Christmas Shovel Race!
Crewmen of USS K-6 (Submarine # 37) paddle their dory to victory with coal shovels, during a race with the crew of USS Margaret (SP-527) at Horta, Fayal, Azores, on Christmas Day, 25 December 1917, during the Great War. Photographed by Raymond D. Borden.
K-6, back when the Navy didn’t even bother to name the “pig boats” of the early diesel-submarine force, was a 521-ton K-class submarine built at Fore River under a subcontract from Electric Boat. According to DANFS, she “arrived Ponta Delgada, Azores, 27 October  in company with three other K -class submarines. For more than a year they patrolled the surrounding ocean, searching for German submarines and surface raiders and preventing them from using the islands as a haven.” She decommissioned in 1924 and was scrapped by 1930.
The very fine steam yacht Margaret, a 176-foot narrow-beamed beauty from John Roach’s esteemed yard, was last owned by Isaac Emerson, the CEO of Bromo-Seltzer, and sold to the Navy in August 1917. Skippered by no less a person than LCDR Frank Jack Fletcher, the badly top-heavy ship set forth for the Azores with five other armed yachts and the supply ship USS Hannibal in November 1917 and spent the rest of her military career there as she was in poor health.
“Fletcher eventually prevailed in getting a survey made of Margaret to assess her condition. The survey, conducted in the Azores, found that her deck leaked, her condenser was irreparable, her steam drums were badly worn down and could generate less than half the steam pressure they were supposed to, her crew quarters were uninhabitable, and living conditions were very bad. The Commander, Azores Detachment, A. W. Osterhaus, judged Margaret as unsuited for further service as a patrol vessel and as “nothing more than a piece of junk.”