Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Bottle-Opener: Schooner Days MCXCV (1195)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 27 Nov 1954
Full Text
The Bottle-Opener
Schooner Days MCXCV (1195)

by C. H. J. Snider

APOLOGIES to our oldest friend, the merchant service, for inadvertently failing to give honor where honor is due. Recently, in speaking of Mr. W. E. Spencer's new star, we gave the impression that he had served in the navy. Well, so he has, and it was essential war service, too, but it was in the merchant navy, not the RCN, Mr. Spencer's last ship in the late war was the Clearwater Park, tanker, of the Park Line.

If anyone can suggest more valiant service than keeping the vital oil moving in peril of submarines, bombers and ship-splitting hurricanes, let him speak up. We shall still believe that every man who went down to the sea in merchant ships in war time was a hero though we were none. While Schooner Days crossed the Atlantic half a dozen times during the war it was only on business. Mr. Spencer is a certificated officer in the merchant marine, a mate, the equivalent of a lieutenant in the navy. He has stayed with the merchant service because he likes it.

To continue the story hinted at last Week- "Bill" Spencer, whose new star Pookhaun we have been admiring, bought a star named Ripple in 1947, after selling his Bo-Jack. On August 20 in that year he went down to Oshawa with Murray Crawford to bring the new acquisition home. On the way to Toronto they were dismasted in an ugly squall, and could have lost the ship and their lives on Scarboro Bluffs, but they didn't lose either. Instead they instituted a fixture in RCYC, racing known as the Opener Trophy. In this wise:

After jury-rigging the dismasted Ripple by setting the jib, clew uppermost, on the stump left of the mast, they made some progress homewards. But overtaken by darkness and the wind failing they anchored under the Highlands, deciding to telephone for a tow. They had no dinghy or means of reaching the shore, and the new yacht with her fin keel was too deep and too lightly built to risk running on the beach.

There was nothing for it but to swim ashore. Owing to high water there was really no foreshore, just the bluffs towering sheer overhead. It was difficult to land. By hard luck they missed a path which did lead down, to their left. They waded along towards the right, and at length attempted to scale the cliff in the dark.

It was really a desperate venture, for Mr. Spencer was still suffering from war disabilities, and Murray Crawford, though most active as a small boat sailor and ice yachter, could walk even on the level without support.

Spencer hauled him up on a ledge above the water, and had to leave him there and try zigzagging up the cliff face. Twenty-five feet up he slipped and fell back into the water. Crawford in turn hauled him back on to the ledge. Neither had any tool to make foot or handhold. But Murray felt a pop-bottle opener in his wet ducks, and with this slender assistance Spencer gamely tackled the ascent again.

It worked. After more than an hour's cautious digging with the bit of metal for 300 feet he gained the top—wet, muddy, and under suspicion, because a police alert was out for an escaped convict. You can't stop the tanker navy with little things like that. He got to a telephone.

Fallingbrook lifeguards could not breast the billows with their little outboard, though they tried, so Spencer insisted oh Hilliard Laing coming down with the big Toronto surfboat. By the dawn's early light Murray Crawford was plucked from his precarious perch at the foot of the cliffs, and the Ripple was taken in tow.

All alone through the night and the rising sea she had gallantly ridden it out to her small trusty anchor. Spencer, Crawford and Ripple were all in the RCYC lagoon in time for breakfast — and what an appetite all three had!

Laurie Metcalfe, head of the star division in the club, was so impressed by the episode that he had the well-worn opener gold plated and mounted on plush in a mahogany case. And every season since this Opener Trophy is contested for in the first series of star-boat races on the RCYC program. Metcalfe, sometimes known as The Voice, won it himself this year with his good star Sharlyn.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
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Date of Publication
27 Nov 1954
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
Richard Palmer
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Bottle-Opener: Schooner Days MCXCV (1195)