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Cape Cod Rum Runners

The two-masted Annie L. Spindler, carrying about 800 cases of whiskey, ran aground in front of the Race Point Coast Guard station in Provincetown in December 1922. Town residents stripped the boat of 100 cases before the Coast Guard confiscated the rest. When the Race Point keeper tried to arrest the Spindler’s skipper, he produced his British registration. They not only had to relinquish the liquor but also transport it to another boat at the harbor, which then made its delivery to Plymouth. 

The Oakalee was another liquor-laden vessel that was seized about 10 miles off Nauset Beach in Orleans in 1926, but the boat’s captain used foreign registration and the argument that severe weather had blown him off course to convince a judge to release him.

Once the speedboats were close to shore, dories hauled the cargo to the beach. A large group of hired hands transferred the load to trucks. Manny Zora ran such an operation for Boston gangsters on a Brewster beach one night, with dozens of men in dories, on shore, and in trucks. The hooch was then transferred to a “drop” spot—usually a seaside cottage, fish house, or garage. A shellfish warehouse at Rock Harbor in Orleans was frequently used, as was Stage Harbor Light in Chatham, in a secret tunnel between the beacon and the keeper’s house.

Grocery and produce trucks were used to transport the booze off Cape. The liquor convoy involved two other cars—one loaded with gun-toting men, the other carrying a wad of cash to pay off law enforcement. 

“One time that the convoys were going over the Cape Cod Canal, there was a Salvation Army man in uniform, who happened to be walking over the bridge,” Cummings recalled. “The rum runners thought he was a police official, so they stopped and gave him $500.” The “officer” promptly gave the cash to his employer.

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