The fish tug Leila C.
was built in 1928 for Leslie Cornell and named after his only child. The 40 foot long vessel was built by the Sturgeon Bay Boat Works for about $8,000. The Sturgeon Bay Boat Works was formerly the Johnson and Gmack boat works that was established to build fishing vessels and more recently known as the Palmer Johnson Yachts. The Leila C.
was powered by a two cycle semi-diesel engine that was a popular choice for fish tug power following the steam era and prior to the introduction of highspeed full diesels.
"The Leila C
, a brand new, 40 foot Washington Island fishing tug, was cruising through Death's Door two miles southeast of Pilot Island skippered by her owner, Leslie Cornell. Also in the Door on this slightly hazy morning was the ore freighter S.B. Coolidge
enroute to Escanaba under the command of Captain "Mos" Johnson. The two vessels, not detecting the other's presence, met suddenly at right angles resulting in cleavage of the tug's port bow section. Cornell and his mate, Alfred Johnson, tried to jettison a fuel tank to lighten the wounded fishboat, but to no avail; she sank within 15 minutes in about 150 feet of water. Cornell and Johnson were rescued by the ferry Wisconsin
Shortly after the sinking, the Coast Guard using two of their own boats along with the fish tugs J.W. Cornell, Clara C., Velox Iona Estella, Fred
and the freighter Diana
attempted to salvage the Leila C.
but the attempt failed. Underwater ledges made any attempts to drag futile. An airplane also assisted without sighting a trace of the wreckage.