Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Dismasted - on a Lee Shore: Schooner Days MCCLXXIX (1279)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 21 Jul 1956
Full Text
Dismasted - on a Lee Shore
Schooner Days MCCLXXIX (1279)

by C. H. J. Snider

ALEXANDER URE'S first "real vessel" (after three or four ventures with small coasters, stonehookers and cordwood carriers) was a homely slant-stemmed hooker named the Isabella of Napanee.

She was supposed to have borne the names Alwilda, Dove, Caspian and Lady Hilliard before becoming Isabella, and to have been built in Quebec after the Papineau rebellion, but the marine register is vague on these points. She had some soft frames in her when he bought her, but her bottom was sound, of stout rock-elm plank, 4 inches thick.

With this foundation and many months of his own carpentering skill he made a good craft out of her. He got a charter to carry an experimental shipment of iron ore, from Port Whitby to the blast furnace in. Charlotte, N.Y., the port of Rochester. Ontario was developing iron mines then, and considerable ore from Hastings county was shipped from the Carrying Place docks in Weller's Bay to the Charlotte furnaces. This Whitby cargo had been mined somewhere back of Port Perry, and brought to Whitby by rail.

When the deepladen Isabella sailed with nearly 200 tons-under hatches it was blowing fresh from the northwest. Capt. Ure cautiously put into Oak Orchard, one of the long since vanished harbors on the south shore of the lake, for shelter. It was only twenty-seven miles from Charlotte.

Next day, wind and sea dying down, he ventured out, but baffled about till the September darkness settled, without having made much headway. Flashes from the blast furnaces were faint in the distance but growing stronger at midnight, when a violent squall burst, again from the northwest. The new sea coming in upon the top of the old one of the gale of the day before ran turbulent as traveling house-tops and the ship rolled hard.

The rolling carried away the Isabella's mainmast. This was off Braddock's Point light, twelve miles west of Charlotte. Capt. Ure chopped the wreckage adrift in the dizzily heaving darkness, and steered for the glare of the furnaces, now coming up strong. The foresail and jibs on the foremast remaining gave him control of the vessel. But the sea grew worse with every mile, and within sight of safety the foremast too went overside in the reeling and rolling.

The Isabella was now a complete wreck above decks. To save her from swamping in the troughs of the waves Capt. Ure gave her both anchors. These brought her head to wind, so that she was taking the seas end on, rising to them instead of having them burst over her broadside.

While she soared and dived and labored Capt. Ure and his mate and two men hacked and hewed in the dark at the rigging of the fallen foremast and prayed for daylight and a tug. Once rid of the foremast the vessel rode without danger of being rammed by the fallen spar charging about. It had already done some damage, and the continued strain of the tugging anchor chains sawing in the hawsepipes made matters worse. The Isabella was leaking.

And she was dragging towards the beach under the push of the seas. The blast glares from furnaces came nearer. Braddock's light was much farther away. The old dim coaloil light on a stone tower on the bank of the old lake beach up the river in Charlotte was not powerful, but it showed plainly. Charlotte piers were then two stubby pieces of cribwork at the entrance of the Genesee river, almost a mile inland from the concrete walls now projecting far into the lake.

There, employing the time-worn device of the writers of suspense thrillers, we must leave her, for our week's space has run out. But only till next Saturday. You will then learn what happened, although it is doubtful if the best of anchors will keep her off the shore for seven days without a shift in the wind.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
21 Jul 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.25506 Longitude: -77.61695
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.85012 Longitude: -78.93287
Richard Palmer
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by [more details]
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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Dismasted - on a Lee Shore: Schooner Days MCCLXXIX (1279)