Canadian Rumrunner Sunk

Rum-runner Linwood set afire to destroy evidence
Rum-runner Linwood set afire to destroy evidence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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There was an incident on March 22, 1929, that put the name I’m Alone into the headlines of newspapers all over the continent.  I’m Alone wasn’t a song on the hit parade.  It was the name of a Canadian rumrunner sunk by an American coast guard vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.  There were hot words between Ottawa and Washington, but Canada did not have a legal leg to stand on.

It was regarded as very unsporting of the Americans.  Prohibition was in force in the United States and the smuggling of liquor across the border was treated like a game.  As the manufacture of liquor was legal Canada, the government took the position that it could not forbid its export.  If the Americans did not want the liquor to enter, it was their job to stop it.

The problem from the States’ point of view was that many of their Customs officers did not want to stop the smuggling. Some had been bribed to close their eyes.  Canadian authorities would phone their counterparts across the border and warn them that shipments were on the way, but would often be told to stop bothering them with such trivialities, or to write letters instead of phoning!

Some of the Atlantic rumrunners, as they were called, used clever tactics. Perhaps twenty of them would approach the coast together.  When a patrol boat began to chase them, they would scatter, so only one could be caught. When the patrol boat did bring a vessel to a halt, there would be no liquor on board.  It had been dumped overboard in a net, weighted with bags of salt. The net would have a buoy attached to it which would dissolve in a few days, and then the rumrunner would be able to see the buoy and regain the sunken liquor.

It was all part of the frenzy of the “Roaring Twenties” before the stock market crash of 1929.

To learn more about the sinking of the I’m Alone, there’s a great article at Newfoundland Shipwrecks.com , and while there, you can read an Excerpts from the book I’M ALONE by Captain Jack Randell; There’s another interesting article at the Canadian Geographic; Joseph Anthony Ricci wrote a thesis for the University of New Orleans called “All Necessary Force”: The Coast Guard And The Sinking of the Rum Runner “I’m Alone”. For more, as you know, there is the ever-dependable Google Canada!

11 comments

  1. Still some dry counties here…probably not a good place for boats. My little city in Colorado was founded as a utopian society, and alcohol (sales and consumptions) was prohibited until 1970! What a crazy story–those “revenuers” were over zealous. Sadly, the 2st century has more serious threats from boats and planes and “contraband.”

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  2. Nothing like a bite o’ the Great White North for breakfast…really goes with this new coffee I’m sipping. [Apropos of nothing, do Canadians resent expressions like “Great White North?” I ask because–as a Mets fan–I get pretty unhinged when Europeans call me a Yankee.]

    But that’s enough about me…this post was unique because I wasn’t completely ignorant of all the facts. The Canadian “scattering” technique was especially clever. I also like the US-Canadian policy on liquor. “You don’t want it, then YOU stop it.” [Sounds fair to me!] Very ingenious using those salt-weighted buoys too. A great pride for Canadian history, they weren’t going to take the worst US [domestic] policy of the 20th century on the chin!

    It’s just the name of the ship that kills me. “I’m Alone?” Why not just name it “No Contraband Here!” It may have been less conspicuous. [Ha ha.]

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    • Yes, quite ingenious, eh? And “I’m alone” is funny, eh? I can’t speak for others, but I certainly do not mind Great White North; it’s probably even a pride for us for surviving, and living with, all the snow we get. 🙂

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      • Preachin’ to the choir, mon ami! I was born in Milwaukee and went to college in upstate New York. Sure it’s not Yukon territory, but I do have my pride in eschewing a winter coat and just layering up with a few thermals and wool sweaters. I always thought it made me “tough”. Ha, ha…now I’m a ‘weather wuss’ who lives in Southern California. (Hangs head in shame.) I guess you should revoke my ‘Sub-zero Hero’ status.

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