The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
John Miner (Schooner), U12686, aground, 19 Oct 1902

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In the north gale last night the schooner JOHN MINER bound for Detroit from Harbor Springs with a cargo of lumber, stranded on Point aux Barques reef. Seven men were rescued by the life saving crew. The boat will be a total loss. She was built in 1866 and owned by Capt. Norman McDonald of Detroit. She was 134 feet long and 255 tons registered.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, October 20, 1902

RIG: Bark (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); Schooner (1876; 1877; 1878; 1879;
1880; 1880-81; 1882; 1883; 1884; 1885
LOA: 134.4
BEAM: 26.0
DEPTH: 10.4
GROSS: 273.32 (Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875); 273.30 (1876; 1877; 1878); 273.32
(1879; 1880; 1880-81; 1882; 1883; 1884; 1885
NET: 259.76 (1884); 259.66 (1885
CITY: Detroit
HOME PORT: Detroit, MI (Pre-list; 1869); Milwaukee, WI (1870); Chicago, IL (1871; 1872; 1873; 1875;
1876; 1877; 1878; 1879; 1880; 1880-81; 1882; 1883; 1884; 1885
YEARS LISTED: Pre-list; 1869; 1870; 1871; 1872; 1873; 1875; 1876; 1877; 1878; 1879; 1880; 1880-81; 1882;
1883; 1884; 1885

      Existing Hull Inspection Regulations Condemned
      Matters To Be Brought Before River And Harbor Committee.
      Chicago, August 5. -- "Heavy losses of life among lake sailors is almost certain to occur when the fall gales set in unless some method of regulating and inspecting sailing vessels is instituted. Vessels are daily leaving port which are unseaworthy and which are liable to go down with all on board in any heavy weather. There is absolutely no inspection of these craft before they sail or at ant time."
      This statement was made yesterday by Capt. Tony Everett, commanding the schooner FORD RIVER, one of the staunchest wooden craft that plies from this port. It was prompted by a discussion of the narrow escapes of the crew of the JOHN MINER and a number of other exciting adventures on leaky crafts during the present season. The alleged lack of inspection will soon be brought to the attention of Congress and a new inspection law asked for. The JOHN MINER is a three masted schooner built in 1866.
      When a crew could no longer be persuaded to sail in it, or when its captain-owner was unwilling to risk himself outside with it, it was run into Magazine slip, near South Halsted street bridge, and was left there to fill and sink and rot away. There it lay for three or four years, until last fall, when the freight rates went to a high figure, and everything that had a bottom left in it was brought out and pressed into service.
A local dealer in old barges then bought it, had it pumped out and raised and towed up to the North Branch. When an attempt was made to calk the boat, it was found so rotten that many planks had to be replaced, and when these were put on many of the timbers underneath were too old to hold them. Vesselmen all along the river watched the work of repair amazed, and doubted that a crew could be found for her. One was found, however, and the MINER was towed out of the river and loaded coal in Toledo for Marine City. It reached the latter port some days later with the crew exhausted from forty-eight hours at the pumps. Fortunately the weather had been calm, for had a gale sprung up, it is believed that the boat would have gone to pieces. The crew deserted at the dock in Marine City. When vesselmen here heard the story they became indignant. Many persons wondered that the inspectors had allowed the vessel to pass, and then it transpired that there is no inspection for sailing vessels, except a private one in the event of application for insurance.
      "No one seems to care what become of the lake sailors," said Capt. Everett. The rottenest vessels are allowed to run with the staunchest without regard to what cargo or depth. As a result the old-timers are brought out, loaded deep, and run up and down until a gust of wind strikes them and sends them to the bottom. The past season was free from gales, so the loss of life was small, but the present summer has been one of uncertain winds and the fall promises to be stormy, if it is, its death roll will be a long one.
"Years ago, when the sailing vessels were in the grain trade, the insurance inspectors used to come aboard every trip and see that the boats were all right before they allowed them to be loaded, but that is not done now. There was a law, I think requiring the inspection of sailing vessels. If there was it has been lost. The big lumber and coal people found it to their interest to substitute barges for sailing craft and tow them behind steamers. They do not insure them, and no one knows how rotten they are There are seven of them running out of Chicago that will almost break in two when they run into a sea. Sailors are, for the most part men who have to take any job they can get, so the owners of these craft are able to pick up a crew, though the men know they take their lives in their hands when they sail.
      "Then the boats are overloaded. Years ago, when the sailors were organized, they forced the adoption of a 'Plimsoll' mark or load water line on every vessel, and it was not allowed to carry deeper than that. Such a regulation exists on salt water. The Lake Carriers Association, however, composed of rich vessel owners, found this was preventing them from carrying the last hundred bushels or so of cargo, so they had the insurance people abolish it. The seamen are not now able to get it restored. The boats in the ore trade are being systematically overloaded and the captains as well as the crew are protesting, but without avail."
"There are vessels running out of this port," said a tug captain, "that we have to handle gently so we won't pull them apart. "The MINER was a fair example, but there are others. The schooner AMERICA, that sank last year, was one. They go without any inspection whatever, and the government, apparently, pays no attention to them except through the demand that they list the cargo they are carrying and keep the collector informed of their departure, arrival and destination."
      Even the freight steamers - and passenger as well - are without regulation as to the amount of cargo to be carried, and the former are regularly loaded at upper lake ports until their decks are awash. An inspector of hulls is stationed at Chicago, who is supposed to examine each year into the condition of all boats hailing from this port and determine their seaworthiness. The thoroughness of this work always has been a matter of opinion between the inspector and the vessel owners on the one hand and the sailors on the other. The latter point to the recent experiences of the steamer as an illustration on their side. The CLEVELAND, a forty-year-old steamer, after sinking at the mouth of the river last fall, was raised, recalked and allowed to run again. There is said to be no regulation of the manner of calking. At any rate, the steamer sank again, almost as soon as it returned to port. The inspector, Capt. C.A. Richardson, came in for considerable criticism at the time, as it was charged by sailors that he had allowed the steamer to go out in an unseaworthy condition. He defended himself with the statement that it was running under old papers issued at Port Huron, and he was not required to inspect it until those papers had expired.
The whole matter of vessel inspection and vessel loading has been brought to the front by these accidents, and by others, among which was the loss in Lake Erie two years ago, with nineteen persons, of the steamer IDAHO. Though the agitation has not as yet come to a head, the mariners hope to be able to get action on it from some of the seamen's organizations in time to make a showing before the River and Harbor Commission [?damaged line of type?] lakes this month, they believe a motion can be put through the next session of congress, providing for a load line and thorough inspection of all vessels' hulls.
      Detroit Free Press
      August 6, 1900

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Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
William R. McNeil
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John Miner (Schooner), U12686, aground, 19 Oct 1902