Spending the winter under water


On March 12, 1855, Donald McLeod rowed his yawl ashore in Kincardine.


He walked up the hill to the first hotel, and partook of a hot meal, hot bath and a clean bed.


Upon signing the hotel register and noticing the date, he realized he had been under water since Dec. 4, 1854.


McLeod’s story, as far fetched as it sounds, is likely true. He told no one in Kincardine how he had spent the winter and only told the story to his granddaughters many years later.


The story, one of 45 written by C.E. Stein and published under the title, Legends of the Lakes, in 1967, is reproduced in the Bruce County Historical Society’s 1983 yearbook.


McLeod was aboard the Bruce Mines, upbound on Lake Huron on Dec. 4, 1854, with a load of provisions, blasting powder and salt ballast. A flash fire and explosion ripped side and deck planking, exposing the hold to the inrushing water. A water tight bulkhead midship caused the forward section of the ship to fill, putting out the fire, and causing the salt barrels to tumble forward. The ship ended up standing on her nose.


A number of people at Pine River saw the fire and assumed the ship sank after about 30 or 40 minutes.

When McLeod awoke, he was the only person in the cabin and on the boat. He was standing on what had been the forward wall.


The boat sank no further and McLeod noticed, through the glass bull’s eye in the stern, that the yawl was still lashed to its davits.


He then went about organizing the provisions intended for a mining camp on Georgian Bay.


He also found a passageway to the after hold, the area being lighted by a thick glass port-hole now below water level.  It was full of exotic foods and he used a ladder to bring the provisions up to the cabin. Unfortunately, the ladder toppled over, hitting and shattering the window, allowing the water to rush in. Closing the door to the hold, he sealed it, preventing water from entering the hold.


The boat sank even further and the bull’s eye was soon completely covered with water.  McLeod figured the boat was 30 to 40 feet under the lake surface.


After many days, the ship stopped moving as the lake had frozen over above him. McLeod slept, ate and drank the winter away under the lake.


Then the ship started to move again. Then the ship shuddered and started to level out. He opened the cabin door and went on deck. The ice must have rammed the bow of the boat, releasing the remaining cargo to allow the ship to float normally.


However, the deck was almost awash.


He collected his gear, untied the yawl and left the Bruce Mines. He was only a few strokes away when the ship rolled over to port and burbled below the surface.


McLeod, about two miles from shore, headed for a column of smoke he noticed and was soon in Kincardine.


It’s a good story, but you can also see why he told no one until years later. You can find further details in the books mentioned above.




According to one of Bill Pace’s scrapbooks, Kincardine’s population was 2,192 in 1920. According to the religious census that year, there were: 900 Presbyterians; 600 Methodists; 495 Anglicans; 60 Baptists; five Roman Catholics; 11 Jews; one Agnostic.


I doubt if the agnostics are still in last place.


To the present, economist Donald Drummond, hired to look at the province’s books, says finances are in dire straights. He presented 362 measures to cut spending to help get the province out of debt.


I have no comments on his solutions, but he is right about one thing – the province is a financial mess.


One wonders why the politicians, here and everywhere, continue to spend like there is an endless supply of tax dollars.


One interesting item in his report – the province graduates 7,600 more teachers than it retires each year.


Seems like a waste of tax dollars and of the time and money of students going through as teachers.