Maritime History of the Great Lakes
New Wine in an Old Bottle: Schooner Days CCCCXXII (422)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 24 Feb 1940
Full Text
New Wine in an Old Bottle
Schooner Days CCCCXXII (422)

By C. H. J. Snider

WITH all the weariness of forty years' hard service in her bones, she leaned against the worn piling of the old Adamson elevator at the foot of West Market street, amid patients which overflowed there from "the Hospital," the adjoining Jarvis street slip, where sewer slush used to stanch the leaking seams of the stonehooker scows unloading there.

"She" was the Garibaldi of Port Hope, last of four schooners to bear the great name of the great deliverer of Italy. Revolutionary ideas were at work within her.

"Ye see, " explained Capt. John Breen of Port Hope to the assembly sniffing newbaked apple pies from the Garibaldi's galley, "it's like this. This here vessel don't class high enough for grain, maybe, because she's old. That's why I've got her carrying stone. But she's good as the wheat, and here's the chance to go to Charlotte for a jag of soft slack for the Toronto Electric Light Co. at 20 cents a ton. I know she oughta get 25 cents like the other vessels, but that's what they offer. This here vessel registers 123 tons, you can see it in her papers, and she can carry three hundred—"With her nameboard under water, " interpolated Nosey O'Brien.

"That's just because she's a mite dropped by the stern," said Capt. Breen hastily. "But she really loads by the head. But say we take only two hundred and fifty, for a fast trip. That's $50 freight. Take half for the vessel, to cover maybe a tug bill and the groceries, and half for the crew, share and share alike. I don't want any more for myself than anybody else gets. Whatcha say?"

This was rank sedition on the waterfront, where wages run from $1 a day or $30 a month in summer to $2 a day in the fall, or sometimes $25 a trip in the last of the season.

"Ain't that Socialism? " demanded Panface Harry suspiciously.

"Nah, that's being sociable, different thing, " contributed Slabsy McGuire, catching sight through the galley door of Mrs. Breen's pies being divided into six luscious wedges. Three little Garibaldis, nephews or nieces whom Mrs. Breen was treating to a trip, forthwith emerged from the cabin armed with fragrant triangles.

"Like a piece of pie, Mr. Slabsy?" "Have a piece of pie, Mr. Panface? " "Auntie says—. "

"I'll go to Charlotte with you Cap," said Slabsy between mouthfuls.

"'N'me," chorussed Panface.

Tommy O'Brien, old enough to be both their grandfathers, snorted through all that was left of a proboscis that had been battered in every waterfront brawl since time began.

"'Tis a fine lot of latter day saints ye're making of these early Christians, Jack Breen. It's eighty miles to Broderick's Point and twelve more to Charlotte, as you well know. I've seen us take a month to get up from Charlotte in better vessels than the Old Garry was when she was new. I'll come with ye, if it's only for the sake of yer poor wife and these childher, but mind ye, I'll do none of the pumping."

"All right," said Capt. Breen. "You're the mate, Nosey. Single up your lines and cast off."

Out floated the ancient one from her berth, pushed by a gentle northwester that made a tug needless and did not put too much strain even upon the gosh-awful, black, bepatched square-headed mainsail that threatened to leave her with every zephyr. The same breeze blew her into Charlotte next morning, and she sailed through the swing bridge and well up the river towards the trestles before it left her. The sociable socialists had to track her up the creek for the last mile, by running lines from bank to bank, which they didn't enjoy, but Capt. Breen said it was a pity to waste money on a tug when there was a fair wind, and pointed out that there would be nothing to do for all the rest of the day, while they were being loaded, which was true. The longshoremen's union saw to that.

So by night the Garry was loaded with her nameboard under and floating down the river again with one anchor at the cathead, ready to let go, and a kedge at her taffrail to bring her up short. The railway bridge obligingly stayed swung open till she angled through, carried by the current. Then the socialites groaningly gave her the muslin, and a faint trickle from the eastward wafted her out into the lake.

The easterly held, without much force, and the Garibaldi was able to sail in through the Eastern Gap and enrich J. J. Wright at the Electric Light Co., with 278 tons of slack, forty-eight hours after she had left Toronto. Wonderful luck.

"Five for you, Panface. Five for you, Slabsy. Five for you, Nosey, and don't tell me you've ever made more in two days since you've been sailing. Five for the missus, because she was cook, and five for me, like the rest of you. Everybody satisfied?"

"Then why not you?" commented the Venerable Beak. "I'm not grudging the $35 the Breens make out of it and pay nothing but the groceries. But ye should praise the Man Above and not cast aspersions on yer betters. I made $25 in two days, the time Alex. Ure went from Hamilton to Oswego and back with the Undine, and her under water most of the time going and coming. We shipped at $2 a day or $25 for the trip, and I chose the trip. But the next year I picked $2 a day and drew $42 on the three-weeks trip the ould St. Louis made over the same water. Ye never know yer luck."

"And is $5 all we'd get if we'd been three weeks on this trip?" pondered Panface, whose mental processes were slow motion.

"Yes, and it's more than ye'd a been worth," answered Slabsy.

The co-operative experiment continued to the great scandal of the waterfront. Sometimes it paid dividends. It always paid for the groceries.

