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90th birthday gift ‘anchored’ at Mariners Park Museum

Mike Murray, son of Vince Murray, points out the underwater diving photographs taken during the anchor retrieval

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
It was a family get together of sorts, a special moment recognized, a big celebration for an esteemed 90-year-old, and on the actual day of his milestone birthday Wednesday (which also came with cake), the day honoured Vince Murray’s maritime connection with the unveiling of a special plaque.

Vince Murray on his 90th birthday, standing beside the newly-unveiled plaque

Rich in County and Lake Ontario maritime history and archives, the Mariners Park Museum on County Road 13 seems an appropriate location for an anchor to live out the rest of its days.

Anchor of the schooner ‘City of Sheboygan’

One particular anchor from the covered outdoor collection, from the schooner ‘City of Sheboygan’ was recovered by Vince and three other divers (Ivor Cura and John Slack, both of Kingston and Sandy Harrison, of Nicholson’s Point), in 1967, and donated to the museum – also the same year the museum was founded  and Canada’s centennial year.

“This anchor is a pretty iconic piece in the museum’s collection,” said Jessica Chase, curator with County Museums.

The plaque on the anchor was replaced

The big old anchor is also weighty, coming in at roughly 1,650 pounds, and not only got a shiny new small plaque to replace a weathered and illegible sign, but unveiled Wednesday in front a good number of family members and friends was a large information panel detailing the story of the ship and the retrieval of its anchor by the four divers, including Vince, complete with a photographic history.

A smaller version of the same plaque can be found inside the museum building.

“Based on what I’ve heard, it appears Vince has always been an adventurer: a man who enjoys trying new things, challenging himself, getting outdoors, and working with his hands,” said Chase. “Vince has explored the waters and skies of Prince Edward County and he can fix just about anything, too.”

“We are thrilled to be able to celebrate Vince by way of a new plaque, speaking to the anchor he
donated, along with three other divers, to the museum when it was in its infancy.”

While the project was facilitated by County Museums’ staff and Vince’s friend, Steve Turner, it was spearheaded by Vince’s daughter, Deborah Murray and the family, who oversaw the project from the beginning, Chase said.

“It was important to Deborah and her siblings that the anchor be marked as a commemoration of Vince’s efforts retrieving it, and we are thrilled to be able to tell its history more thoroughly here on our grounds.”

Murray family members

Vince’s son Mike Murray thanked his Dad for getting the anchor, and for the “wild recovery job in the middle of the night”, which took all night, sawing the anchor chain off which “took a long time because it was pretty hard stuff, sawing 100-feet underwater”, added Vince.

Several family members fondly shared their memories of the anchor’s retrieval.

“I remember Dad telling us about this anchor and how much trouble it gave it him, and I’m thinking, it’s an anchor (I was like seven),“ recalls Deborah, “How can it be that hard, it’s an anchor, then we saw it, and wow, that’s an anchor!”

A three-masted schooner, the City of Sheboygan was built by Fred Hamilton at Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1871 and was 135-feet long and weighed 261 gross tons. She sank on Sept. 25, 1915 in 95-feet of water off Nut Island, on the southwest tip of Amherst Island toward Big Bar Shoal.

The information panel notes she was carrying a heavy load of feldspar, weighing 700 tons and was on route from Kingston to Buffalo, New York, when the back end hit Big Bar Shoal during a storm. While she turned back toward Amherst Island, she sank before she made it to safety, where the captain and four-member crew perished in the shipwreck.

The wreck was discovered by divers Lloyd Shales, Barbara Carson and John Birtwhistle in 1963.

“Soon after, the Wellbanks family of Amherst Island, snagged their fishing nets on the anchor of the ship,” the plaque reads. “They told Vince Murray of Cherry Valley, who thought it would be interesting to recover artifacts from the wreck.”

While the recovery took place in mid-summer, it was a dangerous dive as visibility was limited to only 30 feet.

“The chain that attached the anchor to the ship would have to be sawed apart to release it. Each diver carried two air tanks, but as they were only allowed 20 minutes at the bottom, they took turns sawing before returning to the surface in two stages to decompress.”

“The divers filled four 45-gallon drums with water to sink them, attached them to the newly freed anchor, and then blew the water out of the drums with air from their scuba tanks to lift the anchor to the surface. It was attached to the side of the boat and was so unwieldy that their boat was jerked from side-to-side non-stop on the way back to Kingston.”

The plaque goes on to say that at 4 a.m., they reached the HMCS dock where they needed a tow truck to winch it out of the lake onto the shore. One of the divers, John Slack, received a call the next day from the Receiver of Wrecks in Kingston and was asked where they would like to donate the anchor, with Vince suggesting it go to the Mariners Park Museum, which had been newly established that year.

The Mariners Park Museum is located at 2065 County Road 13, Milford

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  1. Monica Alyea says:

    What a great story! Time to visit the Mariner’s Museum again!!

  2. vbet giriş says:

    What a fascinating and inspiring story about Vince Murray and the recovery of the City of Sheboygan’s anchor! It’s incredible to hear about the dedication and adventurous spirit of Vince and his fellow divers. The addition of the new plaque at Mariners Park Museum is a wonderful way to honor their efforts and preserve this piece of maritime history. It’s truly a testament to the rich heritage and the tight-knit community spirit of the area. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming celebration of Vince’s 90th birthday and his remarkable contributions!

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