The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 29, 1889

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[Toronto Empire]

I am glad the prop. Canada bears a name so bonnie. Like the ship of the nation she is bound to weather the roughest seas and anchor safe in the harbor of permanent prosperity, provided always she is not mismanaged by her crew and owns a skilful captain at the helm.

We left Kingston at a late afternoon hour and served Snake Island light, arriving in the evening at Nine Mile Point on Simcoe Island, nearer the larger island of Amherst. The night was fine, save a few lowering clouds on the horizon, and, wearied with the heat of the day in the hot city, the ladies of our party begged to be rowed ashore. We filled the light-keeper's boat and landed on the point.

The clouds rose rapidly before a driving wind and the lightning pierced the water in serrated flashes. A driving squall tossed the calm lake into white caps and the rain fell in big flying drops. For half an hour the sea was wild enough. The Canada lay a little distance away, her lights twinkling as she moved slowly about. We were sheltered and safe in the lighthouse, but were in some doubts as to whether we would be compelled to spend the night on shore. But the storm was brief, the moon shone out, the men transported their last load of supplies, and we all returned gladly to our water home, a very wet and sleepy party.

During the night a fog settled on the water, making it somewhat difficult to serve Pigeon Island, but we were too weary to be roused by the doleful sounds of the fog whistle, and slept soundly until morning. At breakfast hour we had reached Prinyer's Cove, a very snug little storm harbor and transfer dock, with lighthouse and storm signal. The cove is also a rendezvous for yachting parties.

We had on board with us from Montreal, Mr. John Prinyer, collector of customs at the cove, a genial old gentleman, staunchly conservative and patriotic. I had the pleasure of enrolling him as a member of the imperial federation league, before he left the boat.

At Prinyer's Cove, our party landed and visited the homestead, where we were entertained in the heartiest way. I had a glass of milk punch - "a genuine conservative drink," our host averred - but as its effects are rather confusing I would hardly like to consider it as such. In the parlors of the pretty homestead were portraits of Sir John Macdonald and Sir Alex. Campbell."

"He is an old friend of mine," said Mr. Prinyer, referring to the latter, and he handed me a volume of speeches bearing the autograph of Ontario's governor upon the flyleaf. We left our friend upon the wharf, bestowing hearty benedictions upon us, and steamed away to our next light - the Outer Drake, or False Ducks.

I hardly know why so peculiar a name should be given to these but the light is an important guide to mariners. We went ashore and climbed the tower to see the lamp - a very fine one. The circular tower is of stone; it is 68 feet in height, and the light is dioptric - which means, according to the blue book, "illuminated by reflecting lenses." What we saw was a complex brass burner beneath a large cylinder of heavy glass of prismatic brilliance and strong magnifying power. One lady of diminutive proportions stood within the cylinder and was transformed into a giantess.

We descended the ninety stone steps and sat under the trees until the inspector was ready to return. The lightkeeper tells me that he has seen this light thirty miles out from shore.

Point Peter, which we served a few hours later, is also an important light with a tower 90 feet in height. It is a revolving light, and we watched it from the deck, turning every 35 seconds, appearing and vanishing through the hazy atmosphere like the fitful shining of a far off hope.

I have heard a number of lake captains emphasize very strongly the need of fog horns at both Point Peter and the Ducks, particularly the latter, where the course of a vessel must be changed, and it is important to keep well out from the shore. The establishment of fog horns cannot be an expensive undertaking; they are the only guides over our lake waters during the continued fogs of spring and fall, and where the safety of human life as well as possession is involved every possible safeguard should be established by the department.

We ran on a shoal here, though lying a long distance from the light, but with a little wriggling, squirming and puffing we floated off before the small boats returned. It requires considerable skill on such a trip to prevent frequent groundings, for the light house supply boat must needs leave the beaten water track and drop into every odd nook, wherever there is a shoal, or a shallow, or a great ugly, hidden rock there our boat must go to supply the solitary tower that upholds its warning light, approaching as nearly as possible in order that the heavily ladened row boat may not have too far to travel. As the water depth varies with each season, it is impossible to make exact calculation, and I marvel not a little that Canada makes her way as skillfully as she does - for so far we have made good time and met with no mishaps.

All day Thursday we were busy serving lights. One cute little island is called Scotch Bonnet. It is the shape of a bonnet - a very ugly, old fashioned one - and is covered with tiny blue bells, hence its name.

We spent a long time in Presqu 'Isle harbor, where there are four lights to serve. This forms the entrance to Murray Bay canal, concerning which Canadian sailors aver that it is a useless public work, and that the money spent thereon has been money thrown away. Any vessel availing itself of the canal must needs travel some 90 miles through narrow channels in lieu of 70 miles direct route. Moreover, Murray Bay is full of shoals that make it difficult to navigate even in clear weather; and, lastly, as I heard a lake captain aver, "Any time a vessel can go as far as Presque Isle in a storm she can go the remainder of the distance."


The steamer St. Lawrence arrived from Clayton last night.

The schr. King, from Oswego, laden with coal, arrived at Portsmouth last evening.

Spencer's steamyacht, the Wherenow, was given a trial trip on Saturday. The results were satisfactory.

The grain rates from Chicago to Kingston are 4 1/2 cents on wheat, 4 cents on corn. The Myles and Erin and barge Maggie will bring cargoes.

Arrivals: schr. Halstead, Chicago, 36,695 bush. corn; prop. C.A. Street, Chicago, 29,778 bush. corn; schr. Hanlan, Oswego, 187 tons coal.

The tug David G. Thompson left Saturday evening for Oswego with two barges laden with lumber. She had to return with them the lake being too boisterous.

The following steamers called at Swift's since Saturday: Passport from Montreal; Corsican from Montreal; Persia from Montreal; Ocean from St. Catharines; Varuna from Trenton.

Capt. John Saunders and Capt. John Donnelly have bought the schooner Ella Murton and are at Hamilton taking possession. Capt. Saunders will sail her, and Capt. T.L. Vandusen replaces him on the schooner Julia. The latter is loading lumber for Oswego.

The Trenton Advocate thinks that the Murray Canal will not be opened for general traffic before next spring, as there still remains considerable work to be done, riprapping, levelling of tow paths, etc., which will run the completion well on into the fall. Consequently the official opening can hardly be looked for this season.

Portsmouth Items - John Nicholson is pushing the work on the long pier.

Incidents Of The Day - Yesterday morning the str. Norseman, from Charlotte, left Swift's wharf with a large number of passengers for Alexandria Bay. The passage down the lake was very disagreeable in consequence of rough weather.

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July 29, 1889
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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 29, 1889