A summer of wreck-hunting in review

The Wawinet

My 2021 boating season may have been shortened by covid-19 (restrictions meant my boat wasn’t in the water at the marina until mid-June), but I managed some interesting, novel diversions, in looking for shipwrecks on Georgian Bay.

Our Limestone 24 EXP, Orion, anchored at American Camp island.

As I described in this longer blog post, the outings began as a way for me to get to know better a new chart plotter and depth sounder system I had installed on our Limestone 24 EXP, Orion, at the start of the season. In putting together the Garmin system, I chose a “high wide” sonar transponder that is capable of covering a much wider area of the bottom and with far more image detail than a typical fish-finding sonar. I mainly had wanted to get a better picture of bottom topography when anchoring in new areas, but it occurred to me that the high imaging capability would be useful in looking at (and even finding) shipwrecks, of which Georgian Bay does not lack.

My first positive hit on the Wawinet. The waviness in the sonar image is due to the boat rocking in waves.

I started by trying to locate the wreck of the Wawinet, an 87-foot motor cruiser that sank in 1942 with a loss of 25 lives. I knew it was somewhere at the south end of Beausoleil Island, about five miles north of our home port. It took a lot more effort to find than I had expected, but seeing the wreck at last appear on the plotter/sounder display was a personal Jacques Cousteau/Steve Zissou moment.

The Sloopy (left) and the Elton III, captured in one imaging run.
I made a lot of passes over the two wrecks, as you can see at left. At right, the Elton III.

Next up was a pair of cruising boats that some divers told me about, off Raft Point on the east side of Giant’s Tomb Island. They weren’t sure precisely where the wrecks were, but they had a GPS coordinate as a starting point and I headed out to confirm the location(s) for them. The search, in about 65 feet of water, wasn’t hard, and I made repeated runs in a single morning over the two vessels. The Elton III is a steel motor cruiser and the Sloopy a small cruising sailboat, both of uncertain vintage. I still have no idea when they sank or why.

The fishing boat at the mouth of the Musquash River

A diver also told me about a Down East style fishing boat that had been deliberately scuttled at the mouth of the Musquash River, in about 40 feet of water. It was surprisingly hard to find. My first investigation, involving several passes, came up empty, but my wife and I were able to locate the wreck later in the summer.

My ambitions for next year are to gather sonar imaging of two well-known wrecks on the east side of Hope Island: the Marquette, a schooner that sank in 1867, and the Lottie Wolf, a schooner that was lost in 1879. I also plan to go north, toward Massasauga Provincial Park, to investigate sites associated with the loss of the side paddlewheel steamer Waubuno in 1879. I have been researching the loss of the Waubuno, off and on, for a good fifteen years, mainly the lives of those lost with her. I’ve snorkelled on the main body of the wreck, at Wreck Island, but I want to look at the bits and pieces out at Burkett Rock, and if conditions are right, to poke around for the remnants of her cabin superstructure that are supposed to be nearby, in about 60 feet of water.

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