For those who grew up in 1950's Northport, Steers and Gravel Co. was an integral part of our little town. They built Northport Park, mined a huge portion of sand and gravel from what was once the Cheesebrough Estate, created Bluff Point Road and environs, a large subdivision that now occupies the original mining site and a major portion of Sand City (now known as Hobart Beach). For better or worse, Steers was part of our lives. Their sand barges and tugboats were as much a part of the bay as the bay itself.
The game plan was to mine the sand and gravel, load it into barges and “tow the line” to points west where it would be processed for concrete and used in the construction of buildings, bridges and highways in and about New York City. Millions of cubic yards of material regularly were shipped westward in those old “low-riding” wooden barges and the “high-riding” empties would return for refilling. And so the cycle went, year round, for years and years...and years.
Northporters were shocked when on Dec. 30, 1962, the 98-foot Northport based tugboat “Gwendoline Steers” was taken by surprise at twilight in an unprecedented and powerful Long Island Sound storm. The fast moving weather system produced single digit temperatures, 95 m.p.h. winds and high seas which claimed the vessel and all nine souls on board while entering Huntington Bay.
The captain and crew were all experienced mariners, but couldn't have known what they were about to face. There were some witnesses on the shore at Eaton's Neck who saw the Gwendoline Steers entering the bay from the sound, but records show that no one actually saw it founder and sink. What happened in those final minutes of that long-ago disaster is still shrouded in mystery, a closure issue that haunts many of the crew members families, 50 years later. Click on the photo above to hear the song "The Wreck of the Gwendoline Steers".
On Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, family members and friends will memorialize the crew by laying a wreath over the wreck site at the mouth of Huntington Bay to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sinking. The Town of Huntington, Village of Northport, and the US Coast Guard will be participating in the ceremony which will be followed by a plaque dedication at Hobart Beach, where a lifeboat from the wreck washed up after the sinking.
The program is as follows: The ceremony will begin at the US Coast Guard Station at Eaton’s Neck where a number of vessels will depart at 9:45am in procession to the wreck site, one mile west. The ceremony will take place between 10:15am and 10:45am from the fantail of the tugboat “G.P. Thornton”, directly over the wreck site. Area boaters are welcome to attend and meet at the site (Lat 40/57/15.31, Long 73/26/02.78) or (GPS Coordinates: 073.4293 & 40.9547).
Following the ceremony, the group will return to the Coast Guard station and proceed to Hobart Beach in Eaton’s Neck for a plaque dedication beginning at noon, where the public is welcome to attend. The Northport Historical Society will display recovered Gwendoline Steers artifacts and local Northport artist Jo-Ann Coretti will unveil her painting entitled “Final Moments”, depicting the tug in the storm. Another local artist, Loary Gunn, will also display her commemorative paintings. Several retired Police and Fire Department personnel who were part of the search and recovery operation back in 1962, will be on hand to discuss their recollections.