@opposaurus-wrx I have identified the problem
1969 Corvette (350/4 speed)
1993 F150 (4.9/ZF 5 speed)
2007 Yukon XL Denali (6.2/6 speed auto)
2009 Toyota Matrix S (2.4/5 speed auto)
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald
If you know of only one wreck on the Great Lakes, it’s most likely the Edmund Fitzgerald. Made infamous by the Gordon Lightfoot song, it has become legend in a very short time.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald launched in 1958 and at 729 feet was the longest ship on the Great Lakes, but only held that honor for a year until the 730 foot SS Murray Bay was built in 1959. The Edmund Fitzgerald was a bulk carrier built in the traditional Great Lakes manner with a forward pilot house and an open deck between it and the rear engine room/crew quarters.
(Courtesy | Wikipedia)
The Edmund Fitzgerald was commissioned by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NWML) as part investment and part pet project of the company president. The president, Edmund Fitzgerald, was the son of a Great Lakes captain and saw shipping as a great investment for NWML. In addition to commissioning the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1957, the company purchased 2 ships, the J. Burton Ayers and the J.H. Hillman Jr. These were the first and only ships owned by NWML.
The Fitzgerald by all accounts was a workhorse. The ship primarily carried iron ore and within 6 years of launch became the first ship to carry more than 1 million tons of ore through the Soo Locks. She made around 47 trips per year and by 1975 had traveled the equivalent of 44 times around the world.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald launch at Great Lakes Engineering Works on June 7, 1958. (Courtesy | Detroit Historical Society)
After 17 years and millions of tons of cargo the Fitzgerald set off from Superior, Wisconsin on November 9th and would never return.
Paralleling the Fitzgerald was the Arthur M. Anderson which had left a nearby port around the same time as the Fitzgerald. A storm was building as the Fitzgerald and Anderson left port with the National Weather Service predicting easterly to north-easterly winds. With this information both captains of the Fitzgerald and Anderson discussed and plotted a more northerly route to use the Canadian shoreline as protection from the waves.
(Courtesy | NOAA)
As the ships made their way across Lake Superior on November 10 the winds began to shift. The storm made its way across the lake and the winds shifted from easterly to northwesterly. This change gave the waves a long fetch for them to build, but by this time both ships where already motoring down the eastern shoreline of Lake Superior. During the afternoon of the 10th the Anderson reported steady NW winds of 43 knots and 16 foot waves. Around 3:30pm the Fitzgerald reported, "I have a fence rail down, have lost a couple of vents, and have a list."
(Courtesy | NTSB Report)
Less than an hour later the Fitzgerald radioed the Anderson to inform the ship that both radars were inoperable and to ask that they keep track of the Fitzgerald and provide navigational assistance. By 7:00 pm the waves had built to 25 feet as the Fitzgerald and Anderson found themselves in the worst place on the lake that day.
(Courtesy | NOAA)
The Anderson radioed at 7:10 pm to notify the Fitzgerald of northbound traffic and ask how they were progressing to which they replied, “We are holding our own”. This would be the last contact anyone had with the Fitzgerald. At 7:20 pm the Anderson checked its radar and could not find the Fitzgerald. Visibility had increased to the point where the Anderson could see shore lights 20 miles away and the northbound vessel’s lights 19 miles away, the Fitzgerald should have been only 10 miles away and was no where to be seen. The Anderson continued calling the Fitzgerald until 8:32 pm when they notified the Coast Guard of the circumstances.
The Fitzgerald went down with all 29 crew members and no bodies were ever recovered.
The ship was found in 530 feet of water split in 2 with the back half coming to rest upside down. The accident report concludes that the Fitzgerald sank whole and went head first into the bottom at which point the midsection disintegrated and the rear section rolled over to come to its final resting place.
Makings of a Disaster
The cause of the wreck has been debated and theorized many times over the years. From faulty hatches, to unmarked shoals, to a weakened hull, there have been numerous theories proposed and it’s likely we’ll never know the truth of what happened.
