The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Three Friends (Schooner), sunk, 29 Oct 1875

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Duffin's Creek, Oct. 30. -- The schooner THREE FRIENDS, from Oswego, laden with coal, sunk in the lake on Friday morning at half past three o'clock. The crew were all saved and landed on the beach south east of here, in a yawl this morning at Half past four, so exhausted and benumbed with cold that they could not stand. One woman on board escaped in her night clothes alone.
      Toronto Daily Globe
      Monday, November 1, 1875
      . . . . .

      Sufferings of the Crew
      Statement Of The Captain
      Duffins Creek, Nov. Ist.
      The casualties among the shipping on Lake Ontario have been during the past year comparatively few in number. The weather recently has been rough and stormy, but beyond the loss of spars and bulwarks nothing of a very disastrous character has occurred. This is the more to be wondered at when the fitting out of many of the vessels trading along the shores of the lake is considered. In many instances owners of vessels run things too close. Vessels are sent out without any lashings or preservers for use in case of bad weather setting in and accidents occurring,and generally the ships compass is so out of order that it is practically useless. It is seldom that we have had to record the foundering of a vessel in Lake Ontario,accompanied with the privations and exposure which befell the Captain, his wife, and crew of the schooner THREE FRIENDS on Thursday night last.
      The schooner left Oswego on Thursday afternoon laden with coal, which was consigned to a firm in Toronto. The weather looked stormy but no danger was apprehended. Towards midnight, it appears, the vessel would not answer her helm, and the wind and sea increasing, the captain endeavoured to steer a straight course for Toronto, and soon afterwards the vessel began to heel over. An attempt was made to bring the vessel to,but the captain was unable to do so. The vessel soon after this began to settle down; and the captain, seeing that his vessel could not live out the gale, gave orders for the boat to be got ready for launching. He then went to the cabin where his wife was,and taking her in his arms carried her to the boat, and the crew having also got into the boat, it was shoved off from the sinking vessel. Before the boat got clear of the ship, the mainmast went by the board, and the topmast falling athwart the boat there was great danger of it being swamped. After some difficulty the boat was got clear of the topmast gear, and the occupants were left in an open boat, with a heavy sea running, and half a gale of wind blowing, and with only one oar to manage the boat, the other one having been broken in clearing away the topmast.
      The situation of the boat's crew was a most perilous one. The mate steered the boat with the one oar whilst the captain looked after his wife, who had only her night dress on, and gave the necessary orders for steering the boat. For over thirty hours they were at the mercy of the wind and waves, and great credit is due the mate, Joseph Lennox, for manfully sticking to his post in steering the boat. The three other men gave up in despair during Friday night, but the mate made them lend a helping hand in guiding the boat. The Captain during the whole time kept watch over his wife, sheltering her as far as he could from the inclemency of the weather.
      About 5 o'clock on Saturday morning the boat drifted on shore at Sparks Point, about six miles west of Whitby. The captains wife was in an unconscious state, and it is feared she will lose the use of her limbs. The crew were more dead than alive, but through the generous help afforded by Mr.Thomas Field they have now recovered, with the exception of Mrs. Malone and one of the crew, from the effects of their perilous voyage.
The schooner THREE FRIENDS was owned by Mrs. Malone, of Oswego, and was insured for $5,500 and was classed B I. She was built at Port Dover in 1864, and is well known as a trader on the lake. The cargo of coal which she was laden with was shipped by E. M. Fort, of Oswego, for James Myles of Toronto. Mr Myles however, states that he did not know of the coal being shipped to him, and carried no risk on the cargo.
The following is the statement made by Capt. Malone, and which is corroborated by the mate, Joseph Lennox:-
      "I left Oswege last Thursday afternoon between two and three o'clock, loaded with two hundred and fifteen tons of Blossburg coal, shipped for Jas. Myles & Co., of Toronto. When we left Oswego the wind was southerly-about a three mile breeze-there being some nine vessels in company. We steered west, half south, until we got to Little Sodus, about fifteen miles up the lake. The wind then canted to the eastward of south; seeing that our canvas would not draw on one side we put a sail on each side of the vessel, mainsail on the port side, and foresail on the starboard. We steered that way until twelve o'clock that night, the wind canting to the eastward all the time, so that the vessel would not head any more than west by south, which run us in on the land too much. At twelve o'clock we were abreast of Charlotte Light, between three or four miles from the land; jibed her foresail, wind canting to the eastward all the while, when we jibed over and hauled her up west-north-west to clear Braddocks' Point. Immediately we