6,000-pound nun hauled off beach


Updated 7:50 pm 

Coasties from Station Menemsha towed a large Coast Guard buoy, a red nun, off Quansoo Beach Monday morning with assistance from the Aquinnah Fire Department.

The nun washed ashore near the cut to Tisbury Great Pond last week. Two vessels from Station Menemsha were met about 100 yards off the beach by Aquinnah firefighter Mike Parker who was astride a fire department jet ski. Parker brought a ¾-inch tow line ashore and attached it to the nun.

A 47-foot motor boat then dragged the nun into the surf and towed it away. Later the motor lifeboat rendezvoused with a Buoy Utility Stern Loading Boat (BUSL) from the Woods Hole Aids to Navigation (ATON) unit and passed off the nun, Chief Steven White said. White described the nun as 14 feet tall, with a weight of 6,000 pounds. White thanked the Aquinnah Fire Department for its assistance, and said he thought the recovery “went seamlessly.”

Petty Officer Geoffrey Haywood, executive officer of the Woods Hole ATON unit, was aboard the motor lifeboat for the recovery. “Couldn’t ask for a better outcome,” Haywood said. Haywood thanked Station Menemsha and the Aquinnah Fire Department for the recovery effort. 

Senior Chief Justin Longval, officer in charge of Station Menemsha, also thanked the Aquinnah Fire Department for its assistance, and thanked the Woods Hole ATON unit for its help. Chief Longval said recovering the nun “in a timely manner” was essential so there was as little downtime as possible for an important marine marker.

The nun, Haywood said, came from Pollock Rip Shoals, off Monomoy. He said it was unclear how it broke free.

“The channel at Pollock Rip Shoals is centered about three miles east of the southerly end of Monomoy Island in Chatham,” according to an Army Corps of Engineers webpage. “The channel, which runs east-west, is about eight miles south of the Chatham Lighthouse. Vessels passing around the Cape Cod coastline use the channel as a passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Nantucket Sound. The Stonehouse Lightship had previously identified the southeasterly end of the channel until October 1963, when it was removed by the U.S. Coast Guard and replaced with a small buoy.”

That “small buoy” was too heavy for the BUSL, according to Haywood. The ATON unit had to tow the nun too. As of Monday afternoon, the nun was tied to a pier in Woods Hole, Haywood said. On Tuesday, he said, he expects it will be lifted from the water with a forklift, and may be collected by a heavy buoy tender from Rhode Island on the same day.

Cadets from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., who are part of Station Menemsha’s summer cadet training program, participated in the recovery mission. 

Updated with additional details including the origin of the nun. — Ed.


  1. I don’t think it’s appropriate to put how much this woman of god weighs in the headline.

  2. Oh my– this has to be my 6th grade teacher… She must have gained a few pounds later in life. She only weighed 5000 pounds back then. I hope Jesus sent her that special place for people who treat children the way she did.
    Yeah, I went to catholic school through eighth grade and I still have an attitude.

  3. Jessica, if this “6,000 pound nun” was not playing nice with the other Sisters in the Convent, then it’s totally understandable.
    I am certain the Tisbury Police Dept is behind this problem.

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