are all greatly indebted to them.” 

It was intended to bring the Ramona out through the reefs. At present she is lying south-east of North Rock, in the reefs, but not dangerously so. “When she is raised, she will be towed out through one of the channels into Murray’s Anchorage. But to cross the Anchorage, which often gets rough with an incoming tide, she will have to be well up in the water. We shall have to raise her above the portholes,” commented Mr. Dallas. “We should be in real trouble if she went down in deep water.” 

One of the main difficulties being encountered is that the Ramona, through shifting in heavy weather, has dug a rut in the sandy bottom in which she is lying. When she had been stood up earlier her deck was almost out of the water, but now she has to be refloated to bring the deck up to sea level.

"Ramona surfaced stern first when we finally got her off the bottom"
Photo credit Stephen Dallas
On Sunday, June 30, 1968 the big yacht Ramona was floated by salvage crews in the late afternoon after months of effort and frustration. Because of the late hour, they understandably decided to wait until the next day to bring the 120-ton vessel in. 
David Hayward is shown operating a battery of pumps
which cleared the seas from her hull as she is brought into
Bermuda Dockyard with her Canadian ensign still flying                                          
 Photo credit Bermuda News Bureau 
COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023: 
David was one of my closest friends in our early years. He was the eldest son of the late W.F. “Chummy” and Dottie Hayward. The only national flag we found onboard was a large Canadian flag. We found no “ship’s papers” or passports, etc. and assumed they may have gone with the survivors when they abandoned ship.”

Although afloat the yacht was still taking on water from several leaks during the night. This time however, the three owners and their helpers were taking no chances and pumps were quickly hauled on to the wooden deck to continue to pump her out during the night. It was not the first time the Ramona had been floated off the bottom – the last time it looked as if she might be brought in, she had been left overnight and quickly went back down.

The salvage attempts had been based mainly on pumping. As soon as the boats reached the wreck, air was pumped in and when the Ramona was sufficiently buoyant, she was dragged up by the combined power of the two regular boats and a seven-to-one-ratio pulley system. However, it had been the first time that pumps had actually been put onto the deck of the ship.

We were loaned two Coventry-Climax high-capacity fire pumps and hoses by the Royal Navy at HMS Malabar. We could only borrow them when no British warship was due in port as they had to be on standby for any onboard ship emergency such as firefighting. We were fortunate to borrow a few floatation bags, chain, rope, steel cable and clamps from the O & R workshop at the U.S. Naval Operations Base. This was all surplus gear from the construction and maintenance of the Argus Tower on Argus Bank that the U.S. Navy built to deploy an underwater hydrophone system to listen for Soviet submarines during the cold war. The tower was connected by underwater cable to a receiving station at the Naval facility at Tudor Hill in Southampton. Every time they picked up a sub’ they sent a series of planes out to track it until it surfaced and they could get a positive I.D. of the vessel. They built up a library of “footprints” whereby they could identify passing subs by their distinctive sound signals. It was all very hush hush at the time. We were also loaned a very large 6” diaphragm pump by SeaLand Construction that was not operational but we could use it if we got it working which we did.”
One of the owners, Mr. Rudolph Richardson, had raced his boat, ‘Alrujo’, back to Flatts on Saturday night, to pick up fuel for water pumps,  prior to going back out again for the night. “We think we’ll get her in tomorrow,” he said. “We don’t know yet where we’ll be bringing her in."


Three boats had been out at the wreck on Sunday – Mr. John Chiappa’s ‘Wahoo’, the ‘Alrujo’, and Mr. Eldon Simons’ boat. The Ramona was to the southeast of North Rock, in the reefs, she was not in the worst parts. It did, however, take some careful maneuvering to bring her out without damaging her hull again.

After Seven Months on the Sea Bottom... 
Five months of frustration and delay ended at the weekend after a salvage crew of eight brought the yacht Ramona into Ireland Island on Monday, July 1, 1968. 

The yacht was towed into the dockyard accompanied by a small flotilla of boats. 

She was discoloured, disfigured, dismasted, …..but she was afloat. 

Battered but still dignified ... The Ramona under tow out of the reefs.
Seated at the bow, giving instructions, is Steve Dallas.
Bedraggled and sea torn, the Ramona makes her way to Dockyard
 The smiles which say, "We've done it." Seated on
the winch on the foredeck of the Ramona are owners
(l-r) Steve Dallas, John Chiappa Snr. & Rudolph "Silks" Richardson
Steve Dallas hands up a new wheel to Duncan McBeath.
The wheel didn't fit but was lashed to the old stem of the
Ramona's badly damaged wheel, and served for the
 journey home. The wheel had come from the square-
rigger Yankee.  Looking on in John Chiappa Snr.

The channel between the dark brown patches of reefs was narrow — about 50 feet wide. It zigzagged for some 150 yards, part treacherous, part safe. And a few feet to the north eight men set about the task of guiding a heavy 116-ton ship between the banks of coral against wind and tide. This was probably the trickiest aspect of the salvaging of the yacht Ramona. Late last year she was claimed by the reefs, and they seemed reluctant to give her up. 

The job of raising the Ramona, a steel-hulled barquentine, started some five months ago, when three local men — John Chiappa Snr, Steven Dallas, and Rudolph Richardson — bought the vessel “as she stood” for £2,500. At that time the Ramona lay on the bottom, southeast of North Rock, after floundering on the reefs with the loss of five lives. Since then salvage attempts have been made regularly, and although on more than one occasion the big yacht was raised, there was always something to prevent her being fully recovered. 

All that changed at the weekend. With the weather for once in their favour, the salvage crews had spent the weekend preparing for another attempt. On Sunday the Ramona was pumped full of compressed air, and hauled herself off the bottom, stern first. The recovery crews stayed with her all night, and on Monday morning started work again. The result was that at the high tide she was towed out of the reefs, and five and a half hours later was berthed the dockyard at Ireland land.

She did not, however, escape the reefs unscathed. During the trip out of the worst patch she struck bottom five times, and lost her bowsprit. 

The Ramona was prepared for towing the next morning. Mr. Norman Simons, who had been helping throughout the previous night, left early, leaving the Wahoo, owned by Mr. Chiappa, and Mr. Richardson’s Alrujo to tow her in. All the anchors and lines which had been used to hold her fast were raised, in time for the midday high tide. Then the difficulties began. The Alrujo towed from the bow, with Wahoo correcting drift from the stern. The Ramona was lying, or floating, in parallel to the first patch of reef. This meant that she had to be towed forward and swung abruptly around, through about 160 degrees to even approach the channel out of the danger area. 

