The National Sand and Material Company Ltd. sandsucker CHARLES DICK last operated in 1973 and since then has lain idle at Port Colborne, at first alongside the West Street wharf and latterly in Ramey's Bend. The ship was a victim of provincial legislation prohibiting sandsucking operations in Lake Erie near the Canadian shore as a result of complaints of alleged shoreline erosion caused by the operations of CHARLES DICK and W. M. EDINGTON, the two vessels so engaged. National Sand kept CHARLES DICK just in case the Ontario government should change its position on the sandsucking question, but as the months have passed, it has become evident that no such change is to be forthcoming.
And now the axe has fallen for the poor old steamer herself. Erie Sand, the firm which controls National Sand and Material, has at last given up and, realizing that the DICK's old trade into Cleveland will never again be open to her, have sold the vessel for scrapping. The deal was finalized on December 23rd, 1976 and on that date CHARLES DICK became the property of Marine Salvage Ltd. We understand that demolition will begin shortly. CHARLES DICK was long a familiar sight on Lake Erie and on western Lake Ontario and plied her trade for more than half a century. Her demise leaves W. M. EDINGTON as the only commercial sandsucker operating on the Canadian side of the lakes and even her trade is now limited to the short run between the Niagara Bar and Port Dalhousie and Hamilton. The scrapping of the DICK is truly the signal of the end of an era. We shall miss her, especially those amongst us who were so familiar with the steamer and her crew.
The rebuilding of the forward cabin of PIERSON DAUGHTERS is not being done at Toronto as was earlier reported, but rather at Port Weller where the ship is moored at the old Empire-Hanna coal dock in the lower harbour. The old pilothouse was lifted off shortly before Christmas and by the time this appears in print, it is likely that the new cabin will be in place.
The Canadian Wheat Board has taken action in Quebec Superior Court over the loss of 30,000 bushels of feed barley which were ruined whilst in the holds of the C.S.L. motorvessel SAGUENAY at Montreal last winter. Much of the ship's cargo had already been unloaded and there is no explanation of why the remaining barley spoiled. The action names both C.S.L. and its subsidiary, Voyageur Colonial Ltd.
A 9,300-ton tanker is presently being built in Japan to the order of Texaco Canada Ltd. The vessel is expected to run her sea trials in February and to be delivered to her owners in March. The new boat will operate on the lakes, the St. Lawrence and the east coast and will join TEXACO CHIEF (II) and TEXACO WARRIOR (II) in the company's fleet. No name for the new vessel has yet been announced, but we would bet that she will be christened TEXACO BRAVE.
Speaking of vessels coming to the lakes from salt water, readers will remember that Nipigon Transports Ltd. is presently having a salt water ship rebuilt at Singapore for lake service. We now understand that the bulk carrier will not look like a salty when she comes to the lakes but instead will look much like the company's first conversion, LAKE WINNIPEG. The new boat will, of course, be christened LAKE NIPIGON.
The Hall Corporation has recently purchased three West German bulk carriers which for the past few years have been operating under charter to the Navios Corp. section of the fleet of the United States Steel Corporation. The three sisterships were built in 1960 and measure 546 x 74 x 40, but none have yet been identified by name in the press. Hall Corp. is currently negotiating with Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. of Lauzon, Quebec, the terms of a $27,000,000 contract for the lengthening of all three ships to 730 feet and their conversion for lake service. The rebuilding would give each vessel a carrying capacity of 27,000 tons at full Seaway draft.
ATLAS TRAVELER, mentioned in our last two issues, did in fact operate on the Picton - Charlotte cement service late this fall and we understand that she performed well, having proven herself to be a pretty good icebreaker. ATLAS TRAVELER is currently laid up at Hamilton for the winter. Meanwhile, ATLAS TRAVELER's predecessor on the route, the tiny PEERLESS, left Charlotte on November 25th with a Venezuelan crew and was able to clear the Seaway before the onset of the ice problems. We were surprised to see the former owners of PEERLESS find buyers for the little motorship so quickly, but we wish her all the best in her new duties. We hope that in due course we will find out something about her exploits in South American waters.
The former Canadian Coast Guard light tender C. P. EDWARDS, retired several years ago and idle since at Parry Sound, was sold earlier this year and has since been put back into service by east coast operators. The former steamer, now repowered but looking not much different than she did when in her old service, is now registered at Halifax. She was seen at Ogdensburg on December 5th unloading a cargo of binder twine which she had brought from Haiti.
