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

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


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

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Ferry[]

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

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

1924 fire, Maine and New York Ferry Service[]

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

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

Canadian service[]

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

Image gallery[]

The new Sankaty[]

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

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


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Dayton, Fred Erving (1925). "Steamboat Days". Frederick A. Stokes company. pp. 245–6. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Technology Review, Vol. XIII, No. 1. January 1911. MIT Alumni Association.[1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Dukes County Intelligencer. Vol. 24, No. 4. May 1983
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Dukes County Intelligencer. Vol. 7, No. 4. May 1966
  5. Douglas-Lithgow, Robert Alexander. Nantucket, A History G. P. Putnam, 1914.
  6. Vineyard Gazette Online
  7. The American Neptune, 1941. Peabody & Essex Museum, Peabody Museum of Salem [2]
  8. Pacific Steam Navigation Company, Sea Breezes Vol. 56, no. 443 (Nov. 1982)[3]
  9. Snow, Edward Rowe, Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast Dodd, Mead. 1948. [4]
  10. Morley, Christopher. Streamlines. Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1936.
  11. 24 September 1940
  12. P.E.I.'s Coastal Vessels and Ferries
  13. SeaWaves Today in History October 27, 2008
  14. The Steamship Authority, Serving the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket

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