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BREE'S BLOG: In The Wake of the Fitzgerald

The old steam-powered tugboat

I started to introduce myself to Capt. Adolph Ojard, the retired captain of the steam-powered tugboat built in 1896, but he said, "I saw you coming in. Nice looking boat." That was enough for introductions. He saw my boat, he knew me. We settled down to talk in the Edna G.'s wheelhouse and he  Read More 
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Safe at last -- or not?

Now under power of my 5 horsepower outboard engine, I circled the pier which was festooned with colored flags. Banners proclaimed that the small Minnesota town was celebrating its hundredth anniversary. I was now in Two Harbors and tall ore loading docks loomed dark and rusty red. At least I was off the storm-tossed lake.  Read More 
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Dancing with Waves

The waves were growing ominously. I was following the track of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but in reverse. The big ore carrier had headed on the Northern Trek past Two Harbors, MN., (see locator map below) and shoving 10-foot waves away with aplomb. I was taking a walloping heading south. I could not steer a  Read More 
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Trouble at Two Harbors: The Storm Begins

When the Fitzgerald was well out to sea, about an hour and a half after leaving the Superior entryway of the Duluth - Superior Harbor, the Weather Service broadcast gale warnings. The weather was worsening, with winds gusting from 34 to 38 knots. Capt. McSorley heard the crackle of a radio message. It was the 767-foot  Read More 
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Danger in fogs and storms

The weather kept changing. I hoped to sail to Canada in a few days, but I quickly learned that I had to be patient because that the lake was in charge of my schedule -- not me. I had sailed up the shore to past  Read More 
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On the track of the Fitzgerald: Two Harbors

Cautiously, I was sailing up the North Shore, always with one hand on my tiller and the other hand very close to the mainsheet. Persistence was a centerboarder and did not have any outside ballast -- no lead mine below to lever me back up. In fact, I had been warned on this matter: " Read More 
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On my way up Superior

In the misty, gray pre-dawn hours, I readied my boat for a long voyage across the tip of Lake Superior and began my trek to follow the Fitzgerald. “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning,” I remembered my sailor’s mantra and looked to the north. Yup. Peering down from beneath the cloud cover  Read More 
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Hatches blamed for sinking


You have to be impressed with the ore boat's massive hatch covers -- so heavy at 14,000 pounds each that they require a permanent crane to heft them about and close them. On a clamshell design, which presses them tighter to the hatch coamings, they are massively built and held in place by more than  Read More 
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The hatch cover concerns of the Fitzgerald


No doubt about it: the Fitz had taken a beating in her years of service. As she sailed out of the Superior entryway on her last voyage, she was not a new boat, although when the 729-foot ore boat's keel was laid in 1958, she was the first maximum sized freighter built up to that  Read More 
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Fitzgerald's hatch covers unfastened

The tugboat captain and I were seated in his pilothouse observing a wall of steel sliding past us and out the Superior entryway. It was near midnight and a giant oreboat was going out of the harbor. It was also through this entryway, one of two into the Duluth - Superior Harbor, that the  Read More 
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