Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Saved - $200!: Schooner Days MCCLXXX (1280)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 28 Jul 1956
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Saved - $200!
Schooner Days MCCLXXX (1280)

by C. H. J. Snider

IT was a shameful thing to do, but last week, by stern compulsion of necessity, we left the schooner Isabella totally dismasted, leaking and plunging madly in the midnight darkness in a confused sea three hundred yards to the westward of two short wooden piers then marking the mouth of the Genesee River.

She was off the port of Charlotte, N.Y., whither she was bound from Whitby, with an experimental cargo of 180 tons of Ontario iron ore. It was for smelting in the blast furnaces at Charlotte, and came from Port Perry way. The Isabella was an oldish vessel, rebuilt by Capt. Alexander Ure, after months of skilled carpentry, and was all he had in the world after 25 years following the sea.

When day dawned that 10th of September 1880 the Isabella had dragged to within hailing distance of the old wooden pier heads of the harbor entrance. Tossing up and down inside could be seen the tug Florence Yates.

"Give you $200 to tow us in, no cure no pay!" roared Capt. Ure in stentorian tones from the cabin top of his wallowing schooner. With his two men and the cook and the mate he had been pumping all night since anchoring. The brakes were still clanking up and down, up and down, with rust red water gushing ceaseless from the pump spout.

The asthmatic Yates blew her whistle but that did not leave her steam enough to get out of the river. The great seas funneling into the stubby piers pushed her back. Aboard the Isabella the pump-brakes went on clanking, up and down, up and down.

By two o'clock in the afternoon ship and crew were at their last gasp. The stern of the Isabella was within two yards of the pierhead now, so far had she been pushed by the punishing seas. She was bumping the bottom, and the heavy iron ore was pounding her apart.

Capt. Ure, panting from his spell at pumping, mounted the cabin top again and cried hoarsely: "Two hundred dollars to anyone who'll tow us in! No cure, no pay!"

The Yates tried again. This time she got out through the rollers. She circled the mastless hull and passed a towline.

The weary pumpers had two turns of the line around the paul post forward of the windlass when Capt. Ure cried: "Cast off! Cast off! She's gone!" and the Isabella settled to the bottom under the pumpers' feet, never to rise again. They jumped to the cabintop and from there to the tug, as the poor old thing went under. Her rock elm bottom was strewn all along the sandy bar of Summerville and the bar of Irondequoit Bay. There may be iron ore yet there among the pebbles.

It was hard to lose the Isabella after such gallant efforts to save her. But it would have been harder still to have to pay $200 for a futile salvage attempt. Alexander Ure's Scotch cautions saved him that much. And he still had his hands, his health and his courage.

Eventually Capt. Ure had owned, wholly or in part, fourteen vessels, large and small. He lived to be over 90, dying her in Toronto after fifty years taxpaying. He came here from Dunbarton, near Frenchman's Bay in 1883.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
28 Jul 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.25506 Longitude: -77.61695
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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Saved - $200!: Schooner Days MCCLXXX (1280)