Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Witch of November: Edmund Fitzgerald Edition

Each year, those of us who live surrounded by the Great Lakes commemorate the sinking of the The SS Edmund Fitzgerald in a hellacious Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975 resulting in the loss of the entire crew of 29. The early wicked cold bearing down on the Great Lakes this year is very much like it was that fateful November 44 years ago. Dewey from Detroit began our annual commemoration night back in 2009, a bleak period in America so we didn’t find the somewhat maudlin memorializing of another tragedy so strange; it was more like singing the blues.

I try to continue the tradition each year because Great Lake shipping is about as American as a job can get, and the men who worked the freighters are a special breed – the Mike Rowe dirty jobs kind of men that have built and maintained American greatness for generations.

From the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum:

The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was conceived as a business enterprise of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Northwestern Mutual contracted with Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan to construct a “maximum sized” Great Lakes bulk carrier. Her keel was laid on August 7, 1957 as Hull No. 301.

At 729 feet and 13,632 gross tons she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, for thirteen years, until 1971.

If you’re wondering how a ship so massive can be destroyed by a lake, here are a few facts about Lake Superior where the Fitzgerald went down:

1.  Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world's largest freshwater lake.
2.  The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. 
3.  Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, even if you throw in two extra Lake Eries. 
4.  Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth's fresh surface water.
5.  There is enough water in Lake Superior (3 quadrillion gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot.
6.  The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.
7.  The Lake Superior shoreline, if straightened out, could connect Duluth and the Bahama Islands.
8. The lake is about 350 miles (563 km) in length and 160 miles (257 km) in width.
9.  In the summer, the sun sets more than 35 minutes later on the western shore of Lake Superior than at its southeastern edge.
10.  Lake Superior has over 400 islands, the largest of which is Isle Royale, with a size of 207 square miles.
11.  Waves of over 40 feet in height have been recorded on Lake Superior.
12.  Travel by car around Lake Superior covers a distance of about 1,300 miles.

They don’t call them inland oceans for naught.

Click the image to see the interactive version

As the evening is dedicated to the memory of sea-faring men there’s really only one drink on offer:

The Dark ‘N Stormy®:

So the story goes sometime after World War 1, the Dark ‘n Stormy was born. It has its origins in a Ginger Beer factory that was run by the Royal Naval Officer’s Club. The sailors soon discovered that a hefty splash of the local Gosling’s Black Seal rum was a great addition to the Ginger Beer.

As for the name the Dark ‘n Stormy, it was coined by a sailor who, while enjoying the cocktail, commented that it was the color of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.

As you can’t patent a drink recipe, you can trademark a name and that’s what Goslings did with the Dark ‘n Stormy. Kind of like what Pusser’s Rum did with their Painkiller cocktail. So if you make a Dark ‘n Stormy with anything other than Gosling’s dark rum, you’re breaking the law.

Image result for goslings rum and ginger ale dark and stormyUnmixed you can see where the drink’s name came from


  • 1.5 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer


In a tall glass filled with ice add 4 – 5 oz of Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer and top with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. Garnish with a lime wedge (optional).

The Gales of November®:

Not wanting to “break the law,” Dewey From Detroit trademarked the name “Gales of November®” to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald with a modified recipe, replacing the Bermuda ginger beer with Vernors Ginger Ale – because that’s what we drink around here.

Although honestly, it has gotten sweeter over the years so if you prefer Fever Tree or Bundaberg feel free; but please - no spiced rum. That’s for pirates.

Our memorial begins with a delicious Gales of November© or if you, like VSGPDJT, don’t imbibe, just enjoy a glass of Vernors on the rocks.  Because it’s what we drink…well, you know.


Now, beverage in hand, sit back and listen to the best sea shanty ever composed:

Gordon Lightfoot: “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald”

Bonus footage: