It is not often that in these pages we devote much space to items concerning salt water cargo vessels, but we would be remiss if we did not mention here the recent incident involving the small Dutch motorvessel GABRIELLA. The ship, owned by Kahn Scheepvaart A.B., Willemstad, has been an interesting visitor to Toronto on two occasions this year, once in early August and again in mid-September. Each time she loaded a cargo of railway locomotives for delivery to Algiers. GABRIELLA is a heavy-lift vessel and, despite her small size, is able to stow away a good few locomotives. When loading, she is held on an even keel by pontoons placed alongside the hull. As something of an eyecatcher, she carries the word "Jumboship" lettered on the sides of her tiny cabin aft.
On October 19th, GABRIELLA was returning light from Algiers, bound to Toronto for yet another load of railway engines, when she ran into heavy weather. When she was about 60 miles south of Cape Race, her heavy-lift loading equipment, stowed out of the way in the hold when not in use, broke loose from its moorings and punched a hole in one of the ballast tanks. As the vessel at the time was labouring in very heavy seas, the rupture of the tank caused the ship to take on a rather alarming list to port. Fearing for their safety and that of GABRIELLA, the fifteen-man crew took to the lifeboats and abandoned the ship to the elements. As it turned out, the men would have been far wiser to have stayed aboard.
A Canadian Forces rescue helicopter came upon the scene as did the containership TRANSAMERICA which was en route to Boston. The helicopter managed to fish out of the sea the GABRIELLA's boatswain and the containership rescued the Jumboship's captain. All the other men found at the scene were dead of exposure. A few days later, a raft came ashore on the coast of Newfoundland and on it were found the bodies of the remaining crewmen. Meanwhile, two Norwegians from TRANSAMERICA were put aboard GABRIELLA and they managed to start her engine. The two sailed the Jumboship to St. John's, Newfoundland, and there she was put on drydock for inspection and repairs. A new crew has been brought over for her and we understand that GABRIELLA is expected in Toronto during the first week of November to pick up her next load of locomotives, despite the unfortunate delay and the loss of all but two of her old crew.
The steam tanker LIQUILASSIE remains idle at Toronto and has not turned a wheel all season. The vessel is, of course, owned by Porter Shipping Ltd. and her operating agent is Liquilassie Shipping Ltd. of which Capt. Ronald Tackaberry is president. Her owners would apparently be pleased to sell LIQUILASSIE but we gather that they are not rushing in their efforts to dispose of the boat. LIQUILASSIE is at present lying across the end of the Yonge Street wharf. She was built in 1943 at Duluth as (a) TEMBLADOR and was designed for Venezuelan service. The Porter organization bought her and brought her to the lakes shortly after the opening of the Seaway and she was given her present name in 1961. She is a bit odd in that she was built for service in areas where deep water was not available and, although her length is only 355 feet, she has an extraordinary beam of 60 feet and a depth of only 17'6".
At long last, the story of the sailing ship ERAWAN has been brought to an end, one that may be a happy event for her creditors, but certainly not at all pleasant for the ship herself. ERAWAN was a three-masted wooden sailing vessel which was built in 1947 in Sweden. She was latterly owned and operated by Captain Phillip Esnos who registered her in Panama and ran a charter service with the ship in the Caribbean.
ERAWAN participated in the Operation Sail '76 at New York on July 4th and subsequently came up into the Great Lakes. Her arrival, however, was not greeted with the enthusiasm which met CHRISTIAN RADICH, since ERAWAN was in the lakes as a purely commercial venture and her owner tried to charge a fee of $1.00 for every person who came aboard, and asked considerably higher fees for the privilege of riding the ship between ports. Unfortunately, ERAWAN's captain was not quite so willing to pay his bills as he was to collect from the public and the ship got into trouble as a result of the non-payment of an account rendered by the Selvick Marine Towing Company in the amount of $1,800. In addition, Selvick sought reimbursement of the sum of $2,000 for damage sustained by a tug in handling the ERAWAN. But the cruncher came early in September when the ship was trapped in Menominee, Wisconsin, when her pilot walked off the ship as a result of the fact that ERAWAN's owner seemed to feel that he had no responsibility for payment of pilotage fees. The boat stayed in Menominee for over a month but early in October the pilots were paid and so was Selvick's bill, the towing company agreeing to abandon its claim for tug damage.
ERAWAN beat a hasty retreat from the lakes as soon as she could get a pilot, her departure clouded by comments from her crew to the effect that the ports she visited around the lakes should have paid her pilotage fees! In any event, the sailing ship made good her escape from fresh water only to run aground on the evening of October 19th on rocks in the Canso Strait between the Nova Scotian mainland and Cape Breton Island. Gale winds then blowing kicked up a nasty sea and ERAWAN soon broke up completely and became a total loss. The nine crew members were taken off by a Canadian Coast Guard vessel and no lives were lost in the accident. ERAWAN was insured but it is believed that she was insured for only about 60% of her value at the time of her loss.
