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Charlie Travers

Charles Travers was born in Dartmouth to Frank P. and Mary (Avila) Travers in 1906. Charlie was an excellent mechanic, avid boatman and former Coast Guard surf-men on Cuttyhunk. He lied about his age to get into the Coast Guard. The surfmen were the men who where stationed on shore stations and would take to boats to rescue stranded and wrecked ships. The Cuttyhunk, Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay area's coastline is notoriously dangerous, strewn with massive boulders and rips. The surfmen were the Coast Guard personnel who braved the seas that had made wreckage of some of the best ships and sailors that sailed the local waters, and the world for that matter. The surfmen put out in small boats, some powered by oars, later by small gasoline engines, hoping to save those stranded in sea wrecks. One of the rescue apparatus they used was the breeches bouy. Basically it was a long line powered to the stranded ship by a rocket. The line was tied to another line and a block and tacked was drug out to the ship. After fastening the block to the ship men could be pulled ashore while sitting in a harness, the breeches. The job of surf-men was not for the faint of heart, and Charlie was perfect for the job.

After his enlistment was up in 1924 Charlie started lobstering out of New Bedford with his younger brother, Henry Travers. Charlie's father ran a fish market in New Bedford at Billy Wood's Wharf on Rodney French Boulevard. The family lived on Butler street in the big house across the street from the market . The name 'Smuggler's Den' refers back to the Travers occupation and their fish market.

It wasn't uncommon for fisherman to stumble on the drop location where a rum runner had discharged their cargo while being chased by Coast Guard boats. Liquor transported by illegal means was found to be easiest to handle bundled in sets of 5 or 6 bottles, protected by straw, sewn into burlap sacks, known as "hams". These were easier, primarily for their ability to sink, rather than float, as a wooden case would for a time. The benefit being that the evidence was not to be seen during a chase when the hams were discharged over the side of the boat, returning later to recover the liquor after the escape was made. Occasionally the burlap sacks were sewn to a long rope to make them easier to retrieve after the CG's were gone.

It is safe to assume, that in the 1920's when the mills in New Bedford , a lobsterman with his own boat and who found a discharged cache of illegal liquor and brought it ashore to sell, soon found the liquor business much more profitable than fishing. We can also assume Charlie found a jettisoned load of liquor, retrieved it, sold it and became a fixture in the rum running business.

Newspaper articles state that Charlie was working with Frank Butler on the "Tramp" in 1925 which was seized in Mattapoisett while trying to run in a load of $10,000 worth of liquor. Both men plead not guilty and were found guilty. Each were assessed a $500 fine.

Butler would later make headlines with the 'Nola'. Considered the 'queen' of the rumrunners, the Nola was captured in 1931, only after the cargo erupted in flames near Vineyars Sound. The Nola was so full with liquor that five gallon cans of booze had been stored on the deck. When the Coast Guard started chasing the Nola and Frank refused to stop they began firing machine guns at the pilot house. The 'house' had been built with double walls that had been filled with sand in between to deter bullets from hitting the captain. One of the hands, Seraphim Nunes, didn't have time to duck below deck and laid between the cans. He was shot and badly wounded. Wwhen bullets hit some of the cans they erupted in flames. It was the last liquor run for the famous Nola.

In 1927 Charlie bought the 'Black Duck' out of Gloucester, MA. Outfitted with two V-12 Liberty aircraft engines producing 300 horsepower each, and capable of 500 under a skilled hand, the Duck was able to reach 32 knots. Faster than anything the Coast Guard had in their inventory of surf rescue boats, tug boats, former Navy sub hunters and old destroyers at the time. After Charlie tuned the engine they were closer to 400 horsepower.

The Black Duck was successful as a rum boat for two years. During that time the Coast Guard had suspicions that she was running liquor, or operating as a 'black ship' as they were known for the tendency to paint them in colors that would blend into the night. Although she was documented as being boarded 5 times, alcohol was never to be found on her. It was said that Charlie 'let' them catch her because he was not loaded. He was know to give his name as 'Charli Noble", a name that was used for the name of a steam ship's smoke stak and once

Charlie was tutored in the business of rum running well. The Black Duck, although owned and operated by Charlie Travers, was registered under the name of Jacob Weissman of Providence, RI. This act of subterfuge was used in the event of that a boat might be pursued, but have to be abandoned somewhere, with or without it's cargo. The owner would usually happen to be no where's near the boat when it was found, establishing a solid alibi for theft and misuse of his vessel.

Besides being a top captain Charlie was equally skilled as a mechanic. The WWI surplus V-12 Liberty aircraft engine produced about 300 horsepower in stock form. These engines were available brand new for about $2000 each. After Charlie worked the engine over they were said to produce up to 500 horsepower. A shop in Fall River supplied the engines, new, covered in cosmoline to prevent rust. The Black Duck, which Charlie skippered, had two v-12's and was known to ne one of the fastest on the East coast. A self designed transmission allowed multiple engines to be run through one prop shaft. YeBesidesars later, after WWII the government boats still hadn't figured out how to copy them.

In addition to rum running Charlie owned and ran a Dodge dealership and a machine shop in New Bedford. He used the Seaview Poultry Farm on Sconticut Neck road which he used as a repair shop for cars, trucks and boats, stored liquor there at times and also owned the Westlook Farm on Horseneck road. Westlook was more of home for him and his girlfriend Mildred Sedgwick and her son Harry.

Westlook was a dairy farm on the east bank of the east part of the Westport river. A newspaper article about the farm featured the painted pictures of happy, dancing cows. It went on to describe the high quality of the milk produced there.