New Jersey Maritime Museum

For a number of years this was the official website for the New Jersey Maritime Museum.

Content is from the site's 2008-2014 archived pages.
Enjoy the nostalgic look back.

If you have inadvertently ended up here while searching for the New Jersey Maritime Museum, please go to their current website at:


Dedicated to the preservation of New Jersey maritime history!

June - July - August
Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

September through May
Friday - Saturday - Sunday
10 am to 4 pm

Note:  The Museum is open additional hours throughout the year upon request;  individuals and organizations wishing to schedule group tours or arrange for private use of the facility (parties, receptions, meetings, etc.) are encouraged to make reservations for such events well in advance to ensure availability.

Dock Road and West Avenue - Beach Haven, NJ, 08008
Phone: (609) 492-0202 | Fax: (609) 492-7575

The NJ Maritime Museum is located on the corner of Dock Road and West Avenue in Beach Haven - Approximately 7 miles south of the Rt. 72 Causeway.
Note:  If you pass the orange Beach Haven water tower, you went 2 blocks too far!

Curators:  Bart Malone, Deb Whitcraft, Jim Vogel


This corporation is a museum organized exclusively for educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  This corporation's educational purposes include, among other things, providing a facility for the public display of a significant number of marine artifacts.  The display of said artifacts will encourage maritime research, historical instruction by guest lecturers and promote the education of the public about New Jersey's maritime history.

New Jersey Maritime Museum

Located in Beach Haven, the museum is “dedicated to the preservation of New Jersey maritime history.” On their website can be found a list of the museum contents, such as the Morro Castle Shipwreck Exhibit; a research library of rare and out-of-print books, Sailor’s Magazine, Naval Journal, and shipwreck photographs and files; antique diving gear and navigational equipment; and a U.S. Life Saving Service Exhibit. There are also pages on the Texas Tower 4 wreck, the exploration of the wreck of the Andrea Doria ocean liner, the anniversary of the Morro Castle wreck, photographs of the museum, a newsletter, and links to other maritime history websites.

SUMMER  2014

Register at
Teen Program:
July 21-25  Mon. thru Fri.  9 am - 2 pm
$295/Camper per week

July 14-18;
July 21-25
July 28-Aug. 1
Aug. 11-15
Mon. thru Fri. 9 am to 2 pm
$295/camper per week



  • U.S. Life Saving Service Exhibit:  Rare documents;  station log books;  uniform medals and buttons;  complete 39-volume set of annual USLSS reports from 1876 to 1914;  Lyle gun;  coston cannister;  patrolman "checks" and much more!
  • Rare post-card collection of New Jersey towns, USLSS stations, lighthouses and other maritime-related fields.
  • Extensive research library, consisting of hundreds of rare, out-of-print books,  Sailor's Magazine and Naval Journal, shipwreck files and photographs.
  • Pre-historic fossils recovered from the inter-continental shelf off the New Jersey coast on loan from Ray Young of Manahawkin.
  • Antique navigational equipment, including taffrails, speaking trumpet, chronograph, compass, inclinometer, etc.
  • Photographs of Beach Haven's 1930's head-boats by renowned photographer Dave Gurtcheff, along with classic scenes of yesteryear Beach Haven and other New Jersey coastal communities.
  • Large number of shipwreck artifacts recovered from various wreck sites off the New Jersey coast by well-known members of the diving community.
  • Antique china and silver depicting coastal towns, life-saving stations and lighthouses along the New Jersey coast.
  • The most extensive Morro Castle shipwreck exhibit ever seen, including:  rare photographs, original 1934 video news footage of the disaster;  an authenticated life-vest worn by one of the survivors;  original Acme News media photos;  autographed menus;  1934 newspaper accounts;  stateroom keys;  rescuer notes;  inscribed tokens, rescuer notes and much more.
  • Antique diving gear, including a pair of Mark V Navy diving outfits;  rebreather, double hose regulators, etc.
  • Beautiful china plates, platters, pitchers and other artifacts recovered from the 1827 wreck of the Aurora off Sandy Hook.



Save the date!
"Tribute to the Commercial Fisherman"

Saturday, September 13th, 2014
5 pm to 11 pm

Indoor-Outdoor Tented Affair - Casual Attire
Fabulous Pig Roast & Salads from Okie's Butcher Shop
Seafood - Pasta - Vegetarian Dishes - Desserts
Delectable Foods Donated by Local Food Establishments
Full Service Cash Bar - Oldies DJ Entertainment
Chinese Auction - 50/50 Raffle - Silent Auction

All Tickets $50
Tickets available in advance and at door!
Call 609-492-0202 for information
Or visit our website at




As a member of the NJ Maritime Museum, you will enjoy special members-only benefits, including free admission to special events; unlimited access to the Museum’s internet café, lending library, rare book collection and shipwreck database; use of the maritime facility for private affairs and meetings; a 10% discount on gift-shop merchandise; museum bumper sticker, pin, tote bag; and receipt of our quarterly newsletter.

1 Full Year from Date of Enrollment

$     25     Student/Senior Member
$     50     Surfman
$   100     Surfman Family
$   250     Keeper
$   500     Superintendent


$  1,000     Individual
$  2,500     Family
$  5,000+   Corporate Sponsor
$10,000+   Individual Benefactor
$25,000+   Corporate Benefactor

The NJ Maritime Museum needs your financial support if we are to continue to build our educational exhibits and presentations to inform and inspire Americans of all ages about the importance of preserving New Jersey’s rich maritime history.  

