The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

May 19, 2012

Steaming into eternity

Marquette & Bessemer No. 2 had many ties to Conneaut

(Continued)

CONNEAUT — The cargo aboard the M&B No. 2 that morning consisted of 26 cars of coal, three of structural steel and one of iron castings. It was a typical load for the carferry, which had a sister, the M&B No. 1, that ran out of the same harbor.

The No. 1, also known as the “collier,” carried only coal. Its destination was Rondeau, Ontario, about 40 miles west of Port Stanley. It had managed to slip out of the harbor by 6 a.m. that morning, but the M&B No. 2 encountered delays.

First there was the ore vessel whose stern had swung ito the channel after snapping her hawsers in the high wind. It took the tugs two hours to rectify the situation. Just as McLeod finally got the carferry under way, a man carrying a brown briefcase was spotted running along the dock and demanding passage. Grudgingly, McLeod reversed the engines and brought the carferry close enough to the dock for Albert J. Weiss to jump aboard.

Weiss, a former Ashtabula resident, was treasurer of the Keystone Fish Company of Erie, Pa., and had business to conduct in Port Stanley. His briefcase contained $50,000 in cash, which would be used to purchase a Canadian fishing company.

The mercury had been steadily dropping since the No. 1 steamed out of the harbor. It was 42 degrees that morning, but was heading to the low of 10. It was the wind and snow, however, that would send chills down Capt. McLeod’s spine.

Winds of 70 miles per  hour were recorded at locations all along the southern shore of Lake Erie. Snow squalls beat against pedestrians and steam locomotives alike, making transportation of any form nearly impossible. On the open lake, the storm was creating an icy hell of hopeless fury. Those captains that could made for the protection behind Long Point, Ontario. More than 30 freighters would ride out the gale there, but the M&B No. 2 would not be one of them.

Sometime around 2 p.m. the fishing tug owned by Frank Snyder, a commercial fisherman, was spotted between the sheets of snow as it wallowed in the heavy seas, still mile or more from shore. Covered with ice, the Alberta T. with its crew of Snyder, Adam Brabender, George Blake, John Keeler and George Smith finally made it into the harbor.

The men boasted of having passed the M&B No. 2 a few miles out. “Captain McLeod came out of the pilothouse with his megaphone and yelled something to us, but the wind was making so much noise we couldn’t tell what he was saying. We think he was asking us if we needed any help. We didn’t.”

Continued next week

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