GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER (II), in tow of McLean's tug WILFRED M. COHEN, arrived at Port Colborne on the evening of August 24 and, the following day, with the assistance of PRINCESS NO. 1, was deposited in the Marine Salvage scrapping berth at Ramey's Bend where she was laid to rest alongside IMPERIAL LONDON. Bearing in mind the present depressed state of the overseas scrap market, it seems likely that STEINBRENNER will be broken up where she lies. IMPERIAL LONDON, meanwhile, should soon be leaving the lakes to serve in the Caribbean. AVONDALE (II) still lies in the old canal below Humberstone, much the worse for the severe vandalism which has been committed upon her. Most recently, her pilothouse was burned out.
Meanwhile, another veteran Kinsman steamer has bitten the dust. PAUL L. TIETJEN, which made her last trip in July, 1977, and has since lain in the Frog Pond at Toledo, has now been stripped and is expected to be towed to Humberstone shortly for addition to the scrapyard fleet of Marine Salvage Ltd. Out of class since she was laid up, TIETJEN, a veteran of 1910, was an expensive boat to operate due to her coal firing and the fact that her cubic capacity was severely restricted when she was operating at anything but mid-summer draft.
Ever since C.S.L. began to cut back its Great Lakes package freight service earlier this decade, there have been fears for the future of the steamer FORT HENRY. This beautiful little vessel, which has always been known as a racer and has frequently been photographed at speed with a tremendous bone in her teeth, was built at Collingwood for the upper lakes package freight trade. We can recall visiting her when "open house" was held aboard while she was docked in Toronto's Yonge Street slip on her maiden voyage. FORT HENRY, which is much given to developing a rather awe-inspiring hog in her deck when running light, has recently been the first of the line's package freighters to go to the wall when business has been slack. Nevertheless, despite the fact that she was the oldest of the boats on the route, she remained in the fleet and, indeed, fitted out this spring as usual. With the return to the lakes of FORT CHAMBLY after several years' absence, however, FORT HENRY has become surplus to her owner's requirements. She has been laid up at Kingston and, since Kingston is the sort of port where operators will put a boat which has little if any useful future, we must assume that C.S.L. has no intention of operating FORT HENRY again. It will be interesting to see if the ship can be sold for further service.
The latest addition to the fleet of Cleveland Tankers Inc., the motortanker GEMINI, has finally made her debut on the Great Lakes. GEMINI passed up the Welland Canal during the evening of September 8 with a cargo of black oil bound from Houston, Texas, to Detroit. Measuring 429 x 65, 6700 Gross Tons, GEMINI was built as Hull 745 of the Gulfport Shipbuilding Division, Levingston Corporation, at Port Arthur, Texas. Her keel was laid on November 1, 1977. It had earlier been reported that GEMINI would be a more traditional vessel in design than either JUPITER or SATURN of the same fleet. While it is true that she is better looking than the two overgrown canal barges, she still leaves something to be desired in the aesthetics department even if she is undoubtedly an economical vessel to operate.
At long last, the idle Hall Corporation steam tanker LAKE TRANSPORT has been put out of her misery. The tall-stacked canaller, which had earlier sailed as (a) CYCLO WARRIOR and (b) TEXACO WARRIOR (I), served the Hall fleet for only a short period of time and had spent many years laid up at Sorel. At one stage, it was thought that she was to be scrapped in Spain, but that eventuality never materialized and the vessel has now been broken up at the same port where she had languished for so long.
Ever since it was founded back in the thirties, the fleet which has come to be known as Branch Lines Limited has operated as a subsidiary of the firm which has run the shipyard at Sorel, P.Q., namely Les Chantiers Manseau Ltee. or, as it is now known, Marine Industries Ltd. As such, the tanker fleet has been under the control of various members of the Simard family and, to a certain extent, of the Quebec government. But now there has been a change, for Branch Lines Ltd. has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Davie Shipbuilding Ltd., Lauzon, P.Q. The present staff will continue to manage the fleet and it will remain a separate entity, apart from the other Davie interests. Although no such suggestion has been voiced by the management, we wonder whether the "Simard" names might disappear from the tankers and be replaced by the more pleasant "Branch" names which were once so common amongst the fleet's ships and of which only one (MAPLEBRANCH) remains in use today.
