Diving the General Butler

Diving the General Butler in Burlington, Vermont
General Butler
General Butler

I went to go out and dive Ferris Rock yesterday, but the water was so choppy that the dive destination was changed to the General Butler.
The Butler was an awesome dive!  I met at the dive shop with 5 other divers and our Dive Master, Brett.  We rode out on Larry’s floating barge, picture to come next time I dive his boat.
We buddied up, and got out to the site.  I was the last pairing to get off the boat.  We did a back roll into the water, then met at 10 feet deep on the tether line down to the lake’s floor.  The lake floor was at a depth of 40 feet.  From the bottom of the dive line, there is a rope that one follows to the stern of the wreck.
When we got to the wreck, my dive buddy and I went around the boat, a fairly well preserved wooden structure, not as well preserved as the OJ Walker, the sister ship to this one, but a great dive none the less.  The water temperature was around 67 degrees, and viability was around 8-15 feet, depending on which part of the boat we were diving.
Some info about the General Butler taken from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s website:

The General Butler was built in 1862 in Essex, New York. The schooner-rigged Butler is an example of a Lake Champlain sailing canal boat designed to sail on the lake and, with masts removed and centerboard raised, travel though the Champlain Canal.

On her last voyage she was under the command of her third owner, Captain William Montgomery of Isle La Motte. While sailing up the lake on December 9, 1876 a powerful winter gale struck and upon approaching Burlington, the Butler’s steering mechanism broke. The captain jury-rigged a tiller bar to the steering post and attempted to maneuver his craft around the breakwater. The attempt was unsuccessful and the schooner crashed headlong into the breakwater. The force of the water was so great that the vessel was repeatedly lifted on top of the ice-covered stones. One by one each of the ship’s company made the perilous jump onto the breakwater. The captain was the last to leave the ship which immediately sank into the 40’ of water where she now rests.

Having narrowly escaped death by drowning, theButler’s survivors now risked freezing to death on the breakwater. All surely would have perished had it not been for the heroic intervention of Burlington ship chandler James Wakefield and his son, who rowed out in a 14’ lighthouse boat and took all five to safety. The Butler was declared a total loss. Artifacts from the General Butler are on display at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Basin Harbor facility.

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