During this maneuver, amid much shouting and apparent confusion, Alrujo backed on to one of its own tow ropes, fouling the propeller. Mr. Richardson immediately donned a face mask and dived over the side to free the prop. Towing started again. With the Ramona coming into the first part of the zigzag through the reefs the Alrujo again backed onto her own lines, this time fouling both propellers. Again Mr. Richardson dived, freeing the ropes. Meanwhile the tow line between the stern of the Ramona and the Wahoo had parted, leaving the big, helpless ship to drift with the wind towards the reefs. 

The lines were quickly repaired and made fast, and the tow began again, but during the 45-minutes it took to bring the Ramona through the passage, the Wahoo again broke her line. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the yacht slipped out of the narrow channel and into deep water. “It sounds easy enough,” said Mr. Richardson seated at the controls of the Alrujo, “but managing a ship of that weight is very difficult.” 

Shouted Steven Dallas, from the bow of the yacht: “We’re through. We grounded five times, but don’t appear to be damaged. It’s a miracle.” However, during the early part of the tow there was another mishap. One of the lines to the Alrujo was badly placed, and fouled the support line of the Ramona’s long bowsprit. The first hard pull on that side of the vessel sent the bowsprit plunging into the water — where it remained throughout the tow. 

The rest of the journey to the dockyard was plain, if slow, sailing. Towards the end of the trip the Ramona was joined by a small flotilla of private boats, which accompanied her to the dock yard. One man in a Boston Whaler even ran a shuttle service between the various boats, carrying cigarettes and drinks. 

Crowds waved as the battered Ramona, two masts missing and discoloured by months under water, made her way to a berth at Ireland Island. And after she had tied up, people, adults and youngsters, swarmed on to the ship, examining her musty, slimy innards and congratulating the salvage workers. Bringing the ship in was, of course, the biggest part of the recovery operation. But there is a lot more to come. To describe the interior of the Ramona as a shambles would be an understatement. It is more like a disaster area. Although most of the water has now been pumped out there is a layer of slime over almost everything, and the smell is enough to turn the strongest stomach.

“It's pretty bad down there,” said Mr. Chiappa “We left it open all night for ventilation, but after months on the bottom it’s only to be expected that she should smell a bit off.”

Ramona in Dockyard showing the broken bow sprit
- note the dry dock at upper left -  
 Photo credit Bermuda News Bureau
COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“The bowsprit was broken by the forward towline while attempting to move the boat, after refloating, through a narrow “S” shaped passage in the reefs to get to clear water. We had to wait for high tide and even then, she grounded five times getting her through. It was in freeing her from a grounding that the towline caught in the bowsprit and broke it. I was on the bow to point the way to clear water for the towboat and our Ramona helmsman.” 


The owners tentatively planned to refurbish the yacht, take her to Canada for new mast fittings, and let her out for charter work in the West Indies. However, do-it-yourself has played a large part in the recovery, and it would doubtless play an equally large part in the job of making the Ramona fit for human habitation again. This should cut the costs down somewhat.

“A lot of people thought we’d never get her up,” smiled Mr. Dallas. “We knew we could.” 

Despite the unflattering circumstances, the Ramona still looked to be a thoroughbred. With half her rudder broken off she still answered the controls, and after months of submersion her engine can still be easily made serviceable – and after creating trouble, frustration and near heartbreak, she is still the apple of at least three people's eyes. 

Many people had worked on the recovery of the Ramona, and the owners were full of praise for all of them. In an amazing turn of circumstance, it came about that Joel Dressel, the first mate and one of the five survivors of the Ramona tragedy some six months earlier, – and who had given witness testimony at the Marine Board of Inquiry, – arrived once more on the shores of Bermuda as a crew member on the yacht “Kim” which had taken part in the Newport-Bermuda race that year. Mr. Dressel had immediately volunteered as a crew worker helping to prepare the Ramona for the new raising bid. For him, it was a sentimental return to the “Ramona C”.
The curious inspect the ravages of the seas
 Image credit ‘The Skipper’, No. 18 of October 1968


According to the Editorial in the RG on Tuesday, July 2, 1968:

“[The] raising of the foundered schooner Ramona at this particular time, when yachting holds the attention of many of us in Bermuda, is a reminder of the investment that goes into such vessels. We have no means of knowing – or even guessing – what the salvaged vessel is or will be worth. The wreck was bought for a few thousand pounds, and her salvors took a calculated gamble that she could be brought up from the reefs without undue expense and, presumably, refitted to assume something of her original market value. 

They were fortunate in having to hand their own vessels and a good deal of gear – but beyond that, the enterprise was an exercise in sheer persistence and ingenuity that has finally paid off. It is hardly a landmark in Bermudian affairs, but it nevertheless reflects every credit on those who engaged in the salvage, which some critics at least said would prove impossible with the resources available.

In its own relatively small way, the salvage is in the Bermudian tradition for seafaring risks and gambles embodying, as it did, not much more than the confidence of its undertakers that it could be done. There are in our history many such episodes of adventure and improvisation, and in some cases they have led on to substantial businesses and a very real stake in our community. 

But we do not desire to inflate the Ramona episode out of due proportions; merely to say “Well done” to those who raised her and to hold the salvage out as an example of enterprise that perhaps might be emulated widely in more mundane situations.”

On this day, Mr. Stephen Dallas said that the Ramona would probably not be made seaworthy for another 18 months. As one of the owners of the big yacht he said it that it would take about this time to complete all the necessary repairs. He confirmed that work had already begun on cleaning all the mud and slime that had gathered on the yacht, now berthed at the Dockyard. 
“We have a big work program ahead of us. If we complete her in 18 months’ we will be very pleased. We have a lot to do to her and we will be playing it by ear. We still do not know all the extent of the damage and necessary repairs.” 

As clearing up work goes on another immediate task facing the owners was to plug the holes in the hull and prevent any more water being taken. "She is still making water and this is not a very good situation because she has to be manned 24 hours a day. We have to keep someone on board to look after the pumps. Naturally we want to keep out as much water as we can until the repairs have been completed.” 

