Outbound from Ellamar, Alaska bound for Seattle via Gulf of Alaska. Captain relied upon dead reckoning to execute three course changes needed within minutes of leaving Virgin Bay at Ellamar.
Ship's engineer later testified that the ship's wheel was not turning as quickly as Captain Schage supposed, with the result that the ship was short of its mark when the third turn was made. Vessel ran hard aground in foul ground just off Busby Island, and attempts to pull the ship off at high tide were unsuccessful. Salvage efforts continued all summer, but the ship remained stuck fast, and eventually capsized and broke up in an autumn storm.
A marine court of inquiry was convened in Seattle to hear testimony from Captain Schage and his officers. Under questioning from one of the hearing officers, the Saratoga's captain exclaimed, "It is not my carelessness that got that ship ashore, if there had been a buoy or anything to guide a fellow."
"You know there is nothing there?" asked the hearing officer. "I know that," Schage replied, confident that he has defended his actions successfully.
"All the more reason you should take extra precaution!" came the stern rejoinder. Schage's license was suspended for three months, a disciplinary action that was upheld following an appeal from the captain.
A detailed account of the Saratoga shipwreck written by Steve Lloyd was published in the Sea Chest, the journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. Click the page on the right to open a PDF of Steve's article in a new window.
Please note that this article was published in 2005, before his team located the Saratoga shipwreck. It turns out that portions of the shipwreck are exposed on a minus tide--we just needed to be there at the right time!