Tag Archives: Canceaux

“One of the Finest Harbours in the World” – Charlottetown in 1860

 

Detail of 1845 Chart of Charlottetown Harbour showing navigation features noted in Sailing Directions.

In  conjunction with charts, Sailing Directions were one of the most important aids to navigation in the 19th century and they continue to be useful to sailors. The Sailing Directions or “Pilots”  provided instructions as to the best ways to approach a harbour and warned of dangers that might be encountered. The earliest Directions for Prince Edward Island date from about 1810 but were much improved following the hydrographic surveys of Admiral Henry Bayfield. He was the author of the authoritative guide which was published in many editions and still is the basis of the guides used today.  The following excerpt is from the 4th edition Bayfield’s St. Lawrence Pilot, Comprising Sailing Directions for the Gulf and River, published for the Admiralty in 1860. [a fathom is 6 feet and a cable is 1/10 of a nautical mile or 608 feet]

Charlottetown Harbour is 4 ½  cables wide at entrance between the cliffs of Blockhouse and Sea Trout points; but shallow water, extending from both shores, reduces the navigable width of the Channel, reckoning from the depth of 3 fathoms, to about  2 ¼ cables; and as the shoals are very steep, it would require to be well buoyed before a ship of large draught could beat in or out with safety. Cliffs of red sandstone 10 to 30 feet high, form the shores on either side, the land rising gradually from them in undulations, and being partly cultivated and partly wooded. An old blockhouse and signal post stand on Blockhouse point, the west point of entrance. The next point of cliff on the west side of entrance is Alchorn point, and at the distance of half a mile from the blockhouse are the remains of Amherst fort, on the hill, 93 feet above high water. On the same side, north of Alchorn point, is Warren cove, and lastly, Canseau point, with its white beacon, 1 ¼ miles from the blockhouse. Canseau shoal extends off Canseau point to the distance of 3 ½ cables, and will be cleared by keeping the blockhouse just open, clear of Alchorn point; observing that the extremes of the cliff of Blockhouse and Alchorn points in one, lead over the point of the shoal in 16 feet at low water.

On the opposite or eastern side of the entrance, and less than a mile within Sea Trout point, is Battery point, with its shoal; the latter running out 2 cables, and having on its extreme point a buoy moored in 3 fathoms at low water. Outside that depth, on either side, the water deepens abruptly, and there are 13 fathoms in the middle of the channel. The red beacon and Scotch church tower at Charlottetown, clear the shoal off Battery point in 10 fathoms, and at the distance of 120 yards.  Within the harbour, in addition to the flats of mud and weeds extending off shore, there is the Middle Ground, with 17 least water, and for the situation of which the seaman is referred to the plan of the harbour; it may be well, however, to notice that the white beacon on Canseau point and McKinnon’s log house in line, lead through midway between it, and the flat of the southern shore.

Immediately within Canseau and Battery points which are the inner points of entrance, the channel expands into one of the finest harbours in the world, having depth and space sufficient for any number and description of vessels. In sailing in, York river will be seen running in to the northward; the Hillsborough river stretching away to the E.N.E. far as the eye can reach; and Elliot river running in to the westward. The confluence of the streams of these three rivers, between Canseau shoal and the mouth of York river, form the Three Tides, where there is excellent anchorage, used occasionally by laden vessels preparing for sea, the usual anchorage being off the wharves of the town, where the channel is 2 ¾  cables wide, and carries nearly 10 fathoms water.. Of the three rivers which unite in the harbour, the Hillsborough is the largest, being navigable for vessels of the largest draught to the distance of 7 or 8 miles, and for small vessels 14 miles above, where there is a bridge 2 miles from the head of the river. There is portage of less than a mile across, from the Hillsborough near its head to Savage harbour on the north coast of the island. York river, the smallest of the three, is crossed by Poplar island bridge, 2 ¾  miles from its mouth. Elliot river may be ascended 4 or 5 miles by large vessels, and 9 or 10 by small craft and boats. The shores of all three rivers are settled, and the country generally fertile.

Charlottetown, which is now a city, is advantageously situated on the northern bank of the Hillsborough river, a short distance within its entrance, and at the point where the deep water approaches nearest to the shore; its wharves, however, still requiring to be 240 yards long to reach the edge of the channel. The city is extremely well laid out, with spacious squares and wide streets at right angles; but these are as yet thinly occupied by houses of the rapidly increasing population. The new Provincial building, occupying the centre of the principal square is the only stone erection in the place. The houses, with the exception of 9 or 10 which are of brick, are all of wood; and so also are the churches and the chapels. The Scotch church, with its square white tower, will easily be distinguished, being the most to the westward, and appearing with the red beacon (used with it as a leading mark, and standing close to the on the left side of the city. Still farther to the left will be seen the Government house, by itself, and distinguished by its colonnade.