Mr. Dallas went on, “Another job which has to be tackled is to remove “a few tons” of sand that have gathered inside the vessel since she went down. …..  The Ramona has a slight list to Port because of the weight of the sand that has accumulated.” He said that at the moment four men were working on the job of cleaning out the 120-foot barquentine but that a bigger labour force would be taken on later. “We have to give the deck quite a bit of attention and it will have to be scraped and sand brushed to bring it back as it was.”


COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“Normal draft was 16’ but she had collected tons of sand through the seven tears on her damaged Port side with all the surge going over her for six months. She was sitting lower with the additional weight. We spent weeks shoveling it out at the dockyard.”    

Referring to the replacement of the Ramona’s lost masts, he said that this particular job would have to be undertaken away from Bermuda. 

“It would be cheaper to take the Ramona to the sticks rather than bring the sticks to her,” he explained. It will not be known where this work will be carried out until most of the other tasks have been done. “This is a long way away as we have a lot of other work to do first. We can manage a replacement bowsprit here but the masts are something different.” 

Mr. Dallas said that although the yacht was in pretty bad shape after being submerged for months he was “elated” at the salvage.

“It is no shock to us because we have watched her go back. We would have been a lot happier to have raised her at the first attempt but I am personally elated at the salvage operation.” …………..

[On Saturday, July 6, 1968 immediately prior to leaving the island on annual leave, I accompanied Constable Alexander ‘Sandy’ Somerville on a journey to Dockyard where we viewed the interior of the Ramona and saw the large amounts of sand and mud which had accumulated inside the yacht. The structural damage appeared to be enormous. I recall seeing a number of framed paintings – one in particular being described as worth a fortune – hanging skew-whiff along the interior of the hull.] 


On Saturday, July 6, 1968 the Bermuda Sun newspaper (SUN) exclusively published the following five pictures showing conditions inside the Ramona. The SUN reported:

“After months of heartbreaking setbacks three Bermudians on Monday brought the 116-ton yacht Ramona from her watery grave on the reefs near North Rock light to Ireland Island. They had paid £2,500 for their prize and these pictures [below] are the first to be published of how the interior of the vessel looked when she was pumped out. Many months of work lay ahead for the three men – Steven Dallas, Rudolph Richardson and John Chiappa Snr. – before the Ramona is refitted and ready for the sea again.

A conglomeration of mud, sand, mattresses and broken furniture litter the cabins and saloon on board the Ramona. It will take months of hard work to put back to its original condition, but compared with the lifting of the hull off the reefs, the job is a small one. The new owners had not yet finalized their future plans but as soon as the yacht was ship-shape and the motors are running properly, they will be taking the Ramona to Canada to have two new masts fitted. They may then use the yacht for charter work.”

Mud spattered pictures depicting old sailing scenes
which line some of the bulkheads
COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“The five lithograph paintings were stolen during the night whilst in Dockyard by a thief who used a razor cut to lift them out of their frames. They were hung along the Master Cabin walls on the Starboard side”.
Stephen Dallas - one of the new owners - stands at
the bottom of a handsome wooden staircase
which goes down to the main saloon
Stephen Dallas picks over the rubble which has
been swept up to the side of the brick-built
firewplace in the main saloon

 On July 19, 1968 the Bermuda News Bureau released an 8-page article quoted in part, as follows:


“Air pumps chug-chugged across the restless silence of the Atlantic Ocean. Slowly, agonizingly, the lines from the two boats bobbing above the reefs that have claimed countless ships grew taut.

First a stern, disfigured and pitted, burst above the surface. Then, water rolling down her sides like a whale surfacing a boat rose from a grave that many people said would hold her forever. The Ramona had been raised by three stubborn men who vowed that the ocean would not have the last say. Their story is one of triumph over the perverse quirks of nature which, at times, seemed determined to keep the steel-hulled boat in a watery tomb.

Bermudians Steven Dallas, John Chiappa Snr. and Rudolph Richardson had bought $100,000 Ramona “as she lay” for $6,000. Her owners had deemed her unworthy of salvage. Today she is berthed at Bermuda’s western end; she is dismasted, slimy and weighted with several tons of sand. Yet her new owners see in her the prospect of more than recouping their investment.

“We hitched on our face masks and swam around underneath her and she didn’t look badly damaged,” Dallas said. “She had several small tears in the same area – port side, beam end – but that was all the damage there was to the hull. So we decided that although this was the first venture into the salvage business for "Silks" and John, the Ramona was a worthwhile investment.  I did have some previous experience in salvaging which included having raised a couple of local boats prior to being involved in the Ramona salvage, and also a locally built 45' fishing boat named the "Sea Venture".  John Chiappa Jnr knew about my raising of the Sea Venture and it was when John and "Silks" were considering bidding on the Ramona that they invited me to come in with them.

“The Ramona still has all the potential in the world to be a first-class yacht,” Dallas continued. “We are going to fix her up, bring her back to tip-top shape and put her out to charter. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we could make something out of her,” he added.

Having bought the huge yacht in early February, 1968, the “gamble” became a challenge for the trio and it looked as though the yacht would write the final episode in her history.

“She was lying just inside the breakers in about four fathoms of water,” Dallas recounts. “She had found a typical sand hole and her stern was pointing outwards towards the breakers. Any swell that hit the reefs rode right to her.”

Because of her location the three men needed an almost unnaturally calm sea to begin salvage operations. It didn’t come. Soon the days dragged into months. In the meantime, the Ramona gradually settled into the sandy bottom. “She’s digging a grave for herself,” Dallas commented, shaking his head.

By the time they got 45-gallon oil drums fastened to her and pumped full of air, and had her upright, she had sunk further into the sand and was again below water. “We decided to build coffer dams around her, intending to pump her out. We worked for three days against the waves with her still sinking. We might have made it, I don’t know. It was late April and the sea was starting to kick up and we had to leave until things calmed down, Dallas recalls.

That night the sea and the wind roared past the island. “When we got back to her, she had been knocked over and two of her three masts had broken off. We decided on the direct approach – stand her up, seal her up and “pump her out.”

Throughout the struggle that had to contend with the constant surging of the sea. “Just the slightest rolling motion on the surface was magnified below into a tug-of-war between us and the Ramona. We didn’t want that so we would leave and come back when we thought it was calmer.”

More than 40 times they went out and returned empty-handed. “Some of our trips were full weekends, out early Saturday morning and back Sunday night,” Dallas said.

By this time the three Bermudians had picked up quite a large gallery. Volunteer workers came from all around. “A total of about 30 people helped us and we’re grateful to each one of them,” Dallas said. “We had some regulars who live in Bermuda, some vacationers and even some college students who were down for the colony’s annual College Weeks.”

Again they righted her, then placed floatation bags inside her and began sealing off all of the yacht’s openings. Yet after raising her they knew they could be in for a tougher race than before. Should the weather go bad again the boat could not remain moored among the reefs without being bashed against them. “She will have to come right out as soon as we get her up,” Dallas remarked, adding that it would probably be just their luck that the Ramona would probably rise at night.

She did. At 9 pm. on a Sunday evening earlier in this month, the Ramona strained to the surface. The three men found themselves “baby-sitting” with their 116-ton foundling. Pumps were hauled onto her deck, put to work and the salvagers began their vigil.

Again, the unexpected occurred, this time in their favour. The sea was calm and at sunrise the Ramona was ready to begin a tense, tricky journey through the reefs. Their two boats, the Wahoo and the Alrujo, had to maneuver the helpless boat through a 150-yard zig-zag obstacle course. Twice during the delicate operation, the Alrujo backed onto her own tow ropes and Rudy Richardson had to dive overboard and untangle it. 

The line between the stern of the Ramona and the Wahoo parted twice, once leaving the yacht to drift towards the reefs. It took 45 minutes to get her through the 150-yards of reefs and into deep water.  “We ran aground five times but she’s out,” Dallas shouted. “It’s a miracle.”

It is the three Bermudian’s hope that this is just the beginning of a miracle. Now they are faced with the challenge of re-fitting the yacht and making her seaworthy. “’’It’s going to take some time but we’ll get there,” Dallas concluded. “Remember, a lot of people thought we’d never even get her up.”

As far as Dallas, Richardson and Chiappa are concerned the Ramona will soon be back to challenge the sea which had treated her so cruelly.” EB/pjp.

COMMENT from Steve Dallas May, 2023:
“I was aware that Ramona had spent considerable time in the Pacific and was even involved in some sort of “war duty” there during the 1940’s. Her military service may have extended beyond the war years. During her cleanout a plaque was found commemorating her “War Service” but we never discovered what she did there in the Pacific during the Second World War when she was then known as the “Ramona C”.”
Given that Ramona was not scheduled to visit Bermuda on her journey to the Caribbean, one enduring mystery remains which could reflect a strange example of ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’.


COMMENT from Steve Dallas June, 2023:
“Another thing we found while cleaning up the inside of Ramona were two pillowcase size bags of marijuana. They were plastic see-through bags and the vegetable material was very wet.

I immediately put them in my truck and took them to the Somerset Police station before they could fall into the wrong hands. I explained to the Duty Officer where they came from and recall him asking me if I had any idea how much they were worth. I told him I didn’t want to know and to just dispose of the stuff properly.”

Although seemingly never mentioned by any of the survivors, the bags must have been in the possession of one or more of the original 10 crewmembers.

Comment from Steve Dallas May 2023:
“One of the first things we did after raising Ramona was to remove her engine and rebuild it. We got it running and sold it but in sourcing parts using the engine serial number we were informed that it was originally a U.S. Navy engine that was “lost” off their inventory in 1948. How it got in the Ramona we don’t know. A General Motors (GM) block will last forever as everything in it is still replaceable to this day.” 
Some three weeks later, on Friday, August 9, 1968 the owners of the yacht were told they must wait a further three months at least before they could haul her out of the water and on to the government-owned dock at Ireland Island. And for the owners this meant a further three months of pumping the leaking vessel dry twice a day. One of the owners, Mr. Steven Dallas, said, “We asked for permission to slip her a couple of days after we brought her up, and were told that our application would be considered. Now we find we’ve got to wait another three months.”

Although the 120-foot yacht had been cleaned out, not much work could be done until her many leaks had been stopped.


"There’s about a dozen of them,” said Mr. Dallas, "some fairly substantial and some very small. We're going to have to replace at least 50-foot of the port side, and it’s a big job. The yacht's diesel engine has been hoisted out and is being refitted, as is the diesel generator. But it is doubtful whether the electric motors can be used again.”

Director of Marine Services, Mr. Stanley Gascoigne commented on the delay saying: “The dry dock is booked up for another three months – it’s as simple as that. It takes time to prepare the dock, particularly when it’s a vessel we haven't dealt with before and we don’t know her docking plan.” 

Mr. Dallas said that the dock was unused for a week over Cup Match period. “That may be so,” Mr. Gascoigne replied. “The dock was very probably being prepared for another boat then.”

The owners were also faced with the question of getting her re-fitted with masts and interior equipment. It had been originally intended to have got her fit for the sea and then tow her to Canada for new masts. But at this time, however, the possibility of bringing in experts to do all the major work was being considered.

The following article written by Thomas Norton appeared in a well acclaimed magazine for yachtsmen entitled ‘The Skipper’, No. 18 of October 1968. The magazine remains a rare commodity with very few known to have survived. Apart from describing events of the tragedy in interesting detail there are included a number of interesting ‘nuggets’ of information concerning the ancestry of the “Ramona C” including the year she was built and by whom.
By Thomas Norton

If it is true that perseverance pays, three Bermudians should be well rewarded for raising the 120-foot schooner Ramona from reefs that many people said would hold her forever.

The forty-seven-year-old steel yacht was on her way to the Bahamas last November for a winter of charter work when she struck the Bermuda reefs in a storm. Five of her crew were drowned and five rescued when they left the wreck to row ashore in two dinghies, one of which capsized in the heavy swells.

The yacht stayed perched on the reef, hull awash, for several days. Then she slipped off into a four-fathom sand hole (see Frontispiece, THE SKIPPER, March 1968). Bermuda’s governor ordered a Marine Court of Inquiry, which eventually found Captain William P. Mackay guilty of incompetence and misconduct.

Meanwhile, the schooner was being washed by winter seas, gradually burying herself in the sand. Her owners, Vagabond Cruises of Nassau, gave up any ideas of salvage. So did the insurance company. Finally, early in February of this year, three Bermudians who had been diving around the wreck offered the insurers six thousand dollars for the Ramona, “as she lay.” Steven Dallas, John Chiappa and Rudolph Richardson had themselves a challenge.

