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Lake Ontario Shipwreck - Polonez Sailboat
Found by: Dan Scoville, Jim Kennard, and Chip Stevens
Location: Western Lake Ontario
Toronto Canada - The Loss of Polonez
Polonez was the pride and joy of Chris Norblin. Chris was one of the founding members of Lakeshore Yacht Club in Toronto Canada. He was an electrician and did much of the electrical work around the club during the early days. He was originally from Poland but escaped during the early 1960’s in a homemade boat via Sweden.
After Chris came to Canada he worked as a staff electrician at the “Globe and Mail” newspaper and as time and opportunity allowed he started construction of his dreamboat, ultimately to be named Polonez in honor of his homeland.
Unlike many home-built boats, Polonez was made of fiberglass. Chris constructed a male mold and proceeded to apply multiple layers of fiberglass cloth to construct the hull. Once the hull was free of the mold, Chris started work on the interior, installing all of the mechanical and electrical systems himself, after which he started on the woodwork.
The interior of Polonez was superb; Chris was an excellent craftsman and took great price in his work. The interior was made of dark mahogany and everybody who had the opportunity to spend some time on Polonez commented on the quality of the joinery.
Chris was a popular and active member of Lakeshore Yacht club and Polonez was a fixture at dock A67 until the unfortunate September of, I believe 1999. I may be a little bit out on the date.
Chris was sailing alone off the U.S. shore of Lake Ontario early one evening when he noticed that the helm was becoming very sluggish. He thought that maybe he had suffered a steering failure and dropped the sails and went below to check the connections. One can only imagine his horror when he found himself knee deep in water. He switched on the pumps and searched for the leak to no avail. Because the water was coming in very rapidly, notwithstanding the pumps, he decided to issue a mayday, which he was able to do just before the batteries were immersed and he lost all electrical power.
Not having a dinghy aboard he used his good Polish common sense and lashed a number of large fenders together, put on his floater coat, grabbed his flare gun and jumped over the side, just as Polonez disappeared below the surface.
It was now starting to get dark. Chris had been able to get off his approximate location to the US Coast Guard before he abandoned ship. After an hour of floating around on his makeshift raft he noticed a Coast Guard Cutter in the distance searching for him. He reached in his pocket for his flare gun, only to find that the gun and the flares had fallen out. For the next four to five hours Chris floated around watching the Coast guard searching for him, using a grid pattern. Fortunately, being September the water was a warm as it is likely to get in Lake Ontario and finally he was rescued, just before midnight.
As you can imagine, Chris was traumatized by his experience and several months later he was able to give an account of his experiences to the members in our new clubhouse. I recall that the members present were transfixed by his presentation.
What happened? Nobody knows for certain. However a few days prior to this event, Polonez had been hit by lightning and Chris had lost many of his instruments. We can theorize that the lightning strike had weakened a through hull, which finally gave way resulting in the flooding of the boat.
Chris was so shaken by his experience that he never went sailing again. He ultimately returned to Poland where I believe he resides today. A good member and a great guy. A legend of the early days of Lakeshore Yacht Club.
Shipwreck Discovery Team
Dan Scoville is an experienced cave and "technical" diver who utilizes custom gas mixtures of oxygen, helium, and nitrogen to dive to depths of over 300 feet. In 2005, Dan led the development of an Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle with a team of college seniors from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Since then he has used his ROV to explore shipwrecks in Lake Ontario and to locate the bodies of three hunters from a lost Seabee Republic aircraft in Lac Simon, Quebec. He is currently the project manager and electrical engineer for the Remote Operated Vehicle product line at HydroAcoustics Inc.
Jim Kennard has been diving and exploring the lakes in the northeast since 1970. He found over 200 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, NY Finger Lakes and in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers over the past 35 years. Using his background as an electrical engineer, he built the side scan sonar system that located these shipwrecks. In 1983 he discovered a unique horse powered ferryboat in Lake Champlain. National Geographic featured the ferryboat in their October 1989 issue. Several other of his shipwreck discoveries have been reported in various publications including Skin Diver, Inland Seas, and Sea Technology.
Roland ‘Chip’ Stevens is a retired architect and working artist whose watercolors are well known in the Rochester area, many of which have been accepted into national exhibitions. A sailor for many years, Stevens has a love of the sea, as reflected in his seascapes. A number of his paintings of shipwrecks discovered by the team have appeared in various news stories and publications.
Dan Scoville - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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