M/V Beluga, salvaged lifeboat brought mail from Cherokee Sound to Crossing Rocks Abaco under Capt. Bethel


PAST NAMES: lifeboat of the Norwegian tanker “O. A. Knudsen”
DIMENSIONS: c.30 feet long by about 7′ beam
CONSTRUCTION: built in Germany along with the mother ship
EARLY CAREER: sailed worldwide in the chocks of the O A Knudsen carrying Allied cargoes of oil to beleaguered Britain until March 1942 when sunk off Bahamas
BAHAMAS CAREER: ferried mail and other supplies from Cherokee Sound, Great Abaco to Crossing Rocks, to the south along the island’s windward eastern shore
CAPTAINS: Capt. Bethel (according to his son Patrick of Cherokee Sound)
FATE: not known, but the Beluga served at least until the late 1960s
OWNERS: as a lifeboat the Knutsen OAS tanker firm in Norway, then Capt. Bethel

The following excerpt is from my soon-to-be-published book “Drifting to the Duchess”. It relates how the Norwegian survivors of the OA Knudsen, which had been torpedoed by the German submarine U-128 off Abaco on 5 March 1942, were discovered by the small mail sloop “Arena”:

“The schooner’s Captain, Sherwin Archer of the Arena offered to guide the boats to Cornwall, Abaco Island. The Norwegians wryly noted that “a sailing craft supplied information on a landing place.” Because in light winds and with the proximity of a treacherous lee shore, a motor would be more reliable, the “rescued” vessel took the “rescuer” in tow, with the sailing lifeboat towed behind the Arena.

It is possible that the Knudsen officers and Arena crew decided to cut free the second, sailing lifeboat. Later Captain Bethel of nearby Cherokee Sound, found an abandoned World War II lifeboat near Crossing Rocks, on the southeast coast of Abaco, north of Hole-in-the-Wall. He towed it to Cherokee Sound, renamed it Beluga, and was engaged by the government to use it to supply mail and freight to the community of Crossing Rocks, then without access by road, for the next few decades.”