The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 15, 1883

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The idea that superstition exists only among the very ignorant is far from true. With the sailor superstition seems inborn. Let one attempt to deny Jack's theory about "Davy Jones' Locker" in the bottom of the sea, and he will be met with strong if not convincing argument that he is mistaken. To go to sea on Friday, the carrying of dead bodies at sea, the killing of a cat, the dropping of a water bucket overboard, while washing down decks, are believed to be offences for which Davy Jones will demand satisfaction, either by the sacrifice of one man or the pulling of a ship and its entire crew into his locker. Jack has many curious ideas. For instance, if the moon has sharp horns it betokens fine weather, and if it is lying on its back with both horns up bad weather is at hand. Again:

When the sun sets in a silver bell,

An easterly wind is sure as ___.

Lake Sailors Affected.

The lake sailor has his traditions, his superstitions, his dislikes, and they are not growing less. He is a bold Captain, indeed, who would take out his vessel on Friday for the opening trip of a season, and he would find few men to sail with him. The Friday superstition is not peculiar to mariners alone. Very many people would not think of beginning any important undertaking on the sixth day of the week. The origin of the aversion is probably connected with the fact that on that day the Saviour was crucified.

Interviewing An Old Tar.

Capt. Donnelly was met last evening and asked whether the owners of vessels had any lasting superstitious ideas regarding Friday. He said that the firm he was so long connected with on Garden Island were somewhat superstitious. He could only remember of one case where a new boat made her first trip on a Friday and this was the steamer H.A. Calvin. A vessel was never launched on Friday, nor yet a raft started down the river on that day. The first order came for the Hiram Calvin on Thursday night, when a vessel ran ashore at Four Mile Point. Owing to lines and material not being got on board before Friday morning the firm would not allow the steamer to leave, and despatched the steamer Hercules. "The Calvin laid at the dock until the following Friday morning, " said the Captain, "and I received an order to proceed to one of the Mail Line steamers which struck on Split Rock, near the foot of the Beauharnois Canal. I loaded at once, shivering in my boots, for fear the firm would remember it was Friday, and the steamer started. I think the Calvin is one of the most successful steamers on the lakes. She has more money to her credit than any tug I know of. This was about 1870. The first pump I ever owned a dollar in, started to go to its first job on a Friday, and it is now at Windsor. I own an interest in it. It was the father of my success."

Not Dying Out.

"Do you think the sailors still have a superstitious idea about sailing out of port on Friday.?"

"They have so far as making their first trip in the Spring, not at other times. I have known men to start rafts on Saturday instead of Friday. The men have to work on Sunday in consequence." "In my business," said the Captain, "I have never noticed that Friday was a remarkably unlucky day."

Another gentleman asserts that two years ago when the Dominion Wrecking Company was formed an order came for a tug. It was Friday and it would be the craft's first trip. By a great amount of delay in preparing the vessel the sailors and captain succeeded on Saturday being reached before the tug left port.

Sailing On Friday.

There are many other people who do not look upon Friday as an unlucky day, but there are others who do. A fleet of grain laden barges never start to go down the river on a Friday, but they invariably get off on Saturday night, thus making the men work on Sunday. Many anecdotes are told of crafts that have sailed on Friday. The Hamilton Tribune says:

Two years ago a great fleet of vessels ready for sea at the opening of the sea lay in port at Chicago. They had a fair wind up the lake on Friday, in which direction most of them were bound. But the schooners stirred not except Capt. Keith, of the D.A. Van Valkenburg. All hands stood by to make sail, and with colors flying as the first craft out of Chicago harbor that year, he sailed away. Many who watched him firmly believed that the audacious skipper would never return. But he did, and he and his sons sailed out of Chicago all season. In the middle of November the Van Valkenburg was wrecked off the South Fox Island, and all hands lost. The sailors who saw her leave port on the unlucky day looked on her loss as the direct and certain result of thus defying a feeling that had ruled so long.

Last year the schooner Gulnair began loading for her first trip on Friday, and on that journey for a week she battled with head seas and adverse winds, and at last, crippled and broken, was obliged to put back and ride at anchor off Burlington Beach. When the calm came the crippled craft sailed slowly into the harbor like a maimed veteran returning from war.

Launching the Myles.

The largest vessel ever built on Lake Ontario is the steamer Myles. She was launched last year and Thursday afternoon was fixed for the occasion. The master gave the word and the wedges were knocked away; but the stately ship did not stir and every effort failed to move her. After working at the steamer till long after dark, the attempt was given over and she was shored up to wait till Friday had passed. All day Friday not a sledge was raised and not a wedge was struck. On Saturday work was resumed and the steamer was launched early in the morning. The sailorman still sees ghostly lights marking the wreck of the Belle Sheridan at Weller's Beach, and the ghost of Louis Stonehouse, the mate of the Garibaldi, still walks the shore near by. A mysterious white man stows the foretopsail of the schooner Norway, and many and many another strange sight the sailorman sees.

Marine News.

The schooner Baltic, from Toronto with 11,700 bushels of corn, has arrived.

The steamer Rothesay carried 2,000 more people this season than last. She was taken off the route to Dickinson's Landing today.

The str. City of Belleville has come here for improvements. She will be here three weeks.

The schr. Annie M. Foster brings moulding sand from Hamilton to Gananoque at $1 per ton f.o.b.

A Brockvillian is arranging to run an excursion on the Rothesay to Kingston on Sunday, the 23rd inst. He need not try it, as such an excursion would not be allowed to land by the Collector of Customs.

Yesterday again the pumps began working on the wrecked prop. Prussia, and the question now agitating Mr. Merriman is whether he will get her in Kingston today in time to win his bet.

Do Not Desire It - We are informed that the bylaw exempting the Kingston and Montreal Forwarding Company will, so far as the Company is concerned, remain a dead letter. No request was made for exemption and the Company feel that doing business here and making profits they should pay their share towards running the municipal machine. The action of the members of this Company is certainly worthy of commendation.

A Yachting Club - Kingston is to have a yacht club and the people will be glad. It has the finest harbor in the country and some of the swiftest yachts but all institutions have their ebb and flow and Kingston's yacht club died long since. It will be revived and the furore created by exciting races will be renewed. It is probable that a meeting will be called and a strong club formed; so that next season will produce numerous races.

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Sept. 15, 1883
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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), Sept. 15, 1883