The Schooner Barge is another unidentified wreck in
the Boston dumping grounds. It appears to be built for the purpose and not
converted based on the overall design. After the Civil War and with the
advent of steamships, ship owners began experimenting with towing ships.
They found it was economically beneficial to tow instead of sail heavily
laden vessels through hard-to-navigate channels where variable winds could
be a problem. Many older large schooners were converted to these barges as
they could then carry more cargo than fully rigged schooners, and they
required fewer crew members because of their much smaller sails. These sails
provided power when the wind was favorable and were used if the vessel broke
free from its tow. A consort system evolved in which steamers towed several
schooner-barges. As the demand rose, many schooner barges were built
specifically for that purpose. An excellent piece on schooner barges can be
found at the attached link.
The Schooner Barge is one of the better preserved
wooden shipwrecks in Mass Bay. It sits in about 180 ft of water, and is
mostly intact with much of the wooden decking still in place. One can
swim along the rail almost completely around the wreck, although the stern
section of the wreck has collapsed and the bow is heavily damaged. Large cargo hatches retain
their original shape, and the inside is one very large space with the huge
masts still resting vertically on the keel (they’ve been cut off flush with
the deck). Evidence of an upper deck can be seen, but there is not
much of it left. The length of the wreck we estimate at 250 ft. and the beam is
at least 40 ft. Unfortunately, visibility is usually in the order of 15 –
20 ft, but this ship is definitely worth a trip back when the vis is good.
I experienced one day of 50 ft + visibility on the wreck, and I’ll never
forget the thrill of gliding through the cavernous interior looking at the
massive wooden keel and beams overhead with their intricate supporting
structures. A truly impressive piece of work.