The NTSB and Coast Guard reports both came to a conclusion that pinned the blame on hatch covers. The Fitzgerald’s reports that the ship was listing and running pumps indicate it had been taking on water. The Coast Guard report places the blame more on a gradual flooding due to waves washing over the deck and improperly secured non-weathertight hatch covers. And that due to the circumstances the captain and crew did not realize the extent of the flooding until it was too late. Water in the hold would not have been visible until above the ore and the bulkheads were not watertight so water was free to fill the entire hold.
The NTSB on the other hand starts off with a similar conclusion, but adds that they believe a catastrophic hatch failure occurred. They estimated that by 7:15pm the Fitzgerald had taken on sufficient water to be running at near zero freeboard at hatch #1. At this point a 25 foot wave would be sufficient to collapse a hatch through static pressure alone, and once a hatch catastrophically failed it would have only taken minutes for the ship to have sunk.
(Courtesy | Great Lakes Ship Museum)
Now let’s explore some of the other theories that have been proposed. The least probable theory is one advanced by the Lake Carriers Association (LCA). Their theory was that the Fitzgerald grounded on a poorly marked shoal causing fatal damage to the hull or significantly weakening it allowing conditions to sink her later on. There really is no evidence to support this theory and divers even inspected the nearby shoal and found no evidence of recent damage.
Another theory is that the hull was weakened from regularly overloading the ship. The Fitzgerald was designed for a 26,000 ton payload but over the years the ship got Coast Guard approval 3 times to carry heavier payloads until the ship was allowed to carry 30,000 tons by 1975 (allowing it to sit over 3 feet deeper). Due to this overloading the ship would have less freeboard and on its last journey the Fitzgerald had over 27,000 tons of ore. Although the lower freeboard is assigned as a contributing factor to the loss by the Coast Guard and NTSB, they do not indicate any reason to believe the hull was structurally deficient. But, in 2009, naval architect Raymond Ramsey, a designer of the Fitzgerald, wrote that based on the increased loading, maintenance records, and construction of the ship he doubts the Fitzgerald was seaworthy that night.
A second theory related to the structure, the most speculative theory, is that the Fitzgerald suffered from structural issues just due to its construction. There is some evidence to support structural deficiencies inherent in the ship itself due to construction and not just overloading. An ex-crew member recalls seeing broken welds on the keel and sister keelsons over winter layup in 1971-1972. These broken welds were confirmed and approved for repair by the Coast Guard. The sister keelsons were claimed to have only been tack welded as well, meaning a much weaker keel. In addition to bad construction some former crew members give evidence that the Fitzgerald was just not designed well. Another former crew member recalls the Fitzgerald being a "wet ship", that she took on water all the time and they regularly had to pump out the tunnels. If this theory were to prove true, the ship would have had to broken up on the surface and not upon impact on the lake floor. There are multiple historians and researchers who believe this to be the case. They claim the taconite coverage on the front half would have required the rear section to remain a float for a short while before sinking and that the position and orientation of the rear does not support the official reports claims of sinking whole. Some also point to the fact that the Fitzgerald's sister ship (Arthur B. Homer) was permanently laid up in 1980, at less than half the typical lifespan of a freighter. Though this ship was lengthened by around 80 feet in 1975, so it wasn't really comparing apples to apples anymore.
(Courtesy | Great Lakes Ship Museum)
Finally, there is a theory that a rogue wave or series of waves sunk the Fitzgerald. The Great Lakes are notorious for their vicious waves, just in general the waves are said to be short and steep compared and much more random to the more rolling regular types of waves found on the open oceans. Beyond the characteristics of the waves the Great Lakes have what mariners call the “Three Sisters”, said to be a series of waves that come out of nowhere with a significantly larger amplitude than the surrounding waves. More recent research is seeing evidence of this sort of phenomenon in the Apostle Islands. Researchers have cataloged waves that are over twice the height of the surrounding waves and state that, “They group together during certain wave conditions. You might get three or four in an hour and then you won’t get one for the rest of the day.” The captain of the Anderson later even recounted that they encountered a series of waves up to 35 feet by his estimation. He wondered if those same waves are what did in the Fitzgerald.
