Over the last decade or so, a familiar visitor to the lakes each year has been the small steel coaster AIGLE d'OCEAN owned by United Cargoes Inc., St. Joseph de la Rive, Quebec. Latterly painted blue with white cabins (her hull was once a bright red), she and her running mate AIGLE MARIN have been seen in most major lake ports with a variety of cargoes. But from now on, AIGLE MARIN will have to carry on her lake runs alone. On August 20th, AIGLE d'OCEAN was fighting heavy seas off the coast of Labrador near Port Burwell when she had the mischance to strike an iceberg. Four of the vessel's crew were lost when the little ship sank. In the meantime, the Coast Guard icebreaker NORMAN McLEOD ROGERS sent a helicopter to the area to help in the rescue of the survivors but the wind and heavy rains downed the chopper about a mile from Port Burwell (1500 miles north of Halifax) with the loss of its two occupants. In all, six persons lost their lives in the sinking and "rescue". AIGLE d'OCEAN was a motorship of 432 tons and her hull dated back to 1919 when she was built as a tug.
The Grand Trunk carferry GRAND RAPIDS has been sold to the Bultema Dock and Dredge Company of Muskegon, Michigan, and will probably be cut down for use as a barge. Prior to being sold, GRAND RAPIDS was cannibalized for spare parts for use in keeping MADISON and CITY OF MILWAUKEE in operation. The sale of the ship indicates that the railway found some method of avoiding the suit filed by the Michigan Attorney General which had sought to prevent the disposal of the steamer until the future of the various Lake Michigan carferry lines might be decided.
Incidentally, while on the subject of the Grand Trunk, we must correct an error which crept into these pages last issue. We mentioned that CITY OF MILWAUKEE, normally the line's reserve boat, was operating under charter to the Ann Arbor to replace ARTHUR K. ATKINSON. This is, of course, incorrect, as the ATKINSON has been out of service for several years and CITY OF MILWAUKEE was actually subbing for VIKING which was on the drydock at Sturgeon Bay in the latter part of May. The G.T.W. service itself is normally held down by MADISON which makes one trip a day between Milwaukee and Muskegon.
The Chesapeake and Ohio is wasting no time in preparing for the day when it may be allowed to discontinue its Lake Michigan carferry service, an operation which has now shrunk to include only three vessels, CITY OF MIDLAND 41, BADGER and SPARTAN. The line has always carried passengers on most of its steamers but this practice came to an end on September 8th when all passenger services ceased. Jumping the gun a bit, we would say, when its petition for discontinuance has not yet been granted, the C & O announced that all three of its steamers were for sale at a scrap price of $75,000 each. It seems that even if the I.C.C. requires the railroad to keep the cross-lake lines in operation, it has no intention of maintaining passenger accommodation.
At long last we know the name of the new carferry building at Port Weller for the Canadian National's Newfoundland service. Christened SIR ROBERT BOND in ceremonies at Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. on September 27, 1975, the ship honours in her name the man who was the Prime Minister of Newfoundland during the period 1900-1909. The five-track, 444-foot motorship will, when completed, take up duty on the route between North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Port aux Basques, Nfld.
The former Kinsman steamers JAMES E. FERRIS and KINSMAN VOYAGER which made the one-way tow across the Atlantic earlier this year are confirmed to have arrived at Hamburg, West Germany, on July 4th. For the sake of the trivia collectors amongst us, these ships were the 140th and 141st lakers towed overseas for scrapping since 1960.
The U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet "gutwagon" (supply boat) at the Michigan Soo, OJIBWAY, was given new colours midway through the past summer. In earlier years she had been painted the same colour as the fleet's ore carriers, namely, red hull, white cabins and green trim. But now she carries a bright blue hull and her upperworks are an off-white. This livery does not look at all bad on a ship of her size, but we hope that the new scheme is not considered for the freighters as it is with much trepidation that we can imagine the effect on the eye of such a large expanse of bright blue, particularly when it is streaked with ore dust ...
