Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

Syng’s boiler is still above the reef north of Pristine Bay Resort.

A 120 Year Old Wreck Hides One of the Island’s Oldest Mysteries

It was the night of August 18, 1899 and a northwestern wind had been blowing on Roatan for over three days. On the north shore of Roatan a 100 foot metal boat Snyg battled the seas seeking shelter from her journey from Florida to La Ceiba. Snyg was a steamship and like many boats of that era had a secondary means of power: a mast and two booms. Snyg was flying a Greek flag and carrying live cargo: mules and oxen destined to work at the banana plantations of northern Honduras. Her captain and several crew were Greek.

The inhabitants of the village of Crawfish Rock were woken up in the middle of the night by lights and sounds of distress. There were oxen bellowing and mules kicking. Snyg was in trouble and its crew was trying to find the channel entrance across the reef. This proved not to be an insurmountable challenge. Boat navigation and weather were quite different 120 years ago. “Back then the only way to navigate was to use a sextant. You had to locate a celestial body and a horizon line. That was often not possible,” said Charles Osgood, 69, a retired boat captain and boat engineer from Roatan. “We used to have northern [winds] that would blow for four, five days. The island would run short of food. The weather patterns have changed now.”

George Edward Osgood, from Coxen Hole, was asked to help the distressed Snyg. “She was billed, and way on top of the reef,” remembers Charles Osgood, grandson of George Edward. George Edward was in his 30s at the time and ran a boat repair business on Osgood Cay. The Cay was strategically placed just south of Coxen Hole and it used to be named Bennett Cay, then Big Cay, then Osgood Cay and now it is called Maya Cay. The Cay belonging to Guillermo Bruchard was eventually purchased at a government auction in 1912. George Edward held it in family hands for a hundred years.

Charles Osgood with the last surviving wood piece of Snyg: it’s name plaque from its rescue boat and a motor that was fitted onto it couple years later.

After the rescue operation during which Edward fixed a metal crane that lifted the animals off the battered Snyg, George Edward received an oxen and a mule that would spin his winch on the Osgood Cay to move boats brought in for repair. He also received a 28 foot wooden lifeboat from Snyg. He fitted her with a six-horsepower motor he purchased from American navy officer stationed at the American Navy station at Punta Castilla. One Lung Marine Engine by Lathrop pushed Snyg’s life raft around Roatan until the 1960s. “Once she was hot she could run on kerosene, diesel, gasoline,” said Charles Osgood describing the engine. “It ran in both directions.” The Snyg lifeboat boat hauled cargo and passengers to and from Roatan until 1961 when she was left on Osgood Cay and eventually just rotted away.

Today the only non metal surviving part of the Snyg is a 12 inch wooden sign with its name engraved on it. The other lifeboat was taken by someone else on Roatan.

Crawfish Rockers have a special relationship with the wreck they see only 100 meters from their village. Until the 1990s its hull was still above water. “They called it old steamer,“ said Dulcie Woods, 69, who has lived in Crawfish Rock since the 1950s. “They would get some oyster type of shellfish from the wreck.” Despite the Snyg’s slow disintegration it is still a landmark and will likely continue attracting snorkelers and tourists from all around the north of the island.

A late XIX century steam boat similar to the Snyg.

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