It’s unlikely that any single one of these theories is completely correct on its own. The truth is probably some combination of the above. My opinion is that overloading and low freeboard led to excessive wave action over the deck which led to hatches moving or latches breaking allowing more and more water in and finally a series of significantly larger waves swamps the deck buckling hatches and sinking the ship.
The truth of how those 29 men lost their lives will likely never be known. Always remember, beware the witch of November.
Freighter in Lake Superior storm
We needed a door for the bathroom I'm remodeling and my wife couldn't find a barn door she liked so I ended up building one. I can't believe something as simple as this is pretty much non existent. The doors you can find at home Depot are all either traditional barn doors with planks and cross bracing or super modern painted or had a glass center. None of which my wife liked.
I still need to fill in holes and stain it, but we are having a party this weekend and my wife wanted the bathroom functional.
The fate of the Daniel J. Morrell became the exclamation point on the reality of the old bulk freighters on the Great Lakes
The Daniel J. Morrell was built in West Bay City, Michigan in 1906. At 586 feet long she was one of the biggest ships on the lakes. Like most of the Great Lakes big ships she was a bulk carrier and spent her career hauling limestone, coal, iron ore, and taconite. Through her working career the Daniel J. Morrell was updated and refitted. After WWII radar was installed and in 1956 a new engine and safety equipment was installed.
Like so many other stories on the Great Lakes, this one starts with what was to be the last trip of the season heading into late fall. The Daniel J Morrell and her sister ship the Townsend were heading back to Taconite, Minnesota in ballast (meaning they were empty and only carrying water as ballast for weight). They headed into Lake Huron on November 28, 1966 around 1 pm. Weather conditions were reported to be 6-28mph westerly winds around 3pm by the Townsend who was trailing the Daniel J Morrell. By 8:30pm winds had shifted to the north, picked up to 35 mph, and waves were 8 feet and building rapidly. This change in wind direction gave the waves a long fetch to build on Lake Huron and the wind was increasing rapidly. By 11:15pm the winds had picked up to an estimated 50-55mph and waves had built to 12 feet. By midnight the weather was bad enough that both the Daniel J Morrell and the Townsend reported having difficulty maintaining their course.
By 2 am on November 29th both ships were battling through the height of the storm. Winds were blowing up to 65 mph and with it waves had built to 20-25 feet. The captain of the Townsend later recalled the seas as being "tremendous" and reported taking solid water over the bow at the peak of the storm.
It was right around 2am that watchman Dennis Hale was woken from his sleep by a loud bang. A few minutes later he heard another loud bang and the books on his bookshelf were thrown to the floor. Hale tried to turn on his light but it was inoperable. At this point the general alarm sounded. Hale grabbed his lifejacket and ran out to the starboard passageway. From there he could see the forward section of the ship was dark while the aft section remained lit and in between the ship was hogged up. He ran back to his room to get dressed, but in the darkness and haste he only managed to find his peacoat. The men gathered around the forward life raft and watched as the ship broke apart.
As the ship began to break apart the wind began to push the bow to port. The stern, still under power, was banging into the bow section and was pushing it to the side. The bow section swung around to port until it was perpendicular to the stern section and finally the two separated. Shortly after, the bow section sank enough that the men and the life raft were washed over the starboard side. Four men managed to make it to the raft, one of whom was Dennis Hale. The men on the raft never saw another crew member besides one that they could see still on the forecastle. The raft drifted away from the bow and about 15 minutes later the bow finally sank completely below the waves. After that the men on the raft continued to watch the stern, still lit and still under power. The stern disappeared in the storm, the men never witnessed it sink.
The men were now alone, adrift in howling winds, below freezing temperatures, and cold pounding waves. By daybreak two of the four men had already passed away. Unfortunately for the men no one was looking for them yet as no distress signal was ever sent. The power to the pilothouse was cut almost as soon as the ship began her death throws. The captain never had a chance to get a radio call out. The afternoon of the 29th the two remaining men saw land, but were so cold and exhausted they didn't have the strength to try rowing to shore. Around sundown one of the men while looking towards shore collapsed and told Hale that he was, "going to throw in the sponge" and then he just passed on.
