The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
City of Detroit (Steamboat), aground, 31 Mar 1891

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      Detroit, March 3.1 - The sky was black with clouds and rain when the CITY OF DETROIT started on her regular trip to Cleveland las night.
      There were 73 passengers on board. The dense darkness probably caused the big boat to run out of her course.
      About half a mile above the Lime Kiln Crossing on the Canadian side a large rock known as McDougal's rock lies in the river bed covered by only a few feet of water. It has been a constant menace to navigation and is considered one of the most dangerous spots on the lakes. No two vessels of the CITY OF DETROIT' size could pass each other at this point. The rock has been marked by a buoy in the daytime and by a range light at night, after navigation is opened.
      This light has not yet been placed, and when the DETROIT came along at full speed last night she ran upon the rock, squarely knocking a large hole into her bottom amidships.
      The water rushed into the boat in a stream, and soon the water-tight compartment in the middle of the boat was filled.
      The passengers had all got nicely to sleep when the shock came. The crash awakened every person on the boat, and in a moment the scene on the vessel became one of the greatest confusion. All the passengers, among whom were 15 women, rushing out upon the decks, with nothing but their night clothing upon them. In the darkness they could neither see where they were, nor did they give themselves time to inquire the amount of danger, but ran about crying and lamenting. While the men did none of the shrieking, they were almost equally as frightened as the women and ran helplessly to and fro. The boilers of the boat are in the compartment where the hole was made and the water soon put out the fires, but there was still enough steam to give headway.
      Capt. D.A. McLachlan and his brother, Pilot, Malcom McLachlan, were in charge. They immediately ordered the boat swung around and ran her nose ashore in the Canadian Pacific slip, which is close to the rock.
      When the boat struck the solid earth the passengers gradually calmed down and the panic subsided.
      The hole was on the port side and the vessel listed badly, but the crew were all set to work at the pumps and in a little while the vessel righted.
      The passengers then stood about the rainy decks until eight o'clock this morning, when the steamer RIVERSIDE took them off. Some of the passengers got off at Wyandotte and took the train there for Cleveland, but most of them came up to Detroit.
      The damage cannot possibly be estimated at this time, but it is thought it will be considerable, as all the dining room furnishings, the electric light apparatus and much of the machinery are all located below the lower deck and are submerged.
      "The night was intensely dark, it was raining hard, and the buoys which usually mark the channel at this point have not yet been placed." said a man who was on board. "Under these circumstances the CITY ran out of her course considerably and struck a rock. The steamer ran clean over the obstruction and her bottom was torn and pierced in the three forward compartments, allowing the water to pour in in such such quantities as to sink the boat."
      A passenger who was on board says he believes the boat is severely damaged. The CITY OF DETROIT is the steamer which sunk the steambarge KASOTA in the river off the exposition buildings last summer.
      It is estimated by the way the water poured into the forward compartments of the steamer that the rent in the bottom is fully 40 feet long, and it is on the starboard side, but more than this is not known, as the water prevents an examination of her. Her forward compartments, in fact all except those containing the dining-room and kitchen are flooded to the guards, and if the after bulkhead should give way the situation would be much worse, as the stern is floating in 24 feet of water, to the bottom of which she would go.
      When the vessel struck, the officer in charge ran her straight down stream 5,000 feet and then sheered her into the railroad dock upon the Canadian side of the Canada Southern crossing. The night was fearfully dark, and at the moment of the accident the boat was running into the teeth of a heavy pelting storm of sleet and hail.
      Mr. Kirby says that the accident occurred at the worst possible time, as the wreckers have not yet got their outfit in working shape. The CLEVELAND brought down three steam pumps, which will be put to work as soom as the diver examines the steamer's bottom and does some temporary patching. The diver is to make an attempt this afternoon. It will take a week to release the CITY from her present position, and then there will be a further delay because of the fact that the Springwells dry dock, the only one large enough to admit the CITY, is now occupied by another boat. It will take a month or more, Mr. Kirby says, to put the boat in commission.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      Wednesday, April 1, 1891

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Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Raised
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.12588 Longitude: -83.13215
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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City of Detroit (Steamboat), aground, 31 Mar 1891