A RACE OF SAILING SHIPS IN 1928 (December 2/08)

In numerous conversations over the years with the late Leon Barron, he often mentioned schooners such as the Fieldwood and the Cape Blomidon. These ships, among many others, were built in the Canning shipyards and were well known in their day.

Many of our local sailing ship buffs are aware that the Fieldwood Heritage Society was named after the schooner. The Society’s website tells me that the Fieldwood was a tern schooner of 435 tons, was built by Lockwood and Fielding and launched in 1920. Apparently it was the last of a distinguished line of sailing ships, some 100 or more, built at the Bigelow shipyard; perhaps for this reason, the Fieldwood was chosen as the namesake of the Society.

The Cape Blomidon, a schooner of 408 tons, was built in 1919 by Harvey MacAloney, whom I believe was a Wolfville entrepreneur and a native of this town. The records indicate the ship was eventually abandoned on the beach at Parrsboro in 1937.

My interest in the Fieldwood and Cape Blomidon was piqued when I came across mention of a 1928 race involving these vessels and an American ship, the Lincoln. Apparently the three ships were loading lumber at Halifax in March and were preparing to sail at the same time for New York. In Sails of the Maritimes by John Parker (published 1960) the author writes that this was a “perfect set up for a race.”

While Parker doesn’t state that a contest was agreed upon, the implication is that when the ships left Halifax on March 2, at the very least bragging rights were at stake. However, it wasn’t much of a race. One day out, the vessels ran into one of those storms that plagued sailors along the Nova Scotia coast during the era of sailing ships. All three ships sought shelter along the coast, the Cape Blomidon in Liverpool, the others in Shelburne.

Four days later the weather moderated and the Fieldwood and Lincoln resumed their voyage. Once again a fierce gale struck and the vessels became separated. A week later both vessels reached the American coast; the Fieldwood apparently won the race since she arrived in New York first. In the meanwhile, the captain of Cape Blomidon played it safe, waiting until the fierce weather abated before setting sail from Liverpool and arriving in New York on March 19th.

What is interesting about the race is that it was typical of the countless voyages sailing vessels made out of Nova Scotia. Accounts of all those voyages often tell of hardship, storms and shipwrecks. In effect, the story that John Parker told of the Cape Blomidon, Fieldwood and Lincoln is a microcosm of all those voyages.

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