The shipwreck of the Grapeshot must be one of my favorite shallow water shipwrecks in Door County. I know other people knew about it before me but it was one I didn't know about until I was bored one winter looking on Google Earth and saw the wooden beams spread out in the Plum Island Lagoon just a few hundred yards away from the old abandoned Coast Guard Station. I really couldn't wait to get out the following spring. When we finally launched the Gray Fox II it was the first place we went to. That year the water was low and when we drifted over the Grapeshot it was so close to the surface you could have nearly stuck your hand in the water to touch it. Since then it has been a regular sight on our Death's Door Tour and it never ceases to amaze me how well it has been preserved over all these years.
The Grapeshot was originally built in 1855 in Buffalo, NY and used for hauling lumber, wheat, coal, and salt. In 1866 it ran aground near Plum Island and was salvaged and put back into service until November 1867 when it ran aground again, nearly in the same spot, on Plum Island. Salvage attempts were made again but it proved futile and eventually everything was removed from the Grapeshot including the cargo of lumber and the rigging. The ice continued to destroy the ship and scatter the remains of it around the lagoon. Today much of the wreck could very well be covered by sand but the main wreckage is sitting on top of limestone and protected from ice movement by the long sandbar the stretches to the northwest of Plum Island.
Snorkeling over the Grapeshot is a lot of fun since so much of it is still intact and in fairly shallow water. The debris field of the wreck stretches over 60 feet and in the summer the lagoon warms up enough you don't really need a wetsuit. Small mouth bass swim in and out of the wreckage and in addition to the wooden beams there are steel bolts holding parts of the wreck together. It's not necessary to get in the water to see this wreck today and even with the high water we can always see it on our boat tour.
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.