Deck hand falls from rigging to his death aboard tall ship

An 18-year-old deck hand died in mid-July when he fell 30 feet from the rigging of the tall ship he was working aboard.

Benjamin Southerland, from Concord, Mass., was working aboard the schooner Alabama off Martha’s Vineyard with 15 people onboard. He suffered several injuries and was in cardiac arrest when rescuers arrived.

Alabama, a 90-foot gaff-rigged schooner, is owned and operated by the Coastwise Packet Co., affiliated with the Black Dog Tavern on Martha’s Vineyard. The vessel was designed by Thomas McManus and built by the Pensacola Ship Building Co. in Florida in 1926. For 40 years, Alabama was used in that state as a pilot boat.

In 1995 it was rebuilt by Vineyard Haven’s GS Maynard Shipbuilding Co. as a passenger vessel.

It is unknown whether Southerland was wearing a harness at the time of the fall. The Coast Guard and the Massachusetts State Police are investigating the accident.   

Kate Yeomans

By Professional Mariner Staff