Public Charity Status:  170(b)(A)(vi)
Effective Date of Exemption:  April 26, 2005
EIN:  76-0730192




Welcome to the NJ Maritime Museum’s Shipwreck Data Base.  The museum has a filing system with over 4600 folders, each folder describing the misfortune of a ship in as much detail as could be gathered.  From each folder, key pieces of information have been transcribed into a data sheet.  This is a collection of facts about each incident boiled down to key words and phrases to make the information searchable. Longer narrative on an event can be obtained by going to the physical files at the museum.
This data base was built using Fusion Tables, an experimental tool developed by Google. Conducting a      search is easy using the filter key.  Perhaps you are looking for information on a US Naval destroyer. Click on Filter; scroll down and click on Vessel Type.  Since there are many vessel types, you can scroll down to Destroyer or simply type Destroyer in the box.  Once done, all the destroyers in our data base will be listed. To back up, simply click on the “X” beside the filter.
We welcome your comments and suggestions.  We also welcome any new information, additions or corrections to the data we are presenting here.  Please send any comments to

This data base focuses on maritime events that occurred in the waters along the New Jersey coast, primarily the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Delaware River. The information contained in this data base was collected from a vast number of sources including newspaper archives, ship’s logs, diaries, USLSS annual reports, shipwreck books, periodicals and many web sites on the internet. Where there was conflicting information, the most frequent or most logical choice was used.




Presentation given by Chuck Zimmaro and Tom Roach
May 30, 2008

Texas Tower 4

Deep below the ocean’s surface off the shoreline of New Jersey lie the slowly shifting remains of an enormous, unique structure – a submerged tower that has long held a fascination for divers and historians, as well as for those who lost a family member or friend to its ruin.
“Eighty-five miles off the New Jersey coast is a wreck that ... rivals the Titanic in size, yet it is all but lost in the lore of sea disasters,” said Chuck Zimmaro during a presentation that he and fellow long-time diver Tom Roach gave at the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History in Beach Haven on Friday evening.
This wreck, said museum curator Deborah Whitcraft at the start of the evening, was called Texas Tower 4. As Whitcraft introduced Roach and Zimmaro to the sizable crowd seated in the museum’s front room, she noted that both men have been diving and researching the underwater site for more than 30 years.
Roach led the first organized charter dives to the tower, while Zimmaro was the designated mission specialist for submersible operations on two NOAA-funded expeditions to the wreck.

On Friday, Zimmaro summarized the tale of Texas Tower 4. “The big wreck has all the elements of a great disaster-at-sea story. Human error exploited by nature at its cruelest. Gambles taken, and lost, in a sea that had turned predator. Rescuers on the horizon, but helpless against the elements. Personal tragedy compounded by bitter irony. 
“The one element missing from this wreck,” he continued, “is that it isn’t a ship; it was a huge, triangular-shaped radar platform that stood 90 feet above the ocean’s surface, supported by three 310-foot-long fuel legs deeply imbedded in deep sand on the ocean bottom in over 190 feet of water.” 
This platform, along with two other Texas Towers – named as such because of their resemblance to ocean oil-drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico – was created for the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, around the time of the Cold War, to operate as radar sites meant to guard the country against possible attacks by the Soviets. Each tower was staffed by 70 men, both USAF and civilian.
Forty-seven years ago, said Zimmaro, Texas Tower 4 “crashed into the storm-tossed Atlantic,” an event that claimed the lives of 28 men and turned the tower into “a massive underwater metal mountain.”

In 2001, a team of divers, including Zimmaro, visited the submerged platform for a History Channel expedition, led by Academy Award and Emmy-winning underwater cinematographer Al Giddings. Also along for the excursion were two sons of men who were lost when Texas Tower 4 collapsed. It was “a very emotional trip,” said Zimmaro.
The site, he added, is tough to get to and challenging to dive; the boat ride out to the site is eight hours long, and once there, “the currents were always swift,” and the temperatures at the ocean bottom cold. The site, though, is a worthwhile trip for wreck divers. “In the entire world, there’s only one Texas Tower, and it’s here, off Jersey,” said Zimmaro.
The History Channel turned the footage from the expedition into a television program – the first time the site was documented for TV – that the presentation-goers at the museum watched after Zimmaro’s introduction, during which he called the tower “an engineering marvel.”
Tower 4, a structure made almost entirely of steel and supported by hollow legs, was “remarkable for its time and for its place,” said Professor Robert Bea of the University of California, Berkeley, in the program. In fact, the footage showed that the living quarters were roomy, well lit and air-conditioned, with excellent food and amenities such as television, pool tables, ping-pong tables and a basketball court.
But as the narrator pointed out, the tower – a “mini-city at sea” that stood in water twice as deep as that of its sister towers, and on thinner, more fragile legs – “was doomed before it was even finished. It was a disaster waiting to happen.”
In the video, Zimmaro explains the difficulty in maintaining a structure that is supposed to be stable in such a non-stable environment. Texas Tower 4 did withstand a few strong storms and even hurricanes, but as time passed, the tower began to wobble more and more, earning it the nickname “Old Shaky.”
“The Atlantic Ocean is a mean device,” remarked a man who had worked on the tower and lived to tell about it. Eventually, Texas Tower 4 had taken enough of a beating from the sea and storm winds that it was deemed a hazard.

