Tag Archives: Mac

Commodore Morris Goes to Shediac

In the mid and late 1930’s Fred Morris was perhaps the Charlottetown Yacht Club’s biggest booster. He had been very much involved with breathing life back into the club which had been somewhat dormant in the first half of the decade and he was elected Commodore of the revived organization.  But his interests did not end at the mouth of the harbour and he, along with CYC secretary Mac Irwin, was also interested in ensuring the success of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait.  In August 1936 the first of the YRANS regattas took place in Shediac and Morris took the Elizabeth up the Strait to the event. On his return from the New Brunswick port Morris shared his experiences with the readers of the Guardian.


Elizabeth, owned by Commodore Morris, preparing to tow the Mic

The Trip Up the Strait

I have been asked to tell of our trip to Shediac so here goes. The Cruiser Elizabeth with her crew of three and the Commodore aboard left Charlottetown Wednesday at about 4 a.m. As passengers we carried Capt.Ken MacDonald, the Charlie Chaplin of the waterfront, Mr. Simon Paoli, skipper of the Mic, Mr, Gordon Coffin, skipper of the Onawa, Mr. Coffin Sr. a yachting enthusiast, and we had the two boats, the Mic and Onawa in tow. Fair weather greeted us for a while but after the bit the weatherman got somewhat fractious and decided we had had enough petting for a while. He therefore started up a good lively sea and the boats commenced to dance.

Off Crapaud the Onawa took to drinking more water than was good for her and commenced to settle down in the fluid. Gordon thinking to bail her out (not out of jail), started across the Mic to board her. We slowed down for the operation with the result she gently laid her mast on the water, then under the water and finally started to sink stern first. when she was through this operation all we could see of her was her nose above water. Things did not look too good. Her owner decided we’d better cut her adrift, as she was liable to damage the other boat. but our skipper says no, we will try a little speed on her. Soon we started going up faster and faster, and soon her mast began to rise and she rose till she was on an even keel. A breath of relief was given by all. We hot-footed it into Crapaud where when we slowed up at the wharf the Onawa promptly sunk again. But she was taken up to the wharf, her mast removed and then hauled to shallow water, bailed out, the pulled up high and dry and repaired as well as out limited shipyard equipment would admit.  Having got her in seaworthy shape again with the mast bound down along her decks, we started out from Crapaud in a much reduced sea, and drew into Tormentine about 7 p.m.  Here we greeted our friend Commodore McKeigan of the Pictou Yacht Club who had arrived with four boats from Pictou, having lost one on the way, the big Cantly Yawl, which, after breaking the tow rope two or three times elected to make her way to Shediac under sail. Commodore McKeigan reported quite a mix up down somewhere Wood Islands but he is too good an old salt to get into something he cannot finish.

Chasing a Deer

We pulled out of Tormentine at 3 a.m. and found a beautiful morning ahead of us. While off Cape Bauld we saw a familiar looking cruiser going round and round in circles close to land , and through our binoculars we recognized Jim Currie’s boat and decided he needed some supervision. So we moved in to see why the circles. It looked like steering trouble to us.  As we drew alongside we inquired just what was happening and were told that they were chasing a deer.  Well anyone telling you they were chasing a deer in Northumberland Straits you’re apt to look at with a certain degree of curiosity, and thinking I had got a clue to the situation I asked what sort of liquor he had on board. This insinuation was indignantly repudiated and the members of his crew loudly declared that there was a deer there all right and they all but got a noose over his head when their engine took pity on the deer and stopped. Well, we kind of believed them by this time, though we didn’t see any deer and told then to throw their anchors and wait for us until we left our tow in Shediac and we would come back for them which we did. Coming pout of Shediac Harbor on our errand of mercy the first thing we saw was the Mac sailing along under Skipper King and making for Shediac Harbor. The watchful secretary of the C.Y.C. [Mac Irwin] had spotted the Deerslayer and cast his tow, the Mac, adrift to shift for himself while he put on the larger tow line necessary for the bigger catch. Well, we took the deerslayer over and started back arriving all safely. And such a scene! Five or six big Charlottetown cruisers all anchored in a bunch shouting greetings of various sorts to each other, two Montague yachts, two Charlottetown yachts, innumerable motor boats, yachts etc. from Summerside, also yachts hailing from Borden and Tormentine presenting a scene long to be remembered.  

