Your Editor, ink-stained wretch that he is, usually has his marine radio operating whilst he prepares these pages for you each month. On the evening of November 2nd, while pondering his editorial duties, he was listening to the Russian motorvessel VOLODYA SHCHERBATSEVICH entering the harbour en route to Victory Mills to load soybean mash. Her pilot was informed by Toronto Harbour Communications that she would have to go to the west side of the Parliament Street slip to await the arrival of the laker THORNHILL which was due at the elevator.
THORNHILL? Had Ye Ed finally gone crackers from slaving over a hot typewriter? How could THORNHILL be in Toronto when she was lying in the scrapyard at Hamilton? These questions burdened our mind the following day but on the afternoon of November 3, THORNHILL in all her tarnished glory was towed into port and deposited at the Victory Mills wharf. She looked much the worse for wear with her screw, davits and lifeboats missing and with her deckhouses in a state of ruin, minus most of their windows and portholes. Observers were perplexed.
As it turns out, THORNHILL is still at Victory Mills and will likely be there for a considerable period of time to come. It seems that things have been booming in the soybean trade and Victory has had so much soya mash on hand ready for shipment that space in the elevator has been at a premium. Accordingly, the company has "chartered" THORNHILL from Strathearne Terminals Ltd. in Hamilton and will use her as a storage hull for its product. As far as we know, this is the first time in recent years that Victory has used an old, inactive vessel as a storage hull. Better that for THORNHILL than the scrapper's torches.
Last month, we reported that the Shell Canada Ltd. tanker FUEL MARKETER (II) had been laid to rest in Toronto's turning basin, her active life apparently at an end. The fact that Shell does not intend to operate the wartime-built canaller again is confirmed by the speedy removal of the Shell insignia from her stack. When we observed this, we again pondered the thought that Shell might be buying another tanker and would use the Shell designs on her.
We were not long in learning that this was, in fact, the case. The long-awaited transfer of Halco's FROBISHER TRANSPORT to the Shell fleet was consummated in late October and by early the next month, although still in Hall colours, she had been reregistered at Toronto and given the name NORTHERN SHELL, a name inherited from a salt water tanker which Shell sold for scrap about two years ago. Shell's newest acquisition spent much of November at Montreal where she was given a thorough refit prior to being commissioned. No doubt NORTHERN SHELL will be a frequent visitor to the lakes.
On Friday, November 4, 1977, the Halco steam tanker COVE TRANSPORT was towed out of Toronto harbour and down Lake Ontario by the Canadian Dredge and Dock tug G. W. ROGERS. The following Sunday, the ROGERS returned to Toronto from Kingston and it was thought that the tow might have ended in the Kingston boneyard. However, COVE TRANSPORT passed down the Iroquois Lock of the Seaway on the morning of November 7 in tow of YVON SIMARD and LAVALLEE. She was taken to Sorel where she was turned over to her new owners, a subsidiary of West Indies Transport. Renamed (c) WIT TRANSPORT, she left Sorel in tow of YVON SIMARD and arrived at Cap Goose on November 18. Leaving Sorel the same day as WIT TRANSPORT was a strange vessel named WITSUPPLY II. As it has subsequently been discovered, WITSUPPLY II is none other than the former Branch Lines tanker ELMBRANCH which has been idle at Sorel for the last two years and which has been purchased by the same firm. She was reported at Matane, Quebec, on November 22. Both tankers are now registered at Panama, R.P., and will evidently be used in the Caribbean. They are not the only lakers to have been bought by the "Wit" organization, as in past years, this concern had purchased OIL TRANSPORT (WIT), COASTAL CLIFF (WITCROIX), FUEL TRANSPORT (WITFUEL), GASPEDOC (WITSHOAL), FRANK J. HUMPHREY (WITSHOAL II) and TRANSTREAM (WITSUPPLY) as well as several other hulls of various origins.