The Air Force decided to shut down the radar and leave a reduced crew of 28 men on the structure for a period of time, although the consensus among other groups was that all men should be evacuated sooner. Divers attempted to repair the legs of the tower, but without much success. At this point, the narrator explained, “the tower has become a living hell.”
Jan. 14, 1961, dawned with ominous weather predictions. There was talk that the skeleton crew of Texas Tower 4 should be evacuated, but instead, the current commander of the site chose to keep the men at the structure, where they watched as boats, laden with equipment from the tower, steamed away.
The next day, a huge nor’easter covered the tower platform in ice and sent waves the size of 10-story buildings crashing onto the deck. The structure began to fall apart in the 80 mph winds; the sound of clanging metal worsened as the storm did the same.
A Coast Guard boat raced toward the structure to evacuate the men; along the way, the vessel was hit by a giant rogue wave, which the captain knew was headed in the direction of the tower. Another boat was closer to the site, and the captain of that ship watched as Texas Tower 4 blinked on his radar screen and then, suddenly, stopped blinking.
The tower was gone; all 28 men were plunged into the icy water. A proper, effective rescue was impossible because of the rough seas. Later, as newspapers began to report that the radar setup had disappeared in the ocean, the bodies of just two men were found, along with the wallet of a third.
“It could’ve been prevented,” claimed Bea near the end of the TV program.

After the video, audience member Robert Murkenwho had walked the decks of Texas Tower 4 when he was a petty officer in the Coast Guard, said of the structure, “It was beautiful.” But the crew, he noted, “said it was shaky.”

Roach explained that when he first dove the huge, spectacular wreck of the tower when it was still largely intact, “it was like everybody just walked off. But it was tilted,” and he sometimes spotted 20-pound lobsters walking around on what is essentially the gravesite of a unique piece of New Jersey’s maritime history.
Zimmaro and Roach both dove with the Eastern Divers Association, one of the principal diving organizations in the 1960s and ’70s. Roach, the EDA president, has been diving since 1969 – to a great extent along the Eastern Seaboard – and is now a commercial diver.
Over the years, Roach has given presentations at various conferences and clinics, and he has penned numerous articles for Skin Diver magazine, as has Zimmaro, who has also written for, and submitted drawings and photographs to, Sport DiverScuba TimesNortheast Dive NewsSea Classics and other publications.
Zimmaro began diving in 1966, and he has shared his years of diving experience as a certified scuba instructor who has taught classes at a number of universities. He has also appeared on the History Channel's Modern Marvels and Time Machine.
The Museum of New Jersey Maritime History, located at the corner of Dock Road and West Avenue in Beach Haven, is open daily, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., throughout the summer. More presentations will be announced in the future.




Presentation by Chuck Zimmaro & Tom Roach
Friday, June 18th - 7 PM

It is January 1942, and Germany has sent its U-boat fleet to the rich untapped hunting grounds off the eastern coast of the United States.  New Jersey stood as the southern gateway to New York Harbor.  All shipping from the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and all ports south had to travel up the New Jersey coast on their way to New York and Boston. 

 The waters off of New Jersey's coast would serve as the stage for nearly three years of sinkings and death, tragedy and heroism.  In the first 6 months alone of the U-boat war against the U.S., 397 ships and roughly 5000 lives were lost!

Come and see what it was like to dive on both the Hunters and the Hunted of that conflict in the early days of east coast wreck diving in the 1960’s and 70’s. 


Lost at sea: Collapse of Air Force tower recalled

By JESSICA INFANTE • Staff Writer • May 13, 2009

BEACH HAVEN — Imagine a wall of water more than 100 feet high slamming into the three-legged U.S. Air Force radar tower where you're stationed 85 miles into the sea.

The tale of the ill-fated Texas Tower 4 off the coast of New Jersey, which toppled in a nor'easter on Jan. 15, 1961 and cost 28 men their lives, has "all the elements of a great disaster at sea story," diver Chuck Zimmaro said during a packed house presentation titled "Doomed Tower at Sea" on May 8 at the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.
"It's a wreck that some have said rivals the Titanic," Zimmaro said of the site which he described as a "huge underwater metal mountain."
The Texas Towers, so named because they resembled oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, housed radar equipment in three rubber domes and extended the United States' monitoring abilities almost 150 miles into the ocean, critical in case of a Soviet attack from the north or east.
"It provided at least 45 minutes to one hour's warning time," Zimmaro said. "It was enough to get airplanes airborn."
Zimmaro and Tom Roach, both divers since the 1960s, have descended almost 200 feet into the Atlantic Ocean to explore the remains of Texas Tower 4. In 2001, they lent their expertise to a History Channel special shot by famed underwater cinematographer Al Giddings. Joining the crew were Larry Phelan and Don Abbott, whose fathers perished when the tower sank. During dives taken while filming, divers were able to recover some artifacts from the wreck for Phelan and Abbott.
Roach and Zimmaro's presentation featured photos taken behind the scenes during filming and the History Channel special itself, which detailed the tower's life from its construction to its collapse. Experts interviewed for the show, including University of California at Berkeley professor Robert Bea, concluded that poor design from the outset set the tower up to fail.

