By the time these words are read, our Annual Dinner Meeting will have taken place, and we hope that all present enjoyed the event. Our special thanks go to our guest speaker, Mr. M. S. Campbell, for presenting the evening's address, to Gordon Turner for arranging the programme, and to Bill Wilson for handling details with the restaurant, selecting the menu, and selling tickets to our members. Incidentally, the dinner was a sell-out success!
As usual, the May Dinner Meeting marks the beginning of the T.M.H.S. summer vacation, a respite that is particularly appreciated by your ink-stained wretch of an Editor. We will not be goofing off entirely, however, and the Mid-Summer issue will, accordingly, reach members during the month of August. We will resume our regular monthly publication schedule in October. We hope that our regular correspondents will remember us during the summer and continue to forward news items so that we will have enough material to fill the Mid-Summer and October issues.
In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Capt. Ross King of St. Catharines, to Steven Elve of Lowell, Michigan, to Capt. Paul Papps of Bath, Ontario, and to Capt. Harold Hogan of Kingston.
This spring has produced what undoubtedly must be the most interesting few weeks that lake area boatwatchers have experienced in years, while at the same time causing no end of frustration and expense for vessel operators and for the Coast Guards of Canada and the United States. The event has become known to many as the "St. Clair River Ice Capades", although perhaps the term "Ice Follies" might be more appropriate. The whole problem began back in early April, when a considerable amount of brash ice began to push down into the St. Clair River from the lower end of Lake Huron, pushed along by strong northerly winds. The ice began to jam the lower stretches of the river, and it caused severe difficulties in the area between Willow Point and the Salt Dock (at St. Clair, Michigan). All available icebreakers were sent to the area, and at one time the C.C.G.S. DES GROSEILLIERS [sic] and GRIFFON, together with U.S. C.G. MACKINAW, KATMAI BAY, BISCAYNE BAY, BRISTOL BAY and NEAH BAY, as well as several privately-owned tugs, were all working to keep traffic moving. The ice piled up to such an extent that, in some places, it was seven to ten feet in depth, and it virtually halted all traffic. The problems really came to a head on what has become known as "Black Friday", April 13th, when eighteen vessels became trapped in a l 1/2 km. section of the river. Amongst the ships involved in that "blockade" were the lakers NICOLET, FRONTENAC, ALGOSOO, CANADIAN PIONEER, THOROLD, KINSMAN INDEPENDENT, MURRAY BAY, BEAVERCLIFFE HALL, LAKETON, BUFFALO and YANKCANUCK, as well as an assortment of salt-water vessels.
The authorities were unable to close off the river to all vessel traffic, but did restrict the river to ships with at least 3,000 h.p., and forced them to proceed in convoys so that the icebreakers could assist them more readily than by expending energy on individual ships. Even so, traffic moved very slowly indeed, and there were several groundings and many near-collisions. At one time, at least fourteen ships were anchored in Lake Huron, downbound, while almost seventy were anchored below Detroit awaiting their turn at the upbound passage. The ice jam finally broke over the weekend of April 28-29, when warm temperatures and strong southerly winds (which kept further ice from pouring down into the river) allowed the breakers to get the ice moving down into Lake St. Clair.
In the meantime, however, the jam cost shippers incredible sums of money as their vessels lay at anchor for days on end. At Thunder Bay, a glut of railroad grain cars developed, for few if any ships were arriving to load grain, and the elevators were full. At the other end of the Seaway, numerous salties were waiting to load grain but could not do so because the grain was not moving down the lakes. Residents along the St. Clair River were deprived of cross-river ferry services, for the ferries could not operate in the heavy ice. DALDEAN, the ferry which runs between Sombra and Marine City, very nearly came to grief on April 7 when a rise on the river caused her to float up over the side of her slip, and a subsequent fall in the river level brought her down on top of a spile. Only a great deal of effort rescued the ferry from this precarious position. .
