One of the strangest stories of shipwrecks in the vortex is the tale of the schooner “Picton” which, along with two others ships, the “Acadia” and the “Annie Minnes”, was carrying coal back to Canada.
The three ships were lying in harbour in Charlotte, across the lake in New York. There had been a storm the night before, but the day dawned fair.
Captain Jack Sidley of the Picton was known as a skilled and daring skipper and the Picton had the reputation of running “like a scalded cat”. Sidley had his young son, Vessey, on board with him and he was anxious to get home, so the Picton headed out of the harbour first with the Acadia about ten minutes behind her and the Annie Minnes a half an hour behind that. An hour out into the lake eye witnesses among the crew members of the Acadia and Annie Minnes reported being surprised when they saw the topsails of the Picton coming off. They thought that Sidley had decided to reef, but all of a sudden the Picton just went out of sight, “like she’d fallen into a bottomless pit.”
The two following ships dropped their sails down, looking for survivors, but all that floated by them were a few loose gratings and a sailor cap, with not a sign of the crew. The Annie Minnes and the Acadia searched for some time, but no bodies were ever found.
Months later, near Sackett’s Harbour, New York, a fisherman’s son saw a bottle bobbing in the water for three days running. Curious, he finally rowed out to pick it out of the water. Inside was a note, written in pencil that said:
“Have lashed Vessey to me with heaving line so we will be found together.” — Captain J. Sidley, The Picton
Nobody to this day has been able to explain how the Picton went down so fast, or what happened to the wreckage, or how Captain Sidley had time to write a note, or lash his son to him.
Source: Kellough, Janet. The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County. Picton, Ont.: Kellough Productions, 1994.