Patchwork Hooker of Long Point Bay
Schooner Days XCVIII (98)
WHITBY town council has decreed that the remnants of the wreck of the little schooner, Island Queen, must be removed from Whitby harbor. The wreck has been described as "unsightly."
Forty years ago fate decreed that the Island Queen for all her days should be a fabrication of patchwork and replacements. She was always unsightly and often a wreck.
A man named Smith built her at Port Rowan in 1895-96-97 and took plenty of time in the building. Most of the materials that he used cost him little more than the effort of assembling and fitting them, and apparently he gave little thought to the kind or quality of stuff that he built into his ugly duckling.
In those unregenerate days the lakeward beach of Long Point, Lake Erie, was more or less constantly strewn with wreckage of wooden lake vessels and the flotsam of a large and flourishing fishing industry. Mr. Smith salvaged from the beach whatever appeared to be useful in his ship building venture, and prowled inland and salvaged oddments of planks and timber wherever he found them. He was an impartial sort of man. The hull of the Island Queen was an incorporation of white oak, white ash, rock elm, swamp elm, pine, tamarack, basswood, black cherry, walnut, chestnut, red oak and button wood.
Parts of her planking and timbers had seen service in other and better ships; other parts had been used in the construction of barns. Several of her wood components had once been bed rails. Her spars and rigging and gear and canvas were largely salvaged from scrap heaps and junk piles. Truly she was a patchwork craft.
Her bottom was flat, her bow was an overhanging wedge and her stern, was square. She was narrow and cranky and sluggish, and with the wind anywhere forward of her quarter she was prone to sag off to loo'ard a little faster than she could forge ahead.
No man knows why Smith built the Island Queen. There was no trade of any kind for her on Lake Erie. She was too big for fishing and too small for freight carrying, and too much everything else for a pleasure boat.
She idled around Port Rowan Bay, until 1898 when Black Jack Loomas, whose right name was Alfred, persuaded one Anderson to buy her and commit her to a career of stone-hooking.
Black Jack was out of a job and somewhat out of luck. He had piled up the schooner Flora in which he had a small interest, and had been piled out of a berth as master of the Rapid City. He was not a popular character save in the eyes of dive keepers and purveyors of booze. Anderson possessed a rock crusher on the instalment plan and had contracts to supply large quantities of crushed stone. Black Jack convinced him that there was profit in owning a stonehooker and enhanced profit in having Alfred Loomas in command.
So Anderson paid Smith $300 for the Island Queen and Black Jack fitted her out at Port Rowan and sailed her to Toronto. She loaded less than three toyces of lake shore stone and showed none of the indications of profit production which Black Jack had predicted, and before Anderson realized his error in purchasing her, Black Jack induced him to trade her to Dave Lloyd for the Lillian.
During the tail-end months of that season the Island Queen rested and was laid up at Brock street wharf for the winter; her owner hoped for and predicted great achievement and profits for her in the next year.
Sheeny Hinds fitted her out and shipped Liverpool Andy and made one trip in the spring. It was not a profitable trip. Slabsie McGuire and Sam Ball decided to try their luck, but changed their minds after indulging in a week's drunk on board the Island Queen.
Meantime Anderson had bought the old Snow Bird on Black Jack's advice. Loomas was sailing her and Abe Donk was in the Lillian. Abe loved excitement and high living and persistently sought both in waterfront dives. He didn't last long in the Lillian.
Artie Thomas took the Island Queen and Abe threw in with him on a shares basis. That arrangement didn't last long either.
The unqueenly Queen was laid up for a while, and then Charlie Giles, of Bronte, took charge of her. He was one of the best of Toronto sailormen and made a little money for himself and the owner of the Island Queen.
A man named Smith, of Oakville, no relation to the Island Queen's builder, persuaded David Lloyd that the vessel would return greater profits if she were bigger, and forthwith undertook a process of enlargement. He was successful to a degree, and the Island Queen became more sluggish and more unmanageable than the first Smith had made her. She had never had more than two-thirds of the canvas that she ought to have had and the original meagre spread was altogether inadequate for the bigger and clumsier hull. Her centre board had been too small to start with and was much more too small when the hull was made bigger.
Joe John tried to sail her and eventually piled her up on the breakwater that separated Toronto Bay from Ashbridge's Bay. Bill Stoner tried her. So did Charlie Giles, so also did Jess Hinton and Billie Wannamaker and Pan-face Harry and Jim Adamson. None were successful.
Anderson eventually discovered that Black Jack was not as he seemed and fired him. Black Jack took command of the Island Queen. He nursed her up to Bronte and abandoned her. Dave Lloyd sailed her back to Toronto. Cock-eye White started to sail her to the Bay of Quinte, got her to Frenchman's Bay with great effort and abandoned her there.
In a nasty blow from the southeast, she dragged her anchor and punched an enormous hole in her bottom in contact with a fang of rock and sunk in about three feet more water than was actually required to float her.
The Long Old Man of Bronte relates that her gear and everything movable on board of her was prey to pilfering stonehooker crews.
"She was a queer specimen of a boat," the Old Man declared. "Her model sort of combined the lines of a flat-iron and a Buffalo Creek punt. I don't remember exactly what year she went on the rocks at Frenchman's Bay. I think it was 1900. Anyway it was the same year that Billie-the-Dogan stole the hoops off the Wood Duck's forem'st when two kids were tryin' to make a livin' for themselves out of her and not doing any too well at it. Billie sailed the hooker out of Port Credit and he'd rather steal than eat. He stole the White-Wings' anchor and nobody knows what else, not even himself; and naturally he swarmed on to the Island Queen when she was lyin' there a wreck in Frenchman's Bay, and took about everything that somebody else didn't get.