A thorough survey of the hull showed that Captain Nat Herreshoff, who built the yacht, had built soundly. She had seven small tears in her port side plating but no other major hull damage. Her new owners figured on a four-or-five-day salvage job. They planned to rig oil drums around the hull and pump them full of air. This would bring the vessel upright, at which point her deck would be awash and she could be pumped out easily.

They didn’t count on the weather. Because of the yacht’s location near the edge of Bermuda’s windward reefs, almost unnaturally calm weather was needed for the job. It eluded the would-be salvors. Days stretched into months. In April, they got her upright only to find that enough sand had worked into the hull to put her deck below the surface. They started to build coffer dams around the hatches. Winter’s last gasp blew up as they worked and the wreck had to be left before pumping could be started.

It was a hefty, all-night blow and in the morning Dallas, Chiappa and Richardson were greeted with a cheerless sight. The Ramona was on her side again and two of her three masts were gone.

With the help of some thirty volunteer helpers, including some students who were in Bermuda for the colony’s annual College Weeks, the trio started all over again. This time they used flotation bags inside the hull, then they sealed off the gashes. At nine o’clock on a Sunday night in July, she finally surfaced.

The yacht wasn’t out of danger even then, floating as she was in a pocket among the reefs that have claimed perhaps five hundred ships during the past four centuries. Dallas, Chiappa and Richardson kept a taut vigil until dawn, which broke over a calm sea.

The tow to deep water was through only one hundred fifty yards of reef, but it must have seemed like miles. Twice towlines parted, leaving the Ramona drifting toward further disaster. Twice one of the towboats backed over her lines, bringing the operation to a halt while Richardson went overboard to clear the propellor. Five times one of the towboats or the Ramona herself went aground. Then she was out.

Dismasted, covered with slime and weighted with tons of sand, the once grand yacht looked a sorry mess. But, says Dallas, “She still has all the potential in the world of being a first-rate yacht.”

The Bermudians hope that recovery of the Ramona is just the beginning. After refitting her and making her seaworthy, their current plan is to put her out on charter.  Three stubborn men are determined to win out over what must have seemed, for many months, a cruel sea indeed.


On Wednesday, November 20, 1968 it was discovered that two refugees from the wrecked yacht Ramona were still in Bermuda without a home. They had been here for nearly a year, ever since the vessel went aground with the loss of five human lives. The two survivors still on the island are seagoing cats. They are out of the public eye and hardly anybody knew they needed a home – except for veterinarian Dr. Patrick Heslop who had given them shelter in his cat boarding house off Pitt’s Bay Road, and they were up for adoption.

Apparently, their original owners had forgotten all about them. Dr. Heslop says a man and a woman from the ill-fated Ramona brought him the cats, then took off for Trinidad and they haven’t been heard from since. “They’re lovely cats. They got their land legs long ago and can be trusted not to run away when they are let out in the daytime. At night they are popped into their cage, which they share quite amicably. They also get along well with transient boarders who occupy the cat complex for a while”, said Dr. Heslop.  

The doctor hadn’t named them – saying, “You get too attached to them if you do that.” He estimated their ages at two years and two-and-a-half. One is a tortoise-shell and the other is black and white.

Who wants a cuddly cat or two with an adventurous past?
These two survivors of the wreck of the Ramona have been camping
with veterinarian Dr. Patrick Heslop until somebody takes them home


On Friday, January 24, 1969 Bermuda learned that the three owners of the Ramona were considering selling her because of delays in starting repair work. This position had been revealed by one of the trio Mr. Stephen Dallas, who also said that they had received three "sincere” approaches from prospective buyers. “Personally, I have reached a decision on this but it is only my opinion and not necessarily the view of my partners,” he said. Two of the people who had approached the Ramona’s owners are local men and the third is a Canadian who is “recognized” in yachting circles. 
Mr. Dallas said that they were prompted to sell the vessel because of the delay experienced in having her slipped for necessary dry dock work. Mr. Dallas and his two partners had hoped to have the Ramona slipped at the Dockyard shortly after she was brought up last July.

“We understood from the Marine and Ports Authority that they could accept her right away. We went to see the engineer at the Dockyard but he would not even talk about it,” he said.

“We were told that it would be two or three months before she could go into the Dockyard. Then we were told for a second time that it would be another two or three months before there was a place. 

“When we first approached the Authority, they were positive about taking her but they have been negative ever since.” 

Mr. Stanley Gascoigne, Director of Marine and Ports Authority, had previously said that in the beginning it was pointed out to the Ramona owners that the slip was very much in use. “We had a long program for our own boats and certain suggestions were made to them relating to how the work could be done.”

Mr. Gascoigne said that the slip would be busy for another six months as there was a number of Authority vessels waiting for drydock attention. “However, I am not saying that the Ramona cannot be slipped in sometime between work on our own vessels.” 

He noted that the trio should contact the Authority again to confirm that they still wanted to put the ill-fated Ramona on the Dockyard slip. Mr. Dallas thought that they could not do much else other than sell the 120-foot craft due to the hold-up. 

Ramona could not be put into the big slip at William E. Meyer and Company yard at St. George’s because the passage was too shallow by three feet. “We could probably get her up but a problem would arise when we tried to get her back out again.”

Mr. Dallas reported that they were still pumping water from the vessel twice a week and paying wharfage and warehouse charges to the Government while the Ramona lay in the Dockyard. If drydocking had been carried out when the Ramona was first raised the work would probably only have taken a week to complete. Now it appears as though there has been about five weeks work to be done.

“What else can we do but sell her?” he said. “It is costing us money every day when she lies up there.” Mr. Dallas would not say how much had been offered for the Ramona but he did point out that she had 60 tons of lead worth about £6,000 and that equipment ran to about £10,000.

£3,000 PAID 
“Although we paid about £3,100 for the Ramona, we did not get her up from the bottom for nothing. If the boat was sold to be made seaworthy the new owners would be faced with the same problem. Leaks would have to be repaired and she would have to be towed to the U.S. or Canada to have her masts refitted.”
On Tuesday, June 3, 1969 the owners of the Ramona had said they hoped to have her slipped within the next few days. They were waiting for confirmation from the Marine and Ports Authority to have her raised at Ireland Island. Mr. Stephen Dallas said: "The Marine and Ports said that we could get her up during the first week of June provided we have her off by the end of the month.”

