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Mary Alice B At Right

Lake Huron Mystery Tug Lies Off Michigan Coast


By James Donahue


The tugboat Mary Alice B sits upright and in almost unblemished condition on the bottom of Lake Huron, not far away from the Village of Port Sanilac, Michigan, due North of Detroit.


The tug’s sinking in 1975 remains shrouded in mystery. It sank for no apparent reason while under tow behind a larger tug, the Dolphin I, while returning from a salvage job in Thunder Bay to Detroit, U. S. Coast Guard records show.


The wreck’s discovery by sports divers in 1992 only intensified the mystery. Diver James Stayer of Lexington, a member of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Exploration Group, said he found open valves on the boat, which indicated to him that the tug was probably sunk on purpose.


The tug’s owner, Peter Bill, denied sinking his own boat. He said he never filed to collect an insurance claim and had no reason to have sent it to the bottom.


Whatever happened, Peter Bill’s loss in 1975 now appears to be Sanilac County’s gain. The wreck, which lies in 90 feet of water, has become a popular visiting site for sport divers who come to the area to visit a variety of wrecks off Lake Huron’s coast.


Stayer said the Mary Alice B appears to have sunk slowly, and settled upright on the bottom. He describes the wreck as “prestine. Even the wooden wheel is in place in the pilot house. It is the way people envision wrecks,” he said.


Stayer said the only damage appears to be some broken windows and skylight in the pilot house. Also some doors broke away and now lie alongside the hull.


Stayer and other members of his group located the wreck because of a tip from an area fisherman, who said he got his line hooked on something in the area. He said he was searching for another lost vessel, the steamer North Star, and thought this might be its location.


He said he was pleasantly surprised to find a tugboat in such perfect condition.


The tug was originally named Quintus when built for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1931.