For 30 years as an officer in Inland Steel Company’s shipping fleet, Captain Dudley J. Paquette served as mate and captain on boats plying their rounds on the Great Lakes. Captain Paquette (retired, 1980) had ample opportunity to observe and record the tempestuous nature of the Great Lakes. He became a keen weather forecaster who is described by one former mate as “pretty much a heavy-weather captain who always tried to find the smoothest ride possible.”
With schedules to keep and a sense of pride in delivering his cargoes safely and on time, Captain Paquette analyzed the weather data and ordered his SS Wilfred Sykes out of safe anchorage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the afternoon of November 10, 1975. Knowing that he would encounter heavy seas, the captain admits that even his widely recognized expertise in weather forecasting underestimated the severity of the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald later that evening. By sailing into those treacherous seas, this weather-savvy captain was uniquely positioned to observe and report on the magnitude of the storm, as well as to formulate his own opinion about the sinking of the Fitzgerald. His observations about the November 9-10,1975, “storm of the century” and analysis of the data reveal for the first time what may have caused the wreck of the Fitzgerald.
The Night the Fitz Went Down Capt. Dudley J. Paquette was on the ship that night by Hugh E. Bishop