Dream Came True
Schooner Days No. MXC
By C.H.J. Snider
It will be remembered, perhaps, that poor young Mrs. Doupe, the doctor's bride, dreamed before the Waubuno sailed that they were all struggling in the water with a great weight pressing them down.
That dream was talked of for a long time afterwards. Mrs. Doupe told it before the ship sailed, and begged her husband not to take her. The dream did not save the lives of the honeymooning couple but it did save the lives of other would-be passengers, those who spent the night of Nov. 21, 1879, in the Collingwood hotels instead of on board the weatherbound steamer and were left behind by her unannounced early morning start.
They recalled Mrs. Doupe's dream of a "great weight pressing them down" with many a headshake, and perhaps with prayers of humble thankfulness for their own escape.
In the light of what could be learned from the wreckage they could reconstruct the tragedy. The "great weight" would be the main deck of the capsized steamer, wrenched from it hanging ard lodging knees and the steamer's ribs and sunk remorselessly by the weight of the machinery and the heaviest freight, thrust against it when the vessel turned bottom up.
The catastrophe must have been so sudden that not one of the 24 on board knew what had happened until it was over. One moment they were swaying dizzily in the terrific arc of the vessel's roll, the next they were pressed down inexorably, far, far from light and living air. Not even a cry for help could rise, Nothing but bubbles, unnoticed among frothing billows and raging foam.No one had time
Diligent search, kept up until winter sealed the waters, and resumed in the following spring, accounted for every lifebelt the Waubuno possessed. All were found empty, unused.
No one had time to put one on. She had capsized in the great sea running on this iron bound shore- perhaps while trying to alter her course. That is the danger time. When you get in the trough. Immediately hundreds of tons of cargo, machinery, boiler, engine firebrick, chain cable and everything below decks had burst through the covering normally above them and torn away her whole upper works.
After that, the empty shell of the hull, floating just awash by the buoyancy of the wood in it, would surge along with wind, wave and current-maybe to the nearest rocks, to break up, maybe all the way across Lake Huron.
At the time of the Waubuno tragedy Ontario was more concerned than now over the drink evil. William Beattie was then trying to make Parry Sound a temperance settlement. Others were trying to flood it with liquor. There was big money to be made with it in the lumber caps. There were many Indians in the district, for whom liquor was forbidden.
It is said that, against the opposition of the captain and the engineer of the Waubuno, someone bent on irrigating the Parry Sound desert till it blossomed like the nose forced a consignment of whisky aboard. After the responsible officers, declared there was no more room for cargo, either in the hold or on the main deck, barrels are said to have been rolled on to the upper deck and concealed on the pretended authority of one of the owners. If so tons of whisky 20 feet above the waterline of a narrow steamer would not conduce to equilibrium-neither in the lumber camps for which this cargo was suppose to be intended nor on board the vessel in rough water.
The Waubuno's official measurements (she was built at Port Robinson and registered at Thorold in 1865) were length, stem to stern post 135 ft., beam 18.3 depth of hold 7 feet, net tonnage 105 She was currently reported as a "150-foot steamer of 40- foot breadth." Both measurements might be correct these last being an over-all, from bow-staff to taffrail and across the main deck, guards and paddle boxes, which projected beyond and above the hull. Her superstructure was more than twice as wide s the base which floated it. This would not make for stability.
Many of the paddlewheel steamers of 70 years ago were, like the Waubuno, hard rollers. It was common practice to keep all hands counter-rolling ballast barrels against the sway of these ships in a seaway. It was laborious and not very effective. Barrels of whiskey broken loose and cavorting around on the top deck could capsize the little 100 tons vessel, but even without this problematical addition to her cargo she was hazardous venture in the sea running.
These possibly mythical whisky barrels were not among the cargo salvaged. Indians were suspected probably unjustly, of concealing them and other goods. Lo-the-Poor has been blamed for a great many things which never happened. The Indian Pedonquot reported the capsized hull of the Waubuno long before white searchers got around to it.