The Fleetwing was a 135 foot, two masted, wood schooner that ran aground in 1888 at the end of the Door Peninsula in what is now known as Garrett Bay or Hedgehog Harbor. It was originally built in 1867 at the Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, WI. The Fleetwing was built shortly after the Civil War and was of a typical design for that era. It cost $30,000 to construct and many reporters praised it's sleek look. The vessel was designed to haul grain, lumber, and coal and carried a crew of 10 to 13 including the captain, mates, and cook. Two week runs between Chicago and Buffalo were typical early in the Fleetwing's career but as the years wore on and profits began to wane, shorter runs delivering lumber from Menominee, MI became the norm.
In September of 1888 the Fleetwing left Menominee, MI bound for Chicago with a load of lumber when a gale from the north sprang up. As night approached, the vessel reached the Door Peninsula but the captain mistook the Door Bluff Headlands for Table Bluff, which is located further east. He turned south too early and beached the boat. The captain and crew were uninjured and were able to hop off the boat and wade to shore. The boat was badly damaged but the crew thought repairs could be made and the boat saved. A tug was called but it could not move the beached Fleetwing. Another gale from the north eventually ripped the Fleetwing in two and scattered the remains around Garrett Bay. Most of the wreck was salvaged and only the pieces that couldn't be reused were left behind.
The Fleetwing is probably the perfect shipwreck for the beginner snorkeler in Door County. There is easy access to it from the Garrett Bay Boat Launch, most of the wreck is relatively shallow, and despite being pillaged over the years there is a lot to look at. Since the Fleetwing is located at the end of the peninsula and close to the clear waters of Lake Michigan the visibility is usually good, unless the wind is out of the north. In the summer there are a lot of fish looking for shelter around the wreck. If you look on Google Earth it's possible to see the keel of the wreck and when you get to Garrett Bay there is a plaque describing how to get to the best parts. If you are a looking to get your feet wet or just want to explore something on your own, the Fleetwing is the best wreck for any beginner in Door County.
Captain Matt Olson
Born and raised in Door County, Matt always had an interest in local history, shipwrecks, and the natural wonders scattered around the peninsula. Now he has the opportunity to share his love of all things Door County with locals and visitors alike in the SHIP'S LOG.