Hale recalls hallucinating and being in and out of consciousness for most of the night of the 29th. When dawn broke on the 30th Hale recalls, "Praying to live, but hoping to die". At this point the raft had run aground and was bouncing between boulders. Hale could see farmhouse lights in the distance, but didn't have the strength to wade to shore. It wouldn't be until around noon on the 30th that the Daniel J Morrell would be reported as missing. Coast Guard helicopters began combing the area. It wasn't until almost dusk that they would find and rescue Hale. By the time he was rescued Hale had spent 40 hours in the elements wearing only shorts, a pea coat, and his life jacket. He would spend three months recovering from hypothermia, frostbite, and other injuries.
The Coast Guard was able to locate the stern of the Daniel J Morrell early in 1967, just a few months after the disaster, but they never located the bow. It wouldn't be until 1979 that the bow would be located 5 miles from the stern. The 1979 dive also discovered that the clocks on the bow and the stern stopped some 3 hours apart. After breaking apart the stern had managed to float and power on for 3 hours and about 5 miles before finally sinking. It's unclear if the crew in the stern were aware of the situation until the stern finally sank as it does not appear there was any attempt to launch the life boats.
Like most deep fresh water wrecks the Daniel J Morrell is in great condition even today.
The 1967 dive to the stern section came to the conclusion that the Daniel J Morrell experienced a fracture failure in her hull due to brittle steel.
MAKINGS OF A DISASTER
It had been suspected for some time that the steel used to build vessels before 1948 was too brittle to handle the stress due to harsh Great Lakes weather on ships as big as the Daniel J Morrell. Only 6 years earlier the similarly sized Carl D Bradley also broke in two while running in heavy seas in ballast. The 1966 storm was the proof that this theory was true.
While the Daniel J Morrell's sister ship made it through the storm to the Soo locks, she would never sail again. Upon inspection at Sault Ste Marie the Coast Guard discovered severe fractures in the hull in a similar location to where the Daniel J Morrell broke apart. The Townsend would be laid up in Sault Ste Marie until 1968 when she was sold for scrap to a Spanish company. As she was towed across the Atlantic she broke free of her tow in a storm and sank. In fact only 4 years later another Great Lakes freighter being towed for scrap across the Atlantic broke apart in a similar fashion to the Daniel J Morrell. This time being caught on camera.
Why this brittle steel seemed to be specifically affecting Great Lakes ships has to do with the waves. Great Lakes sailors had always claimed heavy seas were much harsher than the ocean, explaining that Great Lakes waves were short and steep whereas ocean waves were long and rolling. During that same 1966 storm a relatively new ship, the Edward L Ryerson, had been sailing Lake Michigan with strain gauges recording hull stresses proving out some of that theory. The measurements showed stresses north of 23,000 psi, far greater than what was generally measured on ocean going vessels. (Later tests on the 1000 foot lake freighter Stewart J Cort would measure up to 29,500 psi in 15 foot waves whereas a similarly sized 900 foot ocean freighter SeaLand McLean would measure up to 13,000 psi in 30 foot waves).
The only survivor of the Daniel J Morrell passed away in 2015. You can hear him tell his story in the video below.
Of the 28 men who perished that night 26 bodies were eventually recovered. None of the dives ever recovered or found any bodies indicating that everyone was able to get off the ship. Unfortunately only Dennis Hale survived.
Also posted to DriveTribe
@kingt "Dodge owners tend to be younger single college dropouts. They have income significantly lower than the general population and they are more likely to have kids out of wedlock. They travel between local taverns. So everything we weren't able to do this year, they continued to do. That's part of the brand imagery."
-if Dodge were honest
The tragedy of the SS Carl D Bradley hit Rogers City particularly hard
The Carl D. Bradley making way past the Mackinac Bridge
At the time of her sinking the SS Carl D Bradley was the largest ship to go down on the Great Lakes at 639 feet long. Built in 1927 she was the biggest ship sailing on the Great Lakes until 1949. Built like most lake freighters of the time she had a forward pilot house and rear engine room and crew quarters. The ship was considered state of the art and had a unique propulsion system shared with only a handful of other ships. The Bradley use a turboelectric drive, meaning her boilers powered an turbine electric generator and the electricity then powered an electric motor connected to the drive shaft. Because of her size the Bradley often acted as an icebreaker to open each new season and would be the first ship through the Straits of Mackinac. She would break ice with her concrete filled bow all the way to Indiana where damaged plates would be replaced before starting the season.
