Peril off the Point
Presqu'ile's Historic Shipwrecks

She was breaking up. Pounded by wave after mounting wave, buffeted by blast after icy blast, the schooner was breaking up. And what was left of her was sinking fast. Wind and water had ripped the yawl boat from her side long ago, and all they could do now was cling to her rigging and each other and hope.

On shore - not a hundred yards away - they could see the fires of the farmer s and fishermen looking helplessly on. They could see the women kneeling in the sand, hands clenched before them, heads thrust skyward. They could see a half dozen men fighting breaker after breaker, trying again and again to right the rowboat that would deliver them, only to have it capsize again and again and tumbler 200 yards down the surf. And as the gale gathered still more force, and as the schooner slouched further leeward, they could see the beginning of the end.

Today the lake is calm. I am standing on the shore at Presqu'ile Point looking east across the water toward Weller's Bay, surveying the stage of over a dozen nineteenth-century shipwrecks. In Lake Ontario's "schooner days" - the 100 years or so that wood and canvas drove the development of Upper Canada - this stretch of lake became known for such harrowing scenes as the one just described. Superstitious locals even gave the stretch a name: the "Sophiasburg Triangle," a wedge of water extending from Presqu'ile Point northeast to Bald Head Island, and then southeast to just beyond Scotch Bonnet Shoal.

What made the triangle so treacherous? Geography and a promise. Inshore of the triangle, Presqu'ile Bay offered a safe haven for schooners caught in a lake gale. But in rough water and strong winds, the

The Sophiasburg Triangle

The "Sophiasburg Triangle" lies between Presqu'ile Point,
Bald Head Island and Scotch Bonnet Island

bay was difficult to enter, the western edge of Prince Edward County seeming to enclose and intensify a storm. A run for Presqu'ile Bay became an all-or-nothing proposition. Round the point into the bay and you were saved. Miss it and you were usually done for, either blown back onto the open lake, forced into Weller's Bay and torn apart, or driven into the Prince Edward shore.

Some schooners met their fate before the horrified eyes of onlookers. Others went down unwitnessed, with grim confirmation washing up along the shore days, weeks, or months afterward. Still others simply disappeared without a trace. Here are the stories of but a few of Presqu'ile's wrecks.

(Written by David Bojarzin. Reprinted from Watershed Magazine with kind permission from Shelter Fell Publications.)

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