Category: Lake Ontario

Wolfe Islander II

So not the first artificial reef in Ontario, but joining the likes of the Neilson and Papa’s Paycheque the Wolfe was certainly the largest project taken on by the now-defunct Comet Foundation.

Ship Type: Converted Car Ferry
Lifespan: Built 1947, Scuttled 1985
Length: 200ft
Depths: 80ft
Location: Wolfe Island, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
GPS N44.13.5580 W76.24.9860

Originally the Ottawa Maybrook, built in 1946 as a gift for China, but due to changing political views, she was converted into a 16-car ferry and renamed the Wolfe Islander II. She was sunk intentionally on September 21, 1985, as an artificial reef in 80 ft (24.6m) of water

Dropping down the line and reaching the bow davit, it is only another dozen feet to the open door of the wheelhouse. Just abaft the wheelhouse is a set of steel stairs that lead to benches lining the curved bulkhead and large square windows provide exit points with large doorways also convenient. The depth is 60 feet (18.5m) and the air pocket above divers’ heads is exhaust from previous diver visits and is not for breathing

Exiting the salon on the port side, divers follow the stairs to the main deck where vehicles were parked and recently a motorcycle was placed to demonstrate past cargo

A nearby doorway leads into the depths of the engine room and only the diver with experience, skills, and training should proceed here. Through catwalks and piping, one may proceed to the engine mounts at 75 feet (23m) depth and you encounter the “elevator” shaft leading to the top deck. Near the port rail, you will find the portholes (of which several were liberated by some divers that need them more than others) with logos and names of support organizations. Just around the corner is the ship’s name and registry port.

Some Videos

Slideshow of the sinking

A Fall Dive to the Wolfe Islander II


I’m thinking no one really cared about one of the last remaining working schooners on the lakes.  Unlike the others, she just disappeared on the Sodus – Picton coal run.  The most famous thing about her is that S.O.S.  Uses a photo of her and likeness on their promotional material.

1926 BURT BARNES, a wooden three-masted schooner, foundered in Lake Ontario while carrying 210 tons of coal from Sodus Point to Picton. The crew abandoned the ship in the yawl boat near Picton and were blown across the lake and came ashore safely 12 miles west of Rochester.

Other names : none
Official no. : C150489
Type at loss : schooner, wood, 3-mast
Build info : 1882, G.S. Rand or Rand & Burger, Manitowoc, WI US#3193
Specs : 96x25x7 134g 127n
Date of loss : 1926, Sep 3
Place of loss : 12 mi SE of Picton, Ont.
Lake : Ontario
Type of loss : storm
Loss of life : none
Carrying : coal
Detail : Foundered off Lake Ontario’s Long Point during a gale. Bound for Picton from Sodus Pt., NY. Her crew abandoned her in a patched-up lifeboat and landed near Rochester, NY, 32 hours later.
Sold Canadian in 1904. Registered out of Kingston in 1926.
One of the last working schooners on the lakes.


On August 21, 1861, BANSHEE (wooden propeller freighter, 119 foot, 166 tons, built in 1852, at Portsmouth, Ontario, named HERO in 1860-61) was carrying wheat, flour and butter to Montreal when her engine failed (broken shaft) and she was helpless in a storm on Lake Ontario. She foundered near Timber Island on Lake Ontario. One passenger died, but the crew of 10 made it to Timber Island. She was owned by Howard & Rowe of Quebec.

BANSHEE Propeller, cargo flour and etc.,sank near South Bay Point

N43 56 29 W76 50 43

, Lake Ontario. Total loss, one man drowned.

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser

Jan. 22, 1862 Casualty List, 1861

. . . . .

Loss of Propeller BANSHEE.

The Propeller BANSHEE with a cargo of grain went down at Timber Island, in South Bay, in the gale of Wednesday night. She was owned by Mr. Rose of St. Thomas, and had on board 6000 bushels wheat, 250 bbls. flour and 300 kegs butter. The machinery breaking, the vessel became unmanageable and got into the

trough of the sea, when she went down; but only one life was lost, a passenger named John Nagle, a printer. The others were saved, ten getting safely to shore in the small boat, and seven by holding onto floating timber.

