The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 19 May 1909

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Number of Sailing Vessels Become Smaller.

A fact which has been noted in marine circles, and has been much commented upon, is that each year, as the vessels fit out, the number of sailing vessels become smaller and smaller. The Kingston fleet is minus a few schooners again this season, steamers and steambarges taking their place.

Some are inclined to believe that the canvas-clad ships will soon be things of the past, but others say that they are bound to continue for years. Time alone will tell this story. Today the number of schooners on the lakes is very small, and as those who operate them, find no fault with the profits in the business, while there are some with steamers, at times find it very hard to make both ends meet. With good weather to favor them, the coal schooners running out of Kingston, to Oswego and Charlotte, make good pay, that is if they have "good luck," in getting loaded and unloaded quickly. Some times, when a vessel goes into port, there are several vessels waiting there, to get loaded, and as a result there is a delay of several days. When this is the case, it means a great deal of expense, as the crew has to be paid for all this loss of time and it certainly makes a big hole in the profits. The captains of these schooners are always doing their best to make quick trips, as it is only in this way that they can make a success of the business.

It is stated that the best of the sailing vessels on the lower lakes today are from twenty-five to fifty years of age, and are worth in the neighborhood of $5,000. When built they cost between $20,000 and $25,000, but slowly they have depreciated and, today, there is comparatively small demand and very few sales of these old boats.

Although there are no new sailing vessels to be noticed on the lakes, there is always a steady movement in the building of barges, mostly for towing purposes. On the River St. Lawrence, between Kingston and Montreal, the barge traffic is very heavy. The sailing vessel has never been popular on the river, as it cannot make time against the currents.

Marine Items.

The steamer Wahcondah called yesterday on her way west.

The schooner Bertha Kalkins arrived from Charlotte with coal for the penitentiary.

The schooner Mary Ann Lydon went to Picton, this morning, to go on the ways for repairs.

The steambarge Westport is at Richardsons' elevator, taking on a cargo of grain for Seeley's Bay.

The schooner Ford River, loading feldspar at Richardsons' elevator, will clear for Charlotte tonight.

The steambarge Kenirving passed yesterday, on her way to Smith's Falls, from Oswego, with coal.

The steambarge John Randall suffered a broken shoe, when coming into the harbor last night, and went on to Deseronto for repairs.

The steamer America will be placed on the Cape Vincent route on June 1st, and the steamer New Island Wanderer will then be put into shape for her season's work among the islands.

M.T. Co.'s elevator: steamer Dunedin, from Fort William, 63,000 bushels of wheat and 31,000 bushels of oats; tug Bartlett, up, two barges, cleared for Montreal with two barges; steamer Dundin cleared for Fort William; steamer Dundee cleared for Belleville to load cement for Port Arthur.

p.3 Wolfe Island, May 19th - ...The ferry steamer is now making her summer trips, leaving the island on the first trip in the morning at 7:30 o'clock and on the last trip leaving the city at 4:30 p.m. The captain and crew are to be commended for their courtesy to the travelling public...



In Favor of the Steamer Caspian.

The judgement of Judge Hodgins, of the Admiralty court, in the case of the Lake Ontario Steamboat Co., of Kingston, vs. Mrs. Fulford, Brockville, will be of interest to marine men, and portions of it are herewith given. In opening, the judge states the case as follows:

This is an action brought by the plaintiff company against Mrs. Fulford, the life-tenant of the steamyacht Magedoma, for damages caused by the collision of the Magedoma with the steamer Caspian in Kingston harbor during the afternoon of Saturday, the 27th June, 1908.

The evidence proves that the steamer Caspian, which had been moored stern inwards on the north-east side of Swift's dock, steamed stern outwards on a semi-circular course from the wharf about five o'clock that afternoon, and after steaming a certain distance out commenced her voyage towards Lake Ontario, taking a semi-circular course under helm hard-a-starboard on a course to port so as to pass clear of the wharf. That about the same time steamer Kingston, which had been moored at the other side of the wharf, also steamed stern outwards, taking a more direct course out, and then started on her voyage to Lake Ontario, on the port side of the Caspian. The yacht Magedoma had been moored bow inwards at the same side of the wharf and between the Kingston and the shore.

After the two steamers, Kingston and Caspian, and were backing out preliminary to commencing their respective voyages, the master in charge of the Caspian noticed that the Magedoma was commencing to back out from the wharf and thereupon the Caspian gave two whistles to warn the yacht that he was directing his course to port which was the proper course to enable him to clear the wharf; but no notice was taken of the warning or any responsive whistle given by the Magedoma.

When nearing the wharf the Caspian was steaming at about ten miles an hour, and the master of the Caspian, seeing that the Magedoma was coming on towards a course intersecting that which the Caspian was taking, ordered the helm first amidships and then hard-a-port so as to steady her and prevent the Caspian's stern swinging on to the Magedoma.

