Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Take 15,000 Oldtimers for Toronto's Tonnage Now: Schooner Days DLXXXII (582)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 27 Mar 1943
Full Text
Take 15,000 Oldtimers for Toronto's Tonnage Now
Schooner Days DLXXXII (582)

by C. H. J. Snider


Newfoundland Uses As Many Schooners as Great Lakes Ever Had -

Eyepoppers For More Than Cat Hollow Skippers


A NAVAL OFFICER, just back from bringing a flock of Fairmiles through a March gale so cold it froze the ocean under them as well as on them, gave the Shellbacks the interesting news this week that there are fifteen hundred schooners still working out of Newfoundland. Freighting and fishing are their jobs, and, though many of them have auxiliary power, they work under sail all they can, both from preference and to cut down costs. They are well kept up and they are making money as they deserve. In that ironbound island, where there are few railways and highways, the schooners are a principal means of communication and transport, for steamers are busy at something else. The vessels run in size from big ones like the Bluenose, 143 feet over all, to little 40-footers.

Fifteen hundred schooners is as many as we ever had on the five Great Lakes in the hey-day of schoonerdom. More sailing vessels than that were built in the century iand a half of sail, but there were never more than fifteen hundred in service even in the greatest years, which were the 1870's.


ANOTHER ticket from our friend the chief of police in Oswego, N.Y. He says (being very hard-boiled like all police chiefs) "The old skippers from Cat Hollow would be surprised to see this—about four hours in the lake, four hours loading and four hours to unload, sixteen hours for the whole round trip."

"This" is a circled item in the Oswego Palladium-Times which shows that the steamship Fontana made 143 trips from Sodus, N.Y., bringing in 592,888 tons of coal to Oswego last year. The total tonnage of the port grew to 2,012,826 tons, in 746 vessels—an impressive increase from 87,377 tons in 73 vessels in 1931.

"It would take," said the paper, "8,051 schooners to carry the port's 1942 tonnage."

The chief is right. The old skippers from Cat Hollow—they held their Sailors' Farewell Service last Sunday evening in Colborne this year with Capt. Chas. E. Redfearn on the bridge—would indeed be surprised at sixteen hour round trips from Oswego. The schoonerman who made three a week deserved—even if he didn't get—the harbor commissioner's hat for that. Capt. James H. Peacock, Cat Hollow captain, did it once with the Mary Everett, carrying lumber out of Port Hope. He was denied the standing award of the hat because he was then a "stranger"—from twenty miles away!

But the old skippers' eyes would pop even more at the idea of carrying coal to Oswego, for up to a few years ago that was as improbable as carrying coals to Newcastle. In schooner times Oswego was the great export coal port of Lake Ontario, the little fore-and-afters lining up at the D.L. and W. trestle to load coal for Kingston, Bay of Quinte, Cobourg, Port Hope, Whitby, Toronto, Oakville or Hamilton, after they had unloaded their grain or lumber from the north shore. Many of them came in empty and never carried anything but coal from Oswego, as Ontario shifted from cordwood to anthracite and bituminous. If they made one round trip every week in the eight-month season they were doing well.

When the barley trade blew up and the brewery elevators disappeared Oswego became Lake Ontario's principal coal port. Then Little Sodus or Fair Haven was developed by the railways. Its coal trestles were burned out twenty years ago, and Great Sodus, within thirty miles of Oswego, flourished all the more, being a shorter haul from the Pennsylvania fields. Now, apparently, Sodus is supplying not only Ontario but New York state lakeports.

Another eye-popper for old timers, new timers and perhaps even you and me are the port figures for Toronto. Last year the total port tonnage was 3,692,000 tons—the cargoes of 14,768 schooners of the old times, taking the Oswego average of 250 tons burden, so as to include the little hookers as well as the canallers.

Fourteen thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight schooners! Coupled bow and stern on the shortest possible towlines such a fleet would stretch from Toronto to Oswego and back to Toronto and almost to Oswego again. Yet one 15,000-tonner, like the Gleneagles which now fills the skyline (and much of the harbor) at the foot of Bay street would carry the cargoes of sixty of these little schooners such as once swarmed the lakes.

Toronto never had 14,768 schooners, nor Oswego 8,051. Neither Toronto nor Oswego had as many as a hundred at any one time. Although possibly a thousand schooner names could be compiled from either ports' arrivals and clearances. Toronto port figures for 1942 show 2,429 arrivals and 2,480 clearances. This does not mean that 2,429 different vessels came into the port, for the same vessel might be down on the harbor books a hundred times or more, like the Fontana at Oswego. Anyway, it's a big showing.




Sir,—I have just finished this week's "Schooner Days," my favorite Sunday reading. I have often wondered if you have written, or will be writing, of a boat named the "Jura."

