Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum
Shipwreck of the Schooner, Eclipse
by Suzanne Hurley
From the 1883 Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service

Grand Point au Sable Station, Michigan

Edited by the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
*Minor editorial privileges were taken to clarify the text and writing style of the period.

At about the same time that the mate was lost, (see Shipwreck of the O. J. Moss) another sailor was dying in the surf at a wreck a few miles distant, hidden from the view of the Grand Point an Sable crew by a thickly wooded point of land projecting into the lake. The rescue of the sailors from the J. 0. Moss was accomplished by noon, and after conveying them to the station the crew returned with the team to look after the apparatus. Two of them went down the beach to search for the body of McDonald, and the remainder had nearly reached the station with the loaded wagon when they were intercepted by two hunters, showing signs of the speed with which they had come, who told them that there was a vessel ashore nine miles behind them, with one man already drowned, and the rest of the crew all in the rigging. The team was instantly put to the right about and started for the wreck. One of the men ran to the station to notify the keeper, who immediately set out after the team, leaving the man with the charge to pick up the other two members of the crew then searching for the body of McDonald.

The vessel to which the crew were now hurrying was the schooner Eclipse, of Chicago, laden, like the other, with shingles, and bound to the place above named, from Manistee, Michigan, with a crew of six men. She had left Manistee in the afternoon of the preceding day, under favoring winds, but at 5 o clock a terrific gale, with a heavy snow-squall, blew out of the west-northwest, and before long the schooner was laboring in a tremendous sea. Her effort was to clear Grand Point au Sable, which lay under her lee, passing which she could have made better weather, and to this end she was forced along under a double reefed mainsail and whole foresail and jib. This press of sail caused her to careen to leeward, so that her deck-load of shingles began to work, and some of them were swept overboard. She kept along, making more leeway than headway, the strain to which she was subjected opening her seams, so that she constantly took in water, until finally, about 9 o clock in the evening, she heeled over so that the sea ran into her gal ley windows and forecastle, and she filled and lay perfectly helpless, on her side. Breakers were seen to leeward through the blinding snowstorm, and the captain, only hoping now that the vessel might be made to go ashore, head on, cut the main peak halyards, which brought down the mainsail, and caused her to pay off slowly under her head sails, assisted by two heavy seas which struck her bow in succession, and knocked her head around. She had nearly got before the sea, when she struck heavily on the outer bar, but gradually worked over it, and brought up on the inner bar, about four hundred feet from shore, where she partly righted. From the moment of striking, the sea made a clean sweep over her, the sailors clinging any way they could to the rigging, until she grounded finally, when they all got into the port ratlines, partly sheltered by the head of the mainsail, which had remained partly up. In this wretched situation they remained until the next day, drenched by the flying seas and nearly frozen. All night the snow continued at intervals, adding to their misery. By the forenoon of the next day the clouds began to break, the wind and sea to moderate, and the snow came and went in squalls. The unfortunate sailors needed some mitigation of their suffering, for they were now completely exhausted and seeing no prospect of relief upon the lonely wooded coast, it was determined among them that one of their number should endeavor to get ashore with a line. Accordingly a sort of raft was improvised by lashing to each corner of the main hatch a bunch of shingles, and a young seaman named Anton Rasmusson started on it for the shore, shoving it along with a pole, and bearing the end of a line. A strong current was running to the southward to offset the force of which the seaman s efforts were made on the lee side, and when about sixty feet from shore the raft set so strongly against the pole that it broke in the middle. Being now without the means of propulsion, the poor seaman, taking with him the end of the line, jumped overboard and atsiteted to swim ashore. His mates saw him struggle for a few minutes in the water, then disappear. He was lost.

After this calamity the unhappy men on board resigned further effort. But at noon they suddenly saw the two hunters on the beach opposite the vessel, and the captain made energetic signs that he wanted the help of the life-saving station below the point, and had the satisfaction of seeing the men start off on the run.

It was about half past 1 when the hunters came upon the remnant of the life-saving crew, then toiling back to the station from the wreck of the J. 0. Moss. As already stated, the team bearing the apparatus at once turned upon its tracks to the rescue. The second journey was more arduous and terrible than the first. As before, the way lay within the sand-hills, the beach being one ragged strew of logs and drift-stuff, and the team had to toil up and down the rough dunes, and around their bases when the acclivities were too formidable, tearing and plunging at the same time through under growths of brush and over fallen trees and drift-wood for a stretch of nine miles. Two of the men acted as pioneers, going ahead to pick out the road and heave away the worst obstacles; the others hauled with the team. To add to their difficulties, one of the horses gave out on the way, and had to be helped along, as well as the wagon. The heroic drudgery ended at length by the party arriving abreast of the wreck, just before dark, or at 7 o clock in the evening.

The two hunters had preceded them. On their way they had found The body of the drowned sailor on the beach three quarters of a mile below the wreck. After securing it they had continued on and lit a good fire in front of the wreck, which was of great service in enabling the sailors to follow the operations of the life-saving crew in the succeeding darkness. These operations began without delay. The gun was planted, and at the first fire threw the shot-line over the stays between the masts. The whip-line and hawser soon followed and were secured to the mainmast, and within an hour the men on board were brought ashore, one by one, in the breeches-buoy. As soon as each man was landed he was given a drink of brandy from the station medicine chest and taken to the fire for warmth.

As the horses were completely tired oat, and the teamster could not undertake to get back over such a road at night, the team was taken into the woods and kept there until morning. The apparatus was piled up safely upon the beach, the lines between the vessel and shore were hauled taut, two members of the life- saving crew were placed on guard, and the remainder, with the rescued sailors, started on their weary tramp for the station, where they arrived, exhausted, drenched, and half starved, at twenty minutes past midnight. The members of the station crew had got thoroughly wet by rushing into the water to help the men out of the breeches-buoy at the wreck of the J. 0. Moss, and their clothes had frozen upon them, and afterwards thawed with their exertions. As for the sailors, besides being soaked through and through, they had been thirty hours without food, fifteen of which they had spent in the rigging The first thing done upon arrival was to prepare them supper and get them thoroughly dry and warm. Two of them remained at the station until the afternoon of the next day; the other three staid for three days.

The body of the unfortunate young sailor was given in charge to the coroner, and taken to Ludington. He was twenty-five years of age, and belonged at Chicago, where he was to have been married on his return. It is, of course, obvious that his death under the circumstances could not have been prevented.

The labors of the life-saving crew upon this date seem particularly worthy of honorable comment. They performed the remarkable service of saving life from two wrecks in succession with the same apparatus; working in. the second instance with wet and frozen lines, which it required peculiar skill and judgment to handle effectively. To achieve this end involved a severe trudge to and from the station, of thirty-four miles, trundling, with the aid of half-blown horses, a heavy wagon load behind them, through a rough wilderness of brush and sand, and with the concomitants of a battering gale and blasts of snow. The heavy work of setting up hawsers and hauling lines, and dragging upon them in the drench of icy surf through the periods of the rescue, becomes a mere incident to the savage toils of such a journey.