Seventy Years Sailing Schooner Days Out Of Southampton
Schooner Days CCCCV (405)
By C.H. J.Snider
HE doesn’t remember when he started sailing. Probably as soon as he emerged from three-cornered pants; maybe before. His was a lake-going family, and his father took him and his brother Frank with him when the boys were knee-high to a blue-fin.
This is another attempt on the life of Capt. Joseph Granville, light keeper at the Saugeen, following the inadequate effort begun in Schooner Days last week. Capt. Granville, seventy-six, and smiling eyed, has survived both, bless him. Long may his lights shine to guide yachts and fishing tugs into Southampton’s river port. And may his horn be exalted — referring to the recently electrified fog signal.
Nearly everything is Scotch around the Bruce Peninsula, and the boys’ first craft was the Rob Roy. She was an open boat, that is, deckless, about forty feet keel. She was not a fish boat, but was used in carrying supplies of all kinds for the great industry which flourished with the Fishing Islands north of Southampton as its centre. The stone buildings on Main Station Island are a reminder of it.
The Rob Roy was built for Capt. George Macaulay, head of another family of sailor sons, who are old timers now. He was taking her into the depot either on Whitefish Island or the Main Station in blowing weather when her outboard rudder unshipped, her mainboom jibed, striking him, and she rolled over, filled and sank. The man With Capt. Macaulay was named John Bull — an international combination with Rob Roy. John Bull struck out for the shore and made it, but Capt. Macaulay was drowned. He may have been stunned by the jibing boom.
Capt. Granville, Sr., got the Rob Roy after that, for it was not difficult to raise her. He put decks in her and fitted her out as a little schooner. It was in this craft that the future Captain Joe got his baptism of lake water.
Soon he was big enough to go cooking, usually the first sailing job a Bruce shore lad tackled outside of his own family. He shipped with Capt. Pringle in the Argo.
There have been many Argos since Jason went to Colchis for the golden fleece. One of 271 tons was built here on Lake Ontario at Sackett’s Harbor in 1847, and was owned by A. Whitman, of Chicago in 1864. She may have been Joe Granville’s first venture outside of the paternal Rob Roy. Or maybe his was another Argo, for her name is said to have been at one time Argo Foster. She was white and clipper bowed and carried a good load, 350,000 feet of lumber. Her great occupation was the “cinnamon trade,” and she went down Lake Huron to Detroit from the Saugeen Peninsula with hemlock bark for the Michigan tanneries piled as high as her sheer-battens. Murdoch Smith was the mate in her, and young John Macaulay was before the mast, with Jim Munn and Billy Curry.
She should have stuck to the cinnamon, for she got her death at Amherstburg loading a much heavier cargo--cut stone a big block being hoisted in slipped and went through her bottom and that was the end of the Argo.
But young Granville was out of her before that. Turned sixteen he blossomed as a full-fledged man-before-the-mast in the Caledonia, fore-and-aft schooner built in Southampton. Capt. George Macaulay, Jr., sailed her. There were two Southampton Caledonias, one sold to Racine and in the boneyard there yet, and the other Captain Pringle’s schooner Alliance, renamed. At the moment the record is not clear which Caledonia was the ship in which our hero attained to man’s estate and pay. After her he sailed in the Wanderer, Ontario, White Oak, and many another. And in process of time became master of the Aurora.
That, too, was a proud day. The Aurora, once owned in Port Hope on Lake Ontario, was Quebec built and tamarac planked and timbered. She was painted black in his time in her, forty years ago. She had a 72-foot mainboom, phenomenally long for a schooner of her size.
“And there never was a sea on Lake Huron that would stop her coming in stays while I had the mainsail on her,” declares Capt. Joseph Granville with a flash in his blue eyes. He sailed her for Kidd and Reilly, Sam Kidd and Jim Reilly of Sarnia, who owned, her. She waterlogged on him between Southampton and Goderich once, and only stayed afloat from her cargo-of cedar posts. He ran her back to Chantry Island for shelter, and the steam barge Lily Smith picked her up and got her, to her destination in Sarnia, but her days were done. She became a dock, somewhere on the lower Huron shore.
Capt. Granville had plenty of other commands. There was the little Miami of Detroit with her clipper bow, later lost near Cheboygan, and the pretty black and red Heather Bell, who ended her days in Port Elgin harbor; and the Erie Stewart, who beat her life out on Southampton breakwater.
This was after Capt. Granville left her. She wouldn’t take the gap when Capt. Jas. Depew and Capt. John Glass, who was with him as mate, tried to get her into the harbor of refuge under Chantry Island. Instead she hit the pier and knocked the lighthouse over. They gave her the anchors, but she pounded along the breakwater until her stern, which appears to have been the brainest part, of her anatomy, struck in the elbow of the L, and then they could do nothing for her. She just chopped herself to bits. Her anchors, chains and windlass are said to be visible yet on still days on the lake bottom, north of the breakwater.
Her swipe at the lighthouse was her own death and the death of Capt. Granville’s brother’s vessel, the Ontario, which was following her, on the wings of the wild north gale. With the Gap light out, Capt. Frank Granville dared not take the harbor entrance in the dark, and tried the next best thing—the mouth of the Sturgeon River, a few hundred yards to the north. When almost in, a land puff headed him off and he fell into the breakers, as has been already told. And that was the end of the Ontario.
