Schooner Days No. 256
Port Granby's Anchor - Some Ships It held And Some It Didn't
By C.H.J. Snider
Port Granby pier was 125 yards long, from storehouse to pierhead, and two vessels could lie at it, head and stern, on the east side, where the water was deepest. Vessels waiting their turn for loading rode to their own anchors, or to a large mooring anchor, marked by a buoy, directly south of the wharf. The anchor is still there in the lake, although pier and port have vanished under the water and the grass of half a century. Vessels could lie at either wharf or anchor only in the fine weather. if the wind blew fresh from east or west or south they had to get out in a hurry, and seek shelter in Port Hope, ten miles down the shore.
Port Granby was a schooner port. Steamers seldom or never called. The schooners Two Brothers of Port Hope, Capt. Jack Wright - whose brother, Capt. Mark Wright, was knocked overboard by the boom and drowned off Oswego - and the Ariadne of Newcastle and the Kate of Oakville, were regular traders there. The Kate was hauled out on shipways beside the pier and rebuilt one winter by or for Cap. Alex. Peters, of Toronto, who also owned the schooner New Dominion, built at Port Dalhousie in 1867 - one of several vessels launched in Confederation year and so named. Another schooner patron of Port Granby was the North Star of Port Hope, which had a fine gilded star twinkling above her main truck. She was lost on the Scotch Bonnet, fifty miles away, and perhaps it is her bones that line on the shoe of Prince Edward County yet just outside Nicholson's Island.
Still another occasional caller at Port Granby was the Brothers of Bronte, not to be confused with the Two Brothers mentioned earlier. The Brothers was a little scow schooner sailed by the late Capt. Joseph Williams, Capt. Thomas Williams and Capt. John Williams, when all boys together in their teens; all except John, who had scarcely attained that dignity. Capt. John, who sailed to Oswego last month in an open boat with the sea scouts, just for the fun of it, was speaking recently of one trip the Brothers made to Port Granby with a load of oak flitches - planks cut with the curve of the tree - for the rebuilding of the Kate. His brother, Joseph was the ship carpenter who did the work on her. Another trip Capt. Joe had to load a boiler at Port Granby. How the boiler got there is unknown, but the shippers rolled it over the bank, and he put the Brothers on the beach opposite one smooth day, ran timbers ashore, plugged the ends of the flues, and parbuckled the boiler up the skids on to the deck. Then he hove the Brothers off with her windlass, having dropped an anchor in deep water, with a good scope of chain, before easing her in on to the gravel. Ingenious, but all in the day's work with the Williams boys. The loading operation was typical of the port facilities in the days before extension cranes and automatic hoppers.
Grain was loaded at Port Granby by running it down the pier on the raised trackway or "hurricane deck" of the pier in little tip-carts holding 25 bushels apiece. Four horses were employed, keeping up a continuous stream of grain from the elevator to the schooner. When masts were being brought in from the ridges they would have three teams on them, the smaller end of the tree resting on bobsleighs, the butt end trailing. Their hundred-foot lengths would sweep away the village fences as they turned the corners. The masts were not shipped by schooner, but gathered into rafts after reaching the shore and towed away by tugs.
One calm Sunday evening a big black schooner, foreign looking, three-masted, square-rigged forward, floated gently up the lake opposite Port Granby pier and dropped her yawlboat from the Davis. The boat was sculled to the beach, with the captain and his wife in the stern sheets. The captain was Scotch. he said his schooner was a French vessel, with a name like Croix de France or Prix de France, from Sherbrooke, Que., and he had brought her to Port Granby to load 80 cords of beech and maple for some port - possibly Toronto - on his way up the lake. Cordwood was much in demand, being at this time the fuel for all city and country houses and for most factory boilers, besides locomotives and steamers. In fact, many of the old walking-beam side-wheelers steered a course from woodpile to woodpile rather from port to port, their furnace rooms craving cordwood and still more cordwood.
The Scotchman was told he could make his vessel fast to the buoy that marked the big 700-lb hauling-off anchor that still likes on the lake bottom after a half a century's disuse. he gave orders for the mooring and drove with his wife to the wood-shippers place, which was at some distance, to arrange for his cargo. The hospitable Clarke Township people invited the strangers to spend the night on shore, and as the hour was late when the business had been transacted they did so.
