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“The legend lives on from the Chippewa of the big lake they call Gitchi Gummi. Superior it’s said never gives up its dead when the gales of November come early.” Gordon Lightfoot “The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” 1979 Freeboard: The vertical distance from a vessel’s waterline to the upper deck, measured at the lowest point where water can enter. Chapter 1- THE LAKE In his classic 1941 children’s book Paddle to the Sea, author Holling C. Holling describes Lake Superior as being shaped like the head of a wolf. Sault Saint Marie ( the SOO) where the lake discharges into Lake Huron via the St Marys River at its Eastern End is its neck. The Kewanee Penninsula jutting out into the lake from its south shore is the wolf’s mouth and Isle Royal off the lake’s north shore is its eye. At the extreme western end of the lake, the tip of the wolf’s nose are the “twin ports” of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior Wisconsin. This side by side array of docks handles more cargo (by tonnage) than any other port on the five Great Lakes. Even today, when cargo is handled by fewer but larger vessels over 800 ships arrived at and departed from the Ports during the eight month shipping season. Most of the time the waters in the 80 mile funnel shaped arm leading to the Twin Ports are rather placid, but as Gordon Lightfoot haunting ballad says, the lake can be swept by vicious gales; not just in November but also in the spring. The storms that are most dangerous to mariners approaching the Twin Ports are Northeasters as they sweep down the lake from its eastern end 350 miles away and this “fetch” can build up huge waves that can completely engulf the Duluth Harbor entry. On the night of April 26,1914 the 250ft long Steamship Benjamin Noble found herself battling just such a storm while headed for Duluth to deliver a cargo of railroad rails to be used in the construction of the Great Northern Railroad. She was badly overloaded to the point where she had almost no freeboard. In 1914 there were no freeboard regulations for ships on the Great Lakes. Captains were expected to use their judgement. In this case, the Noble’s 31 year old captain was under pressure to deliver the entire shipment in one load. Times were tough and John Francombe, representing the owners had used a “sharp pencil” to prepare the bid. Replying to the “Dock Wallopers” watching her load at Conneaut, Ohio on Lake Erie, Captain John Eisenhardt said that he would be safe as he planned to hug the shore all the way. His plan seemed to work. He crossed Lake Erie, sailed up the Detroit River, sailed up the length of Lake Huron and locked through the SOO Canal into Lake Superior. On Lake Superior he probably transited the canal that bisects the Kewanee Pensula and wound up among the sheltered waters of the Apostle Islands. Leaving the Apostle Islands, though, the compass course to Duluth is due west through completely unprotected waters. As he entered the western arm of the lake on the final 80 mile run to Duluth he was hit by a violent Northeaster. Winds of over 65 miles per hour were clocked at Duluth that wrecked several Harbor structures. These winds would have hitting the Noble on her starboard quarter, but Captain Eisenhardt was now committed and plodded on passing Two Harbors, 26 miles northeast of Duluth at night. Somewhere between Two Harbors and Duluth, the Benjamin Noble and her crew of 20 men vanished, despite the fact that two other vessels were close enough to see her lights. The next day the Noble’s loss was confirmed when empty life raft and hatch covers whith her name washed up on Duluth’s Park point beach. As Gordon Lightfoot says, Lake Superior never gave up her dead as no crewmen or their remains were ever found. For 90 years, the Noble was one of Lake Superior’s most famous Ghost Ships. Then in 2005 a group of dedicated shipwreck hunters found her about 20 miles northeast of Duluth in over 300ft of water. The wreck is headed at a compass bearing of 20 degrees. The wreck has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places and is hopefully protected from shipwreck looters. This Model has been in the works for longer than the short life of the actual ship. This will be the second time that I have taken the model down from the shelf and resumed work. Hopefully this build log will keep me going. In the next two chapters I will describe the ship, her historic context, and the research that I did. Then we’ll get into actual model building. Somewhere along the line I’ll make some educated guesses about how the wreck actually happened. Stay tuned! Roger
I got a set of plans for the Edmund Fitzgerald, today. They are in 1/192 scale and originate from the Archer Company in Toledo, OH from 1978. I will be putting the Victory on hold in the near future for this project. I am going to build her POB. The keel and bulkheads will be 1/4” plywood. The covering will likely be the leftover houghtboard that I used for the Prince de Neufchatel. The Edmund Fitzgerald was steel, so I’m not worried about planking detail. Plus 1/192 scale makes it difficult to put tiny details on anyways. I’ll start making sawdust in the near future (it depends on when I get to a hardware store).
After my yacht, Utrecht, I decided to start building several 17th century Dutch merchant ships and the first one is a Boyer. The plans are from Ab Hoving and Cor Emke published by SeaWatchbooks. The Boyer was a small freighter, often seen in the entire North West European area. In literature it is suggested that the Boyer was developed from another ship, the 'heude', a Southern Dutch inshore vessel, which, in order to be able to sail the higher waves of the open sea (albeit in close vicinity of the coast), was buoyed up (heightened)in the sides; hence its name. Like every ship type, the Boyer is a compromise, which by its little draught and relatively large loading capacity was able to sail both at sea and on shallow waters. For the former, a deep keel performs best, for the latter the flat bottom. The solution for the Boyer was finally found in the application of leeboards, which came into use in the second half of the 16th century. They lessened the drift, allowing at the same time for a flat bottom. The Boyer could perform both inshore and close to the coast and was seldom larger than 22 meters. Its characteristics are the round shape with little deadrize and round bilges, upper planking with much tumble-home ending in the helm port transom, a curved stem and a set of heavy wales, emphasizing the handsome sheer. They sailed close to the coast and could reach cities that were situated relatively far inland, like Berlin, Cologne, Warsaw and Breslau. Wine, fruit, hemp, pitch, tar, wool cloth and spices were the lighter cargos often shipped by boyers. Note: this is going to be a slow going build as at the same time I am building an 8 sided drainage windmill, scale 1:15. It is a replica of a windmill still in existence. Thanks for reading. Marcus
Karl and Marie is based on a typical German freight boat, which were built from the 18th century for use in the East Sea. This type of boat is called the Galeasses, but was nothing to do with the Mediterranean Galeasses. The wide hull allows for a large cargo and was extremely stable but not very fast. Start - 2015 j. boat - fool plan deadeye, blocks frame polishing