Nobody seems to know where she got her name, and there are (or were, rather) those lake sailors who cursed her peculiar habits, but now she is all ours, a permanent fixture of the Toronto waterfront even if few know that she is there. The remains of REUBEN DOUD have rested now for seven decades in the sands of the Ward's Island beach where she met her fate in one of those dirty southeasterly Lake Ontario blows. Her story hasn't been told in print for over forty years, so what better way could we choose to commemorate the reopening in 1975 of the rebuilt Eastern Gap, the Toronto Harbour entrance for which the DOUD was struggling when she was lost.
And where, you might ask, is Winneconne, Wisconsin? Well, it is (or perhaps just was) a town on the banks of the Wolf River which flows into Lake Michigan's Green Bay. REUBEN DOUD was launched into the Wolf in the year of 1873, no doubt with the usual ceremony. The mood around Winneconne soon turned to gloom when it was discovered that there was so little water in the river that the DOUD could not be floated down to Green Bay! Some reports say that it was necessary to use a team of 40 oxen to drag her off the bottom and down to deep water, while another account declares that the task was accomplished by damming up the river in two places in order to float her from level to level down to navigable water. No matter how it was done, she eventually made it and was placed in service.
"Then they found that she wouldn't steer. She had a nice model - clean runs as you would wish to see - and yet she twisted around like a canal boat and her wake would break a snake's back to follow. They had to build a concave rudder for her and that corrected the steering problem.
"But you could not cure her luck. She jogged along in the American upper lake trade until 1900. I don't know what luck she didn't have (!) in between, but that year she got it good and proper. She was caught in a gale and the mainmast went out of her, ripping up eight feet of the deck on either side. The mizzen started to go too and to save wrecking the cabin they sawed the mast until it snapped off and went over the side. This left only the foremast and with what canvas they could spread on that, they limped into port.
"Freights were good in 1900 and there was a charter ready for her as soon as she was unloaded, so they decided to make a trip in tow of a steam barge and postpone refitting until the following spring as this was the last trip of the season. So they started out and took a load of coal for Detroit from Lake Erie. When homeward bound they got caught again by foul weather. The tow line parted and the disabled schooner had to shift for herself. They headed her for Rondeau where they would have made shelter, running before the wind under the foresail, only the fore sheet post carried away.
"They tried to anchor where they were but one anchor broke and the other dragged. As a result she piled up on the Middle Ground at the western end of Lake Erie. But the DOUD wasn't lucky enough to break up. A salvage tug finally got her off, leaving forty feet of her outside keel behind."
Early in 1901 she was purchased by the Conger Coal Company of Toronto and Captain Alexander Ure. The latter gentleman brought her down to Lake Ontario and put her into the coal trade to Toronto but only after she had been refitted at Windsor. Capt. Ure seems to have had a knack for refitting vessels that had seen better days and he gave the DOUD makeshift spars.
Strangely enough, when she emerged from the rebuilding, REUBEN DOUD sported a mainmast that was shorter than the fore. The DOUD was what was known as a fore-and-after, that is, she carried her sails extended by gaffs and booms, spars hinged abaft the masts. In true fore-and-after fashion, she carried gaff-topsails, triangular sails which travelled on hoops on the topmasts, the clews sheeted home to the peaks of the gaffs extending the lower sails. On the square-sail yard on the foremast, she set a tall topsail, triangular in shape. But in addition, Capt. Ure gave REUBEN DOUD her own special trademark, an unusual piece of canvas which could only be described as a three-cornered squaresail. In normal squaresail fashion, it hung from the yard on the foremast and was a running sail, but the usual "goosewings" or lower corners were lopped off, thus making it much easier to handle, for there was only one tack to trim and that was left standing.
Capt. Ure sailed the DOUD for several years until once again she began to live up to her nickname. On one particular trip which her master undoubtedly never forgot, she cleared Charlotte for Toronto with coal. It couldn't be blamed on her wheelsman, whose name was Cunningham, but she had the bad habit of veering off to windward in a gusty breeze. The lake was smooth and the weather smoky (from forest fires ashore) as she passed Braddock's Point and the wind, coming in puffs, kept pushing her little by little towards the shore although with the wind from the south this would not normally occur. In any event, she committed the greatest crime in nautical annals by stranding on the weather shore. She was a long way out as the lake shoals very gradually there, and due to the haze in the air it was impossible to see land from where she struck. Capt. Ure tried everything he could think of, but the DOUD refused to budge from her resting place and a salvage tug finally had to be summoned from Oswego.
They lifted out some of her coal and eventually REUBEN DOUD floated free of the shoal and was hauled back to Charlotte in a leaking condition. Safe at last in port, she showed her perversity by sinking in the deepest part of the Genesee River, that section which had been dredged out as a turning ground for the passenger steamer NORTH KING, a regular caller at Charlotte. Had she settled anywhere else, her decks wouldn't even have been wet, but as it was she went down with only the top of her cabin showing. They had to build cofferdams over her hatches and at last, with the aid of tugs, divers and steam pumps, they got her afloat and towed her off to Port Dalhousie for a lengthy visit in the drydock. The salvage bill amounted to half the value of the "Bull of the Woods."
