WRECK INFO: Ship Type: Wooden Rafting Tug Lifespan: Built 1919, Sunk November 30, 1952 Length: 130 ft Depths: 10-25 ft Location: Just off the west shore of Cabot Head, Georgian Bay, Ontario GPS:
Not all of the ships lost on Georgian Bay went down in the 19th century. Such is the case of the giant tugboat Gargantua. Tugs were the workhorses of the Great Lakes, the “beavers” that gathered the logs that had been driven down rivers to lakes like Superior where they were towed at a pace of a mile an hour to the mills.
The tugs of Lake Superior tended to be larger than those of Georgian Bay. One of them was the massive wooden workhorse known as the Gargantua. In 1938, the Gargantua, which took its name from King Gargantua, a literary invention of the French writer, Rabelais, was capable of pulling an 8,000 cord pulpwood raft. Caught once in a classic Lake Superior gale, she nearly collided with her sister tug, the Gray. With funnels torn loose and towlines abandoned, both tugs struggled to survive a storm off Coppermine Point.
Gargantua survived that adventure. But she would eventually find her final resting place, not on Lake Superior, but in an obscure cove high on the Bruce Peninsula off Georgian Bay.
Stripped of her machinery, she spent her final days as a lumber barge. And then, in 1952, the worn out 300 ton tug was being towed to Collingwood where she was to be scrapped. Springing a leak near Cabot Head, the Gargantua was towed into Wingfield Basin where she was scuttled and allowed to sink. Her owners intended to retrieve her the following spring but it proved impossible.
Over the years, beavers made a home in her hull and, in 1971, fire ravaged her decks, burning her to the waterline. The Gargantua is still there, a broken ship lying in the shallows of Wingfield Basin.
Ship Registration Information
Year of Build: 1919 Official Number: 138277 CONSTRUCTION AND OWNERSHIP Built at: Marine City, Michigan POWER Propulsion: Screw DIMENSIONS Tonnage (gross): 381 FINAL DISPOSITION Final Location: Tobermory, Ontario, Canada How: Foundered HISTORY 130x32x15 Built by S. C. McLouth, Marine City Mich. 1919. Engine 17-25-43×30 by Filer & Stowell, Milwaukee Wisc. Originally unfinished wartime tug. Last used 1948, rebuilt barge but sank in tow 06/12/52 Tobermory Ont.
GARGANTUA was launched as SEAFARER. Hull was built by S.C. McLouth Shipyard at Marine City, MI, in 1919, for U.S. Shipping Board (hull No. 2415). War ended and contract was cancelled prior to completion. Sold to Lake Superior Paper Co. and completed in 1923. Hull was in boneyard at Thessalon by May, 1952, then moved to Wingfield Basin, Ontario, in Georgian Bay.
Historical Collections of the Great Lakes Bowling Green State University
Late in the autumn of 1952, the old steamer GARGANTUA, her machinery removed, was under tow on Georgian Bay, bound for the North Channel where she was to be used as a lumber barge. In heavy seas off Cabot Head, she sprang a leak, forcing the tug to take her into nearby Wingfield Basin. The GARGANTUA remained here during the following winter and although there was every expectation that her owners would return for her in the spring, they never did, perhaps because the hull was strained. Settling to the bottom she became a permanent fixture in the northern corner of the Basin. Most of the hull, was above water, and during the next two decades grass sprouted between her deck planks. In 1971, the wreck took fire and much of the deck was burned away.
A Diver's Guide to Georgian Bay by Art Amos & Patrick Folkes
NOTE: The GARGANTUA was still visible under water in Wingfield Basin in the Spring of 2000.