The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 22 Jul 1913

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p.1 A Kingston Sailor Charged With Killing - William McKillop, who was shot on the steamer Algonquin, of the Maple Leaf Milling Co., as the steamer was passing through the Soulanges on July 11th, has died; Edward Wainwright, being held, claimed the shooting was accidental.



Most Thankless, Unattractive and Profitless.

[Toronto News]

"Following the lakes," said a prominent merchant, "is one of the most thankless, unattractive and profitless vocations in Canadian industrial life. In short, it is, as the sailors declare, something like thirty or forty times each day "a dog's life."

Inquiries, however, lead to the question: Is that merchant right; is "following the lakes" as a profession an impecunious calling and is it unattractive. Few of the individuals who are a part of the masses which form the populations of our large have, it is possible, ever considered the matter, even though it is a well known fact that the men who man our lake vessels help to carry on one of the most essential parts of present day Canadian commerce. True, in Toronto for instance, they have, maybe while being transported across Lake Ontario on one of the sumptuous and fleet passenger steamers, paused to think of the matter when one of the stumpy, riggingless rusty freighters, which occasionally drop into Toronto harbor, hove into sight. But even then it is possible that the full import of the figures which are periodically published by the Department of Marine and Fisheries regarding the traffic which has passed through such and such a point is not fully comprehended.

On The Great Lakes.

Sailing the Great Lakes is a profession, if it can be called such, of widest possibilities, that the young man of today who is not blessed with an academic training can adopt. True, it has its drawbacks and disadvantages - it carries little or no social status with it and for many years, possibly, it is productive of but little money, but taken all in all, it is doubtful if one to whom the frivolous side of life is immaterial can enter a calling which offers more chances for rapid and satisfactory advancement up the ladder of success. To look at the career of the average lake captain, aside from those who man the ships in the passenger traffic, in nine cases out of ten investigation will reveal the fact that his father was a farmer, often from that country usually referred to by American "steamboat men" as the "Blue Mountain Country," that is around the shores of Georgian Bay. In a great many other cases, however, the parent may have tilled the sod of that part of the Niagara peninsula through which the Welland canal lies.

At any rate, the son will in all likelihood have heard his former schoolmates, when they return home in the winter after a season spent on the lakes, speaking in animated and enthusiastic tones of different lake topics - the iron ore trade, the Montreal package freight route, or, maybe, the "Turkey trail," that picturesque channel running from the foot of Georgian Bay along the North Shore of enormous Lake Huron to Sault Ste. Marie. And hearing them eulogize, or otherwise, as the case may be, inspired to emulate their example and also to be able to talk in nonchalant tones of a profession which, apparently, embraces adventure, sight seeing and romance as part and parcel of the ordinary day's routine.

Accordingly, after having turned a deaf ear to the efforts of his fearful mother and exasperated father to dissuade him from carrying out his rather vague intentions, he will pack his telescope and make his way to the most convenient lake port.

How He Gets A Job.

There he will, timorously, taking his cue from the sea stories he has so insatiably devoured, find the docks and inquire of the first individual who is pointed out to him as the "mate," if there is a berth open. In nine cases out of ten, providing he bears some semblance to a man who can do a hearty day's work, he will encounter little difficulty in securing a job as deckhand. And then if nothing turns him from his purpose he will be fairly on his way to becoming a skipper because it is not nearly as far from the deck of a lake vessel to the bridge as one might suppose.

Of course he will embark upon the life at a salary which would make a self-respecting office boy blush and would send the ordinary stenographer into tears of mortification. Aside from that, however, he will be just as far ahead in life as if he had gone into the bank, as his father quite possibly had wanted him to do, or if he had worried his way into the undergraduate class at some institute of learning. He will of course find himself quartered with a class of men absolutely devoid of moral or intellectual training and he will discover that the work he is asked to do is discouraging to say the least. But if he is made of anything like the right material and possesses even a normal amount of brains he will not remain in the forecastle for any prolonged period.

Opportunity Comes.

Maybe such cases are not infrequent - he will be promoted to that dizzy altitude occupied by the man who goes by the appellation "watchman," within the course of a couple of months, sometimes after a couple of weeks, if help is short and a vacancy has occurred. At all events his opportunity will come quickly.

While engaged as a deckhand he will have conquered some of the intricacies of shipwork - how to put in a splice, tie the different knots used on modern steam vessels, operate steam winches and perhaps box the compass. When he ascends to the position of watchman he will, if he does not already know these things, be forced to learn them under the tuition of the first and second officers, so rapidly that no one will be more surprised than himself. And once he has overcome them he will have few other qualifications to acquire which are necessary to go up still another step to take the wheel in the capacity of quarter master, or wheelsman as it is characterized on the lakes. That promotion may come before he has completed his first season on the vessels, perhaps not until the second season. But providing he has shown himself capable of handling the duties incidental to a wheelsman's station he will get there at any rate before the ice has formed at the close of his second fall of sailing.

The Second Mate.

