Ever since the December 16th, 1983, announcement that the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. would cease operations at the end of 1983, there has been rampant speculation concerning the future of the firm's eight-ship fleet. Several operators expressed interest in obtaining all or part of the fleet, and a group of Q & 0 employees wanted to purchase and operate at least the three smallest vessels. Nevertheless, it came as something of a surprise to all observers when it became apparent, on January 20, 1984, that the entire fleet was on the verge of being sold to Le Groupe Desgagnes Inc., of Pointe-au-Pic, Quebec. (The sale has since been confirmed.) The various companies affiliated with the Groupe Desgagnes have for many years operated an odd assortment of goelettes, former canallers and small coasters, and, no doubt, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, FRANQUELIN, NEW YORK NEWS and THOROLD would fit in well with the Desgagnes style, particularly if they continue to serve the same trades as they did for Q & 0. However, we wonder what possible use Desgagnes would have for MELDRUM BAY, GOLDEN HIND, OUTARDE or LAC STE-ANNE. We will wait with interest to see whether Desgagnes will operate those larger ships, or whether perhaps they may sell them off to other operators and turn a bit of a profit in the resale. It is, meanwhile, interesting to speculate on what the Q & O boats might look like with Desgagnes blue hulls, and with the fleet's diagonal yellow stripe on their bows.
Incidentally, we reported in the January issue that the entire Q & O fleet was laid up for the winter at Toronto, with the exception of LAC STE-ANNE, which remained idle at Hamilton, and THOROLD, which we had been told was at Thunder Bay. The latter information was faulty. As can be seen from the layup listing that appears in this issue, THOROLD is actually laid up alongside the Robin Hood Mills wall on the west side of the canal at Humberstone.
Last issue, we commented upon the intended repowering and lengthening of the SCOTT MISENER (III). The replacement of the ship's second-hand General Electric steam turbines (they were built in 1942 and salvaged from a sunken saltwater tanker) was to have been accomplished this winter whilst SCOTT is laid up at Hamilton. It seems, however, that no formal decision has yet been made concerning the type of machinery that will be installed, and that the work has, accordingly, been temporarily deferred.
One of the most unusual incidents we have ever reported occurred on the morning of Christmas Eve, December 24th, when the tug CISCOE was lost on Lake Erie off Port Colborne. The 75-foot tug, built in 1980, was owned by Great Lakes Marine Contracting Ltd., Port Dover, and had recently been used as a pilot boat at Port Weller. Her duties concluded for the 1983 navigation season, she was upbound in the Welland Canal on December 23, en route to Port Dover for the winter. At 2:15 a.m. on the 24th, CISCOE cleared Port Colborne and, one hour later, when the tug was some thirteen kilometres out in Lake Erie, she developed engine problems and called for assistance. The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker GRIFFON was sheltering behind Long Point at the time, and she arrived alongside CISCOE at 7:20 a.m. The two-man crew was then removed from CISCOE, and GRIFFON reported that the tug capsized at 7:43 a.m., and was last observed floating upside-down, some eight kilometres from shore. Due to extreme weather conditions, CISCOE was not been seen recently, although the last report we have is that, late in December, she was still upside-down and adrift in the ice.
The story seems simple enough, but there would appear to be more to it than was reported in the public press. Indeed, CISCOE did suffer mechanical difficulties, but the problem could have been rectified with assistance. According to the crew of the tug, however, they were ordered by GRIFFON to abandon their vessel, and had no choice but to obey that command. They also allege that GRIFFON attempted to take CISCOE in tow and, in so doing, pulled her over and capsized her. At last report, the tug's owners were still in a state of shock and were trying to determine whether the tug could be recovered, and whether a claim for damages could be made against the Coast Guard for the alleged mishandling of the "rescue attempt".
In November's issue, we reported very briefly on litigation between Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. and the St. John Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company Ltd. The small press report that we had seen at that time had identified CAPE BRETON MINER as the vessel involved. That information, however, was not correct.) The claim and counterclaim actually revolve around the 1978 conversion of the salt-water bulk carrier CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER to the self-unloader CANADIAN HIGHLANDER, a contract that originally was worth some $8,000,000. The trial began in Federal Court during October, and was to resume on January 30. Meanwhile, just like CAPE BRETON MINER (MAZAHUA) and ONTARIO POWER (THORNHILL), the CANADIAN HIGHLANDER has now been reregistered in Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu, and she now wears the name CITADEL HILL. She is still part of the Upper Lakes fleet, although now owned by an affiliated company and managed by Barber Steamships of Hong Kong.
