Building the schooner Madeline
Between 1985 and 1990, 165 Maritime Heritage Alliance volunteers gave 40,000 hours to build the schooner Madeline, a 56-ft. twin-masted replica of an 1840's commercial vessel.
When not on tour at Great Lakes ports, Madeline is berthed at Elmwood Township's old Coal Dock (Discovery Pier) on West Bay Shore Drive, just south of the Elmwood Township Marina.
History of the Madeline
The MHA's schooner Madeline is a reconstruction of a mid-19th century Great Lakes schooner and one of the State of Michigan's official tall ships. She was built between 1985 and 1990 in Traverse City, Michigan by volunteer members of the non-profit group, the Maritime Heritage Alliance.
Her mission is to serve as a floating center for the interpretation of Great Lakes maritime history. She is open to visitors in her home port of Traverse City and travels to other Great Lakes ports under local sponsorship. Madeline's financial support comes entirely from people who are interested in preserving Great Lakes history. This includes MHA members and others around the Great Lakes who believe in what we are doing.
The original Madeline
The original schooner Madeline sailed the waters of the Great Lakes about 140 years ago. She was built in 1845 in Fairport, Ohio to carry freight. The story of the original Madeline is special for the residents of the Grand Traverse area because for one winter, that of 1851-52, she served as the first non-Indian school in the region.
Five young men, the captain and his crew, realized they need some book learning to become successful so they decided to devote the winter months, when the lakes were frozen, to their education. Their plan was to take Madeline to a secluded harbor so they would not be distracted from their studies. So Madeline was sailed into Bowers Harbor, north of Traverse City on the Old Mission Peninsula. Stephen Wait, a 17-year old, was hired as a teacher and the five spent the winter learning reading, writing, and arithmetic in the mornings and cutting firewood and doing other chores and having snowball fights in the afternoons.
The school must have been a success for all the young men went on to successful careers on the Great Lakes. The Captain and his brothers were named Fitzgerald. One of their grandchildren headed an insurance company which named and owned another famous boat: the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.
Schooners on the Great Lakes
Schooners were the most popular type of sailing boat on the Great Lakes. It is estimated that 120 years ago, there were more than 2,000 on the Great Lakes although few were built after 1870. Great Lakes schooners were different from schooners that sailed the oceans. Their rigs were adapted to sail closer to the wind and were more easily maneuvered. The shape of the hull was boxy to accommodate the maximum amount of cargo and to travel in the canals (the Welland and the Soo).
The original Madeline was a very small schooner at about 52' on deck. The largest Great Lakes schooners were several hundred feet long and had three to five masts. The present day Madeline is 56' in deck length with an overall length of 92'. Her beam is 16' with a draft of 7'. Her masts are 68' and 71', and she is presently rigged with 1,539 sq. ft. of sail. Her gross tonnage is 50 tons.