On August 23, 1885, the schooner, Sweepstakes hit a rock near Cove Island on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, and sank in shallow water close to the light station. There she remained until transport could be arranged. Sweepstakes was built in Burlington, Ontario in 1867, by Melancthon Simpson. The wooden schooner’s had two masts, and sported a length 119 feet. The hull’s maximum depth was 20 feet. The schooner weighed approximately 218 tons. Sweepstakes was last owned by George Stewart, who lived in Mooretown, Ontario. Because she ran aground on a rock, her crew were able to escape, so her sinking took with it only one casualty…Sweepstakes, herself. She rests in the Fathom Five National Marine Park.
On September 3rd the tug Jessie towed Sweepstakes into Big Tub Harbor so she could be repaired, but it was found that the Sweepstakes was beyond repair. So, the repair soon became a salvage of sorts. She was stripped of all useful rigging and equipment. The she sank in her present location in Tub Harbor, at Tobermory, Ontario, Canada. At the time of her sinking, Sweepstakes was still fully loaded with coal. Her cargo was salvaged at a later date. It seems a sad end to the little ship that was majestic in her time, but it isn’t really the end for her.
The area where Sweepstakes now lies is a fairly shallow spot, so she is visible to people on small boats passing nearby. Her hull is almost completely intact, and she rests in about 20 feet of very clear water at the head of Big Tub Harbor. Two mooring buoys mark her location as a warning to unsuspecting boaters. Although deteriorating a little more each year, the Sweepstakes is one of the best preserved nineteenth-century Great Lakes schooners to be found. Nearby, the wreck of The City Of Grand Rapids rests. Both wrecks are visited frequently by glass-bottom tour boats. During the spring and fall, the site is shared by both divers and boats. Even just looking at pictures of the boats is interesting. It’s almost strange to think you can see a shipwreck from the top of the water.