Although 1982 will undoubtedly go down in the records as a very poor year for lake shipping as a result of adverse economic conditions, it will probably also long be remembered because of the spring "ice wars". Severe problems were encountered not only in Lake Erie, but also in the Straits of Mackinac, the St. Mary's River and Whitefish Bay. The U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, including the reactivated MACKINAW, were kept extremely busy, and the Canadian Coast Guard brought NORMAN McLEOD ROGERS into the lakes to assist on Lake Erie. As a result of the heavy ice conditions, navigation got off to an extremely late start, for many operators were unwilling to risk damaging their ships by sending them out into the ice. As of the third week in April, few boats were moving anywhere, Buffalo was still solidly frozen in, and many upbounders were anchored in Lake Ontario and moored along the Welland Canal awaiting an improvement in conditions on Lake Erie. NORMAN McLEOD ROGERS did not complete her assignment on Lake Erie until the second week of May.
At least two lakers sustained damage in their battles with the ice. On April 8th, the BoCo self-unloader RICHARD J. REISS punched a 28-inch hole in her bow plating in the ice of the Straits of Mackinac, and was anchored off the northeast tip of Bois Blanc Island while she was ballasted down aft to lift her damaged bow out of the water. She had been en route from Toledo to Charlevoix with a cargo of coal, and was being assisted by MACKINAW, when she encountered an accumulation of windrowed ice. The C.S.L. self-unloader TADOUSSAC also received ice damage whilst she was downbound from Superior for the Algoma Steel Plant at Sault Ste. Marie.
While the remainder of the Branch Lines tankers are sorting out their new names (as previously reported in these pages), it appears that MAPLEBRANCH (II) will not be receiving the new name (L'ERABLE 1) which was intended for her. Unlike her fleetmates, the 24-year-old MAPLEBRANCH is no longer classed for service in ice, and she spent the winter in lay-up at Sorel. We understand that she is still there and is up for sale. It has even been said that a deal with Caribbean purchasers has been concluded, but we have yet to receive confirmation of any such sale. Branch Lines' newest tanker, presently being completed by Davie Shipbuilding at Lauzon, is due for delivery during June, and it is reported that she will be given the name L'ERABLE 1, thus confirming that MAPLEBRANCH is definitely the "odd ship out" of the fleet.
One laker whose sale for Caribbean service has been confirmed is the Paterson motorship PRINDOC (III), which has left the lakes under her new name, (b) HANKY. The new owners who have given the stemwinder this most peculiar name are identified as the Sea Trading Company of St. Lucia in the West Indies. It had earlier been suggested that the Paterson fleet might be intending to sell off more of its small motorvessels, but this does not now seem to be the case. One factor which may have influenced Paterson in its decision not to dispose of boats such as KINGDOC and LABRADOC, is the resecuring by Paterson of the contract for carrying corn to the Canada Starch plant at Cardinal, a contract which recently has been held by Westdale Shipping. As we understand the situation, Westdale is to carry the first few cargoes of the year to Cardinal, but subsequent movements will be handled by Paterson.
In recent issues, we have commented upon developments involving the former British Columbia government ferry SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, which once served the Straits of Mackinac as (a) VACATIONLAND. It will be recalled that she recently passed to the ownership of Gulf Canada Resources Inc., Calgary, for Arctic supply service. It is now reported that she will be renamed (e) GULF KANAYAK for her new duties.
The St. Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal had been scheduled to open for 1982 on March 29, but ice and economic conditions delayed things considerably, and no traffic passed through either canal until April 5. the latest opening in the last decade. The U.S. canal at Sault Ste. Marie opened on April 9, and the first freighter through was BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS, which passed upbound behind U.S.C.G. MACKINAW, which assisted her through the river ice. The canal had opened officially on April 1, but no traffic appeared until the FAIRLESS came on the scene. This was the first time in many years that the Soo Locks had been opened by a U.S.-flag laker. The Canadian lock at the Soo opened on April 23.