When Capt. Joseph Granville had the Erie Stewart she almost finished him. Leaving Collin’s Inlet with an extra large deckload of lumber, she lay down on her side in a bit of a breeze, and would not come back. This was near the Surprise Shoal. It was, in the mate’s watch, and Capt. Granville might have been drowned in his berth. She filled through her hatches, and only stayed afloat through the buoyancy of her cargo. With her hold full of water, she came upright again as the squall passed and they got the sails off her. For a day and a night they kept her sailing in a moderate wind, with the foresail and two headsails set, and her deck practically under water. They fished provisions out of the cabin and cooked meals on top of the remains of the deckload.
The company's tug picked them up before it came on to blow hard, or she would have rolled over again. The trouble with the Erie Stewart was, that although excellently built, she was very deep in the hold for her length and beam, and if her hold was full and a deckload piled above it, her centre of gravity was too high and she had a tendency to trip herself. The draft marks on her sternpost went to fifteen feet, which is four or five feet more than they should for a vessel of her size. Her registered dimensions were 117 feet 6 inches length, 23 feet 6 inches beam, and 10 feet 6 inches depth of hold. Either she had a lot of deadwood or her sides were raised after these dimensions were taken, for they are not disproportionate. She Was of 230 tons register, a big carrier for her inches, but not a good one. She was built on Lake Erie.
A much prettier command of Capt. Joseph Granville was another Lake Erie vessel, the little Vienna, built at Port Burwell and named after the nearby village in Elgin County. She was long on Lake Ontario, her last master down here being Capt. Jack Sexsmith, of Toronto. She, too, was rather tippy in a breeze, being sharp and lofty, but she was a little clipper to sail. Capt. Granville commanded her for two years on Lake Huron, when she hailed from Dresden, and was owned by the Lairds. She was white then, with a green bottom, and stepped like a yacht.
Later on, when Capt. Murdoch Macdonald—one of the two Macdonalds of Goderich who were nick-named "Minister" because they wore frock coats on Sunday; Capt. John was the other and they were brothers — when Capt. Murdoch Macdonald had the Vienna, she was caught in a northeast gale on her way to the Mississagi Passage. She lost her mainmast and foremast and bowsprit and jibboom, and sprung a leak. All night the crew toiled at the pumps, with the water above the keelson and rising. All night they burned flares and hoped for the day. With morning came the steamer Sir Thomas Shaughnessy. She ranged alongside and took off the exhausted crew. The crack she gave the Vienna as they rolled together sent the little ship to the bottom. The Shaughnessy took the crew to Milwaukee.
The Vienna’s bones are growing moss in Lake Huron somewhere between Thunder Bay Island and Middle Island. Poor Capt. Macdonald, was drowned in 1925 while hauling nets alone in his fishboat, between Bayfield and Goderich. The Vienna was the second vessel he owned and lost. Before he got her he had the Maria Annette, from Quebec via Port Hope, like the Aurora. She waterlogged on him at Tobermory, when lumber-laden, and the wrecking company’s bill for gettting her to a Port Huron drydock was so steep he left her on their hands. Like the Aurora, she, too, is still alive, after a fashion, for her empty hull was towed down the St. Clair River near Sombra and filled with stone and became a pier. The Maria Annette was another tamarac-built vessel and, like most of those from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a horse to sail close-hauled by the wind.
All old-timers are loud in their praises of the Granville boys. Of Frank, now dead, Capt. Wm. Tyson, well-known tug man of Wiarton, had this to say to Schooner Days: “Capt. Frank Granville was an able seaman and a very dependable man in every way. It was seldom his crew ever, changed from spring to fall.
“When he purchased the schooner Ontario, she was pretty far gone, in a few years he had her classed for grain. He and his sons would rebuild a vessel completely in four years by renewing one-quarter each winter at Chatham. At the time, November, 1907, the Ontario was wrecked a hundred yards or so off the south pier at the mouth of the Saugeen River, Capt. Granville informed me the pumps had not been used for two weeks and that the vessel was classed for grain.
“The Ontario had loaded baled hay at Chatham for Providence Bay, Manitoulin. When off Cove Island on her way up, a severe storm from the north struck them. The captain decided to run for Southampton, a vessel, I think the “Erie Stewart, ” Capt. Glass, seeking shelter ahead of the Ontario, missed the entrance and struck the west pier. While pounding along the pier, a spar went over and swept the front range light away. (Capt. Glass, we have been told, was mate in the vessel with Capt. Depew.)
“When Granville could not see the front range, he knew there was no use trying for the harbor and turned for the mouth of the Saugeen, close hauled. When the bowsprit was almost over the south pier, the vessel lost headway and drifted on the south bank.
“I was engaged to take the deckload of hay to Providence Bay, with tug and scow, when unloading the hay, I remarked to Granville I thought the vessel well worth salvaging. He figured he could buy a larger vessel for what it would cost to float the Ontario. He bought an old three-master in Chicago, the Hattie Hutt, and in a few years had her looking like a vessel just off the stocks, and all the work done by himself and sons during the winter."
“Capt. Granville was raised in Southampton, but had moved to Chatham, where he traded almost, entirely in the lumber business.”
“It’s been a good life, ” says Captain Joe, his eyes mirroring old Huron’s blue as he looks away out over the horizon from the high bank above his red-topped lighthouse, shining white, in the summer sunlight of 1939.
THE ERIE STEWART at her birthplace, Port Dover on Lake Erie.
TWO OLD-TIME SAUGEEN SAILORS, Messrs. John and Malcolm MacAulay, hale and well-known citizens of Southampton, Ont.