As some vessels are coming from the shipyards either new and just off the stocks or, as in the case of TRILLIUM, completely refurbished, so there are other lake ships that are reaching the end of their operating careers. Such a vessel is the Reoch steamer AVONDALE which, although an apparently staunch self-unloader, has been looking every bit an operating antique the last few years. On Thursday, November 27th, AVONDALE arrived at Toledo to load a cargo of soya beans, presumably for delivery to Toronto. Before they could get the spout into her, however, she received a visitation from the American Bureau of Shipping and as a result of an inspection of the vessel she was condemned, allegedly because of a weakness in a structural member beneath the deck. Her owners tried to get permission for AVONDALE to load coal instead of beans but this was refused and accordingly she set sail in ballast for Port Colborne, arriving there and tying up alongside the West Street wharf on November 28. There she was stripped and on November 29 she moved under her own power through Lock 8, entering the old canal and laying up behind PETER ROBERTSON. Problems were encountered in backing the vessel down the old channel due to high winds and at one point she swung across the canal, her bow and stern wedged firmly on opposite banks. She was eventually moored safely and now lies there cold, a retired steamer. She has not as yet been sold for scrapping but there seems little doubt that such a sale lies not far in the future.
AVONDALE was built in 1908 as Hull 53 of the Great Lakes Engineering Works at St. Clair, Michigan, and entered service as (a) ADAM E. CORNELIUS (I) for the American Steamship Company. Originally measuring 420.0 x 52.2 x 28.2 (Gross 4900, Net 3736), she was lengthened in 1942 to 475.8 (Gross 5663, Net 3796) and was converted to a self-unloader. BoCo renamed her (b) DETROIT EDISON (I) in 1948 and (c) GEORGE F. RAND (II) in 1954. She was acquired in 1962 by the Reoch interests and was registered in Hamilton, Bermuda, although she was later brought into Canadian registry. In the last thirteen years she has carried almost every kind of cargo available to lake shippers and has certainly earned her keep in the Reoch fleet. But time has run out for the old girl. We'll miss not only her peculiar forward end (with a pilothouse that never really suited her) but also the clouds of steam that perpetually encircled her stern, and that very deep and tuneful steam whistle that sounded almost like that of KEEWATIN as it echoed across Toronto bay.
Indications are that the Reoch/Pierson fleet will shortly be expanding its operations despite the recent demise of AVONDALE. We understand that the organization may take delivery of as many as three former U.S. bulk carriers and that these will be placed under the ownership of the Soo River Company, a firm actually owned by Pierson but operated by Reoch. The first of the acquisitions has already been announced and she is the SAMUEL MATHER which has been purchased from the Interlake Steamship Company. The MATHER was built in 1927 as (a) WILLIAM McLAUCHLAN, Hull 793 of the American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, Ohio. She has always been owned by Interlake and was given her present name in 1966, the year after her sistership of the same name was sold to Upper Lakes Shipping (the present POINTE NOIRE). The MATHER, 8024 Gross and 6314 Net, measures 586.3 x 60.2 x 27.9 and was the last of the small steamers in the Pickands Mather fleet. In Canadian registry she will join another sister, ROBERT HOBSON, which was sold in September to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. and renamed (b) OUTARDE (III) after having been sold earlier for scrapping. SAMUEL MATHER will be brought to Port Colborne very soon and will be converted to burn oil fuel by Herb Fraser and Associates. For her new duties she will be renamed (c) JOAN M. McCULLOUGH in honour of the wife of Mr. Harry McCullough, president of Westdale Shipping Ltd. The other two vessels which may be moving to the Pierson/Reoch fleet cannot as yet be identified, but it is entirely possible that one of them may be the same steamer that was rumoured to be making the same change earlier in the autumn.
As we go to press with this issue, the Port Weller drydock is occupied by the steamer PIERSON DAUGHTERS which entered the dock on November 29th. It seems that the Soo River Company's bulk carrier was upbound in the St. Lawrence River on November 22 when she grounded on the tip of North Colban Island near Clayton, New York. She sustained bottom damage and numbers one and two port tanks were flooded. The vessel was freed and pumped out and on November 23-24 she passed up the Welland Canal bound for Conneaut where she unloaded her cargo of iron ore. She then came back down the canal in ballast and had to wait a few days outside the drydock until it disgorged BLANCHE HINDMAN before PIERSON DAUGHTERS could be accommodated.
In our last issue we mentioned that something new was afoot in the Steinbrenner world and that a new company had been formed to operate three of the ships. The vessels involved are not, we now discover, HARRY L. ALLEN, CHICAGO TRADER and KINSMAN ENTERPRISE but rather the ENTERPRISE, C. L. AUSTIN and FRANK R. DENTON. These ships are now officially owned by the Bay Shipping Corp. which is a Steinbrenner affiliate although its actual ownership is not known. Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet of the former Kinsman Marine Transit Company has been officially transferred to S & E Shipping. The whole concern has been renamed and will henceforth be known as S & E Shipping Corp. db/a Kinsman Lines and this parent firm will operate the Bay Shipping vessels. Accordingly, the association of the Kinsman name with the Minch/Steinbrenner family shipping interests will not be lost.
