The winter of 1968-69 saw a total of 41 ships tied up in Toronto Harbour and this was one of the largest lay-up fleets seen in this port in recent years. We have all at some time mentioned the many changes in the Canadian lake fleet in the last few years, especially since the opening of the Seaway canals, and it might be interesting to turn back thirteen years and take a look at the Toronto winter fleet of 1955-56. The following ships were laid up here then:
That year, there were 39 ships here and, of these, a total of 26 were "Canallers". Only 10 such ships laid up in Toronto this past winter! Those vessels marked with an asterisk, 19 in all, have now been scrapped and among them, MAKAWELI, WINDOC and HERON BAY, have made the long tow to European scrapyards, MAKAWELI was the last of the World War I "Lakers" in Great Lakes service and sailed originally as COWEE. WINDOC was the last operating unit of a large group of similar ships built around the turn of the century by Capt. John Mitchell of Cleveland and considered by many to be among the most handsome lake freighters ever designed. HERON BAY of the Quebec & Ontario Transportation Co. was built in 1902 as the barge AGAWA but was converted 1907 into a conventional steamer.
TRANSRIVER and COASTAL CASCADES were two of the last three surviving French-built canallers which operated at one time for the Tree Line of Montreal. They had since been converted to tankers and were stemwinders of most unusual appearance, PRESCOTT had an interesting history in that on September 24, 1915) while named WESTERN STAR, she struck Robertson's Rock in Georgian Bay and spent almost two years on the bottom before being raised in one of the most spectacular salvage operations ever seen on the lakes. Also of interest among those ships now scrapped was CAYUGA which still had two remaining seasons of operation as the last of the Niagara River excursion steamers.
NORMAN P. CLEMENT became a tanker used for carrying acids and made the headlines last fall when she was scuttled in Georgian Bay. She had been severely damaged by an explosion caused by the ignition of fumes by a welder's torch while she was undergoing repairs in the Collingwood Shipyard.
CARTIERDOC was stripped down for use as a barge while EDWIN T. DOUGLASS suffered the same fate. She was renamed P. S. BARGE NO. 1 and is used as a lightering barge at Montreal by McAllister-Pyke Salvage. CHARLES R. HUNTLEY is now a sandsucker operated by McNamara Construction.
Four of the ships listed are now in operation on salt water. Tankers BRITAMLUBE and BRITAMOLENE, after leaving the service of B.A. Oil, sailed for a short time for the Hall Corp. and then were sold Italian and Panamanian respectively, being now named CAPRAIA and CAPTAIN THEO. OIL TRANSPORTER later had her name shortened by the deletion of the "er" suffix and was sold in 1968 for service in the West Indies as a water carrier under the name WIT. The COL. ROBERT R. McCORMICK, one of the last canallers to be built, now sails the Caribbean as MONTAGU BAY.
R. BRUCE ANGUS, MAUNALOA. II, and VICTORIOUS are still in service, the latter now 74 years old, and sailing for Upper Lakes Shipping of Toronto, while DOUGLASS HOUGHTON and HOWARD L. SHAW are currently held as reserve units by the same owners. PIC RIVER, another barge (JAMES NASMYTH) turned steamer, is still operating for the Q & O fleet but LAKESHELL, a Shell Oil tanker has now been replaced by a new ship of the same name and faces a doubtful future. Those who have seen her inch her way up under the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia will agree that her speed leaves something to be desired! COASTAL CARRIER and COASTAL CREEK were sold last year to Hall and now operate as BAY TRANSPORT (II) and CREEK TRANSPORT. The latter is a 1910-built diesel tanker which originally operated as the steamer SASKATOON for the Merchants Mutual Line of Montreal.
NIAGARA is a sandsucker which started life as an Imperial Oil tanker and which was, at the time of our lay-up list, owned by Holden Sand & Gravel. She later passed to the McNamara fleet and is now owned by a Canadian subsidiary of Erie Sand and is to be renamed W. M. EDINGTON. DONNACONA, an upper laker of Canada Steamship Lines was severely damaged by fire on Lake Huron in 1964 and was rebuilt with a modern pilothouse and texas which stand out in marked contrast to her older-style after cabins. She is currently in reserve at Midland with little hope of future service.
You say you thought you saw some of these ships in our 1968-69 winter fleet? You are absolutely correct. Six ships of the group of thirteen years ago, DOUGLASS HOUGHTON, VICTORIOUS, HOWARD L. SHAW, LAKESHELL, COASTAL CARRIER (as BAY TRANSPORT) and BLUE CROSS (now named CONGAR) spent the past winter in our port.
So you see, there really has been quite a change in all these familiar names. Just count for yourselves the number that have not passed from the scene or at least undergone some major change in the past thirteen years -- not very many, are there?
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.