Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 22 - Ferries in the Strait of Canso

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1978/8/1 (1705 reads)
 

Ferries in tiie Strait of Canso Earle Embree, Port Hastings: My father, who was Capt. James Embree, operated one of the first ferries across the strait, transporting passengers, pedlars, commer? cial travellers. He used a sailboat. You wouldn't exactly call it a sailing vessel. It was what they called an oversized stem? mer. She was the same in the build fore and aft, the same shape. And she'd have a beam about 8 or 9 feet. And she'd be 20, 22 feet long, with two spars • foresail and mainsail, no jib. And the rudder was re? movable. If there was no wind, they rowed a boat. In later years when they got the gasoline, they used a motor. And then when traffic picked up to the point where there were a lot of people travelling by horse and wagon or buggy, they got a flat-bot? tomed scow that they backed into the beach and put out two gangways to put the vehic? les on with. And they had a rack in the front of the scow to put two horses or two cattle, whichever they wanted to carry. And days when there was a good wind, be? fore they got the gasoline, they towed the scow with the sailboat. My father rode that scow pulled by the sailboat, and he died about 5 years ago at 87. And I myself was born and brought up in Port Hawkesbury, right next door to my grandfather's home, and I spent all my childhood days, once I was old enough to be allowed to go to the beach, 6 or 7 years old • I travelled back and forth with my grandfather, both in the sailboat and in the motorboat and in the scow. The scow was towed and steered with a big sweep oar out the back of the scow, in a big rowlock. And when this rowlock was removed, half of the tail of the scow would drop down so that they could put the gangways out when they backed into the beach. Capt. James Embree was living right in the centre of the town of Hawkesbury. And his father Isaac ferried passengers across the strait in years before that, when they on? ly had rowboats or sail. But my grandfa? ther lived into the era of the gasoline engine. And when he passed away his son Orman took the whole thing over. Then Or- man was drowned, coming back from Mulgrave with a passenger. Nobody knows what hap? pened. He just disappeared and the passen? ger didn't even know he was gone till he turned around to speak to him and he was gone. He was standing up in the middle of the boat, holding the rudder lines in his hands in front of the engine box and talk? ing to this commercial traveller • man by the name of Ross travelling for Morse's tea • and Mr. Ross turned around to speak to him and he was alone in the boat. He didn't know how to shut the motor' off so he bent the timer handle so much that she quit. Then he was drifting. And the men from the Leonard Fisheries saw the boat a- drift and jumped in what they called the
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