got the canvas trimmed and took in the gafftop sails and furled them, the wind canted north-east with a heavy sea on. We then hauled the ship up north-west, and made for Toronto. The vessel began to lay over from the force of the sea. Settled away the mainsail to reef it, and put a reef in the mainsail. The vessel appeared to be laying over all the while. Took in the jib-topsail and settled away the foresail. Thinking there was something wrong by the vessel acting in such a manner, hauled down the flying jib and stay-sail with the intention of bringing the vessel to. She would not come head to wind. Heard something crack; put the becket on the wheel and went amidships, and made inquiry of the men as to what was the matter. The men said it was a trough for carrying water, which had struck the bulwarks. Told the mate to furl the jib; while this was being done I went down into the after cabin to see if there was any water coming out of the port windows. Finding everything all right, I spoke to my wife who was lying in bed. She asked me if it was blowing heavy. I told her there was a good stiff breeze, with a heavy sea on. She asked me if there was any danger, and I told her I thought not. I then went on deck and called the mate, who was forward. He came aft and I told him to lash two oars in the boat. The mate took the oars to lash them in the boat, but he found he had nothing to lash them with, I went into the cabin to get a piece of spun yarn, which I brought on deck, together with a sharp axe in case of being needed to cut away the davit falls. Seeing the vessel was settling down in the stern, I went and got my wife out of the cabin. She was in her night clotheg. I told her to get into the boat and lay down in the bottom and hold on to the thwart, I then cut the raising lashing of the boat, and the mate cut the gripes and the port-fall.
The stern of the boat settled in the water, when the crew jumped into the boat. The gripe jammed and I had to cut them again. During this time the schooner settled so much that we unhooked the starboard tackle fall of the boat and shoved off from the ship, which was sinking fast; she appeared to be going down bodily. The vessel afterward listed to port. In getting clear with the boat we dropped to leeward and the ship also dropped to leeward. The main mast fell and the maintopmast fell across the boat. We had an oar in the scull-hole which we had to use for a lever in order to get her clear of the topmast. The oar broke, which left us with only one oar. The ship then righted on an even keel and went down stern first slowly. We run the boat with the sea and wind our course being about south-west. This was about four O'clock a. m.. It was about half-past three when I got the axe from the cabin of the schooner.
      We ran in a south-westerly direction until daylight, not discerning any land to the southward, I looked to the northward and saw the land looming. I headed the boat northwest and continued that coarse all day. In the evening we made the land, which we took to be Cobourg, but it was Darlington. We could not reach the land on account of the sea and wind, having but one oar in the boat. We were obliged to let the boat drift all that evening until midnight, when we saw a light on shore. The wind canted to the eastward and allowed us to get in under the land. About four o'clock on the Saturday morning a hailstorm accompanied with sleet and rain, set in, and wind southwest. We could not fetch the light owing to the heavy seas running. We afterwards succeeded in reaching Sparkes' Point, six miles west of Whitby, with a heavy sea running on the beach. The boat struck about a hundred yards from land. The next sea half filled the boat, which was still being driven towards shore. When the boat struck the last time the men jumped out with the painter and kept her from going back with the receding seas. I stopped in the boat holding my wife, who was unconscious, caused by cold and exposure. When the boat was stopped among the rocks I got my wife ashore. The crew were so benumbed from wet and exposure that they could not stand on their feet. After a time one of the men managed to crawl to a farmhouse
and he told them of our condition. The farmer Thomas Fields, brought some clothing for my wife, and she was afterwards carried to the farmhouse. Some of the crew crawled to the farmhouse, and others the best way they could. Every attention was shown to us by Mr. Fields and his wife. My wife was put to bed and the rest of us had a good warm breakfast given us. My wife's limbs appeared to be paralysed. I got a horse and buggy, and brought her to Dr. Tucker, who lives in this village. The Doctor says my wife will require great care before she get the use of her limbs. One of the crew is still unable to leave Mr. Field's, owing to his being unable to walk. Two of the crew have gone on to Toronto, where they belong, and the mate and I are waiting here until my wife recovery so that I can take her home to Oswego.
The kindness of Mr. Field and his wife I shall never forget, and also Mr. Fossett's kindness in lending me the horse and buggy..
      Toronto Daily Globe
      Tuesday, November 2, 1875

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Reason: sunk
Lives: nil
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.795555 Longitude: -77.905555
William R. McNeil
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Three Friends (Schooner), sunk, 29 Oct 1875