Famous Racers Of The Lakes
When the Porter Beat the Moonlight Into Milwaukee
Sailed by Captain Orville Green, an Oswego Master, Who Took the Sticks Out of Her Rather Than Take In His Canvas - Captain Dennis Sullivan of Chicago Was In the Moonlight.
Captain Eugene Herman's Great Lakes Weekly, printed in Milwaukee, comes to hand this week with a highly interesting article on the race of the famous old lake schooners Moonlight and Porter, from that port to Buffalo in the old days when the windjammer was king of the deep.
Captain-Editor Herman probably didn't know it, but both the Moonlight and Porter are held in hallowed memory by sailormen on Lake Ontario, for it was an Oswego sailor, Captain Amasa Stowell, who brought the Porter out; and it was another gallant Oswego tar - Captain Orville Green - who won the race with the Porter, bringing his schooner into Milwaukee with spars gone and canvas blown away.
Captain Dennis Sullivan, of Chicago, who managed the Wolvin line for many years, plying between Oswego and Lake Michigan ports, sailed the Moonlight on that famous trip and might have won had h not put back to save his schooner from meeting the same fate that befell the Porter.
There was some shipping at Milwaukee in those days as at present, but the windjammers carried the tonnage. There are mentioned in Captain Herman's story the schooners Red, White and Blue, J.B. Merrill, Angus Smith, A.B. Norris, Typo, Marengo, Itasca and others, all familiar to Oswego sailormen because nearly all have at one time or another made this a port of call.
"It was in the Summer of 1880, when many of us were still boys," Captain Herman says, "when the schooner Moonlight, in command of Captain Sullivan, and the Porter, in command of Captain Orville Green, set sail for the port of Buffalo, each with a cargo of wheat. The run down was without incident. The schooners went through the rivers in the same tow and they entered the harbor at Buffalo almost side by side, so that there was no issue. The race had attracted a lot of attention from vessel men and no little money changed hands."
"As the vessels made ready for the up-trip the excitement increased and in shipping offices and ship chandlery stores about the only thing talked of was the race of the schooners up the lakes. When they were ready for sea they were towed outside. The piers were crowded as well as the tugs and the tow-lines were cast off amid the blowing of tug whistles and the cheering of those on the breakwater.
"There was nothing of excitement in the race until Lake Michigan was approached. Passing the island a stiff breeze was encountered and both schooners carried every fag and keeled over in the breeze. Stronger the wind came and water came sloshing through the scuppers, but the skippers and men were in no mood for shortening down. 'Drive her through,' was the one thought of all, but the time came when prudence demanded something else. Instead of a blow the storm had turned into a Summer's gale. Both schooners were beating down the West shore and were reported almost abreast of each other off Sheboygan and the news was flashed to Milwaukee by the telegraph operators who had been on the lookout.
"Approaching Port Washington the wind was blowing in cyclonic gusts and the time came when it was necessary to run for shelter or take desperate chances of piling the schooners on the beach. The Moonlight was the first to weaken and she put back to Port Washington. The Porter's captain kept right on for the goal under shortened sail and then the crash came and, caught in a gust heavier than the rest, the spars were whipped out of the Porter and she was a helpless wreck on the tossing seas. The crash came off North Point as the Porter was headed for the harbor piers and hundreds who were out to see the racers coming down the lake witnessed the accident and tugs were sent to the rescue and brought the Porter into Milwaukee.
"She had won the race by reaching Milwaukee first, but it cost her owners some stack of dollars to refit her, to say nothing of the loss in time sustained. The owners, however, took great pride in the achievement of their schooner and Captain Green was highly complimented for his bravery and daring. "It was the next day that Captain Sullivan and the Moonlight sailed into port and while both had lost the glory of winning the race they felt repaid in a measure by the profits on the trip and the fact that thee was no extraordinary outlay necessary before the schooner made her next run.
"Captain Sullivan is now one of the biggest vessel brokers and managers on the lakes, with offices in Chicago, and Captain Green is keeping youth on his side under the smiling skies of Southern California, having retired from the lakes many years ago."