When captain and wife came back to the beach in the morning the schooner had almost climbed the bank. It had breezed up in the night. Her mooring cable was strong and the big anchor had held, but unfortunately the vessel's windlass-barrel had rotted under the whelps, and it tore out of her when she began to jump. As she was cargo-free she drove into very shallow water before grounding.
The wind increased to a gale and the poor ship pounded out her bottom on the beach boulders and broke up. Ere day was done she was in shorter pieces than the cordwood she had tried to get. She was all built of northern pine, with no oak in her at all, except perhaps her keel. Only her masts and spars were left. Her captain took the disaster philosophically, which is probably more than the owners or insurance companies did. He engaged men and teams, gathered her masts and spars, coiled her running and standing rigging, parcelled her sails into bundles, and shipped the outfit back to Sherbrooke on the old Grand Trunk, which ran close to the lake shore.
The cordwood trade was one of Port Granby's features. Like that in barley it held great peril for the vessels attempting to load on this shelterless sector on Lake Ontario's northern shore. Another victim was the Lord Nelson of Bronte, a long, narrow shoal-draft fore-and-after, carrying cordwood and beach stone, owned and sailed by Capt. Wm. Woodhouse of Toronto. The late Magistrate O'Connor recalled her smart appearance, fresh in black and red paint, on an Easter Sunday, in Frenchman's Bay, 67 years ago. It was soon afterwards that she came to Port Granby to load wood., She could carry thirty-five cords.
In swinging off from the pier she failed to gather way and drove in on a big boulder, which broke her back. then the wind blew, and the sea rose and destroyed her. The sea usually did that if a vessel got aground. The Lord Nelson, almost flat-bottomed, might have been thought to have a good chance of hauling off, even when she touched; but her finis was written.
More fortunate was the much larger schooner Ariadne, when owned by Capt. Frank Gibson of Oshawa, and Magistrate Robinson of Newcastle. She later came to a tragic end at Stony Point, below Oswego, losing Capt. Sutherland McKay and his father, who was mate, and half his crew. But this time, at Port Granby, the Ariadne, after unloading a cargo of young apple trees and taking in 10,000 bushels of barley, turned right round in her tracks when they tried to start her off. She sagged in on the shore, close to the pier she had just left. She stuck hard and fast and thousands of bushels of her cargo had to be thrown overboard before she was lightened sufficiently to be floated off. Then the thrifty farmers had sold the barley to the shippers at $1.15 a bushel came with wagons and shovels and scooped it up from the beach as it washed in with the waves. They paid 10 cents a bushel for all they salvaged, teamed it home, dried it out, and used it for stock feed. Farming paid in those days.
The Ariadne's deck beams above one bunk in her forecastle, were notched with the tally which a Newcastle man, known only as "The Dummy" but so known all over the lakes, kept of his days aboard her. "The Dummy" was exceedingly intelligent, a competent sailorman, and a thorough good citizen, but he could say nothing and hear little more. he chose this manner of keeping his accounts. By his earnings he maintained and educated a sister from her babyhood, and she attained a responsible position. He was particular of his company and would only sail in the Ariadne when Capt. Gibson was in command. He also sailed by choice with the Williams boys in the Highland Beauty in to which they graded from the Brothers.
"He was an A-1 sailorman, he could splice, reef and steer with any on the lake," said the late Captain Joseph Williams not a year ago. "Late one fall, in a gale down Lake Ontario, that Dummy was washed overboard from the Ariadne with about thirty thousand feet of lumber in the deckload, at 3 o'clock in the morning. It was black as pitch and thee was no chance of getting him; in fact it was some time before it was discovered that he was gone.
"The Ariadne drove along for Oswego and made port next day. Here Capt. Gibson saw in the Palladium that a steam barge, bound down Lake Ontario, had reported at the harbor office that she had picked up a sailor on a scattered raft of lumber at daylight. The survivor, the captain said, was so exhausted by being in the water so long that he was unable to tell what vessel he came from or even to speak. Capt. Gibson walked across the bridge to where the steam barge was lying and was rejoiced to find his Dummy alive and well, and to take him back to cut more notches in the deck-beams."