Then the Magedoma continued backing and impinging on the course of the Caspian, and this fact is proved by Captain Johnston, of the Magedoma, who said that he gave the yacht two kicks astern to back her from the dock so as to turn the bow of the yacht, and both he and the seaman, Soderstrom, of the Magedoma, would not deny that there may have been stern way on the Magedoma from these "kicks astern," when the boats came together.

Both the preliminary act of the defendant, and the statement of defence, allege that the collision was occasioned by the fault of the Caspian, the preliminary act stating that: "Shortly before the accident the master of the Caspian blew two whistles, which, to the master of the Magedoma, indicated that the master of the Caspian was to starboard his helm and keep to port. The master of the Caspian did not carry out his signal, but acted opposite thereto and sent his helm to port, and kept to the right. The fifth paragraph of the statement of defence is substantially to the same effect. These whistles of the Caspian were not answered by the Magedoma as they ought to have been, for the rule is that the duty to answer a signal is as imperative as is the duty to give one.

This is confirmed by the evidence of the custom's office, Mr. Comer, the agent, Mr. Horsey, who were on the wharf, and Chief Engineer Leslie, on the Caspian, all of whom said that the Magedoma had not stopped up to the time of the collision; and that she was still going backwards; two of them adding that the Magedoma was moving to cross the bow of the Caspian. And it is proved that the captain of the Magedoma waved his hand to the captain and towards the lake.

This evidence that the Magedoma was moving has not been contradicted, but is confirmed by the evidence of the captain of the Magedoma, and one of the crew, both of whom said they would not swear that the Magedoma had no stern way on her when the boats came together, and the force of the blow on the Caspian, which made a breach in her side aft of the paddle wheel of about three or four feet, and back about ten or twelve feet, confirms this.

The statement of defence further states: "Those in charge of the Caspian disregarded the provisions of the navigation rules adopted by order-in-council, on the 25th April, 1905, and amended on the 18th of May, 1906, and particularly articles 19,27,28 and 29."

Before considering these rules, it may be proper to cite here the view expressed by the Supreme Court of the United States on the right of a backing steamer as against a steamer on her regular course in mid-river. In giving judgement, the Servia (1892), 149 U.S. at page 156, the court said: "The Noorland (the backing steamer) was at no time before the collision, on a definite course as contemplated by the statute, and rules of navigation; and on the facts found she cannot claim she had the right of way against the Servia. The statutory and steering and sailing rules have little application to a vessel backing out of a slip before taking her course; but the case is one of special circumstances under rule 24 (Canadian rules 27 and 29), requiring each vessel to watch and be guided by the movements of the other." See further as to "special circumstances" the Tweedsdale (1889) p.164, and the Prince Leopold de Belgique (1909), p. 108.

This view of the rule as to "special circumstances" did not appear to have been entertained by the captain of the Magedoma, who claimed before me that it was not his duty to go ahead and get out of the way of the Caspian and so he allowed his yacht to continue her stern-way in backing towards the course the Caspian was taking that the speed proved, instead of making her engine move her ahead, and away from that course, and so giving the Caspian the right of way which his wave of the hand to her seems to have indicated. And as to the duty to exercise reasonable skill in such an emergency, see the Sunlight (1904), p. 100. And as to the duty where there is a "chance of escape from a collision," and an "actual necessity" for escape, it is admitted that a captain is justified in taking the benefit of a chance, although it necessitates a departure from the rules. See the Benares (1883), 9 p.d. 16.

In this case I find that when the possibility of a risk of collision was imminent, the Caspian was on her regular course, steaming at the rate of ten miles an hour, that she promptly steadied her course to prevent the swing of her stern causing her to strike the Magedoma, that after the Magedoma's engine had been given two kicks to give her stern-way and to back out from the dock, it was not reversed so as to give her headway, and out of the course, intersecting that on which the Caspian was steaming at the rate mentioned, and that she neglected in the special circumstance of the peril then imminent, to observe the dictates of the highest prudence, and "especially the just and peremptory rules of precaution," which the rules enforce; and that it was her duty to cause her engine to move her ahead so as to keep her out of the course the Caspian was taking as would clearly have best averted the collision.

The defence contends that the damages claimed by the Caspian cannot include the loss of profits that might have been made had the Caspian been able to continue her voyage on the Saturday afternoon of the collision, then to Cobourg, and Port Hope and return to Charlotte and then back to Kingston. The Sunday continuation of the voyage is objected to by the defendants as being an "excursion." But this objection is not sustained by the Lord's Day Act for it allows "that continuation to their destination of trains and vessels in transit when the Lord's Day begins, and work incidental thereto."

And as to estimated profits lost by the cancellation of the proposed voyage then just begun, I think they are allowable under the case of the Argentino (1888) 13 P.D. 61 and 191, and in appeal 14 A.C., 519, as the profits the Caspian might ordinarily and fairly be expected to earn on her advertised voyage, and which but for the collision might have been realized by the plaintiff's company.

I, therefore, assess the damages to which the plaintiffs are entitled against the defendant at $460.76, costs to follow the event. The claim of the defendant for damages against the Caspian is dismissed.

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19 May 1909
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 19 May 1909