In our last issue we noted that the Interlake Steamship Company had sold its much-rebuilt steamer CHARLES M. SCHWAB to Robert Pierson Holdings Ltd. for operation in the fleet of the Soo River Company. During the month of August, the ship was moved from her berth in lay-up at Ashtabula to the West Street wharf at Port Colborne where Herb Fraser and Associates refurbished her and gave her a fourth cargo hold for the grain trade. She has since entered service under the Canadian flag carrying the name PIERSON DAUGHTERS and although we can think of more pleasant names for the steamer, we welcome her to the Canadian lake fleet.
It had also been thought at one time that Pierson had purchased A. T. LAWSON from the S & E Shipping Corp., but although negotiations towards such a sale did take place during the summer months, the vessel has definitely not been sold at the time of this writing. It is, however, very encouraging to note the boldness with which Pierson is entering the shipping community and we have no doubt that the fleet will be expanding very soon.
It appears that the Paterson fleet will be holding on to a few of its canal motorships. True, LACHINEDOC and CALGADOC have been sold for off-lakes use, but TROISDOC has been operating all year and her sistership SARNIADOC (which has been laid up at Cardinal) will be reactivated for the autumn to run corn from Wallaceburg to Cardinal. Meanwhile, we have learned that the sistership of the new ONTADOC to be constructed at Collingwood Shipyards will be named SOODOC (II), a name repeated from a particularly handsome steamboat which was originally named (a) MOSES TAYLOR when she sailed for the Mitchell fleet.
A. B. McLean and Sons Ltd. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, has added yet another unit to its fleet of tugs. The newest acquisition is the east coast tug A. T. LOWMASTER purchased from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company. The vessel measures 102.4 x 28.1 x 13.6, Gross 260, Net 114, and was built in 1948 as Hull 468 of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. She was originally a tall-stacked steamer (U.S.255423) with a two-cylinder compound engine but she was later dieselized. McLean has brought the LOWMASTER to the Soo where she will have extensive work done on her to allow her to pass inspection. She has been renamed (b) WILFRED M. COHEN for her new duties on the St. Mary's River.
Last issue we mentioned that the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet would be putting into lay-up its steamers HORACE JOHNSON and B. F. AFFLECK, this information being based on an overheard radio conversation involving the master of one of these vessels which, at the time, was supposed to have been on her last trip prior to going to the wall. We are pleased to learn that neither of the ships has laid up and both are going strong.
Meanwhile, the Hyman-Michaels Company scrapyard at Duluth is gnawing away at the American Lakehead's lay-up fleet. The tinstacker HENRY H. ROGERS has been completely cut up and nothing now remains of her. The Mohawk barge ALFRED KRUPP has given up about half her length to the torches while GEORGE G. CRAWFORD has been stripped out and is awaiting the attack of the cutting crews. W. F. WHITE, WILLIAM J. FILBERT and several others would appear to be in the waiting line and will suffer the same fate unless they should be lucky enough to be purchased by some other operator. We can see that quite a number of the older "Steel Trust" boats will probably find their way to the Hyman-Michaels yard before many years are gone.
One vessel that has managed to escape the scrapper's torch is ROBERT HOBSON, the former unit of the Interlake Steamship Company fleet which was sold in July to Marine Salvage Ltd. and subsequently moved under tow to Ramey's Bend. It seemed at first that her bowthruster would be removed and that she would then be towed overseas for scrapping, but once she was in Ramey's Bend several Canadian vessel operators expressed an interest in purchasing her. The successful bidder was the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. which will add the ship to its nine-vessel fleet. It appears that the steamer will need quite a bit of work to ready her for her new service, including the repair of her injured port bow plates. At the time of this writing, the vessel is undergoing a refit at the Law stone dock at Humberstone. No new name for the HOBSON has as yet been announced but we don't think that we would stand much chance of losing our money were we to bet on OUTARDE (III). We are very pleased that this 1927-vintage 587-footer still has a useful life ahead of her and we are of the opinion that she will look smashing in her new colours.
The steam ferry LAVIOLETTE is slowly wending her way to the lakes but it looks as if she will be a long time yet getting as far as Sarnia. Readers will recall that we last reported her as being at Norfolk after her sale to Capt. Avery of Mooretown for use as an excursion boat on the St. Clair River. One of our spies observed her docked at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in late August but says that she showed no signs of life and seemed to be in poor condition. At least she is now back in Canadian waters, but we wonder whether she will ever make it into the lakes.
