The steam canallers of the 1920's were generally a pretty hardy breed. They had to be in order to withstand the bumps and scrapes of their frequent passages up and down the small locks of the old Welland and St. Lawrence canals. Most of the canallers never sustained any serious damage during their travels apart from a few damaged plates from time to time. But some of them did get involved in serious problems and a few actually proved to be downright accident-prone. One of these is our ship of the month.
During the twenties, things were booming for Canadian lake shippers and British shipyards turned out dozens of steam-powered canallers for these operators. One of those who attempted to cash in on the bonanza was R. A. Carter of Montreal who managed the Carter-Wood Company Ltd. This concern obtained the bulk carriers CHEMONG and DRUMAHOE which were built in Londonderry by the North of Ireland Shipbuilding Company Ltd. under sub-contract from Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. They were completed in 1924.
Carter-Wood also represented two other vessel owners, one being the Montreal Forwarding Company, (Bruce Lindsay Bros. Ltd., Leith, Scotland) and the other being the Rahane Steamship Company Ltd., Montreal, (Canadian Terminal Systems Ltd., Montreal). Each of these two firms contracted for the construction of a canal-sized steel bulk carrier in 1924, the vessels being christened BRULIN and RAHANE respectively. They were very similar in appearance to three other canallers, namely NORTHTON, GLENROSS and BELVOIR (I) which were built during 1924 and 1925 for other operators. Four of the ships were built at Wallsend-on-Tyne by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. but BRULIN was built at Newcastle by Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company Ltd. as their Hull 949.
BRULIN and her near-sisters were particularly substantial in appearance, unlike some of the canallers which seemed rather flimsy in construction. They were high in the bows and carried a full forecastle. BRULIN was given a square texas cabin, a rounded pilothouse, and a very substantial after cabin mounted on a flush quarterdeck. The ship carried two masts, both being rather light poles but quite tall, the main being stepped well aft of the steamer's tall and quite heavy funnel. After she had been on the lakes a while, she was also given two very heavy kingposts on which were mounted cargo booms designed to assist in the handling of pulpwood cargoes.
BRULIN's name, of course, came from a contraction of Bruce Lindsay Bros. Ltd. She was painted black and her forecastle rail and cabins were white. For most of the years that Carter operated her, the vessel's stack was painted all black, but in the early years she carried on it a large white 'O' inside of which were inscribed the letters 'Co'. BRULIN soon lost this insignia but RAHANE continued to carry it for a considerably longer period of time.
BRULIN ran in the canal trade under Carter's management for a decade and a half, her usual cargoes being grain, coal and pulpwood. Things went along well for the steamer and her fleet-mates through the twenties, but the great depression brought hard times to the Carter-Wood operations as it did to almost every other lake vessel operator. Carter was unable to keep up his payments to the shipbuilders and in 1932 CHEMONG, DRUMAHOE and RAHANE were repossessed by Swan Hunter and eventually were turned over to Capt. R. Scott Misener for operation. Somehow, BRULIN managed to escape this fate, whether because her builders had been paid we do not know, but in any event she carried on under Carter-Wood management and was the sole vessel in the fleet until 1938 when R. A. Carter acquired three other canallers, CEDARTON, OAKTON and BIRCHTON, and formed the Gulf and Lake Navigation Company Ltd. to operate them.
BRULIN's first major accident (of which we are aware) occurred in her ninth season of operation. On October 15. 1932, BRULIN was downbound in Lake Ontario with a cargo of grain loaded in Port Colborne for delivery to Montreal. She carried a crew of nineteen and was under the command of Capt. Roderick Leonard at the time. The weather was calm and somewhat hazy, the visibility ahead being indistinct as a result of a cloud of smoke thrown out by a vessel ahead. The steamer passed inside of Main Duck Island (the subsequent inquiry heard the comment made that this was an unusual course for BRULIN to have taken but the point was not pursued) and she continued on at full speed, passing Nine Mile Point at the prescribed distance. Course was shaped for the Portsmouth range lights and BRULIN followed this course until she ran at full speed on Melville Shoal. The steamer struck heavily and severely damaged herself, it being necessary to summon tugs from Kingston in order to refloat the ship.