Two sister towers were built off the coasts of Cape Cod and Nantucket but those towers' legs were sunk 60 feet and 80 feet, respectively, into the bedrock at the ocean floor. By comparison, Texas Tower 4's legs only reached 15 feet into the sand and had walls less than an inch thick, Zimmaro said.
A few months prior to the nor'easter that sank the tower, Hurricane Donna tested — and severely damaged — the tower when it crossed directly over the tower in August 1960. The crew was not evacuated and had to weather the storm.
A few months prior to the nor'easter that sank the tower, Hurricane Donna tested — and severely damaged — the tower when it crossed directly over the tower in August 1960. The crew was not evacuated and had to weather the storm.
"The tower shuddered and we all ran to grab our lifevests," crew member Don Slutzky said in the documentary.
Capt. Gordon Phelan, Larry Phelan's father, had some strong words to describe the harrowing event in his log: "NEVER AGAIN."
In January 1961, the Air Force decided to shut down Tower 4 but the order was to be executed too late. The tower toppled between the decision and the date to remove the crew, Zimmaro said.

The weekend that Tower 4 fell into the icy Atlantic, Capt. Sixto Mangual, who served as the captain of the Navy supply ship AKL-17 that serviced the tower, warned Phelan of impending ominous weather but Phelan's superiors instructed him and his crew to stay. At 1 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1961, Phelan called his wife and said the tower was gyrating, Zimmaro said. The Air Force decided that the crew would be evacuated from the tower at 3 a.m. on Jan. 16, when it looked like the storm would break. An aircraft carrier and Mangual's ship stayed in the vicinity.

At 7:28 p.m., Mangual watched the radar blip representing Tower 4 disappear from his screen, Zimmaro said.
Twenty-eight men, both airmen and civilians, perished. News of their death came to their families in the form of reporters' questions before any official notice from the Air Force.
The wreck now serves as a watery cemetery for those who were lost at sea.
"For me, it's a gravesite," Zimmaro said in the documentary. "It's a sacred site; we go and pay our homage when we dive."
Ralph Mason and Alice Petkus, of Wyckoff and Surf City, attended the event. Both called the story "fascinating."
Mason said he was "amazed that such a venture was taken back then to protect from an attack." Petkus said that she felt better choices could have changed the crew's fate.
"The decisions that were made were horrible," she said.


Divers tell of exploring oceanliner Andrea Doria 200 feet down

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, 609-978-2015
Published: Saturday, December 13, 2008

 BEACH HAVEN - Referred to as the Mount Everest of diving, the Andrea Doria has taken the lives of 15 divers. Reaching parts of the wreckage requires a plunge of more than 250 feet. Two divers who made it out of the wreck several times spoke and showed an underwater video of their experiences Friday night at the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.
Steve Gatto and Tom Packer have been exploring and photographing offshore shipwrecks together for almost 30 years, including 19 consecutive years on the Italian ocean liner the Andrea Doria. Other underwater wrecks they have explored include the USS Monitor, Nantucket Lightship, submarines, tankers, freighters, steamers, paddle wheelersand schooners. Gatto and Packer last dove to the Andrea Doria in 2006 for the 50th anniversary of its sinking.

The Andrea Doria was an oceangoing gallery of Italy's finest works of art, but the upscale vessel sank July 25, 1956, after colliding with the MS Stockholm off the coast of Nantucket Island, Mass. Forty-six people died in the collision. The oceanliner sunk the following morning.

The video Packer and Gatto showed to a crowded room Friday night was of a dive to the Andrea Doria - what they consider the ultimate dive. They begin their dive on the promenade deck of the Andrea Doria in about 170 feet of water. Gatto said the promenade deck no longer exists, having been corroded away by saltwater.
Through cloudy, dark, debris-infested water, pipes could be seen fastened to the inside of the engine room casing. Sea anemones attached themselves to all portions of the wreckage.
Gatto and Packer swam deeper, to 230-feet, toward the runway. At one point in the video, Packer wipes debris from the port to expose Italian writing beneath. In another scene, a cooking pot and skillet rest in debris, while nearby dishes rest on a piece of steel. Gatto and Packer's dive on the Andrea Doria in 1996 was about a 25-minute trip. The pair had to decompress for about an hour.

"Places we brought dishes out of are totally gone," said Gatto, a resident of Winslow Township, Camden County.
Dishes were not the only things Packer, of Berlin, Camden County, brought up from the wreck. The Museum of New Jersey Maritime History is now the home to the signal bell that was on the stern of the ship, which Packer brought up after a trip in 1985.

Gatto and Packer called the early nineties the dark years because there were so many diver fatalities while exploring the wreck. The pair said for about ten years nothing happened at the site of the Andrea Doria, and then there was a string of deaths.
"There were times when we would go out there, get to the site and look around, wondering who's not going to make it back," Packer said.