The owners were hoping to finalize the move in a bid to determine the extent of repairs necessary to make the vessel seaworthy again. For months the Ramona had been moored near the Dockyard while the owners worked to repair leaks suffered when she went aground. Mr. Dallas confirmed that no decision had been taken over the proposal to sell her to three interested parties. 

“We had three people genuinely interested but we think we can realize more for her in scrap value. We still have no firm intention of what we will do.” He added: “It is a question of economics. We will find out what will happen after we get her on the slip.” ………….

Seven days later on June 10, the owners of the Ramona received another setback in their plans to have the vessel repaired at the Government slip at the Dockyard. They had hoped to have the 120-foot barquentine – then only a hull – slipped early that month but it was unlikely that such would happen until late July or early August.

Mr. Stephen Dallas, said that the Marine and Ports Authority resident engineer at the slip was then in England because of the new tender-tug the Government is buying. 

“It seems there is no one else who can operate the dock and this means we will have to wait for the time being. The Canima is due to be slipped at the end of June and we hope we can get the Ramona up at the end of July or early August.” 

The trio were still very anxious to slip the boat as they wanted to make a thorough survey before deciding what to do with her. “At present we do not know what her future will be,” said Mr. Dallas. “We may decide to sell her, break her up for scrap, or do a fit-out for charter work. But we will not come to any decision until after the inspection has been made. Everything depends on how she appears when she is out of the water.” 

The Ramona had been berthed at the Dockyard for almost a year after being raised from North Rock ….. She had been a constant worry to the trio as she has developed numerous leaks and has had to be pumped out every two days.

On July 12, 1969 the Bermuda Sun newspaper reported that the owners of the Ramona yacht were having to make the trip to Ireland Island every other day to bail her out. Every other week they have to patch up her battered hull to keep her afloat. After months of waiting, they still have no firm date from the Marine and Ports Authority about when they can raise her on the Authority’s slip at dockyard.

Mr. Stephen Dallas said: “We had hoped to get her up during the first week of June, but the Authority felt that because of Ramona’s size their engineer should be there to supervise. But he has been busy with arrangements to buy the new tender and now the Canima is due to go up before we can do anything.” 

The owners are still paying wharfage and are still anxious to make a start on patching the hull so that Ramona can be taken to the U.S. for full-scale repairs. Meanwhile, they continue to patch her leaks temporarily. The owners will probably never be compensated for the extra hours they have to put in because of the unavailability of dock space.

Over the weekend of August 9, 1969 Ramona was put in drydock in a bid to make her seaworthy again. But the three owners were doubtful that she will ever sail again after they discovered that the repair program is much more extensive than was first envisaged. Mr. Stephen Dallas said: “We are not too hopeful at all. The job is much bigger than we expected.”

Welders have been busy attaching plates to the hull in a bid to stop water leaking through holes in both sides. The Ramona is due to be put back into the water again on Monday and then the owners will have to decide what her future will be. Several people continue to show an interest in buying her but no deal has yet been clinched.

 Photo credit Stephen Dallas
There was a possibility that the Ramona could be converted into a large floating houseboat. Mr. Dallas continued, "I am not sure about this but there is a possibility that she could be converted into very nice accommodation. This idea would depend to some extent on the Marine and Ports Authority regarding a site for mooring and so forth.” 

The owners may also decide to take out the vessel’s keel weight – almost 70 tons of valuable lead. “We have several things to discuss,” said Mr. Dallas. “Nothing has been decided at present.” The money raised from the sale of the lead would help offset the £3,000 which the trio paid for the Ramona.

On Tuesday, August 19, 1969 the Ramona was put back into the water after welders had plugged some of the leaks in her sides. But the chances of the 120-foot barquentine ever being made seaworthy again appear to be remote. She is shown below in dry dock. 
Now patched but not seaworthy
This picture of the ill-fated yacht Ramona
was taken when she was finally put into
dry dock during August, 1969

Mr. Stephen Dallas, said that about 85 per cent of the plating on one side will have to be replaced entirely. “That would not seem to be an economical proposition,” he added glumly. 


If the Ramona cannot be fitted out to sail again her owners will most likely break her up for the value in scrap metal. She has about 70 tons of lead as keel ballast and this could be sold for use on many projects. All last week, welders had been busy patching leaks which allowed thousands of gallons of water to seep into the craft. But after an inspection at the weekend, it was beginning to look as though hopes of the vessel putting to sea were very slim. 
"I personally think that we should break her up,” said Mr. Dallas. "It is a sad thought but there it is.” The trio were expected to have an answer to the dilemma by the end of this month. Meanwhile, it was planned to take the ill-fated vessel from the slip to moorings at the Dockyard where she has been since being salvaged over twelve months ago. If the repairs are not completely successful the owners will have to revert to plugging the leaks with cement and pumping her dry. One suggestion for the future of the Ramona is that she be converted into a houseboat. 
Mr. Dallas said: “Everything went according to plan. She is relatively dry and we seem to have been successful. “Now she will be a lot less worry. We will not have to worry about her sinking overnight which was one of the dangers of the past. She could have gone down overnight in her old condition but that is a thing of the past now that she has been repaired."

Mr. Dallas said that the successful floating of the barquentine did not, however, mean that her future was settled. It still seems very unlikely that the Ramona will ever be made seaworthy again because a large portion of one side of her hull needs replacement. "We have not really decided what will happen.” said Mr. Dallas. "That is something we still have to tackle.”


On January 21, 1970 it began to seem more than likely that the Ramona, still berthed at Dockyard, would never sail again. The trio of Bermudians who bought her were apparently planning to remove her keel in two months’ time and one of the partners, Mr. Stephen Dallas, had been heard to say: “We are taking her up in March, probably to take her keel off. If we do that she will never sail again.”

The partners were confident that the lead ballast in the keel would cover their expenditure, in excess of $3,000. Originally, they had been hoping to sell her, but no deal had materialized. “Nothing had ever been finalized,” said Mr. Dallas. “I don’t really know if we can do it now.”

Although they were still willing to sell her, it seemed as though the Ramona, once a proud three-master, would be reduced to a barge. When she was shipwrecked more than two years ago the rescue had sparked off one of the biggest-ever local sea hunts.

