The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Jan. 25, 1887

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They Don't Want The Marine Law To Be Amended.

Over one hundred mariners met in the firemen's hall last evening for the purpose of considering whether it would be advisable for them to allow to go unchallenged a petition about to be sent to the minister of marine by the Marine Association of Canada, asking that the Marine act be so amended that owners of barges, trading on the lakes, could allow them to sail with only one certified officer (the captain) on each of them. Among those present were Captains W. Augustus, T. Donnelly, Allen, Bates, Milligan, Lewis, Parsons, Beaupre, Saunders, Dix, Murray, Macdonald, Booth, Dandy, and McCarty. Capt. Augustus presided. Capt. T. Donnelly acted as secretary. The secretary opened the discussion by stating that the masters and mates of Canada had been perfectly contented with the Marine act, knowing that the men who had been instrumental in getting it passed were capable of judging what the qualifications of sailors should be. It was quite clear that the object of the act was to have a more competent class of sailors in the vessels and barges plying the lakes of Canada than there had been. At a recent meeting of the Marine Association in Canada, held in Toronto, Capt. John Gaskin represented Kingston. He presented a resolution, asking that the government be petitioned to amend the Marine act so that owners of barges would be relieved from carrying certificated captains and mates with them. The speaker, aided by others, strongly objected to Capt. Gaskin's request. Finding it convenient to do so Gaskin amended his resolution, making it read "that the owners of barges could allow them to sail with only one certificated officer, the captain." The resolution, in this form, was carried, and a delegation was appointed to go to Ottawa and interview the minister of marine. The speaker thought that the mates and captains of Canada should have their say in this matter. If the government granted the request of the Marine association in this direction the captains and mates would suffer. If they sat still and took no action the law would be changed to suit the owners of barges, and then it would be too late to object. He was in favour of having the following petition presented to the government:

"We the undersigned, masters, mates, and sailors of the city of Kingston and vicinity, hearing that the Marine Association of Canada is about to petition your department to have the law so changed as to enable the owners of barges trading on the lakes to run their barges with only one certificated officer, we hereby petition your honorable department to not make the change desired, but to let the law remain as it is, for the following reasons, viz.:

"1. As most of the carrying trade on the lake is done by barges, and as the law demands that a man must serve a certain time as mate before qualifying for master, it will be impossible for men to qualify for the position as master as required by the act.

2. When the tow-line breaks a barge requires the same management as a vessel, and as this frequently happens, it will be impossible for the master to remain on deck all the time, which for safety he would have to do, or leave his vessel in the hands of incompetent men, as it is a well-known fact that barges are manned by the poorest and cheapest set of men the owners can pick up.

3. We have been at a good deal of trouble and expense to qualify ourselves for the positions we now hold, and we think you would be doing us a great injustice if you would change the law to suit barge owners, who have no other object in view than employing cheap men without any regard for the safety of life and property, and as the barges are insured, and of a smaller class than the carrying trade of the lakes demand, the risk would be held entirely by the master, crew and underwriters.

The speaker said he did not want the marine law changed, because it was a good one. He thought it was passed because of the many disasters that had occurred on Canadian lakes. As it stands now, every barge over a certain tonnage should be made to carry sails and have two certificated officers on board. In case the barge broke away from a tug it was in the hands of competent men. But if barges were allowed to sail without certificated mates the work of controlling them in case of accident would fall to the lot of the captains or incompetent men. Reference was made to the loss of a barge on the lakes belonging to the M.T. Co., and to the fact that it had no sails.

The Discussion Becomes General.

Capt. Lewis stated that when a tow line broke, which frequently happened, the barge, without spars and sails, was at the mercy of the storm. Seamanship was no use then. He was in favor of the petition being presented to the government, and moved, seconded by Capt. Donnelly, that the following resolution be added to it:

"That this meeting petition the minister of marine that all crafts engaged in the lake carrying trade be compelled to carry spars and sails, and in accordance with the Merchants' Shipping Act." In reference to the barge belonging to the M.T. Co., lost in 1883, it did not have spars, sails or a certificated mate, and the crew was drowned. Tow barges, when they become adrift, are vessels, provided they have certificated officers and sails. If they are not thus fitted to sail they are only hulls. As long as sailing vessels, which have to compete with tow barges, are required to carry certificated masters and mates, barges should also be compelled to have them. It was his opinion that all the vessel owners in the city should have attended the meeting. Capt. Lewis' motion was passed unanimously.

