The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Monroe (Steamboat), narrow escape, 11 Sep 1839

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Gale- Narrow Escape - A gale commenced blowing on Monday last, from the S.W. which increased during the day; during which a number of schooners made our harbor for shelter. On Tuesday morning the gale increased to a perfect hurricane. About 12 M. on Tuesday, the Steam Boat MONROE, Capt. S.F. Atwood, hove in sight, bound down. She made her course safely, through a tremendous sea, until within a few rods of the breakwater, when she parted her tiller chains. Her situation was now truly alarming. Capt. Atwood informs us that he was never placed in a more critical and dangerous situation. To go ahead was certain destruction, the boat becoming entirely unmanagable, and every sea, drifting her directly on the pier. As he could not go ahead, he resolved on backing her into the Lake again, which he did, running within a few feet of the end of the pier. He then, in hopes of holding on long enough tp partially rig his rudder again, let go his large anchor, but the sea running to heavy, she dragged anchor, and was obliged to slip cable and drift down at the mercy of the waves. At this time the passengers became frantic with fear - some ringing the bell, others waving hats and handkerchiefs, all of which was distinctly visible on shore; but it was not in the power of man to render them any assistance. The next step of Capt. A. was to work the stern of his boat into the wind the best way he could without any rudder, which done, he forced her back again, to within a few rods of the channel; in the meantime, having rigged a spare tiller which was on board, he attempted to come round, but the first heavy sea that struck the rudder broke the tiller. Again an attempt was made by means of swinging a man overboard, to rig a temporary tackle on the head of the rudder; which being done, she again attempted to make the channel, when a gleam of hope again beamed on the countenance of all on board - but it was soon banished - the sea again seemed to defy the power or art of man to contend with it, and again turned the boat about at its mercy; the rudder giving away the third time.
Again the alarm bell was heard, and gestures seen, by those on shore, which told the imploring desires of those on board. All of which could only be seen and pities by the multitude which now lined the shore, watching with the most intense anxiety, the fate of the
Again did the anxious countenance of the Capt. show that he was called upon for a quick decision, the correctness, of which might save or destroy the lives of hundreds of human beings, who were already supplicating him for life. His mind was quickly made, and as quickly executed. To attempt to steer down the lake, without the use of a rudder, in such a sea as was then in motion, was certain death to all on board; and to attempt to come in at the lower channel, he thought would certainly run him ashore at the lower end of the bay, which he preferred to either going against the pier on the outside, or down the lake. His next orders were to have the boat trimmed to windward, by means of the passengers and freight, and make the lower channel if possible. The attempt proved successful.
After turning, to the surprise of all, she made directly for the wharf, far enough to reach still water; when she let go her small and only remaining anchor amid the cheers of hundreds of spectators and is now, at the time of our writing, safely moored at the wharf.
We have conversed with several of the passengers, who uniformly inform us that the conduct of Capt. Atwood, his officers, and crew, on the occasion, was such as to entitle them to the respect and confidence of all on board.
Cape. Ludlow, of the S.B. ROCHESTER, which was laying in port at the time, is also entitled to much credit, for his prompt and humane exertions for the safety of the MONROE, in immediately manning his small boat, and assisting her to moorings fastened to the ROCHESTER, when he saw Capt. AtWood was dragging his small anchor. - - Dunkirk Beacon
      Cleveland Daily Herald & Gazette
      Friday, September 13, 1839; 2:2



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Reason: narrow escape
Lives: nil
Remarks: Uninjured
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.4795 Longitude: -79.33393
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Monroe (Steamboat), narrow escape, 11 Sep 1839