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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Picton Schooner and the Bavaria’s Vanishing Crew

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Janet Kellough, a storyteller and author from Prince Edward County, discusses the inexplicable disappearance of the schooner Picton and the crew of the Bavaria in this video.

The county of Prince Edward is located in southern Ontario, Canada. Sandbanks Provincial Park, on Lake Ontario’s northeastern side, is famed for its sandy beaches and high limestone cliffs and its wineries. The nearby Macaulay Heritage Park, with its 19th-century structures, showcases local history. However, there is a more darker aspect to the region that few tourists are aware of.

The Marysburgh Vortex, sometimes known as “The Graveyard of Lake Ontario,” is a short area of water off the coast of Prince Edward County that has been the site of shipwrecks, plane crashes, unusual sightings, and mysterious disappearances for generations. The ‘Bermuda Triangle’ name has also been given to this location.


The timber schooner Bavaria, which sank on May 28, 1889, is one of the most unusual stories related with a shipwreck on Lake Ontario. The ship’s eight-man crew vanished without a trace minutes after it broke free from its towing barge in the middle of a storm on Lake Ontario. The Bavaria made it through the storm. It landed upright on Galloo Island, part of the Duck Island chain. However, the entire crew of the boat vanished and was never seen again. The steam barge Calvin had the Bavaria in tow with a line of two other lumber hookers, according to the tale, and the tow line separated at approximately 6 a.m. The schooner Valentia was trailed by the Bavaria, which was in the middle of a line of three vessels under tow. The Norway, a third ship, was towed behind the Bavaria. The Bavaria drifted off to ram the Norway when the line between Valentia and Bavaria collapsed.

Although neither ship suffered hull damage, the jar toppled some of the Norway’s headgear. Despite this, the crew of the Norway set sail and steered their stricken ship into the lee of one of the surrounding islands. They anchored there and awaited the storm’s arrival. The Bavaria, on the other hand, breached, sank into the sea’s trough, and stayed there. The Calvin’s skipper saw that no one tried to raise sails or turn the boat around while he was watching. He stated he could see the Bavaria beginning to take on water as the waves rolled across the deck.

The Calvin swung around and pulled alongside of the Bavaria, where the captain hailed the boat, expecting Capt. John Marshall and his crew to assist in the attachment of a new hawser. There was, however, no reaction. The schooner appeared to be abandoned.

A few hundred feet distant from the ship, the Bavaria’s life boat was discovered floating upside down. The crew of the Bavaria abandoned ship minutes after the line parted for some unknown cause, making no attempt to raise sail and save the ship. The poor sailors, according to the notion, didn’t get far before their boat capsized and they all drowned.

Their bodies, however, were never discovered. And why would an experienced sailor like Captain Marshall abandon a seaworthy ship in the middle of a gale and risk his life in an open boat? Did he think his ship was going to sink as a result of the collision? The Bavaria’s hull was found to be in good condition, and the vessel’s masts and upper works were not damaged in the collision, according to the study.

The Bavaria was a wooden schooner with masts and sails, and the crew was well-trained and capable of raising sail and steering the ship away from danger. Because it was carrying lumber, the worst that might happen was that the ship would fill with water and become “waterlogged,” as sailors put it. It was not going to sink. Eight crew members including the Captain were lost.


The schooner Picton, which transported coal from Charlotte, Rochester, United States to Belleville, Ontario, is also a famous shipwreck. With two other ships, the Picton set sail.

In 1900, the Picton went missing in the Marysburgh Vortex. The Picton’s disappearance is difficult to explain because it was escorted by two other ships full of eyewitnesses; witnesses reported the ship vanished suddenly, as if it had plunged “into a bottomless pit.” The only things left were a few loose gratings and a sailor’s cap, followed three days later by a bottle holding a message:

“I’ve tied Vessey to me with a heaving line so that we can both be found”. The Picton’s Captain J. Sidley The captain’s son’s name was Vessey.

Captain Sidley

No bodies were ever discovered.

“The upper sails dropped down, and then the rest of the sails fell down, and they couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Kellough said in the video, referring to the Picton schooner.

The Marysburgh Vortex aka, “The Graveyard of Lake Ontario” stretches from Prince Edward County’s Marysburgh Township to Kingston and Oswego, New York. The Bravaria and the Picton are just two of the 270 ships that have met their watery grave in the Marysburgh Vortex.


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About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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