Sailing Mis-Adventures

In the 1930's and 1940's, most of the men from Anderson's Cove, Newfoundland, were engaged in the bank fishery. They shipped out on the schooners owned by merchants of other towns, and would be gone from about mid-March until mid-September. A fisherman's average seasonal income would be around $300 - $400. Crew members joined a schooner at her home port when the season started. In the fall, crew members were always landed at their homes.

Arthur Herridge spent a lot of years on banking schooners like the Irene M. Corkum, Eva U. Culp, Frances L. Spindler, Eileen C. MacDonald and Freda M.

The 152-ton Freda M. left Grand Bank in March, 1943, headed to Rose Blanche on the western shore to fish. The forecast was not good as they steamed from Rose Blanche to the fishing grounds. Gale force winds soon drove the ten-dory schooner off course. Hammered by heavy seas, the boat's two engines were unable to force against the storm's fierce strength.

Some of the dories were swept off the deck and some of the sails were carried away. The schooner was so badly iced up that, for 24 hours, they were unable to get down into the forecastle for food or drink. A few of the 24 crew members stayed on deck to look after things. Arthur Herridge was one of them.

Thankfully, the Freda M. was able to ride out the storm. She returned to her home port of Grand Bank for repairs. Sails and dories were also replaced, and the schooner sailed for the western shore again.

Despite this delay, the fishing season was a successful one. When a man came home from the bank fishery, he usually brought the winter food supplies with him. The success or failure of the season determined how well the family would eat during the coming winter.

That fall the Freda M. sailed into the harbour at Anderson's Cove. When the dory left the ship to bring Arthur ashore, the little dory was well down in the water. Others gathered on the slipway near Arthur's house to help unload the supplies and carry them up to the house. Seven or eight sacks of flour were taken ashore first. Then came barrels of salt beef and salt port, sacks of dried beans and peas, a puncheon of molasses, a box of prunes, and a barrel of apples.

Just one thing remained in the dory - a three-horsepower Hubbard engine. It was second-hand, bought from a man in Garnish, but a valuable, prestigious possession. Bringing the wood home from up Long Harbour River would be much easier with the engine.

During the 1944 season, Arthur fished on a schooner out of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. In March they crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the S.S. Burgeo. The S.S. Kyle was crossing at the same time and the coastal boats were given a corvette escort as required by wartime regulations.

When Arthur came home that fall, he and several other fishermen crossed the Gulf on the S.S. Caribou. They brought home cash instead of supplies this time. However, food items could be purchased from the merchants who visited the outports in schooners equipped like travlleing shops. The Caribou, meanwhile, was sunk on her next trip from North Sydney to Port aux Basques.

     During the winter of 1944-45, Arthur and Merrill Herridge were engaged in the winter herring fishery. The call to join the Eileen C. MacDonald came earlier than expected, while the herring nets were still in the water.

     Arthur's son, Henry, was left in charge of getting the nets in. His buddy, Hughie Herridge, would help him. The season was not over so Henry and Hughie continued fishing for a while.

On the morning they planned to take the nets in, Hughie's younger brother, Frank, went with them. They needed the extra help because there were four big net killicks to be taken up which weighed close to 100 pounds each.

When they went out around the point, there was just a light breeze from the southeast. The nets were near Back Cove, just inside the Black Rock. As they started taking in the nets, the wind was steadily increasing. When the last net was almost aboard the dory, Hughie said:

"Harry, we aren't gonna have it so good, b'y."

"No, b'y, I can see that," Henry replied. "We ain't got no time to lose."

They got the nets on board and prepared to start the old engine. By this time there was a nice breeze of wind and the sea was beginning to get rough. They had about a half hour's steam ahead of them.

"If we can make it round the lookout, b'y, we'll do it," Henry said as he started the engine.

They hadn't gone very far when the engine sputtered and stopped. Henry tried to restart it several times but had no luck.

By now the water was really rough and Frank was scared. Henry and Hughie put the paddles out and headed the dory down across the wind. She was sitting low in the water because she was weighted down with the heavy nets. And she was taking on a fair amount of water too.

"I'm gonna swing her off to leeward," Henry said.

