Inshore Schooner's true identity is really still quite a mystery to divers and
marine historians alike. According to Captain Steve Lombardo from Staten Island
the wreck was only discovered in 1994. Apparently a fishing boat snagged her
dredge on the low lying scattered wreckage. Alerted to the wrecks location
divers were soon recovering an assortment of china, bottles and strange as it
sounds coconut shells. The first divers to descend to the wreck found china
littering the bottom. Although, quite a few trips were made to the wreck in
1994, to date no one has recovered anything that would lead to the
identification of the wreck.
The only clue comes from the age of the bottles and
the makers marks on the china she was transporting. Steve reports that the china
was traced to England and was only manufactured for two years 1857 and 1858.
While this certainly isolates a time frame its not enough to confirm a positive
wasn't until March of 1995 that I first visited this wreck. The wreck sits in
approximately 30 feet of water just Southwest of the Verrazano Bridge, between
Hoffman and Swinbure Islands. Not knowing exactly what to expect I was
pleasantly surprised to find 5 to 10 feet of visibility and only a mild tidal
current to contend with. The wreck consists of wood beams on a clay bottom. The
South side of the wreck sits on top of a hill which gradually slopes down into
deeper water. The debris field off this side of the wreck should prove
productive as artifacts could easily roll down the hill after being dredged up
during each passing storm. The wreck and surrounding bottom are covered with a
fine layer of silt. Divers should be extra careful to stay neutrally buoyant so
as not to reduce the already limited visibility by stirring up this silt. I
highly recommend using a dive reel for navigation on this site.
Not only are
there few distinguishable landmarks divers can use for orientation but due to
the silt and current visibility can drop very quickly.
The wreck appears to be
about 150 feet in length and she probably had a 20 to 30 foot beam. Although,
their is no sigh of an engine we also found no identifiable remains pointing to
a sailing vessel. We can only speculate until a diver recovers a significant
artifact that will lead to her identification. Many of the timbers are
completely buried but divers will find higher relief on the wrecks East end.
Although its difficult to tell for certain it appears that the vessel, probably
a wooden schooner, was heading for Staten Island when she ran aground. Her bow
or the West end of the wreck is now completely destroyed and unrecognizable. In
her stern divers can find a pile of large rocks. These rocks appear to large for
ballast so they must be part of the vessels cargo. Around these rocks divers can
find the remains of wooden crates. Some contain leather shoe soles and others
coconut shells. On my first dive to this wreck I was fooled by one of the
coconuts. The hard round interior shells are all cut neatly in half. I was busy
digging and had my arm deep into a hole when I found what felt like a round
china cup. Visibility at the time was zero due to my excavation. It wasn't until
I was back on the boat that I discovered I had only found only a worthless
coconut shell. Steve then told me that the wreck is also known as the Coconut
Creamer Wreck after its two most
abundant artifacts. Captain John Lachenmayer
from the charter dive boat Sea Hawk returned from his dive with two beautiful
bottles. One a medicine from the late 1800's and the other a thin black glass
bottle in absolutely perfect condition. Other artifacts recovered include an
assortment of brass spikes, champagne bottles and small china syrup pitchers.
who want to experience diving the Inshore Schooner Wreck first
hand can utilize
a number of charter boats like the Rebel or Jeannie II running out of Brooklyn
or boats from Staten Island. New
York's prime dive season starts in May and runs through September. During this
time, divers will want to wear a full wet suit, hood, boots and gloves. For the
more hardy dry suited divers, the season can be extended a bit, from March
straight through December, weather permitting. Equipment needed would be the
same as for any cold water wreck dive. Depth gauge, bottom timer, dive computer,
two knives, lights, tether line and an adequate air supply.
Once in the water divers will find that the visibility in this area is
usually little more then five feet, that is until someone kicks up the mud. Bear
in mind that this is only an average while actual visibility ranges from zero to
over 20 feet, depending on wind, weather and tide.
Inshore Schooner may not be as well known or as popular as some of Wreck
Valley's larger more historical
wrecks but she is certainly one of the most intriguing, especially for those
interested in learning her identity. For
further information about dive charters to the Inshore Schooner Wreck contact
the Eastern Dive Boat Association. Boats
run to this wreck only a few times each season but this dive is worth the wait.
Contact the Eastern Dive Boat Association, While exploring this wreck
remember that it has never been positively identified. You may be the lucky
diver to uncover a bell or windlass cover which will reveal her true identity.
This wreck is also known to local fisherman as the Buckey Wreck.
Capt. John Lachenmayer with bottles recovered from the Inshore Schooner wreck. Photo by Dan Berg
Fred Belise, Steve Lombardo and crew with artifacts from the inshore schooner. Photo by Dan Berg
Capt. Dan Berg and Fred Belise with a china creamer from the Inshore Schooner.
Side scan sonar image of the Inshore Schooner shipwreck. Courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.