The Yankee Gale
There is a plaque on the side of Covehead Lighthouse describing the Yankee Gale, remembering the eighty ships and 161 men who perished in the savage 1851 storm.
The following is an excellent description of the Yankee Gale, taken from the Stanhope Sands of Time (A Community History) that was published in 1984 by the Stanhope Women’s Institute, in association with the New Horizons Program of the Department of Health and Welfare Canada.
This terrible storm sprang up on the evening of Friday, October 3, 1851 and continued through the next two days, with tremendous winds, lashing the sea to fury, and torrential rain. It came up quite unexpectedly; the weather was warm for October, the sea calm and glassy, with no wind; but suddenly a heavy swell rose, and before the fishing fleet could get to safe harbours, the storm was in full blast. The fishing vessels were mostly from New England, and the Royal Gazette of Monday, October 6, 1851 records “…about 70 vessels cast away, sunk, or driven ashore and wrecked. Some crews were saved, many sailors drowned; some ships lost all hands. There are from 20 to 30 vessels on shore between Malpec (sic) and the North Cape, and in Richmond Bay and on Hog Island there are some 40 or 50 more. It is currently reported that 60 or 70 bodies have interred on Hog Island…”
On the North Shore around Brackley Point, Stanhope and Tracadie the schooners Brothers, Nettle, Fair Play, Golden Grove, Union, Caledonia and the barquentine Nantucket, were lost. Some crew members were saved, and warm tribute was paid to local residents who rescued and cared for the survivors; but the entire crew of the two vessels wrecked off Stanhope were drowned. The schooner Nettle was salvaged during the following January by the MacMillan family, who hauled it up the beach and overland into Covehead Bay, using 60 horses. The six or seven drowned sailors washed up on the beach at Stanhope were collected with horse and cart and buried in the Long Pond cemetery by Alex MacMillan, with one helper, who would not work after dark; they made rough coffins by daylight, and when night fell, Alex had to go it alone.
Fishing is still a hazardous occupation today, but in the memory of our senior citizens, the number of lives lost while engaged in this line of work has been limited; the names of Theodore Carr and Lachlan MacMillan come to mind. Today’s larger boats with their sophisticated equipment give fishermen a big advantage over their forebears with their small sail boats and dories.