In our March issue, we commented upon the plans of the United States Coast Guard to withdraw from service the big icebreaker MACKINAW as a result of federal government budget cuts. As might have been expected, a frightful howl of indignation went up from all associated with lake shipping, because no one could imagine how the U.S.C.G. could possibly attend to the safety of those who sail the lakes without the icebreaking and rescue capabilities of the 38-year-old MACKINAW. As a result, the Coast Guard reconsidered its position and has decided to retain MACKINAW, stationed at Cheboygan, Michigan, as an operative vessel. She will be kept available for winter ice duty, and a partial saving on her operating cost will be achieved by reducing the size of the crew carried aboard her during the summer months. It seems likely that this decision was influenced by the fact that four of the five new Bay class icebreaking tugs were required to keep a navigable path open through February in the Straits of Mackinac.
The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker under construction at Port Weller was removed from the graving dock during mid-winter and was moored alongside the fitout berth for completion, the space she had occupied on the "shelf" being required for the construction of the next Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. self-unloader. According to press reports, the new icebreaker will be named DESGROSEILLERS, in honour of one of Canada's famous explorers. It is said that she will replace the 291-foot steam-powered icebreaker d'IBERVILLE, which was built in 1952 at Lauzon. d'IBERVILLE is apparently considered to be obsolete and she is to be retired from service. She has never operated in the lakes.
Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the Algoma Steel Corporation will not have the Johnstone Shipping canaller CONDARRELL under charter in 1982. Nevertheless, it seems likely that CONDARRELL will carry a certain amount of cargo for Algoma provided that Johnstone is able to resolve its present difficulties. One factor which undoubtedly contributed to the dropping of the charter is the present depressed state of the economy, which has had disastrous effects upon the sale of steel products. We understand that the Algoma plant at Sault Ste. Marie will be operating with a much-reduced work force this year, and reduced sales will surely mean that the services of CONDARRELL will not be required on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, Johnstone Shipping Ltd. has taken legal action in the Montreal trial division of the Federal Court against the Cast Shipping group of Switzerland. Named as defendants in the suit are Cast Ship Services Canada Ltd. of Montreal, as well as two Bermuda affiliates, Transatlantic Coal Transportation Ltd. and Eurocanadian Shipholdings Ltd. The action concerns the cancellation of a three-year contract which Cast had let to Johnstone for the movement of Ohio coal to the St. Lawrence River, a contract for which Johnstone had specially purchased the old Columbia Transportation self-unloader J. R. SENSIBAR, which was renamed (c) CONALLISON. Johnstone alleges that a coal cargo assigned to CONALLISON was unsuitable for her unloading equipment and that, as a result of her infamous 8-day unloading escapade at Montreal last August, Cast cancelled the coal contract, using CONALLISON's equipment difficulties as the excuse for cancellation. Johnstone is seeking damages of $1,800,000 plus interest. Meanwhile, press reports indicate that Westdale Shipping Ltd. will also be taking legal action against Cast as regards its own coal contract.
McKeil Work Boats Ltd. of Winona, Ontario, has apparently decided that its veteran "motorship" C. W. CADWELL has no future as a self-propelled vessel. It will be recalled that McKeil bought the CADWELL after she had lain idle at Toronto for many years after having had one of the Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines from the repowered Toronto ferry SAM McBRIDE installed in her. CADWELL, rebuilt by McKeil as a "rabbit" but never operated as such, is now being converted into a derrick barge at Hamilton, and the McBRIDE's engine has been removed.
Ever since the Ford Motor Company announced that it had retired its veteran motorship BENSON FORD, observers have been speculating on the future of this handsome bulk carrier. But now, it seems, there is speculation concerning the future of the entire Ford lake fleet. With the North American automobile industry suffering through some of the worst business conditions that it has ever faced, Ford has spun its steel manufacturing business off into a new firm called the Rouge Steel Corporation, and the Ford fleet has been included in the transfer. Word has it that the Ford insignia will be removed from the boats, and that their operation for Rouge Steel may well be taken over by another U.S. vessel operator. Apart from the idled BENSON FORD, the fleet consists of her sister, the self-unloader HENRY FORD II of 1924, and the straight-deckers ERNEST R. BREECH, (a) CHARLES L. HUTCHINSON (III)(62) of 1952, WILLIAM CLAY FORD of 1953, and JOHN DYKSTRA, (a) RICHARD M. MARSHALL (57), (b) JOSEPH S. WOOD (II)(66) of 1953. It has been said that JOHN DYKSTRA will be renamed (d) BENSON FORD (II) in order to retain that famous name active on the lakes.