The 1976 season was marked by extremely strange weather conditions in the Great Lakes area and the cold, damp weather of summer has now given way to unusually cold temperatures. As a result, ice came early to the lakes and greatly hindered the rush of salt water ships to leave the lakes prior to the closing of the Seaway and the last trips of lakers hurrying to the lower lakes and the St. Lawrence with their cargoes of storage grain. As an indication of the early freezeup, your Editor noted that large sections of Toronto harbour were frozen over by the first week in December, it being most unusual for such ice conditions to appear so early. And on the upper lakes, severe ice problems were in evidence during the latter part of November. The ice formed so early on the St. Lawrence canals that in mid-December the canals had to be closed to vessel traffic in order that a solid ice cover could be formed to prevent the clogging of Hydro dams with broken ice. Paths then had to be cut through the solid ice to allow ship movement. The ice on the St. Lawrence was the worst since the opening of the Seaway in 1959 and on the upper lakes should really put the test to winter navigation plans. Ice caused particularly nasty problems on the Welland Canal, particularly in the area of Lock 7 where broken ice pushing down out of the long level jammed the lock and on several occasions trapped ships in it. The Welland was scheduled to close December 30, but had to be kept open several days longer to allow vessels beset by ice in the waterway to fight their way clear and out of the canal. The last vessel to make a complete downbound passage was FRONTENAC. The TARANTAU, upbound, found the going so difficult that it was decided that she would just tie up along the canal and remain there for the winter.
The St. Lawrence Seaway, originally scheduled to close for the season on December 18, was held open until December 24. The last salty to clear the system made it out on Christmas Eve. She was the ATTICA, a ship most observers had thought would not make it out of the lakes this year. ATTICA, a Liberian bulk carrier with a load of soya beans, was at Port Huron on December 13 when she was found to have a 17-foot crack in her plating, allegedly the result of improper loading at Chicago. She was taken to the Detroit Edison dock at St. Clair where divers drilled a hole at the end of the crack to keep it from spreading. The U.S. Coast Guard, which would not permit the ship to enter open lake waters without more permanent repairs being effected, expressed considerable surprise that the ship had not already broken apart. Some repairs were completed, but final repairs were not made before ATTICA was hustled out of the lakes just as the lower canals closed.
And as if it was not bad enough that the last few trips of most lakers were delayed by ice problems, the autumn of 1976 has been a virtual nightmare of groundings and accidents, a perfect horror for shipowners but a windfall for the operators of tugs and salvage vessels. There have been too many accidents for us to give a detailed description of each but we will give a brief account of an many as we can:
The Interlake Steamship Company's steamer JOHN SHERWIN grounded on Escanaba Shoal on November 28 after she missed a winter channel marker. E. G. GRACE, tug LOREN CASTLE and U.S.C.G. ACACIA all tried to pull her off but she could not be moved until the craneship BUCKEYE had lightered her ore cargo. SHERWIN was refloated December 1st and continued her trip to Ashtabula. OCEAN SOVEREIGN (see December issue) managed to make it to salt water before the Seaway closing but only did so with the assistance of a veritable fleet of tugs. The ship could not be steered because of rudder damage sustained in her accident at the Soo.
The Norwegian salty KINGS STAR ran into trouble on Lake Erie on November 30 when she suffered a power failure while trying to fight a nasty storm in the area of Point-aux-Pins. She drifted for a whole day and was finally towed to Cleveland by C.C.G.S. GRIFFON and G-tugs IOWA and VIRGINIA. ENDERS M. VOORHEES suffered bow damage on November 19th when she hit the pier at the Lower Beauharnois lock on the Seaway. Two plates had to be replaced when VOORHEES went to the shipyard at Lorain.
CLIFFS VICTORY went hard aground December 9 while downbound in the Johnson Point area of Middle Neebish Channel. She was allegedly pushed onto the rocks by the pressure of heavy ice in the channel. The ship was freed December 11 after a portion of her cargo had been removed but by then a nasty backup of shipping on the St. Mary's River had occurred and the Coast Guard was even thinking of having MACKINAW break open the Neebish Rock Cut, which had previously been closed for the winter, in order to provide an alternate channel. CLIFFS VICTORY did suffer some bottom damage but she did not take any water. It was found, however, that she had lost her rudder in the incident. Her ore cargo was reloaded in Lake Munuscong.
STEWART J. CORT also did her share of blocking traffic at the Soo. She got stuck in the ice in Middle Neebish on December 7 and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Then on her next downbound trip on December 12, CORT got caught in ice above the Poe Lock and could not free herself. She blocked both the Poe and MacArthur Locks for more than a day and once again the U.S. Coast Guard had to assist, U.S.C.G. NAUGATUCK being called in to break up ice jammed between the CORT's hull and the lock piers.
