Well the past few days where the typical spring is sprung tease that happens every year followed by today’s major dump of snow. And despite it being an annual event it still catches us dumb Canucks by surprise. As often happens when there is weather like this the Confederation Bridge was closed for a period of time and the Mainland was cut off from the Island. This was followed by the usual bemoaning about deliveries, appointments etc etc. You have to wonder how we would have managed in the old days.
By old days I mean prior to the beginning of the first reliable winter ferry service in 1917 when the HMS Prince Edward Island ran between Port Borden and Cape Tormentine. Before then there were only the famous, or perhaps infamous, ice boats. Over at Sailstrait archivist and Island historian Harry Holman features an account of what sounds like a harrowing journey as recorded by an Anglican clergyman on March 8, 1883.
Almost all visitor accounts of travel to Prince Edward Island in the 19th century included mention of the winter isolation and the iceboat service which was a unique experience. However most travellers came or went in the summer so their accounts were second- hand. What is rarer are those who actually experienced the icy passage. While there were a number of dangerous and prolonged crossings in the more than 80 years that the system operated most were routine although still cold and exciting. On a good day some crossings were made in under four hours from shore to shore.
Iceboat Service from P.E.I. to Mainland. Haszard & Moore postcard. Author’s collection
One of the most interesting and detailed is that of Father Edward Osborne, an Anglican brother of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist which had a monastery in Boston. Osborne came to the Island in a mission in…
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