Some months back, we reported on the move of the Maritime Commission class steamer PIONEER (III), (a) McINTYRE (43), (b) FRANK PURNELL (I)(66), (c) STEELTON (IV)(78), (d) HULL NO. 3 (79), from Toledo to Sturgeon Bay. The reason for this shift was to get her to the Bay Shipbuilding Corporation yard so that she could be equipped with the necessary machinery to enable Medusa Cement to use her in the Lake Calumet area of Chicago as an unloading and storage facility. Word now comes that she has been renamed (f) C.T.C. NO. 1, a name which undoubtedly refers to the Cement Transit Company. Although she may eventually be used as an active bulk cement carrier, she meanwhile remains as the only "Maritimer" ever relegated to this sort of non-operative status. She has, incidentally, also copped another record, in that she is the only boat of her class to have carried so many different names during her career. There is considerable dispute over whether the name under which she was laid down should be considered official, but we consider that it should. It matters little in any event, for she would still win the name sweeps amongst the "Maritimers" even if it were not. She also happens to be the steamer that won eternal recognition for having knocked down the Port Robinson bridge in the early-morning hours of August 2 5th, 1974.
After a half-century as a landmark on the Toronto waterfront along Queen's Quay, between John Street and Spadina Avenue, the Maple Leaf Mills Limited grain elevator will soon be nothing but a memory. Still known to many observers as "Toronto Elevators" because of the fact that it was built, and operated for many years, by Toronto Elevators Ltd., an enterprise of James Playfair, Gordon C. Leitch, and others, the elevator received it first cargo in 1928. It is still busy unloading winter storage cargoes as these words are written, but it will see little if any use this summer, and the demolition of the concrete silos and other buildings will begin on September 1, 1982. The vegetable oil plant that was located on the west side of the elevator slip was recently demolished. The dismantling of the elevator will mark the disappearance of yet another industry from Toronto harbour, and a further decrease in the number of ships calling here. Ever since Harbourfront Park was begun at the west end of the inner harbour almost a decade ago as an election "plum" from the federal government, the authorities have "encouraged" shipping-related industry to leave the area. Most have either closed completely or else moved to other cities. It is our thought that the Harbourfront complex set out on the right foot in getting industry to remove fences and provide walkways through dock areas so that the public could observe shipping activities firsthand. But, over the years, although much good development has occurred, those in authority seem to have become enamoured of the idea that a harbour is no place for commercial shipping, and that its facilities should be reserved for residential and recreational purposes only. We cannot but disagree...
In recent issues, we have reported the continuing saga of SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, the British Columbia government's double-ended diesel ferry, which was better known to lake observers as (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, and (c) PERE NOUVEL. She was, of course, built as the State of Michigan icebreaking ferry for the Straits of Mackinac, a route that she served from 1952 until the opening of the Mackinac Bridge on November 1, 1957. She was idle until 1960, when she was sold to the Detroit-Atlantic Navigation Corporation for what turned out to be a short-lived "fishyback" trade between Cleveland and Detroit. She was owned from 1961 until 1967 by Compagnie de Navigation Nord-Sud Ltee. of Rimouski, Quebec, which ran her as a ferry between Baie Comeau and Rimouski. She was then sold to the B.C. authorities and became a west coast ferry.
We recently noted that the British Columbia Ferry Corporation, Victoria, B. C, had sold her to the Quesnel Redi-Mix Cement Company Ltd., Vancouver, and that she had then passed, via Canarctic Ventures Ltd., Quesnel, B.C., to Gulf Canada Resources Inc., Calgary, Alberta, for use as an Arctic supply ship for Gulf drilling operations there. We now learn that, according to Transport Canada, the three sales (from B.C. Ferry to Quesnel Redi-Mix, then from Quesnel to Canarctic, and from Canarctic to Gulf) were all billed on the same day, namely November 17th, 1981.
Another recent report from Transport Canada indicates that the registry of the steam tanker GOLDEN SABLE was officially closed in October, 1981, with the notation that she had been scrapped. Her last official owner was shown as Steel Factors Ltd., Montreal. This report is certainly open to question, for we have received no report of the canaller's actual scrapping. GOLDEN SABLE, of course, was the former (a) ACADIALITE (47), (b) IMPERIAL CORNWALL (71), which was built at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees in 1930 for Imperial Oil. Retired by Imperial in 1971, she was purchased by Penn Shipping Ltd., Guelph, Ontario, for whom she made only two trips, both as IMPERIAL CORNWALL. Laid up, she was sold later in 1971 to Messrs Mottershead and MacLean, Toronto, who acted for the Neal Petroleum Company Ltd., Toronto, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Golden Eagle Refining Company. She made one round trip, Quebec to Buffalo, for this owner, and has never turned a wheel since.
Just to indicate how deceiving the government records can be, we note that the registry of the steam sandsucker CHARLES DICK was finally closed on January 25, 1982. CHARLES DICK, of course, was scrapped by Marine Salvage Ltd. at Ramey's Bend during 1977.
