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As It Was: Port Orford Park Displays Grounded Steamer’s Propeller, Shaft

In February 1937, the vessel Cottoneva docked in Port Orford, Ore., to take on a load of lumber.  It would be its final stop.
The 190-foot, wooden steamer had taken on only a portion of its intended cargo, causing the bow to sit high. Receiving warnings of 75 mph winds, the Captain headed for the open sea, but storm gusts caught the doomed ship, swinging it around and hard onto the shore.

The crew of 26 was rescued with a breeches buoy, transferring one man at a time using a rigging made with short canvas trousers suspended from a rope.

A witness, John Quick, wrote later, “The outline of the wreck was huge and close, alarmingly so, as if a big building had parked itself on the sand.  The Coast Guard began shooting white flares to illuminate the beach, casting silver light and black shadows.  Bystanders built a fire to throw more light.  The rescued men sat around it.  Everything smelled like kerosene and wet wood.”

The Cottoneva went aground directly in front of today’s Battle Rock Park. The ship’s propeller and shaft remain on display near the visitors’ center.

Sources: Strain, Patti. Floras Creek Precinct and the Boice Family of Curry County. Hal & Patti Strain, 2003, pp. 449-50. Webber, Bert. Shipwrecks and Rescues on the Northwest Coast. Webb Research Group, 1996, pp. 160-62. Walker, Molly. "The Wreck of the Cottoneva." Cape Blanco Heritage Society, www.capeblancoheritagesociety.com/port-orford-lifeboat-station/historical-articles/cottoneva/.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.