Context: Ice Boats in the Late 1800's
There were two different kinds of ice boats used in PEI in the late 1800s and early 1900s: racing ice boats and transportation ice boats. Racing or sailing boats were used for racing across the ice, mostly on the Hillsborough River in Charlottetown. They had sails and looked like the ice boats we see today. Transportation ice boats were used for getting to the mainland; they looked like row boats. If there was a bad storm, the men would flip the ice boat over and take shelter under it until the storm was over.
The ice boats that looked like rowboats were important because they could hold a lot of people. They were used just like rowboats. Many of the boats had large canvas sails. If the ice was rough, the men would drag the boats across the ice using a shoulder strap that was made of leather, and when they hit water, they would row the boat across until they hit ice again. They would keep doing this until they got across the Northumberland Strait to the mainland.
People on the Island would go across to get mail, news, food supplies or just to leave the Island. Ice boats were the only method of leaving Prince Edward Island during the winter months untill the first icebreaking ferry arrived. This method of transportation could often be very dangerous, especially if the ice was rotten or soft.
When travellers came to open water, they would jump into the boat. Every passenger was required to push the boat unless they were willing to pay a much higher fare. Women and children were allowed to stay in the boat without pushing.
Men Pulling Ice Boats across the Ice
PARO, Acc 3999/9