The renaming of the Branch Lines tankers has been the subject of much confusion since early January, and the actual names will probably prove to be the subject of confusion and argument for many years to come. Historians would do well to make careful notes about the situation now. We had originally reported that MAPLEBRANCH would become ERABLE 1, JOS. SIMARD would become FRENE 1, EDOUARD SIMARD would become CHENE 1, LEON SIMARD would become ORME 1, LUDGER SIMARD would become SAULE 1, and ARTHUR SIMARD would become CEDRE 1, but such is not, precisely, the case. The first three renames to receive official approval were ARTHUR SIMARD to LE CEDRE NO. 1, LUDGER SIMARD to LE SAULE NO. 1, and MAPLEBRANCH to L'ERABLE NO. 1, although ship bulletins reported two of these names as CEDRE UN and SAULE UN. Now, as if all that is not sufficiently confusing, we must report the manner in which the new names have actually been painted on the ships. The first to show the rename was ARTHUR SIMARD, which was observed at Montreal in mid-January with the name CEDRE 1 painted on her. LUDGER SIMARD has been operating during the winter with the name painted on her bows as LE SAULE 1. LEON SIMARD got her new name at Sorel in late February and she wears it on her hull as L'ORME 1. MAPLEBRANCH (laid up at Sorel for the winter) and EDOUARD SIMARD, at least, did not show any signs of their new names by mid-March. To put it mildly, it would appear that Branch Lines, Division of Davie Shipbuilding Ltd., has created a monster of gargantuan proportions with these name changes!
After almost a year on the bottom of Toronto's Yonge Street slip, the sunken NORMAC is at last receiving some real attention, albeit of the destructive sort. Ever since her altercation with TRILLIUM last June and her subsequent sinking, her owner has been engaging in litigation and press battles with Metro Toronto (owner of TRILLIUM), with the Toronto Harbour Commission, and with his own insurer (which declined to pay his "claim"). NORMAC began to fall apart as wave and ice action ground away at her flimsy, aluminum upperworks, and McAllister Towing refused to become involved in salvage operations because of this damage. But, during mid-March, a crew appeared aboard and began to dismantle the former ferry's ugly "pseudo-superstructure", and not before time. Regardless of John Letnik's reasons for letting the wreckers at NORMAC, we know that we shall never again see her functioning as Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant.
At last, there have been developments in regard to the financial embarrassment of Sherwood Marine Inc., Toronto. Norman Rogers, of Algonquin Island, Toronto, the fellow who has been involved in the protracted and as-yet-unfinished conversion of the steam tug CHRIS M. to the sailing vessel EMPIRE SANDY, has formed Coastal Corp., which has acquired CAYUGA II from Sherwood's receivers. She is to be operated in the charter trade, but first must overcome some serious mechanical problems which involve all three of her engines. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that Rogers may acquire NIAGARA and SHIAWASSIE, Sherwood's two smaller excursion boats, which were returned to Toronto from Niagara-on-the-Lake and wintered at Pier Five. Meanwhile, there has been no news concerning what will happen to the steam excursion boat CALEDONIA, which was operated by Sherwood but only one-quarter owned by the company. We sincerely hope that she will be rescued from this morass, and that her melodious chimed whistle will continue to echo around Toronto Bay on summer evenings.
The Straits of Mackinac steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM, after two seasons of hectic activity, is now down to making but one trip per week between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. The Michigan Transportation Commission has cut off the subsidization of the rail line from Petoskey to Mackinaw City, and so very little freight is now moving downstate via the Michigan Northern Railroad and the ferry line. The State has also threatened to reduce and eventually eliminate the subsidy for the ferry. All things considered, the future does not look good for the 71-year-old CHIEF WAWATAM.
As we go to press, there is much speculation concerning the future of certain Canadian lake fleets, even though the grain market remains strong in 1982. The question of whether or not certain companies will fit out their ships and, if so, which ones, will be answered only when we can actually observe what is running after the canals open.
Although things still look bad on the U.S. side of the lakes for 1982, primarily due to the deterioration of the steel business and the lack of demand for iron ore or taconite, we understand that United States Steel has decided to fit out ROGER BLOUGH. It seemed incomprehensible that this large self-unloader might not operate, although we can readily understand the relegation to temporary lay-up status of smaller ships such as the company's "Maritimers" and "supers".
Press reports made much of the explosion and sinking of the "barge" POLING BROS. NO. 9 whilst she was passing under the Williamsburg Bridge in the East River at New York on February 27th. In fact, this vessel was not a barge, but rather a motortanker of the barge-canal type. U.S.233,333. she was 251.3 x 40.0 x 12.8, 1242 Gross, 779 Net, and was built as Hull 822 of United Dry Docks Inc. in 1934 at Mariners Harbor, New York. Although she had operated exclusively on the east coast in recent years, she was long a familiar visitor to the Great Lakes, where she operated for the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company as NEW HAVEN SOCONY, which was her original name.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.