"Dave Lloyd saw the error of owning her by that time and was tickled to death when Mike Raines gave him seventy-five dollars for her. Mike and a man named Delaney prodded around and pried her up and finally jammed an old mattress into the hole in her bottom and pumped her out.
"They were sailormen them two. They rove off odds and ends of gear that they found or borrowed and bent on what few rags of canvas they could scare up and sailed her to Port Credit. At least they took turns sailin' her and speelin' each other off pumpin' and keepin' the mattress jammed into the hole in her bottom. They stopped at Toronto on the way and gathered up all the spare junk they could lay their hands on.
"They was both handy with tools, especially Mike, and when they got her hauled out at Port Credit, they patched up her hull enough so she'd float, and pieced out what gear and riggin' they had and started out again. They didn't belong at Port Credit, and wasn't helped none by them that did.
Mike had wangled a contract for roofin' gravel, and him and Delaney made wages at it. The old elevator at Whitby was bein' tore down then and Mike picked up any likely lookin' planks and timbers that was took out. Later on, him and Delaney hauled her out at Medler and Arnot's old slip and rebuilt her outta the elevator. They knew how to go at things, them two—especially Mike.
"They dropped her keel some and built in a new centre board box and give her a bigger board; and built some deadrise into her bottom and a forefoot and deadwood for'ard and rounded her bilges and really did a wonderful job on her with what material they had.
"Mike got an old forem'st that George Atkinson had taken out of the Madeline and was plenty big enough for the Island Queen, which her old one wasn't any where's near; and they got a mainm'st for her somewhere and other spars one place and another, and standin' riggin' and runnin' gear, and maybe had some new canvas made for her and bought the rest second-hand.
"When they got her into the water again and fitted out, she sailed pretty fiar to middlin' well, was wasn't nothin' to get excited over for speed. Mike went right ahead and made money out of her, and kept on patchin' her and paintin' her regular.
"Later on he bought the North West from the Goldring boys, and Artie Thomas sailed the Island Queen for a spell until Mike sold her to Tiney Cox.
"Tiney never did nothing much with her, and after havin' her for a couple of years he died, and I guess nobody ever thought it was worth while to claim the old hooker, so she was left lyin' there in Whitby harbor. That'd be about 1925, not more'n seven or eight years ago She just naturally fell apart there; no doubt bein' helped considerable no doubt in that direction by people that wanted firewood.
"Yessir, she was a patchwork hooker all her life, and more or less of a wreck from the time she was built. She never was no sight to make a sailor's eyes bulge out?"
Another Lakesman Spins a Wee Yarn
Just as the Patchwork Hooker was going into type, the Doctor received a letter from Jack Trotter, 372 Delaware avenue, Toronto. It deals with the Maud S. and the Lithophone and the old Lakeside and the Nellie Bly and a lad of twelve who stood a snappy trick in an engine room. Here is Jack's letter reproduced.
372 Delaware ave.,
Toronto, July 29.
In your stories on "Schooner Days," I notice a very interesting part about the Hooker Maud S. I spent quite a time on her with Capt. Aaron Walker, and she was everything the Long Old man says and Capt. Walker knew how to handle her and always kept her in good shape, but I do not remember her
ever going out of the Credit in a freshet. But the same happened to another scow much similar to the Maud S. The Lithophone broke from her moorings one evening and went out in the lake. The next morning four of us, the late Wm. Newman, Sr., Lewis Nash, Capt. Al. Hare of Port Credit and myself went out to look for her in the Mackinaw fishing smack Hecla. It froze quite hard in the night and for an hour or so we had to keep an oar over the bow to break the sheet ice to keep it from cutting the planking. We did not sight the Hooker that day and went in to Port Dalhousie that evening intending to get Capt. Hands with the Nellie Blye to look for her the next day. The Lakeside sighted her on the way over that evening and from Capt. Wigal we got a fair idea where to look for her. We picked her up the next day with decks awash but otherwise undamaged and towed her into Port Credit, not Port Dalhousie.
A little thing happened that I recall and, perhaps, if we had not been in Port Dalhousie on this expedition things would not have broke the same, and one man would have lost his life. The Nellie Blye was fitted out all but her smoke stack and a new one was coming from St. Catharines so they got it down and unshipped. The Lakeside came in from Toronto with a small amount of freight, intending to land on the east side of the canal. But the Captain seeing he would not make a good landing, decided to turn her around, which he would have done after landing his freight, to go out in the morning. The men below not knowing his intentions, threw the heaving line to the man on the dock. The boat was going so fast he made a bad catch and put his foot on the line. It whipped around his leg and pulled him into the water. Capt. Wigal on the bridge was unaware of this, reversed his engines and stopped the boat, intending to back up from the other side of the canal. We saw the accident and tried to draw the Captain's attention by yelling. Realizing that something was wrong, he stopped his engines. Capt. Hand jumped in the pilot house of the tug, we threw off the lines and he gave the bells for full speed ahead. He ran the tug under the stern of the Lakeside and plugged her. Four of us got hold of the heaving line and had all we could do to pull the man from under the shoe. We worked on him for about an hour and finally he came around. It was a close call. When we threw the lines off the tug from the dock, in the excitement nobody noticed that the engineer was not aboard. Capt. Hand's little boy, 12 years old, sprang to the throttle and handled it like a veteran. Nobody knew about it till it was all over and the engineer walked aboard.