One of the things that makes living along Lake Erie so special is the presence of so many shipwrecks off our shores. I've heard it said that Erie has more shipwrecks per square mile than any other body of water on earth, making it a natural playground for scuba divers. And because there's something about a shipwreck that excites the imagination, its always a big event when a new wreck is discovered.
My friends Mike and Georgann Wachter, authors of the Erie Wrecks series of books, have just announce the discovery of the schooner barge Commodore, a 170 foot long vessel lost June 17, 1918 while being towed from Cleveland to Sandwich Ontario. The aging tow vessel Jay Gould began to leak in a storm and abandoned the Commodore. Both vessels sank but both crews were rescued by passing steamers. The Jay Gould has been a popular dive site for many years.
TheWachters report that the Commodore site is huge, with parts of the wreck located three tenths of a mile away from the main body of the hull. At the bow the donkey boiler has been pulled out of the vessel by fishnets and rests on the port side with the windlass. Piles of chain and hawes holes indicate that the anchors are still on the wreck site, though with limited visibility and so much area to explore they were not immediately located. The stack for the donkey boiler is also present as well as some other machinery. The port side of the wreck is more intact and piles of her coal cargo can be found everywhere.
At the stern there is a very small capstan near a set of bollards. In addition a toilet lies near the rudder which is fallen away from the main body of the wreck. If you wanted to follow the fish net, a hatch combing is many yards away. Fishnets are a serious hazard at this site when the visibility is restricted. Though the Commodore was found by a couple divers more than 15 years ago, her location was not divulged and only the two divers who found her ever dove the wreck.
The Wachters will be updating information on the wreck on their web site (www.eriewrecks.com) and will release the location to the general diving public next season.