The Wreck of the Lizzie Carr: We explore the past, and the future

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Transcendental DadWe are on a beach exploring an honest-to-goodness shipwreck.

In our short time together Little Bean and I have explored many things – caves, towers, deep woods, sand pits, foundations. This is our first shipwreck.

My daughter runs out ahead of us, slowing when she reaches the ribs of the Lizzie Carr, sticking out of the sand near an inlet on Pirate’s Cove Beach in Rye, N.H.

She turns to look at us. I nod, giving her permission to touch the slick, cold timbers of the vessel.

The 286-ton Lizzie Carr was a two-masted schooner, carrying a cargo full of timber from Calais, Maine, when a sudden storm shattered her on the rocks of Rye Harbor back in January of 1905. She was built in 1868.

“What part is this,” Little Bean is asking. “Can I take a piece home?”

“I’m guessing these are some of the ribs of the hull,” I say. “And sorry Indiana Jones, she’s considered a historic artifact and they don’t allow people to take her apart.”

I’m not entirely certain this is true. Over the decades, many, many chunks of the Lizzie Carr have reportedly ended up bracing a variety of homes along the nearby coast. Plus, chunks of her hull are on display at the Seacoast Science Center and Rye Historical Museum. Pieces of her are already scattered around the beach, little slivers of ancient wood here or there poking out of the sand or water. A 20-foot beam rests further down the beach.

Residents remember exploring the Lizzie Carr as kids as far back as the late 1950s. Back then, a brave explorer could walk straight into her crumbling hold. Nowadays, what’s left of her remains mostly buried. But every so often a big storm will sweep in and temporarily wash away the wreck’s protective sand, like this past week.

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My daughter walks the length of the wreck, poking around in between the beams and protruding trunnels. But the wreck is drawing a lot of attention this weekend so there’s a lot of people around. Plus, she has Pip the pup with her so her interest wanes. We’re here at low tide and that means, rocks and snails and mysterious, smelly seafoam.

Lizzie’s slick timbers, here on a popular tourist beach just seconds from hot dogs and ice cream, connects us, of course, to the past. She also serves as a warning, occasionally popping up out of the ground to remind us not to mess with the ocean.

But Little Bean sees potential. She sees water teaming with life, and shell fragments. She sees a chance to run with her dog.

I watch her climb up onto the long beam from the wreck, like a gymnast on a balance beam, and walk down to the lip of the ocean. She turns back to us and grins, dipping her hands into the cold water. My explorer retrieves a shiny, small stone and tucks it into her pocket – a treasure unattainable if not for a ship built 156 years ago.

In a few hours the tide will return and cover the Lizzie Carr, maybe for a day, maybe for a year, maybe until a time when my daughter brings her own children to the site and they walk along the crumbling planks.

Maybe she’ll still have that stone. Maybe they’ll have their own dog. The past will reveal itself again, the tide or the storms giving us another chance to peer into the looking glass.

The old Lizzie Carr, sunk and abandoned all those years ago, might rise for them again, and my daughter will see the ship, and her kids, and the dad who took her to walk those same old, tired beams. The old Lizzie Carr, immortal.

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About this Author

Dan Szczesny

Dan Szczesny is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife and energetic daughter in Manchester. Dan writes a daily journal called Day By Day where you can subscribe for FREE to get essays, articles and updated. Learn more about Dan’s adventures and Day By Day at