Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Sunday Keepers in the "BALTIC": Schooner Days MCCLXXXIII (1283)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 18 Aug 1956
Full Text
Sunday Keepers in the "BALTIC"
Schooner Days MCCLXXXIII (1283)

by C. H. J. Snider

IT happened that the schooner Baltic of Wellington Square had Sunday-keeping masters at both ends of her long and adventurous career, though in-between skippers esteemed all days alike for making of an honest dollar.

Capt. Robert Wilson of Oakville, who sailed the Baltic laden with flour for Liverpool from the Chisholm mill—-again we pay tribute to Mrs. Helen Mathews excellent "Oakville and the Sixteen"--wouldn't begin a voyage on a Sunday. He snapped his fingers at the silly "Friday" superstition. No Friday ever held him in port if there was wind enough get out. Every foremast hand found excuse for not starting on Friday - "because it was bad luck" - that is, he did so if wages and board went on in port and the bars were open. Capt. Wilson had frequent trouble with God-send-Friday crews, but the Baltic was a good earner.


After 40 years prosperous lake faring she was in the hands of Capt. Alex. Baird, a smart seaman, with a son and a daughter in his crew as mate and cookee. His wife was the head cook. He took great care of the Baltic. If he spotted decay anywhere out came chisel and mallet, oakum and caulking iron and in went new timber, no matter what it cost. But he wouldn't work ever at repairs on Sunday, unless in life-and-death emergency.

The Baltic seemed in better shape when she sailed for Oswego on her last voyage than when she sailed for Liverpool forty years before on her first.

In December, 1894 , the Baltic reached Oswego in the dark, a high sea running, with rain and snow. On the beach under Fort Ontario they could see the white sheets of spray rising and falling as the breakers burst. There was a terrific uproar of wind and wave outside the harbor. The Oswego River, in fall freshet, met the shore rushing lake seas, and made a maelstrom like Niagara whirlpool.

The Baltic showed a flare, and blew the horn for a tug. After what had happened to the Redford, lost trying to tow the schooner Flora Emma in, the Oswego tugs were chary about venturing beyond the breakwater for storm-stressed penny-counting Canadians.

"We can only pray," said Capt. Baird. "If the canvas stays in the boltropes we can sail her in. Get your anchors ready!"

As he spoke the squatted mainsail, full of frozen snow, split like a burst paper bag. Out of control with the loss of this driving power, the Baltic lurched, rolled, swayed and almost turned around in the strife of lake waves warring with foaming river water. She missed the harbor door and drove in so close to the lifesaving station that the lifeboat men could shoot the breeches-buoy to her from their boathouse door.

All hands were got ashore without wetting shoeleather. For anxious hours the telegraph wires hummed with salvage plans. Well do we recall the excitement in the W. D. Matthews office in the old Board of Trade building at Front and Yonge sts., then Toronto's highest - (7) count them, including the cupola, (7) stories. high! Matthews had shipped the cargo. Hagarty and Crangle may have been interested too. There were hopes of getting the Baltic off, or saving the $10,000 wheat.

But the gale went round to the north, the white-maned stallions of wild Ontario came leaping over the seawall, to burst on the Baltic, masthead high. The stern was most vulnerable, for there a square opening in the deck took the trunk-cabin. The seas smashed the yawlboat on the davits, stove in the cabin, and burst away the port quarter and hatches until Canadian wheat was washing up the beach in Oswego harbor. The poor Baltic hung, wrenched, writhing and twisted in agony on the flat-backed boulders, like a salmon speared in shallow water. It was marvelous how long the Halton County oak in her held together, though rippling like ribbons. She might have been built of whalebone.


"Thet's the boat that wouldn't sail on Sunday," sneered a smart Aleck who thought he knew his waterfront.

"You getta hell outa here," answered Red Onion Desmond, captain of the high-sheered American schooner Cornelia, "and don't show your dam' face again without $5 for the hat!"

They were rugged folk, the Oswego sailors, mostly Irish and little worried about Sabbath observance, but they raised $107.75 for the Canadian who wouldn't sail on Sunday.

Years later we saw Capt. Baird cheerily fitting out the schooner S & J Collier (called after Sol and Jake Collier of Prince Edward County), in the canal at Port Dalhousie. She looked prosperous and so did the Bairds.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
18 Aug 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
Richard Palmer
Creative Commons licence
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
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Sunday Keepers in the "BALTIC": Schooner Days MCCLXXXIII (1283)