The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Thursday, Oct. 10, 1850

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From the Rochester Daily Advertiser

A Thrilling Incident - Lake Ontario crossed in an open boat, during a violent Storm.

On Wednesday last, as one of the heaviest gales of the season was sweeping over the broad bosom of Lake Ontario, the little schooner Prosperity, was riding safely at anchor under the Canada shore, at the mouth of Duffin's creek, about 25 miles east of Toronto. The Prosperity was manned by Capt. Harrington, the owner, his boy, and one man, although a small crew in number, they were equal to their task, as the sequel will show.

Some ship stores being wanted, the captain and crew went on shore in their only small boat - a flat bottomed scow about fifteen feet long and four wide, commonly called a punt, to procure them. By the time they were ready to return to the schooner, the wind had greatly increased in violence, but this did not deter them from attempting the passage. They put off from the shore in their trail craft, which soon became unmanageable to a great extent, and they were carried past the vessel into the lake despite their efforts. The people on the shore who saw them, were unable to render any assistance, and of course gave them up for lost. Not so with Capt. Harrington; he resolved to make the most he could of his craft, and test his powers as a navigator. Many brave me would have despaired at such a time, and with such prospects; a wide waste of waters before, lashed into fury by the violent "Nor'wester" from behind, and only a miserable wooden trough without sail, and poorly supplied with oars, between him and the tumbling waves that threatened momentarily to engulf them.

Capt. H. saw that his only chance of safety was running directly before the wind and waves. He ordered his many and boy to lie down in the bottom of the punt, and thus trim it as well as possible, while he took an oar and steered the little bark in the gale. She dashed on amid the white caps laboring hard to withstand the fury of the waves, which she nobly braved for eleven hours - long hours to the captain, who sat at the steering oar, and his companions who were lying in the bottom of the boat expecting every moment to be engulfed by each wave which rolled successively by. After eleven hours of anxiety and imminent danger thus passed, the captain discovered the American shore and effected a landing in safety, with great hazard. Captain Harrington on taking a brief reckoning, found himself sixteen miles east of Niagara river, having drifted across the lake a little west of the widest part. He had probably sailed fifty miles in his frail craft, amidst a heavy storm - a feat we think unparalleled in the history of lake navigation. It was thought to be an act worth telling of a hero, that "Bill Johnson of the Thousand Isles," crossed the lake in a good yawl at the risk of a storm, but to cross in a punt while a storm was raging, as did Capt. H. and his crew, makes Johnson's feat dwindle into insignificance.

Capt. Harrington was not so overcome by the fatigue of his voyage, but that he immediately started for Niagara, and there took the steamer for Toronto, and on Thursday appeared at Duffin's to the great astonishment of the good people there, who had given him up for lost.

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Thursday, Oct. 10, 1850
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Richard Palmer
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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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Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Thursday, Oct. 10, 1850