Tag Archives: Clarke Steamships

Charlottetown Yacht Club – A History in Five Photos

Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with Ron Atkinson who was a Yacht Club Board Member for several years and was Commodore in 1964 – one of the most exciting years in the history of the club.  Besides his memories of the Club activities Ron has a collection of materials which he willingly shared with me.  The following photos were ones that I had not seen before but which cover a forty-year period in the Club’s history and which Ron allowed me to copy.


Although this photo was taken in 1959 it shows a structure which pre-dated the Yacht Club by many years.   Remembered by Ron as “Carvell’s salt shed”  the building which shows up in few other photos sat on Pownal Wharf  where the Club parking lot now stands. Carvell’s had leased the wharf in the 1920s but the building may be older than that. Probably used for the storage of salt which was sold for fish preservation, the building was typical of the waterfront structures which received little or no maintenance after shipping dropped off in the late 1930s.  Before that Carvell’s Wharf was a busier spot and the regular steamers using the wharf included Clarke Steamships Gaspesia.  By the time this photo was taken the wharf had crumbled with only the rock pile visible to the right of the picture.

CYC001aThis photo was taken sometime before 1937 when the Yacht Club clubhouse was built on the stub of what had been Lord’s Wharf. Work undertaken through the depression works program had made a great job of clearing the site and restoring the pilings and infill for the wharf. The float which was the boarding point for boats was already in place and anchored yachts were beginning to fill the basin.  To the left of the picture, moored at Carvell’s, or Pownal wharf, are two of the boats essential to the history of the Club; Hal Bourke’s Restless and Mac Irwin’s Roamer.   The wharf had an extension running east and west to enable large steamers to tie up and given the perspective this photo must have been taken from the deck of one of the steamers.  The wharf would have provided excellent shelter from to south-east winds for the yachts in the basin. Note that the area to the north of the Club is almost empty with neither the City Barn nor the Eastern hay and Feed warehouse yet constructed.

CYC002aProbably copied from a newspaper this picture can be dated between 1938 and 1940. the new architect-designed clubhouse overlooks the snipe fleet and a small schooner. The ground is still almost empty between the Club and Water Street. In June 1940 the City of Charlottetown let a contract to Albert MacKinnon for a new City Barn to be built just north of the Club. The design for the structure had been drawn by architect James Harris.  The building was to house the city’s public works equipment and horses.  CYC003a

With a group of members launching one of the club’s Snipe fleet changes to the club’s surroundings can be spotted in the background. The City Barn, very recently built but already looking old, is in place and visible behind it is the Eastern Hay and Feed warehouse, later Atlantic Wholesalers. The photo is probably from the early 1940s. Several of the participants seem to have military-style dress and the Club was a popular spot for airmen training at the R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. facilities at what is now the Charlottetown Airport. Although not absolutely clear it is likely that the gentleman in the leather jacket to the left of the boat is Mac Irwin who was involved in almost every Club activity.


Jump ahead about thirty years. With the fleet at anchor in what must have been a very high tide the changes that time has brought can be seen. Several additions (clearly without the influence of an architect) have been made to the clubhouse to add to the facilities and increase the bar revenue. The scotch derrick which served as the mast crane is to the right of the building and a number of finger piers extend east from Lords’s Wharf.  The City Barn and the Atlantic Wholesale warehouse still stand and the various sheds, barns and warehouses on Pickard’s wharf all seem to be awaiting demolition and redevelopment as Harbourside. Experienced club members will recognize many of the boats afloat and ashore; Plumb MacDonald’s boat is in what is now the ‘hood, Mac Irwin’s last Roamer is moored just west of Pownal wharf, and that looks like the Hunk A Dory in the parking lot. It is amazing to see how much the view is dominated by the bulk of St. Dunstan’s Cathedral.


Another chapter in the story of the Boston Boat


Plant Line Steamer Halifax led a dual existence as the Boston Boat in summer and a cruise ship in winter.

I have previously written about the Plant line and the ships that provided a Charlottetown-Boston link. In that article I briefly noted that Henry Plant also was a pioneer in the development of winter cruising (not forgetting the pioneering effort of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company’s steamer Northumberland ).

The Evangeline was another of the Plant Line steamers which operated in the waters off Florida

The Evangeline was another of the Plant Line steamers which operated in the waters off Florida as well as in Northumberland Strait.