Hard times certainly seem to have befallen Westdale Shipping Ltd., for the small Canadian fleet is now operating only two vessels, the motorship LEADALE (II) and the steamer SILVERDALE. Meanwhile, ERINDALE and NORDALE remain in lay-up at Toronto and, on April 29, were moved from their winter berth, on the south side of the channel outside the Cherry Street bridge, to Pier 27 at the foot of Yonge Street. ERINDALE is being held as reserve boat and her bow damage, suffered in an October 6, 1981, collision with the east abutment of the Allanburg bridge, will be repaired if work presents itself for her. NORDALE, however, has been retired as a result of her deteriorated condition, and is for sale. No doubt she will eventually be sold for scrapping. Westdale has backed out of its negotiations to purchase the veteran self-unloader SAGINAW BAY from the American Steamship Company, allegedly because BoCo would not agree to favourable terms. Meanwhile, the deal to acquire HOCHELAGA from Canada Steamship Lines has also fallen through. C.S.L. had HOCHELAGA towed from Cardinal to Kingston on April 24, and there she has been placed in "permanent" lay-up.
Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. is also reeling under the current recession and has left six of its boats laid up at Toronto. GORDON C. LEITCH and WHEAT KING are on the east wall of the Turning Basin, while R. BRUCE ANGUS, SEAWAY QUEEN and FRANK A. SHERMAN are in the Leslie Street slip. The 56-year-old POINTE NOIRE is lying on the south side of the Lake Ontario Cement pier at the west end of Villiers Street. There are no indications as to when or if any of these ships may be fitted out for service.
The newest addition to the fleet of the Algoma Central Railway, the motorvessel ALGOWEST, a straight-decker, was successfully launched at Collingwood on April 28. She is scheduled to enter service sometime during July. Observers at the ceremonies were pleased to note that ALGOWEST has been given a white forecastle. Apparently, the company's policy now is that all straight-deckers will wear white forecastles, while the self-unloaders will retain the blue forecastles which they were given several years ago. The re-introduction by Algoma of the white forecastle will result in a considerable improvement in the appearance of those vessels involved.
Meanwhile, another Algoma ship, the self-unloader ALGOSEA, has undergone a major refit, including the installation of new engines, at St. John Shipbuilding and Drydock Ltd., St. John, New Brunswick, in preparation for her new role in the salt trade. ALGOSEA will be out on long-term charter for this service, and it is unlikely that we will see her in the lakes.
The former lake tanker/barge LIQUILASSIE spent 1981 at Tampa, Florida, in idleness as the aftermath of her encounter with the Gandy Bridge. Her future seemed to be unpromising, but she has now embarked upon new duties. Early this spring, she was towed from Florida en route to Tahiti with a cargo of fertilizer. We have no idea what will be done with her once she is in the South Pacific.
The tug which took LIQUILASSIE to salt water, and which was towing her when she tangled with the bridge, was TUSKER, which subsequently returned to the lakes and spent the 1981 season pushing the barge MCASPHALT 201 around the lower lakes and St. Lawrence River. TUSKER and her barge wintered at Toronto, but were not active until late in May as a result of some rather severe engine problems aboard the tug.
The 71-year-old steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM went out of service on April 22. She then sailed from the Straits of Mackinac to Sault Ste. Marie, where she laid up alongside the old Carbide dock on April 26. It was originally intended that she be out of service for sixty to ninety days, and that Ste. Marie Yard and Marine would perform the boat's five-year survey and inspection. It was hoped that the Coast Guard could be persuaded to permit her bottom to be inspected by divers, thus saving the cost of drydocking her. Meanwhile, the search is on for methods of financing her further operation, but there has been little if any encouragement forthcoming from the Michigan Transportation Department. The CHIEF's problems involve not only the cost of her own operation, but also that of a connecting rail line in the lower peninsula, whose availability is essential to the continuation of carferry service across the Straits.
After a year of indifferent trailer traffic, the axe has finally fallen on the Oshawa to Oswego ferry service operated by LAKESPAN ONTARIO. Despite announcements of the finding of new cargo markets and plans for bringing a second boat to Lake Ontario this autumn, Lakespan Marine Inc. was forced to suspend service when the provincial government withdrew its funding of the project. Consequently, LAKESPAN ONTARIO laid up at Oshawa on April 23, and there she remains. To encourage further operation, the City of Oshawa offered Lakespan one month of free dockage but, to date, there is no indication that anything can be done to revive the ferry route.