Shediac Hospitality

The hospitality of the Shediac Club was unlimited.  Its members laboured so that we might have everything we desired Their fine clubhouse was thrown open to us all and the whole affair was a gigantic success. Amazement was expressed by old salts by the sight of 42 boats racing on the harbour at once and the whole meet passed without the raising of a protest flag. Not a protest or dispute of any kind slowed the spirit that prevailed among these men, and I might add, women for the boat sailed by the Sumner sisters and Miss Wood aroused such excitement and admiration through their very apparent seamanship that a storm of applause echoed through the clubhouse on their receiving a lovely cup for just this quality.

Well, we were sorry it was over, but all good times must come to an end, so we proposed to sail at 12 o’clock Saturday night for home. But a few feet of tow rope in our propeller made us change our minds, and not before Jack Hearn played diver, mind you with his wrist-watch on, which later he dove into a cup of oil, not till then, did we get away. A glorious run right through to Charlottetown followed and the others came along as the spirit moved them, all to sit on the stringers of Pownal wharf and go mover it again, and when your memory slipped Charlie Chaplin would tell you all about it and slip no cogs. All we hope is that someday in the near future we can give Charlottetown the thrill that Shediac must have had over this regatta. and when we get this aggregation over here the citizens generally will help us to give them a real Island welcome.  

Mac Irwin and the origins of Northumberland Strait yacht racing

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Class 3 yacht “Mic” owned by Simon Paoli in a stiff breeze – Charlottetown Harbour about 1936

The 1930s saw a quickening of interest in yacht racing in towns all along Northumberland Strait. Yacht Clubs had been founded or had had re-organizations in Pictou, Charlottetown, Borden, Summerside, Amherst and Shediac.  Several clubs had regattas and regular club racing and visiting boats from other clubs were always welcomed at the local events.  However it was a loose arrangement. There were no standard classes and attempts to introduce handicaps were not always successful.

A movement to formalize racing began in Shediac  and in February of 1936 a meeting was held in Moncton which resulted in the creation of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait. Each of the Yacht Clubs on Northumberland Strait was represented on the new organization’s executive and Mac Irwin of the  Charlottetown Yacht Club was elected vice-president.  In an interview with the Charlottetown Guardian Irwin noted that standardizing the classes would end the “wearisome task of setting handicaps and the unpreventable dissatisfaction which usually follows handicap races.”  Irwin noted “… there was nothing friendly about the “friendly”  competitions rival clubs used to hold.”

Irwin, who had built a large number of sailing and motor craft in his workshop at the rear of the Irwin Print building on Richmond Street, was asked to submit a design for the organization’s “model yacht.”   His proposal for the “Mic-Mac” class was accepted as the association’s standard.  By the end of May 1936 the first boat built to the new design had been launched in Charlottetown. The Mic was owned by Simon Paoli and the boat had been built by Irwin himself.  At the time of her launch Irwin had a second boat, later to be called the Mac under construction for his own use. Other boats were being built in Summerside, Pictou and Shediac. All were expected to take part in the 1936 season’s racing.


Commodore Fred Morris’ motor cruiser “Elizabeth” prepares to tow Class 3 yacht “Mic” about 1936.

With the development of a standardized design the new boats became class 3 of the  Yacht Racing Association’s measurement system.  The “Mic-Mac” boats measured 22 feet overall with a 16 foot waterline, 6 foot beam and had a hollow spar rising 28 feet above the deck. The racing boats displaced 1600 pounds with 600 pounds of the weight being in the lead keel.   The craft carried a maximum 200 sq.ft. of canvas.  Spinnakers were not allowed in the class.  Crew was limited to three.  While there were older boats in Class 3 any new boats had to strictly abide to the measurement rules.

In the years between 1936 and the outbreak of the Second World War there was active racing competition on the Strait. Except for the largest classes boats were usually towed to the regatta ports. Almost all activity, except at the club level, was suspended for the duration of the hostilities although races under the banner of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait were continued beginning in 1947. By that time however the popularity of the Class Threes had been eclipsed by the popular Snipe boats which were smaller and easier to build.