Two other groundings in the St. Mary's occurred on December 13 and again held up traffic which had been stymied for a week due to other accidents. THOMAS WILSON grounded in the upper river and the salty UNIMAR found the bottom in the lower river. Both boats were freed on the 15th, UNIMAR managing to free herself, while THOMAS WILSON had to be lightered in order to float her free.
The various troubles at the Soo involving CLIFFS VICTORY, STEWART J. CORT, THOMAS WILSON and UNIMAR resulted in one of the worst traffic jams seen at the Soo since the famous ice jam of 1926. Many of the ships caught in the river were trapped by the rapidly forming ice and had to be cut out by the Coast Guard before they could continue on their way.
HARRY L. ALLEN managed to ground in Lake St. Clair on the morning of December 17 and she was soon trapped in ice that enveloped her hull. The veteran ALLEN of the Kinsman fleet was freed later in the day, apparently without damage, by the Coast Guard tug KAW.
The Liberian bulk carrier PEARL ASIA, better known to lake observers under the name of CRYSTAL CROWN as a unit of the Sugar Line and a frequent visitor to the Redpath refinery at Toronto, got into trouble off Port Weller on December 2nd when she went aground about half a mile from the west pier in westerly winds gusting over 40 knots. The tugs LAVAL and WILFRED M. COHEN left the sheltering OCEAN SOVEREIGN tow to render assistance but were unable to free the ship. These tugs then left the scene on the 3rd and were replaced by NIPIGON from Hamilton and DANIEL McALLISTER which came from Kingston with the lighter MAPLEHEATH. Part of the ship's bauxite cargo was removed and on December 5 she was floated free and taken to Hamilton for inspection and the reloading of her cargo. PEARL ASIA was back at Port Weller on December 7 awaiting upbound passage for Thorold where she was to unload the bauxite. PEARL ASIA is owned by the Good Hope Shipping Company Ltd., Monrovia.
Logistec Corporation, which controls Agence Maritime Inc., an operator of coastal and St. Lawrence River vessels, has bought the Davie Brothers shipyard at Levis, Quebec, presumably to service the fleet's own boats. The coaster FORT GASPE (formerly St. Charles Transportation's ROBERT McMICHAEL) of the Agence Maritime fleet was damaged while in Arctic service during the summer and was put into the small shipyard for inspection. Found to be in bad condition, she was put at the old Imperial Oil wharf (latterly owned by the shipyard) at Levis to await repairs. The Levis city fathers put up quite a stink about FORT GASPE being a blot upon their landscape and wanted her moved from their fair shore. Logistec dug in its heels and Levis finally relented on the condition that the repaired vessel will be leaving in the spring to resume service. Another Agence Maritime boat, FORT LENNOX, was to winter at Levis with FORT GASPE but on December 13 she was damaged in an accident near Sept-Iles. She will winter at Rimouski before going to the Levis shipyard in the spring.
For the past year, observers around the world have been wondering what would become of the two Italian liners MICHELANGELO and RAFFAELLO which were retired as part of the Italian government's "rationalization" programme and relegated to an anchorage in the harbour at Portovenere on the Italian Riviera. Word has now come that the sisterships have been sold to Iran for use as floating naval barracks, the purchase price being $18,000,000 each. MICHELANGELO will pass her days housing seamen at the naval base of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf while RAFFAELLO will pull similar duty at Bushire. The vessels will be sailed out to Iran under their own power and with an Italian crew and, once there, they will be maintained by an Italian crew of 60 for a period of three years. A town councillor at Portovenere was quoted as saying "We are happy to see the ships sold - but mainly to have them removed from our harbour. We prefer our splendid, open gulf as a panorama, with no ships and no danger of pollution."
As one who was aboard MICHELANGELO on many occasions at New York, Ye Ed. must perforce disagree. We would far rather see such beautiful ships riding at anchor, still with the possibility of being sold for useful operation, than relegated to use as floating dormitories in some forgotten (or rather unknown) ports on the Persian Gulf. We sincerely hope that some day, these fine vessels may return to grace the shipping lanes where they belong.
Speaking of the Italian Line, we should mention that, of course, the beautiful LEONARDO DA VINCI was not retired as planned and has been kept in service for at least a further year, a concession to the wave of outraged public opinion that opposed the retirement of this graceful vessel. The ship has been operating cruises out of New York but patronage has has been very poor, presumably because the line has not publicized the trips and many people are not aware of the fact that the ship has been spared, at least for now. O Rationalization, great and wonderful are thy ways*.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.