The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 27 Jun, 1895

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The obstruction on which the steam yacht Say When struck at Cleveland is supposed to be a part of the schooner Wahnapitae, which went to pieces just outside the breakwater October 26, 1890. By the occurrences of last week the harbor of Cleveland is getting a bad name. It contains too many submerged obstructions to make the sailing of yachts or other small craft a pleasure. The fragments of the vessel were washed inside the harbor and now lie scattered in various places. The part of the Say When which struck was scarcely two feet below the surface of the water. The launch of the Priscilla struck the same or similar obstruction near by a few days before and a hole six inches or more in diameter was stove through her timbers. Several logs or timbers project above the water, but those that are dangerous are out of sight. Anyone walking along the west river pier can count a number of wreck fragments lying in the water. Many of them are pieces of the Wahnapitae, which was a schooner of 1,359 tons. But besides these there are also various other concealed menaces to navigation in the harbor. One or two old tugs, with machinery gone, lie on the bottom of this so-called refuge.

The junk shop collection, strewn in rich profusion through the shallow waters, has been forming perhaps ever since the year 1832. And in the assortment, too, are many old river spiles, which bob about in the water like submarine ghosts, one end heavy enough to touch bottom, the other near the surface. To strike one of these old oak logs, at the proper angle, would bring destruction to almost any craft that floats in the river harbor.

Most of the hidden wrecks lie in water over which the government does not exercise control. The harbor proper stands inland from the breakwater 1,700 feet. It is comparatively free from wrecks. But in the shallower water nearer the shore lie the obstructions. The big freighters and passenger boats do not invade that territory for if driven by stress of weather to the harbor, they usually enter the east harbor, or at least try to keep within the deeper water near the crib. But the shallow craft, yachts fishing boats, and even skiffs are constantly menaced by the dangers lurking below the surface.

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The big WAHNIPITAE (US#81115) of 1886, was one of the first of James Davidson's giant wooden towbarges, and a fairly unique vessel. She was built specifically for the lumber trade, and though technically a schooner, her "masts" were actually huge derricks used to load her cargo. What made her unique was that she was built as a "log boat," not to carry finished lumber to market, but to bring whole logs of up to 50 feet in length directly from the Canadian pineries to the mills. In a single load she could carry 2.5 million board feet of unsawn lumber, more than most of the cumbersome and dangerous log rafts of the day. She was the most capacious craft on the lakes for her entire short career (1,431gt, 1,360nt).
Date of Original:
27 Jun, 1895
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Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
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), 27 Jun, 1895