The Ann Arbor carferries on Lake Michigan have also found themselves in a precarious position recently. The Michigan Interstate Railway Company, operator of the Ann Arbor and its ferries, suspended all service on April 6, but the suspension lasted for only twelve hours and service was then resumed. The state had intended that operation of the "Annie" be turned over to the Michigan and Western Railroad Company, a new wholly-owned subsidiary of the Green Bay and Western Railroad Company, but this change has not occurred and litigation has ensued between the two firms. As well, Michigan legislators have complained bitterly about the prospect of a Michigan railway being operated by a Wisconsin company, particularly as the latter had agreed to run with a smaller subsidy than that given to Michigan Interstate. Meetings to try to settle the dispute were scheduled for mid-May.
Meanwhile, the Chessie System ferry operation has been reduced to but one boat. After operating the winter service, CITY OF MIDLAND 41 was withdrawn in favour of BADGER, but the MIDLAND was temporarily back in service again during May. She then was placed in lay-up along with the long-idle SPARTAN. The MIDLAND is due for inspection and survey on June 9, but has been granted a 90-day extension. With BADGER now the only regularly operating Chessie ferry, observers feel that it will not be long before Chessie is permitted to implement the final phase of its infamous "Kewaunee Plan" and take BADGER out of service as well. However, with the State of Michigan still pursuing the construction at Ontonagon of tug/barge combinations designed to replace the Ann Arbor ferries, Chessie has revealed some interest of its own in reentering the Lake Michigan rail ferry service with barges carrying freight cars only and no passengers. The plot thickens...
We have previously mentioned the difficulties in which the Ford Motor Company's lake fleet (now spun off, along with the steel plant, into Rouge Steel Corporation) has found itself as a result of reverses in the automobile market. As yet, there have been no changes in the appearance of the Ford boats, although it is said that Ford insignia will be removed from them. ERNEST R. BREECH and JOHN DYKSTRA, will spend 1982 running grain to Buffalo under a Cleveland-Cliffs charter, while only HENRY FORD II and WILLIAM CLAY FORD will run for their owners. No sale has yet been arranged for the idle BENSON FORD, although several prospective purchasers (including at least one shipbreaker) have taken a look at her. Her name will not be given to the DYKSTRA until the old BENSON FORD has finally been removed from documentation.
One of the first serious casualties of the 1982 shipping season occurred on April 14, when the Upper Lakes Shipping self-unloader CANADIAN PIONEER was the victim of an early-morning grounding in the Amherstburg Channel of the Detroit River. The efforts of four tugs failed to free her, and the Soo River Company steamer E. J. NEWBERRY was called to the scene to lighter part of her grain cargo. CANADIAN PIONEER was finally freed on April 16 and continued her voyage. She was subsequently placed on the drydock at Port Weller for the necessary repairs to her bottom. CANADIAN PIONEER was built at Port Weller and had only been placed in service late in the 1981 season.
Another spring grounding victim was the Halco tanker CHEMICAL TRANSPORT, which found the bottom near Dark Island, in the upper St. Lawrence River, early on the morning of April 17. The accident appears to have occurred as a result of one or more navigation buoys having been out of proper position. The damage to CHEMICAL TRANSPORT caused a minor problem involving the weeping into the river of small quantities of her cargo, a gasoline additive. This material, however, evaporated and dissipated on its own, without the necessity of any major clean-up operation.
Despite the fact that her Christmas Day fire caused damage only to the after accommodation area of HUDSON TRANSPORT, the 20-year-old tanker has been abandoned to the underwriters by Halco for a sum which is said to be in the area of $4,000,000. We understand that HUDSON TRANSPORT was built with tanks which might only be expected to last for about twenty years in the trades in which she has operated, and that her entire midbody would soon have required replacement if she were to continue in service. As yet, we have no word on what will become of HUDSON TRANSPORT.
Meanwhile, it has been said that Halco would like to dispose of its tanker UNGAVA TRANSPORT, (a) VARANGNES (70), (b) TOMMY WIBORG (74), but we do not know whether any prospective purchasers have yet come forward. The motorship was built at Greaker, Norway, in 1959, and was converted to a tanker in 1971.
While on the subject of Halco, we should mention that FRANKCLIFFE HALL made an unusual visit to Toronto, from April 12 through 14, to unload a cargo of soya beans at Victory Mills. As far as we know, she is the largest vessel ever to unload there, and could not have done so except that her unloading equipment was utilized to assist the elevator's own gear. Because of the short slip on which Victory Mills is located, even the turning of a maximum-sized straight-decker would not permit the elevator leg to reach her middle hatches.
