A Cruise, 1858

In August of 1858, the following article ran in the Skaneateles Free Press:

A Cruise to the Head Waters of the Skaneateles

“About 9 o’clock Wednesday morning August 25th, we hoisted all sail and set out on our cruise with a light southerly wind and a hot sun. ‘Our skipper’ was opposed to starting with so unfavorable a breeze, but the rest of us had made up our minds to start, and were anxious to make the attempt, even should we not get out of sight of the village, the first day. We had expected another party would have accompanied us, but their ‘Skipper’ – known as the Captain of the pirates – couldn’t by any arguments or persuasions be induced to set out without a gale of wind.

“After making two stretches across the lake the wind left us entirely and we had every prospect of a dead calm for the rest of the day. Some unseen power however, propelled us through the water at the rate of about a mile an hour, and about 3 o’clock p.m. the spires of Skaneateles were lost behind the hills.

“At sun down we made a landing at Fall brook point, having made nine miles since starting.

“We very leisurely set about preparing our supper, which consisted of a cup of splendid coffee, got up by our Skipper, and a few ears of corn roasted. While thus engaged a fine sailing breeze came out of the south, and we hurriedly finished our culinary duties, and hastened on board our craft and went bowling along at a rate of about four miles an hour, engaged in stowing away about the best supper that ever found stowage room in any person’s organization.

“In a short time the moon showed her smiling red face from behind the Eastern hills, and was hailed with three hearty cheers from our boat crew. The breeze kept freshening up and we had the pleasure of making the dock at Glen Haven about 10 o’clock the same night, where we found everything as quiet as the grave. We made fast to the dock, threw out our anchor from the stern, raised our tent over the boat, laid ourselves down in as convenient a position as possible, and thus rocked by the winds and sang to by the waters rippling under our bows, slept soundly until morning.

“At five o’clock the next morning we were awakened by the laughter of men and the melody of woman’s voice, and looking out from our tent we discovered a score or so of ladies a-la-bloomer, with short hair and scull caps, dancing over the water in their skiffs like so many mermaids just rised from the waves and taking a morning sail to get up an appetite. (Do mermaids eat?) These did and no mistake, for we took dinner with a few of them, and I therefore testify to that I have seen. We performed our ablutions, cooked our breakfast, went up to the water cure, and met Doctor [James] Jackson from whom we received a very cordial welcome to Glen Haven. We visited all the places of interest, climbed the hills, saw the falls and the great noble rocks and the cave beneath, the gulley in the mountain, and the hermitage 60 rods from the beach.

“And here let me say that Doctor Jackson is ‘hair’ [heir] to one of the pleasantest summer retreats upon the habitable globe. Everything about his establishment is in good taste, and the most fastidious would be well repaid for paying the Doctor a visit. The invalid who has sought in vain for relief at Saratoga and Newport would find all his ailments sliding out of his finger ends by one grasp of the Doctor’s warm fatherly palm, and a few weeks clambering over the hills, in connection with the Doctor’s treatment and advice, will bring the ruddy bloom to the cheek, and the elastic step, which we witnessed in all patients assembled at ‘the cure.’

“Just after dinner, we had the pleasure of taking by the hand the Skipper and crew of the Emma [the skipper is probably G.R. Eckhardt] who had left the foot about five in the morning. We had been looking for them some time, and had begun to fear they had given up the cruise entirely. The wind had increased continually since morning, and was at this time blowing great guns. Our boat being all rigged for camping, and it requiring a good deal of labor to raise sail, the Emma’s skipper offered to take us in tow to Randall point, as we had planned to make our camp there for the night.

“We therefore set out, and had accomplished about half the distance when our skiff, which was fastened to our stern, capsized; we cut her loose and got word from the Emma that we must make for the opposite shore, the best way possible, and they would run back and try to recover the skiff. We did so; kept before the wind, and in a few moments were driven up high and dry on the beach. In the mean time the Emma had regained possession of one of the skiffs, and had made a landing in the cove below, out of reach of the wind, and was riding at anchor in smooth water. Our skipper told us to get off, and try to make the same harbor. We took down our tent, pushed off, got out the sweeps and had gone about ten rods when bump went our old craft over a sunken log. Our rudder was unclipped and sunk in about 15 feet of water, but by hard work we succeeded in gaining the wished-for haven. The next thing to be done was to recover the lost skiff, which was floating down the lake, bottom side up. The two skippers pushed off an old scow that laid upon the beach, and by constant bailing succeeded in keeping her afloat. After about an hour, they secured the skiff, minus one oar, and came ashore. Our next duty was to try and fish up the lost rudder which we finally accomplished after a two hours search.

“Having thus triumphed over all difficulties, the next thing was to secure sleeping apartments, which we succeeded in doing in an old deserted house, which a portion of our company had by hard labor and the consumption of a great number of nails, at last put into habitable shape; supper being provided, and beds made, we soon forgot all weariness, heard no longer the raging of the tempest or the rattling of loose boards upon our ‘castle on the point.’

“Morning came but brought no cessation of the winds, and after doing ample justice to a hastily prepared breakfast we concluded that we had better set out on our return without waiting for a lull in the tempest; so at half past eight we loaded up, turned our bows for the foot of the lake, and upon the very wings of the wind, were driven toward our destination. In the meantime, a heavy rain had set in, and in a few moments we were completely drenched to the skin. Our skiff began to roll and tumble about, threatening every moment to give us a reputition of its day-before somersault, so we reluctantly took in our mail sail and depended entirely upon the jib. In about an hour we reached Mandana, and after being driven upon the beach, as usual, succeeded in making the old ‘sea gull’ fast to the wharf, and hurried to the Hotel, where we found the good-natured face of mine host Van Inwagen in a broad smile, received from him a hearty shake of the hand, and a welcome to the friendly shelter of his house. We soon dried ourselves by the fire, partook of his bounty, and at 4 o’clock p.m. started again on our homeward track, and arrived at the dock at 5 o’clock. And so ended our cruise upon the Skaneateles.

“Too much credit cannot be awarded to our skipper, Mr. Charles F. Hall, the designer and builder of the ‘Blue Bell,’ the winner in countless regattas, for his kindness to us all, and the able manner in which he conducted us through our many ‘hair breadth escapes.’ May the laurels he has already won in his vocation of boat building never fade. May new orders pour in upon him, until at last, his name will be as well known to every American as that of the lamented Steers. And so mote it be.”   [Signed] “C.”

* * *

The “lamented Steers” was George Steers, designer of the yacht America, for which the America’s Cup is named; he was thrown from a wagon and died at the age of 37, just two years before this was written.

“So mote it be” was a ritual phrase used by Freemasons. It means “so may it be” and can be said at the end of a prayer as an “amen.” The phrase appears at the end of the 14th century Halliwell Manuscript/Regius Poem, the earliest known Masonic document.

Charles F. Hall was best known in Skaneateles sailing circles as the builder of the Laura. For 80 years, she was the Queen of Skaneateles Lake. Built from George Steers’ model in 1856, Laura was 25 feet, 8 inches in length and carried 725 square feet of sail, a ton of lead and iron under her floorboards and 600 pounds in sandbags for ballast. It was said she could be steered with one finger, and left no wake. Her first owner was Henry Latrobe Roosevelt. In the years following the Civil War, she was captained by Thomas Shallish who worked for Frederick Roosevelt. In 1913, Samuel Roosevelt presented her to Sinclair Reynolds, her final owner.

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One thought on “A Cruise, 1858

  1. I beleive my father was present when the Laura was burned some years after World War II. He made a half model of the hull whgich is till in the family.

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