Late in 1982, the Texaco Canada Inc. tanker TEXACO WARRIOR (II), (a) THUNTANK 6 (72), (b) ANTERIORITY (75), sailed out of the lakes for the last time and, her retirement already having been announced, she laid up at Montreal on December 16, 1982. The small motorship remained idle at the Versatile Vickers shipyard while a buyer was sought for her. Then, on January 12th, 1984, she left Montreal under her own power, bound for Sydney, Nova Scotia. At the time of her departure, she was flying the flag of Cyprus and painted on her bows was the name (d) TRADER. Her new owners have not yet been identified. The stemwinder had been built back in 1970 as Hull 309 of the Clelands Shipbuilding Company Ltd., Wallsend-on-Tyne, England, and measured 305.8 x 47.0 x 24.0, 3295 Gross and 2061 Net.
Some time ago, we reported that the venerable sandsucker AMERICAN was being scrapped in the Chicago area, near the entrance to Lake Calumet. It seems, however, that AMERICAN sank in December, 1982, during the scrapping operations, and that salvage work did not begin until November, 1983. She is slowly being raised from the bottom, and is being cut apart as she rises. AMERICAN, built in 1921 at Manitowoc, was operated for many years by the Construction Aggregates Corporation. She was 244.4 x 42.1 x 17.0, 1840 Gross and 1097 Net, after having been lengthened by 40 feet at Manitowoc in 1946. She was idle for many years latterly, and kicked around several Lake Michigan ports before being sold for scrapping several years ago.
The victim of a late-season grounding in the St. Mary's River was the U.S. Steel 1,000-foot self-unloader EDWIN H. GOTT, which hit bottom in the Middle Neebish Channel early on the morning of December 27. GOTT was downbound at the time, and the accident came only five days after the closing for the season of the normal downbound route through the West Neebish Channel. The Seaway Towing tug CHIPPEWA and the big U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker MACKINAW stood by the grounded vessel, and the smaller U.S.C.G. KATMAI BAY was also summoned to the scene. Part of the GOTT's cargo of taconite was lightered into the American Steamship Company's self-unloader ROGER M. KYES, and GOTT was refloated late in the afternoon of the same day that she grounded. She was then taken to Gary, Indiana, for unloading, and later sailed to Sturgeon Bay, where hull repairs will be completed during the winter. The GOTT accident once again draws attention to questions concerning the safety of operating 1,000-footers in both directions through the tortuous Middle Neebish Channel late in the season, particularly when ice formations are heavy. Of course, the grounding of any vessel under those circumstances will produce a stoppage in traffic on the river, but the stranding of such a large ship could produce far more unfortunate results.
In the January issue, we commented upon the winter work at Port Weller Dry Docks. Several readers have remarked that we neglected to mention the conversion of CHIMO and HILDA MARJANNE into CANADIAN RANGER, but we really considered that we had said enough about that peculiar project in past issues, and hence said no more about it. For those who may be interested, however, the conversion is progressing. With reference to the work being done on the Canarctic Shipping Company Ltd. salty ARCTIC, we regret that our earlier report was much in error. First of all, ARCTIC does not have a bulbous bow, and furthermore, the new steel for her forward bottom plating is not nearly as thick as we had been led to believe. It will rather be, in most places, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in thickness, but will have much greater tensile strength than the old steel, thus reducing damage due to impacts with ice and brittle fractures caused by the very low temperatures of the Arctic. During the winter, in addition to bottom plating, ARCTIC will also undergo renewal of her bilge strakes, sheerstrake, deck stringer, main deck plating, bilge keels, and many internal frames. The work is expected to be completed during April, although ARCTIC may remain at Port Weller until May (when she can first get ready for the opening of the Arctic shipping season) unless another deep-sea cargo can be obtained for her in the interim.
Public Works Canada has outlined a "conceptual plan" for a development project along the banks of the abandoned section of the Welland Canal which runs through the heart of the city of Welland. Much of the work would involve improvements to the banks of the old canal and additional public access to the area. But on Merritt Island (just below the Welland River syphon, on the east bank just north of the Main Street bridge), would be located a museum and displays illustrating the construction of the four canals, and featuring assorted artifacts. Moored near this centre, and open for public viewing, is to be a "1920s era laker". The only way to get such a vessel into the old canal would be to remove the railway bridge that was laid across the closed channel just above Port Robinson after the new bypass was opened in 1973. Plans, of course, are still somewhat vague and, typical of federal projects, time restraints will force the planning and implementation of the work to be carried out at the same time! Thus, no formal announcement has been made regarding which vessel might be chosen for display. Observers have speculated on the possibility of either GEORGE M. CARL or FERNGLEN being acquired for the project.
