The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 12 Nov 1910

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A Good Work.

An institute, which for years has been doing an effective and important work in our city amongst the sailors, who are apt to be overlooked, is the Sailors' Snug Harbor, corner of King and Barracks streets. Sailors have fewer advantages than others. The landsman has his lodge or club or Y.M.C.A., but the sailor, a stranger in every port he touches, is denied any of these privileges.

The Sailors' Snug Harbor seeks to provide for him an attractive place where he may meet his companions when he comes ashore. Since 1904, when it was established, the work at the Sailors' Snug Harbor has steadily grown. It is filling a larger place in the lives of the sailors every year. This year, to the end of October, there have been 2,081 visits by sailors. In order to do still better work, the building has been improved by the renewing of the heating system, the installation of baths and all sanitary arrangements, and providing more space, at an outlay of about $1,200, and a special effort is now being made to raise this amount without placing a mortgage on the building. This good work is deserving of the heartiest support of all citizens and it is trusted that the entire sum may be obtained within a short time.



Early on Saturday morning, the Calvin company was called up to send aid to release the steamer Belleville, which ran aground in a snow storm near Grafton. She is leaking. The steamer Chieftain, wrecking apparatus and men have been sent up to her. The Belleville is en route to Toronto, laden with freight from Montreal.

Marine Paragraphs.

Steamer Alexandria was at Folger's wharf, last night, from Montreal with freight.

The steambarge Mary Louise arrived from Ottawa with a cargo of lumber.

The barge Winnipeg is at Richardson's elevator, loading grain for Montreal.

The sloop Pilot cleared for Howe Island with coal from Crawford's wharf, for John Foley.

The steamer India broke a bucket on her wheel in the Lachine canal early this week. She is now on her way to the Kingston dry dock.

The steamer Prince Rupert is loading hay at Bath and Deseronto for Fort William. When she has discharged her cargo there, she will load wheat for Kingston.

M.T. Co.'s elevator: steamer Renvoyle from Fort William, trans-shipped 80,000 bushels of wheat into barge; tug Glide cleared for Montreal with two grain barges; tug Bronson from Montreal, three light barges.

Swift's wharf: The steamer Dundurn, which made two unsuccessful attempts to get away from Swift's wharf yesterday, succeeded in getting away at twelve o'clock, and proceeded up the lake. The steamer Britannic passed down yesterday. This is her last trip of the season. She will go as far as Cornwall and will lay up there for the winter. The steamer Aletha which has been in the Davis dry-dock for the past three days for repairs, cleared from there last night and will resume her trips to and from bay ports.



When Mariners Steer by the Echoes of Their Whistles.

[Weekly Star]

Navigation on the Great Lakes does not mean quite the same as navigation of the deep blue sea. For one thing the season is short. When the ice goes out in the spring, generally about the end of April, a rush commences, and, American-like never ceases until December 5th, when the insurance companies apply the closure. On that date marine insurance on the Great Lakes comes to a pause. The policies terminate. Those vessels which start out from the freezing harbors after December 5th, do so at the owner's risk.

And from all accounts it is risky enough. Winter seems the natural condition up there on stern-browed Lake Superior, and the softening of summer never suggests more than a temporary relenting. Cold, equinoctial gales disturb September, and snowstorms are liable to occur in October. November is a winter month, but the canals and the harbors are kept from freezing by the ice-breakers, and the grain comes down uninterrupted. And then comes December, and there is no longer question as to title rights to this grim, rugged region - it belongs to the North.

On the sea, a captain is a mariner, pure and simple. Inland navigation is a pilot's job ordinarily. The St. Lawrence and the Mississippi are two instances in point. Navigation on the Big Lakes, however, partakes of the nature of both a pilot's duty and that of a mariner proper. The lake captain's coasts are comparatively close at hand, his sea room is restricted. Islands, reefs, shoals, narrows, channels, capes, and "pints" occur in constant succession - sometimes with surprising suddenness. Water hundreds of fathoms deep will surround a reef which shows but a few feet above the surface, or possibly nothing at all. Especially is this true on the North Shore, where the Laurentian range straggles out into the water. Most of these irregularities, thanks to Lieut. Bayfield, have been on the chart since 1821.

On the charts straight courses are ruled from each port as directly as rocks and islands permit, to open water, and once there, lines are drawn with least possible angling straight to the River St. Mary. All the inner courses are also charted and courses laid down on the charts for vessels of minor draught. A steamboat captain can tell how to get into or out of any of the ports he is familiar with, from memory, rattling off the recitation of the different courses like a parrot, by heart, with as concrete an idea of his imaginery position as though the bow lay ahead of his pilot house window and the wavering compass under his eye.

By these courses, as ruled on the chart, the captain navigates his boat by dark of night or light of day, knowing her speed and the distance she travels in an hour, knowing the length of time which must elapse before it is time to clear a point or wear around an island and bear up a channel. By the clock and the compass he conducts his ship, checked by the number of revolutions of the engine, the patent taffrail log, the lighthouses, the ranges, the buoys, and the landmarks. In a fog, a snowstorm, or of a black night, these latter safeguards are more or less nullified, and as allowance for sidelateral drift, due to wind and sea, must be of necessity largely a matter of expert judgement, it is surprising to find that captains can work their ships under those conditions at all. Constant use of the compass has apparently bred a sort of instinct in these fellows. In pitch dark they can find channels no wider than a street; in a fog they proceed amid the crowd of islands on the North Shore. Captain Peter Campbell used to bring his boat down the North Channel between Manitoulin and the Algoma shore when the fog was so thick he couldn't see the end of his bowsprit. He would blow his steam whistle and steer by the echoes. He knew where he was to within a few rods at any time, eyes open or shut.

One time in a fog, after some hours, a passenger said: "Captain, were do you think we are now?"

"Well," said Campbell, thoughtfully, "we should just be opening up the Straits of Killarney." He looked at his watch and confirmed his own judgement thereby. "The next minute," relates the witness, "the fog rolled aside like a curtain, and there, shining white, were the little frame cottages of Killarney village."

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12 Nov 1910
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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), 12 Nov 1910