Some time back, the Chessie System had offered to donate its Lake Michigan carferries to the States of Michigan and Wisconsin for operation. This appeared at the time to be a rather magnanimous offer for the railroad to make although observers were quite aware of the fact that C & O would do almost anything to divest itself of its ferry operations. It now turns out that there were strings attached and that this is why the offer has not been accepted. It seems that Chessie required an agreement that the boats would never again be used to haul railroad cars across Lake Michigan and that they could only be used for passengers and autos! Meanwhile, hearings on the C & O abandonment petition continue amid cries that the railroad has resorted to price-fixing in an effort to make the ferry service appear uneconomical.
Wisconsin and Michigan state officials have yet another problem to ponder at the moment. The Ann Arbor carferry ARTHUR K. ATKINSON has lain idle the past few years because of mechanical difficulties. Wisconsin recently received approval of its request for $400,000 in federal funds to put the ATKINSON back in service. The Ann Arbor, however, is in receivership due to its bankruptcy and if the idle ferry is to be reactivated, someone will have to put up funds for an operating subsidy. At present, VIKING is the Ann Arbor's only operative ferry.
It appears that the former Straits of Mackinac ferry VACATIONLAND will be returning to her old stamping grounds after all. Marine Digest, a publication originating in Seattle, recently reported that the sale of SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, to the State of Michigan was completed on October 15th. This would seem to indicate that progress is being made on the proposition to operate a ferry service between Meldrum Bay, Ontario, and DeTour Village, Michigan.
An unusual visitor to Toronto on November 10 was the Scott Misener Steamships Ltd. bulk carrier GEORGE M. CARL which loaded grain at Toronto Elevators (Maple Leaf Mills Ltd.) for delivery to Montreal. While the CARL has wintered here on several occasions, we cannot recall that she has ever previously visited the port during the regular navigation season.
LOUIS R. DESMARAIS, the Collingwood-built C.S.L. self-unloader with the icebreaking version of the rounded bow (and the first laker to be so constructed), entered service early in November as scheduled. She arrived at Thunder Bay on her maiden voyage on Saturday, November 5, and loaded 27,117 long tons of iron ore at the Valley Camp dock for delivery to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. at Hamilton. Observers have described her odd bow as being "different", a comment to which we can add nothing.
The trials of LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER in Canadian waters would appear to be at an end. Scheduled to have entered cruise service on the lakes in May of 1977, she never got farther than Montreal due to a number of suits launched against the boat and her owner, Midwest Cruises, by various creditors. The Federal Court of Canada ordered that the steamer be sold at public auction in an effort to satisfy claims totalling more than $1.25 million. The brief sale was held in early November and the vessel was purchased for $370,000 by Throughfun Corp., a Liberian firm. We presume that the new owner will not be interested in operating on the lakes and that Midwest Cruises, an Indianapolis-based organization, will now retire from the cruise business altogether.
Two of the Toronto Island ferries are undergoing extensive reconditioning during their winter lay-up this year. Work on the complete rewiring of the 1939-built SAM McBRIDE has already begun and the same job, including the installation of electric heat, a godsend to Island commuters on cold mornings, will also be done on the newer THOMAS RENNIE.
The Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. bulk carrier HELEN EVANS entered the drydock at Port Weller on November 14 for inspection and survey. It has generally been thought that the EVANS was just about at the end of her rope and most observers would have deemed it unlikely that the 71-year-old steamer would even be put on the dock, much less receive any repair work. We are pleased to report that not only has she been given her inspection but that work also has been done on her and, barring unforeseen events, it appears possible that she could operate for yet another four years.
CARTIERCLIFFE HALL, the first of the Hall Corporation's three new bulk carriers, ran trials during November and was scheduled to depart the Davie Shipyard at Lauzon on November 21. Some last minute problems developed, however, and her maiden voyage was postponed. Due to the lateness of the season, we rather doubt that the second boat, MONTCLIFFE HALL, will be ready in time to enter service in 1977.
