The wooden three masted schhoner Lucerne
was a large schooner probably named after the city in Switzerland. Built at a cost of $55,000 by Parsons & Humble shipbuilders and launched 0n April 23, 1873 at Tonawanda, New York. In 1874 the vessel was valued at $50,000 and rated A1 by the Board Of Lake Underwriters. At the time of loss, the vessel and cargo was valued at $33,000. Her official registry number was 15914. The Lucrene
hauled grain such as corn, but later also carried coal and iron ore. She had been bought and sold numerous times during her career and had few problems over her life time, e.g. she had her mizzen boom broken outside of Chicago.
"At the time of her sinking, Lucerne
was considered to be one of the staunchest vessels on the lakes. For heavy duty service on Lake Superior, her new owners had completely outfitted her with new sails and fittings..."
September,1875: Collided with the schooner Adams
August 1877: Her mizzen boom was broken outside of Chicago while laden with corn for Buffalo.
1885: Received a new deck and hatch combings. Her value was raised to $26,000 and classed A2.
1885: Was in the grain trade between Duluth and Buffalo.
1885: Struck by lightning shattering the mizzen top mast.
Last Monday evening, November 15th, 1886, the schooner Lucerne, with Capt. George S. Lloyd, master, loaded with 1,256 tons of iron ore, cleared Ashland for Cleveland. The intention was to meet her tow, Raleigh, at Sault Ste. Marie. This was to be the last run of the season, but was the last voyage ever for the large schooner Luceren.
She started out with a fair wind, but so far as known was not seen again until in the midst of the storm on Tuesday afternoon. The Captain of the steam barge Fred Kelly en route for Ashland to load iron ore, discerned the ill fated schooner rolling and pitching about off of Ontonagon with all her sails set except her gaff topsail,evidently at the mercy of the wind and waves. At about dark, she was seen by the mate of the Kelly, to turn about and head for the safety of Chequamegen Bay, but was never seen again. On the morning of November 19th, the LaPointe lightkeeper, discovered the wreck in seventeen feet of water off the beach of Long Island. In the afternoon, searchers in the tug S.B. Barker and Cyclone of Bayfield also discovered the spars of a vessel just above the water, which proved to be the missing Lucern. In the rigging were found three of the crew who were covered with ice from one to six inches. They were cut loose and taken to Bayfield. The vessel had grounded on either the 17th or 18th of November, 1886.
The following January, the wreck was purchased by Sol. Boutin, Sr. who warned that parties were forbidden from removing items from the wreck. The wreck was revisited in June of 1887 by a salvage crew who initially determined the wreck could be refloated and put back in service.
Actually, only a few items were salvaged including the two ton anchor and eighty fathoms of chain.
In the late 1970's more salvaging was conducted in the form of an amateur archeological excavation. Artifacts were taken to the Canal Park Museum in Duluth, and later to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore collection and to the Meteor Museum in Superior.
The hull of the schooner Lucerne is remarkably intact with the bow and starboard midships preserved up to the deck level. The hull lies in 24 feet of water; with substantial portions settled into the sand bottom. Top of stern and stern posts are 15 feet beneath the surface of the water and the top of centerboard is at 12.5 feet. A portion of the forecastle is intact; the stern is intact to the top of the stern post and transom--missing are spars, rudder and steering gear. Midship: portside frametops are partially buried by iron ore; the centerboard trunk survives upright. The deck is largely missing. The upper deck level on the starboard side is marked by a shelf/row of hanging knees. A large number of dead trees/stumps are entangled about the deck. There are sizeable portside fragments.
The wreck of the Lucerne is buoyed annually. Outstanding features to see besides the intact hull are: the centerboard trunk, capstan, windless, samson post and railings all surrounded by the cargo of iron ore.
A dive guide for this vessel is available for purchase.