Not only did the ice jams create considerable interest amongst observers, but they caused the roads on both sides of the river to be packed with auto traffic, as everyone came to the river for a look. Bars along the river reported doing a land-office business! And some interesting phenomena were observed along the river, most of them due to extremely high or low water levels, both caused by ice jams. The connecting Sydenham River was at one stage the lowest ever recorded, while on April 7 the St. Clair River reached its highest stage in sixty years, putting four feet of water in the Sheriff's office at St. Clair, Michigan, and then dropping to one of its lowest levels ever. At one stage, the "rapids" in the Huron Cut (under the Blue Water Bridge) virtually stopped, with almost no movement of water through that narrow channel. Each and every person who either observed the ice blockade or was caught in it will remember the event for many years to come, and lake mariners will most certainly be hoping that never again will there be a recurrence of the conditions seen this April.
As almost anyone who lives near the Great Lakes will know, the entire region was swept by a severe windstorm on April 30th. The 46-year-old, 60-foot fishtug STANLEY CLIPPER, owned by Henry H. Misner Ltd., Port Dover, was caught out in the storm on Lake Erie, and sent distress signals during the afternoon. The tug was unable to make her way back to port, and foundered with the loss of all three of her crewmen. Divers subsequently located the wreck, southeast of Port Dover. Up at Port McNicoll on Georgian Bay, the Misener Transportation bulk carrier JOHN E. F. MISENER broke her moorings in the wind and swung across the harbour, with her stern against the grain elevator and her bow facing the old C.P.R. passenger dock. The MISENER sustained several bumps to her bow and her taffrail was dented, but the damage to the ship was relatively minor. The grain elevator, however, got the worst of the deal and suffered extensive damage, particularly to the unloading leg which was struck by the wayward freighter.
Forty years pass quickly, and it hardly seems possible (despite the poor business conditions of recent seasons) that one of the Maritime Commission class steamers of World War Two could be sold for scrapping. Those vessels have always seemed to us to be "new", but the recent thinning of the ranks of many lake fleets has meant that many of the "Maritimers" are now very much fringe units for their respective owners. The first of the fleet to go to the breakers is the Interlake Steamship Company's E. G. GRACE, which has recently been sold to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne. GRACE (U.S.243830) was built in 1943 as Hull 829 of the American Shipbuilding Company's Lorain yard, 604.8 x 60.2 x 30.2, 8758 Gross and 6472 Net. She was launched on June 17, 1943, and was thus the last of the six L6-S-A1 class ships that AmShip built for the U.S. Maritime Commission as replacements for superannuated tonnage. She was laid down as LINCOLNSHIRE, but was never officially registered under that name and never operated with it on her bows. The GRACE was powered by a four-cylinder Lentz poppet-valve engine, 21", 21", 50" and 50" x 48", which was built for her by AmShip, steam being provided by two watertube boilers which were manufactured by the Combustion engineering Company Inc. In fact, it was her engines that proved to be the undoing of GRACE, although her size has made her less than competitive as a carrier. The Lentz engines installed in the six AmShip "Maritimers" proved to be far less dependable that the triple expansion machinery that was fitted in the ten L6-S-B1 vessels that were built for the U.S.M.C. by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, and none of the AmShip boats has operated recently. It seems entirely possible that more of the "Maritimers" may soon be sold for scrapping, and Columbia's THOMAS WILSON, Cleveland-Cliffs' CHAMPLAIN, and the tinstacker SEWELL AVERY, all of them AmShip products, would appear to be likely candidates for this fate.
In an earlier issue, we reported that three veteran P. & H. Shipping steamers had been sold for scrapping at Port Maitland, and would be towed to the scrapyard during the spring of 1984. Those ships, of course, are ELMGLEN (1909), FERNGLEN (1917) and PINEGLEN (1906). The first of the trio to make the one-way trip to Port Maitland was ELMGLEN, which departed Toronto on May 2nd in tow of two McKeil tugs, and was upbound in the Welland Canal on May 3rd. It had been anticipated that ELMGLEN would be the first to go, as she was the most accessible, having been moored since last spring across the end of Pier 27 at the foot of Yonge Street. As well, ELMGLEN has been troubled with a leaking hull for several years, and frequent pumping was necessary to keep her afloat. ELMGLEN, (a) SHENANGO (58), (b) B. W. DRUCKENMILLER (64), (c) A. T. LAWSON (75), (d) GEORGE G. HENDERSON (79), (e) HOWARD F. ANDREWS (82), was Hull 62 of the Ecorse yard of the Great Lakes Engineering Works, 580.8 x 58.2 x 33.0, 8935 Gross, 6358 Net. She will long be remembered for her many years in the colourful livery of the Shenango Furnace Company, and for the beautiful accommodations that Shenango placed in her for the comfort of its guests. Parts of ELMGLEN will live on, however, for her bowthruster will be used in either WILLOWGLEN or CEDARGLEN, and her boiler automation equipment will be fitted aboard BEECHGLEN.
