Winter Storm swept harbor for final 1966 jolt on Dec. 28The Ozaukee Press
January 5, 1967
Storm photos by Wm. F. Schanen Jr.
Other photos by Vern Arendt
Editor's note: This is the story of the sinking of the Smith Bros. fishing tug Bert S. as told through pictures. This event took place in Port Washington's (Wisconsin) west slip. This slip was notorious for huge swells when a storm blows from the east. Today, with the Rotary Park now acting as a break water for the heavy swells that come in with an eastern blow the west slip is "as calm as a mill pond" as Lincoln D. Smith tells it. In fact, Lincoln was there for the sinking of the Bert S. that cold December day and has provided his thoughts here.
Smith Bros. fish tugs (above) "Oliver" and "Bert" riding it out.
Huge wave engulfs shanty (above).
"Bert" drifts and bangs into other dock (above).
Bangs into dock again, gouging hole in bow (above).
Warren Olson gets aboard - men hold lifeline (above).
"Bert" pulled to middle of harbor but sinking (above).
"Bert" starts down to bottom (above).
Debris shows where "Bert" sank (above).
Oliver Smith is saddened (above).
Comments by Brian R. SmithSay, I just noticed that that is Penny in the bottom of the picture above. My Grampa Oliver Smith's dog. While I was a kid Penny was housed as a guard dog in the net house (the building that has the "Smith Bros Fish" painted on its north side). The one thing I remember about Penny - was that he was not the most friendly dog. In fact, one time my Dad (Lincoln D. Smith) and I unlocked and entered the net house to retrieve something that was stored there. I offered the back of my hand to Penny to sniff as I was taught. She (he?) proceeded to clamp down on my forearm with her teeth. I screamed of course until my Dad came to call Penny off. She did draw blood but the wounds were not life threatening (smile). I never did like that dog after that.
After storm rigger gets derrick hook on bow (above).
This is the way tug was lifted out (above).
Tug "Bert" on dock shows damage (above).
Port Washington, Wisconsin, Harbor 1967
Written April 1st, 2008 (no fooling!)
It was in the winter of 1966/1967, cold, and a stiff easterly storm was kicking up the inner west slip of the harbor, as it did often.
The “Bert S.” was moored near the south dock by bottom chains and steel cables, (which was the method of mooring all boats in the frequently wild harbor). Sometime, during the day, the heaving tug parted its dock lines which allowed the outboard chains to pull the tug out toward the center of the slip and eventually to the steel piling north side. Before we could prevent it, the tug repeatedly hit itself against the steel piling with each passing wave, which gashed the hull near the bow.
It was decided to try to put a line on the tug to keep it away from the dock and more damage. One of our brave fishermen, Warren Olson, who was the father of another Warren Olson (who later went down in the sinking of the “Linda E” fish tug), jumped onto the deck of the Bert, and secured a long rope, then jumped back to shore. I helped carry the line around the west end of the slip back to the south side, where we pulled the tug back to the center of the slip.
However, we could soon see that the tug was taking on water. Soon, thereafter, the tug sank right before our eyes!
Because the boat carried much diesel fuel in its tanks, we had to get the boat raised and pulled out as soon as possible. We hired a diver and a crane. The next day, the diver went down and secured a stout steel cable and hook, which he attached to a place on the bow. The shore-side crane then raised the tug off the bottom and up onto the south dock.
Later, the tug was sold to “Jeep” Wildhagen, a maverick fisherman in Port, who rebuilt it and fished with it for some years thereafter. He kept the boat with the same name “BERT S.”