Its impact on the New Jersey Maritime Museum



On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we want to thank our members, visitors and friends for their concerns following  this horrific event and its impact on the New Jersey Maritime Museum.  Due to the loss of power, internet access and water, we have not been able to respond to many of the calls, e-mails and texts we received from so many of you.  Three of us, myself, Jim Vogel and Bob Yates, weathered this storm and watched as the flood waters came within inches of the museum's first floor.  We're happy to announce that there was NO damage to either the museum or its contents.  Although the elevator, garages, workshop and contents were destroyed, we consider ourselves lucky, compared to many of our fellow Islanders;  many of whom lost far more and are courageously working to salvage what remains of their businesses and homes.  Upon restoration of power, assessment of losses for insurance purposes, and clean-up of the damage, we plan to reopen as soon as we possibly can.  Thank you for your concern and your support during this challenging time!
Deborah C. Whitcraft


NJ Maritime Museum
528 Dock Road
Beach Haven, NJ   08008

The New Jersey Maritime Museum was constructed and furnished privately with a 42-year collection of maritime memorabilia, and by the loan or donation of countless shipwreck artifacts by the diving community.  No financial aid or grants were obtained from any governmental agency in this endeavor.  Although we will be applying for all available grants to help offset the considerable overhead of such a facility, donations by the general public are solicited - and much appreciated - to help cover a host of related expenses.

Additionally, we welcome the donation or loan of New Jersey maritime-related items, shipwreck artifacts, books and photographs, for which a receipt is issued and insurance provided.

The future of the NJ Maritime Museum is contingent on the support and generosity of those who recognize the importance of preserving the rich maritime history of New Jersey. Thank you for your support!

All contributions are tax-deductible under Section 170 of the Code.  The NJ Maritime Museum is qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under Section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.



2006 -2008 POSTS

Congratulations! Thousands of local insiders named Museum of New Jersey Maritime History the best in the 2009 Best of the Shore HOT LIST contest.


Woman’s Dream Of Maritime Museum Comes True

By Kelley Anne Mc Gee

     Like most young girls growing up, Deborah Whitcraft had her dreams and ambitions. The only difference was hers included opening a maritime museum someday. Her passion for the Jersey Shore and anything nautical relating to it came natural to her, and at just 16, she began collecting memorabilia.;

     Rare books filled with stories, or true accounts of storms, shipwrecks, pirates, rumrunners, shark attacks and life-saving service reports, silver spoons, dishes and paperweights showcasing New Jersey’s lighthouses on them,  pieces of scrimshaw, dramatic photos of significant storms that ravaged coastal communities, lighthouses and their keepers, life-saving stations and their crew, old railroad tickets to shore points, logs of various shipwrecks along the coast, as well as artifacts such as life-preservers from the famed shipwreck the Morro Castle, old fishing reels, ship lanterns and steering wheels, aged oyster knifes, early navigational equipment including a compass, tons of old-fashion postcards depicting New Jersey’s shore towns, as well as fishing and boating scenes, articles on maritime disasters, along with odds and ends, were just some of the treasures she came across.

     Her unusual career path seemed to almost always connect her to the shore and with seafaring, one way or another. There was the diving business she owned and operated, and diving expeditions with fellow divers to wrecks along the Jersey coast.

     Then the Beach Haven Fishing Centre, and the partnership of the Black Whale, which still exists today, a paddlewheel riverboat that takes passengers on scenic cruises of the back bays to Atlantic City, where she once stood on the dock, and happily greeted passengers with her two adorable black labs, who would entertain folks until cruise time by diving into the bay for a refreshing dip and favorite stick.

     For a time, she lectured plus wrote scores of columns on maritime subjects for local publications, and served several terms as mayor for the shore town of Beach Haven.

     Over the years, as her hobby and interests in this area grew, so did her collection, and when she ran out of room, friends kindly picked-up the slack and offered her storage space for her finds.

     After years of hard work, selling off businesses to help finance her project, and with the support and encouragement of her husband Jim Vogel, and business partner Bob Yates,  she was able to start working on her long time dream.

     Two large parking lots, which once served as additional parking space for buses for tour groups and overflowing passengers boarding the Black Whale, would be the foundation of the museum and its eventual new home. She went to work on her ideas, and met with architects to discuss the design of the museum.

     However, she faced challenges ahead, some anticipated, others not expected, and one of the most difficult, seeing her husband through a serious illness. But like the tides, life ebbs and flows, and somehow she pressed on. 

     Finally, after 35 years of dreaming and collecting, and working towards her goal, her dream came true in July of 2007, when she opened the long awaited Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.

     Located on Dock Road and West Avenue in Beach Haven on Long Beach Island, the outside of the handsome green building, first greets visitors with a grand ship’s anchor, high flying American flag, and lower flying pirate flag featuring a Jolly Roger on it.

     Once inside, the museum offers several floors and rooms filled with a splendid collection of everything nautical you could possibly imagine, associated with the Jersey Shore. In addition to Ms. Whitcraft’s personal collection, local divers and fishermen have generously contributed their fair share of finds to the museum also.

     One room is solely dedicated to the shipwreck of the Morro Castle, which sunk off the coast of Asbury Park in 1934, and killed approximately 134 passengers. The room contains artifacts  pertaining to the ill-fated luxury cruise liner, as well as rare photos and news articles, and a newsreel shows actual footage regarding the doomed ship and its impact on crew and passengers.

     Other newsreels located throughout the museum, document intriguing stories and or histories on topics such as shipwrecks, storms, pirates, rumrunners, and shark attacks that affected the Jersey coast.

     The museum contains an internet café, gift-shop, a maritime library, one of the largest of its kind, and is a lending library as well.

