The steamship connection between Charlottetown and Boston (the Boston Boat) was begun in 1864, continued until the Great War, and was revived in the 1930s. Although many steamers served the route the most famous were the vessels Worcester and its twin the Carroll, both from the civil war era, which for more than twenty-five years regularly made the passage back and forth between the Island and New England, stopping at Port Hawkesbury and Halifax.
Thousands of Islanders made the trip, many tasking the passage scores of times. Because it was such a common shared experience, accounts of the trip are rare. The following is a report from one “Viator” (Latin for traveller) published in the Charlottetown Examiner on 22 September 1890. The delayed start from Charlottetown was on a Friday.
The early part of the lovely month of September is, to my mind, the ideal time for a holiday trip either by land or sea. Then it is that the weather is not sufficiently warm to be oppressive, nor so cold as to be unpleasant. … I went from Charlottetown to Boston of the steamer Worcester, of the Boston, Halifax and Prince Edward Island Steamship Line and made the journey from Boston to New York via Providence by rail…
Owing to the fact that some of the ship’s firemen had indulged rather freely in the exhilarating fluids so openly and unblushingly dispensed in the Scott Act city of Charlottetown and were consequently unable to satisfactorily discharge their duties, necessitating the engagement of new men, the Worcester was almost three hours late in leaving port on the occasion of my taking passage in her. …
As the steamer passed out by the Block House the decks were lined with passengers. Some were in groups conversing and here and there a couple could be seen sitting rather closely together, as is quite natural when people are leaving home and happen to be of the opposite sexes
Passing out by the Black Buoy the water now became rough, and from the Bell Buoy until Point Prim was reached the “old reliable” made things so interesting for the before mentioned groups and couples that within half an hour the decks were deserted save by a poor seasick passenger unable to get away from the lee rail, and a few veterans … who made themselves popular by assisting the others, especially the females, to less exposed quarters. After passing Point Prim the sea was more aft, and the steamer went along more gently and quickly before the wind, and all was quiet for the night when the writer retired.
By daylight the next morning the steamer was well in between Cape George Promontory and the Straits of Canso, and the passengers were afforded a magnificent view of one of the most picturesque sights to be seen in North America. The high land of Cape George trending away to the south-west lost itself among the fertile valleys of Antigonish, only to reappear again in greater elevation as it spread out before us and touched the water at Cape Porcupine, Straits of Canso. Then a small gap and the loftier hills of Cape Breton stretch themselves before our vision, varied here and there by sharply-defined and precipitous buffs, which seemed away in a blue distance to almost touch the heavens. Port Hood Island showed out as a clearly-marked spot to the left, while just a shadow on the water astern gave mute evidence of the one spot every man cherishes – “Our native land.” As it lies peaceful and quiet on the very verge of the horizon, one is reminded of the many souls that have left its shores, how few, alas, of whom return to enjoy the peace and tranquility they so much desired before “passing to that bourne whence no traveller returns.” But the breakfast bell cuts short one’s musings, and, fully alive to the importance of the occasion, I made my way in the direction of the dining saloon. While we were at breakfast the steamer was made fast to the wharf at Port Hawkesbury.
After breakfast and ascertaining that the steamer would have to await the arrival of the Sydney boat which was likely to be late owing to the fresh westerly wind prevailing and having Mr. Sawyer’s guarantee that we would not be left behind Capt. Bernard, Mr. Wright and myself started off to see the sites of Port Hawkesbury…..
Delayed by the late arrival of the connecting steamer from Sydney, Viator and several other passengers took a tour on the Canso Strait area which coincided with the passage of part of the Royal Navy’s North Atlantic Fleet on its way to Quebec. The description of this part of the trip has been omitted but can be found in the full newspaper account.
We also saw the Neptune with our Sydney passengers passing along so we dropped our inspection of the railways and warships and hastened back to our boatman who soon landed us on the Worcester… In the meantime, the Neptune had tied up to the wharf, and by noon the passengers and their baggage were transferred to the Worcester, and we were off again. As the boat left the harbour we met a beautiful steam yacht flying the stars and stripes and as we went by both steamers dipped their flags with marine courtesy. Now all was life and animation aboard. Everyone was busily engaged admiring the rough scenery of “the Gut” — quite a change to most of our passengers from the low land and red clay of P.E. Island. … As the steamer passed down Chedabucto Bay we began to get evidence of the sea roll, and by the time she rounded Cape Canso and was fairly headed up the shore for Halifax, a good many of the now familiar faces had disappeared to be seen no more until our arrival in Halifax. The sea was not rough, but it kept up a constant motion not to be borne by new beginners. Still, however, there was quite a number of passengers around the decks till night, after which only a few couples kept possession of the benches until ten, at which hour the steward and stewardess made their rounds as usual and gathered in the stragglers. About four o’clock in the afternoon we passed the Carroll — the sister ship of this line — bound east. All the afternoon and evening Nova Scotia was a blue line off the fight hand side (perhaps I should say starboard side) and every hour or two we could make out a new lighthouse and after dark the lights.
Next morning when I came on deck there was every appearance of rain, and the steamer was abreast of Devil’s Island Light, with Chedabucto Head stretching out away across our bows. By nine o’clock we arrived at the wharf in Halifax. All hands are on deck again anxious for a run on shore after the tedium of seasickness, and soon the Worcester is almost deserted. As she has a large freight to take in for Boston the stevedores and crew are soon hard at work. While the loading is in progress the passengers start off to “do” the city.
Halifax was reached on Sunday morning. Viator toured the city and re-boarded the Worcester to complete the trip to Boston which was reached on Monday afternoon.