The Chances Sailors Take
News from the Bay of Quinte of the safety of the schooner William Jamieson relieved the fear that another tragedy has been added to the long list that saddens the story of the lakes. Under-manned schooners have sailed, are sailing, and will continue to sail while no accident occurs and weather is favorable.
The folly of taking a long chance with fate is never revealed until an accident occurs or sudden storm sends one to the bottom or to the ever-menacing shore. The William Jamieson, loaded with 234 gross tons of coal, carried three men, a boy, and two women. That meant two men and a boy to handle canvas, temporarily stop leaks, work the pumps, or meet other emergencies. One of the men and the boy might be called up, weakened by the need of sleep. The donkey engine that displaces men for trimming and setting canvas is a fair-weather contrivance. With a wheel-chain parted or jammed two men would be needed at the tiller. It is almost always in stress of weather that lines part, seams open, or pumps break down.
Even thus undermanned a schooner with plenty of searoom would have a fighting chance of surviving a gale, but there is no searoom on the lakes. A few hours running free means disaster. Canvas must be carried to make headway against a storm and ride it out or shelter must be reached. Fortunately the William Jamieson found shelter at South Bay. Two of the schooners that ran into the Bay of Quinte for shelter were in collision because one could not be handled during the storm that the William Jamieson escaped.
The happy theory that Providence has a special care for children, drunken men and sailors, gained support by the relatively few disasters occurring to lake shipping. But if lake vessels were properly manned with able seamen sufficiently encouraged to feel pride in their craft and their efficiency, there would be less danger of each recurring storm being followed by the sand story of prolonged anxiety changed to despair by the finding of wreckage on the shore. The Lake Superior disaster and the two days of anxiety nearer home are warnings of the need of better provision for meeting emergencies.