Temptation ever waits on success. With $100 clear (including his good wife's hard earnings, cooking three meals a day for a family of five and three hungry hired men) Capt. Breen encountered old Dick Fugler. Fugler was Mr. George Gooderham's sailing-master for the schooner-yacht Oriole II., the flyer that won the great match at Mackinac against the Idler of Chicago.

"Er—you wouldn't be having anything better than that to give away now, would you?" said Capt. Breen, indicating his misfit mainsail, so often condemned. He knew that used sails were the sailing master's perquisite in Mr. Gooderham's generous economy.

"Well, now," meditated Fugler, "there's our spare old mainsail, never's been out of the bag since we got the new outfit two years ago. Mr. Gooderham's getting a new suit from Ratsey's, in fact it's in the customs in Montreal. I might be able to get you the old one reasonable."

"But," objected Breen, "it peaks too high for the old Garry." Her wornout sail was notoriously lowheaded.

"That'll save you carrying a gafftopsail," retorted Fugler.

Capt. Breen remembered that the gafftopsail was in even worse repair than the wornout mainsail.

They started at $200 and they compromised on $85, and Fugler to have the Garibaldi's unneeded topsail.

Capt. Fugler knew where he could sell the gafftopsail for a boat-cover, but did not say anything about that.

And Capt. Breen knew that he could get $15 for his old mainsail for junk up at the big yard on William street, with the little pushcart over the office door commemorating the founder's rise. So the big deal was completed.

In December Capt. Breen got a load of sawdust in Toronto for the ice-houses at Port Hope. The freight was only $25, but he was glad to take anything that would get him and the Garry home for the winter. The social club which had voyaged to Charlotte so prosperously were willing to make the trip to Port Hope on the old terms, "half the freight"; all except Nosey O'Brien, who sagely calculated that half of $25 split five ways would hardly pay his fare back to Toronto. So the Garibaldi sailed without a mate. But she had a new mainsail that looked like a cup challenger's, and made her feel as comfortable as her skipper would have been sailing in a silk hat. And did she step!

They sailed out of the Eastern Gap at 10 o'clock that wintry morning, and when Mrs. Breen rang the bell for dinner they were opening up Frenchmen's Bay. An hour later they were off Whitby. The next hour they did well, but not so well. She seemed loggy. They pumped the Garry every watch as a matter of routine "whether she needed it or not," but as she always needed it they seldom bothered about sounding the well. This time they did and the 18-inch sounding rod came up all wet with sawdust sticking to it. So they rubbed the galley poker with ashes and put it down, and it showed she had two feet of water in her. Then they pumped in earnest and kept on pumping.

"It's that new mainsail! " gasped Panface between strokes. "She was used to the old one and it was easy on her and stretched before stretching her, but now she's racking to pieces. Why don't you lower away, cap?"

"Because I don't want to get my ears wet out here in the lake," shouted Capt. Breen from the opposite pump brake. "You and Slabsy go forward now and fill those old spud sacks with sawdust. Sling them over the bows with enough drift for them to be in the water. Then our new mainsail will bring her through—perhaps."

Mrs. Breen had the wheel and was steering a chalkline course. It was blowing pretty fresh, so fresh the old mainsail would have gone out of her of its own accord, but the wind was off the land and the water smooth. Panface and Slabsy hastily crammed sawdust into the sacks which had carried the season's supply of potatoes, and soon two bags were dangling under each hawsepipe, churning up and down against the planking in the bow-wash. The ragged sacks were neither waterproof nor sawdust-tight, and the Garibaldi went snoring along through and over a track of sawdust. Much of it went to waste in her wake, but before it got there it had to pass around her and under her, and some of it was sucked or pushed into the opening seams of the ancient planking.

When the boys came back to spell the captain he sounded the well again. The water had only gained two inches. When he spelled them they had gained an inch back. The seams were "taking up" the floating sawdust, and by steady pumping the water was at least held to its first discovered level.

Six hours after leaving Toronto the Garry headreached into Port Hope piers, completing the fastest passage ever clocked between Port Hope and Toronto. Or so her worn-out pumpers believed. Without much difficulty they kept her afloat long enough to get the soggy remains of the sawdust cargo out of her hold and into the icehouse, for she leaked less with her sails lowered. They could see the grains sticking in her seams as she came up, plank after plank, as her light load grew lighter still. Next day, having berthed his family ashore for the winter, Capt. Breen stripped the Garibaldi and let her drift over to a shoal part of the west harbor.

There she found a soft spot, and there she stayed. For keeps. Her sailing days were done. She settled on the bottom and froze in. All of her that protruded above water disappeared for firewood in the course of succeeding winters, and what there was left of her was buried under a new coal dock.

"She was a good vessel, " said Capt. Breen long afterwards, "but she couldn't keep up to modern progress. We've all got to go sometime. "

In 1930 he himself followed.


"With all the weariness of forty years in her bones"


Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
24 Feb 1940
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.25506 Longitude: -77.61695
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.95012 Longitude: -78.29953
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Ron Beaupre
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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New Wine in an Old Bottle: Schooner Days CCCCXXII (422)