As well, the harbour was strategically located; schooners leaving St. John's or Conception Bay enroute to the Labrador, would overnight at Seldom before continuing. Similarly, on the return trip, they would often overnight there before finishing their trip.
Of chief importance, perhaps, was the fact that it was a safe haven, and many a captain waited out a storm in the safe harbour. I remember the late William Anthony, one of the lighthouse keepers at Burnt Point, saying that he could remember when he was a boy being able to cross the harbour by just jumping schooners waiting out a storm there.
The story for this particular piece goes back to 1902, three years before the lighthouse at Burnt Point was constructed. Meanwhile, that particular statistic and fact has no bearing on this saga. Let me say at the outset, that I am indebted to John Holwell, transcribed in "Genealogy Notes' of Newfoundland for most of this material.
On the Dec. 3, 1902, The Jessie with a load of lumber for St. John's, left Gander Bay, with Arthur Holwell as master, George Holwell as mate, and a crew of Elijah Warren, Jeremiah Fudge, and Elias Grimes all of Herring Neck. The weather deteriorated and became very stormy, and The Jessie was obliged to seek shelter in Seldom-Come-Bye, and was not able to set sail for St. John's until the following day, Dec. 5, when the wind and weather seemed more favourable. They may have spent part of the last day socializing with friends in Seldom-Come-By as was often the custom. If all went well, they expected to reach St. John's the next day and be back home, most likely - with their families in Herring Neck - for Christmas.
But conditions didn't go as they expected. About 8 o'clock on that first night, they encountered a snowstorm, and to make matters worse, the wind increased to a hurricane force, continuing all that night and during the next day, Saturday, the Dec. 6. During that time, the ship was lying to steadily, but around 10 o'clock that night, a tremendous sea swept over the schooner, carrying away the bow spit, jib boon, fore topmast, and breaking the mainmast about 20 feet from the deck. Every sail was carried away, their only rowboat was smashed up, and the once sturdy schooner was now a helpless hulk, at the mercy of the wind and sea.
There was nothing they could do now to help themselves, except to keep the vessel in position by steering, and simply drifting wherever the wind drove them. Captain Holwell had no idea of his position, as his log had been lost, and he was without a chart or nautical instrument. For four days the wind veered from S.E. and E. to N.N.W., but on Dec. 10, now four days since they departed Seldom-Come-By, the wind changed for a time to S.W., only to change back again to N.N.W. blowing with increased velocity and accompanied by a snowstorm. Could conditions get worse they must have wondered?