The Forgotten Tug

Georgian Bay is a treasure trove of 1800’s and early 1900’s shipwrecks, many which are easily accessible to divers and snorkelers. Today I am giving a shout out to one lonely forgotten tug, the Minne-ha-ha, resting on the bottom of the Bay since her foundering over 125 years ago.

Built in 1882 for a Parry Sound lumber merchant, the Minne-ha-ha carried mostly logs and other freight between Parry Sound and Penetanguishene until her demise in 1895. In those early days many of the tugs that worked the Bay were also instrumental in carrying messages and mail on their routes; they were one of the few forms of communication between ports at the time.

During her first year of service the Minne-ha-ha was forever recorded in maritime history as the tug that made the journey from Parry Sound across the Bay to Collingwood to deliver the tragic news of a large passenger ship sinking – the Asia – and in which over 100 lives were lost.

A massive storm quickly took down the Asia in 1882 leaving only two survivors. Luckily their life boat drifted towards Parry Sound where they were eventually rescued and the Minne-ha-ha carried their heart breaking story to Collingwood. To this day the Asia has never been located although many have searched.

A few years later, in October of 1895, she was on her regular route traveling southbound from Parry Sound to Penetanguishene when she encountered her own tragedy. The tug hit a rock off One Tree Island outside the northern entrance to Monument Channel, about half way to her final destination. She drifted south and ended up sinking after catching fire. No lives lost and after more than a century of sitting on the bottom, there is not a lot left to her. Below is the registry of her demise:

In the summer months I am likely her only visitor and on sunny days parts of her hull and some stringers are visible from my kayak. Snorkeling over her I was able to capture a few video clips; the tug sits in about 15’ of water and with the sun in the right position, she is quite visible. The front bow mast and supports that held the logs can be seen in my videos along with the ribbing from the hull.

I love Georgian Bay maritime history and the stories that come with it, both the ships and the people. Back then it was a completely different world on the Bay – they didn’t worry about wakes from passing boats or if their latest Navionics update was working, instead they worried about making it home alive!

Georgian Bay is a fierce beauty with a quick temper – when her wind starts to blow and her big waters churn, there is not much time to seek shelter. And in 1895, with no navigational communication such as GPS or Radar, VHF radios or weather reports, I am sure every journey was a challenging one. However the many lives and ships lost to the Bay have helped make boating today a so much safer experience for both Captain and crew.

And so next month, on the anniversary of her sinking, I hope to visit her site for the final time this year before the weather turns. Regardless of her short life and terrible ending, with every visit I somehow feel she gives me back a bit of good luck towards my own boating adventures on the Bay. At least that’s my story!

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