As with many sea stories, the truth may never surface as to the origin of an ancient, hand-carved, pear-shaped oaken block.
“This is a very unique find,” said John Hearn of this city.
He was fishing in the Hereford Inlet surf near Second Avenue here with his son, Shane Hearn on Sat., Jan. 28. The younger Hearn, a detective with the Lower Southhampton Township Police Department, Bucks County, Pa., and always curious, noted his father, spotted an odd-shaped object by the Second Avenue jetty.
What he found washed up, possibly loosened by recent dredging of the inlet, was a fairlead block, the type commonly used aboard 19th century vessels to secure sails.
Curious about the maritime treasure, Hearn toted the 25-30 pound find to the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Museum on Route 9, Swainton. That facility has, among its artifacts, many related to the county’s early fishing and whaling industries.
Those at the maritime section of the museum told Hearn that the device was likely carved from oak, since that was a favored wood for such purposes. Although worm-eaten to some degree, the block retained much of its character, four smooth ridges on one end, two larger on the other, and concave on the outer sides.
Hearn believes the object could well have fallen from one of the many fishing vessels that used to dock at Moore’s Inlet, a busy commercial fishing mooring in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Hearn has kept the artifact wet so that it wuld not dry out and possibly deteriorate.
John Hearn of North Wildwood with oak fairlead block his son, Shane, spotted at Second Avenue jetty, North Wildwood, Sat., Jan. 28. Photo by Al Campbell
Details of the hand-carved block showing worm damage.