The schooner-barge Amboy, U.S. Registry 95276, started its career as the proud schooner Helena, a 205-foot three-mast schooner built in 1874 for the Cleveland Transportation Company. The Helena was fully rigged out as a schooner, but it was used principally as a towed consort to the steamer Havana in the Cleveland, Ohio, and Marquette, Mich., iron ore trade. The schooner carried 1,500 tons of cargo and towed by the Havana made a round trip every ten days. The Cleveland Transportation Company operated four pairs of steamers and consorts like the Havana and Helena, all known as the "Black Boats." They were regarded as some of the finest ships of their day. These included the steamer Geneva and consort Genoa, steamer Sparta and consort Sumatra, and steamer Vienna and consort Verona.
With its hull built of oak, the Amboy measured 209.3 feet in length, a beam of 34.2 feet and depth of hold of 14.4 feet, a gross tonnage of 893 tons and a net tonnage of 849 tons. The Amboy was built in Cleveland, Ohio, by Quayle and Murphy. The Amboy had a figure head and a square stern. The vessel's keelson was composed of two main timbers and two adjacent sister keelsons, each two timbers high. The vessel had a single deck with hold beams, steel arches and steam pumps. It possessed a center board as did many of the Great Lakes schooners.
While no photographs are known to exist of the Amboy/Helena, a picture of its sister ship the Sumatra indicates the Amboy had a rather bluff entrance and was flat bottomed over most of its 209 foot length. The Amboy would have had an after deckcabin with at least five side windows on each side, a raised forecastle deck and at least two cargo hatches. Additionally, it would have had a hoisting engine powered by a donkey boiler positioned between its main and fore masts.
A photograph of the schooner Verona, also Amboy's sister ship, indicates the vessel carried at least a huge square foresail, a gaff-rigged foresail, mainsail and mizzen. Rigging on the Verona photograph indicates these sister ships carried at least an inner jib and an outer jib, perhaps even a flying jib. With top masts it would have carried topsails, but their rig is uncertain. However, a photograph of the schooner Lucerne, which is in the same class as the Amboy and which has the same mast and spar configuration as the Verona, indicates that the vessels varied gaff topsails, a club-footed fore staysail and a foretopmast raffee. Apart from the rig, the photograph of the Verona shows these schooner barges carried two wooden stock anchors at the bow.
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