Our lead item this month is a very happy news story on two counts, first that it represents the further growth of the Reoch-Pierson shipping empire and second that it means the preservation and continued operation of two self-unloading bulk carriers that would undoubtedly otherwise be consigned to the wreckers' torches. It has now been confirmed that Westdale Shipping Ltd., Port Credit, Ontario, has purchased the self-unloaders W. F. WHITE and FRED A. MANSKE from the United States Steel Corporation, Great Lakes Fleet, and the American Steamship Company respectively. The two steamers, cast aside by their former operators as excess tonnage, will operate in 1976 in Reoch colours and will be renamed, the WHITE becoming (b) ERINDALE and the MANSKE seeing service as (c) BROOKDALE (II).
W. F. WHITE was built in 1915 by American Shipbuilding at Lorain for the Bradley Transportation Company as a self-unloader and has served the Bradley/U.S. Steel fleet ever since. She is notable in that during the early 1960's she spent several years on the east coast as a barge and at that time it was suspected that she would never appear back in the lakes. Despite this, she returned in 1965 and operated on the lakes through 1974. She was idle in 1975.
FRED A. MANSKE (II) was a 1909 product of American Shipbuilding's Lorain yard and originally bore the name J. S. ASHLEY. Her first owner was the Kinney Steamship Company for whom she sailed as a straight-decker until sold in 1937 to the Pioneer Steamship Company, Hutchinson and Company, Managers. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1937 and was repowered in 1952. Sold to Boland and Cornelius in 1961, she was given her present name the following year. Like W. F. WHITE, she last operated in 1974 and was rumoured last summer to have been on the verge of being sold for scrapping.
In the March issue we reported the formation of the Newfoundland-Ontario Steamship Company which will begin operation soon between St. John's and Oshawa. We are now able to identify the vessels that will be used on the service. The first will be the familiar coaster CONRAD MARIE, a frequent visitor to the lakes, which is being chartered from C. & V. Bouchard. The second vessel will be MARIDAN C, a 2l6-footer of 1018 Gross Tons which, last we heard, was owned by La Societe Maritime de Baillon Inc., St. Joseph-de-la-Rive, Quebec. She was built in 1946 at Aberdeen. If business conditions warrant, a third ship will be used, the MAURICE DESGAGNES, a 274-foot, 2467-ton motorship owned by the Desgagnes group. Just in case they are needed, the line will also be able to charter from Desgagnes the J. A. Z. DESGAGNES, AIGLE MARIN, FORT SEVERN, MONT ST. MARTIN, and FERMONT. It certainly sounds as if the new service will be getting off to a good start.
Readers will recall that when SCOTIACLIFFE HALL left the lakes in the fall of 1974 she was renamed SCOTIACLIFFE and for a while remained in the bulk trades. We now learn that she arrived at the Gotaverken shipyard, Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 10, 1975 and was subsequently converted to a drill-ship. The boat is now owned by Forell Inc. and has been placed in service in her new duties under the name NAVIFOR NORSE.
A recent item appearing in Toronto newspapers was a classified advertisement for the sale of the Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) excursion vessel MARK TWAIN. The boat is a bit of an ugly duckling, a steam-powered sidewheeler with auxiliary diesel power. Although she does rather resemble a floating barn, the ship dates back to the 1890's. MARK TWAIN operated in the excursion and charter trade on the St. Mary's River in 1974 but saw very little (if any) service during 1975.
Last month we mentioned in these pages the Railway Revitalization Act which is now in effect in the United States, and cited its effect on the Ann Arbor Railroad's Lake Michigan carferry service. Fortunately, the Act has not only saved the Ann Arbor boats but has also postponed the planned February 27th withdrawal from service of the Straits of Mackinac carferry CHIEF WAWATAM. The "Big Chief" has now been guaranteed operation through April 1st and stands to see continued service in the future since the Michigan Department of Highways and Transportation has agreed to provide an operating subsidy and to give financial assistance for the takeover of the ship and docking facilities should an operator come forward who would be willing to keep CHIEF WAWATAM in operation. The state seems to feel that the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority would be the proper organization to take over from the defunct Mackinac Transportation Company.