The Bradley's self unloader in action
By the late 1950s the Bradley was showing her age and an $880,000 overhaul of her hull and cargo hold was scheduled over winter layup in Manitowoc, WI after the 1958 season.
After what was supposed to be its last trip of the season to Gary, IN the Bradley got a call from US Steel that it was to head to Calcite, MI to run one last load for the season. This last minute decision would end up being her demise. Instead of heading to Manitowoc, WI for winter layup the Bradley's captain plotted a chart back to Calcite, MI for that last load.
Approximate route the Carl D Bradley took
The Bradley left Gary, IN around 10pm on November 17, 1958 and winds were already blowing at 25-35 mph out of the south. A storm was building and the winds were expected to shift to the southwest and build to 50-65 mph by the next day. In preparation the captain ordered the ship to be readied for heavy weather and took a longer route hugging the Wisconsin coast to protect from the wind.
Sometime around 4pm on November 18th the Bradley turned away from the Wisconsin coast and headed towards Lansing Shoal. At this point winds had built to the expected 60-65mph and waves had built to 20 feet. Around 5:30pm the Bradley was around 12 miles southwest of Gull Island when the Chief Mate reported hearing a loud thud followed by a vibration in the ship. The Chief Mate looked aft and saw the rear of the vessel sagging. The crew immediately signaled the general alarm and were told to prepare to abandon ship. Mayday calls were received by several stations and a nearby ship the MV Cristian Sartori.
With the Bradley broken in 2 it did not take long for her to sink. The crew at the front began prepping the life raft, which was nothing more than 2 steel pontoons with a wooden deck. There as only one life raft on the bow section with 2 lifeboats at the stern. The crew at the stern attempted launching their lifeboats but one became entangled in cables and the other was impossible to launch due to the ship listing.
An example of the type of life raft the Bradley carried
As the crew on the bow section prepared the life raft the ship sank below the waves and the raft floated free. Four men managed to find their way to the raft in the churning water.
The Cristian Sartori had immediately turned around and made way towards the Bradley once the mayday was heard. The Sartori only 4 miles away witnessed the ship go down. They reported the front half's lights going out first, then the rear, followed by an explosion shortly after. Though the Sartori was only 4 miles away it took them 90 minutes to turn around and make their way to the position of the Bradley due to the conditions. The Sartori did not find any survivors reporting they only found a raincoat and a tank. The men on the life raft later reported seeing a ships searchlight nearby at one point and it's thought the "tank" the Sartori saw was in fact the life raft. The Sartori unfortunately never came across the men again and eventually had to seek shelter herself at nearby Washington Island due to the weather.
Coast Guard Cutter Sundew set out from Charlevoix, MI shortly after the mayday was heard and arrived on scene by 10:40pm and another cutter (Hollyhock) from Sturgeon Bay, WI arrived by 1:30am. It wouldn't be until 8:37am that the men on the life raft would be found by the Sundew. The men were encrusted in ice and could barely move. One of the four had already perished from the conditions and another would succumb shortly after being taken aboard the Sundew. The 2 remaining survivors insisted the ship stay out and continue its search for any remaining crew members. Unfortunately those 2 men would be the only crew members to return home.
The Sundew returned to Charlevoix with the men and eight bodies later that afternoon. The Hollyhock pulled into Charlevoix that night with an additional 9 bodies. Only one more body would be found after that by the freighter Transontario on its way to Milwaukee. This man found by the Transontario was still breathing when found and a doctor was being prepared to fly in via helicopter. Before the doctor could arrive though word came that the man had passed. The remaining men were never found. Of the 33 men who lost their lives that night 23 were from the small 4,000 person town of Rogers City. Just to give some sense of what the scale of this loss was to the community, imagine that 9/11 claimed 50,000 lives instead of 3,000 in New York City.