     Throughout the year, the museum will feature different displays and changing theme exhibits, have interesting guest speakers and  programs, and hold special events.

     The museum will occasionally travel and visit places such as schools and clubs for group presentations and discussions, upon requests.

     Incidentally, the museum is also the new home for Alliance for a living Ocean, a non-profit group dedicated to the protection of the marine environment, and helps to promote a clean and healthy ocean.

     For couples who love the shore and a nautical atmosphere, and are looking for a memorable way or unusual place to marry, they may like to consider holding their wedding ceremony at the museum. Ms. Whitcraft can perform official civil wedding ceremonies, and several couples have already taken the plunge there. All of the proceeds are donated back to the non-profit museum.

     Although the new maritime museum is a personal achievement that has made Ms. Whitcraft extremely happy, and her dream’s come true, she had other reasons for establishing it.  

     “The Jersey Shore has such a rich heritage when it comes to its past, it be a shame if that were ever truly lost or forgotten somehow. I want to help preserve that, and share it with others, as well as pass it on to younger generations.

     Maritime history in general has played such a huge and important role at the shore, it’s so precious, and also what helps give the shore its unique flavor, it’s a very special place.

     I find the shore and all that it encompasses, just fascinating, I hope others will too. I’m hoping the museum helps spread interest to others, and long after I’m gone, I hope the spirit of the Jersey Shore and its maritime ties will survive and help live on through this museum,” Ms. Whitcraft explains.

     The only thing missing from this whole experience for Ms. Whitcraft, is her biggest fan and cheerleader, her  dad. He did not live to see his daughter’s dream of the maritime museum come true. He passed away sadly enough last year. But I have the feeling he knows, and would be especially proud of his daughter and her accomplishments. Few others might’ve shown as much patience, determination, or ever achieved such a great feat.

     The Museum of New Jersey Maritime History, is one woman’s incredible odyssey and collection that began 35 years ago, and luckily for us, her love affair with the Jersey Shore, and its nautical reminders.

     The museum offers self-guided or group tours, arrangements for group tours should be made in advance. Also, anyone who has anything of interest regarding the Jersey Shore they would like to either share or donate, whether it be a presentation of some kind or nautical artifacts, are encouraged to contact the museum. Opportunities also exist for volunteers in all areas and departments.

     The museum has on premise public restrooms, is handicapped accessible, and has elevators. Free admission, but donations gladly accepted and very much appreciated. Free parking on the premises and nearby municipal parking also available.

     The museum is open daily during summer, and in the off-season, Thursdays thru Sundays year-round. Check ahead for hours of operation and schedule of guests/programs/events. For additional information on the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History, please contact Phone: (609) 482-0202 or visit Website: .



Visit Beach Haven and catch a wave of maritime history

Posted by the Ocean County Observer on 07/20/07

If you like your history with a dash of salt lots of it is now being dished up on both sides of Barnegat Bay in southern Ocean County.

In the Queen City, former Beach Haven Mayor Deb Whitcraft has navigated the shoals of political pettiness to open her long-time dream, the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.

It is rich in the history of the Jersey Shore, the ships that wrecked there, and the treasures recovered by the group of divers with which Whitcraft ventured to the sea bottom.

They were anxious for a place to display what they found, and to put them into the context of history.

It was a dream of Whitcraft's to provide such a place, one her late father pushed her to realize. The results of her work, research, diving, and collecting is on display there in a venture supported by both her former and current husbands. Talk about a diplomat!

We have no doubt that, in short order, the New Jersey Museum of Maritime History will be one of the reasons people visit Long Beach Island and Beach Haven.

Across the bay, the Tuckerton Seaport is also rich with history of the maritime traditions of the region.

How long will it be before somebody links the two with a sail or cruise across the bay, timed for dinner at one of the Beach Haven restaurants and a sunset cruise back to Tuckerton?

Those taking that cruise could retrace the route taken by the early developers of Long Beach Island as a tourist destination. They would not be disappointed at the historic and other offerings on either side of the bay.


Maritime museum opens in Beach Haven

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015
(Published: July 4, 2007)
BEACH HAVEN — A red, white and blue “Open” flag waved from the porch of the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History on Tuesday afternoon. The museum was 35 years in the making.

Former Mayor Deb Whitcraft smiled Tuesday afternoon as she put the finishing touches on captions for the hundreds of shipwreck photos on the walls of the museum.
Inside the front doors visitors were greeted by a pair of upright commercial hard-hat diving outfits from the 1940s.
An entire room on the first floor is dedicated to the Morro Castle, a luxury cruise ship that ran between New York City and Havana, Cuba, in the 1930s. The Morro Castle caught fire and burned, killing 134 passengers and crew members. The ship eventually beached itself near Asbury Park.
The museum is also equipped with a handicapped-access elevator.

Frank Malizia and his wife, Donna Guenther, of Montclair took their time exploring the Morro Castle room Tuesday evening. Guenther and her husband have been coming to Long Beach Island on vacation for 30 years, she said. The couple had time before taking an evening cruise.
“We were here for Memorial Day, and we were disappointed it was closed. But this is stunning; it's remarkable and so well-done,” Guenther said.
Malizia said he was amazed with what has been achieved with the museum.
Barbara Witkowski, of Moorestown, has a home in Holgate and said she has been waiting for the museum to open. As she and her family wandered around Beach Haven after dinner Tuesday evening, they came in to explore the museum. There is a lot of history in the area, but no one is really putting it together, Witkowski said.

