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Have you seen the "Black Water"?

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posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 01:35 AM
One November night, I was out of town (in Detroit, MI). I went downtown, I was in the city center (down by the river, for those who know it). There's a big city center park nearby. I'd had a nice dinner in Greek town and decided to go sit out in the park by the fountains and write a bit about life there. Sadly, Detroit is not a nice city...even in some of the nicer city center areas. I was interested in some of the ships (ore boats) running up and down the river. The Maritime Cathedral was nearby and I'd been through it earlier in the day (think: Edmund Fitzgerald, among others). My father had been a senior engineer for Great Lakes Steel, and the Edmund Fitzgerald was bringing ore to the blast furnaces of Great Lakes that night in November 1975. It was November and it was cold (really 100% humidity cold...40 degrees). I had a lot to write about that night.

(I could tell some serious stories about the Edmund Fitzgerald, and that night of Nov. 10 1975, but this story is about a pencil)

Some dude came up to me and started hassling me about giving him some money. It was endless, they were everywhere after sunset, and it was cold. Now, I'm not a small guy, nor am I am not one to run from a confrontation, but this particular night I wasn't in the mood. I'm not sure why I did what I did, but I just held up my pencil and asked the most forward of the dudes that were begging, asked him if he'd like to help me finish the story I was it was all I had. I got no response, but for the rest of the evening I was left alone.

I'd gone to pay my respects at the Maritime Cathedral that day (and may have been feeling a little bulletproof, perhaps wrongfully so). No one there ever heard of the Edmund Fitzgerald, they didn't care. I'd been on the ore boats before, never the EF though. You could ride on them then. I'd been out on Lake Erie and Huron in the rough and the dark. I'd seen what they called the "black" water. I'd been out in the shallows of Erie and Huron, but Superior was DEEP! I never thought that water could sink something that big! These boats were HUGE! But, I'd seen the "black" water they talked about. The water just turns ink black...and it's skeery.

One night I had to ferry one of Dad's boats across lake St. Claire. It was late October. The boat was a 26' Aquasport (virtually unsinkable, self bailing hull, deep-V hull). The wind was blowing, but no matter the Swordfish would handle it (I thought). I invited a friend of mine to go with me that night. We got about 2/3rds of the way across the lake in big waves. The water was 20 feet deep, and we were in 15 foot breaking surf. It was snowing. Never mind, I thought, nothing can take the Swordfish down (I thought). I'd been through some big water in my life and was a qualified captain...this was nothing (I thought). At one point we even sped up, the waves breaking 10-15 feet over the big V bow. It was awesome. But the weather was pretty ugly and we were getting near shore, so we were looking for markers coming into the marina. We turned on the big lights...that's when I saw it. The water was black, just completely black, and unless you've ever seen black water like that you'd never understand. But that wasn't the worst part! At one point about 2 miles from shore we came over the top of a big breaker, and as we came over the top of the wave I saw....the BOTTOM!! No kidding!! Told Chris to "HANG ON!!" I figured for sure we would hit bottom. I'd never seen that before, the waves so big, they exposed the bottom between them. Backwash on the wave kept us from hitting bottom (barely), but all the fun had been let out of my it was life or death. Then I really took notice of that "black" was angry water. As close as we were to the shore, we were so far that night. If we slammed into the bottom our "unsinkable" boat would have been split into splinters in a second, and we would have been chewed up by the debris in the surf.

We'd been taking the waves head on (because it was fun) (stupid), but it was clear, it wasn't "fun" anymore. We swung around to the wind and started quartering (out of the channel). The bottom will still being exposed in every trough (holy crap!!!) The water was completely black! I've never seen anything like it (but I'd heard about it).

There was no way we could continue toward shore. Had to turn around and find deeper water. I actually turned to Channel 9 that night (Coast Guard) and made sure the radio was working. As I turned around we were in a following sea. Every wave swamped us! We were in 3' of water on the deck, every wave. Yeah, it would run out the back, but the water was cold (very cold). I had boots on, under my bibs, but Chris didn't. I was having to throttle up to stay out of each trough, and sometimes hitting bottom doing so. This was not good. "We're so CLOSE, TURN AROUND!!", Chris said. It was storming and sleeting so hard we had to scream to even hear each other. As much water as we were taking over the stern I was genuinely worried we were going to swamp the engine. The Aquasport only had about 2' of freeboard aft, and there was water running over the gunwales (from inside) on every wave. (Side Note: I remember thinking to myself, I can swim through anything as a diver, so not to worry) (very selfish thought) (Chris wasn't nearly the same swimmer).

