Kenosha Fishing boat lost in 1936 winter storm.

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Crawford
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Kenosha Fishing boat lost in 1936 winter storm.

Postby Crawford » Thu Oct 27, 2016 5:04 am

Archival Revival: Fishing boat lost in 1936 winter storm on lake
Published January 11, 2016

BY DIANE GILES
http://www.kenoshanews.com/contact_us/index.php?to=dgiles

Eighty years ago next Sunday, the families of the men who worked in Kenosha’s commercial fishing industry paced the floors with worry.

Back then, our commercial fishing fleet went onto Lake Michigan all year around, the boats’ steel hulls breaking the ice in the winter.

But when a storm from the northeast hit, wise vessel captains on Lake Michigan heeded nature’s call to stay safely docked in their harbors.

Five of Kenosha’s dozen or so boats had gone out on the morning of Friday, Jan. 17, 1936, hoping to take care of business before the storm hit. One of them never returned.

By early afternoon the wind kicked up, and four boats —the Buick, Search, W.H. Pugh and J. W. McDonald — beat a hasty retreat back to harbor.

Only one — Cheerio — remained out in the fast-approaching storm.

486100321_.jpg
In the early 20th century, commercial fishing tugs with their steel hulls went onto Lake Michigan all year long, even in the dead of winter. Pictured here is the Joel owned by Herman Freitag; it was built after 1936. ( Image courtesy of Harold Harper )


The Cheerio

The Cheerio was the newest vessel in our fleet. The 40-foot fishing tug was owned by skipper Richard W. Jacobsen, built at a cost of $8,000 (nearly $140,000 in today’s money).

The tug was driven by a 30-horsepower diesel engine and could carry 200 gallons of oil, sufficient fuel to last 48 hours of continuous running.
Crew of four

That morning, the Cheerio departed with Jacobsen, 28, Peter Sebena Jr., 25, Albin “Finn” H. Hanninen, 43, and Herbert Tipler, 27, all seasoned fishermen.

Harold Harper, 93, was 13 years old at the time, but knew his way around the lakefront. He would later work on a commercial fishing crew after school and summers when he attended Kenosha High School.

He remembers that year as being a bad one for winter storms.

Harper said Jacobsen was a newcomer to the commercial fishing industry. Jacobsen’s inexperience may have cost him and his crew their lives.

After the four returned tugs had tied down everything, there was nothing more to do but wait.

“I was standing right down in the harbor, right down in front of J.P. Morgan’s place. I was on the dock of the Pugh, and that wind was just screaming,” Harper said.

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The Buick fishing tug, seen here tied up to the dock north of the Kenosha Coast Guard Station, was owned by Tom Engelson. It was one of the five commercial fishing boats that went out the morning of Jan. 17, 1936. Four of the five returns; the Cheerio was lost. ( Image courtesy of Harold Harper )


Crew of four

That morning, the Cheerio departed with Jacobsen, 28, Peter Sebena Jr., 25, Albin “Finn” H. Hanninen, 43, and Herbert Tipler, 27, all seasoned fishermen.

Harold Harper, 93, was 13 years old at the time, but knew his way around the lakefront. He would later work on a commercial fishing crew after school and summers when he attended Kenosha High School.

He remembers that year as being a bad one for winter storms.

Harper said Jacobsen was a newcomer to the commercial fishing industry. Jacobsen’s inexperience may have cost him and his crew their lives.

After the four returned tugs had tied down everything, there was nothing more to do but wait.

“I was standing right down in the harbor, right down in front of J.P. Morgan’s place. I was on the dock of the Pugh, and that wind was just screaming,” Harper said.

harold harper_.jpg
Harold Harper ( FILE PHOTO BY PAUL WILLIAMS )


Wind, snow

By nightfall, 40 mph winds tossed a great ice barrier at the harbor mouth, making it impossible for the Coast Guard to launch a rescue boat. Visibility was limited to less than 100 yards in the blowing snow.

At 7:30 p.m. a Coast Guard lookout in the tower on the north pier reported sighting a boat approaching the harbor from the southeast.

The Coast Guardsman saw a red port light for about 30 seconds. Swirling snow momentarily blocked his vision, and he lost sight of the boat.

At that time, there was no light on the south pier, only on the north pier and on the breakwater to the east. The south pier stuck out into the lake 100 feet farther than the north pier.

Harper hypothesized that the Cheerio couldn’t see the entrance to harbor and missed it, getting caught in the backwash along the Simmons Co. plant to the south, the area which has now been filled in for the eastern edge of HarborPark.

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Ice covers the water near the 50th Street bridge in late December of 1936. ( Image courtesy of Harold Harper )


Cries heard

An hour later, a group of boys burst into the Eagles Club (Marina Shore) on 58th Street. excitedly telling sound truck operator Bob Zimmerman and patrons that they had heard cries for help coming from an unseen vessel.

They had been just outside the southeast corner of the new Lakefront Stadium (in the area of today’s Wolfenbuttel Park).

Zimmerman and several others raced to Eichelman Park in time to hear a number of voices, yelling in unison from beyond the breakwater.

Waves 20 feet high were crashing down on the rocks.

The cries went on for 15 minutes, and then there was only the sounds of the storm.

On Jan. 20, the hull of the Cheerio was discovered a few feet east of the breakwater rocks, 150 feet southeast of the stadium.

By spring, three of the bodies had been found, but Sebena’s body was never recovered.

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Members of the Kenosha fishing fleet reel their gill nets to dry. This photo was taken looking south from the east side of the 50th Street bridge. Simmons Co. plant in background. ( Image courtesy of Harold Harper )


http://kenoshanews.com/news/archival_revival_fishing_boat_lost_in_1936_winter_storm_on_lake_486100320.php
Thank you to the Kenosha News and Diane Giles for a great article