“We're thrilled. It's a gorgeous building, and I like the fact that all the history is from all the coastal towns and not just local ones,” Witkowski said.
“I'll be back for the free Wi-Fi,” said Witkowski's son Jason.
Whitcraft is offering free Internet access inside the museum as well as a maritime history library that includes New Jersey history.
The museum is also the new home of the Alliance for a Living Ocean. Whitcraft donated the space to ALO.
Whitcraft said she decided 35 years ago that opening a maritime museum was her dream.
But the road to making that dream come true has not been easy.
A year into the process of planning the museum in 2005, Whitcraft's husband, James Vogel, was diagnosed with throat cancer. Whitcraft said that anything that could have gone wrong did.

“I'm relieved that many months of turmoil and obstacles have been overcome to make this a reality,” Whitcraft said. “There's finally light at the end of the tunnel.”
The same year Vogel was battling cancer, the project faced a legal challenge from the adjacent Ketch Bar and Restaurant, owned by now borough Commissioner Michael Battista. Battista was one of the candidates who defeated Whitcraft in last year's elections.
The lawsuit challenged Whitcraft's plan to live in an apartment above the museum, contending that mixed residential and commercial use was inappropriate for an area that is zoned for maritime and commercial use.
Superior Court Judge Eugene Serpentelli ruled that, due to a law change, the museum did not have to come back before the Land Use Board, and Whitcraft said Battista did not appeal the ruling.

Vogel and Whitcraft live above the museum. Her ex-husband and business partner Bob Yates also has an apartment in the building. Yates joked Tuesday evening that Whitcraft is the curator of the museum and that he and Vogel are the janitors.
Vogel is doing better now; his cancer is in remission.

Last year Whitcraft had hopes to open for the Fourth of July, but due to more legal challenges by Battista, Whitcraft's opening plans did not come to fruition.
Whitcraft said she was forced to go before the Land Use Board three times seeking approval due to challenges by Battista.
In February, Whitcraft went before the Land Use Board. Battista's attorney Arnold Lakind raised issues with a fence, handicapped parking space, flag pole, overhang, garage doors and dog fence on the museum property. After a long winter night of legal wrangling, Whitcraft got her approval.
Mayor Tom Stewart and board member Doug Buchan voted against Whitcraft's application. Battista, Stewart and Buchan could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Whitcraft said she was looking to move on and devote her time to running the museum.

“It's a fulltime job and there's a lot of work that needs to be done. I'm lucky to have a husband and ex-husband who have supported me throughout all of these years,” Whitcraft said.


May 11, 2006: New Jersey Mayor Wants a Maritime Museum for her Artifacts and Rare Books

"Deborah Whitcraft's public life is just one chapter in a career as wreck diver, excursion boat operator and all-around waterwoman entrepreneur. She says she will stay active in the borough, working on the Beach Haven First Aid Squad and the municipal Internet site. Her bigger project is a maritime museum for her collection of artifacts and rare books."


Maritime Museum in Beach Haven

Looking for something to do when it’s necessary to get out of the sun and off the beach? A new maritime museum has opened in Beach Haven, a community on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. The Asbury Park Press reports that the new Museum of New Jersey Maritime History was the pet project of Beach Haven’s mayor, Deborah C. Whitcraft, an avid diver and historian.

The museum opened on Sunday, and you can find information on shipwrecks in the area, pirate tales and shark attacks. The museum is also the headquarters for Alliance for a Living Ocean, a grass-roots organization that focuses on the coastal environment. The newspaper reports:

Along with her husband, Jim Vogel, and her ex-husband and business partner, Bob Yates, Whitcraft created a place where nautical artifacts, historic photos and prized volumes of record books can be viewed by the public.

“The majority of artifacts actually were donated by this wonderful group of guys I used to dive with,” Whitcraft said. “Divers are egotists and they loved to have their stuff seen.”

For the last 35 years, Whitcraft has been an avid collector and historian for all things pertaining to sea.

The museum contains a complete set of 39 volumes of annual reports from the U.S. Lifesaving Service, precursor to the modern-day Coast Guard. Whitcraft said the reports are an extremely rare find.

“There were so few full volumes of U.S. Lifesaving Service annual reports from 1876 until 1914,” she said. In 1915, the Coast Guard was formed and took over the reporting.

“I used to visit these cemeteries all over the state where a lot of sailors and sea captains were buried,” Whitcraft said.



Maritime museum has grand opening

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015
(Published: July 20, 2007)
BEACH HAVEN — On Sunday the New Jersey Museum of Maritime History had its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Museum director and former Mayor Deb Whitcraft stood between her business partner Bob Yates and her husband, James Vogel, to cut the ribbon.

"I've never been happier," Whitcraft said Wednesday. "I'm finally doing what I have always wanted to do."

There is no entry fee at the museum and the hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Whitcraft said she will operate the musuem year-round.

For more information call (609) 492-3645.



Maritime museum has no room for beef

Posted by the Times-Beacon Newspapers on 07/18/07
In most towns, when something as special as Beach Haven's new Maritime History Museum opens, officials flock to the site and praise it to the skies.
But not in Beach Haven. The new museum, which certainly is a welcome addition to Long Beach Island as well as Ocean County, is owned by Deborah Whitcraft, former Beach Haven mayor, and her husband Jim Vogel.

