Tiny and Josh Landry meet me in Whitefish Harbor, and  the three shipmates of the LADY WASHINGTON transit trip south in 2006 are together again.  If only Liz P. and Ralph were here our watch would be complete.  Never forget a shipmate, who knows when you will sail with them again.

May 6, 2009.  We go to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point Light Station.  The care and reverence for those represented here is apparent everywhere.  The lawn is mowed, the buildings painted and tidy, the brass is polished and the staff helpful and knowledgeable.  We can tell they care. 

The centerpiece of the main hall is the bell for the EDMUND FITZGERALD.  We stood by the bell a long time.  Then we moved around the hall.  So many ships, gone.  So many lives, lost.  We read the names of the lost.  No one we know.  Yet somehow we do know them.  They were like us, young and old, sailors, seamen, mariners, enginemen, oilers, wipers, cooks, captains, mates and passengers, men, women and children.  Yes, now we do know them.  We know some of their names and we see pieces of their lives.  A woman’s shoe, a dinner plate, a man’s hat and others things lost to the lake then found again and brought here to remind the living they were just like us.

I walk the grounds and walk the beach.  I remember the storms of my life weathered and survived.  Pick up a stone, look at it and put it down, then look out toward the resting place of the “BIG FITZ”, it still looks like an ocean to me.

Rain wakes me early on May 7.  Looking out, it’s rain and fog.  I remember it was collisions that took most of the ships to the bottom, collisions in fog.  Maybe we should just stay put.

But how a day begins is seldom how it ends and by noon the sun came out and the wind died.  It’s agreed we will go and pay our own personal respects to the ship we never saw and the men we never knew.  So Ben Saint, Josh Landry and Tommy Cook sail together again, this time on the CAP’N LEM to Lat. 46° 59.9’N ~ 085° 06.6W, the final anchorage of the EDMUND FITZGERALD, seventeen nautical miles north of Whitefish Bay.  We arrive in a light breeze and a setting sun.   In quiet respect, I read each name and remind the wind they are not forgotten.  I strike the bell as is the custom in remembering departed shipmates.   At this hallowed spot, we remember others we lost, a friend, our fathers, and of course, Captain Lemuel R. Brigman, and rung again the little bell on the little boat on the big big lake.

Tomorrow I sail alone for the St. Mary’s River and locks and Lake Huron.



7 Responses to “Bells”

  1. Kari Thoresen says:

    Tommy! This Post is so beautiful… I am thrilled that Tiny and Josh are along on your Northwest Passage journey! A better adventure couldn’t happen to three better shipmates. I think of them both with many fond memories. HOLDFAST- all three of ya!

  2. unstranger says:

    Evocative posting. Only knew of the Edmund Fitzgerald because the ballad from Gordon Lightfoot, but this post gives it a real feel. Raw and honest. Thanks for putting it up.

  3. Matthew Parker says:

    I was three when the ship and crew were lost but learned of the tragedy through my Dad with help from Gordon Lightfoot. As a cadet sailing on the USNS Bighorn TAO198 I met an old salt by the name of JC who as a kid stood at the helm of the Edmond Fitzgerald and steered. He was the number one helmsman on the Bighorn.

    We are still tracking you Tommy.

  4. MikeinAppalachia says:

    Hope the locking goes well. Nice gesture there. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  5. Jacques Paradis says:

    Hi captain Tommy
    Your trip is wonderful. Maybe meet you in Tadoussac on june 13th. I’ll do the Saguenay river and St-Lawrence toward Gaspesie by these dates.
    Vous aurez l’occasion de pratiquer votre français.
    Have a nice trip. I follow you every day on Navtrek with your gps positions.
    Good luck and take care
    Captain Jack (Le Parasard II, Tanzer 7.5)

  6. Bill says:

    Hey Tommy —
    On the morning of Sunday, November 9, 1975 my father and I were driving through the Duluth-Superior area on our way to Minneapolis. I was 15. The Fitzgearld was preparing to leave. I remember the shock we felt when the Minneapolis papers reported her missing mid-week. As life-long sailors we still have difficulty fathoming the fury Lake Superior can gather to bring down a freighter that size. Imagine this … if you could stand the Fitzgerald on her stern, at the depth she lies (530′) her bow would be 200′ out of the water. Big boat. Big Lake.

    Visited the Shipwreck Museum 15 years ago with my kids. Hallowed grounds indeed. Beautiful, respectful memorial displays and models.

    Saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert just a couple weeks ago in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Older, but it’s the same familiar voice. He STILL gets a standing ovation for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

    The one thing you probably missed while at Whitefish was stopping at a nearby tavern for dinner … a “Cheeseburger in Paradise, (Michigan)”. =)
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  7. tommy says:

    Capt. Jack, keep a weather eye out and should we cross tracks stop for a gam. T.