Toronto shipwatchers and other members of the public alike are much disappointed with the Metropolitan Toronto Parks Department decision to keep the steam sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM operating only in the charter service next summer. For the past two years, she has been allotted only one crew for the entire summer which has necessarily meant that limits had to be imposed on the number of days per week that she could operate and has precluded any serious operation in Island ferry service (she ran to Hanlan's Point on only one day during 1977). The logic of this decision is indeed hard to follow. If a second crew were used, the Parks Dept. could accept many of the additional charter requests which they have in the past been forced to refuse; at the hourly rate charged for the big steamer, the increased operating costs would soon be recovered and the boat would be available to members of the public who do not belong to private clubs and charter groups. Hopefully, once alterations to the dock facilities at Centre Island are completed, TRILLIUM will be placed in service on that route during periods of peak traffic, but in the meantime, the Parks Dept. is continuing its policy of making TRILLIUM virtually inaccessible to the public taxpayers who paid for her reconstruction.
One of our spies has reported that the steamers JAMES E. FERRIS and KINSMAN VOYAGER are still intact and have been observed lying at Hamburg, West Germany. These, the last two lakers to have been towed overseas for scrapping (there have been no such tows in either 1976 or 1977), arrived at Hamburg back on July 4th, 1975 and at the time there was a suggestion that they might be used as storage hulls. We know not whether they are being put to this use, but it is gratifying to know that the FERRIS, in particular, is still in existence, albeit far from her home waters.
The St. Catharines Standard reported on November 19 that the St. Catharines Historical Museum has been awarded an $11,000 grant by the federal government to be used in preparing plans for a project to develop an historic park around the long-disused Welland Canal Locks 15, 16, 17 and 18 which are located in the Bradley Street area of the former town of Merritton. The locks have been partially filled in over the years but plans are to remove brush growth so that the remains of the structures can be seen. Historical plaques will be erected and walking tours of the area are planned. There are, of course, many places where the locks and channels of the Third Canal are visible, notably to the east of present Locks 3 and 7.
The strike of ore miners in the northern United States continues and there is little hope that major ore shipments will resume prior to the end of the normal lake navigation season. Nevertheless, marathon bargaining sessions at Pittsburgh in November have led to a settlement between the strikers and the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company. This may well facilitate successful negotiations between the miners and other companies, but any resolution will be too late to allow most of the idle ore carriers to be reactivated before the freeze-up. Even when the miners return, it will take a fair time for the ore docks to receive enough cargo to resume shipment by water. Meanwhile, the U.S. upper lakers continue to run to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in ever-increasing numbers. Since our last report, ERNEST R. BREECH, WILLIAM CLAY FORD, LEON FALK JR., SPARROWS POINT, ELTON HOYT 2nd, J. L. MAUTHE and HERBERT C. JACKSON have all ventured down the Welland Canal providing a bit of excitement for local observers. The BREECH even managed to visit Toronto on November 26 when she came over from Port Weller to seek shelter from inclement weather.
On the morning of Monday, November 14, the commuters on the 7:45 trip of the Toronto ferry ONGIARA from Ward's Island were treated (thanks to Capt. Charlie Colenutt, a T.M.H.S. member) to a close-up view of one of the most unusual salt water ships to visit Toronto in many a year. Arriving in port that morning was the Cuban vessel JOSE MARTI, a gleaming white boat which looks more like a passenger liner than a cargo ship. She brought 9,400 long tons of sugar to the Redpath plant but she also brought with her 152 officer cadets of the Cuban Merchant Marine, all aged 17 to 19. The MARTI was only one of many salties to appear at the Redpath plant this autumn. On some occasions, there have been three boats there at once, one under the cranes and two waiting. It seems that the price of sugar is about to rise drastically and that Redpath has been making large purchases in anticipation. Sugar is being stored not only in the warehouse on the west side of the Jarvis Street slip but also under plastic sheets on the east side of the slip.
We have heard rumours to the effect that the Soo River Company may be contemplating the replacement of the pilothouse of its steamer GEORGE G. HENDERSON during the coming winter. While it is undoubtedly true that the pilothouse on the HENDERSON is rather small for the large amount of modern equipment that must be carried these days, the fact remains that she has always been a very handsome boat and we cannot imagine how she would look with a new house of the type received last winter by PIERSON DAUGHTERS. The HENDERSON, of course, dates back to 1909 and sailed previously as (a) SHENANGO (58), (b) B. W. DRUCKENMILLER (64), and (c) A. T. LAWS0N (76).
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.