In Washington and Trenton, politicians fight, and though they may hate each other's guts, they kiss and make up — at least in public. But not on this stretch of beach.

Whitcraft's successor, Mayor Tom Stewart, voted against the museum, as did another borough official, Michael Battista, who owns a couple of bars/restaurants in town, including one just down the block from the museum. Battista has not forgotten the times, during Whitcraft's reign as mayor, that police were sent to his places on various calls.

There's obviously no love lost between Battista and Whitcraft. Evidently, that was obvious to the judge as well.

In the meantime, the public, who has no political ax to grind, can enjoy a visit to a wonderful museum that has taken years to come to fruition. They can peruse the extensive collection of reference books, look up information on the Internet, learn all about some of the great shipwrecks, such as the Morro Castle, about deep sea diving and more.

The maritime museum complements Long Beach Island's other two museums, the Barnegat Light Historical Museum and the Long Beach Island Historical Museum, also in Beach Haven, very nicely. And, were an enterprising boatman willing to take on the job, a boat taxi service between the Beach Haven Maritime History Museum and the Tuckerton Seaport would be beneficial to both.

The museum also is a perfect fit for the Alliance for a Living Ocean, which educates visitors on the importance of the marine ecology.

We urge everyone to go visit this latest treasure, including Mayor Stewart. We'd like to see him put aside old prejudices, either against Whitcraft or the museum, see for himself how good it is for the town, and show his constituents the kind of grace a good politician can have.

Whitcraft and the late Freeholder/Long Beach Township Mayor Jim Mancini were not exactly best buddies either, but we have no doubt that were he still with us, he would have been at the museum opening Sunday, kissing cheeks and pressing hands and extolling the virtues of the latest jewel in the Ocean County crown.


Open museum is dream come true for ex-mayor

Items include rare Lifesaving Service annual reports
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/19/07

BEACH HAVEN — Talk about a disgruntled worker.

George Rogers thought he was going to be fired from his job, so he devised a plan to save his job. Poison his boss, start a fire at the office and ultimately become a hero by saving people from the inferno.

The day was Sept. 8. The year was 1934. The place was a few miles off the Asbury Park coastline on the Morro Castle ship.

This is just one of the many tales from the sea on display at the new Museum of New Jersey Maritime History located on Dock Road and West Avenue. Its doors officially opened on Sunday, and a long-awaited dream came true for former Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft.

Along with her husband, Jim Vogel, and her ex-husband and business partner, Bob Yates, Whitcraft created a place where nautical artifacts, historic photos and prized volumes of record books can be viewed by the public.

"The majority of artifacts actually were donated by this wonderful group of guys I used to dive with," Whitcraft said. "Divers are egotists and they loved to have their stuff seen."

For the last 35 years, Whitcraft has been an avid collector and historian for all things pertaining to sea.

The museum contains a complete set of 39 volumes of annual reports from the U.S. Lifesaving Service, precursor to the modern-day Coast Guard. Whitcraft said the reports are an extremely rare find.

"There were so few full volumes of U.S. Lifesaving Service annual reports from 1876 until 1914," she said. In 1915, the Coast Guard was formed and took over the reporting.

"I used to visit these cemeteries all over the state where a lot of sailors and sea captains were buried," Whitcraft said.

A lot of the research actually came from the cemeteries because, prior to the Lifesaving Service reports, there weren't any documented accounts of shipwrecks.

"Some of the tombstones would actually put the name of the person when they were able to be identified, the vessel from which they lost there lives, and sometimes they would give you longitude and latitude line."

With New Jersey smack in the middle of two major ports, Philadelphia and New York, there have been plenty of shipwrecks.

Whitcraft has documented 5,400 shipwrecks, which have been added to a computer database that is available to the public.

In addition to annual reports, photos and artifacts, replicas were designed to illustrate how the life-saving stations would have been operated.

One room is entirely dedicated to the Morro Castle disaster.

Filled with memorabilia and Acme photos of the shipwreck, the room has actual newsreels playing that show the survivors and the rescue effort. There is even a life-jacket worn by an actual survivor on display. It was authenticated by Christie's Auction House and valued at $3,000 to $5,000.

Whitcraft said that although 134 people died on the Morro Castle, with some dying in their state rooms from the fire and others drowning, the majority of the fatalities were caused by the life-jackets.

"The life-jacket is filled with hard cork inside," she said.

"The height from which people jumped feet first from the Morro Castle deck — they hit the water with such a tremendous impact that the jackets went up and broke their necks."

The disgruntled worker, George Rogers, was, for a few months portrayed as a hero of Morro Castle. It was found later that he committed arson at a factory where he worked. Once again, he thought he was going to lose his job and did it again, but he got caught. Rogers died in prison, but not before he admitted to the crimes.

Whitcraft, pleased with the museum, does have one regret.

"My Dad was my greatest supporter. He died last year, and I'm just sorry he couldn't see this finished," she said.

In addition to having a research center and a lending library with volumes on topics including shipwrecks, pirates and shark attacks, the museum is the headquarters for Alliance for a Living Ocean, a local grass-roots organization committed to a clean and healthy coastal environment.

The museum's summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.