The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Big Lake Steamer is Abandoned
Sturgeon Bay Advocate (Sturgeon Bay, WI), 13 Jul 1918

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      Five Sailors Forced To Play Robinson Crusoe

Five Sturgeon Bay sailors played the part of Robinson Crusoe for five days when the steamer CREAM CITY, of which they were a part of the crew, stranded and had to be abandoned. The CREAM CITY and two consorts, the GRACE HOLLAND and JOHN A. FRANCOMB, were flying light and bound for Manitoulin Island, Ont., for pulp wood. Before daylight early in the morning, these boats were making for the North Channel through False Detour Channel there being a big sea and a 60-mile gale from the westward. A reef was struck by the steamer about half a mile south of False Detour Channel and getting in the trough of the sea her iron rudder snapped off. Immediately her anchors were let go and the tow line dropped but the boat dragged her hooks and went onto a reef at 3:15 that morning. The HOLLAND also was unable to ride at anchor and also went onto the beach, the FRANCOMB managing to hold on.


On account of the big waves and the heavy surf it was impossible to launch a boat until about twenty-four hours had passed and the sea had gone down, then the boats were provisioned and went ashore to a small island, uninhabited except by deer and other game or animals. Here a tent was erected and the men, twenty-two in number, lived for five days. Immediately after getting ashore Capt. Farley of the CREAM CITY, took a boat crew and set out for the closest telephone distance about fifteen miles away. In response to the message a gasoline boat came from Detour and took off the men, bringing them to Detour where they got a boat to the Soo and went to their homes by rail. James Curry of Sturgeon Bay, was chief engineer of the CREAM CITY, and his son, George, was assistant to him. Gardner Karker, Geo. Wickman and Harry Simon, also Sturgeon Bay lads, were firemen on the boat and all returned home none the worse for their adventure.

The tug T.H. GREEN went to the scene of the wreck and took the FRANCOMB in tow and an examination was made of the other two craft. It was found that the CREAM CITY is badly broken up forward of the boiler house and she was abandoned to the underwriters as a total loss. The HOLLAND is not so badly injured and the captain and two men remained in charge of her and an effort will be made to release her.

The CREAM CITY is well known here, she having been formerly the steamer RHODA EMILY. She is 166 feet long, 32 feet beam, and of 570 gross and 416 net tons, being built in Trenton, Mich., in 1884, and given a through rebuild when her name was changed. She was owned by the James Andrews Trans. Co., of Escanaba, and considered an A 1 lumber barge, being valued at $45,000. Engineer Curry fitted her out at Chicago in March. The GRACE HOLLAND is 189 feet long and 33 feet beam, having a gross tonnage of 620 and a register tonnage of 597. The JOHN A. FRANCOMB is 180 feet long and 36 feet beam and her tonnage dimensions are 658 and 625 respectively. All of these boats were in the pulp wood trade between Michigan City, the north end of Lake Michigan and Manitoulin Island ports and Detroit. -Sturgeon Bay Advocate.

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13 Jul 1918
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Ray Grant
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Big Lake Steamer is Abandoned