The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 27, 1882

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Merits of the Work - Presqu' Ile and Weller's Bay.


The proposed canal to connect the head of the Bay of Quinte with Lake Ontario has been the subject of much intermittent attention for over 50 years, and though at times the scheme seemed approaching realization, something has always intervened to defer the canal indefinitely. From 1868 until 1879 little appears to have been done to further the project. Last Autumn surveys were commenced across the isthmus separating the Bay of Quinte from Presqu' Ile, and Weller's Bay, and though the Chief Engineer did not recede from his position in 1868 in favor of the Weller's Bay route the Government concluded that the other route would afford a passage for the Tory candidate in East Northumberland into Parliament, while it would not seriously affect the Tory member for Prince Edward County.

Doubts On The Subject.

Tenders have been invited and received for the work of building about five miles of canal by the Presqu' Ile route, the Weller's Bay route, though not half so long, being rejected. It would seem, therefore, that the canal is at last to be built.

The Canadian public may be unacquainted with the region through which this canal is to run, and a few words of explanation may not be uninteresting. The Bay of Quinte is 50 miles in length. Amherst Island, lying between its mouth, and Kingston, continues a river like navigation down to the St. Lawrence with only two breaks, the Upper Gap at the west, two miles wide, and the somewhat wider Lower Gap at the East. The Upper Gap is protected by South Bay Point, whch lying far out in the lake to the southward, wards off the swell of the lake in south west winds. The whole route from Trenton to Kingston, about 75 miles, is, therefore, comparatively smooth water. A canal opening from the head of Quinte into Lake Ontario the route would be used by many vessels as a means of avoiding detention in South Bay during the autumn gales, and of escaping the heavy seas south of Prince Edward County, in which two thirds of the wrecks on Lake Ontario take place. The value of the route is, of course, variously estimated by different navigators. The measure taken of the usefulness of this route depends on the temperament of the captain.

Distance Table In Detail.

The following statement of distances from Trenton to various lake ports by the present route and by the canal through Weller's Bay will convey some idea of the advantage the canal would be in the upper ports on the bay:

By Weller's Bay By Upper Gap

To Oswego 90 115

To Charlotte 60 140

To Toronto 90 190

To Port Dalhousie 120 210

In stormy weather the advantages of having two routes would appear still greater. In a northwesterly gale, for example, a vessel could reach Belleville from Oswego via Weller's Bay quite as soon as it could make the Upper Gap.

The Water Approaches.

Which ever may be the cheap route, a most important consideration, to which the question of cost of the canal itself might be as nothing, is the character of respective approaches to Weller's Bay and Presqu' Ile.

The western side of Presqu' Ile harbour is a shoal, and a shoal occupies the whole southeastern part of the harbour and the whole breadth of the entrance and approaches, with the exception of a tortuous channel, 200 feet wide and 8 to 12 feet deep at low water. This channel begins southeast of Stoney Point, runs west, southwest for a mile to Salt Point Light (which stands a thousand feet out in the water from the Range Light on shore), and then curves northwest and north into the deep water of Presqu' Ile basin.

"A vessel" - to quote Chief Engineer Page's report - "approaching Presqu' Ile must, before getting in range of the inner lights with a view of entering the harbour, change its course fully 270 degrees, which in certain winds it is barely possible to do. When up to Salt Point the course must again be changed to northwesterly, so as to clear Calf Pastino Shoal, and enter the wider part of the harbour." With such an entrance, the difficulty of entering Presqu' Ile during the terrible gales of autumn can be well imagined.

The Middle Grounds.

The southern shoal, which blocks the entrance and is known as the Middle Grounds, is triangular in shape, the base resting on the face of Presqu' Ile head, from Presqu' Ile light to the Range light, near Salt Pond, and the apex lying about a mile and a half E.N.E. of the Range light and southeast of Stony Point. Across this shoal northwesterly the Government has for several years been dredging a channel to connect at Salt Point Light with the inner part of the natural channel. A tolerably direct course, two miles long, in a northwesterly direction, will then be formed across the shoal at the harbour mouth. About $30,000 has already been expended on this channel, which is now about 10 feet deep and 300 feet wide. It is purposed to make the depth 12 feet, and the width 1,000 feet. The entrance will improve the access to Presqu' Ile, but even when the full width is attained and the natural channel beyond Salt Point Light widened, it will be difficult for sailing vessels to tack sufficiently against the northwestern gales. One thousand feet, captains of vessels inform us, is barely sufficient for a close haul. So far the difficulties of entering Presqu' Ile have been very great, and many vessels are beached in these shallow waters. A Captain informs me that his own and two other propellers were aground at one time on these shoals last autumn, with a schooner also aground a short distance ahead. The harbour, however, is used as a port of refuge because, with the exception of Weller's Bay, it is the only harbor between Toronto and South Bay at the eastern end of Prince Edward Peninsula; and Weller's Bay has been open for too short a time for every stranger to become acquainted with it.

