There are 2000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, and 69 of them area around The Bruce Peninsula. 20 of these ships found their watery grave in rocky shoals and bays of The Fishing Islands.
We visit two of these wrecks on our passenger tours. These ships carried lumber, barrels of fish and supplies.
The Sarah, originally launched as the Emma Laura, was a 64 ton schooner with two masts and a square stern. It was 73 feet long, with a beam of 19.4 feet and a depth of 6.6 feet. It was rebuilt once on Lake Erie in 1864, and again in 1971 by John Galt in Port Dover.
Robert Reid of Red Bay bought her from Kincardine’s Graham Brothers in 1904, by which time she was known as the Sarah. Captain Reid, his wife, and two crew members, George Hardman and Frank Eyre, were enroute from Goderich to winter at Howdenvale, when they took shelter to wait out at a late November storm on the east side of Burke Island. They became trapped in ice and were forced to abandon ship, the three men and Mrs. Burke escaped in their yawl boat. It was reported that on November 22, 1906, they spent several hours working their way to the mainland as winter closed in. The pressure of the ice opened the seams of the old schooner and it sank off Burke Island.
The Phoenix was a 37 gross ton steam tug, that was 53.3 feet long and had a beam of 13.7 feet. It was built at Sauble Mills, in 1883 and sunk off the south-east of Main Station Island on Nov. 30, 1901. The cause is unknown.
One of the larger wrecks in the Fishing Islands, is The Gold Hunter. This ship was a large schooner built in 1862. It was 213 tons, with a length of 114 feet and a depth of 10 feet. In 1980, Captain Alexander McLeod of Goderich, left Howdenvale with a load of cedar logs. She hit a shoal off Ghegetto Island (also known locally as Round Island). The crew abandoned her and she broke up in a strong northwest wind a few days later in October 1890.
For individuals who would like to visit The Gold Hunter, private charters can be arranged.
References: Richardson, Sandy. Shipwrecks of the Fishing Islands, Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Association, Retrieved from: http://www.glska.com/.