In due course, the Dominion Wreck Commissioner, the much-feared Capt. L. A. Demers, called for an investigation into the stranding. Demers was assisted by Capts. E. F. Raeburn and H. J. Clark who served as nautical assessors. The hearing was held at Montreal on November 2nd and Demers was extremely critical of the fact that the steamer had maintained full speed despite the reduced visibility. He also was at his acerbic best when commenting upon the fact that the main compass aboard BRULIN showed a 12 degree deviation on the northwest quadrant. Mr. Carter was present and he attempted to put the blame for the accident on a clump of trees which he alleged made the Portsmouth ranges very difficult to observe. His evidence does not appear to have evoked a favourable response from Capt. Demers.
The Wreck Commissioner finally wound up by suspending Capt. Leonard's certificate for the balance of the season and rubbed in the salt by formally stating that his judgment had been very lenient. He then severely criticized the two assessors, stating that due to "sentiment" they had concurred only very reluctantly with the suspension of Leonard's ticket. In Demers' words, their actions in this regard were "not in line with the wording and the spirit of their oath of office".
BRULIN resumed service after repairs were carried out and when the 1933 season started, Capt. Leonard was back in command, the suspension of his certificate having expired. The seasons of 1933 and 1934 proved to be uneventful for the steamer but in 1935 she was involved in a rescue that not only was a source of pride to her crewmen but also rewarded them in a far more tangible manner.
Readers will recall that in the February 1973 issue of this publication we mentioned the tank barge BRUCE HUDSON which was a unit of the fleet of Lloyd Tankers Ltd. On July 16th, 1935, BRUCE HUDSON, then in her first year of service, capsized in Lake Ontario while off Cobourg and in tow of the big tug MUSCALLONGE. The barge was towed upside down to Toronto where her cargo was siphoned off and, still upside down, was towed to Port Weller where she was righted by the GATELIFTER. The HUDSON was soon repaired and back in service, but it was not long until she was in trouble again.
On November 15, 1935, BRUCE HUDSON was out on Lake Ontario in tow of the tug ETHEL. While the tow was off Cobourg (a town that seems to have been rather unlucky for the barge), the ETHEL ran low on fuel. As the weather was foul and the barge was icing badly, ETHEL took on board the HUDSON's crew, cut the barge loose, and headed to Cobourg for shelter and for bunkers. When she returned the next day, BRUCE HUDSON was nowhere to be found.
During the morning of November 16th, BRULIN, under the command of Capt. Leonard, was bucking her way up Lake Ontario against a stiff northwester. When the steamer was about 37 miles past Point Peter, the watchman, Leonard Ditchburn of the Prince Edward County town of Milford, sighted an object in the water ahead. Capt Leonard brought BRULIN up to the object cautiously and soon found that it was BRUCE HUDSON which was wallowing helplessly and totally deserted in the heavy seas. BRULIN was hove to and eventually a line was put aboard the barge and a towline made fast. Of course, the men on the steamer had no idea why the tank barge had been abandoned nor could they have known where her crew had gone. Accordingly, BRULIN took BRUCE HUDSON in tow and dropped her off at Port Weller. By this time, her owners had been told what had become of their barge and they took possession of her once again at Port Weller. Late in 1936, "the Exchequer Court of Canada awarded to the owners and crew of BRULIN salvage fees amounting to $9,999.00 for the safe rescue of the wayward BRUCE HUDSON. The funds were not paid immediately and it took a seizure of the barge by the court the following summer to expedite payment, but eventually those responsible for saving the barge got their just reward.
BRULIN continued to be operated by Carter-Wood for her original owners until 1940 when she was sold to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd., Montreal, a subsidiary of the Ontario Paper Company Ltd., Thorold. The boat was renamed (b) OUTARDE (I) in honour of the Riviere-aux-Outardes which runs into the St. Lawrence on the west side of the Manicouagan Peninsula, just upstream from the towns of Haute Rive and Baie Comeau, the latter being the location of a plant of the Quebec North Shore Paper Company, another affiliate of Ontario Paper.
