Tag Archives: Hal Bourke

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.”


An update on the Charlottetown Aquatic Club

In my note on the Charlottetown Aquatic Club I stated that there seemed to be no news of the club after the outbreak of the Great War.  Now I have located a couple of more items that suggest that the club activities continued for at least another year.

Guardian 3 July 1915 p.5

Guardian 3 July 1915 p.5

Clearly there has been some difficulties for the Club, which, for some reason needed to be “re-organized”.  The appearance of four trophies suggests that the level of interest was high. Two of the cups were put up by the Charlottetown Aquatic Club and two brought back by Edward Irwin from his recent trip to Boston.

That the club was very much a motor-boat club is clear from the news of the first activity planned for the organization. Two weeks after the Guardian announcement about the club re-organization the first of the races was announced. This was to be a trial race for boats of two cylinders and those of one cylinder to establish handicaps for the rest of the race season. Many of the boats would have been equipped with engines manufactured by Bruce Stewart and Company which had begin production at its plant at the head of the Steam Navigation Wharf in 1909.

Ad for Imperial engines Guardian 17 March 1917 p.2

Ad for Imperial engines Guardian 17 March 1917 p.2

There was a clock-wise course starting from a line defined by the judges boat and a flag buoy, thence to Government Point Black Buoy [now Middle Ground Green] leaving it to Port, thence to the Messervey’s Point Buoy,[I’m not sure where this is but am guessing it is the Langley Beach Red]  thence to the flag buoy off the Railway Wharf and back to the start line. Twice around for two-cylinder boats, once for one-cylinder boats.   While the is little doubt that the races were held only  the results for the second race in the series have been found.  Bruce Stewart’s Imperial led the A class of seven boats  while A. Aylward took first in the B Class. Of the dozen boats listed I have been able to find a photo of only one – Hal Bourke’s “Flirt”.

It is worth noting that among the Aquatic Club officers were Hal Bourke and Mac Irwin, both of whom were to become very important when the Charlottetown Yacht Club was established in 1922. Hal’s Restless and Mac Irwin’s Roamer  were still very much in evidence in the early 1960s when the current crop of CYC “mature” members were youngsters and many of us can remember trips on these two boats.