90 ft (27.4 m)
Approximately 1/4 mile due south of Diamond Island
~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude: 44° 13' 59.9988" N Longitude: -73° 20' 4.8012" W
The story of Water Witch began in 1831 when Captain Jahaziel Sherman commissioned Samuel Wood to build a new steam vessel at his shipyard in Fort Cassin, Vermont. Completed in the early part of 1832, the Water Witch was a small boat as compared to other lake steamers, displacing only 107 tons. With a length of 90 feet and a beam of 17 feet, she drew only 8 feet of water. The Water Witch operated for the next few years as a general cargo carrier and tow vessel, pulling timber rafts and barges between Fort Cassin, Vermont and Whitehall, New York.
In 1836 the Water Witch was converted into a two masted schooner and then sold. For the next 30 years she would continue in the cargo carrying business. During those years life on the ship was uneventful, as there was little mention of her up until 1866. Navigation on Lake Champlain opened that year in mid April. The schooner Water Witch was out early in the season and engaged in transporting iron ore from the Cheever Ore Bed (near Port Henry, NY) to Burlington Vermont.
The converted schooner was not at all optimized for sail and combined with the fact that she was overloaded this time with a heavy load of iron ore, made maneuvering the ship in rough weather very difficult. It was only a few weeks into the season when the Water Witch met with disaster. It was mid day and the high winds that continued to blow created large waves on the lake. Suddenly, without any warning, one of these large waves slammed into the Water Witch with such a tremendous force that it caused the lumbering ships’ cargo to shift drastically to its port side. Iron ore began spilling out of the holds, across the deck of the ship and into the lake. The cabin and both of the ships’ holds were rapidly filling with water. The schooner was sinking beneath the waves. Captain Mock had only moments to react. There was no time to reach the small yawl that trailed behind the schooner. The Captain, his wife, and children scrambled to free themselves of the ship as it sank from under them. The Water Witch plunged to her final destination in the deep waters off Split Rock Mountain, a few miles north of Westport, New York. Unfortunately, the incident happened so fast that there had been no time to reach their small infant in the cabin below.
FootnotesWater Witch article