On March 9, it was announced by Mr. Dallas that the final decision on the fate of the Ramona would be known – “at the end of this month.”
By April 24 however, the owners of the salvaged brigantine Ramona were saying that the cost of repairing the vessel was ‘prohibitive.’ “I think that it will cost too much to repair her, the repairs to the hull alone are estimated at between $12,000 and $28,000,” said Mr. John Chiappa Snr. “The whole interior needs refitting, the engine needs to be re-installed and the deck-house also requires some work,” he added.

Mr. Chiappa divulged that when he and his colleagues had bought the Ramona they had paid $7,440 for her, and that just before she was wrecked the previous owners had spent $75,000 on a refit. He further divulged that the Ramona’s sister ship had recently been on the market for $400,000. But, he said, there were strong conflicting opinions as to whether it was economically viable to repair Ramona. “We just don’t know what to do with her,” he added.


On February 26, 1971 the RG reminded Bermudians that over 3 years previously in early December 1967, the Ramona had wrecked on the North Shore reefs with the loss of five lives.

On this date in 1971, the Ramona was still in the water at the Dockyard and would have had to be slipped in order to take her keel off. The close to 70-tons of lead, used as keel ballast, should help recoup the losses for the three owners. One of them, Mr. Stephen Dallas, explained that lead “is worth a small fortune.”


COMMENT from Steve Dallas May/June, 2023:
We had considered removing the lead while the yacht was finally in dry dock. We could have jacked her up, dropped the lead, welded up the bottom and floated the boat off – or, we could have turned her upside down and then dealt with the lead.

Marine and Ports told us to forget it as they would not sink the dock??twice and wanted us out in two days. We welded up the Port side hull tears and drilled lateral holes through the lead and attached heavy cable loops the length of the keel but it proved highly difficult to get it out. 

Once Ramona was in dry dock, we burnt off a piece of her bottom to see how the lead was fastened. What we found explained how Ramona was able to plough a furrow through the reef line without the ballast shaking loose. “Capt. Nat” Herreshoff did not intend for it to drop off by accident. She had a heavy steel keel plate (“H” beam) the length of the keel with two-and-a- half-inch diameter bolts on 18” centres vertically placed through the keel plate and the lead with the bottom nuts flush with the bottom of the lead. The steel bottom plating came halfway down over the depth of the lead with three horizontal rows of 5/8” rivets on 3” centres laterally placed through the steel plating and the lead for the length of the keel. The rows were staggered so the rivets were not one above the other. An impressive piece of engineering. We would have had to cut her above the steel beam and remove it with the lead. It was very timely that the price plummeted before we started the removal process. Getting the lead free would have been more than a fun exercise.

The dry dock was scheduled to be scrapped shortly and we planned to sink Ramona in the dock behind Sally Port, after chaining her to the top of one side of the dock and inverting her inside the dock as she sank – (this we did). We could then float a barge over her and cut the lead off underwater and float it to the shore (all deep water) behind Sally Port. 

We had an understanding with the Royal Navy that they would use their 60-ton mobile crane, stored in their dockside building, to lift the lead ashore where we could cut it up into manageable chunks and deliver it to the scrap dealer operating out of dockyard at that time. Dockyard was a “freeport” area controlled by Crown Lands with some light manufacturing going on such as Royal Lyme / Tony Gaade for example. Fortunately, before we got to the lead it was suddenly banned for use in gasoline, its primary demand, and the Market Price dropped over 90% making it no longer financially viable to remove it. As time went on, it became uneconomical to recover the lead due in main to a sudden global depreciation in the value of lead.”

Prior to the decision to scrap the Ramona we had a serious buyer with whom we had already agreed a price. The buyer had made arrangements with a shipyard in Spain, that he was familiar with, to repair and refit Ramona and he had arranged for a vessel to tow her to Spain. He was unable to secure any insurance from any source for the voyage across the Atlantic and so he backed out of the deal. It was at that point that we decided to scrap her to stem our costs and we immediately removed the mizzen mast. Again, we got lucky as two weeks later a yacht got dismasted off Bermuda and needed one the exact specs of the mizzen which we gladly sold to them.

Later in the year the Ramona was dropped at the rear of Sally Point, Dockyard in 60 feet of water where she remains to this day. She was sunk into the dry-dock which had been sunk several months earlier. You can still see the top of the dry dock from the surface on a clear day but you can’t see the Ramona without diving on the site.”


Captain William Ross MacKay, Master Mariner, is believed to be identical with he who was born on July 30, 1932 in Dundee, Angus, Scotland and who died in 1990 and was buried at sea. A photo of his MI at the Caribou River Upper Cemetery, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada is shown below together with his son John Duncan MacKay who born in 1966 and died in the same year as his father. Interestingly, John Duncan appears to have been Lost at Sea – which suggests the occurrence of yet another sea tragedy having beset the family over thirty years ago?
Captain & Master Mariner William Ross Mackay
died in 1990 and was buried at sea


By chance, it came to pass that a nephew of Winston Thomas Simon by the name of Christopher Henry, came to Bermuda in 1990 from his home in England to work as an employee at a large hotel on the island. Throughout his stay of almost four years, Chris had no knowledge of his uncle’s drowning in a shipwreck in 1967 off Bermuda and only learned during a trip to St. Lucia after he had left Bermuda that his uncle’s remains may have been buried on the island. Accordingly, in late July 1994, Chris returned to Bermuda to see what he could unearth about the tragic circumstances of uncle’s death at the age of 17.  Seemingly, in 1994 the still-open door surrounding his uncle’s death represented a no-closure-grief-event for Christopher and his family. 


On August 2, 1994 the RG published the following research efforts of the young Briton as he scoured the available local records in the hope of finally clearing up the 26-year-old family mystery.

EDITORS NOTE  -  This photo was copied from a digital copy of the Royal Gazette in the archives and is, unfortunately, of poor quality.


“Mr. Christopher Henry, 27, was barely two years old when his uncle, Mr. Winston Thomas Simon of St. Lucia, perished in frigid water around the treacherous North Rock.

Mr. Simon, whose age has been placed at between 17 and 19, was galley boy on the Bahamian-registered Ramona, a 120-foot yacht that ran aground and capsized as it attempted to dock in Bermuda on December 3, 1967.

A total of five people were killed in the disaster. Five others were rescued. Although a Court of Inquiry looked into the five deaths, Mr. Henry told the RG that no members of his family in either England or St. Lucia were ever notified about the proceedings or the results.

“All we knew is that the boat went down and that five people died,” he said. “There was this big Inquiry and my family was not informed about it at all. We didn’t even have a choice whether we wanted the body sent back or not.”