OUTARDE was placed in service bearing her owner's then-distinctive and familiar colours and she was used primarily to carry pulpwood and newsprint. A typical round trip for the steamer would see her (and her canal-sized fleet-mates) bring pulpwood up from the St. Lawrence to the Ontario Paper plant at Thorold. There she would discharge the sticks and would load rolls of newsprint for delivery to Chicago and destined eventually to be used in the printing of the Chicago Tribune. The downbound trip would be made with a cargo of grain, normally for delivery to Montreal. This same routine would last for OUTARDE for the majority of her years in the Q & O fleet, a period of two decades, although occasionally she would pick up her pulpwood at Heron Bay on Lake Superior instead of going down the St. Lawrence for it. OUTARDE could manage to stow away in her holds and on deck 1,295 cords of pulpwood or 2,050 tons of newsprint and when she was in the grain trade she could handle 130,000 bushels of wheat.
OUTARDE was requisitioned in 1942 by the Canadian government for war service and she was then handed over to the United States Maritime Commission for operation on the east coast in the coal trade. In January 1943 she was on a trip to St. John's, Newfoundland, with a cargo of newsprint when she managed to run aground near the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. She was lightered and released and repairs were put in hand at Norfolk, Virginia. OUTARDE went back into service for the U.S. Maritime Commission and operated on the east coast until June 13, 1943 at which time she was handed back to Q & O, her war service at an end. The vessel resumed her normal trade, although still painted in her wartime grey, but this time she only managed to stay out of trouble for two years.
On November 30, 1945, OUTARDE was making what proved to be her last trip of the season and, being in need of bunkers, she put in to the town of Clayton, New York, on the upper St. Lawrence River, in order to take on coal. There was a very strong wind blowing at the time and the river was quite rough. As OUTARDE attempted her landing, she was blown hard against the pier and impaled herself on a piece of steel which was protruding from the wharf below the waterline. The steamer holed herself so badly that she sank to the bottom right alongside the George Hall Company Inc. fuel dock. The water was deep enough that only a portion of her cabins as well as her funnel and her masts showed above the surface of the river and she was canted over at an awkward angle to port, or outwards and away from the dock. Nothing could be done about raising her that fall due to the lateness of the season and so OUTARDE stayed on the bottom at Clayton during the winter months.
OUTARDE looked much the same in her post-war years as she had earlier, although she had gained a "doghouse" right aft on the boat deck for additional crew's quarters. During the ship's stay on the east coast, a gun placement had been added to the top of this cabin. The only other major change in OUTARDE's appearance occurred in the early 1950's when her small rounded pilothouse was removed and replaced by a much larger square structure. This new cabin was probably very functional, but it looked rather odd, particularly in that it had only three windows across its front.
Then in due course came the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Q & O, like many other Canadian operators, found themselves with a large fleet of canal-sized vessels that not only were no longer necessary but also were completely uneconomical to operate in that the upper lakers could carry a great deal more cargo with relatively little increase in the size of crew per ship. Q & O no longer needed the fleet of steam canallers which had served the company for so long and among the first of the canallers sold was OUTARDE which in 1960 was purchased by the Buckport Shipping Company Ltd., Montreal, an enterprise of one James J. Buckler who in 1962 would also purchase OUTARDE's near-sister BELVOIR which had been bought by Q & O in 1933 and operated as NEW YORK NEWS (II).
OUTARDE was Buckport's first vessel and, although they had shelled out the sum of $30,000 simply to acquire the vessel for scrapping, they decided to put her into operation, the idea being to carry pulpwood between Baie Comeau and Thorold for Ontario Paper, the parent firm of her old owner. Buckport commissioned the steamer in June 1960 as (c) JAMES J. BUCKLER but they were not to enjoy her services for long, for on June 13th, while on her first voyage, she stranded on Red Islet in the St. Lawrence River near the mouth of the Saguenay River. Salvage operations were begun but on June 16th the ship allegedly broke apart and sank in deep water. We say "allegedly" because there are reports to the effect that she was still on Red Islet Bank in August 1960. Regardless of this discrepancy, JAMES J. BUCKLER was never recovered and was abandoned as a total loss, her registry being closed on August 8, 1960.
And so the career of BRULIN came to a violent end. After having had so much bad luck during her operating life, we suppose that it is only fitting that she should have ended it all in another accident. It did enable her to escape an ignominious demise at the hands of the breakers which would undoubtedly have been her lot not so many years distant. As a matter of interest, OUTARDE's running-mate NEW YORK NEWS (II) went to Buckport Shipping Company Ltd. in 1962 and, renamed BUCKPORT and operating only intermittently, lasted only until 1965 when she was dismantled at Montreal.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.