Shipwreck: Folias

Skip Gillham
Vineland, Ontario, Canada

WHILE 1988 will be remembered most by hurricane watchers for the infamous Gilbert, Hurricane Joan also left a path of destruction. The latter storm formed in the Atlantic on October 11, 1988, and eventually worked across northern South America and into the Caribbean leaving damage along the way. At that time it was the most southerly Category 4 hurricane on record.

Joan ploughed into Nicaragua, just south of Bluefields, on October 23 and pounded the helpless residents with high winds and torrents of rain. There were 148 deaths in that country and over 200 in the path of the storm. Flooding and widespread economic suffering resulted and damage was listed a $2 billion U.S.

The massive storm then crossed the Central America land mass and reformed in the Pacific as Hurricane Miriam before dissipating.

The aging freighter Hope was caught in the path of the storm. It had been awaiting scrapping in Nicaragua but was ripped from its mooring by the wind and waves and driven aground. Other smaller vessels were sunk or washed ashore and abandoned.

Hope had been built at Hull 355 by A/B Finboda Varf at Stockholm, Sweden. The ship was launched as Fortuna on December 14, 1954, and completed the following April. The vessel joined Stockholms Rederi A.B. Svea and flew the flag of Sweden.

This was very much a standard freighter of the post World War Two era. The 2,410 gross ton carrier was 357 feet long by 47 feet, 1 inch wide and had the pilothouse, accommodations and engine room amidships.

The Folias

Folias at Boston on May 19, 1966. (William A. Schell)

The Hope

Hope aground off Nicaragua in 1994. (Bruce Foreman)

Fortuna had five cargo holds, served by five hatches, and was registered at 2,410 gross and 1,053 net tons. Powered by a 4,050 horsepower Fiat oil engine, the vessel could carry 3,665 tons deadweight. The ship had some space for refrigerated cargo and was strengthened for navigation in ice. It was also able to accommodate up to four passengers for guests wishing to experience leisurely freighter travel and see world ports from a different perspective.

Fortuna spent a little over a decade in company service before being sold in 1966 to Ships A/S Fortuna. The owners reregistered the vessel in Norway as Folias for Hans Magensen. By now, the vessel was noted at 2,356 gross, 1,000 net and 3,665 deadweight.

While Fortuna had concentrated on deep sea runs, the white hulled Folias made two trips through the St. Lawrence Seaway and entered the Great Lakes in 1967.

Changing times and advancing years found Folias for sale again in 1972. This time it was purchased by the El Provenir Shipping Co. and registered in Corinto, Nicaragua, as Hope. The new owners likely used the ship on the Caribbean and around the Gulf of Mexico.

In October 1979 Hope was laid up at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. This is located south of Honduras on the Gulf of Mexico side of the country. The ship was listed as sold to Ope Shipping Ltd. of the Cayman Islands in 1979 but may not have seen any additional service.

A resale to Nicaraguan shipbreakers was reported in October 1984 and scrapping got underway at a leisurely pace. The hull was generally intact when Hurricane Joan arrived and the vessel was still stranded when observed off the coast in early 1994. It may still be there.