Changes In The Shoals.

What changes may take place in the shoals it is difficult to tell. In 1868 a single shoal was found to have extended within a few years 800 feet beyond Salt Point Light and into the channel. The opening of the new channel across the middle grounds has already diminished the sectional area of the natural channel, as the ebb and flow from the harbour seems only sufficient to preserve a sectional area of 200 feet by 10 feet, or about 2,000 square feet. This being the case, the new channel, when its full width is obtained, will require a considerable annual outlay for dredging. This annual outlay, capitalized, would probably make up the difference between the cost of the Presqu' Ile route canal and the canal by McMullen's route. It might do more. Without referring to the channelling and dredging necessary in the harbour itself to preserve a passage to the canal mouth, or without mentioning any other interesting points in connection with this harbour, Mr. Page on this harbour says: "Even the channel through Presqu' Ile harbour made, the unavoidable difficulties to be encountered navigating it would still present an insuperable objection to the adoption of route No. 1 " (Presqu' Ile route). And again: "The directon of the entrance, crookedness, and insufficient width of the channel are found by masters of vessels to prove serious obstacles to its being used either as a harbor of refuge or for commercial purposes."

The Entrance To Weller's Bay.

Regarding Weller's Bay one captain tells me: "It is one of the best harbours in the world." Another says: "We have no difficulty in entering it; we can enter in any wind, and can find good anchorage by simply dropping behind the bar." Weller's Bay opens directly on the lake, and has no shoals in front of it; in fact, there is a clear approach two and a half miles wide to the harbour entrance, and directly in the direction of the worst storms - the westerly gales. Over thirty years ago a narrow bar extended clear across the lake front. The destruction of trees and shrubs weakened the bar, and a channel opened, which in 1851 was 150 feet wide and 14 feet deep. In 1861 the channel was 200 feet wide and slightly deeper. In 1866 the gap had extended to three-quarters of a mile, the channel to 300 feet. At present the channel is said to be nearly 2,000 feet wide, and soundings along it give a depth of 16 to 20 feet. The sand swept away has not materially encroached on the harbour, but has simply widened the bar shoal and tailed off slightly inwards. The widening, which has not affected the safety of the anchorage, must soon cease, or be checked, for the northern and southern ends of the bar rest on a narrow rock ridge which gradually rises above the water. This ridge appears to dip in the centre where the channel now is. Nor is the danger of shoals forming great. The progress of sand drift along the shore of Prince Edward is necessarily slow, owing to the more nearly equal duration here of the east and the west roll of the lake, and also to the build of the coast, so that the necessity of dredging the entrance is a very remote possibility. Instead, therefore, of a tortuous and narrow entrance, Weller's Bay has a short and wide one, and a vessel approaching in a westerly gale has but to drive before the wind right into the safety of the harbour, or were a canal constructed from here to Quinte into the canal and through it into the latter bay. Weller's Bay is becoming more and more a resort in stormy weather, as mariners are discovering the existence and character of the harbour.



The schr. George Suffel, with 120 tons of coal, has arrived. The coal is for R. Crawford.

The rate given on coal from Oswego and other Lake Ontario ports to Kingston is 25 cents per ton, free in and out.

Several vessels, which came from Chicago, have been chartered to ship coal at Oswego for return cargoes, at $1.50 per ton.

The yacht Sport has been thoroughly repaired at Ogdensburg and is once more upon the water in the vicinity of Alexandria Bay.

The schr. Two Brothers, whose cargo is consigned to the Montreal Transportation Co., 6,000 bushels of wheat, has arrived from Port Hope.

The steambarges Bedford and Nile have brought from the canal ties, which they are discharging into the schr. (sic) Norman for Oswego; rate 4 cents each.