In our last issue, we mentioned that the small bunkering tankers MARINE FUEL II and WM. H. BENNETT had been displaced from their positions at Duluth with the commissioning in early June of the Blount-built REISS MARINE. The two older tankers had been taken to Cleveland late in July but it was not then known what was to become of them. We were not long in finding out, for both boats were back in service during August to serve as bilge pumpers for U.S.S. DAVIS, U.S.S. WILLIAM C. LAWE and U.S.S. ROBERT A. OWENS, destroyers from the U.S. Atlantic Fleet which were touring various lake ports. The BENNETT did the necessary during the inbound portion of the destroyers' visit, while MARINE FUEL II handled the chores while the warships sailed downbound. Her unusual peregrinations even brought MARINE FUEL II to Toronto, where she did her thing on September 8 and 9 while the warships entertained visitors. Needless to say, this was the first visit of the strange little tanker to Toronto Harbour. It is not presently known what the two boats will do subsequent to the departure of the destroyers from the lakes.
The strike of workers at the Lorain yard of the American Shipbuilding Company caused an exodus of vessels from that facility. The National Steel Corporation grabbed its new 1,000-foot self-unloader GEORGE A. STINSON from Lorain at the last moment and had her towed to Detroit. She was christened in ceremonies at Cobo Hall on August 21 and was then towed to Nicholson's Dock at Ecorse where she is to be completed. The other job on which AmShip was working at the time of the strike was the conversion to a self-unloader of WALTER A. STERLING of the Cleveland Cliffs Steamship Company. She was pulled from the Lorain yard and sent 'round to Toledo where she is to be completed so that, hopefully, she may re-enter service during 1978. The STERLING has an aft-mounted boom which droops downwards from a raised deck area and the elevating machinery completely hides the stack from view. Her machinery appears to be much similar to that installed several years ago on the Inland Steel steamer WILFRED SYKES.
Last issue, we mentioned that two Canadian shipyards were seeking to expand their facilities. The first to take the initiative in this regard was Collingwood Shipyards, a division of Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd., which has suggested to the authorities that to serve better the shipping industry, it must be able to drydock large vessels and to build 1,000-footers; it can do neither at the present. Despite the rather cramped space available to the Collingwood yard, it envisages a 1,300-foot working area, a drydock capable of handling 730-footers being separated by a dividing gate from a graving dock which could accommodate 1,000-foot hulls. The yard is asking $12 million in assistance from federal and provincial authorities. Meanwhile, Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., which would like to build 1,000-footers for the growing coal trade (and particularly to serve the needs of its parent, Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd.), has plans to build a $30 million shipyard at Nanticoke. It is hoped to build 1,000-foot vessels in sections at Port Weller, the sections to be floated up the Welland Canal and assembled at Nanticoke. The yard would feature a drydock with an elevating platform instead of a drainable chamber, a novelty in lake shipyards. There has been no word as to whether government officials will back the plans.