During past seasons, it had become common for the Liberian salty YEMANJA to be seen lying at anchor off Sept-Iles, Quebec, with cargoes of coal being dumped into her by assorted C.S.L. self-unloaders that had brought the coal down from lake ports. According to our records (possibly not completely current), YEMANJA was owned by the Swiss Overseas Navigation Corp. She was constructed at Dunkerque, France, in 1973 by Chantiers de France-Dunkerque, and she was 935.0 x 143.5 x 77.9. 76361 Gross, 60920 Net. We now learn that she was purchased during the summer of 1983 by Gulf Canada Resources Inc., which reregistered her in Canada and renamed her (b) GULF BEAUFORT. She arrived at Vancouver on July 1st, and is now used as a floating fuel depot in the Beaufort Sea, in conjunction with Gulf's energy explorations in that area.
The Boat Company's veteran steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM was scheduled to go back into service across the Straits of Mackinac on December 13th, but the first trip of the reactivated ferry had to be postponed until December 16 as a result of a shortage of bunker fuel for her. It was anticipated that the CHIEF would be making a crossing between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace each Tuesday and Friday, but the Michigan Northern Railway (of which The Boat Company is a subsidiary) hoped that service could be expanded to three trips per week if sufficient railcar traffic were forthcoming.
We are pleased to learn that the 1931-built Lake Michigan carferry CITY OF MILWAUKEE, the last operating example of an un-rebuilt Logan-designed carferry, has eluded the scrapyard and will be preserved intact for posterity. CITY OF MILWAUKEE was built as Hull 26l of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, 347.9 x 56.2 x 19.2, 2942 Gross, 1488 Net, powered by two triple-expansion steam engines, 20i", 34" and 56" x 36". Built as a replacement for MILWAUKEE, which foundered in 1929, CITY OF MILWAUKEE served the Grand Trunk-Milwaukee Carferry Company until it went out of the ferry business. She was then bought by the State of Michigan and leased to the Michigan Interstate Railway Company, which operated the Ann Arbor Railroad. The Ann Arbor ferries were taken out of service in April 1982, and the state then advertised CITY OF MILWAUKEE for sale. Interest in her was expressed by the Northwest Michigan Maritime Museum at Frankfort. She recently was purchased, for the princely sum of $2.00, by the City of Frankfort, and the necessary "conversion" work is presently being carried out there.
The Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company which, in the summer of 1983. purchased from the Chessie System the Lake Michigan carferries CITY OF MIDLAND 41, BADGER and SPARTAN, and reactivated passenger and auto service between Ludington and Milwaukee, has developed a new stack design for its ferries. The new symbol, a bit reminiscent of the old Pere Marquette Railway's "meatball" design, incorporates a black stack with a red ball centred on it, and the letters 'MWT' in white on the ball. The right leg of the 'M' runs down into the left arm of the 'W', whose right arm joins the crossbar of the 'T'. CITY OF MIDLAND 41 opened the new service last July 1st, but only BADGER is running at present; the MIDLAND and the long-idle SPARTAN are currently laid up at Ludington.
Business has been slow in the construction industry for several years and, as a result, the six-boat fleet of the Huron Cement Division, National Gypsum Company, has been anything but busy; only S. T. CRAPO, PAUL H. TOWNSEND and J.A.W. IGLEHART operated during 1983. With conditions gradually improving, however, it appears that Huron may well have enough business in 1984 to fit out the 86-year-old steamer E. M. FORD, (a) PRESQUE ISLE (I)(56), which is presently lying at Milwaukee. As well, Huron plans to have its 61-year-old steamer LEWIS G. HARRIMAN, (a) JOHN W. BOARDMAN (65), towed from Alpena to Buffalo for temporary use as a storage barge there. The HARRIMAN was to have been brought down to Buffalo during December, but insurance considerations forced postponement of the tow until the spring of 1984.
An up-to-date report on the restoration of the double-ended steam passenger ferry G. A. BOECKLING at Sandusky, Ohio, would seem to be in order, as 1984 is the BOECKLING's diamond jubilee year. The boat deck has been completely rebuilt and sealed against the weather, and work has begun on restoring the woodwork in the promenade deck saloon. Many items of equipment have been obtained or donated, and this has ensured that the restoration will continue. One item donated is steel for a new stack, and it will be raised come summer, complete with the necessary steam whistle to accompany it.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.