Sailing Canal Boat O.J. Walker

The O.J. Walker was built in 1862 in Burlington, Vermont, and was named after one of the region's leading merchants, Obadiah Johnson Walker. The vessel was a cousin to the General Butler, both were schooner-rigged sailing canal boats.

The O.J. Walker had a working career of 33 years and was employed hauling heavy cargoes. Like so many other canal vessels, it had the dual purpose of a work boat and family living quarters. One of its owners, Captain Weatherwax, lived on board with his family for over 9 years.

The boat's last owners operated Browns Brickyard in Mallett's Bay and hired various lake captains to use the O.J. Walker to transport their products. Captain Shell Parkhurst, who died while sailing, was at the time the "oldest boatman" on the lake at age 75. His daughter, Mrs. Rock, took over the vessel and became the only woman Captain of a canal boat plying between New York and Burlington.

The O.J. Walker's final voyage came on May 11, 1895. A severe wind storm caught the crew off guard. The boat began leaking severely, and, as the crew disembarked into a small rowboat, the O.J. Walker tipped, spilling much of its cargo into the lake. It righted itself briefly before sinking.

Features of Interest

  • Size of wreck: 86' long, 14' wide.
  • The ship's wheel and aft cabin hatch cover are in place and are extremely fragile; please avoid contact.
  • The masts, boom, anchors, and most rigging parts can be seen around the vessel.
  • Many bricks and tiles still lie on deck and scattered off the port side along with the hand carts for moving them.

Diving Information

  • Experience Level: Intermediate-Experienced.
  • Depth of water: 65'
  • Sensitive site registration required. Read about this requirement of the Underwater Historic Preserve System.
  • Control your buoyancy. Stay off the bottom to avoid low visibility conditions. Avoid contact with the fragile shipwreck.


  • 44° 28.72 N, 73° 14.44 W
  • Approximately 3/4 of a mile west of the north end of the Burlington breakwater. Between the Horse Ferry and General Butler.


OJ Walker Burlington Harbor sidescan - Klein Assoc.
Sonar Image courtesy of Garry Kozak / Klein Asssociates

Image details: (from the Klein Associates website)

Sonar System 3000 Image High Frequency

The wreck O.J. Walker was imaged on a 37 meter range scale. Note the cargo of brick and tile on the lake bottom along the port side and the mast off the bow.