Historic Michigan Tugboat Sinks At Dock

Historic Michigan Tugboat Sinks At Dock | Working Harbor Committee.

I got news of this in an email this morning. What a sad loss for owner Jim Bradley and the people of Michigan.

The former US Army Corps of Engineers tug ‘Wilhelm Baum’ sank at the dock Sunday (2/23/14). No explanation has been found yet. 🙁

Sad to say, I know EXACTLY how Mr Bradley feels.

My father bought a boat when I was growing up. The ‘Island Girl’ was a beautiful antique staysail schooner. She was originally built in Detroit in 1910. She was 72′ LOA, built with a wooden hull. My father fiberglassed her in the late 70s, trying to give her a few more years of life. I remember spending a lot of time helping. 🙂

We spent a LOT of time on that old boat over the years. My father – Capt Bill- sailed her around Florida from the late 60s til I finally convinced him to bring her over to Texas in the late 90’s.

He originally bought ‘Island Girl’ in Miami, sailed her up to Madeira Beach where we grew up. Took her down to the Keys and up the East Coast a bit. Then back down to the Keys and up to Bradenton for a few years before finally bringing her to Galveston and then Freeport, Texas. Sad to say, my father wasn’t able to sail her much after that.

Soon after he managed to get the ‘Island Girl’ to Galveston he got the bad news. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. They gave him just a few months to live.

After he died, he left the boat to me and I did my best to take care of her. Sorry to say I just wasn’t able to. I was still working offshore and really didn’t have either the time or the money to do it. It costs a LOT to keep any boat in shape and an 80+ year old wooden sailboat costs more than most.

We did get to sail it a few times out of Freeport. Eventually our luck ran out and I was awakened with a phone call from the dockmaster. The ‘Island Girl’ was on the bottom. She looked just like the ‘Wilhelm Baum’ in the linked video. 🙁

I was so sad I was actually sick. We’ve had that boat in our family for over 45 years and it was such a big part of my life. I was just so sad. 🙁

To this day, I don’t really know what happened. I have my theories, but it was nothing obvious like burst through-hull fittings or any leaks in the hull. I would really like to know what happened to finally do her in but I’ll probably never know.

I did re-float the boat. Immediately. We pickled the engine and she started right back up- no problemo! It was a Perkins 4 cylinder diesel. We did get to sail her a few more times. We had to keep the sails below the owls nest in the main mast. 😉

Schooner 'Island Girl'

Schooner ‘Island Girl’

I actually managed to sell her. I didn’t really want to but I had to just admit that I would NEVER be able to find the time or the money I would need to spend to do what I wanted with her.

I heard later that she sank again. I STILL don’t know what happened to her. The new owner had her moved to Mammoth Lake where there is a dive center. At least someone is still getting use and enjoyment out of that old beauty. I’m glad for that at least.

I wonder if they will ever figure out what happened to the ‘Wilhelm Baum’? I’d like to know if it was the same thing that happened to the ‘Island Girl’.

Comments appreciated here