Tag Archives: Victoria

Ebony Goes to Victoria – again

VID02381The wind for the next two days was forecast to be from the north. That made a difference because with the prevailing south-westerlies a trip up the shore to Victoria was more often than not a hard beat with the wind on the nose.  With a north wind there was a chance, and just a chance mind you, that it could be more of a reach both coming and going.  Victoria is a little port west on Northumberland Strait from Charlottetown and is generally a good day-sail in a Halman 20.  I had visited each year since I got the boat and gave the information about the port on these pages after my first trip.

This year I was fortunate to be able to press-gang a colleague who, through storm damage to his boat had been forced ashore for most of the summer and was suffering from a bad case a sea-fever.  Although he could not make the return trip he agreed to at least sail to Victoria and return by land.

We had a fine sail of it. Leaving port with wind astern and a favourable tide we crossed over the St. Peter’s spit and up along the Island turning to cross the reef just shy of the St. Peter’s buoy.  The wind had picked up and we tucked a reef in the main which gave us the same speed but with a more stable ride and less heel.  With a beam reach and an expert helmsman I was able to make hot coffee and snacks and got a few shots with my tiny video camera which I later edited into a short film of the trip.

Keeping well off Inman Rock the somewhat confusing entry to Victoria Harbour soon came into view.  Its confusing mainly because one expects more of a defined bay but the harbour is more of a dimple  in the shoreline.  The sands of Tryon Shoals are spilling into the channel from the west and there is a large sandy bank on the east side of the channel. The channel itself is well-marked but the large number of  buoys and an easily missed hard jog to the west as well as the narrowness and shallowness of the route require constant attention. We downed sails at the outer buoy and motored in. It would be a scary port to try to sail into under an unfavourable wind.

VID02382On my last trip I anchored off and this year I towed the dingy with us in anticipation of a lack of space at the wharf. There are still a number of working fishing boats still operating out of Victoria and a couple of resident power boats as well.   I don’t relish snuggling up to a high steel wharf with tide changing overnight and needing to shift lines. Luckily there was a spot at the floating wharf and with our shallow draft we could rest there without going aground. We had been less than 6 1/2 hours port to port.

After a drink in the pub it was time for my colleague to depart and I was left to re-explore the wonders of Victoria on my own. It is a very much a tourist town although the fabric of the village speaks to a prosperous past. My great-grandfather had a general store here which has since become a seasonal chocolate factory. Other former business have had a similar fate.  There are four restaurants in the Village but all close early.  The pub was closed by 7:00 (drinking apparently must be done in the privacy of one’s own home) and the last restaurant closed its doors at 8:00.  By that time the village was deserted  and the main entertainment was to sit at the end of the wharf and wait for the tiny red and green pricks of light on the buoys to start twinkling.

The next morning was flat calm but by the time I reached the outermost buoy the breeze had started and I was soon able to turn the helm over to Otto the pilot and read my book and listen to Radio Canada, punctuated by VHF calls to and from Sydney Coast Guard.  By the time I reached the St. Peter’s reef the wind had risen to near 20 knots. Otto had long since been sent below and I had switched to the working jib and a reefed main.  Turning near St. Peter’s buoy I began a  long hard slog directly into the wind which had whipped up waves against the opposing tide. Not an inch of progress was made without tacking to and fro and it was a relief to steal into the Harbour.  Even with the work of beating into the waves the high wind gave me good boat speed (well … good for the tubby little sloop that is the Halman) and the return trip took only about 9 hours. The tacking had added about 25% to the distance sailed and about 2 1/2 hours to the passage time.



Jacques Cartier Wrecked at River John

Although it was late in the season it was simply a routine trip. Every Friday the S.S. Jacques Cartier left the wharf in Charlottetown and headed out the mouth of the Harbour for Victoria, as the port for Crapaud was becoming known. On 28 November 1902 as she passed Blockhouse Light she was carrying no passengers but had a crew, of seven and a full cargo as merchants from Victoria through to Kelly’s Cross tried to get stock to tide them over during the period when the port was iced-up and the land travel was slow and difficult.

S.S. Jacques Cartier at harbour mouth

S.S. Jacques Cartier at harbour mouth

The Jacques Cartier had boots, iron and cloth for Wright Brothers in Victoria, washing sod and wool for the Tryon Woolen Mills, egg cases and nails for Wadman’s in Crapaud, oil turpentine and forks for P.G. Lord in Tryon, carriage stock for Charles McKenna and Patrick Trainor, both in Kelly’s Cross and items including soap, oysters, raisins, cider, tobacco, apples, confectionary and potash for a number of other dealers and individuals. It was a trip like any other.

