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Great lakes ships and the Fitz.

earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
This video is long but good for anyone interested.

I've read Capt. Dudley J. Paquettes book. It was good but not the end all on the subject.

I think its important to remember that Capt. McSorely had spent 44 years on the Lakes. Capt. Cooper 34 years. These men knew exactly what they were doing when they ran that north shore ahead of the storm. Had done it all their lives. Those hulls are subjected to stress of immeasurable amount and duration. The Fitz was scheduled to be retrofitted the next off season to a self unloader just like the Anderson. That reinforces the hull. She didn't recieve proper preseason inspection as a result. I've no doubt of the contribution that made to what happened.

I've seen these Lakers close up as a kid. Fishing the Lake St Clair shipping channel with my Dad. They still capture my admiration.
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Replies

  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,106 Senior Member
    Wow. Very informative indeed. I had read that the Fitz had had a mid-life refit where she was stretched longer, but I didn't know about the hull plates buckling away from the actual keel nor that she was 3,000 tons over-weight.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    All those boats were overloaded routinely. Probly not a big deal most of the time. Still a changed regulation afterward.

    The first hand accounts of the search after she vanished really illuminate the storms size.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,218 Senior Member
    The Great Lakes are a veritable graveyard for ships...The Fitz being the most well known...but there are many lake freighters that have been lost with all/many hands...the Carl D. Bradley that went went down in Lake Huron off Rogers City MI taking 33 of her 35 man crew with her...
    Lake Michigan has claimed her fair share as well...three lake freighters in one storm on November 11, 1940 - known as "The Armistice Day Storm...two with all hands...


    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    For sure. Ice claimed a lot in late/early season.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,218 Senior Member
    The Bradley, known as the Queen of the Lakes, was for years, the first ship through Lake Huron to the Strait's...she was used as an ice breaker on the first run of the shipping season...her forepeak was filled with cement...after the run she would go into dry dock to have the damaged plates in her bow replaced...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #7
    The days if wood and canvas saw ice form on decks and rigging that was deadly.

    The Bradley went down in northern Lake Michigan empty from Chicago back to Rogers City. Seas built south to north and reached 30' at the north end. Three or four survivors made it off on a raft after she broke two.  IIRC only two made it to Bear Island. One wrote a book.
    That's another one where the first hand accounts of the search tell the size of the storm.

  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 11,326 Senior Member
    I grew up on Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes.  The severity of the storms rivals any on a ocean coast.  Waves of 14-18 feet on a lake are downright scary
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,218 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #9
    The days if wood and canvas saw ice form on decks and rigging that was deadly.

    The Bradley went down in northern Lake Michigan empty from Chicago back to Rogers City. Seas built south to north and reached 30' at the north end. Three or four survivors made it off on a raft after she broke two.  IIRC only two made it to Bear Island. One wrote a book.
    That's another one where the first hand accounts of the search tell the size of the storm.

    Thanks for the correction as to the whereabouts of her demise...now that I think about it...I knew that...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    I lived in Detroit until almost 7 years old. My dad had a 16' birch/mahogany Danish made runabout with a 40 hp Krieghoffer/Mercury outboard that he kept in a "boat-house" on Lake Erie. We always fished way out of sight of land. Occasionally a mild spring/summer storm would brew up and the waves would hit 4-6 feet. (Kinda scary in a boat that size). Dad would pick a wave, get on top of it, and by skillful handling of the throttle, stay on top of it and ride it to shore.

    I think I got wetter in that boat than I did swimming in the lake. Looking back, I'm surprised we lived through it sometimes.

    Mike


    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    The book the surviving crew member wrote said that storm reeked havoc across the midwest. During the search, the Coast Guard had asked for radio silence. Continued radio traffic from Mississippi river shipping made communications difficult. I imagine they were having their own problems and needed the airwaves badly.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,218 Senior Member
    Speaking of small boats and big water...We had a Dr. Acquaintance who, as a teenager took his dads boat for a spin on Lake Michigan (without Dad's knowledge) and ran out of gas way out in the Lake...He was picked up by an upbound oreboat and his Dad had to come to Duluth to pick him up...
    He showed us the pictures that his father took and the newspaper article that described the rescue...the ship was the Fitz...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    Those lakes have stories. My grandpa and his brother had a close shave duck hunting. Ive read about others of similar content. Ive read first hand accounts of the storm that caught the first time salmon fishers. All the author and his police office dad could do is help those that made it ashore and watch others drown.

    One of the best I read was how the great fire forced people, deer, and bear into Lake Huron together. IIRC Port Huron was a big gangster hang out in the 30's..
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,106 Senior Member
    Well, we just can NOT have this thread without this video:


    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    I lived in Detroit until almost 7 years old. My dad had a 16' birch/mahogany Danish made runabout with a 40 hp Krieghoffer/Mercury outboard that he kept in a "boat-house" on Lake Erie. We always fished way out of sight of land. Occasionally a mild spring/summer storm would brew up and the waves would hit 4-6 feet. (Kinda scary in a boat that size). Dad would pick a wave, get on top of it, and by skillful handling of the throttle, stay on top of it and ride it to shore.