Speaking of ferries, it looks as if ferry operations in the area of the Michigan Sault may change somewhat. Public hearings have been held on the subject of federal, state and municipal funding to the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority for the purpose of repairing docks for the Drummond Island and Sugar Island ferries and purchasing the SUGAR ISLANDER and NEEBISH ISLANDER. The Authority already owns the ferries in use on the Drummond Island - DeTour service. Of the money to be made available, there would be the sum of $202,000 from the State of Michigan and $2,014,388 from the federal Urban Mass Transit Administration.
Work is proceeding at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, on the lengthening of the U.S. Steel self-unloader JOHN G. MUNSON. The ship is being stretched by 102 feet, but unlike other lengthening jobs done by Fraser, the new midbody was not constructed earlier for floating into place. The MUNSON's new midsection is being built in place while the ship is resting in the drydock. It may well be that this method of lengthening was needed in view of the multiplicity of equipment located in the vessel's holds, a situation very different from that faced by the yard in stretching a regular straightdecker.
WALTER A. STERLING is not the only vessel in the fleet of the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company that will be lengthened during 1976. EDWARD B. GREENE is already in the process of receiving a 120-foot midbody and this work should be finished by June. The GREENE's midbody will be inserted in one piece rather than being built in place as with WHEAT KING and JOHN G. MUNSON.
We are still hearing rumours to the effect that the steamer MILWAUKEE CLIPPER will be put back in service and used to run daily excursions out of Chicago, but we have still been unable to find out anything more about the Chicago group that will allegedly operate the vessel. MILWAUKEE CLIPPER, (a) JUNIATA, is owned by the Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Company and is presently laid up at Muskegon where she has lain since her retirement several years ago. We wonder if something on this subject may have been heard by our Chicago area members...
On December 2, 1975 the 1965-ton Greek motorship XENY, owned by Conty Cia. Nav. S.A., was in a position 40.30 N., 11.00 W. on a voyage from Port Harcourt to Rotterdam. Fire broke out aboard the vessel and the crew was forced to abandon ship. She was taken in tow and on January 1, 1976 was towed into Cadiz roads. Unfortunately she capsized there the following day and sank on her side, becoming a total loss. Why do we bother reporting this event which occurred so far from the lakes? Well, it is because the ship was built in 1955 at Hardinxveld, Holland, for the Maats Zeetransport N.V., commonly known as the Oranje Lijn, and for thirteen years she traded into the lakes under the name PRINS WILLEM II (II). She was sold in 1968 and was renamed (b) AMARYLLIS, and in 1969 she became (c) GOTHIC PRINCE. She took on her last name (d) XENY in 1971. To the best of our knowledge she had not returned to the Great Lakes since her sale out of the Oranje Lijn fleet.
We understand that the Kinsman (S & E) vessels will be getting off to an early start this year, an indication that the company may remain in the lake shipping business for a few years to come after all. We have heard that the fleet will operate the same vessels as in 1975 (with the exception of course of WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER which are no longer on the roster) and that in addition CHICAGO TRADER will be commissioned. It appears that MERLE M. McCURDY may also see some service.
Some of the other lake fleets will have a large percentage of their ships in service during 1976, an indication of improving business conditions. The Bethlehem fleet will have all its vessels in service and Hanna will run all its boats with the exception of NATIONAL TRADER. All of Inland Steel's vessels will be commissioned and in addition the company will christen its newest unit JOSEPH BLOCK on July 20th. She is expected to be in service shortly thereafter, and it will be interesting to see whether CLARENCE B. RANDALL will stay in service after the advent of the BLOCK.
International Harvester will commission THE INTERNATIONAL in April and the Interlake Steamship Company will have all eight of its vessels in service during the same month. The first of Interlake's new self-unloaders should be ready for service during the autumn. Cleveland-Cliffs will have twelve of its fourteen ships in operation, one of the two inoperative units being THOMAS F. PATTON which also sat out the 1975 season.
