Racine, WI Steamer Onoko & Schooner Mary D. Ayer Wreck - Collide in Midlake


Steamer Onoko Runs Into the Schooner Mary D. Ayer


Five members of Her Crew Are Drowned

Sank Off Racine While in Tow of The Steamer City of Duluth

The big iron steamer Onoko collided with the schooner Mary D. Ayer off
Racine at an early hour yesterday morning and the latter boat is still
missing. There was a dense fog on the lake at the time, and with but
an instant's warning the schooner loomed up directly ahead of the
steamer. The long jibboom of the Ayer ran into the pilot-house of the
Onoko, barely missing the wheelman, and then tore its way out through
the end. The rail from bow to quarter was torn from its fastenings by
the jibboom, and at last the spar gave way. The bows of the schooner
were broken in by the impact of the collision, and her master
immediately ordered her anchor overboard.

The Onoko, which is one of the few iron boats on the lake and belongs
to the Minch fleet of Cleveland, was coming up Lake Michigan loaded
with iron ore for the Illinois Steel Company at South Chicago. The
Mary D. Ayer, one of ED E. AYER's fleet of cedar vessels, was bound
down the lake light from Chicago to Alpena. Rain had been falling all
the evening, making it impossible to see any distance.

"We were blowing fog signals every minute," said Captain JOHNSON of
the Onoko yesterday, "and feeling our way along as best we could.
Suddenly, without a moment's warning, the sails of a schooner loomed
up right ahead. Before I could signal our engineer to reverse his
engines the crash came.

Strikes the Pilot-House

"The schooner's bowsprit struck he pilot-house, and, before the
headway of both boats cold be stopped, it had torn its way right aft
along the rail, stripping that away, and finally broke off short. Her
jibboom, martingale boom, and spiritsail yard were left on our decks
when we broke apart.

"I could see that the schooner was badly stove in forward, but as she
was without cargo I knew she was in no immediate danger of sinking. I
thought she was anchored right after the collision. As I could do
nothing but tow her to South Chicago I went ahead again and reached
port about 6 o'clock this morning."

On arriving at South Chicago Captain Johnson telephoned the Dunham
Towing and Wrecking Company, and the big tug T. T. Morford was at once
sent to look after the Ayer.

The Monford returned to Chicago at 9 o'clock last night, after
searching all day for the Ayer, but was unable to find her. Some
apprehension for the safety of the schooner was felt last night.
There was a very high sea in midlake all day, and a high wind
prevailed. The wind abated at night-fall, however, and if the Ayer
lived through the day she will doubtless arrive in some port within a
short time. Being unable to head into the wind, she probably turned
and ran before it, and the news of her arrival at some port on the
east shore of the lake will be anxiously awaited.

Headed for the Beach

The Ayer was sighted off Racine, headed for the beach, yesterday
morning, by the steamer Starke, which arrived in port yesterday

"The schooner was first seen by us about 7:30 o'clock in the morning."
said Captain CROSBY of the Starke. "She was under sail, and was about
fifteen miles off Racine. The wind was blowing a gale, and we had
great difficulty in approaching the vessel close enough to ascertain
her condition. She was carrying signals of distress, and asked us to
tow her to post, but this we could not do, as we had all we could do
to look after ourselves. She was leaking some but her pumps were
keeping her clear, and she was making good weather. Her jibboom and
most of her forward rigging was gone. Her bow appeared to be crushed
in down to and below the water line, and she presented a bruised and
battered appearance. The wind and sea made it difficult for us to
understand what those aboard of her said, but they made us understand
that they were in no immediate danger, and so we left them. We passed
the tug T. T. Montford off Kenosha about 9.30, and directed her
captain where to find the injured schooner."

The Daily Inter Ocean, Chicago, IL, 18 May 1896