Launching the Vessels – Free Drinks All Day!

“The day the vessels are launched there would be 3 or 4 hundred present, and as it was understood to be free drinks all day, almost everybody turned out and almost every other person was feeling much pleased with the day’s doings, if indeed they were able to tell how they did feel. Many had heavy hearts, and some had black eyes. They were big days in the Westport calendar for the men and boys, but they caused many a mother’s heart to ache.”

[Extract from The Growth of Westport by Curtis Pierce, 1893]

It was a challenge to navigate the narrow channel of the river and the barrier of Hix Bridge. We can reconstruct the launching procedures from an account written by Curtis Peirce. On high tides, the ship was floated athwart the stone-lined channel. When the tide dropped, leaving the empty ship stranded across the channel, men attached sealed but empty whale oil casks to the hull’s bottom so that at the next high tide the vessel would rise above the Landing and could pass sideways between the narrow sides of the channel all the way to Hix Bridge. There, the hull’s high elevation on casks made it easy for oxen to haul it from the water, drag it around bridge, perhaps on wooden rollers. The hull could then re-enter the water and drift downstream to the Point.