The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Turret Cape (Propeller), C104283, aground, 1 Nov 1911

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The Canadian steamer TURRET CAPE, ashore two miles southwest of Cove Island, Georgian Bay, has been abandoned by the owners to the underwriters as a constructive total loss. The steamer is insured for $97,000, and has $10,000 disbursements. The underwriters have asked the Great lakes Towing Company, Canadian Towing & Wrecking Company, Reid Wrecking Company and James Playfair of Midland, Ont., for bids for the job of releasing the steamer and delivering her at a port of repair on the no cure, no pay basis.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Thursday, November 23, 1911

      Ran on Shoal While seeking Shelter - Terrible Experience of Crew
      Taken Off by Tug Harrison And Steamer Abandoned To Underwriters
      In a blinding snowstonn Friday night the steamer Turret Cape ran on a rocky shoal southwest of Cove Island, and is likely to be a total wreck. The crew were saved. The steamer, which is owned by the Canadian lake and ocean Navigation Co. and commanded by Capt. John Wharry of Owen Sound, was proceeding light from Point Edward to
Port Arthur. All day she encountered fresh easterly winds; but about nine o'clock the wind suddenly shifted into the west and greatly increased in strength. His boat being light, and the weather showing every sign of becoming very dirty, Capt. Wharry decided to run under the lee of Cove Island. But in the heavy wind and blinding snowstorm the vessel got off her course and grounded on a rocky shoal about two miles southeast of the Island.
Capt. Wharry had realized the danger of his position and checked the speed of his vessel and took soundings, which showed an ample depth. The inky darkness, and the blinding storm rendered it impossible to determine the position of the vessel, and to add to the difficulty a strong current runs easterly off the had of the Bruce peninsula. The Cove Island light was located about three points on the starboard bow, and apparently several miles away. Five minutes later
the Turret Cape struck with a rending crash and came to an absolute standstill.
      The steamer pounded heavily damaging the bottom plates so badly that the cargo hold was almost immediately flooded. Throughout the night the ship pounded heavily on the shoal and when morning came it was found that the vessel had grounded in a sort of natural pocket up among the breakers, a big ledge of rock projecting a few yards ahead and dangerous treacherous shoals on either side. The hold rapidly filled with water, and the doomed ship settled by the stem, the bow being thrust up out of the water.
      Distress signals were sounded, and the steamer Isabella Sands, Captain Granville hove in to the offing and stood by all day, though he was in danger at times owing to the dangerous nature of the water studied as it is by numerous racks and bars. Saturday morning the tug Queen was sighted, but was unable to come close enough to render any assistance. A message, however, was floated in a bottle from the wrecked boat, and forwarded by the Queen's captain from Tobennory to Owen Sound and to the owners. The tug Harrison left for the scene about midnight with Capt. J.F. Foote, the owner's representative. On reaching the wreck, it was decided on account of the exposed position of the ship, to take the crew off, as they were in danger if the weather should grow worse. It was quite plain that nothing could be done to save the ship. The crew were accordingly taken off except the engineers, who stayed to assist the representatives of the underwriters to whom the vessel was abandoned. With a few days of fine weather it might be possible to release her from the ledge, but the damage at the best, is heavy. At this season of the year it is extremely unlikely that anything will be done. The vessel is valued at $110,000.
      The Turret Cape was of about 2,000 tons burden, and carried a crew of 18 men. She was one of the old semi- whalebacks known as the "turret class. Her officers were Capt. Wharry, of Owen Sound; Mate F. Lawrence, Kingston; Second Mate R.C. Whitehead, Owen Sound; Engineer Geo. Adams, Owen Sound; Second Engineer H.. Shouldice, Owen Sound.
      Owen Sound Sun
      [courtesy Bill Hester]

      Steamer Turret Cape Investigation
      A formal investigation into the loss of the steamer Turret Cape, which was wrecked on Cove Island last month, was held Friday in Toronto by the Dominion Government Wreck Commissioner, Capt. A. J. Damers, Capt. J. B. Foote, and Capt. Saml. Crangle. The finding was that Capt. Wharry, master of the Turret Cape, committed a grave error of judgement by placing his vessel in the bight between Clark Point and Cove Island. His explanation that his ship would have rolled had he shaped a course when off Lyall Island was not acceptable, as a navigator could not expect to sail the lakes without meeting at times weather conditions which would cause vessels to labour and roll in a seaway. In view of the fact that Capt. Wharry apparently did not have officers upon whom he could rely absolutely to check over with him the work of navigating, or the course and bearings of the vessel, the court was inclined to be lenient and it found that the error of judgement in not adopting the most seamanlike course for reaching Port Arthur and in failing to make soundings was not a culpable one. Capt. Wharry's certificate was suspended for only three months, from December 8, 1911, to March 8,1912. The court warned Capt. Wharry that in case of thick weather and when hugging the shore more frequent, sounding should be taken. The mate and second mate are exonerated from blame.
      Capt. Wharry, in giving his evidence claimed that the course he had followed was the best possible, considering the heavy and unfavourable wind. He had employed every method, possible to a seaman to bring his vessel to its destination. The mate corroborated Capt. Wharry's testimony, but, according to Capt. Demers, proved that he was not a very intelligent witness.
Capt R. D. Simpson, called as an expert witness, said that he himself would have shaped a slightly different course, but that Capt. Wharry had done all that he could be expected to do under the circumstances immediately proceeding the accident.
Evidence given by the second mate, the wheelman and other members of the crew tended to show the difficulties recounted by Capt. Wharry, one being a strong current which could not be accurately gauged its velocity differing with the direction and force of the winds.
      The Turret Cape was a steamer of 2,000 tons and carried a crew of18..
      Owen Sound Sun
      December 12,1911
      [courtesy Bill Hester]

      Steamer Turret Cape Released
      The steamer Turret Cape which was grounded on Cove Island on November 1 Jth last was lifted and on Sunday towed to Collingwood. The Turret Cape was at the time of the wreck bound for Port Arthur from Point Edward, and was seeking shelter behind Cove Island.
      The Reid Wrecking Company of Samia has performed one of the cleverest wreckage jobs ever done on the upper lakes. On Sunday their big tug Fisher, arrived at Collingwood with the steel bulk freighter Turret Cape in tow. The steamer which went ashore in a storm last November, had lain among the rocks west of Cove Island during the winter with her bottom punctured, her hull full of water. The wreckers went out a few weeks ago and though interfered with owing to stress of weather have with the exception of a week spent in releasing the steamer Empress of Midland, kept up operations almost continuously, until Thursday night, when the steamer was floated. Immediately upon arrival here the boat was placed in dry dock, and an inspection made by Capt. C. Sinclair and Mr. Hugh Calderwood on behalf of the underwriters and Capt. Thos. Reid, in the interests of the wrecking company. It is estimated that at least 40 of the large steel plates of the hull will require to be removed. The repairs will probably amount to $30,000 and it will be four weeks before the steamer is again in commission.
. The Owen Sound Sun
      May 21,1912

Steam screw TURRET CAPE.* Official Canada No. 104283. Of 1,827 tons gross; 1,142 tons Reg. Built at Sunderland, G. B., 1895. Home port, Montreal, Que. 253.0 x 44.0 x 19. Of 250 horse power. Owned by Turret Steamship Company, of Halifax, N.S.
      * A recovered wreck.
      List of Vessels on the Registry Books of the
      Dominion of Canada on December 31, 1920

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Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Got off
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.306666 Longitude: -81.725
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Turret Cape (Propeller), C104283, aground, 1 Nov 1911