Four fishermen were lost this past Friday after their boat, the 75-foot steel dragger Lady of Grace from New Bedford, sank in Nantucket Sound 11 miles east of Cape Pogue. A call for help was never made.
Menemsha Coast Guardsmen in a 47-foot motor lifeboat discovered the location of the sunken vessel Sunday morning. Divers from the Southeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council assisted the Menemsha crew.
The motor lifeboat was participating in an extensive 6,300-square-mile Coast Guard search launched after the fishing vessel was reported overdue this past Saturday morning.
The Menemsha Guardsmen were drawn to the site after sighting an oil sheen on the surface, one of the first signs of a sunken boat. The divers, using an underwater video camera, found the vessel in 36 feet of water near Cross Rip shoal.
On Monday morning, the Coast Guard suspended the search for the fishermen when it was clear there was no chance the fishermen survived the frigid waters and cruel seas.
On Tuesday, state divers recovered the body of Capt. Antonio Barroqueiro, 50, of Fairhaven in the pilot house. On Wednesday, the state medical examiner identified the body.
As of early yesterday afternoon, crewmembers Rogerio Vendura, Mario Farinha, and Joao Silva had yet to be found.
Divers examining the vessel found an unopened life raft still aboard and an EPIRB, an automatic emergency radio beacon, stuck in a scupper. Had the beacon been properly released and come to the surface, it would have alerted authorities of the vessel's troubles sooner.
Coast Guard officials in Woods Hole met yesterday with representatives of the vessel owner and state police divers to discuss the possibility of raising the vessel, which is in a main channel between Cross Rip and Halfmoon shoals.
Weather likely played a significant factor in the loss of the vessel.
Thursday and Friday of last week were two of the coldest days so far this winter. The air was breezy. The coldest temperature this year in Edgartown, 6 degrees, was recorded Friday morning, cold enough to allow seawater to freeze quickly on the rigging of any vessel.
The weight of sea ice on the superstructure may have led the vessel to lose stability and sink.
Capt. Jonathan Mayhew of Chilmark, who operates the fishing boat Quitsa Strider II out of Menemsha, said he heard from fishermen on the New Bedford waterfront that the captain of the fishing vessel was seriously concerned about the buildup of ice on the vessel and twice had sent out his crew to chop ice on the journey home.
Mr. Mayhew said the captain had chosen to come back to New Bedford because of mechanical problems aboard.
"I am sure the boat was feeling top-heavy," Mr. Mayhew said. Of the buildup of ice on a vessel, he said, "It can happen very quickly."
Menemsha Coast Guardsmen made two trips to find survivors and the vessel, according to bosun mate second class Jose M. Adams at the station.
The Guardsmen left Menemsha at 2 p.m. Saturday and picked up a crew of divers in Woods Hole about 3 p.m.
"Saturday afternoon was clear, no seas and barely no wind," the bosun said. "The temperature was below freezing."
He said a helicopter on Saturday did see oil on the surface and they knew its vicinity.
They searched Nantucket Sound until 1 a.m. Sunday morning. Later that morning, a new crew on the same boat returned to the same area.
"Within two hours of searching the known area where the vessel was last reported, we saw oil," Bosun Adams said. "The oil sheen was about 200 to 300 yards long."
Using the underwater camera, he said, they were able to find the vessel in an hour-long search.
The site is north of and midway between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The vessel sank about 11 miles north of Nantucket and about 11 miles east of Cape Pogue lighthouse.
Mr. Adams attributed the success of the discovery to the divers' efforts and their equipment.
Crewmembers from Menemsha who participated in Saturday's search were Matthew Sponable, Robin Garland, Colin Haynes and Andrew Chace. Those who participated in Sunday's search on Sunday were Mr. Adams, Nicholas Prescott, William Robertson and Brittany Kruciak.
The overall search, which began Sunday and ended Monday, involved crews from Woods Hole and Brant Point as well as Menemsha, and included helicopters, jets and three cutters.
Captain Mayhew said the Lady of Grace was well-regarded on the New Bedford waterfront and considered a safe, seaworthy vessel.