Collision At Full Speed In The Fog


By James Donahue


The freighters Cayuga and Joseph L. Hurd came together with a mighty crunch when they collided in fog at full speed off Charlevoix, Mich., near the Skilligalee light, on May 10, 1895.


The Cayuga was steaming from Milwaukee to Buffalo with a cargo of flour and oats. The Hurd was laden with lumber and other freight on its way to Chicago.


The helmsmen aboard both vessels recklessly maintained the full speed of their ships, blowing signals and relying on their ears to tell them the locations of other vessels in the area. But the sound of horns and whistles from moving ships on water can be confusing, as these sailors were to sadly learn.


As the story is told, the crews of both vessels were aware they were approaching each other, but they said there was a mix-up over the passing signals. The 171-foot-long Hurd struck the 290-foot-long Cayuga broadside, just abreast of the forward hatch on the starboard side.


The wooden bow of the Hurd was so firmly embedded in the steel hull of the larger steamer that the forward motion of the Cayuga broke it completely off the hull of the lumber hooker.


It was clear that the Cayuga was sinking fast and the forward bulkhead of the Hurd was holding, so the Cayuga’s crew boarded it. The crippled freighter then attempted to make its way into Harbor Springs. But the bulkhead began to fail, the Hurd began settling, and the skipper was forced to drive it aground on the nearest shore.


It was said the only casualty of the wreck was the cook of the Hurd, who tried to swim ashore for help and drowned.


The passing steamer Manola later took the crews of both vessels aboard and brought them safely to port.


The Hurd was sold off the beach by auction, salvaged and rebuilt in 1882, and later converted to a barge in 1891. It stranded with a load of crushed stone off Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in 1913, and was scuttled for use as a dock facing. What was left of the vessel burned that same year.


The Reid Salvage Co. of Port Huron attempted to salvage the Cayuga in 1899 and again in 1900 but was not successful. The vessel was found at 106 feet. During the effort a diver was killed. Salvagers got pontoons on the wreck and raised it enough to tow it, still submerged, closer to shore.


Sports divers who visit the wreck say some of the pontoons are still attached to the wreck. They say the wooden bow of the Hurd is still imbedded in the side.




The Mind of James Donahue


Great And Lost Ships Of The World