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

Cornelia B. Windiate

Not much is known about the Cornelia B. Windiate. The small 136 foot long canal schooner was built in Manitowoc Wisconsin by Windiate and Butler, and named after the builder’s daughter in 1874*. The ship went missing in November of 1875 and was felt to have sunk in Lake Michigan because the schooner had not been reported as passing through the Straits of Mackinac at that time.

The ship was discovered in May of 1986 by John Steele and Paul Ehorn off Presque Isle in Lake Huron. It is reported that Paul Ehorn was able to immediately identify the wreck by the name carved into the rail on both sides of the rear cabin.

The schooner is extremely intact with masts standing upright in about 190 feet of water. The forward mast has a rare yard which would be used to set a square sail below, with a triangular raffee topsail. This rig was a Great Lakes development, evolving the barkentine rig for use with the smaller crews used on the Lakes.

The only obvious damage to the wreck is a missing bowsprit, which was damaged in a collision on Lake Michigan earlier in the Windiates last trip. The yawl boat is still with the wreck, on the bottom off the starboard side, leading to speculation that the schooner could have become trapped in ice. It is felt that the crew perished attempting to walk to shore over the ice.

It is hard to imagine today, in this world where the media keeps tabs on everything from boats setting sail to trends in meditation, that a ship could sail away and never be heard of again. But by the time John Steele and Paul Ehorn solved the mystery of the loss of the Cornelia B. Windiate, all memory of the ship and crew had long passed into history.

Story and photos ©2005 J.R. Underhill Communications

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*We assumed, as did others, that the Cornelia in the ship's name was the builder's wife. Mr. Robert C. Boyles of North Carolina informed us that Mr. Windiate's wife was Cornelia E. Windiate, but they had a daughter they named Cornelia B. Windiate in 1869. We appreciate the correction.


Yard of Windiate

Windiate deck

Windiate wheel

Windiate stern
Windiate deck box
Windiate cabin
Windiate mast
Windiate stern wheel

Windiate bowsprit