The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Post (Detroit, MI), Nov. 21, 1884

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The competition among the lake wrecking tugs is so keen that many pages might be written concerning the devices to which the captains resort to get the better of the opposition.

Mum is the word regarding regarding a wreck until the job of hauling her off is secured and even then, when the information of her whereabouts is given the newspaper reporter, the chances are that the stranded vessel may be a hundred miles from where the gentlemanly wrecker says she struck the shore.

About two weeks ago, in the last gale on Lake Huron, the schooner Sterling, bound down, was driven ashore among the Gheyto islands* on the Canadian coast. Her owners made a bargain with manager Elsie of the Grummond tug and wrecking office in this city to haul her off, and the tug Winslow, equipped with a submarine diver, steam pumps and a full wrecking outfit was started for the scene of the wreck. The day after the Winslow left port all of the city papers noticed the departure of the tug. "The Winslow," the public was informed, "has gone to great Manitoulin island at the head of Lake Huron to rescue the Starling."


The Manitoulin island thus referred to is about 75 or 100 miles north of the Gheytos, where the wreck happened. But all is fair in love, war and wrecking. Besides, it occupies nearly a week of a Canadian customs officer's time to find an American tug with no more definite information than that which was provided by the newspapers, among the innumerable small bays, inlets and other indentations around the rugged coast of the Great Manitoulin.

Meanwhile the Winslow made her way through the rough waters of Lake Huron and the tortuous channels of the Gheytos and went quietly to work on the Starling. The camp equipage was disembarked: soundings were made about the vessel: the submarine diver looked to his armor and the great hawsers were uncoiled in preparation for the pull. As a precaution against surprise a look-out was posted on the coast bluff with instructions to give warning of the approach of Canadian boats or any other craft that did not show their colors.

It appears from the statement made by an eye witness that the look-out, after carefully sweeping the horizon with his glass and finding it extremely cold at that altitude, incautiously descended to warm himself at the galley fire, where he remained for some time discussing a basin of hot soup furnished by his friend the cook. Suddenly he heard the hurried tramp of feet upon the deck above him and the stentorian roar of Capt. Mart Swayne through his trumpet, heard high above the gale:


"Reel off them hot water hose! Cast off the hawsers! All hands to the labberd side to repel boarders! Every man to his cutlass!"

Rushing to the deck, the look-out saw a boat containing her majesty's customs officers and a crew of picked men bearing down the inlet and the black smoke of the tug International in the offing.

"Throw a barrel of pitch into the furnace!" shouted Capt. Swayne through his trumpet. "Stab the first man that crawls up the side with a marling spike! Get ready for a run! Break open that barrel of kerosene, and if we strike a shoal touch a match to it. Burn the craft, but don't let her fall into the hands of the d____d Britisher. Yaw Hip!"

The pitch burned savagely in the furnace and the steam began to hiss fiercely through the pipes as a small boat neared them.

"Back there!." exclaimed Swayne, as the mate trained the pivot gun on the boat and the crew made their cutlasses gleam in the sun. "Back there, or I'll blow you out of the water!"

Her majesty's customs officer stayed the oars and arising in his boat shouted over the waters, "Surrender in the name of the queen! I arrest you for violation of her majesty's custom laws!" And he flourshed a revolver with unexampled energy.

"Go to h__l!" was the undaunted reply of Capt. Swayne. "Ready about there, my lads! Stand by that barrel of kerosene with the torch, there! Throw another barrel of pitch in the furnace! Give her all the steam she's got. Yaw Whoop!"


The Winslow fairly leaped through the water, and as she dashed by the boat the cook threw a head of cabbage with a deadly aim and the missile, barely missing her majesty's customs officer, burst into fragments on the head of the helmsman.

"Pursue them!" commanded the officer.

Her majesty's officer had made a serious mistake in trying to board the Winslow from the small boat. Had he remained aboard the International and sent the boat to alarm the Winslow, he might have captured her in the offing. As it stood, there was nobody on board the International having authority to stop the flying tug; consequently the latter could only play the role of spectator until the small boat with her majesty's officers was picked up. Still it was miles to American waters and safety for the Winslow, which crashed through the waves and showed three fourths of her keel at every jump.

Pursuit was made by the International as soon as the boat was picked up, and although the Winslow was but a speck in the wide waters, the chase was steadily maintained until the shores of Michigan loomed up in the cloud-draped horizon and the Winslow was driving and plunging in her mad career off Saginaw Bay. She was safe!

Media Type:
Item Type:
*Most likely Ghegheto Island and associated reefs, located about 25 miles north of Southampton, Ontario, off Howdenvale.
Date of Original:
Nov. 21, 1884
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
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 Post (Detroit, MI), Nov. 21, 1884