The Windiate is probably the most popular deep wreck in the Presque Isle area — and for good reason.
The wreck is sitting upright in 180 feet of water and it is in pristine condition and very picturesque. The three masts are still standing, the wheel at the stern is still attached, and the crew’s lifeboat is off the stern on the starboard side.
The Thunder Bay Wrecks website has a good drawing that shows the wreck:
The Windiate was overloaded with 21,000 bushels of wheat when it left Milwaukee, Winsconsin in November, 1885. It had a crew of 9 sailors and they were battling high winds and very cold weather as it sailed towards Buffalo, New York. The ship disappeared and never reached Buffalo. The general consensus prior to the discovery of the wreck in 1986 was that it had never even made it to Lake Huron and had sank somewhere in Lake Michigan.
There were “ship spotters” that recorded the comings and goings of ships, especially as they sailed by narrow passages. The Windiate was never spotted entering Lake Huron and so, until divers found the wreck in 1986, the general consensus was that it had never made it to Lake Huron.
What happened to the Windiate is still a mystery.
The likely scenario is that spray from the huge waves may have coated the ship in layers of ice which weighed the ship down and also compounded with the overloaded cargo (21,000 bushels vs. design to cary 16,000). The ship is still very intact indicating that it had a soft landing on the bottom and likely did not collide with anything. As the book “Presque Isle’s Shipwreck Alley” indicates, the “schooner’s three stately masts stand erect with riggings attached. Her booms and gaff’s are latched together revealing that sails were not in use when the vessel sank.” The book goes on to speculate that since the Windiate was not under sail and the lifeboats were not used, that the captain and crew possibly perished while trying to walk over the newly formed ice to reach shore.
It was very late in the shipping season and they were trying to squeeze more profit out and paid the ultimate price.
NOAA has a nice map of the Windiate for reference:
Mel and I dove the Windiate with Jack who also took on the “job” of lighting some specific areas for us to photograph.
Unfortunately, one of my lights flooded on this dive and so I only had one light to use. Therefore, I had to put the one light at the “top” of the camera housing and try to illuminate the entire scene which is definitely not easy with wide angle photography. So, some of the photos might have a cropped or vignette look to them.