I accelerated out to deeper water and the crests calmed down to just big swells. It was funny, we turned on the deck lights and the whole deck was just awash, water sloshing over the bow and back to the stern on every swell. Up the swells the water would run out, but the remaining water would slam forward and splash off the bow and spray everywhere in the wind. The engine was running, and we could maintain course (despite Chris's pleas), so at least we had things stabilized for the moment. But we still had 2 miles to go, and it was very rough (VERY) near shore. The wind was blowing (windward) toward shore.

Chris grew up in MT, and I grew up in WY (but spent a lot of time in FL piloting boats), so neither of us were going to give up very easy, but Chris was wet and cold. I knew we were going to get wet before we left, but I didn't push it enough with him. He was dressed warm, but not for being soaking wet.

I'll just never forget turning around that night. The lights of shore and the channel were right there, but it was just too dangerous. I held off calling anyone, well, when we turned around I did call mobile maritime dispatch and had them call my Dad and let him know we were "delayed" for the dock. He was waiting with the big trailer to pull that girl out that night.

Local Sheriff Maritime heard the call and told local US Coast Guard they'd seen us and had two RIBs on standby, but were holding back due to weather...other boats were in trouble.

Epilogue...had I not turned around that night (and took an ocean of water over the stern), Maritime patrol would have likely dispatched and risked other boaters in more trouble than us. At least that's what they told Dad (he even said they had a Dophin ready to come get us!...though I'm not sure I believe that)

We made it back. The wind let up, and after about an hour we were able to make it back into the channel up the slip.

I'll just never forget seeing those lights, and turning away. It was a hard decision.

End Pt I

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 01:43 AM
Part II (because ATS wouldn't let me fill in the ... rest of the story)

In the end, Capt. Peter Pulcer and his crew suffered a FAR worse fate that night in November '75. Out on Superior that night in November he saw the water black. So black it broke a thousand foot boat in half. God rest all their souls.

My only point here, really, is to talk about the water, black, as sometimes it is. Sometimes you don't notice it, as the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald may have/have not that night in November, but I've seen that black water. I truly have.

It's an angry water. It doesn't mater how deep, how's just mean (and it means business!)

edit on 10/8/2016 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 01:56 AM
So, just for some spirit and heart...

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 02:43 AM
I wrote a much longer post script post, but for some reason this website keeps erroring out. And, I'm not going to type it again.

I actually have quite a bit if historical info here, but if the ATS website is going to launch 7 other websites in the process then forget it.

Bottom line, Dad worked for GLS (National Steel). He was home when EF went down in 11/75. I remember him going to work that night. I was 12. He was mad because EF didn't make Huron...they had no idea she'd gone down. There were deadlines for the furnaces on Zug Island (and if that doesn't tell people I'm not lying, I don't know what does!)

That boat had 52,000,000 lbs of ore on it when it went to the bottom. To this day it's still a very rich salvage find...except for the fact it spilled much of the ore on the bottom, after it split in half on the way down.

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 03:07 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

I'm really coming to enjoy your writing and stories. Thank you for your time and for sharing with us.

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 04:13 AM
Fantastic story, I did enjoy reading, I'm glad those homeless dudes or just wanted money, decided to leave you alone to write and i definitely wouldn't go out if i knew their was this harsh/, heavy black water that may wreck the boat i'm on.

Thanks for sharing

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 08:06 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk
That's a great story. It must have been scary.

I don't know if it's true or not but I heard that sometimes they film movies on Superior when they need an ocean scene.

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 12:37 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

Me and the wife took a trip a few years back to the big lake. Went to Duluth. Did the Apostles islands and such. There are many stories that people don't know about that lake. I went to the yards where they load the taconite. Those docks are big. They used to mine the islands also.

We are going to Door county this coming year and check out Lake Michigan. Hear it is pretty up there. Anyway this was a great read.

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 05:29 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

So, Im seeing you and I have a lot more in common than I knew! Had cottage on Lake St. Clair in Belle River, Canada.

You knew that Belle Isle is now a Michigan State Park? Closes at night, admission fees-daily, yearly?

posted on Oct, 8 2016 @ 11:13 PM
a reply to: mysterioustranger

I did not (know that). Haven't been there for years actually. I was stationed there for a project once, and Mom lives there. We live in CO.

edit on 10/8/2016 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)

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