Despite the fact that Mr. Henry worked at the Southampton Princess from 1990 until earlier this year, he said that he had only found out during a recent trip to St. Lucia that his uncle might have been buried in Bermuda. “I knew nothing about it,” he said. “I feel as if I’ve lost something.”

Mr. Henry, who had been sifting through library files during his stay on the Island, visited the grave at St. Paul’s Church in Paget for the first time on this trip. While in Bermuda, Mr. Henry also hoped to clarify the official interpretation of his uncle’s death, which was left with an “open verdict” by the three-man panel that investigated the disaster.

“The evidence regarding the death of Hendrickson Rene and Winston Thomas Simon was inconclusive, other than that it was due to drowning,” the panel had said in 1967.

“We are unable to say with any degree of certainty whether they deliberately left the [Ramona’s] dory with any intention of accelerating their deaths or whether they passed out through sheer exhaustion and fell overboard.”

Two other fatalities, Mr. Martin Desparest (sic) and Mr. Joseph Modeste, were found to have “committed suicide by drowning while the balance of their minds was disturbed through physical and mental exhaustion.” 

What galls Mr. Henry about the verdicts is that they came after the Ramona’s fate was judged to have been the result of her Canadian captain’s misdoings.

“We find that the stranding of the vessel was due to the incompetence of her master, Captain William Ross Mackay,” the panel said. “His misconduct consisted of excessive drinking which, combined with natural tiredness, affected his judgment considerably.”

The panel ultimately revoked Captain Mackay’s master’s certificate but did not find him criminally liable. “They kind of just brushed it under the carpet,” Mr. Henry said. “Five families are still moaning (should this word be mourning?)  over this and wondering what happened.”

Mr. Henry said he might consider legal action to change the ambiguous verdicts. “One of my uncles is a lawyer in St. Lucia and is looking into what we can do,” he said. “We want to know the truth because the case was left so open.”

Despite his visit to the Island in 1994, Christopher Henry has thus far failed to resolve the lingering questions surrounding the death of his uncle Winston Thomas SIMON of St. Lucia. I have attempted to establish contact with any St. Lucian family members by emailing the St. Lucian genealogy dept, but thus far to no avail. I have been unable to reach Mr. Christopher Henry in either England or St. Lucia. Of particular note however there is the record of the death in Yorkshire, England in 1966 of a Thomas W. Simon aged 19. 

There are three side-by-side plots assigned to seafarers located within the cemetery of the St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Paget. The four St. Lucian crewmembers of the SV Ramona are all buried  here and the plaque identifies them as Louis M.F. Departest, Henrickson Rene, Thomas W. Simon, and Joseph Modeste.
Seafarers graves at St. Paul's Church in Paget
The headstone reads


In April this year, in company with the EXPO editor, I interviewed John Patrick ‘Jack’ Chiappa JNR at his Spanish Point home. Hanging on a wall we noticed the below framed oil painting signed and dated JPC 1/92. ‘Jack’ confirmed himself as the painter back in 1992 and that he was the son of John Chiappa Snr. deceased, one of the original trio of owners who had purchased the Ramona in 1968 as she lay submerged on the north east reefs of Bermuda.
Signed and dated oil painting of Ramona by John P. Chiappa

Too many items to document which belonged to Ramona were observed in ‘Jacks’ capacious workshop, a sample of which is shown below. 

John P. "Jack" Chiappa Jnr. with George Rose at Jack's workshop
showing double and triple-sheeved blocks amongst much other
yacht paraphernalia salvaged off the "Ramona C" in 1968


I initially interviewed Steve Dallas at his Hamilton office on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Our frequent email conversations continued thereafter into June when I asked for his final reflections on the entire Ramona matter. He wrote: 

“It was an experience for sure. We were really hampered by prolonged weather and sea surge conditions out there. It was probably the worst year on record for constant gales and storms. There were only four days in February when the wind dropped below 20 knots and that was not for a whole day. I recall a number of ships getting in trouble around Bermuda. I recall there was a Canadian freighter which sank off the island, and an oil tanker which lost power and had to be rescued. 

There were so may pickings that a Dutch salvage company stationed an oceangoing tug here for the winter. With Ramona in the surge-line we spent more time redoing what the weather had undone rather than getting on with the salvage.  It was a full-blown gale the first weekend in May that broke her spars after we lost her standing upright. We wanted to go out and lay her down but with a curfew in effect all our volunteer help couldn’t get to us. We all had jobs and responsibilities so the salvage effort was mostly a weekend exercise. There were many days we could not get off the dock. The first Hurricane of the season (Hurricane Abby) threatened us in June but veered off giving us just heavy seas for a few days.”

I would like to acknowledge the following contributors to this article without whom little progress beyond the threadbare could have been made. All donated their time and effort in introducing little-known facts and photographs which substantially enhanced my research findings.

To Mr. Stephen Dallas for sharing his considerable knowledge and exacting attention to detail; his photographs and his keen mental retention of events long since gone or forgotten are very much appreciated.

To Mr. John ‘Jack’ P. Chiappa Jnr. for sharing insights into his father’s large and important artifact collection and for sharing hard to find connected documentation inclusive of his formal presentation to the Bermuda Archives of a Kodak Super 8mm. movie film reel entitled “Raising the Ramona 10 July 1968.” 

To The EXPO Editor, Roger Sherratt for his personal introduction to the above eye witnesses to the event, and for keeping me focused on the end product. 

To Mrs. Debra Saltus for assisting me in grave location and church records pertaining to the four deceased crewmembers.

I remain most grateful to you all.




CLICK HERE for an article about the early history of the Ramona. Scroll down to the article, "When I Was Just a Little Boy" 

CLICK HERE for an article in which Capt. Lou Boudreau describes his experiences as a deckhand on board the Ramona in 1966 when she  was on charter in the Virgin Islands.

CLICK HERE for a Sailor's Memories of the Ramona published in Latitude 38'

CLICK HERE for a discussion about North Rock, part of Rim Reefs, which is the largest coral reef in Bermuda. 

CLICK HERE for scientific insights from Geoache about the makeup of the Bermuda Platform where the reefs are honeycombed with caves and exposed to strong wave action from north and north-west, hence the  description "white horses"!

CLICK HERE for an interesting 30-minutes long video involving a North Rock segment at 17:45

George F. Rose 
July, 2023