The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Sea Gull (Propeller), fire, 1 May 1893

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Mackinac Island, Mich., May 1 - The wrecking tug SEA GULL was burned to the water's edge last night about 8 miles east of Spectacle Reef Light. The burning steamer was sighted from here about 6:00, and the CHARLES WEST immediately went to her assistance, succeeded in quieting the fire and towed her with great difficulty to Bois Blanc Island Point, arriving there this morning. The crew evidently left in their yawls, and are probably at Detour or Spectacle Reef Light. The SEA GULL was owned by Reid, of Bay City, and will be a total loss. There is no doubt of the crew arriving at some point safe, as the night was clear and the wind light.
The SEA GULL was the largest tug on the lakes; was built at Mystic, Conn., and brought from the seaboard a few years ago by James Reid. She was valued at $30,000. At the time of her burning, the SEA GULL was towing the damaged stmr. OHIO to Chicago.
      The Detroit Journal
      May 1, 1893

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      Chicago, May 1, -- It is reported to Chicago underwriters that the big wrecking tug SEAGULL burned and sank in the Straits of Mackinaw last night. She was on her way to tow the wrecked steamer OHIO from Detour to Chicago. The SEAGULL was owned by James reid of bay City and was valued at $30,000. She came out in 1863 and was, perhaps, the most powerful wrecking tug on the lakes. It is believed that she was not insured.
      Cheboygan, May 1. -- The tug SEAGULL left here yesterday afternoon with the wrecked steamer OHIO in tow, for Chicago burned last night when off Spectacle Reef. The crew were taken off by the OHIO, which made her own way to the Straits in safety, although rudderless.
      The steamer WEST went from Mackinac Island to the burning boat and extinguished the fire and towed the hull to the shore. The rescued crew were brought ashore this morning by the tug STROHN.
      Buffalo Enquirer
      Monday, May 1, 1893
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      Cheboygan, Mich., May 2. - The tug SEA GULL, which left Detour on Sunday with the wrecked steamer OHIO in tow for Chicago, was burned when off Spectacle Reef. The crew were taken off by the OHIO, which made her way to the Straits in safety. The loss is $30,000; insurance $28,000.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Tuesday, May 2, 1893 p.1, c.4

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      The big wrecking tug SEA GULL burned and sank in the Straits of Mackinac Sunday night. She was owned by James reid of Bay City and valued at $30,000. The crew were saved.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Wednesday, May 3, 1893
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      Tug SEA GULL, valued at $30,000 burned at the Straits, May 1, 1893. Owned by James Reid. Home port Bay City.
      Total Losses of 1893
      Marine Review
      December 14, 1893

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A long, rakish craft, having the appearance, somewhat, of a revenue cutter, with two spars and a sky-scraping smokestack, was seen to slowly poke her way up the river about 5:20 o'clock last night, and make a landing at Young Bros.' wharf. It was the tug Sea Gull, purchased by the Reid Towing Company, of this city, at New York last winter and brought to the lakes for the purpose of raft towing. She came into the river yesterday with a raft of 5,000,000 feet of logs, which she brought from St. Igance, having started her way down ten days ago. The Sea Gull is a monster craft of her class, and her like has never been seen in the Saginaw River. She has great power, and will make a splendid boat for towing after she has been housed in forward and a reef taken in her smokestack. She has a capacity for carrying 600 tons of fuel. She throws a twelve-foot wheel and draws sixteen feet of water. She will remain in port two weeks. - [Bay City Tribune.
      Detroit Free Press
      September 21, 1888
NOTE: SEA GULL (US22098), was built at Mystic, Connecticut, in 1863 as a brig and was 147x33x10, 521 gt. She burned and sank in the Straits of Mackinac, near Bois Blanc Island, in May of 1893

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      Propeller SEA GULL. U.S. official number 22098. Built Mystic, Conn. 1863. 521.31 gross tons - 241.69 net tons. 160.0 x 33.7 x 15.6. Home port, Detroit. Remarks - formerly British Brig SEA GULL.
      List Of Merchant Vessels
      of the U.S.A. for 1892

      . . . . .

" SEA GULL " Tug. (card Index)
Tug burnt in Straits of Mackinaw May 1, 1893. Valued at $30,000. Home port, Bay City. Owned by James Reid.
      Vessels passed out of existence in 1893
      Marine Review Dec. I4, I893
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The engines from the burned tug SEA GULL are being rebuilt here (Bay City, Mich.) one of them will be placed in the tug MANISTIQUE and the other will be placed in the PARKER, owned by Frank Reid.
      Marine Record
      March 7, 1895

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      Ah, those SEA GULL tugs. It happens that most of them ended up in this area, so I have spent a good amount of time sorting them out. 22098 came to the lakes in 1888 - sinking due to a collision in the St. Lawrence enroute - and became part of the fleet of famous wrecker James Reid, when he was still out of Bay City, MI. She wound up doing more towing than wrecking, and was towing the disabled steamer OHIO when she burned and sank May 1, 1893 near Spectacle Reef. The wreck was later towed to a point near Bois Blanc Island and resunk, and is today a popular dive target. See Feltners' book *Shipwrecks of the Straits of Mackinaw* for a good description. 23857 (sidewheel tug, not prop as shown in Merchant Vessels) was also out of Bay City and was owned by the equally famous Boutell fleet. She was built at Portsmouth, Michigan (not Portsmouth, NH as shown in Merchant Vessels) in 1868 as a passenger steamer and converted to a lumbering tug in 1878. Her initial registry was at Port Huron Jun 25, 1869. She was sunk in a gale in Saginaw Bay in May of 1889. She was quickly abandoned as a total loss and her document surrendered, but was recovered only a few days later (I believe by Reid). When she was raised, she was stoked right up and came back into Bay City under her own steam. She was reregistered and continued to operate until 1898, when she was abandoned. 23526 is the most interesting of all. Merchant Vessels swings back and forth between calling her SEA GULL and SEAGULL. I prefer SEAGULL because that is how she appears in Canadian records. Many sources show her as ending her career off Sand Beach in 1888, as you mention, but the Port Huron Custom House records hint at the true story. She was rescued and towed to Bay City (again, I believe by Reid) and rebuilt as a steamer in the winter of 1888-9. Her new registry as a steamer was dated June 18, 1889, when she came into the possession of J.C. Miller of Tawas City. Her demise is well known hereabouts. On July 5, 1890, she was lying at the dock at Tawas City, MI, unloading a cargo of ice. She caught fire from unknown causes and turned into an inferno which spread to the Tawas lumber docks and destroyed the boat, the docks and half of the waterfront. One crewman died in the accident. Then there is the other little SEA GULL you mentioned...
So to recapitulate the remarkably parallel steam SEA GULLS, we have:
1)A former bark, schooner and barge built in Canada in 1864, sailed the Atlantic, came to Bay City in 1867, wrecked in 1888, rebuilt to a propeller in 1889 and burned in 1890
2)A sidewheeler built on the East Coast in 1863, came to Bay City in 1888 and burned in 1893
3)A sidewheeler built in Bay City in 1868, rebuilt in 1878 at the same place, sunk in 1889 and abandoned, raised and abandoned in 1898
4)A propeller built at Marine City in 1862, sold Canadian in 1867 and dismantled at Sault Ste. Marie in 1912.
      Letter from Dave Swayze

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Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $30,000
Freight: nil
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.76807 Longitude: -84.13946
William R. McNeil
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Sea Gull (Propeller), fire, 1 May 1893