Schooner Days CCXXXVI (236), 18 Apr 1936

Fabiola of the Roaring Rudder

By C.H.J. Snider

The TRADE WIND, very similar to the FABIOLA
(see last paragraph of the article.)

INSPECTOR STOTHERS, of Picton, also wants to know about the Fabiola in a list of Prince Edward County schooners he submits.

This little vessel was very well known to the gawky lad who haunted the waterfront at noon hours when assimilating Greek, Latin and conic sections under Archibald MacMurchy’s direction in the old Grammar School on Jarvis st., on the far side of 40 years ago. The Fabiola was then white with a lead-color bottom; sharp, clipper-bowed, with a neat scroll pattern on her rather square transomed stern, which, with her deep hold, hinted at a very early model. And the hint was correct.

The Fabiola was one of the earliest vessels built by those great brethren, John and Melancthon Simpson at Oakville, and the Halton County white oak in her bottom lasted half a century. She was launched in 1852, named the Royal Oak, and lived up to her name. She was bought by James Rowe and Co. of Whitby, and traded out of that port for 20 years or more. Old Port Whitby harbor entries show her carrying peas, wheat and barley out from Whitby to Oswego, and bringing in cargoes of plaster, salt and coal; one of the very early coal cargoes, indeed, 1862. Samuel Burke was her master in 1855; Captain Francis in 1862, and Felix Linton, of Whitby, owned her in 1874.

Seemingly she was rebuilt twice, once at Hatter’s Bay, the present village of Portsmouth, near Kingston, in 1876, and again at Picton, apparently in 1884-5, by Messrs. Curry and Allison, of Adolphustown. Was this the D.W. Allison, M.P., who built the great white family vault at Adolphustown whose classic columns, still mirrored in the Adolphustown Reach, frightened more than one Bay of Quinte mariner on moonlight nights in schooner times?

Talking of builders, E. Beaupre, who built the Oliver Mowat at Mill Haven, as mentioned last week, also built the Jessie Conger, of 149 tons, at Rednersville on the Bay of Quinte in 1863 for F.D. Bogart of Belleville. That same year he built the John Stevenson of 160 tons, at Napanee, for Stevenson and Stanton of that town. J.D. Beaupre, possibly the father of the builders of these vessels and the Mowat, in 1836 built the schooner W.S. Malcolm, 120 tons, at the long lost harbor of Port Ontario, which used to flourish a few miles east of Oswego, in Mexico Bay. Who of this generation has ever heard of this vanished port?

Cardinal Wiseman’s forgotten novel “Fabiola, or, The Church of the Catacombs,” was in its fine flower of popularity when the Royal Oak was rebuilt and re-registered at Kingston, though the Cardinal himself had then been dead 11 years. So Fabiola was re-christened, and Fabiola she remained for the rest of her life.

Captain Peter D. Ostrander, of South Bay, sailed her, and did he make her hum! One round trip with grain between Picton and Oswego she completed between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, including time out for mooring in both ports and elevating the barley at Oswego; 70 miles each way. But, like all sailing vessels, the Fabiola had to have wind and a fair wind to make time. T.W. Rose described in the Picton Gazette a trip he made with her in the doleful days of 1885, when they only got 20 cents a ton for carrying coal. That would mean at most a $60 freight for a little vessel like the Fabiola, for she could just stow 300 tons. This particular trip took three days and two nights to creep up from Charlotte to Toronto, for it was light wind and thick with fog all the way. The first evening out the captain was teasing one of the crew because his overalls had shrunk in the wash until they were half way up his legs.

“Going to wade all the way to Toronto, George?” he inquired genially, and the man at the wheel laughed obediently but circumspectly.

Next morning, when Captain Ostrander relieved the mate, he looked with horror on the Fabiola’s new sails. The clammy fog had shrunk the new duck till the booms were lifted off the saddles, as though she were lumber-reefed, the gafftopsails were puckered up as though they had been fed on rhubarb without sugar, the jibs hung like wrung dish-rags, and the Fabiola was barely moving.

“I guess,” said the mate, George N. Whattam, “she’s getting ready to wade all the way to Toronto, too.” This time the man at the wheel circumspectly and obediently did not laugh. But Peter Ostrander did. He admitted the joke was on him.

The Fabiola’s forecastle on this trip carried T.W. Rose, Manson Head and Reuben Bowerman; all from well-known sailing families in Prince Edward. The cook was Mrs. Ostrander, the captain’s wife.

“The Fabiola,” says Mr. Rose, “was a very peculiar vessel to steer. To look at her hull when in the drydock, she was called a very nice model, especially the after part, a long, clean run, and as I heard the remark one time when she was in the dock, ‘She must steer like a yacht!’

“But not so. She was a very uneasy vessel, not heavy to steer, but you could never tell what she would do. If she was coming up or going off and you gave her enough wheel to check her you would expect her to swing the opposite way, but not always so, for she was just as apt to start right on again, up or off as the case might be.

“Her compass was rather slow to start, especially when there was no sea to rock it. As she would start on her race up, or off, you would hear a distant-roar of water around one quarter or the other as she raced around. If we were below at meals in calm weather we could hear it in the cabin, and knew the time the man at the wheel was having. The man at the wheel always kept a whittled stick to poke the compass in the binnacle, and make it respond.”

The Fabiola kept going until Oct. 22nd, 1900, when Captain Danny Bates lost her off the Ducks, coming home from Oswego. He and his crew reached shore safely.

The register of 1880 gives the Fabiola’s dimensions as 95 feet length, 22 feet 4 inches beam, 9 feet 1 inch depth of hold, and registered tonnage 131. The register of 1874 gives the Royal Oak as 95 feet in length, 20 feet 2 inches beam, 9 feet 6 inches depth of hold, and 192 tons register, so that when she was re-built as the Fabiola she was wider and shallower, but registered less tonnage. In a list of lake vessels published in the Globe in 1856 her tonnage is given as 200; in Thomas’ Register of 1864 it is 175; and she carried 300. So what was it?

The schooner shown at the top of this article is not the Fabiola, but a vessel very similar, in paint, appearance and dimensions – the Trade Wind of Whitby, built at Colborne in 1853, rebuilt at Port Hope in 1868, and burned at Kingston in 1910. The Trade Wind was, like the Fabiola, deep in the hold and square in the stern. She was a little longer than the Fabiola, measuring 111 feet 6 inches on deck, 21 feet beam, 9 feet depth, and 160 tons register.

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