The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 23 Apr. 1872

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OUR REVENUE CUTTERS. - Examinations already made or now in progress show that the revenue cutters built by the government in 1865 for service on the lakes are in an advanced state of decay, and practically unseaworthy. Such is the case with the Andrew Johnson, stationed here, and it was upon the strength of a report to that effect, made by Capt. Evans, that the Treasury Department decided to keep her out of commission. Capt. Evans found the timbers of the Johnson doey*, and the vessel unseaworthy. According to his estimate an expenditure of $5,000 and upwards will be necessary to rebuild her.

The revenue cutter Dix was officially examined on Wednesday, and found to be in such a state of decay as to be unseaworthy. The Examining Board will recommend to the Secretary of the Treasury to condemn her. The Dix has seen but one year's active service.

We expect to hear similar reports from the others. The cause of the sudden decay of these handsome steamers is the total absence of salt in their hulls, none having been used when they were built. The folly of the official who had charge of their construction will cost the government fully half a million dollars, for it is hardly probable that any of them will be rebuilt, and if sold at auction they will no bring one-half of the actual value of their beautiful machinery. - [Milwaukee Wisconsin.

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*i.e. doughy
The hulls of wooden vessels built on the Great Lakes were routinely packed with salt between the planking and the ceiling [hull lining] to prevent decay. A big schooner required tons of salt for this process. As the wood became saturated with water, the salt dissolved and was drawn into it. Of course, this was not necessary on saltwater vessels and many saltwater builders who sold vessels to fresh water found to their regret that it was the salt which gave the laker's wooden hulls such long life. Great Lakes oaken vessels, when properly salted and maintained, were known to last 50 years or more, unless enacted upon by an outside force such as a storm, a fire or neglect. A recent example is the wooden replica sloop WELCOME. Built on the East Coast in the 1970's as a replica of a 1775 Great Lakes vessel, she was not salted (as recommended by lakes historians). Despite constant maintenance, after little more than a decade of sitting in Lake Michigan near historic Fort Michilimackinac, the vessel's hull became so rotted that she was pulled out of the water to keep her from sinking. As of 1996, the beautiful little 60-footer was in process of rebuilding, but I don't know the result.      
Date of Original:
23 Apr. 1872
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Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 23 Apr. 1872