Since I am particularly interested in her history, could you enlighten me or tell me where I might find the information?

Thanking you for many enjoyable articles, I am

Yours very truly,


850 Dovercourt road.

THERE was a picture of the Jura in recently through the kindness of Capt. Peter B. Shaw, Mount Joy avenue, Toronto, who might be able to tell you more than my meagre information. She was a fine little schooner, commemorating the mountains of Jura, dear to the Hebridean hearts of Cramahe Township, where these Highlanders settled, and where the vessel was built by Capt. John Shaw in 1862.

It was at the old official "Port of Cramaha" in the marine registers. The port does not seem to have had an existence otherwise, and it comprehended Colborne, Lakeport, Keeler's Creek and Lead Creek. The Jura was 88 feet long, 20 feet 3 inches beam, 7 feet 6 inches depth of hold and 96 tons register. She could carry 8,000 bushels of barley and was a money maker. Capt. Shaw sold her and her new captain and owner got her ashore on the Duckling Bar at the entrance to the Upper Gap, in a snowstorm. He was a sick man at the time and had to be taken off in the lifeboat with his crew. The staunch little Jura worked herself free and sailed on up the Gap through the Timber Island passage under bare poles before a stiff southerly blow, going too fast for the would-be salvagers who chased her in the hope of making a good haul. She struck on Cape Versey and there went to pieces. Her maintopmast was long afterwards a flagpole for a residence on that beetling cliff. Sailors and even official records often miscalled the Jura the Jury, but of course no Hebridean was never guilty of such a solecism.



We also had the Mary E. Perew in the paper a few weeks ago, a lake barquentine of the 1860's. It was a thrill to get a letter—and an order for more copies—soon afterwards from Beverly Hills, California, from Frank Perew, son of Capt. Frank Perew, of Buffalo, for whom this fine vessel was built eighty years ago. It shows how wide the wake of Schooner Days spreads, when California calls so promptly for more.



Dear sir,—In reference to your splendid articles regarding Schooner Days and being an old sea dog, and a shut-in for years, I do enjoy your many articles, and reading of your square rigger, the Harbinger, Saturday evening's Telegram, it puts me in mind of being on board the 6-masted ship France, a French ship carrying 6 masts. Would you kindly tell me what they called the last mast? Wishing you the best of health.

I remain yours truly,


55 Stephenson avenue.

Thanks for the health wish. Heaven knows what the Frenchies called that mast, Mr. Reid, but I don't. But in the Thomas W. Lawson, the world's largest schooner, and seven masted, the masts were named fore, main, mizzen, spanker, jigger, driver and pusher; or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for fun. In the six-masted schooner Ruth E. Merrill, out of Boston forty years ago, the sixth mast was also called the driver, so that's what I would call the sixth mast in La France. She was in Bermuda some time ago; about 1928, I think it was.

On the lakes we called the third mast the mizzen, and the fourth mast the jigger, skipping the "spanker," which the Lawson terminology used. The only five-masted sailing vessel I know of on the lakes was the David Dows, and I have never heard how her fifth mast was named; probably driver. Capt. John Williams was telling us on his birthday this week that he was aboard the Dows in Toledo before she started on her first voyage in 1882.

On the New England coast and the Maritimes the aftermost mast in a three-masted or four-masted schooner is often called the spanker mast, instead of mizzen or jigger, because the wide sail set on it corresponds in shape to a square rigger's spanker, although it does not correspond in size, being the largest sail in the vessel. All the others have short booms and are narrow. On the lakes the practice was different, the aftermost mast in a three, four or five-master being the smallest, and carrying the smaller sail.



BULK FREIGHTER "GLENEAGLES" of Midland in her winter berth at the foot of Bay street, a March waterfront study by A. Van, who have to do some cold rowing to get the picture. Not the largest vessel to visit Toronto harbor, the Gleneagles is still a big laker. Her length is 583 from beam 60 feet, depth of hold 32 feet, and rated carrying capacity 455,000 bushels of wheat, which is 13,650 tons deadweight. She might even float 15,000 tons. Her registered tonnage is 8,233 gross and 4,780 net, these being ship measurement tons and having nothing to do with weight.

Inset is a contemporary portrait of the schooner "HIGHLAND BEAUTY," whose name supplied a nom-de-plume for a repeating contributor to the British War Victims Fund this week. She carried grain out of Toronto fifty years ago—-4,000 bushels in a full cargo. It would take the cargoes of 114 Highland Beauties to load the Gleneagles once.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
27 Mar 1943
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.31646 Longitude: -76.70217
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.98342 Longitude: -77.8995
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.27173 Longitude: -76.98914
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement
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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Take 15,000 Oldtimers for Toronto's Tonnage Now: Schooner Days DLXXXII (582)