Captain Parsons concurred with Captain Lewis' views. Tow barges should be compelled to carry certificated masters and mates as well as the sailing vessels. The marine law at present is all right if it is not abused. He did not believe in compelling one-half of the vessels on the lakes to carry certificated masters and mates and letting the other half go without them.

What The Meeting Should Do.

Capt. Donnelly stated that the meeting was called in order that sailors might learn what was being done by the Canadian Marine association and check any action, if possible, which it proposed to do and which affected them. If the sailors kept quiet the government would likely think that they did not care whether the marine law was amended or not. They should move in this matter as it was very important. The owners of vessels were in favour of leaving the marine law as it is. The marine association intended sending a delegation to Ottawa, to lay its claims before the government, therefore, the sailors and mates should take immediate action.

Capt. Lewis - The petition read tonight should reach Ottawa before that delegation.

Capt. Milligan said it was an outrageous piece of business for Capt. Gaskin, or any person else, to try and take the bread out their mouths, and the statement made by Capt. Neelon at the meeting of the marine association, that the safety of a barge during a storm did not depend upon its sails but upon its anchors and chains was absurd. An anchor was of no more use to a barge in a storm than a horse shoe. What was needed on the lakes was seaworthy vessels, well officered, well manned, strong and substantial in every particular. He also stated that the barge lost by the M.T. Co. last fall had no sails at the time of the disaster. What Capt. Gaskin wanted was to bring the mariners down to the level of the crews of the St. Lawrence river barges. Then he would be able to get the grain carried from Duluth to Kingston for 2 cents per bushel. It was high time that the sailors picked themselves up. If they allowed themselves to be "rode" upon by Capt. Gaskin they were no men. They paid for protection and they should have it. If they don't get it it is their own fault.

Capt. Dandy - Men before the mast on American barges last summer got more pay than the masters of barges here.

Giving My Brave Gaskin Away.

Capt. Donnelly made a few remarks relating to Capt. Gaskin's visit to Toronto, to attend the meeting of the marine association. He went to Toronto in the interests of the company by which he was employed. But he objected to the captain's action before he went. He received a circular, sent to him by the marine association, asking him to call a meeting of the mariners of the city for the purpose of selecting a delegate to be sent to the meeting of the marine association. He called a meeting but did not ask the speaker to attend it, neither did he ask many other prominent mariners, who would have been glad to attend. At the meeting which selected him to go to Toronto there were three persons - Capts. Frazer and Lewis, and P.R. Henderson. The first words that the captain spoke at the Toronto meeting of the association were "that he had been sent to represent the marine association of Kingston." At this meeting he moved resolutions that have never been heard of since, neither had they been published, and had not the speakers accidentally dropped into the meeting in Toronto, these resolutions would have still been unknown to the Kingston sailors. Captain Gaskin moved that the one-man power of inspecting hulls be done away with, and also that the inspection of boilers be changed. He was, in moving such resolutions as these, striking at the poor man's pocket.

Capt. Milligan to Capt. Lewis - I suppose that at the little caucus held in the council chamber you were the biggest toad in the puddle.

Capt. Lewis smiled but said nothing.

Hitting Some Hard Knocks.

Capt. Dandy - I don't see one of Capt. Gaskin's captains present.

Capt. McCarty - They dare not come here.

Capt. Augustus - They are not working for themselves.

Capt. Dandy - They will be working for $8 per month if they don't look sharp.

Capt. McCarty - If it was necessary to make a law compelling barges to carry certificated officers it cannot be necessary to change it.

Capt. Dandy - The object of the change is to make a law for the rich man and another for the poor man.

Capt. Donnelly was appointed a delegate to Ottawa to present the petition from the masters and mates of Kingston to the minister of marine.

Captains Dandy, Augustus, Saunders and Macdonald were appointed a committee to get signatures to the petition. The members of the marine engineers' association and sailors residing at different ports in Canada will be asked to sign the document.

Capt. Dandy - We will have to move speedily in the matter, for we do not know how soon some men will be looking for a mate's position. They will do well supporting a family on $8 per month.

A vote of thanks was passed to the chairman of the fire, water and gas committee for the use of the firehall.

Capt. Dix was appointed treasurer of the association.

The meeting adjourned to meet next Monday evening.

After The Long Pier - This morning gentlemen identified with the Montreal Transportation Company visited Portsmouth and inspected the long pier. It is said that the village council will allow the dominion government to secure possession of it. It will be repaired and re-let possibly to the M.T. Co., who have for some years had an eye upon it.

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Date of Original:
Jan. 25, 1887
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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), Jan. 25, 1887