Get­ting around by boat

For many years, lake boats were main form of trans­port

Cape Breton Post - - NORTHSIDE/CAPE BRETON - Gor­don Samp­son Gor­don Samp­son founded the North Syd­ney His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety on Jan­uary 7, 1980, and se­lected the li­brary as the cen­ten­nial project out of 10 pos­si­ble projects in 1985. He was an ed­u­ca­tor and ad­min­is­tra­tor for 38 years, the last 28 at the Can

Have you ever heard of “lake boats” in Syd­ney Har­bour? And, just what does the term “lake boat” mean?

It was com­mon­place in the past for small freight and pas­sen­ger boats to fre­quent Syd­ney Har­bour and the Bras d’Or Lake.

As Elva Jackson says in her book, “Win­dows On the Past,” “It was nat­u­ral that Syd­ney and North Syd­ney should be­come the home ports of ves­sels which would ply these wa­ters car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers and freight to places in north­ern Cape Bre­ton and through­out the Lakes.”

From roughly the 1850s to the 1950s, many boats served to carry pas­sen­gers and freight to the lakes and the north­east­ern coast of Cape Bre­ton, namely the New Glas­gow, the Ban­shee, the Lady of the Lake, the Nep­tune, the Clyde, the fer­ry­boat Elaine, the Peer­less, the Pawnee (a North Syd­ney to Syd­ney ferry), the Mar­ion, the May Queen, the Wey­mouth, the St. Pierre, the Bras d’Or, the Lake­view and fi­nally the three Aspys.

Just where did they stop over? Many places in north­ern Cape Bre­ton and on the Bras d’Or Lake were ready to re­ceive them, namely St. Peter’s, Bad­deck, Why­co­co­magh, Christie’s Wharf in Lit­tle Bras d’Or, Mul­grave, Port Hawkes­bury, Pictou, some­times con­nect­ing with the trains at the Strait, Big Bras d’Or, New Camp­bell­ton, Boularderie Cen­tre, Ross’s Ferry, Big Har­bour, Nyanza, Lit­tle Nar­rows, Grand Nar­rows, Mar­ble Moun­tain, John­son’s Har­bour, Ir­ish cove, Big Pond, Northside East Bay, South­side East Bay, Cas­tle Bay, Arichat, Port Hood, Mar­ga­ree Har­bour, Grand Etang and Cheti­camp.

Along the coast in north­ern Cape Bre­ton these boats stopped at Neil’s Har­bour, South In­go­nish, North In­go­nish, Ding­wall, White Point, Bay St. Lawrence and Cap­stick.

The Lake­view was a pop­u­lar ferry, and later the Aspys. There were three Aspys, Aspy I, Aspy II and the last one Aspy III. Some of these I re­mem­ber see­ing in the har­bour on the Northside.

There are peo­ple on the Northside who worked on Aspy III: Alex Bu­gler and Ma­bel Benoit, brother and sis­ter, for ex­am­ple. Alex worked in the en­gine room and Ma­bel was a stew­ardess. Alex said at that time Henry Hol­land was chief en­gi­neer and Clay­ton Eavis was cap­tain. Ma­bel said that they would stay overnight at Ding­wall and pick up the freight in the morn­ing.

And just why did these ships ex­ist and why were they there? Well, to start, the roads at that time in the his­tory of Cape Bre­ton were very poor, in fact, they were ter­ri­ble.

A sec­ond im­por­tant rea­son is that there was very lit­tle med­i­cal at­ten­tion avail­able.

A third rea­son is that most peo­ple didn’t have cars, and in those days it took a long time to go by horse and buggy to see a doc­tor.

Fi­nally, the fact that most med­i­cal sources were be­tween the Northside and Syd­ney brought many pas­sen­gers from the north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

So you see this story comes full cir­cle: those peo­ple ar­rived from the north by boat for the many ameni­ties avail­able here. Then they’d take one of the fer­ries back home.

Ba­si­cally, if you didn’t have those ships and fer­ries, you’d have noth­ing. These ma­rine craft were the link be­tween the in­dus­trial area and the rest of the is­land.

As Reg Jobe says, “It wasn’t just con­ve­nient, it was down­right es­sen­tial!” When he trav­elled those roads around the ear­ly1950s for the tele­phone com­pany, the roads weren’t paved and were in bad shape. He said they were cov­ered with gravel which even­tu­ally would pile up in the cen­tre of the roads mak­ing driv­ing very dan­ger­ous. And if you moved to the side for an on­com­ing car, you could be thrown off course.

Usu­ally the ships sailed from May to De­cem­ber fol­low­ing the weather pat­terns, so peo­ple had to ad­just their trips and pur­chases ac­cord­ingly.


Pic­tured above is the Lake­view at the dock in North Syd­ney.

Here is the artist’s con­cep­tion of one of the Aspys at the dock.

In this artist’s con­cep­tion of the Lake­view, the peo­ple on the dock are yelling to the pas­sen­gers aboard. Reg Jobe photo

Here we see the Lake­view ap­proach­ing In­go­nish Ferry where it stopped over reg­u­larly. In this artist’s con­cep­tion of the Lake­view, the peo­ple on the dock are yelling to the pas­sen­gers aboard. Reg Jobe photo

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