Maritime History of the Great Lakes
October Night in Lake Huron: Schooner Days MCCXCIV (1294)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 3 Nov 1956
Full Text
October Night in Lake Huron
Schooner Days MCCXCIV (1294)

by C. H. J. Snider

The AZOV - 2

THIS was the account "Red" Macdonald gave Schooner Days 25 years ago of the loss in 1911 of the family schooner Azov, remains of which were discovered last August.

As "Red" talked he stroked lovingly the gunwale of a stout smooth-skinned wide-sterned yawl boat, such as lake schooners used to carry on the stern davits. The 16-ft. boat was painted a barndoor red. It had been retired from active service for 20 years at this time, kept as an heirloom because -

"Father built this yawl for himself years and years ago, of sound white cedar, when he had the little John G. Kolfage. He took it with him when he bought the bigger Azov. I won't part with it because it saved father's life, and my brother Bert's, and my sister Ettie's and the whole of the Azov's crew.


"The Old Man - you talk the schooner talk, so you know every captain was the Old Man in his vessel even if he wasn't old enough to vote, and it is a term of respect and esteem - well, the Old Man was a great one to load deep and carry sail.

"On the 25th of October, 1911, he was working the Azov down Lake Huron against a sou'-wester with a full cargo of deadheads in the hold and more deadheads on deck, held down with cross-chains from stanchion to stanchion. Deadheads are logs that have sunk. He had loaded in Gore Bay in Manitoulin.

"Fifteen miles nor'-nor' - east of Pointe-aux-Barques on the Michigan side it breezed up hard, but he hammered her at it, for she had been on the dock not long before, and was sound as a bell and sweet as a nut. The weight of the heavy wet deck-load started a butt somewhere and the pumps couldn't keep her free.

"All hands - my brother Bert, and Dan Macdonald the mate, and my sister Ettie, who had gone as cook, and the other sailors, Harry Kemp and Bill Smale, both of Detroit, and Norm McKeever of Goderich--were cracking their backs at the pump brakes, and my father was wrestling the wheel, when the Azov settled and began to roll over.


"The boys ducked into the for'csle and grabbed their bags, father knew he hadn't time to reach his room in the cabin, but he wrenched the compass out of the binnacle, Ettie and Dan cast off the davit falls and all seven piled into the yawlboat and cast off just as the Azov rolled up on her side and went down.

"Another second and she would have taken the boat down with her. By the time they could look around after shipping the oars all they could see of the schooner was the long fly of blue bunting at the maintopmast truck getting wet, and one yard arm of her raffee-yard, which had been braced square, standing up like a fish net buoy. In a minute this too had disappeared and they were alone in Lake Huron, 12 miles from nearest land, night coming on.


"For a while they rowed, an oar on each side and one in the sculling notch in the stern. They made some progress, but not much, for the boat was heavy with seven people and their bags and the water was rough, slapping aboard as fast as they could bail it out. Soon they made no headway at all, for the wind came away offshore, and more water splashed aboard, freezing as it struck, and the rising nor'-wester blew in squalls of snow.

"Father had fished out of Goderich for years and knew what small boats could and could not do. He had kept the Azov's yawlboat fitted with mast and sail, These were lashed along the thwarts. With fingers numb with cold they were now stepped and set, the sail being first reefed. The yawlboat scudded off before wind and sea, the width of Lake Huron ahead of her and the full force of a nor'-wester behind.

"Nobody dared hope they would live out the night, nobody but the Old Man."

We'll tell why later next week.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
3 Nov 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.75008 Longitude: -81.71648
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.933611 Longitude: -82.458055
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 44.06779 Longitude: -82.95995
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
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October Night in Lake Huron: Schooner Days MCCXCIV (1294)