The Columbia Transportation Division is hoping to have fifteen vessels in service, but this figure is a bit puzzling. There will be one craneship out, BUCKEYE, but W. C. RICHARDSON will remain at the wall. Five straightdeckers will operate and since WILLIAM A. REISS, THOMAS WILSON, ARMCO and RESERVE will certainly be four of them, it looks as if either ASHLAND or MIDDLETOWN will not start. Nine self-unloaders are to run and this accounts for the fleet's whole complement of them if one considers ROESCH and THAYER not to be included in the Columbia fleet proper, but rather in Pringle. But the big surprise of the year is the fact that the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet will run only 21 ships plus the chartered PRESQUE ISLE, the latter making a late appearance due to needed repairs. The boats scheduled to fit out are BLOUGH, ANDERSON, CALLAWAY, CLARKE, FAIRLESS, FRASER, FERBERT, VOORHEES, OLDS, AVERY, STANLEY, LAMONT PARGNY, WILLIAMS, THOMAS, WATSON, IRVIN, AFFLECK, JOHNSON, HATFIELD and LINDABURY. This is quite a reduction over even last year's fleet, the most notable names missing being GOVERNOR MILLER and JOHN HULST. We can only hope that business improves during the year ...
It has been announced that Pickands, Mather and Company, Cleveland, will not operate its coal bunkering facility at DeTour during 1976. The fuel dock, which is located on Spring Bay just inside the mouth of the St. Mary's River, is run by the DeTour Dock Company and has for many years been one of the most frequently used bunkering docks for lake vessels. The dock closed in October 1975, an unusually early winter closing, and will not reopen with the commencement of navigation this spring. There has been no word of the closing being permanent, but we cannot help but think that it will be in view of the fact that the number of coal-burning ships in operation on the lakes has dwindled to almost none.
Several months ago we reported that the tandem tow of JAMES E. FERRIS and KINSMAN VOYAGER had arrived at Hamburg, Germany, on July 4, 1975, both ships seemingly destined for the cutting torch. But now comes word that the boats have been sold to vessel broker Poul Christensen of Nakskov, Denmark. The two lake veterans are at present laid up at Hamburg awaiting a possible resale for use as storage hulks. Whether an ignominious end such as FERRIS and VOYAGER may be facing is preferable to scrapping we are not certain, but ye Ed. would have preferred this pair to end their days in lake waters.
After a century of service on the Great Lakes, the career of the carferry HURON may have come to an end. The vessel, formerly a steam river-type railroad ferry for the Canadian National, and for the last few years a cut-down barge hauling railroad cars loaded with containers, sank at her Windsor dock on the evening of March 15th. At the time of the accident HURON, now owned by the Detroit-Windsor Barge Line, was unloading railroad cars with full containers at the C.N. Windsor slip. One of the flatcars apparently derailed while aboard HURON and this caused the ship to heel over and take on water. The U.S. Coast Guard was called to the scene but before anything could be done HURON sank in about twenty feet of water, seriously damaging the wooden dock in the process. But the old hull might just survive this accident, for twice before she has sunk in the Detroit River and each time came bouncing back to fight again. The first sinking came on April 14, 1901, the vessel having holed herself in a collision with a rock on the river bottom two days earlier. The second occurred on August 20, 1907 when HURON, canted forward at the Windsor dock for propellor repairs, was swamped and sunk by the wake from the passing flyer TASHMOO. Just how much bounce the old gal has left in her when she has reached her 101st year will remain to be seen.
The canal motorship (former steamer) SANDLAND of Beaconsfield Steamships Ltd. was a familiar sight around the lakes until 1961 when she was sold to Sandland Shipping Ltd., Nassau, and was taken to the Caribbean. From there we managed to lose track of her until Gordon Turner found her in his 1974-75 Lloyds Register under the name TRITON, her owner being shown as I.A. Diaques y Astilleros Nacionales of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. So, armed with this information, we set out to trace her ourselves. She was still owned by Sandland Shipping in 1963 according to the A.B.S. Record but by 1967 she had become TRITON and was registered to Sociedad Anonima Venezolana de Empresas Maritimas of Puerto Cabello. The same owners are still shown in the 1971 A.B.S. Record. So it looks as if our old friend is still active in the warm waters of the southern climes.
It is indeed easy for lake observers to lose track of lake vessels which have made the long trek southwards to the Caribbean. One of the largest groups of such vessels is that owned by Challenger Ltd. and its associated corporations, a fleet that includes WIT (OIL TRANSPORT), WITCROIX (COASTAL CLIFF), WITFUEL (FUEL TRANSPORT), WITSHOAL (GASPEDOC) and WITSUPPLY (TRANSTREAM). Little has been heard about any of these boats since they strayed from lake waters, but at least we know that one of them is still in operation. A recent listing of vessel movements on the Panama Canal showed WITSHOAL passing through on Boxing Day, December 26th, 1975. Now we would like to hear from some of the others as well...
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.