Down Memory Lane: Fortune Star burns in Grand Bank

Published on February 20, 2017

The wooden side dragger Fortune Star adrift and burning on April 15, 1967.

©Allan Stoodley Photography

It will be 50 years ago in April that the Fortune Star caught fire while tied up at the wharf at Grand Bank and had to be towed outside the harbour where she ended her days.

The date was April 15, 1967, that the 101-foot wooden side dragger was tied up at the Bonavista Cold Storage (BCS) Company pier, just after loading ice and taking on fuel, when without any apparent cause fire broke out onboard.

For two hours BCS personnel and the local fire brigade fought the fire unsuccessfully in an attempt to save the ship. Then the federal Department of Fisheries patrol boat Badger Bay towed the burning vessel outside the harbour entrance, where she remained ablaze for three days and nights.

Adrift in a strong northeast wind, the fire was burning in the engine room and after deck. Finally, when the flames died down and while still smouldering, Capt. Russell Herridge and Ches Price of BCS boarded what remained of the hull to salvage what fishing gear they could.

The remains of the vessel grounded in shallow water outside the harbour where over the decades the wood rotted and what is left of the Fortune Star is covered with sand or is underwater.

The 149-ton Fortune Star was capable of carrying 180,000 pounds of fish and had a 13-man crew.

Originally named the Dorothy Irene, the 21-year-old dragger was built at Mahone Bay, N.S., and when fire broke out she had 8,000 gallons of fuel onboard.

Capt. Herridge, now 81 years old, spent 40 years of his life going to sea with 30 of them as captain.

After the loss of the Fortune Star he spent much of his career as captain of the stern trawlers Grand Monarch and the Grand Prince.