The Disaster - On August 23, 1885 the Sweepstakes hit a rock near Cove Island and sank in shallow water close to the light station. She remained there until September 3rd when she was towed into Big Tub Harbor by the tug Jessie. It was found that the Sweepstakes was beyond repair, so she was stripped of all useful rigging and equipment before she sank in her present location. Her cargo of coal was salvaged at a later date.
The Wreck Today - The nearly intact hull of the Sweepstakes is in six meters of water, some 45 meters from the head of Big Tub Harbor. Two mooring buoys are located just east of the wreck. Although deteriorating a little more each year, the Sweepstakes is one of the best preserved nineteenth century Great Lakes schooners to be found.
The bow area is the most interesting with a portion of the starboard railing intact and the windlass still in place on deck. The large holes through the deck indicate the location and size of the masts. A smaller hole was for the chimney, hooked up to the galley stove below. Draught markings, carved into the bow stem are visible. Located amidships, the centerboard box with centerboard still inside, extends from keel to deck. The aft deck has collapsed and the stern post now lies on the bottom.
The sides of this wreck are spreading apart and the deck is in danger of collapsing. Some repair work has been done by park staff to stabilize the wreck, including steel rods to help hold the sides together.
The Sweepstakes and the City of Grand Rapids are accessible only by boat or a 365 meter swim from the docks on the north side of Big Tub Harbor. All the land surrounding these wrecks is private.
Both wrecks are visited frequently by glass bottom tour boats. During the spring and fall the site is shared by both divers and boats. Caution and co-operation is necessary from both groups to make each visit safe and interesting. During the summer season, from the last Friday in June to the end of Labor Day weekend, the following schedule is in effect. Diving is permitted daily from 4:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. and on Sunday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The glass bottom tour boats will not enter the restricted zone during these times. Tour boats or any other vessel with valid permits may enter the restricted area from Monday to Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.. No diving will be permitted during these periods.