The fateful wreck of the Ann Maria occurred 111 years ago

On the dark night of October 7, 1902, the schooner, Ann Maria, sunk just off Kincardine’s harbour, weighed down by a load of coal from a Lake Erie port for the Kincardine salt block.

A hard breeze blowing from the west and northwest whipped up whitecaps in Lake Huron causing the Ann Maria to stagger and miss the pier ends leading into the harbour.

Driven into the beach and its sand bars, she was pounded by the white-capped waves that never ceased that night. Captain Gordon, engaged to a Kincardine girl, had been driving his ship hard to get to her, but as the water came in faster than the crew could pump it out, his cargo of coal dragged the ship down on the sand bar. The crews’ cries for help drew notice from those on shore and they built bonfires to guide the crew to shore if they could get off the Ann Maria.

Big Tom McGaw gathered a crew of his cousins, Wat and John McGaw and Billy Ferguson and launched Big Tom’s uncle’s fish boat into the blustery water to rescue the crew. As they pulled the fish boat through the waves, they dodged the wreckage of the Ann Maria that was coming off plank by plank. Once close to the disintegrating boat, Big Tom shouted at the 4 crew members to jump into the water, so they could be pulled to safety. Just after the lady cook and captain jumped into the water, a wave capsized the fish boat, drowning Captain Gordon, the cook, one of the crew and one of the rescuers, Billy Ferguson. The fish boat was swept away and wrecked upon the shore.

Though few of them could swim, Big Tom, June and Wat McGaw and 3 of the sailors from the Ann Maria managed to haul themselves out of the water and onto the schooner. When the fish boat washed ashore, Little Tom McGaw, Dan Matheson, Bob Saunders and Bob Green launched the yawl boat from Captain Spencer’s schooner, The Wanderer and headed out to rescue any survivors. They managed to draw up aside the sternpost and masts, where the survivors had climbed. The men jumped into the yawl boat and were rowed ashore.

The anchor from the Ann Maria, salvaged from the lake, sits on land in Victoria Park. A solid reminder of horrendous night of rescue, loss and the unpredictability of Lake Huron.

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