The wreck wouldn't be found until the next spring due to weather and ice on Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard located the wreck and took sonar images but was unable to conclude whether the ship had broken in half or not.
The eyewitness reports that she broke in half were not believed by US Steel so they commissioned a dive company out of California to verify the status of the ship in 1959. The divers reported that the Bradley was resting on the bottom in one continuous piece. US Steel did have motivation for this survey to come back how it did. If the ship had in fact broken in two then US Steel would be in a position of far greater liability. As it was the families ended up settling for far less than they initially sued for.
Carl D Bradley's pilot house
Both survivors always maintained their story that the ship had broken in two and it wouldn't be until 1997 that they would be vindicated. This 1997 dive found that the Bradley was in fact in 2 pieces but remarkably were only 90 feet away from each other and nearly in line. Besides the midsection where she broke apart the Bradley was in remarkably good shape. Whether those divers in 1959 were mistaken due to the coincidence of both halves coming to rest practically inline or simply gave US Steel the answer they wanted will probably never be known.
Screenshot of the Bradley's generator from the above dive video
MAKINGS OF A DISASTER
The Bradley was about midway through her life on the Great Lakes and was showing signs of her age. The captain of the ship was concerned about the state of the vessel and was glad the ship would be reworked over the next winter layup. To one correspondent he wrote, "This boat is getting pretty ripe for too much weather, I'll be glad when they get her fixed up." The 1958 season did not make things any better, twice she ran aground, neither time being reported to the Coast Guard. And her second grounding required repairs to the hull. The captain grew even more concerned about the state of the ship writing to another correspondent, "The hull is not good...have to nurse her along...The hull was badly damaged at Cedarville."
Like many of the large ships of the era, crew members recount picking up buckets worth of sheared off rivets after rough weather as the Bradley got on in age. These large vessels had to withstand enormous stresses in heavy weather. The materials and designs of the time just meant this was something to be dealt with. Rivets would be replaced with bolts and the crew would go on the next one.
Adding to the tragedy are reports that the Bradley was ordered to make one last trip for the season at the last hour. The Bradley would have steamed past her winter layup home of Manitowoc mere hours before disaster. Had she gone there instead of heading back for one last load, the repairs scheduled might have meant she never would have sunk. Certainly she would not have sunk that day at the very least.
The Coast Guard's report on the Bradley concludes that the Bradley likely hogged up, meaning she broke 2 from the top down. This sort of failure generally occurs from design related deficiencies or material related ones. Ships built before 1948 are now know to have had a far more brittle steel and 2 other similarly built ships would suffer similar failures in the 1960s.
All of these factors may have added up to structural deficiencies in the Bradley's hull that could not withstand the stress of the storm. Whether it was inherent deficiencies in the design or materials, or damage from her groundings, or just a general lack of maintenance that did her in will likely never be known.
Painting of the Carl D Bradley by Steve Witucki
The last living survivor from the wreck of the Bradley just passed away at the beginning of the year on January 8, 2021. Frank Mays can be seen in the video below talking about his story of survival.
While there may no longer be any of her crew to remember, the Bradley and her crew will live on the memories of loved ones and in the lore of the Great Lakes.
www.carldbradley.org/THE MAN AND THE SHIP.htm
Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals. William Ratiger. 1960.
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I've been keeping an eye out for a cheap trailer big enough enough to haul at least 4x8 sheets. Came across this today made an offer and picked it up for $150.
I'll replace the deck and add stringers to reinforce it. I already have most of the lumber to do this thankfully. I'll also repaint it once I redo the deck. I also need to replace the wheels since they're dry rotted. All in I should have a pretty nice trailer for under $500.
One of the largest wooden ships ever built lies just off shore from a popular beach in Milwaukee.
Built by master shipbuilder James Davidson in 1896 the Appomattox is still the largest wooden ship to ever to sail the Great Lakes at 319 feet long. Even though she was a wooden steamer, steel was used to reinforce her in critical areas. She had steel bracing, keelson plates, and arches. In her hull resided a triple expansion steam engine and she was equipped with modern navigational equipment making her as modern as any other ship of the day. She could hold 3,000 tons of bulk cargo and was paired with a wooden barge schooner Santiago that she towed.