The Algoma Central Railway continues to expand its fleet of lake carriers. With another self-unloader already ordered from Collingwood Shipyards, the company has announced that it has purchased the 520-foot salt water vessel BROOKNES from the Jebsen shipping group of Bergen, Norway. The ship, which was built in 1970 in Scotland, has now been sent to Swan Hunter Shiprepairers Ltd., North Shields, England, and there she will be lengthened to 642 feet over the coming winter. During 1976 she will be brought to the lakes and the conversion to a self-unloader will be accomplished at Port Colborne by Herb Fraser and Associates Ltd. with the ship scheduled to enter service during the autumn months. Algoma feels that the cost of a conversion of this nature will be much less than that of building a new ship and in addition the railway will wind up with a ship that can be operated on salt water during the winter months. BROOKNES will be renamed ALGOSEA prior to entering the lakes.
For a number of years now the former Manitoulin Island ferry NORMAC has been lying in Toronto's Yonge Street slip and functioning as Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant. Completely rebuilt, she now looks nothing like NORMAC and, in ye Ed.'s opinion, even less like a ship at all. But her owner, John Letnik, a native of Yugoslavia who came to Toronto in 1957, has ideas of something even bigger than NORMAC and as a result Toronto's newest restaurant sailed into the port on the evening of November 20th, 1975. She is the former Yugoslavian cruise vessel JADRAN which Letnik purchased earlier this year from Jadranska Linijska Plovidba, "the Adriatic Line". Measuring 295'6" x 42'10" x 15'3", 2564 Gross, the ship was one of three sisters built in 1957 at Split, Yugoslavia, by Brodogradiliste Split. JADRAN was capable of accommodating 170 first class passengers, 38 in tourist class, and she could pack aboard 1000 deck passengers. During her service in her home waters, she normally operated line runs and sometimes cruises in the Aegean Sea. A typical schedule, such as that which she ran in 1967, called for her to serve regularly on a route from Venice to Rijaka, Split, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu and Piraeus. JADRAN is somewhat unique in that she has a lounge in the forecastle and a dining saloon/lounge on the upper deck forward where one might normally expect an observation area. Ye Ed. managed to sneak aboard JADRAN on her first night in Toronto and had the pleasure of being escorted around the ship. She has some beautiful dark woodwork in her, all carved with intricate designs by Yugoslav craftsmen, and by the same token she has some very plain modern areas. Generally speaking, her furnishings have a rather tatty look as if they have either been used very hard or else have not been particularly well maintained. Letnik plans to open the ship to the public in January and will be using the two dining rooms together with a cocktail bar to seat about 300 persons. Later plans call for the installation of "convention facilities" in the space presently occupied by passenger cabins, all this despite the fact that the ship is moored directly across the slip from the brand new Harbour Castle Hotel which opened this past summer. It is evident that Letnik is thinking of his new acquisition solely in terms of her "hotel" capabilities and not in terms of her being a ship on the waterfront. While we wish her well in her new role, we might also wish for JADRAN a future not completely incompatible with her actual reality as a vessel moored in a port which is currently emphasizing its waterfront facilities.
At the present time it seems as if the Canada Steamship Lines package freight service may well last through another year of operation. Earlier this year the company had given indications that it would pull out of the package freight business when the C.N.R. and C.P.R. refused to continue paying C.S.L. for the loading and unloading of rail-water cargo. The agreement was reinstated for the remainder of the 1975 navigation season but the company has been looking around for some other source of income to replace the railways' payments in the future. As a starter, the company has increased its freight rates to offset part of the loss. It is hoped that the remainder can be made up by having the port authorities at Hamilton and Thunder Bay reduce the harbour dues charged when C.S.L. vessels call there. No such action is necessary at Windsor or at Valleyfield, Quebec, the other two ports which C.S.L. serves, as the docks there are owned by the firm. Negotiations to this end are continuing and if they are successful, the package freight service may not yet have given up the ghost. Meanwhile, C.S.L. has announced that it has revived its subsidiary Ocean Lines Ltd. and that FORT CHAMBLY has been transferred to this concern. She will soon be leaving the lakes for salt water where she will operate between the east coast and Germany. She will be renamed (b) CHAMBLY ERA for her new service and whilst in Germany will be fitted with two deck cranes. The lake package freight fleet has been further reduced in strength by the chartering of FORT ST. LOUIS to Newfoundland Steamships Ltd. for whom she will operate, apparently on a year-round basis, between Montreal and Corner Brook, Nfld., in conjunction with CHIMO and CABOT. C.S.L. has said that if the lake service operates in 1976 it would be held down by three vessels and with FORT CHAMBLY and FORT ST. LOUIS gone, and with ESKIMO also out on charter frequently, it means that the only ships available for the lakes would be FORT HENRY, FORT WILLIAM and FORT YORK.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.