Nomis.jpgThe wreck of the Nomis, 1935. Photo by Selma Wise Spencer/Ocracoke Preservation Society.
The Sinking of  the Nomis:

The Nomis was built in 1919 in Pensacola, Florida. It was owned by Charles C. Clausen of Hempstead, New York. They spent most of their time sailing along the East Coast of the United States. They seemed to have some bad luck prior to their final voyage. The Nomis at least twice in the three years prior to the wreck had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. One time they were rescued off of Cape Lookout and another time off of Martha's Vineyard. 

The first rescue off of Cape Lookout occurred in 1932  when the schooner was caught in a severe gale on a voyage from Philadelphia to Charleston, South Carolina. During the storm, her bowsprit and foretopmast, and stove in her bow were carried away during the storm. According to one of her seamen, Edward Brownlee reported that the Nomis was left "waterlogged and disabled." Apparently, the only thing that kept the Nomis afloat was its cargo of lumber.

The second rescue, according to the Newport Mercury newspaper of Newport, Rhode Island, stated that a Coast Guard cutter came to its rescue when the Nomis was 20 miles off Gay Head located on the westernmost tip of Martha's Vineyard. At the time she was transporting a cargo of coal. When the Coast Guard arrived the intense winds had destroyed the sails and her riggings were down. Also, water was rising at a steady pace in her hold. The coal dust within the hold had clogged her pumps.

Fortunately for the Nomis, she was able to be towed into Vineyard Sound. The bad news was that it suffered more damage the following day when her anchor chain broke and the schooner drifted onto a shoal. After that, she was towed by the Coast Guard into New Bedford with 5 feet of water in her hold.

The Beaufort News on Thursday, August 22, 1935, gave the following report of the Nomis. The headline read: "Wreck of Schooner On Ocracoke Island Will Be Break For Natives." It reported that the three-masted schooner was carrying 338,000 feet of lumber when it "wrecked on the outer reef of Ocracoke abreast Six Miles Hammock during a southeastern shortly after midnight."

In speaking with the Beaufort News, Coastguardsmen told them that "although a southeaster was blowing, it was not blowing with much velocity at the time of the wreck." Apparently, the man on watch thought the Nomis had already passed the Outer Diamond of the Diamond Shoals was tacking along the shoreline. Before he knew it they were in the breakers at Ocracoke and off course. Due to the rainstorms that night they were unable to see the blinking warning lights of Ocracoke and Cape Hatteras lights. Coastguardsmen, who were patrolling along the beach, sighted the distress flares just after midnight and responded with their Coston signals.

Coastguardsmen under the command of Captain Bernice Ballance of Hatteras Inlet station and Captain Elisha Tillet of Ocracoke station were sent to the rescue. Lifesaving equipment from the two stations on the island was towed to the beach by caterpillar tractors. However, instead of launching lifeboats, a line-throwing cannon was used to shot a line to the vessel. The coastguardsmen then used breeches buoy to bring the survivors ashore. The crew of six were rescued by 7 o'clock.

The reduced men were taken to the Hatteras Inlet station and were still there at the time the article was published on August 22, 1935. Theodore Meekins of Maneto, an agent for the underwriters arrived with other insurance agents arrived at Ocracoke on Tuesday, August 20. At that time no definite time had been set for the auction sale of the wreck.

Captain Clausen told the coastguardsmen that the estimated value of the schooner was $5000 but couldn't give a value of the 338,000 feet of pine lumber aboard. It was determined the Nomis was beyond saving but was still intact at the time of the article. By that time a good portion of the cargo had washed overboard and come ashore across the beach. What was bad news for the owners of the vessel was good news for residents of Ocracoke. They were able to use the driftwood for fuel for stoves during the winter seasons and the lumber could be used to construct new homes or for general building.


Built: 1919 Sunk: August 16, 1935
Type of Vessel:  Schooner Owner: Charles C. Clausen
Builder: Pensacola, FL Power: Twin 4-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse oil engines
Port of registry:   Dimensions: 
Previous Names:   


Here is the location of the sinking: Along the Diamond Shoals



LastFirstDate of DeathPositionHomeAge


A partial listing of the surviving crew: Total Crew Lost:  Survivors: 6

Last First Position DOB Home Age
Butes Albert     Georgetown, S.C.  
Clausen Charles Captain   Hemps Garden, L.I. 73
Clausen, Jf. Charles     Hempstead, L.I.  
Hotykay Micheal     Perth Amboy, NJ  
Jerome Leon     New York, NY  
Wolzanski Henry     Perth Amboy, NJ  



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