The Santiago actually eclipsed the Appomattox in length at 324 feet long and held an impressive 5,000 tons of bulk cargo. Together the pair could match the big steel freighters sailing the lakes at that time all while costing 50-70 percent that of an equivalent steel freighter. She mostly hauled iron ore from Lake Superior to the mills on Lake Erie and brought coal back.
The main drawback of this ship-barge setup is that towing a barge makes maneuvering difficult. In 1905 while traversing the narrow St. Clair River in light fog between Lakes Huron and Erie the Santiago veered off course while being towed and collided with the schooner barge Fontana. The Fontana sank swiftly taking the life of one crew member. Besides this incident with the Fontana the Appomattox spent most of her years of service relatively incident free.
Crew of the Appomattox
On November 2, 1905, while sailing south along the Wisconsin coast with a load of coal, the Appomattox entered a thick bank of fog and industrial smoke just north of Milwaukee. Unable to see the city's northern range lights she veered too close to shore and ran aground hard on Lake Michigan's rocky shore. The Santiago being towed by the Appomattox ran aground as well and a third vessel, the Iowa, would find herself in same predicament shortly after. Calls went out for help and the Iowa and Santiago were freed in short order by the work of tugs, a Revenue Cutter Service ship, and a US Life Saving station crew (the Revenue Cutter Service and US Life Saving Service were the precursors to the US Coast Guard). The crew of the Appomattox were also taken off the ship safely.
Location of the Appomattox
Unfortunately the Appomattox had run aground hard and damaged the hull significantly. The crews were unable to re-float the Appomattox that day and when they returned the next day weather began to change for the worse. The sea state had gone from moderate to high and the waves caused further damage to the hull. For the next 13 days wrecker crews tried to salvage the ship, but even with multiple pumps running in various locations they could not re-float her. On November 15 the crews abandoned the salvage operation leaving her to be claimed by the lake. Only the onboard machinery would be recovered a couple years later by the Reid Wrecking company.
The Appomattox ran aground just offshore Atwater Beach in 15 to 20 feet of water. The ship slowly broke apart over the years from waves and ice. What remains is a 250 foot section of the lower bilge, a 260 foot section of the port side of the vessel that fell away from the lower bilge, a small debris field to the north, and a large propeller 500 yards south of the wreck.
Map of the wreck site
The load of coal she carried is all but gone, some was unloaded in the attempts to refloat her, some washed up on shore over the years and was taken by local residents, the rest is likely scattered along the lake floor. This left the hull of the ship well exposed for divers and snorkelers. The timbers are massive, as one would expect from one of the largest wooden vessels ever built.
The Appomattox's floor keelsons
The Appomattox's floor keelsons
The wreck is easily accessible by boat and can be enjoyed by divers and snorkelers alike. On calm days the wreck can even be viewed from the above surface.
The Appomattox's hull and steel bracing
Being in shallow water means the wreck is not as well preserved as the deep water wrecks in the Great Lakes. While much of the structure is still left over 100 years later, she'll eventually disappear. It may well take another 100 years or more for that to happen though.
Went and looked at a 1996 Four Winns Coast Runner last night. Looks almost exactly like the one below (I didn't take any pictures).
It ran great, is clean, everything works, comes with gps/fish finder, all the accessories, and just in general checks every box for what we wanted in a next boat.
I came across one of these Coast Runners a couple years ago and loved it. It's the perfect size...small enough for inland lakes yet big enough for big water too like Lake Michigan. It's actually built to be an offshore boat with a self bailing deck, deep v-hull, high gunwales, and solid fiberglass stringers/bullkheads.
Four Winns only made this model for a short period so they don't come up for sale very often and they tend to be located in ocean-side towns more than the Great Lakes. This is only the 3rd one I've seen come up for sale in my general area in the last few years and the first I am in a position to purchase.
I will be arranging to have an inspection sometime this week and hopefully closing the deal this coming weekend if everything checks out.