No part of the city exceeds in elevation 50 feet above the sea at high water but the land rises gradually behind it to the height of 150 feet at the distance of 1 ½ miles, and is well cultivated, whilst yet sufficient wood has been preserved to give to the country an agreeable and park-like appearance.

The site of Charlottetown, as the capital of the island, and the seat of the provincial government and legislature, appears to have been extremely well chosen, whether in regard to its almost central position, its extensive inland communication by means of the rivers which unite their streams before it; or the superiority of its harbour, which possesses, moreover, the important advantage of having the greatest rise of tide in the Gulf anywhere below Cape Chatte, with the exception of Campbelltown in the Restigouche, which is inaccessible to vessels of large draught. All kinds of supplies may be obtained at Charlottetown, but water only from wells with pumps, which are numerous in the town. In the year 1856, 619 vessels (35,931 tons burthen) entered inwards, and 603 vessels (42,365 tons) cleared outwards; in the same year the total value of imports amounted to 182,499l., and of exports to 54,090l. In 1858 the population was about 8,000.

Although primarily for navigation purposes, the Sailing Directions also could contain useful information about changing shore facilities and landmarks. The 1891 American edition of the Sailing Directions contained the following information about Charlottetown:

The Provincial building occupies the center of the public square, and is flanked on either side by the law courts and post-office, both substantial brick structures. The market house, a large wooden building, with a belfry at the west end containing the fire alarm, is situated west of the post-office, while St. Paul’s Church, a wooden building with a spire, occupies the east end of the square. The new Presbyterian Church, a handsome stone building, is situated at the NW. end of the town, and a convent, built of brick with a small belfry at the top, is conspicuous from the harbor. The Roman Catholic Cathedral, a wooden building with a large gilt cross at the top of the spire, and Bishop’s palace, of stone, near it, also show prominently. The lunatic asylum, a fine building of stone with a high tower, stands just north of Falcon Point. The railway station is at the east end of the town, and may be known by the wharf in connection with it, on which stand large chocolate-colored warehouses. St. Dunstan College, a Roman Catholic seminary, built of brick, stands on a hill 150 feet high, 11/2 miles to the northward of the town. The telegraph station is situated in Queen street, which runs northward from Queens Wharf, and is in connection with the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.

Sailing Directions continue to be published to this day and are a part of the suite of navigation tools available to sailors.

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Another last word on the Rocky Point Ferry

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

One of the problems with history is that there is just too much of it.  Just when you think you have got it sorted another little wrinkle appears in the fabric.

Such is the case with the Rocky Point Ferry. The wrinkle in this case is a listing of steamer services in the Daily Examiner for 7 July 1893. Amidst the listings for services to West River, Southport Ferry, the Steamer Jacques Cartier and the Steamer Electra is the service for the Rocky Point Sailboat. Leaving Charlottetown for Rocky Point on Monday and Thursday at 9am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm  and on other days at  11 am, 4 pm and 6 pm.

That same year the good people of Rocky Point also had service from the Steamer Southport at least twice a day with four crossings on Saturday and Sunday. One presumes that the sailboat carried only passengers and small parcels while those wanting to transport livestock or waggons had to wait until the steam ferry called.

There had been some sort of sail ferry to the Rocky Point area at least since William Hubbard advertised the services of the Charles in 1843 as noted in above notice. It was certainly in place in 1850 when the ferry sank in a squall throwing the ferryman, his lad and two passengers into the water where one of them drowned inspite of the dispatching of Tremain’s steam boat Isla to the site of the disaster.  Although the wharf and roads connected Rocky Point to the south shore of Lot 65 and traffic increased, especially on market days, the service was probably less than satisfactory – especially since the crossing to Southport was by steam by the 1850s. This seems to have changed in 1874 as seen by the following note in the 30 May Semi-weekly Patriot. “The people of Rocky Point have now got what they desired in the shape of a steam ferry. The contract for the old sail boat having expired the steamer Eljin [sic] commenced to make trips between Connolly’s wharf and Rocky Point, yesterday.” 

Detail of Rocky Point area from 1869 edition of Bayfield's Chart of Charlottetown Harbour

Detail of Rocky Point area from 1869 edition of Bayfield’s Chart of Charlottetown Harbour

The trips to Rocky Pointy may have been incidental to the Eflin’s primary role of crossing between Charlottetown and Southport and it appears that the services of the sailboat were continued for a number of years.

Although Hubbard’s boat probably landed on the beach at Warren Cove and no wharf is shown on the 1839 George Wright Chart of Charlottetown harbour it was apparently not long before a wharf was built at Rocky Point.  The wharf extended into Canceaux Cove angled a little to the west of the later wharf now crumbling into ruins and its footprint on the bottom of the cove can be seen in some of the aerial photos taken in the 20th century. With the coming of steam service the Rocky Point wharf was kept dredged and the channel marked by buoys but keeping pace with the crumbling of the wharf the dredged channel is filling in. The ferry boats have long since gone and soon all that will remain will be a rockpile extending from the shore.