Up until recently pleasure sailing from Charlottetown was not restricted to private yachts. The harbour held a several possibilities for spending time of the water. By picking your day you could go to a number of destinations, any of which would become an excursion. In 1877 a writer for the Semi-Weekly Patriot calculated there were at least nine different routes, several of which had stops at a number of different wharves and ports. He writes about the routes to Pictou, Summerside, Crapaud, Orwell, Mount Stewart, Bonshaw, Southport, Rocky Point, and the Islands of Governor’s and St. Peter’s. Starting from what the writer called the “Queen City of the Gem of the Gulf” the correspondent waxes eloquent about the services to Pictou and Summerside where rail connections opened to the world but other ports were closer at hand. Several of these locations became sites of choice for church teas and picnics and almost every lodge and fraternal association took advantage of the services offered at least once over the summer season. On Dominion Day 1878, for example, over 400 people crowded onto the Heather Belle for an excursion to Orwell. On the other hand, as seen from the advertisement above, groups sponsoring teas at the outports attracted additional participants by advertising the travel option provided by the steamers. The main business of the steamers was to provide regular passenger and freight services. However, self-guided tours or “days out” to the destinations up and down Northumberland Strait were also a popular activity.
In a earlier post I noted the Patriot’s observations about the trips up and down the rivers flowing into the bay. Today’s installment covers trips to Victoria and Orwell.
But many pleasure seekers desire a shorter trip, say half a day. Then they will take the Heather Belle to Crapaud in early morning on every Saturday going down the harbor, across the “Three Tides” out around St. Peter’s Island, in site of “Governors” and within hearing of the almost ceaseless booming of the Bell Buoy on its dangerous reef, and along the Island coast with the neat farms and comfortable homesteads, the dancing water and clear air, all rendered doubly beautiful by the morning sun. On arriving at Victoria, passengers can either take carriages and drive to Crapaud three miles, a charming scene, and thence to County line on the Railway, where they can take a mid-day train for home, whole cost $2.00 each; or return to Victoria and home again by boat arriving here about noon. If a special party of 30 or 40 is made up Mr. Hughes will allow them nearly five (5) hours (according to the tide) at Crapaud to aspread the cloths and enjoy the contents of a basket; returning here about 6:30 p.m. The whole trip costs 50 cents each (return) ticket, while ordinary fare is $1.00 for the round trip.
For a short and pleasant sail few better opportunities are offered than to Orwell and return, upon Thursday and Tuesday afternoons. The boat leaves at 3 o’clock, when, carrying your lunch basket, you will steam across Pownal and Orwell Bays, touching at the “new wharf” and viewing “High Bank” near which the “Polly” landed her passengers who were, and are to our Province what the pilgrims of the “Mayflower” are to Plymouth Rock, and Massachusetts. Thence the steamer cuts across to China Point within sight of the mouth of Vernon River and the Bridge where there is opportunity given to ascend the rising ground and view the prospect o’er. Everyone will feel better for the scene to fair to see, while parties will have about an hour given them for lunching in some of the pleasant nooks around. returning to Charlottetown about 8 p.m., the round trip costing 30 cents.
The Heather Belle’s officers and owners, are careful and attentive, the boat is well found and safe and passing close to the beautiful shores allows ample opportunity for people to see everything of interest.
The steamer Heather Belle had been built at Duncan’s Shipyard in Charlottetown in 1862. At her launch she was described by the Islander newspaper as “a beautiful little steamboat.” Initially built to serve the wharves between Charlottetown and Mount Stewart on the Hillsborough River she soon was serving ports in all of the rivers and across Northumberland Strait. In 1864 she carried delegates from the Nova Scotia port of Brule to the meeting in Charlottetown discussing Maritime Union which became a wider discussion on Confederation.