Jacques Cartier001Except… it was almost the beginning of December and the weather could turn at any time. In hindsight the Guardian was to recall that many were distrustful of the fourteen year old side-wheeler as she had been built for inland use and might have a bad time with a storm in open water.  The Jacques Cartier was built in Quebec in 1888  and acquired in 1892 at a cost of $13,000 by the Inland Steam Navigation for the river and bay service which linked Charlottetown with West River, Mt. Stewart, Orwell and Victoria. She was reasonably sized for the service at 120 feet by 23 feet breadth.  Like many side-wheeler  she had a beam engine turning the paddles from a single 30 inch cylinder with a six-foot stroke.

She had been spotted off Hampton, not far from the end of her run to Victoria and apparently on schedule at half-past four on Friday night and fighting a rising north-west gale when the light dimmed and she slipped from sight.  She never arrived in Victoria. But the problem was not the gale. The problem was that the Jacques Cartier had lost her rudder and no matter how seaworthy the boat and how powerful her engines. if she could not control where she was headed the wind and tide would make decisions for her.

A little more than 20 nautical miles to the south-west of Hampton and Victoria lies Cape John, Nova Scotia.  The night would  have been an anxious one for those aboard. There is a dangerous reef at Amhet Island and the northern Nova Scotia coast is not a welcoming one.  Even with the ability to steer it is not an area where Captain David Walker would want to have been.

The news arrived by telegram in Charlottetown on Saturday. The Jacques Cartier was ashore. The crew had been saved but the vessel was a total loss.

After her demise the Guardian concluded that replacement would be difficult. “The service is one that cannot be dispensed with and yet the traffic is hardly sufficient to maintain a fast or expensive boat.”  There would have been no service at all but for the provincial government subsidy and in 1901 she was laid up for a few months as the company tried to negotiate a more profitable schedule. The Jacques Cartier had been put up for auction by her owners in 1897. A the time of her loss the principle shareholders were L.L. Beer, Benjamin Rogers and William Welsh.  She was not irreplaceable and the following year the S.S. City of London appeared on the route

Prose Praise Purely Purple

Newspaper accounts can be a great source if information but occasionally one strikes an article penned by a would-be  Wordsworth where the information is completely buried under the writers excesses. ( The writer of this piece had me with the “luxuriant turnips on the tree-clad hills”)  Such a story appeared in the Guardian on 12 September 1900 under the title BY THE JACQUES CARTIER and told of a trip on the side-wheel steamer Jacques Cartier which had been on the route since 1892.

S.S. Jacques Cartier at harbour mouth

S.S. Jacques Cartier at harbour mouth

For a pleasant sail on a fine afternoon we commend the trip by the Jacques Cartier to Victoria. Down the harbour you go, passing little craft on the way, and as you turn to look at the receding city you are compelled to think that this is about the best view you have ever had of it. And how broad, expansive and sheltered is out beautiful harbour. Here a navy might ride sat anchor. To east and west and north and south are gleaming silver lanes amid the green of fertile fields and full-foliaged trees, three of these lines being tributary rivers, and the fourth our passage to the world embracing ocean. These natural features of use and beauty, these channels for commerce and this broad and sheltered haven are old compared with all the work of man beside them. They were made in natures morning. The city is but of yesterday. Nay more. There would, perchance have been no city here but for this harbour. … The harbour was before the city, and may long survive it. Cities built by men are perishable Nineveh and Babylon have become heaps, but still the Euphrates rolls on to the sea… … 

Already we are turning to pass out the harbour. We have only time for a brief glance eastward to where our million dollar bridge will presently span the East River. It will form a new and striking feature of this fair scene in the years to come. It will be useful too, – another channel for the trade and travel of the future, and for the pleasure and convenience of men that are and of generations to come. We must have roads and bridges, railways and railway bridges… There are some who tell us that we do not need this costly structure, but such persons are a small and diminishing number… Nature when she shaped our harbor looked beyond the days of canoes.  

Past the Blockhouse and Keppoch, rounding St. Peter’s Island, and out into the rolling billows of the Strait. Just a few of our passengers are sea-sick for a time and the sea-sick individual thinks himself of all men most miserable. But the many are not so, and enjoy the tossing motion of the sparkling waves. So we glide along, in full view of the fair shores of Argyle and Desable the eye refreshed with the view of smiling homesteads, the brown of shorn harvest fields, and deep green of the aftermath, the luxuriant turnips on the tree-clad hills. As the sun sinks toward the horizon we glide into the calm waters of Victoria and then speed on to our rest in the hospitable shelter of Pleasant View – now closed for the season to the tourist, by special grace still open to the writer of this hasty sketch…