In the Mid-Summer Issue we reported that CONSUMERS POWER was laid up at Ecorse and had suffered structural damage. It seems that this damage was sustained in a grounding incident on Lake St. Clair on July 3rd. We do not believe that the damage is of a particularly major nature.
The C.S.L. package freighter FORT HENRY has been reactivated to keep the lake service at strength while other vessels are engaged in off-lakes duties. The steamer came out of lay-up at Hamilton in late August and it was estimated that she would be in service for about six weeks.
Last issue we mentioned the possibility that SCOTT MISENER might soon be converted to a boom-aft self-unloader. Now we hear that the same sort of conversion may be planned for two other vessels. One is the C.S.L. bulk carrier RICHELIEU which would, we imagine, emerge looking much like FRONTENAC if the work is done. The other ship mentioned as a candidate for uglification is Algoma Central's SIR DENYS LOWSON. Algoma's fleet is not at present blessed with an overabundance of tonnage and we have heard that management has been looking around for an older self-unloader to use during the time that SIR DENYS is out of service for the rebuild. We wonder whether W. F. WHITE might be suitable ...
Most of the ships which earlier were laid up at Toronto due to poor business conditions have now returned to operation. All nine of the idle Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. bulk carriers which were idle here have now gone back into service and, in addition, TEXACO CHIEF which had been taking advantage of the lull to refit in the Turning Basin, cleared port on September 5th. Amongst those left idle is ENGLISH RIVER which has been stuck in the Polson Street slip with a load of cement since early August when the shoreside workers of the Canada Cement Lafarge Company went on strike. In addition, the tankers CAPE TRANSPORT, COVE TRANSPORT and RIVERSHELL together with the sandsucker C. W. CADWELL are still with us.
For the last two years, the National Sand and Material Company Ltd. of Toronto, a subsidiary of Erie Sand, has been waging a battle with the Ontario provincial government over the ruling which forbids sandsucking operations in certain areas of the lakes. The authorities were influenced in their decision by pressure from residents of the north shore of Lake Erie who claimed (without much documentation) that sandsucking in the lake was causing erosion of their shoreline. As a result, National Sand's steamer CHARLES DICK has spent the last two seasons idle along Port Colborne's West Street wharf while her owners have argued for a reversal of the government's position. In mid-September CHARLES DICK was towed from her berth in the harbour to a spot in Ramey's Bend alongside HENNEPIN. Certain observers would no doubt interpret this as a sign that the ship had been sold for scrapping but we are pleased to report that such is not the case. The town of Port Colborne had complained to the Seaway Authority that the vessel was an eyesore in her old spot and she has only been tucked away in the Bend to get her out of the way. In fact, the latest word from her owners is that she may return to service next year and that if these plans materialize she will be given an extensive refit at Port Weller. We hope that Erie follows up on this most welcome course of action as it would be a shame to see a piece of machinery as interesting as the DICK pass into oblivion.
In other developments at Ramey's Bend, scrapping operations have begun on HENNEPIN and, at the time of this writing, her cabins had been stripped, out and the unloading machinery was being dismantled. Meanwhile, her supreme ugliness JACQUES GRAVEL has been removed from the scrapyard and her cut-down hull is now lying at the Underwater Gas Developers dock north of the Clarence Street bridge on the west side of the canal. It is to be assumed that she will be made into some sort of service craft for use in the offshore gas drilling operations on Lake Erie.
Two salt water vessels, both of which were well known on the lakes, have been sold for scrapping. One was the 8,031-ton motortanker STOLT ATLANTIC, a ship that dated back to 1953. Owned by Avenir Maritime S.A., Liberia, she left Karachi on her last voyage June 10 and arrived the following day at Gadani Beach for dismantling by Pakistani breakers. The other lake-visiting vessel is TEXACO NUEVA GRANADA, a 12,901-ton motortanker built in 1955 and owned by Texaco Norway A/S. She went to Spanish scrappers and arrived at Bilbao on July 2. TEXACO NUEVA GRANADA was a frequent caller at Texaco's Toronto terminal and was seen there by your Editor as late as May 23, 1975.