Several issues ago, we speculated on the prospects of one or more of the idle C.S.L. package freighters being used on the Newfoundland service of Atlantic Freight Lines, of which C.S.L. holds a 49% interest. We subsequently learned that C.S.L. had proposed the assignment of FORT ST. LOUIS to the route. She was to have been moved to Thunder Bay on April 19 for conversion to a containership, and was to have entered service on June 1 as (b) BELLA-VENTURE II. However, FORT ST. LOUIS did not go to the Lakehead and, by early May, it was apparent that her transfer to A.F.L. was not to be. We understand that C.S.L. has once again put her up for sale. It is interesting to note that, for many years, FORT ST. LOUIS was chartered by C.S.L. to Clarke Steamships, which has since been transformed into Newfoundland Steamships Ltd., which is the major competitor of Atlantic Freight Lines on the Newfoundland route.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government has been attempting to persuade C.S.L. to reactivate its package freight service. The suggestion was that only one of the boats be operated, and that she be placed on a run serving the ports of Ashtabula, Toledo, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. The company expressed interest in the scheme, but plans were cancelled when the provincial authorities refused C.S.L.'s request that a subsidy be provided to cover potential operating losses.
The famous Lime Island fuel dock, which was originally opened in 1912 to provide bunkers for steamers on the lower St. Mary's River, has now been closed and will not operate at all in 1982. Although oil fuel was available at Lime Island until the close of navigation in 1981, the last load of bunker coal out of the dock was loaded aboard ROBERT S. PIERSON on July 24, 1981. Unfortunately, the PIERSON experienced much trouble subsequently as a result of the poor quality of the coal which she took aboard on that trip.
The Metro Marine fleet of Moncton, New Brunswick, which operates the tankers SEAWAY TRADER, METRO STAR and METRO SUN, has now disposed of its original vessel, METRO LANDRY NO. 1. She had been acquired in 1975 by Antonio Landry (who owns "Metro" gas stations in the Maritimes) and, under the ownership of Metro Marine Transport and Terminals Ltd., Moncton, and flying the Bermuda flag, she had operated around the Maritimes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. METRO LANDRY NO. 1, (a) ROYSTON (44), (b) SEQUATCHIE (48), (c) A.O.G. 21 (48), (d) OTCO BAYWAY (66), (e) ETHEL TIBBETTS (75), was built in 1944 at Galveston, Texas, and was 249.5 x 37.1 x 14.5, 1204 Gross, 826 Net. It will be recalled that she saw service into the lakes during the 1950s as OTCO BAY-WAY, then owned by the Oil Transfer Corporation. METRO LANDRY NO. 1 has been stripped and her hull has been donated to the town of Shediac, N.B., although we have no idea what the town may be intending to do with her.
The stern section of the newest C.S.L. self-unloader, ATLANTIC SUPERIOR, is now at the Thunder Bay shipyard, where it will be joined to the short bow section that was built for her there. The stern piece, some three-quarters of the stemwinder's total length, was built last year at Collingwood and wintered there. It cleared Collingwood on May 5 in tow of the A.B. McLean Ltd. tugs WILFRED M. COHEN and MISEFORD, and passed upbound at Sault Ste. Marie on the morning of May 7. ATLANTIC SUPERIOR was built in two sections in order to free the Collingwood ways for the construction of other hulls.
As previously reported, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission Manitoulin Island ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN wintered at Collingwood, where she was built back in 1974. Not only did she receive her regular survey and inspection at Collingwood last autumn but, over the winter, she was structurally altered to increase her capacity by about ten percent. The work is said to have cost about $1,000,000. CHI-CHEEMAUN cleared Collingwood on April 5 and went back into regular service between Tobermory and South Baymouth on April 23. She is operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd.
The United States Steel Corporation's steamers ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, CASON J. CALLAWAY and PHILIP R. CLARKE are now in service after their self-unloader conversions at Fraser Shipyards. The ships are operating in a very satisfactory manner and it would appear that they will remain in service for the duration of the season despite the adverse business conditions.
Not so lucky, however, will be the Columbia Transportation conversions, MIDDLETOWN and ARMCO, which are still at the BayShip yard at Sturgeon Bay. We do not have a projected completion date for either steamer, but we understand that each, when ready, will make a few shakedown trips and then lay up. RESERVE was due to arrive at BayShip in mid-May for a similar conversion. Columbia has not yet fitted out its big COLUMBIA STAR, although she is scheduled to enter service during the month of June.
