Loss of the Ida Walker
Need of Paid Crews of Life Savers on the Canadian Shore.
Captain O'Hagan, of the schooner Hannah Butler, sharply criticizes the failure of the Canadian government to establish life saving stations and keep paid crews along the Canadian shore. Speaking of the wreck of the Ida
Walker in Weller's Bay, he says that when he saw her position he went with his crew to her assistance.
The vessel was lightered, but drifted toward the shore and grounded half a mile out and the two crews were compelled to remain on board thirty-six hours before rescued by a life crew from Wellington, fifty miles away. The seas, he says, were tremendous and the crews suffered intensely. Captain O'Hagan says they could not have held out but a little longer.
The crew which rescued them was composed of volunteers and Captain O'Hagan says a braver lot of men never sat in a life boat. The boat had to be brought from Wellington by rail. The Canadian government employs no life savers, but those who man the boars have sixteen drill days during the year, receiving $1.50 each per day. Vessel men long since appealed to the Canadian government to establish stations at points along the lakes and maintain paid crews but the government seems to have given the matter little if any attention. It was to be hoped that this matter will be speedily attended to.
A great many lives lost on the Canadian shore this fall might have been saved had their been life boats and men to handle them.
Monday, Nov. 22, 1886
Schooner IDA WALKER -Wednesday of last week the Schooners HANNAH BUTLER and IDA WALKER were sailing down the lake in company. The wind increased to such violence that the captains resolved to put into Presqu' Isle Bay for safety and shelter. The BUTLER made the passage in safety and anchored, but the WALKER was less fortunate. She ran aground on the "Middle Ground" and was lost. The boat, commanded by Captain Savage of Wellington was loaded with 13,000 bushels of barley for Oswego. Captain O'Hagen of the BUTLER with his crew went to aid the WALKER and succeeded in lightening her to the extent of 400 bushels of grain, when she floated. The wind was blowing great guns from the North West and the boat drifted, dragging her anchor until she struck shallow water off Stony Point, and ran hard aground, with both her own crew and the crew of the BUTLER on board.
The yawl was launched to take the men ashore, but it had not touched the water than it was swamped by the heavy sea and smashed to pieces. The men 11 in number, were then at the mercy of the elements. This happened on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day. From Thursday until Friday afternoon the men stood on the cabin and clung to the rigging while the waves broke over the disabled vessel. The cabin was filled with water, and they were without nourishment or shelter. On friday between 1 and 2 o'clock P.M.. They were rescued and cared for by the Wellington Life Saving Crew. It is reported that the WALKER parted amidships on Friday about noon.
The other wreck, the QUEEN OF THE LAKES, with 400 tons of coal,and a crew of 6 men and a woman cook, ran on Stony Point on Thursday, whilst attempting to make the harbor. Her crew was saved and she went to pieces.
Thurs. Nov. 25, 1886
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On Nov. l9th. 1886 the Schooner IDA WALKER came into Wellington to take on a load of Barley. Before half the 12,000 bushels was aboard, a gale drove the IDA WALKER out of the bay, looking for a safe anchorage in the shelter of Presqu'ile Point. She anchored under the Point but her anchors dragged and she was blown east past Bald Head into Wellers Bay outside the Gravel Bar that then made the inner bay such a fine refuge for ships. She came aground and the heavy seas poured over her. Her yawl boat was swept from its davits and the third comner that rolled over the IDA WALKER took out her bulkheads and left her with nothing but two masts and the cabin top above water. The crew scrambled to the cabin top and clung to the mainboom gaff which had fallen across it. The ship was breaking up under them. Every wave drenched them with spry and a snow squall hid them at intervals from the hundreds of spectators and would-be rescuers who had gathered on the beach a few yards away.
Women knelt in the sand to pray, men built fires to warm the survivors if any should be washed ashore. Meanwhile, word had been sent to Wellington to the lifeboat and crew from the volunteer lifeboat station there. Soon a Locomotive arrived pulling a flat car on which the lifeboat was mounted. Quickly, eager hands had it off the flat car and down to the bay beach. The crew pulled across the choppy waters to the Bar where the lifeboat was dragged to the wild shore of the lake proper.
Capt. Hugh McCullough took his place in the stern with the long steering oar. His brother, Bill, pulled stroke, with Horatio Curlett next to him, there was Ed Cleary and George Insley, and Salem Palen and Ed Bedell, all Prince Edward County boys. They lashed themselves to the Thwarts. ' If she goes over we stay with her' , they vowed. Then volunteers grabbed the boat by the gunwales and ran her over the beach stones and into deep water, up to their necks. Gasping, floundering, they held her until the six oars, bending under the tug of six strong men, bit the wavetops and lifted her clear of the innermost breaker.
Out she worked, foot hy foot, past the wreck, then holding her head-on to avoid capsizing, Capt. McCullough let her come back past the group on the cabin top, heaving a coil of stout line as he passed.
Alas fingers numbed with hours of freezing in snow and lake water fumbled it. The line dragged across the wreck and washed back into the boat on the crest of the next breaker.
Four times those brave Prince Edward men forced their lifeboat lakewards, and let her drive back on the combers to rescue the perishing. Three times their lifeline fell short or could not be caught by the benumbed and exhausted crew. The third time the lifeboat was so close that the volunteers could look into the eyes of the men and women (women often sailed as cooks) on the cabin top, and their agonizing expressions cut Capt. McCullough to the heart.
Boys, he said, "weve got to get them if we have to swim to them with that line. Lets try again."
This time by a miracle, the line caught and held. Walter McMahon, the mate of the IDA WALKER lept into the lake with the cook in his arms. They were seized and dragged aboard the lifeboat. Carefully hauling in and easing off as the seas required, and balancing the boat on their oars, the lifesavers rescued everyone on the cabin top. As the life line that held the boat to the wreck was cast off a greater wave that had yet burst over the whole schooner.
The masts fell and the seas tore the cabin top from the deck, its fragments washing in on the beach before the lifeboat made a safe landing
from 'THE COUNTY' by Richard & Janet Lunn
pages 322 and 323
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Register Number: 5
Name: IDA WALKER
Description : Schooner
When Built: 1867
Where Built: Sophiasburg, rebuilt at Sarnia 1880
Present Master: Geo. Tait
Where she belongs: Whitby
Builders name & date of certificate: W. D. Ponfine, May 20,1883
Description of vessel:
Length. 109 feet
Breadth: 26 feet
Depth of hold: 9.1 feet ( 9 feet & 1/10th.)
flow Rigged: Schooner
Standing or Running bowsprit: no entry
Squars or Round stern: Square
Subscribing owners: John Blow of Whitby, 22 shares , fred A. Guy and Harry Allen both of Oshawa and with 21 shares each, sold to James Savage of Wellington 64 shares dated Sept. 11th. 1885
NOTATION-- Registered at Sarnia ( No.2 ) May 20, 1880
Official Number 80772, Registry transferred
from Sarnia to Whitby, Oct. 8, 1883
VESSEL SUFPOSED TO HAVE BEEN LOST IN LAKE ONTARIO NEAR WELLINGTON ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO, certificate of registry not delivered up. Regiatry closed 28th. Oct. 1902
IDA WALKER formerly NEW DOMINION
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