Click on the photos below to see an enlarged version, with detailed description.

William Young
Sunk 1891

The latest wreck to be discovered in the Straits of Mackinac is the schooner William Young. The Young was accidentally found by Michigan State Police search and rescue divers during a missing person search on the east side of the Mackinac Bridge in August of 2002. After a buoy was placed on the wreck just before the Labor Day weekend, the Young has become a hot destination for many divers in fall of 2002.

The wreck was identified by the registration number, #26230, on the forward deck beam inside the main hatch. Records show the William Young was built in 1863 in Ohio, and sank after a collision in the Straits on October 5, 1891. The small 140-foot schooner was cut down into a tow barge in the 1880’s. “Cutting down” was the process of removing the entire upper rigging and topsails, along with the bow sprit and large forward sail inventory. The law required the lower sails to be retained on the shortened masts for use in an emergency, such as the towline from the steamer parting in heavy weather. The chance of a schooner barge ever needing to sail was remote, so sailing equipment tended to be extremely minimal and often of dubious quality. The William Young appears to be more of a barge than a sailer.

The wreck is upright and intact in 120 feet of water, in the shipping lane, about a mile east of the bridge. Divers have experienced current on the surface and bottom. Evidently all lower cabins were removed to provide more cargo capacity, probably during conversion to a tow barge. The aft two thirds of the hull is filled with coal to within a couple of feet below the main deck. Forward the bow is split open with coal, anchors and anchor chain spilled into the sand. It is possible to swim through the open bow area and aft to the forward hatch. As stated above, the rest of the wreck is filled with coal. A mast lies along the starboard side, on the bottom. Some deadeyes can be found along the rail. The wheel is still in place next to the rudderpost on the rear deck.

Story and photos ©2005 J.R. Underhill Communications

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