The dispersal of the excursion fleet of Sherwood Marine Inc., Toronto, continues. CAYUGA II, purchased from the receivers by Norman Rogers, has been repainted in blue and white colours and is being readied for service. At the time of her purchase by Coastal Corp., it was said that she would be renamed, but no new name has yet appeared. The little NIAGARA has gone back across the lake and will probably be operating on the Niagara River. SHIAWASSIE, a former Toronto ferry and Niagara River excursion boat, which ran charters out of Toronto last year, has been purchased by a local operator who had her taken to Port Credit for a refit. The big steamer CALEDONIA, after wintering in Toronto's Polson Street slip, was moved during April to the inner end of the Leslie Street slip, where she has since been boxed in by idle Upper Lakes Shipping boats. Local rumour has it that CALEDONIA may operate in 1982, but we have no idea who her operator (if any) might be.
Readers will recall the diesel canaller LACHINEDOC (II), which was built in 1956 by the Atlantic Shipbuilding Company at Newport, England, for N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. She was a somewhat unusual vessel, rather different in appearance than any other Paterson canaller. She left the lakes in 1975 after being sold to buyers in the United Arab Emirates. As (b) EMERALD, she loaded soya bean mash at Toronto and cleared the lakes en route to Arabian waters via Ireland. Now comes word that EMERALD, owned by Gulf Development Marine Services, U.A.E., sank on November 8, 1980, in the Arabian Gulf. She had last been sighted some 14 miles southeast of Shah Allum Shoal. It is not known how EMERALD came to meet her fate, but her loss confirms what we have always known, that being that a canaller built for lake service has never been a ship properly suited for deep-sea service.
One of the saddest sights on the lakes in recent years has been the wreck of the wooden Newfoundland coaster AVALON VOYAGER, which stranded on the shore of Lake Huron whilst en route from Toronto to Owen Sound for use as a restaurant. Her superstructure had deteriorated considerably as a result of her exposure to the elements, but it had been hoped that her wreck could be used as an underwater dive site. On March 2, 1982, however, the wreck was set afire by vandals and, to further the indignity, scavengers attacked the hull later in March and cut holes in it to remove piping and wiring. With her wheelhouse and main cabin destroyed, and the hull damaged, plans to use AVALON VOYAGER as a site for divers have been abandoned, and the wreck will be left to fall apart on the reef.
An unusual visitor to Toronto on May 20 was the American Steamship Company self-unloader ADAM E. CORNELIUS, which delivered a cargo of salt down the Ship Channel. Although BoCo ships brought much coal to Toronto in years gone by, and have carried the odd salt cargo here in recent years, the CORNELIUS is a definite stranger in these parts. When she departed in the early morning hours of May 21, she backed out through the narrow draw of the Cherry Street bridge and then swung around and cleared by the Eastern Gap. The Upper Lakes steamer JAMES NORRIS did the same thing one week earlier. Usually, boats using the Channel will turn in the Turning Basin on arrival or at departure, for backing through the bridge is a most delicate manoeuvre, to say the least. But, with three sides of the Basin cluttered with laid-up boats, the space for turning a large vessel there is severely limited, and masters seem to be chosing stern-first passages under the bridge as the lesser of the available evils.
J. F. VAUGHAN, the most recent acquisition of the Soo River Company, was towed from Hamilton to Port Weller, for drydocking, on April 22 by the tugs GLENEVIS and LAC MANITOBA. She came off the drydock on May 1 and was upbound in the Welland Canal on her first trip, en route to Duluth, on May 7. She was not fully painted whilst at the shipyard, but at least her name was painted on her bows in a more permanent manner than it had been last fall when she was towed from South Chicago to Hamilton. Several other Soo River steamers, including SOO RIVER TRADER and HOWARD F. ANDREWS, have also carried cement cargoes from Clarkson to Duluth this spring.
Although the rest of the Soo River fleet got off to a relatively early spring start (considering all conditions), JOSEPH X. ROBERT was considerably delayed and did not clear Toronto until the first week of May. Her propellor had to be replaced and difficulties were encountered in getting the old one off while she lay in her winter berth in the Ship Channel. In addition, problems have been encountered with the condenser which was salvaged from the scrapped BROOKDALE (II) and installed in JOSEPH X. ROBERT during the winter months.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.