Tag Archives: Charlottetown Yacht Club

The Charlotte, the Rogers Cup and the first Charlottetown Yacht Club

Charlottetown Guardian 13 July 1908. P. 1

Even if the only image that seems to have survived is a grainy copy from the page of a newspaper almost a hundred and ten years old it is clear that the Charlotte was a fine-looking craft. She was described in glowing terms by the Guardian:

…a beautiful specimen of a serviceable cruising yacht, being a good sailer, with a comfortable cabin and equipped throughout with a luxuriousness that is calculated to make anyone think that yachting must be an enjoyable occupation.

At just under 40 feet, the Charlotte, with its gaff rig and long jibboom certainly had a striking appearance and was probably the pride of the small fleet in Charlottetown Harbour. It had sailed in Charlottetown since 1905 at least but it is not known when  the yacht was built.   In races the boat carried a crew of four, including a paid sailing master; Charles Moore of Dunedin. She was owned by George J. Rogers, at the time the vice-president of the Rogers Hardware Company. Rogers had also been elected commodore of the Charlottetown Yacht Club at the time of its founding and was still in the same position in 1908.

The first Charlottetown Yacht Club had been organized in August 1904, primarily for the purpose of mounting a challenge for the Coronation Cup. At the time of my blog posting on the Coronation Cup I stated I had been unable to find reference to the continuation of the club. However, further research shows that the previously informal club adopted a constitution and by-laws in June 1906 under the name Charlottetown Yacht Club.  The first Commodore was George J. Rogers. Other officers were A. Ellsworth – Vice-Commodore, J. Vanbuskirk – Rear Commodore and T.T. Black – Secretary-Treasurer.

To stimulate racing Commodore Rogers presented the club with the Rogers Cup which would be awarded to the winner of three races in the racing series.  The first of these races was held in mid-September 1908. Rogers had placed no restrictions on entry and so boats of all sizes and rigs participated; sloops, lobster boats and schooner rigs were seen on the starting line. The entries included the Micmac, Charlotte, Thelma, Onawa, Waterboat, Mayflower, Pigeon, Georgina, and Dreadnought.  According to the Guardian “The start was quite a pretty spectacle the boats getting away in a picturesque bunch and making a rare sight as they became strung out on the run to the first buoy.” The Mayflower led for the fist leg of the race until overtaken at the buoy by Micmac. Micmac held the lead until the finish followed by Charlotte, Mayflower and Pigeon.

HBC trophy. PEIMHF Collection The Rogers Cup does not appear to have survived.

The Rogers Cup was not the first sailing trophy in Charlottetown although it was the first to be under the management of the Charlottetown Yacht Club.  Only a week before the first Rogers Cup match the Hillsborough Boating Club trophy had been taken by the Micmac, which retained the trophy having won the annual race for the third time in four years. The Charlotte was one of only three entries in the final race for the HBC cup and she avoided last place only because Hiawatha had briefly gone aground on the last leg.

The 1908 Guardian feature which included the photo of the Charlotte seen above was not so much about the sloop or George Rogers as it is about the advantages of Charlottetown Harbour as a sailing locale.

There is probably no province in Canada where the people are so well provided with the means of indulging the pastime of yachting as Prince Edward Island. The advantages are general all over the province and here in the capital city of Charlottetown, built at the confluence of three broad rivers, which make its splendid harbor, with the ample Hillsborough Bay just outside the harbor entrance the situation is such as to compel the admiration of all who are interested in aquatic sport.

In no other city in Canada are such desirable yachting waters so conveniently at hand, and those who are fond of the sport and own yachts and sailing boats find means of indulging in the glorious pastime with very little trouble or expense.

Even with the passage of more than a century the sentiments expressed here remain true. Although fibreglass hulls and aluminum masts have replaced oak and fir and dacron has replaced sailcloth,  Charlottetown Harbour and Prince Edward Island waters continue to be fine sailing areas conveniently at hand.

 

 

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Launch and Retrive

At the Charlottetown Yacht Club today there is a 10 tonne crane and a concrete launch slip. These together with commercial crane services for some of the heavier boats are enough to easily launch and retrieve yachts from the harbour.

It was not always so. In the 19th century it was possible to haul large boats at one or more of the waterfront ship yards but many commercial vessels were simply left in the water over the winter, hauled into the shallows to rest on the bottom or frozen into the ice.

Wooden sail boats with deep keels were more of a problem.  In the 1920s and 30s there were still a few hand powered cranes on some of the commercial wharves and it was possible to hoist a boat .

Bottom painting, probably on the Plant Wharf. Note the hand-powered winch and wooden derrick.  Photo from the Irwin Albums.

Once out of the water the boats could be loaded onto cradles or even loaded onto waggons and moved from the wharf for storage or simply left on the wharf over the winter. This method could only be used for lighter vessels which did not exceed the modest load limits for the dock-based cranes.

Getting a small sloop ready for launch on the Pownal Wharf. The boat is leaning up against the salt shed which was removed in the late 1940s. Another sloop can be seen in its cradle in the background. Photo from the Irwin Albums

More commonly boats were launched and retrieved on their cradles using the tides. Several large boats, including Hal Bourke’s Restless and Mac Irwin’s Roamer used the beach below the Bourke house on Water Street as their storage yard. Both were on heavy wooden cradles that could be skidded or levered onto rollers to get them up on the beach above the tide line using what ever power was available.  Later, other large power cruisers were able to use the launch slip on the west side of Pownal wharf.  Initially most of the work was done with horse teams and block and tackle but in later years truck power was applied to the problem.

Getting ready to haul ca. 1930

The staff of the City Garage behind the Yacht Club could sometimes be persuaded to turn a blind eye to the use of the equipment and a close relationship developed between the club and its neighbours – especially after the city acquired a small bulldozer. In the spring the cradles bearing the yachts would simply be pushed out on the beach at low tide and when the tide rose the boats would be hauled off and at next low tide the cradles would be pulled to shore. An essential element in the operation was the presence of a number of heavy rails surplus to requirements of the Prince Edward Island Railway.  Without the weight on the wooden cradles they would simply float up as the tide rose and it could be difficult to extract the boats. In the fall the process would be reversed. The empty, weighted cradles would be placed at low tide. At high tide the boat would be maneuvered into position until the water level dropped placing it on the cradle. The cradle would then be dragged to the beach.

Hauling a small sloop at Bourkes shore. This could be a cold wet exercise especially, as may be the case here, weather is threatening. Photo from the Irwin Albums.

If this seems time-consuming it certainly was. Placing a cradle, positioning a boat and retrieving it took an entire tide cycle. Hauling a boat for minor repairs or painting could be a major operation.  It was far easier to let the tide work for you and instead of hauling the boat out you could let the boat go aground and dry out at the wharf. Timing was more critical in the case of bad weather. With less sophisticated forecasting hauling at the last-minute was a real problem.  Boats that drew less were often sent up river to more sheltered areas such as Red Gap but deep keel boats had little choice but to either try to shelter between the wharves or ride it out on a mooring.

Like so many other things getting a boat in and out of the water at the Charlottetown Yacht Club was not included in the category of things that were always “better in the good old days.”