Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Port of Adventure: Schooner Days MCCLXXXI (1281)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 4 Aug 1956
Full Text
Port of Adventure
Schooner Days MCCLXXXI (1281)

by C. H. J. Snider

IT is no wonder that Oakville became a great port for yachts. Apart from the physical attractions and advantages it has a high sailing tradition of 130 years standing. The harbor, for 50 years a private enterprise of Colonel Wm. Chisholm, MP, for Halton, was not completed until 1831, but next year the steamer Constitution, 350 tons, renamed the Transit, was built there. In the 1850's Oakville had nearly 1,200 steamboat calls a season. Three fine schooners – for their time – the Trafalgar, Lady Colborne, and Mississaga Chief, of from 50 to 85 tons, were built since 1828, and were trading to Rochester, Oswego and Prescott and Montreal, and by 1834, 16 schooners of aggregate burthen of 1,105 tons were using the port regularly.

None of these early schooners came down to our time, but we have known dozens of later Oakville vessels, and would like to talk about some of them.

"You could always tell an Oakville vessel, Capt. David Reynolds, commodore of the RCYC launch service, used to say. It used to do me good in a strange port, away Up Above or Down Below, Chicago or Montreal – to see a pair of masts, lofty and wide spread, above the trestle or at the foot of the street. Especially if the mainmast raked more than the foremast. That would be like a letter from home. Get to the dock where the spars showed, and you would find "OF OAKVILLE" on the vessel's stern, for that's the way they sparred them in The Sixteen Mile Creek. All fore-'n-afters (which means two spars in lake language). "I only mind two Oakville-built three-masters, the Monarch, and the Three Bells.

Even if Oakville wasn't on her stern you could tell by her hull that she was Oakville built. A good model, curved clipper bow with a good flare, well shaped stern, more raked and not so rounded like the Americans, and very smart in the paint. Rail and coveringboard and mouldings and the thick-strakes of the sides would be picked out in colours against the other paint – red and green and lead colour if she was white, white or red or green or yellow if she was black. The older ones like the Victoria and Royal Albert and Champion had beautifully curved trailboards and carved figureheads, and the modern ones were plainer but good lookers. And boys-oh-boys they could sail!"

More from David from time to time, for though he passed on years ago his enthusiasm for vessels and particularly Oakville vessels is vivid in memory.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
4 Aug 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.45011 Longitude: -79.68292
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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Port of Adventure: Schooner Days MCCLXXXI (1281)