Beaver Island shipwrecks

Behold the longer days of February. Spring is coming. Just not today. Or tomorrow. The high was in the teens today and single digit lows again tonight. But this weekend and early next week look to be downright balmy, in the mid-30s. If you’re wanting to get in some winter steelheading, next week would be a good time to do it.

But to hold us over until the weekend, let’s warm ourselves by these pictures of Beaver Island sunsets. It was August 10th, Kevin’s last day on the islands for the 2010 season and the unprecedentedly warm waters of northern Lake Michigan were making carp fishing rather difficult. So Kevin steeled himself with a few beers at the Shamrock and set out in search of some shallow water shipwrecks. Beaver Island has claimed more than its fair share of ships over the years thanks in large part to the warrens of shoals and half islands that rise out of 20 fathoms in a matter of seconds at cruising speed. See what I did there? I wrote fathoms. It was pretty awesome. The intricacies of Beaver Island’s shoal complexes is one reason hiring a guide (impending shameless plug), say from Indigo Guide Service, is really the best way to fish there.

The Maritime History of the Great Lakes is a pretty cool website to explore. Here is a link to all the ships wrecks around Beaver Island for the period roughly from 1850-1900. The accounts are just fun to read, in a macabre sort of way. To wit:

“It has already been announced that the steamship FLETCHER, with a full cargo of corn from Chicago, was ashore on the South Fox Island, and that the fine large schooner THOMAS W. FERRY, with a full cargo of iron ore, was ashore on the head of the Beaver. The Beaver and South Fox are island at the foot of this lake. But it as been confidently thought all along that both would be rescued. The tug WINSLOW, Captain Mart, with Captain Mart Blackburn as wrecking master, after rescuing the schooner TAYLOR and safely quartering her at Northport, went and “took a look” at the FLETCHER and FERRY. The tug arrived at Port Huron yesterday having got through the Straits of Mackinaw without trouble from ice, and Captain Blackburn telegraphs to his employers here, Atkins & Beckwith, that the FLETCHER is all broken up, and that the FERRY is all gone from the after hatch aft. The total loss of two fine vessels, with at least one cargo, is thus announced. The corn cargo of the FLETCHER is of course a total Loss, but the ore cargo of the FERRY may be raised.”

But back to Kevin’s search. Kevin was informed by some of the island locals that the wreck of the 175′ schooner Chandler J. Wells was in shallow water and clearly visible from a boat. And indeed, three sections of the Chandler J. Wells were plainly visible from the deck of Kevin’s boat. Snorkel gear is clearly in order here. The Chandler J. Wells was built 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio and called Port Huron, Michigan home. On November 14th, 1884 she ran aground in the dark on the Whisky Island Shoal, she then broke up in a storm soon afterward. She was carrying a cargo of lumber from Manistique, Michigan to Buffalo, New York.

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