As mentioned previously, the operators of the steam excursion vessel BLUEWATER BELLE, (a) LA VIOLETTE, have not had an easy time of it in attempting to put the boat in service out of Sarnia. After spending considerable moneyin bringing the steamer to the lakes two years ago and preparing her for her new service, the work including the glassing-in of the main deck forward, her owner, Capt. A. Avery of Mooretown, has been completely frustrated by the actions of the Sarnia civic authorities. They have refused to allow the boat to dock at the ready-made facilities in the area of Ferry Dock Hill and have insisted that she sail from the inner end of the slip between the government wharf and Sarnia Elevator. Anyone seeking to board her there would be forced to clamber over rocks and rubble and to wade through a sea of mud, conditions hardly calculated to win the approval of excursionists. It now seems that Avery has given up on Sarnia and has decided to try his luck in the Toronto excursion trade. If BLUEWATER BELLE does make her way to Toronto (at last report, she had reached Windsor), the city will be blessed with two passenger steamboats, TRILLIUM being the other. We doubt that the arrival of BLUEWATER BELLE would have much effect on the operations of TRILLIUM, but she might well lure away some of the business presently handled by MARIPOSA BELLE, CAYUGA II and the Simpson tour boats. We have even heard that BLUEWATER BELLE might be placed on the Niagara run. Let us hope so, for we have longed to see an acceptable steamboat appear on the scene to revive this popular service.
Amongst the first Yugoslavian vessels to enter the lakes following the opening of the Seaway were three near-sisterships, LUKA BOTIC, MARKO MARULIC and NATKO NODILO. These motorships served the "Jadroplov" well for many seasons but had been superceded by more modern boats. Nevertheless, much to the surprise of many observers, MARKO MARULIC ventured back into the lakes this summer, still in her old colours. Her owners, however, are probably regretting sending the ship back to her old stamping grounds. Downbound on August 18 near Nine Mile Point in Lake Nicolet on the St. Mary's River, she lost her way in a severe thunderstorm and found the bottom. The Soo tugs STE. MARIE I, STE. MARIE II, ROD McLEAN and MISEFORD were sent to her aid but they were unable to free her. In due course, McLean sent lightering equipment which removed much of her cargo of rapeseed, whereupon she was pulled free by three tugs during the afternoon of August 22. The bottom being sandy in the area, it is unlikely that any serious damage was suffered.
The 1978 season has seen many changes in the various coastal vessels operating on the St. Lawrence River. The changes are too numerous for us to review here and we are not sure about the accuracy of all of our information, so we shall not become too deeply involved with these news items. Nevertheless, we must comment upon the fact that 1978 seems to be the year in which the end is finally written to the era of the last operating wooden goelettes (or pollywogs, as lake observers commonly knew them). Back in the early spring, a Florida company purchased the steel coasters GILANI, DELAVOYE, HAVRE ST. PIERRE and CONRAD MARIE (II), and it was subsequently announced that the same firm had acquired the goelettes GOERGES HEBERT, NOTRE DAME DES MERS and L'ETOILE DE L'ILE. The goelette NORD DE L'ILE also was sold to Florida buyers. It is not known what the Floridians intend to do with the little goelettes, but their acquisition of the boats effectively brought to a close the era of the goelette on the St. Lawrence. With the other three not due to operate in 1978 anyway, L'ETOILE DE L'ILE would have been the only goelette in service this year had not she, too, been sold.
Another St. Lawrence River item worthy of mention is the acquisition of the English passenger and auto ferry OSBORNE CASTLE for the ferry service between Trois-Pistoles and Les Escoumains. Renamed LE GOBELET D'ARGENT (II) for her new duties, the ferry was taken in hand by Talbot Hunter Engineering to raise her superstructure in order better to accommodate vehicular traffic.
Late last fall, the former Halco steam tanker CAPE TRANSPORT was hurriedly stripped of her superstructure at Toronto in order that she might be taken down the New York State Barge Canal en route to the Caribbean where she is eventually to be used as a water carrier. COVE TRANSPORT and ELMBRANCH, also acquired by the same interests, were moved south via the east coast but encountered serious problems due to the nasty weather which frequents those parts in late autumn. CAPE TRANSPORT was towed across Lake Ontario to Sodus Bay, where she was tucked away at Sill's Marina pending the results of efforts by Oceanic Operations Corp., agents for the owners, to clear the way for her canal passage. Such a transit would be frought with problems because of the size of the hull. In any event, the necessary arrangements have not yet been made and CAPE TRANSPORT continues to lie in Sodus Bay, evoking complaints from residents and yacht owners who resent her presence.
