Novel Shipwrecks

Treasure Island

I read a trivia blog about shipwreck novels, and left a comment about Great Lakes shipwrecks, including Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and one that was found in the sand of my home town’s beach. When the writer asked for details, I emailed him this double-barreled story.

65 years ago, there were a couple of boards which protruded from the sand, at one spot on our lovely beach. We kids tried to pull them out, but they were obviously attached to something heavy. Eventually, they disappeared – storm damage? Town works crew cut them for tourist safety?

Lighthouse

About twenty years ago, a couple of residents became interested in history and restoration. The abandoned lighthouse-keeper’s house on the offshore island was repaired, and little boat tours began. Someone must have remembered the boards on the beach. A group of archeologists from the University of Toronto arranged a dig. They had to design and build a coffer-dam to keep the waves out as they dug up that section of beach.

Sure that they had something physical, they began searching the written records. Soon they found the story. Once upon a time, my home-town was a bustling Lake Port. Prairie grain for bakeries, iron ore for steel mills and lumber for construction were unloaded and shipped by train below Niagara Falls.

The wreck on our beach turned out to be an 87 foot sailboat freighter. “She” was the ‘Sir Robert McAllister,’ making what might have been the last trip of the fall, before the lake iced up in 1887. Unloaded, they set sail ahead of an autumn storm. Heading back north, they barely got outside the safe harbor when the winds raged. Unloaded, top-heavy, empty and bobbing like a cork, she couldn’t maneuver, and was driven onto the beach.

No hands were lost, but the storm pounded her to flinders. Our Lake is not an ocean, but I remember body-surfing 6 and 8-foot storm waves. Little was left above the keel. She held no cargo, and what was left wasn’t worth salvaging. She was just left to rot, and subsequent storms piled sand over her.

The other local shipwreck that I wanted to tell you about – wasn’t – quite. There used to be a prosperous fishing trade out of our river harbor, until they overfished themselves out of business. Each day, six days a week, 4 forty-foot, enclosed, steel fishing boats would go out a couple of miles.

One spring, the lake ice had broken up and had moved offshore, drifting slowly down the middle of the lake, toward Detroit. Finally, two miles of ice on the river broke up, and thundered out to join it. One fish boat owner, whose craft and crew of three had been unemployed for almost 4 months, got the boat winched back into the water, with plans to go out the next day.

The weather was clear, if cold, and away they went. They set nets, waited for fish migration, and pulled the nets back in. While all this was happening, a spring gale blew up, pushing all that ice back in past them from the west. By the time they headed for home, it had piled up against the shore in a wall 15/20 feet high, a mile out from the river harbor.

As they looked for a solution, more ice piled up behind them, wedging them against the barrier, ice floes 4 – 5 – 6 feet thick, as big as the boat. Soon, the increasing pressure tilted them, to almost 45 degrees. Fearing that the boat would be crushed or capsized, they decided to unship the lifeboat, and push it like a sled across the valleys of the ice-field.

About halfway to shore, the youngest crew-member, a 19-year-old nicknamed Zip, lost his footing – and his hold on the lifeboat rail – and plunged through a small gap into the freezing water. Two days later, when the weather had cleared, and the ice had moved offshore again, the owner used a motorboat to chase his fish boat two miles out, and 8 miles south, with a cargo of frozen fish. It was slightly dinged and scraped, but the rudder and propeller weren’t damaged.

Zip’s body was found a couple of weeks later. The ship didn’t even sink, but still cost a crewman’s life. The town has a small park, where the river meets the lake. They added a memorial to all those lost to the lake, and specifically, Zip.

***

Somehow, I conflated the stories of the lumber freighter that I researched for an earlier post about the decline and fall of my home-town as a Lake Port and the change from a transportation-driven economy to a manufacturing-based one, with a previous War Of 1812 warship-turned freighter, named H.M.S. General Hunter. The light-as-a-cork lumber boat was repaired and refloated. The repurposed warship, still heavy with cannon, got buried. Click above to read her story.

 

Flash Fiction #191

Vacation

PHOTO PROMPT © Ceayr

AM I BLUE? NO!

Ah, to be a Canadian Snowbird in South Carolina, for a week in October. Not really Snowbirds – snow hasn’t actually fallen in Southern Ontario – yet. Warm like summer at home, but not yet crowded with boorish, Speedo-wearing Quebecois.

The beaches are delicious – tanning and soaking up sun. It’s easy to tell tourists from townies. Canadians are frolicking in the surf, while the natives are dressed in down-filled coats, like Canucks will be in a month, when they have to shovel that snow. They stare, wondering why we build sand-castles, and not igloos.

Nobody in Canada owns a powder blue villa. 😀

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Flash Fiction #152

Winter Vacation

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW

Moving from job to job every few years, for a maximum of experience, had been a good idea when he was younger. He’d finally stayed with one employer long enough get a third week of vacation.

