Maritime History of the Great Lakes
How Captain John Got Them All Home: Schooner Days MCCXCV (1295)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 10 Nov 1956
Full Text
How Captain John Got Them All Home
Schooner Days MCCXCV (1295)

by C. H. J. Snider

The AZOV - 3

CAPT. JOHN MACDONALD who, in his 60th year, brought his ship's company home in her yawlboat, after she went down under their feet on the far side of Lake Huron, richly earned the high tribute his son "Red" Macdonald paid to him in conversation with Schooner Days. Let "Reddy" continue:

"It got perishing cold in the boat after the Azov's masthead fly disappeared under the water and the seven of them were left homeless in Lake Huron.

"It was dark soon after 6 o'clock that night of October 25, 1911. Never a light in the lake. The night was black as pitch. And as endless. The only difference between sky and water was the white froth of the wave tops. No stars. Father could only now and then see the face of the compass - all he had saved as the Azov went under. He steered mostly by the feel of the wind on his neck. It came away from nor'west with squalls of snow. Snow filled the frozen black bulge of the reefed sail he had set.


"We're going home! We're going home!" he kept singing. "We'll be in Goderich in the morning! A funny thing 'twill be for the boat that hung on the Azov's stern these fifteen years back, to go into port ahead of her this time--

"His voice broke then, for the only time. He loved the Azov as he did my sister Ettie. She was in the boat with him now, in the same peril as the rest of them. She had been cook in the Azov.

"Ettie was game and backed him up.

"Oh yawl tak' the high road

When Azov taks the low road

An' yawl be in Goderich afore her' -

she mimicked from the Loch Lomond song. This got a laugh from him. Then she struck up from the old hymn:

"We're going home, no more to roam.

We're going home tomorrow

We're going home, we're going home,

We're going home to Goderich!

"The boys laughed too, and they all managed to sing 'Pull for shore, sailor, bend to the oar.'


"But it got darker and wetter and colder, till they were numb with the freezing lake water and their cramped sitting on the dunnage bags that cumbered the yawl. When a sea spilled into the overladen boat, heavy with those bags, they would all bail with sou'westers, and then huddle together for warmth.

"As the night wore on even the splash of stinging spray failed to rouse them. They were freezing to death on the thwarts.

"Father would wait for a smooth and unship the steering oar and poke them with it, or flail them with the bight of the mainsheet, to keep them awake and alive. He fought off sleep and frost and fear all the long night.

"It began to get gray. Then light. Then hard against the eastern sky lumps showed above the waves.

"They're the hills of home, boys!" father shouted. "I told you I'd land you in Goderich!"

"That brought them to life. They got the oars out and rowed. As they pulled past the break-water one of the boys picked up his dunnage bag, snatched at such risk as the Azov's. forecastle filled, and carried at such cost all the way across the lake, and pitched it into the harbor.

"I won't be needing you no more," said he. "I'm through with the lake for good.

"If ye'd done that 14 hours ago ye'd have had a dryer ride home," said father.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
10 Nov 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.75008 Longitude: -81.71648
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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How Captain John Got Them All Home: Schooner Days MCCXCV (1295)