Ship of the Month, No. 9 Hiawatha

Table of Contents

Title Page
Marine News
Ship of the Month, No. 9 Hiawatha
Delta Queen Forever
Salty Changes
Table of Illustrations

The Royal Canadian yacht Club ferry, HIAWATHA, is seen arriving at the Island Dock in October 1968, in this photo by the Editor
The past few years have seen such a drastic reduction in the number of lake passenger vessels, of both the overnight and excursion types, that it has become relatively easy to keep track of the remaining examples of this once-prolific type of ship. Bearing this in mind, we find it surprising that very few of our Toronto members realize that they have, right under their noses, what appears to be the oldest operating passenger vessel on the Great Lakes.

Back in the early 1890's, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club of Toronto had, as their tender and passenger ferry, the wooden former steam yacht ESPERANZA, but by mid-decade she was no longer capable of handling the large number of members making the crossing between the club's city and Island properties. As a result, the R.C.Y.C. ordered from the Bertram Engine Works Ltd., Toronto, a new steel ferry and this craft was launched on July 9th, 1895. Christened HIAWATHA and given official number 100763, she was 56.0 feet in length, 13.3 in beam and 6.3 in depth. Her tonnage was 46 Gross and 31 Net. A single-decked ship, she carried a wooden cabin with an open deck aft and pilothouse forward and was powered by steam. She burned anthracite coal and never made much smoke.

HIAWATHA was completed shortly after her launching and entered service during the summer of 1895. Her first Master was Capt. David Reynolds, whose former command, the ESPERANZA, was now retired. It is interesting to note that in contrast with today's skyrocketing shipbuilding costs, the total bill for HIAWATHA amounted to only $7,000.

Around the turn of the century, the R.C.Y.C. disposed of their city property and HIAWATHA then served to take city members over to the club's premises located near Centre Island. Even HIAWATHA proved too small to handle the traffic alone and in 1912 she was joined by KWASIND, built by Polson Iron Works Ltd. The new ferry was roughly similar to HIAWATHA in appearance, but was fifteen feet longer and cost $13,000. more to build. The two ships have maintained the service together ever since.

During the winter of 1944-45, the steam engine and boiler were removed from HIAWATHA and were replaced by a gasoline engine. The KWASIND received the same treatment shortly thereafter. This is the only major alteration done on either ship, with the exception HIAWATHA received a new pilothouse during the early 1960's. Both ferries received the club's new blue and white livery in 1965.

KWASIND now does most of the work, but HIAWATHA usually operates in inclement weather and as a relief boat at other times. Both ships run on days of heavy passenger traffic and both have, at times, carried special parties on lake excursions and served as tenders at club races. The R.C.Y.C. maintains their ferries in excellent condition and, barring any unusual problems, the long-lived HIAWATHA should serve many more years.


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