The purser, Mr Scott, saved the books and cash under his care. The Propeller is a complete wreck, all her upper works having been washed off before she was abandoned by the crew. The vessel lies in 18 feet water, in a good position to be raised.

Several telegrams reached Kingston yesterday afternoon from parties, who, on hearing of the wreck, had mistaken the propeller for the steamer of that name, and who, having friends on board, were solicitous for their safety. The steamer BANSHEE, we are glad to state, went down the river at her usual hour yesterday morning, having bravely withstood and passed through the worst of the storm between Cobourg and Kingston.

Weekly British Whig (Kingston)

Friday, August 30,1861

. . . . .



The steamer RANGER, passed the propeller BANSHEE sunk in 18 feet of water between the Duck’s and Timber Island, one person was drowned, a passenger belonging in Montreal. The crew are all safe on the Island, these are all the particulars yet known.

It was too rough for the RANGER to get the crew off the Island, this is reported by the purser of the Ranger.

The BANSHEE plied as a freight boat between Montreal and Port Stanley, she left the latter port in the bedinning of the present week, with a general cargo, and passed through the Welland Canal on her way down a couple of days ago.

The vessel was owned by Captain Howard of the steamer MAGNET & Mr. Chas. Rose, of St. Thomas and is said to be insured.

Toronto Globe

Friday, August 23, 1861


. . . . .



Residents on the shore of Babylon to the cliffs of Cape Versey, Marysburg Township, probably fared better than usual during the winter 1861-62, because they were able to salvage from waters surrounding the Sweatman Island, some of the cargo of the Propeller BANSHEE, which went to the bottom of Lake Ontario in the vicinity of Timber IsLnd one mile off the Point Traverse mainland.

A bad storm was sweeping across the lake that day, Wednssday, August 21st, 1301, when the ship’s machinery broke down. Floundering about helplessly in the troughs of the heavy seas, the ship soon broke up and sank, being a complete wreck.

Ten persons were saved when they hurriedly clambered into a small boat and seven persons floated in on a piece of wreckage, Mr. John Nagle, a printer was drowned.

The cargo of the banshee comprised of some 3,000 busheIs of wheat, 250 barrels of flour and 300 kegs of butter, She was owned. by a Mr. Robe of St. Thomas, Ontario.

On Sunday, October 15th, 1967, Mr. Dennis Kent and members of the Quinte Aqua Divers, Belleville, found the wreck of the propeller BANSHEE, which was lost one mile off Pt, Traverse,

The remains of the wooden ship is in some 24 feet of water on the Timber Island Bar.

Over the winter months the location was lost; but on July 30th after nearly two months of searching by.Quinte Aqua Divers, It was re-found and pinpointed. The BANSHEE is currently being explored by the Quinte Aqua Divers,

A page from the Q. A. D.’s Newsletter, 1969



1926: NISBET GRAMMER sank after a collision with DALWARNIC in fog off Thirty Mile Point, Lake Ontario, while downbound with a cargo of grain. All on board were rescued from the 3-year old member of the Eastern Steamship Co. fleet. It went down in about 500 feet of water.

Ship of the month no 68  Everything you need to know about the NISBET GRAMMER

Underwater footage 

Nisbet Grammer (1923)
Year of Build:
Official Number:
Built at:
Tonnage (gross):
Final Location:
Charlotte, New York, U.S.A.
Foundered (Collision)
253x43x20 Owned by Eastern Steamship Co., Port Colborne, Ont. Built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead England and launched 14/04/23. Engine 16-27-44×33 by builder. Sunk in collision with “Dalwarnic” 31/05/26 off Charlotte, New York.


Other names : none

Official no. : C72595
Type at loss : schooner-barge, wood, 3-mast
Build info : 1873, H. Rooney, Garden Island, Ont.
Specs : 145x26x13, 376g 361n
Date of loss : 1898, Oct 25

Strange Disappearance of The Bavaria’s Crew

By James Donahue

There is a bizarre mystery behind a mishap involving the lumber schooner Bavaria that happened on May 28, 1889. The ship’s crew of eight men disappeared without a trace minutes after the vessel broke away from its towing barge in the midst of a storm on Lake Ontario.