With the activation in August of the Kinsman steamer MERLE M. McCURDY, nine of the company's ten vessels were in operation. The only boat not running was PAUL L. TIETJEN which had been idle for two years at Lorain and which was not thought to have much chance of ever seeing further service. Much to the surprise of everyone, however, the TIETJEN raised steam late in September and cleared Lorain at about 8:00 p.m. on September 25th. She immediately went into service and on October 2nd arrived at Cleveland with a cargo of iron ore for Republic Steel. Unhappily, however, the entry into service of TIETJEN was concurrent with the withdrawal from operation of CHICAGO TRADER which on October 1st went into layup at Toledo. We trust that the idleness of this latter steamer will be of short duration and that we may soon again hear her melodious chime whistle, a most unusual one since it is a combination of her steam whistle and typhon horn.
The U.S. Justice Department announced late in September that it will not oppose plans of the American Shipbuilding Company to purchase the Erie, Pennsylvania, shipyard of the Erie Marine Division of Litton Industries Inc. AmShip had asked for a ruling from the Justice Department in order to see whether antitrust legislation would be invoked against the company in the event that it decides to "investigate" the possibilities of purchasing the facility. Incidentally, the Justice Department declined to make a ruling three years ago when AmShip asked it the same question!
Elsewhere in these pages we have remarked upon the troubles of the little saltie GABRIELLA. Yet another salt water carrier has been in trouble in Canadian waters, this being the Yugoslavian bulk carrier IDRIJA which, on October 9th, was docked at Baie Comeau, Quebec, to load a cargo of barley for overseas delivery. On that day, fire broke out in the vessel's accommodations aft and, in order to avoid damage to any shoreside installations, IDRIJA was moved out into the St. Lawrence River where it was hoped she could be safely anchored while the fire was fought. Unfortunately, she dragged her anchors and it was decided that she should be moved into open waters as soon as possible. The fire spread quickly, however, and the boat's engines were soon idled. During the following night she was blown across the river and in the morning her crew managed to get her safely anchored about one mile off Metis lighthouse, the fire still raging in her cabins. Her 34-man crew was evacuated two-at-a-time by a Quebec Provincial Police helicopter and once all were ashore, a tug arrived to take IDRIJA to a Quebec shipyard. The fire eventually was extinguished, but not before her bridge and cabins were totally gutted. At this time it is not known whether the ship will be repaired.
The 585-foot-long midbody for AmShip's Hull 906, sistership to the Interlake Steamship Company's JAMES R. BARKER, was towed from Toledo, where it was built, on September 30th and the following day arrived at Lorain where it will be joined to the bow and stern sections of the new vessel. Lorain residents were not at all happy about the arrival of the new midbody because it was towed through the Erie Avenue bridge right in the middle of the morning rush-hour and resulted in a monstrous traffic jam as locals fighting their way to work were trapped by the open bridge. The midbody, looking somewhat bare without her sidetanks, was brought from Toledo by the G-tugs GEORGIA and OHIO. The harbour tugs LOUISIANA, KENTUCKY and DELAWARE moved it into the drydock at Lorain on October 2nd.
The Reoch fleet continues to have trouble with its new acquisition ERINDALE and, at the time of this writing, the self-unloader is laid up at Hamilton, still suffering from engine problems. It will be recalled that ERINDALE was the victim of engine troubles shortly after entering service for her new owners this summer and, in fact, spent several days at anchor off Port Weller while efforts were made to get her operative once again. This was accomplished by, in effect, making her engine a compound instead of triple-expansion by taking one of the cylinders out of operation. She has run that way ever since, but her owners estimate that this less-than-efficient method of operation has cost them $200,000 over and above the outlay they expended on the purchase and rehabilitation of the steamer. It is hoped that the necessary repair work can be put in hand during the coming winter.
We are still hearing some very persistent rumours to the effect that the Soo River Company has purchased, or is in the act of purchasing, two more bulk carriers for its growing fleet. We thought twice during the summer that we knew which ships were involved in such a possible deal, but each time we were proven to be wrong. It looks as if we shall simply have to wait and see what happens.
A rather unusual visitor to Toronto harbour at the present time is the 110-foot wooden-hulled fishing schooner PHILIP E. LAKE which arrived in port on October 24th. The vessel (C. 178555), of 142 Gross Tons and registered at St. John's, Newfoundland, was owned until recently by Lake and Lake Ltd. of Fortune, Nfld., and was built in 1948 at Clarenville, Nfld. She is somewhat similar in appearance to HARRY W. ADAMS and ROBERT J. KNICKLE, both of which had been brought to Toronto in recent years. PHILIP E. LAKE has been purchased by a group of local men including Capt. Arthur Scott of Waterman's Services Ltd. (the local pilot and harbour tug operator) and a gentleman named Butchart who is associated with Empire Stevedoring. It is not known to what use the consortium proposes to put the vessel. She is presently moored in the Yonge Street slip.
