After carefully reading your letter of November 20th I had impressed upon my mind the fortunate escape from about the worst and most disastrous storm that has ever come to my notice in my thirty-six years' experience as a sailor on the Great Lakes.
On November 6th the Steamer "ANGELINE" finished discharging her ore cargo at the C. & P. Dock, Cleveland, and proceeded to the Lake Front Dock to load coal for Depot Harbor, Ont., taking part of the cargo at Huron, Ohio. On November 7th at 1:55 A.M. we arrived at Huron and were loaded at 4:30 P.M. We went out with a very low glass, and storm signals were displayed, indicating northeast wind.
We proceeded right along in our usual way, passing Detroit at 3:24 A.M., November 8th, with the wind south light. At 5:25 A.M. we passed the lightship in Lake St. Clair, with the wind southwest light, barometer 29.7. At 11:29 A.M. we passed out [of the ] St. Clair River into Lake Huron, glass still falling, and storm signals flying, indicating northerly winds, with the wind at the time southwest fresh. At 10:00 P.M. the wind had shifted to the westward, fresh, with rain and quite a sea.
At 1:00 A.M., November 9th, the wind had shifted to about north and blew hard; we were then somewhere about twenty-five miles from Cove Island, entrance to Georgian Bay, making good weather of it. At about 2:00 A.M. the wind shifted to the southwest heavy, and that was when I noticed that our barometer went down below 28. and we expected to get a hurricane. At 3:55 A.M. we passed Cove Island lighthouse into Georgian Bay, with the wind south light.
At about 7:00 A.M. we figured we were abreast of Cabot Head Point with the wind east and blowing heavy; we could not stop anywhere so we kept on our way across the Bay, and at 9:00 A.M. the wind shifted to about northeast – a gale, with snow. We made Segwin Bank gas buoy at 10:15 A.M., with the wind increasing and shifting more to the northward; on account of having good courses we continued on into the Bay with increasing speed. At 10:30 we passed the Red Rock lighthouse, with the wind increasing, and the wind hitting us right on the eyeballs seemingly in trying to see our way.
After we turned what is called Three Star gas buoy we had the wind a little more after us and we checked our boat down, but the wind was so strong we had to ring her up again in order to handle her. We picked up the Hall Rock gas buoy all right and passed Hoover Island Reef buoy and headed into the Bay on to McClelland Island, making the Rock all OK. We passed Curling Rock and then could see the Sisters and the Cousin Islands, arriving at Depot Harbor at 12:30 P.M. Two young men from the freight house came down and with difficulty put a cable on the dock, our anchors being down and our engines working, and the sea breaking over the dock.
After passing Fort Gratiot lighthouse into Lake Huron, with our barometer low and the storm signals displaying, I knew we would encounter some severe weather, and I ordered my Mate to put on extra hatch cloths and make the ship ready for heavy weather.
Since I have been in this employ I have always felt that all these responsibilities are left entirely to the Master to sacrifice speed for safety, and I have never been criticized by the officers of the company for stopping whenever I thought it necessary.
Depot Harbor being a somewhat remote place the news of the havoc of the storm did not reach us until late in the week. The Steamer "KEARSARGE" was due at Depot Harbor Sunday evening. When she did not arrive I asked the operator at the office to find out if she had left Midland; he got Ottawa and learned the "CARRUTHERS" had gone and that an unknown ship was on the rocks at Midland Pt. From the description I feared it was the "PRESQUE ISLE" as I had heard she was in the Bay, but on the arrival of the "KEARSARGE" Monday evening we found it was not the "PRESQUE ISLE", which was a relief to us all.
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This set of letters is from copies in the collection of the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society, Bay City, Michigan and was made available by Dave Swayze.