Work is slowly progressing on the conversion of LIQUILASSIE to a barge at Windsor. Presently owned by Allied Tug and Barge Services Inc., she has had most of her superstructure removed and a notch has been cut into her stern so that she may be pushed by a tug. At last report, she had not yet entered service; plans are a bit indefinite as to exactly what trade she will be serving when she is finally put into operation.
For two summers now, the Tate and Lyle (Redpath Sugar) sailing barge ETHEL has been barnstorming her way around the lakes, showing off her interesting profile and giving rides to invited guests of the company. Last winter was spent in the more comfortable climate of Florida. Her owner's original plan was to keep ETHEL on the lakes for one more year and then to return her (on the deck of a salt water cargo vessel) to her home waters of the Thames estuary. Redpath, however, has shied away from the cost of shipping ETHEL home and has instead sold her to a Toronto stevedoring company executive for $35,000. We sincerely hope that, if this report is true, the vessel's career in Lake Ontario waters will be more successful than other sailing vessels brought there. British fans of the historic old Thames sailing barges will, we are sure, be most unhappy to hear that ETHEL will not be coming home as expected.
Montreal has recently played host to two KUNGSHOLMs, even if only one of them actually bore that name at the time of her visit. We report these events here as neither ship is a frequent visitor to these parts and one of them is unlikely ever to be seen again in Canadian waters.
The present KUNGSHOLM, a beautiful twin-stacked vessel of 18,147 tons built in 1966 for the Swedish America Line, and operated in recent years by Flagship Cruises Ltd. under the Liberian flag, has been sold to the P & O Steam Navigation Company which will operate her in Australian waters to replace ARCADIA. Handed over to P & O at New York on August 2k, she will be completely rebuilt for the cruise service and the "Kungsholm Image", which Flagship Cruises tried valiantly to maintain, will be irrevocably lost. KUNGSHOLM called at Montreal for two days on the final leg of her last voyage, sailing downriver on August 19. She thus became the largest passenger ship ever to call at Montreal, as she is some ten feet longer than the former EMPRESS OF CANADA (II) which sailed regularly to Montreal in her years of service for Canadian Pacific.
Due to visit Montreal during September was the Hapag-Lloyd passenger ship EUROPA which, of course, had previously sailed for Swedish America as KUNGSHOLM before the construction of the last ship of this name. EUROPA sailed September 9 from Bremerhaven on a 43-day North American cruise which is taking her to Southampton, St. John's, Gaspe, Montreal, Quebec, La Baie, Ingonish, Sydney, Halifax, New York, Boston, Norfolk, Baltimore, Cape Canaveral, Miami, Hamilton (Bermuda), Ponta Delgada and Lisbon. It was originally hoped that EUROPA would be able to venture into the Great Lakes, and indeed some early conjecture on the part of her operators was that she would go all the way to Chicago, but any such ideas were abandoned when it was realized that EUROPA is at least a foot too wide to transit the locks of the Seaway system.
While still on the subject of deep-sea passenger tonnage, we have some good lews for those who, like your Editor, have been saddened by the recent withdrawal from service of so many Italian vessels which, over the years, had become familiar sights in ports such as New York. Gone are MICHELANGELO, RAFFAELO, and even the beautiful LEONARDO DA VINCI which had been briefly reactivated in the cruise trade after her retirement from the North Atlantic service. But take heart, for during December, Italian Line Cruises International will bring its handsome steamer GUGLIELMO MARCONI to New York for a series of seventeen consecutive cruises to the Caribbean islands. The first sailing is scheduled for December 18 after festivities to mark the beginning of the new service. The MARCONI is very traditional in appearance, both internally and externally, and will be a welcome addition to the rapidly dwindling fleet of major passenger boats sailing from New York. As far as we are aware, she has never before called there.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.