Tugboat Wm H. McAllister (Wreck O)

Wreck O has been identified as the tugboat Wm. H. McAllister (1942). Because of its depth, the site was one of the subjects of ROV documentation during the 1997 season. The vessel is in very good condition, and red and white paint is still clearly visible on the hull. The tug has settled heavily into the bottom of the lake, and mud covers a good portion of the rudder. Only the top of the uppermost propeller blade protrudes from the sediment. The vessel’s name is clearly painted on the stern, the bow, and the front of the pilot house.

Spotlights are mounted on the rails of the vessel in several places, including the pilot house, the aft rail of the upper deck, and the aftermost rail in the stern. Several of the bulkhead doors are open and allowed glimpses into the interior of the vessel. One of the doors leads to a head, where the sink was clearly apparent. Numerous cables and hoses tangle the decks and hang over the sides of the tugboat. Large bumper cushions for pushing barges, evidently constructed of large rubber pads covered with woven rope, are located on the bow and stern. The pilot house is rounded in shape and has windows all around, although the glass has been broken from all of them. The ship’s wheel was visible through the broken windows.

Along the upper edge of the pilot house is the number “4470,” which may have been the boat’s registration number. Atop the pilot house is a jumble of timbers, suggesting the former existence of an upper enclosure that might have permitted a better view. Amidst the assemblage is a telegraph system that would have transmitted the captain’s orders to the engine room. Another telegraph system is located on the stern deck, indicating direct communication there as well. Two large capstans stand on the stern deck, one of which has the word “Chicago” and a serial number embossed upon it.

The tugboat Wm. H. McAllister was a steel-hulled diesel tugboat built by the Livingston Shipbuilding Company of Orange Texas during World War II. She was laid down on February 12, 1942 and launched September 18, 1942. Her papers describe her as and oil screw vessel having one deck, two masts, and a raked stem and elliptical stern. Her registered dimensions were 24.6 m (80.6 ft) length, 7 m (23.1 ft) beam, and 3 m (9.6 ft.) depth. Draft was 3.2 m (10.5 ft) loaded and 3.02 m (10.0 ft) in ballast. Registered tonnage was 140 gross and 95 net.

The tug had a 720 BHP four-cylinder diesel engine built by the Alco Sulzer Company of Auburn New York. Cruising speed was 10 knots and full speed was 12 knots. Cruising range was 2415 km (1500 nautical miles). Fuel capacity was 53,200 liters (14,000 gallons) with a daily fuel consumption of 3192 liters (840 gallons) at cruising speed.

The tug was originally in U.S. Army service as the ST-243 and was acquired by McAllister Brothers, Inc., of New York, New York in 1949 and renamed the Wm. H. McAllister. She was assigned original Official No. 258975 on November 10, 1949 and her homeport was listed as New York. The tugboat sank on November 17, 1963, after striking Schuyler Reef with an empty gasoline barge in tow. All hands escaped to the barge as the tugboat sank. The owners of the vessel originally planned to recover the hull, which was valued at $250,000 (Burlington Free Press November 11, 1963). Shortly after the tugboat sank, involved parties executed several diver examinations of the deep site. At least two preliminary discussions considered the feasibility of raising the vessel, although these deliberations did not lead to any actual physical attempt to raise the tug. The vessel Doris C was chartered to locate the wreck, but it is unclear whether they were unable to find the wreck or believed it to be too deep to recover. LCMM first located the wreck in 1988, relocated it during the 1997 Lake Survey, and examined it with ROV later that summer.

Information Source:
Sabick, C., A. Lessman, and S. McLaughlin, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume II: 1997 Results and Volume III: 1998 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2000.