The schr. John Magee carries 21,000 bu. of wheat from Toledo to Kingston at 5 cents. This is the highest rate yet paid from Toledo to Kingston. She has passed through the Canal.

The steamer Magnet received her new crosshead, and was ready this afternoon to resume her trips. She made a trip around the harbour prior to leaving for Rochester.

There has been very little damaged grain this year so far. If vessels are allowed to load as they like this fall there will be plenty of it in fact some vessels may go down with all the grain in them.

For the K. & M. Forwarding Company the prop. Europe discharged 6,000 bush. wheat from Chicago, and the prop. Dominion 4,000 bush. wheat from Toledo. When lightened both proceeded to Montreal.

The schr. B.W. Folger came in this morning with 228 tons coal, from Sodus Point.

The schr. Oliver Mowat came in light, from the same port, and the Speedwell, light, from Ogdensburg.

The tug Champion clears for Montreal with seven barges carrying a combined cargo of 150,000 bushels of wheat. The tug Glide has arrived from Montreal with five barges, carrying 1,000 tons of railway iron. The tug cleared with two barges, light, for Oswego, to load coal.

It was the steamer Princess Louise that picked up the yacht Belladonna off Garden Island. She towed the craft to Kingston. In crossing the channel the swells made by the steamer John Thorn broke her bowsprit. It is currently reported that the yacht "threw up" the Belladonna, and for revenge on a young druggist that named her such, put him under water.

The steam barge Business has successfully passed the Welland Canal. She had to lighten 15,000 bushels. This afternoon Folger Bros. received a telegram asking that a man be sent to the head of Simcoe Island to pilot the big boat into the harbour. The vessel is drawing 15 feet of water. She can easily be discharged at the K. & M. wharf. There are 30 feet of water there.

There has been a great deal said about shortages at this port, but the public must remember that the question has been brought up simply to show the absurdity of the customs regulations by which payment is demanded upon all shortages over 20 bushels, besides taxing the 20 bushels that, in another case, would have been exempted. The fact of the matter is there have only been three or four shortages, forty bushels being the largest amount in any case. These shortages occurred in cargoes of 20,000 and 22,000 bushels. On enquiry at the Forwarding Company's office we learn that the heaviest shortages were of the schooners Oades, Mitchell, Emerald and M.J. Cummings. Of course if the overpluses were totalled they would average more than the shortages. This morning after the schooner Westside was discharged it was discovered that she had 400 bushels more than her bill of lading called for. She took in her cargo at Chicago. The question naturally arises, How does this occur? Some vessel will have to be short the amount the Westside is over. The majority of the mistakes are made in Chicago and Toledo, and dozens of instances can be given to prove the statement. In May last the schooner O.M. Bond, on delivering her cargo here, was 734 bushels 40 lbs. short. The Captain was amazed; on careful investigation it was ascertained that the elevating company in Chicago were to blame, and they footed the bill. The schooner Sligo last fall, from Toledo, was 886 bushels and 40 lbs. short of what she was supposed to have. The mistake was traced up; the error happened in the weighing at the elevator. It was rectified in the same way as that of the schr. O.M. Bond. The Companies supplying cargoes should be more exact in their measurement, and the forwarding companies should would then be saved great trouble.

St. George Society Picnic - ...The mishap to the Belladonna in the Second Class race, and the rescue by McCorkell's Letter C., ruled both boats out, and the Amelia after rounding the tower gave up as there would be little sport in a walk over on such a rough day. If these boats desire to run again the prize will be held open for them, and a course chosen in a less open sea.

The upset of the Belladonna was seen from the picnic ground, but there was only a small skiff there with which to go to the rescue. While the picnickers were watching the rescue they saw a smaller boat capsize and mysteriously right itself. It is said to have been built with water tight compartments.

The Garfield and Hebe started in the yacht race at 12:45, and, therefore, in completing the course at 4:30 the former did some remarkably good sailing, besides proving that a four hour race is not one that twelve ton yachts should seriously object to. The disabled Hebe came in 40 minutes later, but is entitled to considerable time allowance. In all probability the champion cup will be given to Captain Curtis and the flag to Major Fairtlough.

p.3 Whats The News? - Capt. Pappa, of tug C.P. Morey, who rescued aeronaut Adeline, given cheque.

-yacht Hebe not in danger of upsetting.

The Great Experiment - the Canadian route - fair treatment demanded for grain shortages.

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Date of Original:
July 27, 1882
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 27, 1882