Unlucky with boats

Online First Pictou Island Memories

My grandfather Elias Turple’s twin brother Charles ran the Pictou Island Ferry Service from the island to the mainland during the early years of the 1900s. Charles Turple’s first boat used for this ferry service was called DOT.

Luck was not to be with Captain Charles and he lost the DOT while transporting supplies in a severe storm off Pictou Island. He had another boat of similar size built for the ferry service and he named her DINTY. Luck again was against him for he lost DINTY in yet another storm while tied to the Pictou Island Wharf. The Island wharf was low during those earlier years. Occasional storms would create large waves that would wash over the wharf and smash into the boats. Charles, however, was persistent and he went to Prince Edward Island and purchased a larger boat to be used for the ferry service.

Charlie Turple was first married to Kate Rankin from Pictou Island but she had passed away at an early age. Some years after Kate died, Charles remarried Jen Rebecca Harris and he named this new boat The Jennie R after his new wife. Charlie used the Jennie R for a number of years but as fate would have it, this boat was also wrecked. She broke loose from her moorings at the island beach in a fierce storm. The waves were so high that smaller boats could not go to her rescue and tow her back to safety. The Jennie R drifted across the Northumberland Strait to Arisaig where she was wrecked upon the rocks. Charles Turple called it quits for the ferry run after that.

Pictou Island during this time was also the home to George and Christina Rankin. George was a farmer and fisherman and he and Christina raised two boys, Ernie and Bobby. They also raised four girls May, Bertie, Anna and Ida, (Ida Munro) on Pictou Island. George was a brother to Charles Turple’s first wife Kate. George’s son Ernie spent his early years far from Pictou Island while serving in the armed forces. A large part of his heart, however, was left on Pictou Island. Bill and Lena MacDonald had also raised two beautiful girls, Loraine and Janet and one son Cameron during those years on Pictou Islands. Janet captured Ernie’s heart while Loraine married Arnold MacMillan. Cameron married Claira Cheveria from Pictou. Ernie left the army and returned to the little island and married Janet on March 3, 1947.

Ernie fished lobsters during the 1940’s and at the same time farmed 30 head of sheep and forty head of cattle. Charlie Turple had retired from the ferry run after losing the Jennie R and Pictou Islanders were now without this much needed service. Ernie Rankin quickly decided to take this task on. He had a new wooden 40-foot boat built by Truman Straits boat builders in Pictou around 1948. Ernie named his new ferryboat The Pictou Islander. This new boat was built with state of the art off her time. She was constructed with a permanent cabin with the wheelhouse inside the cabin. A lower deck was also installed with seating compartments where passengers could stay warm and dry. A six-cylinder gasoline engine was installed under the wheelhouse which powered his new boat. This ferry seemed to be a giant when tied along side the much smaller fishing boats at the Pictou island wharf. There was rarely any lobster boats over 30 feet in length during that period. The Pictou Islander would carry passengers, farm animals, farm animal feed, barrels of gasoline, one vehicle and even lumber all in the same load. I recall as a young lad sailing many times on Ernie’s ferryboat while petting sheep or cows. How the times have changed! Ernie provided the ferry service for approximately 18 years and retired in 1965.

Pictured are Pictou Islanders early 1900s on Charlie Turple’s ferry. It appears that there is a casket on top of cabin?