Work is progressing very slowly on the rebuilding of the old steam tug CHRIS M. which is currently moored in the old ferry docks at the foot of York Street, Toronto. Her current owner is Norman Rogers of Toronto's Algonquin Island and it seems that he has purchased (but not yet installed) the Fairbanks-Morse diesel which was removed from the ferry THOMAS RENNIE when she was repowered two years ago. That engine was never particularly reliable and it was extremely difficult to obtain parts when needed, so we can hardly but think that it would be unwise to make use of it in the repowering of the tug.
To make matters worse for CHRIS M., fire broke out in her engineroom area on the afternoon of October 27th when a welding torch allegedly ignited oily waste in the bilges. The blaze was fought by the Toronto fireboat WM. LYON McKENZIE and was extinguished without any visible external signs of anything untoward having happened. The firemen report, however, that damage amounting to about $10,000 was caused by the fire and that the ship's wiring system was largely destroyed. We also understand that the blaze is under investigation by the authorities in that it appears to have started in two different places at once....
The Erie Sand Steamship Company has added another vessel to its fleet. The company has recently purchased the motorvessel ATLAS TRAVELER, (a) SPINDLE-TOP, (b) LAKE CHARLES, which is, according to the American Bureau of Shipping, a self-unloading bulk carrier, formerly a tanker, with machinery aft. She was built at Perryville, Maryland, in 1943 as Hull 201 of the Lancaster Iron Works. She measures 213.7 x 37.1 x 14.3, Gross 938, Net 496. She was converted in 1962 by the Southern Shipbuilding Corp. at Slidell, Louisiana, and at that time her original Union diesel engine was replaced by a G.M. diesel. She was owned in 1958 by National Marine Service Inc., New York, and in 1971 by the United States Steel Corporation. We understand that ATLAS TRAVELER is to be rebuilt as a self-unloading cement carrier and will serve as a replacement for PEERLESS on the Lake Ontario run. This latter vessel is currently laid up and is for sale, although we rather doubt that anyone will be interested in purchasing the aging and diminutive motorship. As yet, no new name has been announced for ATLAS TRAVELER.
Last month we mentioned that the former NORTHCLIFFE (NORTHCLIFFE HALL) had been renamed ROLLAND DESGAGNES by her new owners, Desgagnes Group Inc. Unfortunately, the report that reached us contained a misspelling. The name should be recorded as ROLAND DESGAGNES.
There are those of us who thought that the old St. Lawrence ferry LAVIOLETTE would never make it into the lakes en route to her prospective new home at Sarnia. But this spring she actually arrived in the lakes and, as of our last report in these pages, she was lying at Hamilton. We are pleased to report that on September 29th LAVIOLETTE was towed from Hamilton to Port Weller by two Evans McKeil tugs. Once at Port Weller, she was towed into the drydock by the ferry PELEE ISLANDER which also happened to be at the yard for inspection. We believe that LAVIOLETTE was given her inspection and that she will soon be heading for Sarnia to take up her new duties in the excursion business.
In our last issue we mentioned that the bow section of the new American Steamship Company self-unloader BELLE RIVER was launched at the Sturgeon Bay yard of the Bay Shipbuilding Company on September 9th. Where we got that information we couldn't hope to say, but the fact is that BELLE RIVER's bow section was launched on September 30th. The keel for the stern section of the 1,000-footer was laid at Sturgeon Bay on August 5th, the event taking place in the still-uncompleted graving dock in which 1,000-footers will eventually be able to be built in one piece. The two sections of BELLE RIVER are scheduled to be joined together in the new year.
The September 9th issue of the Door County Advocate, the local paper in Sturgeon Bay, contained a most interesting aerial photograph of the Bay Shipbuilding yard. It showed the old Roen barge LILLIAN being used as a derrick barge lifting steel for the construction of BELLE RIVER, and also showed GEORGE E. SEEDHOUSE in her new role at the shipyard. SEEDHOUSE seems untouched forward, but aft she is missing her funnel and mast and her stern has been chopped off square right through the cabin. Her deck has been much cut up to fit her for her new duties in connection with the fabricating of steel sections of vessels under construction. In the yard as well was the old Cleveland Tankers steamer MERCURY, (a) RENOWN, (b) BEAUMONT PARKS, which is being scrapped. The tanker is stem-in at the cutting berth and her after cabin has been removed. From her trim, it would appear that her machinery has been dismantled and lifted out of the hull.
The Toronto sightseeing boat CAYUGA II appears to have run into more troubles, as if her lack of success during the 1976 season was not bad enough. Her owners recently realized that if the boat was to remain in the water during the winter months, work would have to be done on winterizing her seacocks aft. They thought of sending her back to her builders, but the autumn drop in water levels means that there is insufficient water near the yard for even CAYUGA II to get to the facility. During the last week in October, the vessel was taken down to the Polson Street slip at the east end of Toronto harbour so that the Harbour Commission's heavy-lift crane could lift the ship up onto the dock for the necessary work to be done. But when the Harbour Commission found out that CAYUGA II has an aluminum hull, they refused to lift her, fearing that the lift could damage the hull. So now the vessel's owners face a nasty quandry. How can they get her out of the water to do the necessary work? Stay tuned for the next episode of this exciting drama!
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.