From wheelsman to second mate is the next step. On the Canadian side of the lakes, unlike the American, no certificate of competency is required of a second mate, although the great majority of them have passed their junior officer examinations. As a wheelsman the aspirant mariner will have drawn the astonishing salary of perhaps forty dollars a month. That amount of course, would have been perfectly clear money, as practically no expenses are attached to life aboard ship. In a similar capacity on a deep sea vessel he would have received something like $45 per month, and the accommodation would have been infinitely inferior.

As a second mate his scale of remuneration will have been increased to the neighborhood of $50, perhaps $55. His work will have become much lighter, and his regrets for having "left the farm to go sailing" diminished almost to the disappearing point. And last but not least he will be now in a fair way to getting the tips of his fingers on the top rung of the ladder of success.

The First Officer.

The first officer, in reality the man who commands the ship, although the captain is by law all powerful, depends much upon circumstances. No opening may occur before his first season as second mate has been completed, and then again it may not occur for seasons. Usually however, particularly of very recent years, an officer who has displayed a marked ability as a navigator may secure a billet as mate after some sixteen months service.

But the next step - from mate to captain - is the long and extremely precarious one. Cases are on record where men have reached the bridge within the short career of five years but as against this innumerable instances where men have served as first officer for the greater part of their lives without having been given an opportunity. And there is another side to the matter. The same as in every other profession "pull" is an exceedingly valuable asset and one that cannot be underestimated.

Captain's Wages.

As a captain a man will be remunerated at the start wth a salary of about $1,300 for the season's work, a period of some seven months. The conditions under which he lives will be fully equal in the great majority of cases to those prevalent in the average respectable hostelry ashore, and his work will, except under certain circumstances, be anything but tedious or nerve-racking as it is generally reputed to be.

Now had the farming boy remained on the farm he would, after the average number of years it takes the average steamship man on the lakes to reach the bridge, be well on his way to owning a plot of land and the hours he would have been forced to work to retain that same plot would have been inconceivable to the sailor-man. If he had left the farm and sought wealth and prosperity in a community of any dimensions and he the average youth at the end of six or seven years might have been receiving the salary of $1,000 per year and out of this would have to come his living expenses.



The schooner Katie Eccles arrived from Sodus with coal for the cotton mill.

The government boat Maggie May was in port. She has been making an inspection of the Rideau.

The steamer Sowards, unloading coal at Rockwood hospital, cleared for Oswego.

The schooner Julia B. Merrill from Charlotte is unloading coal at the cotton mill.

M.T. Co.'s elevator: steamer Acadian from Fort William, discharging wheat and flax, will clear to Belleville to load cement for Fort William; tug Bartlett from Port Colborne with barges Hamilton and Selkirk, grain laden, will clear for Montreal; tug Bronson from Montreal with three light barges; steamer Rosemount passed up Tuesday morning, light from Montreal for Fort William; tug Bronson cleared for Montreal with three grain barges.

The steamers Toronto and North King went down and up on Tuesday.

The steamer Rideau Queen is due this evening from Ottawa.

The steamer Prince Rupert passed up on Tuesday morning with steel rails from Sydney, N.S. for Port Arthur.

p.7 Body Found Floating - While making a trip from Sodus to Kingston, on the schooner Julia B. Merrill, coal-laden, on Sunday afternoon, Capt. Henry Daryeau caught sight of a floating body, when about two miles off Sodus Point. He had word sent back to Sodus Point and the body was recovered, but as far as can be learned, it has not yet been positively identified. The schooner Merrill arrived in Kingston on Monday.

Island Ferry Wharf Bad - The Wolfe Island wharf at the foot of Clarence street is in such a bad condition that wagons are unable to drive on parts of it for fear of goiing into the water. The water has kept rising this season to such an extent that it has washed away some of the main supports, leaving the landing full of holes. Unless some repairs are soon made it will be dangerous for the ferry boat to land.



[Brockville Recorder]

The R. & O. company's steamer Thousand Islander completed a 22 hour excursion run Wednesday morning at 3:30, that is a good example of the average St. Lawrence river excursion boat's existence. During the 22 hours two excursions were carried. 1,400 people were handled, 22 stops were made, 250 miles were travelled and 40 tons of coal were consumed. The boat left Ogdensburg at 5:30 on Tuesday morning for Morrisburg, where an excursion party of 500 was taken on for a run to the islands with stops at Iroquois, Cardinal, Prescott, Maitland and Brockville for more passengers. Alexandria Bay was reached at 2:45 p.m. and Thousand Island Park was visited 45 minutes later. On the return trip the boat made what was said to have been the fastest run ever made by a passenger steamer on the St. Lawrence river, covering 20 miles in just one hour. Stops were made at the Canadian ports to discharge passengers and take on others for a searchlight trip to Morrisburg and return. The boat finised the trip at 3:30 Wednesday morning and laid up at Morrisburg. Capt. Kendall, First Officer Murdock, Chief Engineer Hillex and their crew seemingly thought no more of this trip, which is not new to them, than the average business man or mechanic would think of his eight-hour day.

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22 Jul 1913
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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), 22 Jul 1913