    I think I got wetter in that boat than I did swimming in the lake. Looking back, I'm surprised we lived through it sometimes.

    Mike


    We call that surfing a wave and when the seas get big it’s your only safe way home.  I’d go out on my 22 ft center console out over 25-30 miles out and sometimes you leave with seas like glass and come home with 4-6’ foot following seas.  Surfing the waves back in is a thrilling ride, going against them, not so much...  The don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing... 😬

    The Long Island Sound is another body of water that can get stupid in a big hurry.  I remember being at the helm of a 31’ racing sloop with waves coming at me from the stern and I was looking UP at them with peaks about 10’ above my head.  THAT was not fun.  
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,106 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #16
    GunNut said:
    We call that surfing a wave and when the seas get big it’s your only safe way home.  I’d go out on my 22 ft center console out over 25-30 miles out and sometimes you leave with seas like glass and come home with 4-6’ foot following seas.  Surfing the waves back in is a thrilling ride, going against them, not so much...  The don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing... 😬

    We went out to do buoy work in a 55' plastic boat on a regular basis. One time we had following seas going out. We were trying to figure out the entire way if we could actually get on the buoy to do our work - it looked marginal but it ALWAYS looked marginal, so the rule was "go out and look at it".
    We got out there, passed the buoy and turned around. HOLY CRAP! No effin' way is this going to work today. A 2 hour trip out was damn near 6 getting back getting the crap beat out of us most of the way until we hit the wind line. I don't like planing hulls all that much to start with, and there's nothing more miserable than a planing hull at displacement speeds in seas like that.
    It isn't the size of the swells, its the period. 20 foot swells at a minute or two are just fine, 20 foot swells at 20 seconds (what we'd call a "square wave") are NOT fun!

    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    zorba said:
    GunNut said:
    We call that surfing a wave and when the seas get big it’s your only safe way home.  I’d go out on my 22 ft center console out over 25-30 miles out and sometimes you leave with seas like glass and come home with 4-6’ foot following seas.  Surfing the waves back in is a thrilling ride, going against them, not so much...  The don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing... 😬

    We went out to do buoy work in a 55' plastic boat on a regular basis. One time we had following seas going out. We were trying to figure out the entire way if we could actually get on the buoy to do our work - it looked marginal but it ALWAYS looked marginal, so the rule was "go out and look at it".
    We got out there, passed the buoy and turned around. HOLY CRAP! No effin' way is this going to work today. A 2 hour trip out was damn near 6 getting back getting the crap beat out of us most of the way until we hit the wind line. I don't like planing hulls all that much to start with, and there's nothing more miserable than a planing hull at displacement speeds in seas like that.
    It isn't the size of the swells, its the period. 20 foot swells at a minute or two are just fine, 20 foot swells at 20 seconds (what we'd call a "square wave") are NOT fun!

    Yep agreed.  I was out in the middle of the Caribbean at the helm of a a 41' ketch with swells that were well above 20 feet but they were long and fairly flat on top.  Not much of a challenge.  

    But at another time I fished a Kingfish tournament off Georgia in a 25' Cnter Console with twin 250s in only 4-5' seas (small craft advisory), but the waves were on top of each other and when your captain is nuts (but an AMAZING seaman) and the boat is a sponsored factory boat and needs to get trophies/points for the season it's all hands hang on as best as you can because we only travel at one speed,... airborne.  3 days of massive amounts of Motrin followed that day's outing, and we DIDN'T win...
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,106 Senior Member
    Ouch!
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    zorba said:
    Ouch!
    Yep, wife said I looked like I had a bar fight after the fishing tournament!  :D
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    Wow, guys.....your stuff makes our Lake Erie experiences sound like kid stuff.

    OTOH, I did participate in what I think was the Marines last "over-the-side-down-the-net"
    amphib landing.

    From a tall ship into a flat bottom open landing craft with nets 20' too long. In 8 foot seas. Holy crap, that was one of the scariest/hurtingest things I've ever done. We all looked like we'd gone a couple rounds with Mike Tyson by the time we hit the beach.

    Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. What followed was 2 of the worst weeks of my life.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    Wow, guys.....your stuff makes our Lake Erie experiences sound like kid stuff.

    OTOH, I did participate in what I think was the Marines last "over-the-side-down-the-net"
    amphib landing.

    From a tall ship into a flat bottom open landing craft with nets 20' too long. In 8 foot seas. Holy crap, that was one of the scariest/hurtingest things I've ever done. We all looked like we'd gone a couple rounds with Mike Tyson by the time we hit the beach.

    Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. What followed was 2 of the worst weeks of my life.

    Mike
    Nope, you win! 😁
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,106 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #22
    Ouch! Any kind of at-sea transfer is dicey under any but absolute flat calm conditions. If you go in the drink, you're in the very LAST place you wanna be - between two bouncing, floating objects. Only happened to me once, and fortunately, the buoy had rolled forward and it wasn't "too" rough.
    I got off a buoy onto a RHIB one time by literally throwing myself onto the top of the inflated gunnel, and bouncing into the bottom of the boat. The old salt running the boat said "That's one way!" - but hey! I was in the boat, and didn't hang around the transition for more than about 1/4 of a second.
    Had a guy telling me about the fishing vessel he was on in Alaska sinking. They knew they were going to go down, so they radioed their sister ship about 4 hours away. They were in the water in their survival suits by the time said ship got there, fortunately I don't think it was for very long. It could have been worse, but by any definition, that was a bad day.
    "The sea lies in wait for the unwary. She stalks the reckless!"
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    That was the same exercise when I learned that me and trip-flares don't mix. I spent 2 days in "enemy" hands because of that. (And the training isn't supposed to actually hurt you, but an overenthusiastic  "enemy" Lance Cpl kind of forgot the rules a little).

    I firmly believe you could kick me off a chopper in the middle of Yellowstone NP in the middle of the night, and within 20 minutes I'll have tripped over the only trip flare within 1000 miles.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    That was the same exercise when I learned that me and trip-flares don't mix. I spent 2 days in "enemy" hands because of that. (And the training isn't supposed to actually hurt you, but an overenthusiastic  "enemy" Lance Cpl kind of forgot the rules a little).

    I firmly believe you could kick me off a chopper in the middle of Yellowstone NP in the middle of the night, and within 20 minutes I'll have tripped over the only trip flare within 1000 miles.

    Mike
    🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    Our ship had only 6 assault boats and there were a lot of us, so we had to go in by groups. I was in the 4th assault group and was scheduled to disembark at 8:30. Well you know how that goes.

    At 1:30 PM my group got the word to go. After surviving the nets we discovered the assault boat was 4" awash in the regurgitated rabbit and rice the previous occupants had eaten for lunch. Through a superhuman effort on my part, I managed to stay upright out of the smelly mess for the most part, except for my boots.

    But, close to shore we hit an underwater sand dune, I landed on the deck face-first  like a pledge at a frat party, and it turns out my previous efforts didn't really matter for much. Vomit stinks, and it tastes really bad and stings your eyes....especially if it belonged to somebody else first.

    And it still got worse.

    That experience is why over 2 decades later I was able to laugh at the bucket episode. The bucket was nothing.

    Mike



    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Video cool video.  If his assertion that the boat went down like a submarine holds true, nobody on that ship had a chance under any circumstances beyond that.  

    Those lakes can be so deceiving in their demeanor.  I remember a family trip we took to Canada and looking out onto Lake Ontario on a completely windless day.  It was like a sheet of glass and you could see clear down to the bottom a good ways out.  It's hard to imagine water any more calm.  Then you realize that, under the right conditions, that same lake could become a monster.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,160 Senior Member
    MIke,

    you've told me this story, but it's still funny.

    BTW, congratulations.  You win the internet. :)
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,723 Senior Member
    MIke,

    you've told me this story, but it's still funny.

    BTW, congratulations.  You win the internet. :)
    I REALLY need to order a trophy for him :D
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,474 Senior Member
    Some years back, I read all of the Horatio Hornblower & Jack Aubrey novels (British Navy, during the Napoleonic Wars).  One thing that stuck with me was mention of the fact that a particular ship that was built to ride or flex with the normal wave patterns of the Atlantic was NOT HAPPY when subjected to the Mediterranean. 

    From the same engineering standpoint, I imagine the Great Lakes are utter chaos - they're big enough to behave like oceans, small enough to get suckered into thinking you can scoot around them casually, and given things like the North/South orientation of Michigan vs, the East/West orientation of Superior to change the character of how the waves bounce around - little wonder they kill a lot of boats.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,155 Senior Member
    Anyone that thinks that people of the past didn't know how to do things should research the old building techniques of wood hulled ships.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,008 Senior Member
    There was a recent show on one of the reality channels about Great Lakes shipwrecks, and I seem to remember they believed they found the wreck of the Bradley, but could have been another well-known wreck.  It was the same size but had an extra mast, which they said might have been added but not recorded.  I think they said the shipwreck they found had steel cable rigging, which was also correct.

    This wreck wasn't where she supposed to have sunk, where  it was searched for previously. There was speculation the Captain may have altered course because of the weather.

    I have heard that the frequency of waves in the lakes as opposed to the oceans adds to the destructive problems. Apparently, while not so high, they come faster and more frequently than on the ocean.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
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