The former McAllister (and Pyke) steam tug SALVAGE PRINCE has not fallen under the ownership of Norman Rogers of Toronto's Algonquin Island, but rather has been bought by a group of people who hope (somewhat optimistically, we think, after reading articles about them) to take her east and then to the Caribbean for "salvage work". They say that they want to convert her to "oil fuel" but we assume that they mean by this a conversion to diesel power. People have been observed hard at work aboard the ship but it is hard to tell exactly what progress they are making. The tug will certainly need an extensive refit (to put it mildly) to make her fit for operation.
Over the past few years, the Goderich Elevator and Transit Company has been disposing of some of the original units of its Goderich grain storage fleet. Sold for scrapping have been the former Paterson barges K. A. POWELL (I), F. H. DUNSFORD, and the steamer D. B. WELDON. Now it has come the turn of C. S. BAND, another of the old Paterson barges, but she is lucky enough to escape the cutting torches. She has been sold to McNamara Marine Ltd. and has been taken to Port Elgin for use as a breakwater in the construction of a nuclear power plant there. C.S. BAND dates back to 1896 and latterly served the Paterson fleet under the name OWENDOC.
Groundings have been numerous this shipping season. In one such occurrence, ALGOCEN found the bottom in the St. Lawrence near Ogdensburg on August 29. Several tanks were flooded in the grounding and after the vessel was pumped dry, she proceeded on her way downriver. On her return to Lake Ontario she was put on the drydock at Port Weller where she remained late in September. Damage appears to have been quite extensive.
Another grounding incident involved the C.S.L. self-unloader GLENEAGLES, although we have no details on when or where the accident occurred. At last report, she was expected to remain on the drydock at Port Arthur for about a month. The carrying out of such extensive repair work on the old girl cannot but bode well for her future. It had been rumoured (as usual) that this would be her last year under the C.S.L. houseflag, but if large amounts of money are being spent on her, then we rather doubt that she will be retired.
We thought that the SAM LAUD grounding in the early summer was a nasty accident, but it seems that it was only a taste of worse to come. On Sunday, September 7th, the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company's bulk carrier WILLIAM G. MATHER was downbound in the St. Mary's River with a cargo of nearly 14,000 tons of iron ore. As she entered Lake Huron outbound through the DeTour Passage, the 601-foot MATHER got on the wrong side of Buoy No. 2 on the east side of the channel and struck bottom in shoal water. The ship sustained severe damage to her forward plating and to prevent the ship from sinking in the deep water to which she had passed after striking bottom, her master turned the steamer around and headed back upstream to Frying Pan Shoal where she was intentionally grounded bow-on in 19 feet of water. The following day the vessel's forward tanks were pumped out and the tugs ROD McLEAN and JOHN McLEAN, sent from the Canadian Soo, hauled the MATHER from the shoal. She was taken about five miles upstream to Maude Bay where she was anchored. Plans originally called for the Eder barge MAITLAND NO. 1 to be brought up from Milwaukee to lighter the wounded steamer's cargo but instead the Columbia craneship BUCKEYE was brought to the scene on September 10th and she proceeded to transfer the ore to RAYMOND H. REISS, a job that consumed 29 hours. The MATHER, once free of her cargo, was sent to the Bay Shipbuilding yard at Sturgeon Bay for drydocking and inspection. We understand that the damage is so extensive that Cliffs may decide not to repair the 1925-vintage steamer, but as yet we have no confirmation as to the course of action to be taken. We hope that the MATHER survives this unfortunate accident.
A "first passage" was recorded at the Welland Canal during the week of September 22 when the S & E Shipping Corp. steamer BEN MOREELL passed down en route to Oswego with a cargo of grain. She came back up light a few days later. To the best of our knowledge, the MOREELL has never before been seen in these parts.
The Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd. motorship NORGOMA, now an outcast from the Tobermory ferry service where she and her older running mate NORISLE were replaced by the now-she-runs-now-she-doesn't CHI-CHEEMAUN, arrived under tow at the Canadian Soo in mid-September. She is to be used as a tourist facility there and will also, we understand, provide a home for the local sea cadets.
At long last the sale of the vessels of the Kinsman Marine Transit Company to S & E Shipping Corp. has been consummated and it would appear that one of the most turbulent corporate histories of any lake shipping concern is approaching a period of relative calm. S & E, the firm that in 1974 acquired from Kinsman the steamers A.T. LAWSON and BEN MOREELL, now takes over the last twelve Steinbrenner vessels - GEORGE D. GOBLE, KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, HENRY STEINBRENNER, GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER, PETER ROBERTSON, HARRY L. ALLEN, CHICAGO TRADER, C.L. AUSTIN, FRANK R. DENTON, PAUL L. TIETJEN, MERLE M. McCURDY and GEORGE E. SEEDHOUSE. Contrary to some published reports, the sale does not mean the end of the many years of Minch and Steinbrenner family interest in lake shipping, since Henry Steinbrenner will still be looking after the operation of the fleet and George M. Steinbrenner has already indicated his intention to purchase a controlling interest in S & E, a company which itself was originally created to assist Kinsman in its forced divestiture of tonnage after the Reiss and Wilson takeovers.
Meanwhile, two other Kinsman units have changed colours. The stemwinders WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER have never been owned by Kinsman but rather by the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company who chartered them out to AmShip whose subsidiary Kinsman operated them. Now the charter has been taken over by the Oglebay Norton Company (in return for $3 million to be paid to AmShip) and this firm will in turn subcharter the self-unloaders to the Pringle Transit Company. This latter firm has been formed especially for the occasion and takes its name from the former Pringle Barge Line, an Oglebay Norton affiliate which ran coal from Toledo to Detroit. The company operated many vessels over the years, the most famous being its last four ships, the tugs JESSE JAMES and S.M. DEAN and the barges MAIDA and CONSTITUTION. The ROESCH and THAYER have been given the traditional Oglebay Norton hull and cabin colours but the funnels, instead of the Columbia star design, bear the old Pringle (P-Ring-Gull) insignia in white on a maroon background. The transfer of the two vessels had been in the works for at least a year, but only now have the two operators (together with their unions) come up with a solution to the problems which had been standing in the way of the deal.
Hand in hand with the sale of the Kinsman vessels to S & E goes a further purge of the older vessels remaining in the fleet. At the time of this writing, PETER ROBERTSON and GEORGE E. SEEDHOUSE (the latter suffering from grave mechanical difficulties) have been sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. for scrap. The ROBERTSON was towed from Sandusky (where she had lain idle two years) on September 15 and arrived at Port Colborne the following day. She was tucked securely away in the old canal above Dain City and has now been sealed up for the tow across the Atlantic. SEEDHOUSE was to have left Toledo on September 25 in tow of OHIO bound for Port Colborne but her departure was delayed by bad weather conditions. In addition, a sale for scrap of GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER is in the works and it is rumoured that MERLE M. McCURDY may not be far behind. A small bit of good news in all this gloom is found in the fact that KINSMAN ENTERPRISE was put back in service during September, the whole of the operating fleet now being engaged in the grain trade.
It's getting to the point now that we avid historians are hanging on every little word that we hear concerning the older lake vessels. The real veterans are disappearing from the scene so quickly that any news regarding the future of one of them is snapped up hungrily by her fans (witness the exit of JAMES E. FERRIS). As we have all known, the future of HARRY L. ALLEN has been in much doubt and it has only been the Cleveland grain trade (to the former Montana Mills) that has kept the 1910-vintage steamer in service. She is due very soon for her five-year inspection and it would have been our guess that Kinsman (or S & E, if you prefer) would not shell out the bucks to put her on the dock. But we would have been wrong. The decision has been made that she shall have her inspection, although this in itself is only the first skirmish of the battle in that if the survey reveals the need for any extensive repairs, then she is almost certainly destined for the torch. In the meantime, we'll hold our fingers crossed and be grateful for small blessings...
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.