Category Archives: Rowing

The Charlottetown Regatta -171 Years Ago

Islander 9 June 1843 p.3

Islander 9 June 1843 p.3

The Prince Edward Island Regatta Club is another in a series of organizations that have come and gone from the sailing scene on Prince Edward Island. To date we don’t  know exactly when it started and ended  but we do know that an annual regatta was a part of the harbour activities until well into the 1870s or early 1880s. The earliest detailed account of the Regatta located to date is from 1843 when the weekly Islander newspaper devoted a considerable portion of the local news content to the regatta in the editions of 21 and 28 July 1843.

The event had been advertised for weeks in advance. But on the day itself the weather did not co-operate. The Islander writer, however phrased it somewhat differently “Had the weather yesterday been as propitious  as the gentlemen who had undertaken the management of all connected with the expected amusements were indefatigably active to secure to the public every possible gratification which such sights with their ‘appliances’ can be made to afford, there would have been no alloy to the satisfaction of the spectators, nor any disappointment to the members of the Club.”

Because of the soft rain continually falling in a wind-less harbour only the rowing races (including the races for Indian canoes) were held on the appointed day and the sailing races were held over until the next day. The Indian Canoe races were to continue as a fixture of the regatta well into the 1870s. The following day, under a strong westerly wind, the full slate of sail races was held with the most interesting being the race for the Ladies’ Purse. The prize was, in fact, a lady’s purse of purple silk velvet, beautifully embroidered and which contained nearly ten pounds in prize money.  The Islander carried a detailed and breathlessly enthusiastic  account of the race in which ten boats had been entered.

On starting, the Casa Rasa and the Sea Bird took the lead but on rounding the first station-boat, the Little Mary shot ahead and to windward of all, the Castle Rasa second, hard pushed by the Dart and the Sea Bird. Owing to the accidental loss of her shrouds before leaving the wharf, the Tam O’Shanter’s mast went by the board shortly after rounding the first station-boat. About the same time the Dolphin carried away her main boom  and bore up, the Sea Bird also lost her jib. After rounding the second boat, the Rico appeared to be between the Little Mary, the Sea Bird and the Castle Rasa – the Dart and the Harp being a considerable distance behind the rest, in sporting phrase “no-where.” The Little Mary rounded the last boat about two hundred yards before the Sea Bird which was closely followed by the Castle Rasa. About a quarter of a mile from the wharf the Sea Bird forged ahead of the Little Mary, and won the race by a boat’s length.  

The purse was presented the following day at Government House and Governor Sir Henry Vere Huntley (who had ben a long-serving naval officer) , the Patron of the Prince Edward Island Regatta Club, announced that in 1844 he would present a purse of twenty pounds on a plate of the same value to the Regatta winner.

The editor of the Islander was fulsome in his praise of the Regatta organizers and of the Regatta itself as a highlight of the summer’s activities.- for something to be “unobjectionable” must have been high praise indeed!

The amusements afforded by a Regatta are, in our opinion, the most unobjectionable of all public entertainments. Such an opinion, we believe, is pretty generally entertained; and when the gentlemen to whose spirit the public stand indebted for the pleasures of yesterday and today, shall, at some future time, again solicit the easy contributions of the community to equip them for a like enterprise we feel certain that, not only thanks for the past, but ammunition for the future, will be plentifully showered upon them from every quarter …        

In other words.. the organizers did a good job.

Day six on the water

Harbour 2

Long before Ebony splashed in for the season I had hoped to record 100 days of sailing in 2013. Of course “a thousand thwarting details suffer the fixidity of every great purpose” and poor weather combined with the need to do some repairs to the Halman 20 delayed launch until yesterday and she still needs to have the mast stepped.  I have therefore decide to alter the goal from 100 days of sailing to 100 days on the water enabling me to count excursions in the Medway Skiff.

Today, after puttering about on Ebony for several house (cleaning, loading the hundreds of items I had removed in the fall and getting the mast ready for stepping at high tide tomorrow)  I made not one, but two, trips under oar power.

Harbour 1The afternoon was a glassy calm and rather than overly exert myself  I simply rowed to the middle of the harbour and rested on my oars enjoying the sun, the warmth, the view and the silence.  The latter was interrupted only by my friend the curious seal who broke the surface several times near the boat, eyed me and then disappeared.  I was the only boat moving in IMG_2788the harbour although another of the cruise ships had steamed in at breakfast time and stayed until 5:00 pm turning herds of tourists loose on the streets.  We will have more than fifty cruise ship visits in the summer and fall and on a few dates there will be three in the harbour at the same time,  one tied up at the dock and the other two lightering passengers in to shore.

In the evening it was the regular Wednesday night face from the yacht club and I rowed out to the course to get  a few photos

Midnight 3IMG_2816








IMG_2804Babe 3

Waterfront wildlife

IMG_2779It is about a 2 1/2 nautical mile row from the Charlottetown Yacht Club to the site of an old wharf on the Hillsborough River which served what was then the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Falconwood , later renamed Riverside Hospital and even more recently Hillsborough Hospital as both Falconwood and Riverside had somehow become tainted names.  The wharf served for coal delivery to the huge Victorian pile which was at the time miles from town.  Photos in the Public Archives show a large steamer at the wharf. When the bridge crossing the Hillsborough was built in 1903 to serve the Murray Harbour Branch Line of the PEI Railway it had a swing span to allow for river traffic.

Hillsborough Hospital showing site of coal wharf

Hillsborough Hospital showing site of coal wharf

The old railway bridge was closed in the later 1960s and the narrower  span of the new bridge caused changes in the currents and siltation and the site of the old wharf would hardly float a rowboat today. All that is left is a small rock pile running out from the shore and a shadow on the aerial photos on Google Earth.  Beyond the wharf site is a relatively undeveloped area and a number bald eagle nests are in the taller trees in a part of the  shore which once housed the city’s landfill site.

Other remnants of the past are the  pillars of the railway bridge.  When the bridge steel was removed following the opening of the new bridge the pillars marched across the river and included a circular base for the swing section and wooden cribs which supported the span when it was open. The cribs were the first to disappear but over the years even the sturdy sandstone pillars fell victim to frost heaves and ice movement and the ones in the channel have toppled, leaving stumps just under the water as navigation hazards. At low water the harbour seals heave themselves up on these rock and baste in the sun.

IMG_2780-1The remaining pillars have been colonized by the cormorants. Initially they used them only as resting points and spots to dry their wings between fishing excursions.  Their main location is Governor’s Island where the whole site is a rookery.   However on my rowing trip yesterday I noticed that nest-building was taking place on at least one of the six surviving pillars west of the current bridge. The site was formerly used by a tern colony but the cormorants have crowded them off,  The cormorants are dirty birds  and being downwind from a nesting area will really take your breath away. It is very hard to avoid inhaling as you pass beneath the rock piles, especially when rowing.

IMG_2781-1Nearby is another low tide resting point for  birds.  A rubble jetty extends to shelter the intake waters for the electric plant’s cooling system. Although covered at high tide as the waters recede it is used by gulls and the cormorants for sunning themselves.  Unlike the bridge piers this site plays host to a range of sea birds.   On my hour and a half row I was once again followed by a curious seal who seemed hardly able to believe that a boat would venture east of the Hillsborough Bridge. The low span and the swift currents of incoming and outgoing tide make the area dangerous for sail and the powerboats of the harbour seem more interested in the sea-side than the river side of the Hillsborough Bridge.