The Night the Fitz Went Down

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Lake Superior Port Cities, 2000 - History - 176 pages
2 Reviews
Capt. Dudley J. Paquette was on the lake that night. he knows why the Edmund Fitzgerald couldn't survive the harrowing storm.

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I read the book, and found it very good. Dudley, was a Great Lakes sailor and a weather hound. He was well respected by not only his men, but by fellow sailors and other captions . He's the kind of guy people trusted, because of his consistency. He was safe, and an honorable man. His career showed that. He knew McSorley for years, he knew the Fitzt. and he knew the lakes. I find it very peculiar, that after the Fitz sunk, they got Dudley out of town so he could not testify, as to why he thought the Fitz sunk. He must have had some serious pull with the wrong people. I think we would have found out the Fitz, McSorley and Northwestern Mutual, did in fact have good reason to hid the structural problems the Fitz had. I found the book to be well written, and very factual. I think I'll read it again today.  

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This book is a poorly presented addition to the Fitzgerald literature. It's 143 pages of "I-told-you-so!" Judging from other reviews I've read, many readers had the same reaction I did, that about half the book was about the Great All-Knowing Captain Dudley Paquette, and how he could do no wrong. It is true that Captain Paquette has a unique qualification for putting forth his opinion about the Fitzgerald tragedy. But in this book he comes off as a stubborn arrogant old man, who know what everyone else did wrong, as compared to him. Captain Paquette knows more than the National Weather Service! Captain Paquette knows more than the Coast Guard! Captain Paquette knows more than everyone else put together, and can't wait to document it. The first several chapters are all about his own career (of no interest to anyone who planned to read about the Fitzgerald tragedy!). It contains such interesting facts as that, on one of Paquette's previous ships, the cook would kick his wife in the legs (hardly germane to the Fitzgerald tragedy!), or that, when he had guests, he'd have two of the ladies seated one on each side of him at dinner (Who cares?). And he can't reisit patting himself on the back--such as on Page 26, when, talking about the night of the strom, and the course of the Fitzgerald as compared to his own course, he says:
"As I was thinking about this, Russ Carlson, the first mate, nudged my arm and said softly, 'It's not hard to see why you're Captain, Dudley. The north shore is the only place we should be tonight.' "
Awwww! One hopes Paquette didn't break his arm patting himself on the back!
The shame of all this is that Paquette does have a theory about the reason for the Fitzgerald's demise that bears looking at--that Captain McSorley, knowing the questionable structural integrity of the Fitzgerald, nonetheless loaded her to the brim, and pushed her out directly into a storm that the Weather Service had seen coming for several days. I know it's not nice to speak ill of the deceased. But the theory needs to be considered. It needs to come out as a respectable theory, though, not as the demented rantings of a know-it-all old sailor just who just wants to say "I told you so."


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Chapter 5

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