Lloyd Hann: Battle Harbour Trip in Miss Red Wing, 1935


Having the agency for Red Wing engines, I was anxious to make calls around the bay, demonstrating and soliciting orders.  We also catered to passengers for trips to Gambo, 40 miles away, which was the nearest railway station.  There were no road connections to outside places at that time.  Not long after we had the Miss Red Wing ready for use we got a call from a party requesting that we take them from Wesleyville to Battle Harbour, Labrador.

It was customary every spring for fishermen from around the bay to come to Wesleyville to connect with the steamship Kyle for transportation to their fishing rooms along the Labrador coast.  The Newfoundland Railway would send the Kyle on a special trip every spring for the fishermen, known as stationers, who would spend the summer fishing off Labrador and then return home by another special trip of the Kyle.  The only port of call for the Kyle in Bonavista Bay was Wesleyville.

The party who requested a trip to Battle Harbour in the Miss Red Wing had been en route to Wesleyville when they encountered some problem.  When they arrived in Wesleyville they found the Kyle had already left, and of course they were stranded.  That was when they contacted me.  There were 12 men altogether.

Up to that point we had never made a trip north of Cape Freels.  I talked it over with Father, and we decided to make the trip.  It would be an adventure for me, and I looked forward to it.  We took on board extra fuel and supplies and decided to leave early the next morning.  The only navigation instruments we had at that time were a chart, a parallel rule and dividers, compass, foghorn and sounding lead.

At the crack of dawn the next morning we were underway, with a light southwest wind and a steady glass (barometer).  I did the navigating by chart course.  Father checked it, but more or less left it to me.  I was glad that I had studied navigation from Capt. Edgar Hann, my uncle, and was now putting into use the things he had taught me.  We had a smooth time, cruising at about 8 knots.  The Red Wing motor was purring like a kitten; it was music in my ears.

Our passengers were indeed a great bunch and seemed to be enjoying the trip.  They were all fishermen and, of course, well used to boats and the ways of the sea.  They kept the galley stove going and prepared their own lunch, singing songs and telling stories.  They would also take turns at the wheel and could hold a steady course.

I spent most of the time in the wheelhouse and kept a keen eye on the instrument panel, checking the oil pressure and temperature, etc., and also keeping the compass course.  As it was my first trip in these waters it was exciting to see and pass by the many islands, capes and harbours along the coast that I had often heard about.  I had listened to the old skippers from around home tell about how they had gone through a run or a tickle, or passed a cape or headland or shoals along the coast.

After we passed through Stag Harbour Run and Twillingate Long Point I set our course for Cape John, a distance of 60 miles.  The wind had picked up fairly strong, so we set sails and took advantage of it.  We were clipping along at about 10 knots and had an excellent run across Notre Dame Bay.

On the other side of Cape John we set course for the Horse Islands.  The wind had veered farther west and the Red Wing was taking a bit of water over the bow, but everything was going fine.  If the wind didn’t  breeze we intended to continue through the night and stop at Englee to refuel.  We were lucky; the weather continued clear, and we had a fine time along.  The engine was running smoothly and the sails drawing with a moderate northwest wind.  Most of our party were seasoned boatmen and took turns on watch.

We arrived at Englee, topped up our fuel and water tanks and continued on our way down the French Shore, passing many fishing boats.  We continued our fine time along until we passed St. Anthony, when the wind veered around to northeast, a light breeze, but continued to breeze up.  We decided to go into Quirpon and harbour for the night.  I think all had a good night’s sleep, according to the snoring coming from the fore and aft cabins and the wheelhouse.

The next morning the wind was still northeast but had moderated a bit.  We left Quirpon at 5:00 with the wind at about 15 mph but increasing as we got out into the Straits.  We were encountering quite a lop and the Miss Red Wing was taking some steep dives and rolls.  The waves seemed to be coming from every direction, due, I imagine, to the tide running against wind and lop.  We had safety hand- lines strung around the deck, wheelhouse and cabin house.  The extreme rough sailing lasted about two hours, during which time our water keg that was in chocks on the quarter was swept overboard and lost.  The chain box on the foredeck was swept several feet along but luckily was held by the chain.

The wind and waves abated as quickly as they had built up, and good progress was then made.

The experience was something new for me, as this was my first time on the open sea in a 15 ton, 38 foot boat.  I was to have many more such experiences in future trips around the Newfoundland and Labrador coast, and I became very adept in handling a boat in rough water.

We proceeded on to Battle Harbour and landed our party, who no doubt were very glad to reach their fishing rooms, where they would spend their summer and fall fishing and return home by the last trip of the Kyle.

We remained at Battle Harbour all day, soliciting business.  Father was an insurance agent and I was representing Red Wing engines, of which I sold many along the Labrador coast in later years.


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