Lucerne Sunk In Superior Gale
Gregory Lloyd was an old-fashioned “rope puller” who preferred to sail the Great Lakes on the three-masted schooner
Lucerne under sail than submit to having his command towed by the growing armada of steamships operating on the lakes in 1886.
it was that Captain Lloyd rejected any offer of having his 195-foot-long ore-laden vessel brought under tow when he and his
crew set sail from Ashland into Lake Superior on November 15. Even though November was known for its violent storms on the
lakes, Lloyd reportedly declared that he would “rather go out with her under canvas than under the tow of any steamer.”
was bound for Cleveland on what was to have been its last trip of the season. But when it was caught in a furious winter gale
a few hours later, the Lucerne was lost off Ontonagon, Michigan, on the lea shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
sightings of the Lucerne suggested that Lloyd had turned the vessel around and was sailing west, probably seeking shelter
in Chequarmegon Bay. He almost made it. After the storm was over, the La Pointe light keeper located the wreck just a few
miles from the entrance to the bay. Only two of the schooner’s three masts were above water and the bodies of three
dead sailors, all frozen, were lashed to the rigging. Two other bodies later washed ashore.
rests upright in about 24 feet of water. The anchors were out, suggesting that the crew was unsure of the ship’s location
in the midst of a blinding snowstorm and dropped the hooks in a last-ditch effort to ride out the gale. But the Lucerne was
dragging its anchors and eventually was blown backward into a shoal. Once its centerboard was stuck in the sand, the vessel
was immobile. This allowed the heavy seas to pound and sink it.
The Lucerne was among the larger schooners on the lakes. It was built in Tonawanda, New York, in 1873. Its
sharp, elegant clipper bow gave the vessel speed. Built for the grain trade between Chicago and Buffalo, the vessel could
carry up to 52,000 bushels of corn.
Sold in 1886, the Lucerne’s new owners put the schooner on a new route, carrying ore from Lake Superior.
She did not survive its first season.