"Yes, Harry, that's our best bet," Hughie agreed.

Up ahead was nothing but high cliffs, with nowhere to land. Just around the cliffs was Crant's Cove Point, where the Church of England Cemetary was located. (This was before the name was changed to Anglican.)

Their little boat was half full of water now and the situation didn't look good. They had only a small dory scoop, which Frank was too frightened to use anyway. Henry and Hughie kept rowing although Frank felt sure the dory was going to capsize and they were going to drown.

"Well, b'y, that's all we can do about it now," Henry said. "We got to make the best of it." They continued to row. Then Henry said, "If we could only make it around that point, to Crant's Cove Beach, we'd be alright."

At the same time they were trying to get around the point, a lady named Ella Riggs was being laid to rest. A group of 30 or more people were gathered in the cemetary, on the hill at Crant's Cove Point. The mourners were unaware of the situation that was developing so close to them.

The rowers persevered and made it safely to the beach, with their dory half full of water. It was rough landing, for the wind and waves were pounding right on the beach. Now they faced the problem of hauling the boat up out of the water. She was far too heavy for them to handle.

A few row dories were already hauled up in the cove. They belonged to fishermen from the neighbouring community of Stone's Cove.

"Tis a wonder if one of those fellows ain't got a tackle in one of those dories up there," Henry said. He ran up to check. Sure enough, there was a tackle in the stern of one of the row dories.

Henry and Hughie attached the tackle from the stern of that dory to the bow of their own. With Frank's help, they began hauling on it, thinking they were doing fine. Soon they realized that something wasn't right. Their dory didn't appear to be coming up out of the water very much. When they looked around, they saw what had happened.

All they had done was to pull the row dory down alongside them. It had not been tied on! The row dory wasn't heavy so they towed it back up the beach and Henry tied it to a post in the ground.

When the tackle was hooked on, they started hauling once more. This time, they got their dory pretty well up out of the water. Now they could unload her before finishing the job. First came the ten bit, six-foot- long net buoys. The nets were left in the dory. Everything else was carried well up in the beach, safe from rolling waves and high tide. Then they hauled the dory right up between two of the Stone's Cove row dories.

By now, all three were wet, cold, and exhausted. Ironically, now that they were safe on land, with the dory out of water, Frank's energy returned. Or perhaps, with the danger passed, it was a rush of adrenalin that prompted him to start bailing water out of the dory!

It was getting late now. They figured it was after four o'clock because the funeral was over. (Funerals usually took a long time because they had to walk from Anderson's Cove to the cemetary and the coffin was carried by the pall bearers.) They could walk up over the hill and then home from here. However, they didn't know what to do about the nets. They didn't want to "tempt fate" by just leaving them there in the cove.

"Tis a wonder somebody isn't out looking for us now, Hughie," Henry said.

"Ah, Harry, there's nobody gonna face out this kind of evening," Hughie replied.

Shivering with cold, they stood there, waiting, not knowing what to do next. And they wondered if Hughie was right. Then they heard a motor dory.

"That's somebody coming to look for us, Hughie," Henry said.

As the dory came around the point, men were shouting. Then one man pointed towards the beach. In the dory were Henry's uncle, Tom Matthews, and Darce Hatch.

"Where's your father's dory?" was the first thing Uncle Tom wanted to know.

"She's hauled up there in the beach, between the others," Henry said and told him the nets were still on board.

"We'll take the nets and carry with us," Uncle Tom said, "but we can't carry you." It was too stormy to risk any extra passengers in their dory.

As Uncle Tom and Darce left with the nets, Henry and his friends walked up to Stone's Cove. The Postmaster, Fred Denham, telephoned Leah Osmond at the Anderson's Cove Post Office. Now that everyone knew they were okay, Henry, Hughie, and Frank took their time walking home. By the time they arrived they were all tired and hungry.

Henry got his father's dory home a few days later. When he started the engine, it ran for a little while, then began blowing water through the exhaust. There was a hole in the water jacket. It cost $30 to have the engine rebuilt by Brake's Motor Supplies at Bay of Islands.

© Fay Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, Feb/Mar 2001

Non-fiction 1

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