Capt, Ure had had enough of the DOUD by this time and quit as her master soon after the Charlotte misadventure. Although he and the Conger Coal Company still retained their financial interest in the boat, he turned over command to Capt. John Joyce of Bronte. Even under a new master the "Bull of the Woods" could not stay out of trouble for long and it fell the lot of Capt. Joyce to be in command when the DOUD took her final curtain call.
On August 23rd, 1906, she was coming up Lake Ontario bound for Toronto, coal laden for Conger's and running with a strong gale out of the east. By 8:00 p.m. the wind was up to 20 m.p.h. and strengthening by the minute. It was the intention of Capt. Joyce to enter the harbour by the Eastern Gap. This entrance had the unfortunate habit of silting up with the longshore drift and a large dredge owned by the H. J. Haney Company of Port Credit was anchored off the piers where she had been working. Some reports suggest that the dredge had been driven out of her proper position by the gale.
At any rate, REUBEN DOUD arrived off the piers at about 3:00 a.m. on the 24th and attempted to pass the dredge to make her way to the safety of the harbour through the gap. Just as she did so there was a lull in the gale and she lost headway. Fearing the heavy sea that was running, Capt. Joyce attempted to stand out into the lake, for he thought that he was too far to the west to safely enter the piers. The DOUD swung around but in so doing she struck the shoal bottom and jolted her rudder from the gudgeons. She then swung off and, quite out of control, drove in stern-first on the Ward's Island beach, finding the bottom about half a mile west of the piers.
As she came in to shore, the wind freshened again and the crew took to the rigging. Some four hours passed before they could be taken off by the government lifeboat commanded by that renowned lifesaver Capt. William Ward and manned by F. Ward, E. Ward, William Ramsden, Thomas Ramsden, Henry Ramsden, John Montgomery, and Thomas and Hector McDonald. The DOUD's people all got to shore safely - in addition to Capt. Joyce there was Mrs. Joyce, the cook; A. Hinton, mate; Harry Williamson, seaman; William Smithson, seaman; J. W. Joyce, son of the captain; and A. Pierson, nephew of Smithson.
Any other ship would have waited out the gale and got off shore by lightering off a bit of the coal, but the luckless "Bull of the Woods" managed to come in a freshening gale which lasted through August 25th. As each succeeding sea ran over her, her decks were only 18 inches or so out of water and she quickly went to pieces. By the 25th she was a complete wreck, although her spars were still standing. Her stern was knocked out and one side stove in. Portions of her hull came in on the Island shore as she broke up but her bottom is still out there in the sands of the Ward's Island beach.
The midsummer gale which proved to be the undoing of REUBEN DOUD was said to be the worst blow in some twenty years. The Evening Telegram remarked that the Richelieu and Ontario passenger steamer KINGSTON was over two hours late in making port on the morning of August 25th and quotes her master, Capt. Esford, as saying that "the sea broke clean over the pilothouse." All the passenger steamers operating out of Toronto received a good shaking-up. The GARDEN CITY, on the Port Dalhousie run, reported that the seas broke over the starboard side aft, carried away the windows, and smashed three of her stanchions. So heavy-were the seas striking her that it was found necessary to cut away some of the planking above the main deck to allow the water she had shipped to run out.
The schooner OLIVER MOWAT, laden with coal, had to take shelter under the lee of the western end of Toronto Island after she lost her mizzen topmast. Captain Walsh of the Hamilton Steamboat Company's MODJESKA, reported that the storm destroyed part of the cribwork at the entrance to Hamilton harbour and he also noted that his steamer had passed through some of the wreckage from the DOUD on her trip to Toronto. Capt. Wigle of the LAKESIDE from Port Dalhousie also encountered much wreckage in the lake as did Capt. Malcolmson in the CHICORA. All things considered, it is small wonder that the thirty-three-year-old REUBEN DOUD went to pieces on the beach where she was exposed to the full fury of the gale.
But it would be unfair to think of the lifetime of the DOUD solely in terms of the accidents she suffered. Just the trip previous to the one on which she was lost, the DOUD was spotted by C. H. J. Snider as he was out sailing in his yacht. His story of the encounter shows that REUBEN DOUD was not always the clumsy, perverse creature we have made her out to be. The "Bull of the Woods" had her good side too.
"She could sail! And how deceptively! Once when I had the little FROU FROU I saw her coming up the lake with a southeast breeze. She seemed glued to the scenery, sails all full, a roll of white ahead of her hawsepipes, but no more appearance of motion than the Ancient Mariner's ship on the Line. I rather fancied the FROU FROU because we could beat all the stonehookers, and so we stood out and rounded to under the lee of the REUBEN DOUD and tried to sail parallel with her. We were lifting and falling in the swell and making good time, but with no apparent motion the long black hull of the REUBEN DOUD slid past us as though we were going the other way! We jibed over, hauled up, crossed her stern and came out on the weather quarter of her, where we had our wind free, and she just kept on motionlessly sailing away from us. Then we cracked on the big balloon jibtopsail and the mizzen staysail in the FROU FROU, but the REUBEN DOUD went into the Eastern Gap ahead of us."
Ed. Note; For his invaluable assistance in supplying material for this history of REUBEN DOUD, our special thanks go to Lorne Joyce of Port Credit.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.