The summer games in Eskasoni and all the activities in Crane Cove inspired me to write this story about the visit of the United States Coast Guard vessel The Eagle to Eskasoni.The christening of the fishing vessel Charlie Joe Dennis made me think of a ship that arrived here back in 1976 for a two-hour visit.
While the visit was short, the planning process took much longer and was extremely well-done.
It was in the summer of 1976 that we got a call from the United States Coast Guard in The Eagle’s home port in New London, Connecticut, USA. It was explained that this visit would be kept a secret, for what reason we didn’t know. We asked, “Why Eskasoni?” They answered that it was quiet and has a suitable wharf. Of course I explained there was a perfectly suitable port in Sydney, an hour away but they felt that Eskasoni’s harbour was ideal. We agreed to keep a low profile and follow their directions.We were told The Eagle was 295 feet in length and we told them our wharf was only 124 feet. That was not a problem because the visit would be short. They asked for the information needed to bring the three-masted ship to Eskasoni. Even the depth of the water was considered as the ship required at least twenty feet of clearance. (Makes you wonder how much change in the Lake’s bottom has occurred since then. If you recall, we could not bring the Dr. Granny fishing vessel into Crane Cove a few years ago. The Charlie Joe Dennis only needs ten feet of clearance.) We were asked if we knew anybody in the community with a nice car to do a pick up at the airport. As it happened Big George Bernard just bought a new car and he agreed to do the task. When he picked up the gentleman at the airport, Big George didn’t realize that he was a high-ranking officer with the United States Coast Guard. George said he picked up a gentleman in blue jeans and old sneakers and after making a quick stop at one of the hotels, he changed into an officer’s uniform and Big George didn’t recognize him until he re-introduced himself.
Apparently the The Eagle arrived the evening before and had spent the night moored on the other side of Goat Island, in small cove along Sugar Island. We knew that at exactly 10:00 am The Eagle was going to arrive in Crane Cove. All eyes awaited her arrival and at precisely 10:00 am, she slowly turned the point, a magnificent sight to see. The sails were down and you could see its three huge masts with ropes and sails hanging. Slowly The Eagle headed to our little wharf. One of our Elders, John N. Paul, asked how would they tie it to the wharf and another Elder, Louis J. Marshall (Jumbo), said the navy sailors could do anything. We all chuckled.
As the ship got closer we could see officers and crew running about on deck, knowing exactly what they were doing. On a normal trip, there would be 230 officers and cadets. The crew prepared a smaller rope and a ball-shaped lead weight to accept a larger rope to tie down on the wharf. What a sight to see The Eagle docked on the wharf! The ship was sticking out about eighty feet on each side. After the first sighting off the point, it took about thirty minutes before the walking ramp was installed. When I think about it today, what a day it was for Eskasoni. It was big news for the Bras d’or Lakes, Eskasoni and Crane Cove.
…continued in our next issue…