Laid up for the winter

Winter was a quiet time in Charlottetown Harbour. While steamers operated up until the time actually closed the harbour, by late December it was clearly a risk.  Gradually ships would be laid up. Smaller vessels were hauled up on shore slipways but larger sailing and steam vessels had little choice but to wait and be trapped in the ice as it formed between the wharves and out into the channel. With the rising and falling tide it was important not to have the boats too close to the piers  but equally important to make sure that the ships would not be carried away if the ice broke away for the shore.

Vessels laid up at Connolley's (later Paoil's) Wharf ca. 1900

Vessels laid up at Connolley’s (later Paoil’s) Wharf ca. 1895. Note the newly built Dundas Terrace at the head of the wharf. The steamer Gulnare, used by the Hydrographic Service is at the right of the photo.

While the schooners simply were abandoned to the elements the steamships had to keep steam up in order to prevent the boilers from freezing up completely or they had to completely drain all water from the engines. While hardly bustling the port was far from barren.

Vessels laid up at Plant Line Wharf, foot of Great George Street, ca. 1900

Vessels laid up at Plant Line Wharf, foot of Great George Street, ca. 1900. At least eight vessel can be seen in this picture. The photographer was standing in the ice road to Southport.

In 1898 the following thirty-four vessels made Charlottetown their winter quarters:

  • Steamships – Northumberland, Princess, Gulnare, Elliott, Jacques Cartier.
  • Tugs – William Aitken, Fred M. Batt, Nelson, T.A. Stewart, May Queen.
  • Ferry Boats – Hillsboro, Elfin, Southport.
  • Steam Yacht – Flash.
  • Schooners – Annie Laurie, A.S. Townsend, C.V. Minot, Brilliant, Lily Bank, Lady Franklin, St. Anne of Quebec, Tarquin, A.J. McKean, Janie M., Express, Foam, Alma, Ripley Ropes, Kohinoor, Leveret, Daniel, Etoile du Matin, Flash, P.L.G., Katie and Ella, Lifeboat.

Some of these boats such as the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company steamers and the tugs were Charlottetown harbour residents. The ferries run by the P.E.I. Government which connected the city with Southport, Rocky Point and York Point were replaced by winter roads across the ice.  The steam yacht and some of the schooners may simply have found themselves in Charlottetown when navigation closed in.

By April the ice would go out and the port would once more come alive.


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