Activities of Pilot Boy remembered
By KAM WAGERT
This is the first in a series of historical articles about Aransas County written by Friends of the History Center for Aransas County.
I have been collecting vintage postcards of Aransas County for about 10 years, and this postcard of the Pilot Boy is my very favorite. It is also the only photo I have found so far of the Pilot Boy, the ship in the background with the big flag.
The pictured postcard of the Pilot Boy has a postmark of 1910, and depicts the Sorenson Wharf. The Sorenson Wharf had a track for carts to be pushed from the Sorenson’s Ship Chandlery (now the Estelle Stair Gallery) to load goods onto the boats. The Pilot Boy was a steamship that carried passengers between Rockport and Tarpon (early name of Port Aransas).
The Pilot Boy went out into Aransas Bay in the Aug. 19, 1916 hurricane, which was a category 4 storm. In the high waves and fierce wind, the ship capsized and went under. The crew numbered five men; only two survived. The captain and two other men drowned, and their bodies were recovered. A sad part of this story is one of the crew had attempted to save the life of the ship’s mascot, a cat, and when he plunged into the water he carried the cat in his arms. His body, when found, bore mute evidence of his struggle to save the cat by its clawed condition.
I have often wondered why the Pilot Boy would go out into the storm? Someone told me ships often went out into the bay and anchored during storms, rather than stay in port and possibly get pounded against the rocks or wharves. This tragic tale of the Pilot Boy fascinates me; I wonder if the ship is still there, under the waves?