They’d had fun going to the beach or camping during the summers. He’d scheduled this one halfway between New Year and Easter.  What should he do during it?? – Absolutely nothing!  Stay inside.

Groceries were laid in. Water flowed.  Furnace worked.  Wrap up in a Snuggie and binge-watch Netflix with cookies and hot chocolate.  He’d shovel all that snow on Friday….Saturday, at the very latest.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

2017 A To Z Challenge – B

Challenge2017

When I sieved out the following list of B-word prompts, I was struck by how many of them could apply to me.  Rather than choosing only one, here are some random thoughts about a few of them.

Bibliophile
blood
baggage
belief
bold
books
beach
barn
blog

Letter B

My home town is halfway up the East coast of Lake Huron, in Ontario. It has 3 miles of lovely warm, soft, white sand beach.  It has become a vacation haven, and tourism is a large part of its financial wellbeing.

The town to the south gets only 1 mile of shoreline. The tiny tourist village to the north sits in the center of 10 miles of sandy shore.  Access to the water is good, and the swimming is wonderful but, in both cases, the sand barely reaches above the water level, and their beaches are flat, hard and damp.

My mother constantly read to me as a child, and I learned to read quite young. I became a bibliophile, a lover of books.  I am also a logophile, a lover of words, but all the wonderful words are in the wonderful books, so we’ll discuss that later.

Ray Bradbury said, “Libraries raised me.” My tiny little town had a tiny little library, about the size of a medium house.  It was only open two days a week.  The volunteer librarian was a former teacher.  It was here that I learned early, the value of linguistic precision.

The fine for late books was 2 cents, biweekly.  The intent was for 2 cents, per book, for each of the 2 weekly open days.  I stood beside a man who went and got a dictionary to show the librarian that ‘biweekly’ also meant ‘every two weeks.’  He would pay 2 cents, but not the 8 cents that she demanded.

A local man became a mining engineer. He located an ore field in Northern Ontario, staked a claim, and sold the rights to a mining firm which would extract the minerals.  With the initial payout and ongoing royalties, he retired early, as the town’s richest resident.

He and his wife were great readers, but they never had children. When his wife died, and he was facing his own mortality, he donated a large portion of his fortune to the municipality, to be used to build a library in memorial to his wife.  We got a fairly large (for a small town) new library, right beside the Town Hall.  His bequest bought lots more books, and an annuity paid for hired staff.

When I moved 100 miles to Kitchener for employment, it was easy to pack my luggage. I had very little.  I also had to pack my baggage – my propensity for procrastination, my learning disorders, my neurological syndrome which causes poor physical control and lousy short-term memory, as well as my autistic-type inability to read social cues, and make and hold friends.

I am more methodical, determined, and tenacious; I would never be described as bold. Having survived an interesting, if not terribly thrilling life, now in the twilight of my years, I can put these thoughts and remembrances down, and publish them in my blog.   😀

 

Flash Fiction #66

Widdershins

PHOTO PROMPT © The Reclining Gentleman

WIDDERSHINS

He must be late! Everybody was coming back. Bloody British, they don’t know if they’re coming or going, but do it on the wrong side of the road. Everyone else had passed to the right on medieval trails, to keep the sword-arm free.

Not the English! No Sirree! At least they hadn’t passed this aberration on to Canada or the USA, although they’d led 50 other countries astray – if you didn’t look too hard at the definition of the term ‘country.’ Turks and Caicos Islands, and Vendu. Vendu?? There were sunglass kiosks in the malls that were larger than Vendu.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple website and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Flash Fiction #10

 

VISTA

tree2bcrook

 

It’s tough, being only nine years old.  He finally reached the broken branch, lodged in the crotch.

Quickly climbing, he made it to the topmost branches of the tallest tree in town, situated atop the highest hill.  From here, he could see his entire little town.  He could see the tiny cars, and the miniature people walking.

He could see the lake, and the lighthouse on the dock.  He could see the town hall clock, which said 11:55 AM.  Turning in the other direction, he could see his mother at his front door.  Better get down, it’s time for lunch.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site.  Use her Wednesday picture as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Location, Location, Location!

I live in the best place in the world!!  You may love the place you were born, or the place you’re living now.  You may hate either, or both.  Doesn’t matter!  I live in the best place in the world.  There is no perfect place, but mine is the best compromise.  I live in the center of Southern Ontario, Canada.

I live within an hour’s drive of three of the nicest of the Great lakes, hundreds of miles of white sand beaches and cool (but not cold) water.  Some, near the bigger cities can be contaminated, but if you’re willing to drive a bit, it’s worth the trip.  All the tourist traps and the natural magnificence of Niagara Falls are but an afternoon’s trip away.

