Equipment List for Great Lakes Schooners

By: Susan W. Smith


See Part I and Part II

Learning about the typical Great lakes schooners who plyed the Lake and Rivers in the 1800s is fascinating. One of those areas that interest today’s helmsmen is fitting Ships out in the Spring and ready for the important shipping season.
Since so much time has passed, the actual procedure for fitting out a typical Great Lakes schooner at the time Oswego was a major port, is all but lost.  One man still alive in the 1980s who could recall fitting out was Carl A. Norberg, later of St. Petersburg, Florida. In an interview, he said he went sailing at an early age when there were still a few schooners left on the lakes. He could explain fitting out in great detail.

Norberg had in his possession an inventory or check list of the two-masted schooner Columbian taken at Chicago on November 25, 1871, (probably in preparation for sale of the vessel or at winter lay-up). It reveals the amount of gear required to keep the vessel operational and self-sustaining. This list was undoubtedly checked off by the captain or an experienced mate to ensure each item was aboard.

1 spirit compass; 3 marine compasses; 1 patent log and line; 2 trolling lines and hooks; 2 fog horns; 1 lead line and lead; 29 pound paint and 8 paint brushes; 1 hatchet, 3 marlin spikes; 1 serving board and mallet; 1 crow bar, 4 normans; 7 capstan bars; 2 winch cranks, 4 chain hooks; two patent pumps, 1 patent capstan; 1 provision box, 1 hawser box; 5 oars, 2 windlass brakes; 1 fish hook, 1 devil’s claw; 3 hatch bars, 1 cold chisel; 1 drawing knife, one plane. 2 caulking irons, 1 caulking mallet; 3 balls sewing twine, 3 palms; 8 sail needles, 1/2 bale oakum; 9 pound ratlin line, 3 heaving lines; 6 reef plates; 1 pair signal halliards; 1 suit of colors and color bag; 1 set of weather cloths; 1 ball of spun yarn; two ring stoppers, 2 shank painters.

1 main sheet and main sheet blocks; 2 main boom topping lifts; 2 boat davits, falls and blocks; 1 set boat grips; main throat halliard; new main peak halliard and blocks; 1 fore sheet and blocks; 2 fore lifts; fore peak halliard and blocks; fore throat halliard and blocks; fore staysail halliard and blocks; jib halliard and blocks and downhaul, flying jib halliard and blocks; fore topsail halliard, block; new downhaul; fore gaff topsail gear; fore staysail sheet and blocks, fore staysail gye; squaresail gear new; squaresail lift, braces and out haulers new.

Raffee sheet, halliard and clewline, new; main gafftopsail, new; 1 fore boom gye new; 1 main boom gye  new; 2 crotch ropes new; 2 boom tacklefalls; 1 fish tackle and blocks; 1 Berton block; 2 large purchase blocks; 1 snatch block; 1 squaresail boom, new; jib sheets; flying jib sheet, new; jib topsail sheets; 1.8 inch line, 6 inch line, new; 1 7-inch line; 1 5-inch line; 12 iron belaying pins; 2 rigging screws; 4 dozen belaying pins; 1 grindstone; 6 shovels; 8 brooms; 1 brace; 2 bits; 2 augers; 1 ax and saw; 1 water barrel; 3 tarpaulins; 1 ditty bag; 13 yards canvas; 10 pails; 1 draw bucket; 4 pump bars; 1/2 barrel salt; 1 pump hook; 2 signal lamps and screen; 1 anchor light; 1 globe light; 1 watch tackle; one nail box; 1 forecastle stove; 1 fore sail; 1 foregaff topsail; 1 raffee new; 1 squaresail new; 1 fore staysail and jib; 1 flying jib; 1 jib topsail new; 1 set back rope; 1 fly new; 1 anchor shoe; boats painter new; fore and main peak down-haul; 1 monkey wrench; and one spike mall. 1 extension table and 9 chairs; 1 cabin stove; 1 cabin lamp; 1 binnacle lamp; 1 kitchen lamp; 2 spittoons; 1 clock; 1 table spread; 2 tablecloths; 4 cabin mattresses; 6 forecastle mattresses; 10 blankets; 6 quilts; 6 pillows; 4 sheets; 1 Bureau; 1 looking glass; 3 oil cans; 2 water pails; 1 cooking stove; cooking utensils; 3 dozen plates; 2 dozen cups and saucers; 1 set knives and forks; 3 stateroom carpets; 1 bedstead; 2 carving knives and forks; 1 mean sack; and 1 caster.

Yes, the equipment list was long but each item would be considered valuable.

By Richard Palmer

Posted in: History

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