This week Kevin Griffin, who works with a company called the Cruise People has written an extensive and interesting history of the cruise activities of the Plant Line  in his daily cruising-business blog. The Plant cruises provided a winter use for several of the Charlottetown-Boston steamers when the Strait iced up and the Boston traffic fell off.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Plant Line operations. Griffin may be familiar to regular readers of this blog as I have referenced his very useful and entertaining history of the Clarke Steamship company, ships of which were regular visitors to Charlottetown well into the mid-twentieth century.

As we are still watching the snow slowly recede and waiting for winter to end in fact as well as in calendar it is tempting to think that one could do much worse than taking a cruise in warm climates just now.

The Island Connector and the Inter-Island Steamship Company

The Clarke Steamship Company had a long history of linking ports in the Gulph of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland with Montreal. Clarke ships were frequent visitors to Charlottetown and their story is a small part of Kevin Griffin’s extensive research into the company which is presented in his WordPress blog titled St. Lawrence Saga: The Clarke Steamship Story. (I am indebted to Mr. Griffin for information he provided and for the photo of the North Coaster which I have used in this write-up.) Many Islanders will remember the Clarke Steamships name but what is less widely known is that a small group of Island business men were involved in one Clarke venture just after World War II.

As the war drew to a close the Island became eager to capitalize on the long-time trade links with Newfoundland that had been strengthened after 1939. Premier Walter Jones bombarded Ottawa with requests to develop direct and subsidized shipping links to carry Island produce and livestock and even considered having his government enter the steamship business.

Island Connector

The Inter-Island Steamship Company’s “Island Connector” pictured after it had been sold to Canadian Pacific and re- named the “Yukon Princess”. The photo shows the vessel after the derrick configuration had been changed to suit West Coast requirements.

In 1946 the Dominion Government agreed to continue an existing war-time subsidy for an additional four years and, without competition, granted the $4,500 per trip concession to  Clarke Steamship Company.  In April of 1946 Desmond Clark visited the Island, met with the business community and with Premier Jones and announced that service would begin shortly. While in Charlottetown he announced the creation of the Inter-Island Steamship Company capitalized at half a million dollars. Of the nine company directors five were from the P.E.I. business community: H.C. Bourke of Carvelle Bros – leading wholesale merchants , Walter Hyndman – Hyndman & Company marine insurers, Walter Pickard – Coal merchant, J. Andrew Likely of the DeBlois wholesale firm, and L.H. Poole merchant and shipper of Montague. The Guardian noted the youth of the Directors:

It is a matter of satisfaction to find the younger generation taking an active part in the development of the trade and commerce of the Province, as exemplified by the directorate of the new Inter-Island Steamship Company.  

The new company was, in all likelihood, somewhat of a shell or holding corporation as the vessel operated as a direct part of the Clark fleet. Inter-Island may have been created in order to forestall other Island interest in the service.

EPSON scanner Image

“Island Connector’s” sister ship “North Coaster” showing the original configuration of the cargo cranes.

The company’s vessel, the Island Connector was designed and built as a China Coaster to be a supply vessel in the war against Japan. Launched Vancouver in late 1945 as the Ottawa Parapet it was renamed and reconfigured as the Island Connector by the Pacific Dry Dock Company and was completed in April 1946 when it set sail for the East Coast. With dimensions of 224 feet by 37 feet  it was one of three 1,300 ton, nearly identical ships acquired by Clarke for their Gulf and North Shore Services.  Its two cargo holds could accommodate 75,000 cubic feet of cargo and the ships had accommodation for twelve passengers.  Clarke offered “Vagabond Cruises” return from Montreal to P.E.I. and Newfoundland ports for a fare of $200.

Mount St. Vincent History Professor Corey Slumkoski has explored the Island – Newfoundland trade connection in a number of articles the most accessible of which is “Animals on the Hoof”  published in the Island Magazine in 2006. However in this article and in a number of others on related subjects he identifies the Island Connector as a “diesel schooner” which certainly was not the case as it had an Allis-Chalmers triple expansion  reciprocating steam engine giving a speed of 10 knots.

island connector rppc

S.S. Island Connector while engaged in the Newfoundland trade. Real Photo Postcard ca. 1948  

The subsidized service continued from April through November for four seasons, ending in 1949. By this time Newfoundland had become part of the Dominion and the trade was no longer international but inter-provincial. Clarke kept the Montreal – St. Johns route using the Island Connector through 1950 but Charlottetown was no longer a regular stop. The ship was sold to Canadian Pacific for their West Coast Service and re-named the Yukon Princess. It was laid up in 1956, sold to the Westley Shipping Company. Later re-named the Rosita it was wrecked off Nicaragua in 1963 and scrapped the following year. Shipping between Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland was continued by the P.E.I. government owned M.V. Eskimo.