Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Late Gale
New York Spectator (New York, NY), 7 Dec 1842
Full Text

The Late Gale. - It is but seldom that we have to record so many disasters on our inland waters as it has been our misfortune to do within the past few days. A great many lives have been lost, and a large amount of property destroyed. Among the shipwrecks on Lake Ontario was the schooner Sir Francis Bond Head, off the harbor of Toronto. We copy the following account of this disaster from a late Toronto paper, and in doing so, we record another humane act of Capt. Richardson senr., commander of the steamer Transit, and his son who commands the steamer Queen.

This is only one of the many instances in

which Capt. Richardson has risked his life to save his fellow seamen. The life boat spoke of is very small, only intended for one man. The chief object of keeping it on board the Transit is to throw it overboard, as a life buoy, in case any one should fall overboard.

On Thursday last the Sir Francis was riding at anchor, in three fathoms of water, all snug; when about 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon the schooner Shamrock, lying about one hundred yards to windward of her, parted her starboard chain cable, and while endeavoring to clear the Sir Francis, it blowing a gale from the South West, ran foul of her, carrying away her bowsprit, flying jib boom, and best bower anchor, which disabled the vessel entirely.

About 10 o'clock P.M. the Sir Francis began to drift, and on Friday night about 11 o'clock P.M. struck on the bar. The wind had increased to a perfect hurricane. It was snowing at the time, very dark, and the vessel a mass of ice fore and aft. The captain had gone on board the Sarnia on Thursday about 3 P.M. for wood. The vessel at that time was still holding on to her anchor. He endeavored to board her the same evening, when the boat foundered, the crew consisting of seven hands narrowly escaping with their lives.

Immediately after the vessel struck she heeled and fell on her side, the sea making a clear breach over her. The cold was intense. In a short time thee were four feet of water in the hold; the fire was extinguished and the hands on board, five in number, benumbed and drenched to the skin, were obliged as their only chance of safety to huddle themselves into the cabin births.

In this precarious situation, expecting the vessel to go to pieces every moment, they remained till the following morning, when Capt. Richardson, of the steamer Transit, with that promptness and energy for which he is conspicuous, got under way and went to their relief. Being obliged, however, to anchor within half a mile of the stranded vessel, the boats, in spite of the severity of the weather, were hoisted over the side; Capt. Richardson, Capt. Boylon and three men manning the gig, Capt. Richardson of the Queen, and four men, the stern boat; together with the life boat, with one man in it; Capt. Newman, also with a boat belonging to the Sir Francis, and three of the crew who were absent with him, were on the perilous expedition.

According to Capt. Newman's statement the lifeboat was upset, but eventually reached the John Simpson. he himself, also, with those on board the boat of the Sir Francis, rowed alongside of her, and as the boat was full of water hoisted it on board and bailed it out. The crew then manned it again, and by straining every nerve, succeeded at length, in spite of the heavy surf and breakers, in reaching the wreck of the Sir Francis, and eventually landed the poor fellows on board in safety.

The Sir Francis is lying in about 5 1/4 feet of water; the bow of the other schooner in about one foot and a half, the stern part in about four feet. The former vessel is 110 tons burthen, and had when she struck upwards of 1,100 barrels of flour on board; 300 the property of Wm. Gamble, Esq, consigned to Hooker and Henderson; the remainder shipped by Mr. Dyer, of Cleveland, and consigned to Macpherson & Crane.

Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
7 Dec 1842
Richard Palmer Collection
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.614453894267 Longitude: -79.3949317932129
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Late Gale