If you don’t like the big lakes and the big crowds, there are dozens of little lakes where you can put up a cottage and go fishing.  They’re a bit reedier, muddier or rockier, but often so small they’re like a warm jet-spa.

The land ranges from pool-table-flat, to hills tall enough to ski on in the winter and keep the eyes interested in the summer.  Mountains are magnificent, but they block out the sky.  The land is covered with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  Sadly, urban sprawl is eating a lot of it up, but a huge selection of meat and vegetables are locally grown, and fairly cheaply.

My city called itself “The Biggest Small Town in the World”, almost 50 years ago when I arrived.  It’s grown a lot, but it still has a small town feel.  It’s big enough to be interesting, without being so big it’s dehumanizing.  We have a concert hall, with a local symphony.  Acts like Roger Whittaker, Brad Paisley, Jeff Dunham, Cats and Rent have come to town.  If you want more than that, Toronto is only an hour’s drive away.

We have two Universities and a widely renowned Community College.  The Kids Museum morphed into themuseum (allonewordnocapital), still with stuff to interest kids, but with added paintings and sculpture, plus defunct equipment telling the tale of vanishing local manufacturing.  The house where J. M. Schneider, who founded the meat packing business lived, is preserved, and can be toured.  Doon Pioneer Village, on the outskirts, used to highlight the 1870s, Mennonite heritage, but has moved up 50 years, and now showcases life in the early 20th century as Doon Heritage Crossroads.

The weather too is varied enough to be interesting, but almost never vicious.  We have four distinct seasons.  Johnny Carson was dismayed when he moved from New York to Los Angeles.  He found they only had two seasons out west, wildfire and mudslide.  When the temps went from warm to warmer, the city crews took in the green plastic plants, and put out the brown plastic plants.

In the summer, our temperature usually ranges from mid-70s F. to high-80s F., with just enough humidity in the air to be comfortable.  Places like Arizona are great for people with asthma and other breathing problems, but are so dry the skin flakes off your face, as readings soar over 100 F.  Places like Georgia have slightly lower temps, but moisture levels so high, even healthy folk have trouble drawing a breath.

In the winter, readings usually hover about 10 degrees below freezing, not like western Canada, where it can plunge to minus 30 or 40, and the wind whistling across the prairies can make it feel like -50 or worse.  It can get hot in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter, but not for long.  The area is so unexciting that even the weather gets bored, and moves on.

We generally get just enough rain in the warm months to feed the crops, not cascading off the mountains and washing us into North Dakota.  Kitchener is near enough to the Great Lakes that they moderate our temperatures, but far enough away that we are not inundated with snow.  We get enough to provide spring watering for farmers but not so much that we have to exit buildings from second, or third, floor windows.

We are not subject to monsoons, or tsunamis.  The tail end of an occasional hurricane blows this far north and inland, like last fall’s Superstorm, but rarely causes much damage.  We do experience the infrequent tornado.  I once drove within a quarter-mile of one, on my way to visit my parents.  It snapped a few tree branches off and swirled a couple of wheat fields, but wasn’t at all like the half-mile-wide, twenty-mile-long swaths that march though Kansas.

We get the occasional temblor from Montreal, or Ohio, if they’re fracking for natural gas.  Just enough to rattle dishes, but no real earthquakes of our own.

We manage to find all kinds of things to bitch about area politics and politicians, because it’s a game we don’t want to miss.  Compared to other spots on the globe, local politics is bland and boring.  We don’t have oppressive regimes like Cuba, Iran, North Korea or China.  We are caught at the edge of the World meltdown, but our Pols still guide us better than the 23-party, can’t-get-a-decision-made, coalition in Italy, or the fiscal ineptitude of Ireland or Greece.

We escape the polarization of the U.S.A., probably because most far-out opinions are not expressed, and are ignored, not fought about, when they are.  While we appreciate America being the world’s policeman, our tiny, under-supplied Army leaves us money to provide health care for our citizens.  This is socialism, not Communism.  If it’s good enough for the Swedes, it’s good enough for us.

Religiously and morally, it’s pretty much live and let live.  Jews, Muslims, Christians and Shintoists all live in the same communities.  No-one wants to force their beliefs onto others or drive non-believers from town.  Of course, we all hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially when they ignore the Do Not Ring Bell sign early Saturday morning, when we’re trying to sleep off Friday night.

Abortion and gay marriage are both permitted, although it’s more like just ignored.  There are those who are disturbed by both, but there are others, just as numerous, for whom the removal would be just as disturbing.

All in all, I live in Goldilocks-land, not too hot, not too cold, not too bland, not too exciting, a bit of everything, but not too much of anything.  Come and visit us when you can.  Keep Ontario green; bring money.