The Bavaria survived the storm. It drifted ashore, upright, on Galloo Island in the Duck Island chain. But the boat’s entire crew disappeared and was never seen again.

The master of the steam barge Calvin, that had the Bavaria in tow with a line of two other lumber hookers, said the tow line parted at about 6 a.m. He said the Bavaria was the middle vessel in the line of three vessels in tow, and was trailing behind the schooner Valentia. A third vessel, the Norway, was in tow behind the Bavaria. When the line between the Valentia and Bavaria broke, the Bavaria drifted off to ram the Norway.

The collision was slight enough that neither vessel sustained hull damage, but the jar toppled some of the Norway’s head gear. Nevertheless, the crew of the Norway made sail and brought their crippled ship to the lee of one of the nearby islands. There they anchored and waited out the storm.

The Bavaria, however, broached, fell into the trough of the seas, and remained there. As he watched, the Calvin’s skipper said nobody made any effort to raise sail or turn the craft about. As the seas rolled across the deck, he said he could see that the Bavaria was starting to take on water.

Sensing the vessel was in some kind of trouble, the Calvin turned around and drew abreast of the Bavaria where the captain hailed the boat, expecting Capt. John Marshall and his crew to help attach a new hawser. But there was no response. The drifting schooner appeared deserted.

The Calvin stood by, blowing its whistle until the Bavaria drifted too close to Galloo Island, and eventually grounded.

When the storm abated, the passing schooner Armenia saw the Bavaria aground and anchored off shore. A small boat was sent to it to investigate. They found the schooner intact and in good condition, but nobody on board. The lifeboat was missing suggesting that the crew abandoned ship. The sailors from the Armenia said they found Captain Marshall’s clothes, a great deal of cash and his papers still intact in his cabin, which added to the mystery. A captain did not voluntarily leave his ship without his papers.

The Bavaria’s life boat was later found floating, upside down, a few hundred feet away from the ship. It was concluded that for some unknown reason the Bavaria’s crew abandoned ship within minutes after the line parted, making no effort to raise sail and save the vessel. According to the theory, the hapless sailors didn’t get far before their boat capsized and all were drowned.

But their bodies were never found. And why did an experienced sailor like Captain Marshall choose to abandon a seaworthy ship and take his chances in an open boat in the midst of a gale? Did the collision cause him to believe his vessel was going to sink? According to the report, the Bavaria’s hull was sound, and the vessel didn’t even sustain damage to its masts and upper works in the collision.

The Bavaria was a wooden schooner equipped with masts and sails and the crew was trained and capable of raising sail and bringing the vessel out of harm’s way. It was laden with a cargo of lumber, so the worst that could happen was that the ship would fill with water and become, in sailor’s vernacular of the day, “waterlogged.” It would not sink.

Lost in addition to Marshall were the mate, Felix Compau and sailors John Snell, William Owens, Arthur Boileaw, Alexander Berry, Elias King and the cook, Beila Hartman.

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Categories: Lake Ontario

TILLER (Unknown wreck)

Toronto Area most requested dive on Scubaboard for many years.
Ship Type: Two masted wooden schooner
Lifespan: Built best estimates early 1800s, Sunk: unknown?
Length: 94ft
Depths: 110ft
Location: 6km north of Port Dalhousie, Lake Ontario, Ontario
GPS N43.14.734 W070.17.064
The “Tiller” wreck, was thought to be the “Henry Clay” for some time until it was disproved, but is simply known as the “Tiller” because of the lack of a ship’s wheel as the ship was steered by a large wooden tiller at the stern of the vessel. As not much is know about the wreck, details of it’s origins and sinking are currently unknown. It does resemble work from ships built in the early 1800s, however, that is the extent of what we know.

Tiller wreck

The Tiller wreck was discovered in 1991 by Jim Garrington. A few years later a team of four divers embarked on a research project on the wreck.

Little is known about the wreck, which lies six miles off Port Dalhousie.

It is believed the wreck could be that of the Henry Clay, which went down in a strong gale in 1931 near the mouth of the Welland Canal. The team has not been able to find any conclusive evidence the wreck is that of the Henry Clay.