Sweepstakes was built in Burlington, Ontario in 1867, by Melancthon Simpson. The two-masted wooden schooner’s length was 36.3 m (119 ft) and the hull’s maximum depth was 7 m (20 ft). The schooner weighed approximately 218 tonnes. Sweepstakes was last owned by George Stewart, who lived in Mooretown, Ontario.
Damaged off Cove Island in August 1885, the Sweepstakes was then towed to the head of Big Tub Harbour, located in the Fathom Five National Marine Park, in Tobermory Ontario, by a tugboat known as Jessie. The schooner suffered serious damage and was not repaired in time, causing it to sink in September 1885. Sweepstakes was transporting coal and the coal was retrieved after the boat sank.
The wreck today
Today, Sweepstakes is said to be picture perfect, where the hull remains intact. Sweepstakes is located approximately 50 yards from the head of Big Tub Harbour and remains in the water at a depth of 20 feet. The bow area of the boat contains the windlass and portions of the starboard railings remain unharmed. The stern name-board has been removed and currently is on display at the Bruce County Museum in Southampton. In the middle of the schooner is the center-board box, with the centerboard inside. This extends from keel to deck. The aft-deck of the Sweepstakes has collapsed, causing the stern-post to fall, where it now lies on the bottom of Big Tub Harbour. The Fathom Five National Marine Park has made repairs to the slowly deteriorating schooner to keep the deck from collapsing. Although Sweepstakes deteriorates a little more each year, it is said to be one of the best preserved 19th-century Great Lakes schooners that has been found and is considered one of the most popular shipwrecks in the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Nearby is another popular visited shipwreck, the City of Grand Rapids. The schooner gives a good depiction of what a typical Great Lakes schooner looked like. Contrary to previous advisories when entering the shipwreck, this must be done with caution; entry of the schooner is no longer accessible to divers. The Fathom Five National Marine Park officials have put up fencing to prevent entry into the schooner. This reduces any further damage to the schooner which could be caused by the exhaled bubbles of the divers.
Information taken from Wikipedia.
The City of Grand Rapids
The City of Grand Rapids was a wooden passenger steamer ship which caught fire while docked in Little Tub Harbour on October 29th, 1907. The 125 foot, 190 ton ship was towed away from the harbour into open water to prevent the fire from spreading inside the harbour.
At this point in history, there were no attempts to fight boat fires on the docks due to the threat of possibly burning down the whole harbour which had docks and buildings built entirely of wood. For this reason, ships on fire were usually tied to a tow line, and towed out to open water and allowed to burn themselves out.
Following the custom, the burning City of Grand Rapids was towed out of the harbour by a tug. The ship was pulled into Georgian Bay until the tow line burned and the ship floated free. The winds blew the burning ship into Big Tub Harbour where it ran aground and burned to the waterline. The hull still rests in Big Tub Harbour. The water is so shallow that parts of the ship actually stick out of the water.
In 1968, the propeller and the rudder were recovered from the wreck. They are on display outside the museum near the log cabin.