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Shipwrecked

By Leslie Braly

LESLIE BRALY was born in Alabama, spending her childhood in Mobile and Birmingham. In her twenties, she started writing songs and playing in bars and honky-tonks around the state. Leslie's songwriting is a rootsy Americana style heavily influenced by her southern upbringing. She moved to Washington with her husband in 2000 and spent the next few years focusing on starting a family. In 2007 Leslie met John Owen, when their oldest daughters became friends in kindergarten, and together they formed Seattle band Pineola.

Lyrics & Story

Lyrics & Music by Leslie Braly

Lashed to the rigging and raising hymns

Thrashed by rain and shrieking winds

My mind let loose of time, I’ve no thoughts of leaving

I’m done but I can’t move on

I’ve been rowing my lifeboat with my pale thin bones

My mind let loose of time, I’ve no thoughts of leaving

Like our ship on the rocks below

I’m gone but I can’t let go

I’ve run aground and a shallow graveyard keeps me

The crashing waves on the rising tides

Cannot drown baby’s cries

My mind let loose of time, I’ve no thoughts of leaving

So I roll along

In company of skeletons

My mind let loose of time, I’ve no thoughts of leaving

Like our ship on the rocks below

I’m gone but I can’t let go

I’ve run aground and a shallow graveyard keeps me

Track Credits

Leslie Braly - Vocals & Guitar

Tom Parker - Vocals & Harmonica

Recorded and Mixed by Daniel Guenther at Jack Straw

Mastered by Moe Provencher at Jack Straw

© Copyright Leslie Braly 2019

SS VALENCIA

By Jonathan Shipley

All the women and children died. “Screams of women and children mingled in an awful chorus with the shrieking of the wind, the dash of the rain, and the roar of the breakers,” a witness solemnly noted. Estimates vary on how many people died during the sinking of the SS Valencia. According to the final federal report, the official toll was 136. Only 37 men survived. All the women and children died. “The ship began to break up almost at once,” the witness said, “and the women and children were lashed to the rigging.” They were said, the cold stranded women, staring down at their watery deaths, to have begun singing Nearer, My God, To Thee. “It was a pitiful sight to see frail women, wearing only night dresses, with bare feet on the freezing ratline, trying to shield children in their arms from the icy wind and rain.” The remains of the dead were buried under a tomb in Seattle, far from Cape Beale on Vancouver Island, the place where the mighty ship wrecked.

The SS Valencia was built in 1882 as a passenger steamship. She sailed the Red D Line from New York City to Venezuela. She was later used for passenger service up and down the Pacific coast. She was used in the Spanish-American War to transport troops to the Philippines. Her last sailing started on January 20, 1906 from San Francisco, with over 100 passengers. Two days later, in bad weather, she struck a reef on the southwest coast Vancouver Island. By Thursday of that same week most everyone who was on board was dead.

When it smashed into a reef, the Valencia’s captain, Oscar Johnson, ordered the engines to be reversed. As soon as it was clear, a large gash in the hull caused water to pour in. The captain then ordered the ship to be run aground. She was driven into the rocks, 160 feet or so from shore, with heavy treacherous surf between.

In the confusion all but one of the lifeboats were lowered into the water, against captain’s orders and improperly manned. Three flipped - all its occupants tossed into the ocean. Two capsized - all its occupants tossed into the ocean. One simply disappeared.

Some men swam to shore and survived. Most were still clinging to life on the ship, hanging onto the rigging above the reach of the sea. They knew rescue ships were being dispatched. The Queen and the City of Topeka both made their way to the ailing ship. But no rescue would come. It was too dangerous, it was thought, to try and save them and so they left.

Soon, the last protection for those still alive, came crashing down. The ship’s funnel collapsed, the last means of protection for all that still were alive from the roaring waves. The sea overtook them all. All that had remained alive on the ship drowned, or were carried off to sea on bits of flotsam, or were dashed upon the rocks.

Visions were had, months and years after the sinking. Six months after the sinking, in a cave along Pachena Bay, Indians claimed to have seen a lifeboat bobbing in the cave. In it - eight skeletons. Local fisherman, some time later, claimed to have seen lifeboats on the waters being rowed by Valencia’s victims. Still other sailors, years after the sinking, claimed to see a phantom ship in the water, human figures clinging to it.

One day on Barkley Sound, in the year 1933, 27 years after the disaster, Valencia’s lifeboat #5 was found floating in the water. It was in good condition. It’s original paint still remarkably intact. It was empty, save the memories on the long dead.

Within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, some five miles southeast of Pachena Beach on the West Coast Trail, you can still see pieces of the ill-fated ship dug into the coast - the graveyard of the Pacific.

At, what was billed as, “The Memorial Services of the Unknown Dead of the Valencia Disaster,” conducted under the auspices of the Building Trades Assembly of Seattle, that took place at Seattle’s Grand Opera House on September 1906, Mrs. Agnes Lockhard Hughes read aloud a poem she wrote about the tragedy. It read, in part, “The grave may hold the body’s shell/but heaven claims the soul./And though we sink in life’s dark sea/in God we find our goal.”

For further reading:
HistoryLink
Encyclopedia Titanica
The Sinking of the Valencia