The intentions of the Groupe Desgagnes have now become a bit more clear in respect of the operation of the fleet which it acquired earlier this year from the now-defunct Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. The four smallest vessels of the fleet, namely CHICAGO TRIBUNE, FRANQUELIN, NEW YORK NEWS and THOROLD, are all in service and now bear the Desgagnes yellow diagonal stripe on their hulls and stacks. However, the four largest Q & 0 boats, GOLDEN HIND, MELDRUM BAY, LAC STE-ANNE and OUTARDE are all still laid up and it would appear that no effort will be made to fit out any of these ships, at least until later in the year. Sad to say, it would seem that OUTARDE, (a) ROBERT HOBSON (75), will probably never operate again, for her bottom is in rather poor shape as a result of several scrapes in the St. Lawrence River in recent seasons. Accordingly, much of her equipment, including her sewage system, has been or shortly will be installed in LAC STE-ANNE. The latter vessel had earlier been considered to be the "odd boat out" of the Desgagnes acquisitions, and we are pleased to note that there now seems to be some hope for her eventual reactivation.
Last issue, we mentioned that there was hope that ERINDALE, one of the last two ships operated by the now-defunct Westdale Shipping Ltd., might see some service during 1984. Such, however, would now seem rather improbable. ERINDALE had to be moved away from her winter berth at the Century stone dock at Humberstone, and she was, during early April, tucked away down the old section of the canal between Humberstone and Dain City. That area has become a notorious resting place for unwanted hulls, and the fact that ERINDALE is now there does not bode well for her future. Meanwhile, nothing further has been heard about the other Westdale steamer, SILVERDALE, and she is still lying at her winter lay-up berth at Windsor.
Much was said last year about the ro-ro service operated between Windsor and Thunder Bay by CARIBBEAN TRAILER, which was owned by Lakespan Shipping Inc. The service was relatively successful, but was plagued by assorted difficulties, including considerable union discontent resulting from the ship's foreign registry and crew. When CARIBBEAN TRAILER left the lakes last autumn, it was clear that she would not be returning, and there has, in the interim, been much speculation as to what ship (if any) would run the route in 1984. As it has developed, the boat which will service the route this year is none other than JENSEN STAR, (a) FRENCH RIVER, the former C.S.L. lake package freighter. JENSEN STAR is currently owned by Jensen Shipping Ltd., Montreal, which is one of the firms that, in 1983, filed formal objections to the operation of the foreign-flag CARIBBEAN TRAILER in Canadian waters.
In the April issue, we reported that the Misener Transportation motorvessel RALPH MISENER officially opened the Welland Canal with her downbound passage on March 28th, an event of particular significance in that it marked the 25th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. RALPH MISENER was actually involved in a second set of ceremonies, for on April 2nd she inaugurated the 1984 navigation season in the St. Lawrence canals. On the same day, Misener's SELKIRK SETTLER was feted as she made the first upbound passage of the year through the lower canals. It is significant and fitting that Misener ships were chosen to participate in these celebrations, for the company has long made its "home" in the Welland Canal area, for many years operated a large fleet of canallers through the old locks, and has since developed one of the most modern of the Canadian lake fleets trading regularly through the Seaway in the grain trade.
Spring is, of course, the time when the lake shipping companies fit out their boats for the new season, and announce the appointment of officers to the various vessels. One big surprise of the appointment lists for 1984 is the indication from the American Steamship Company, Buffalo, that JOHN J. BOLAND (III) will operate in 1984 The 31-year-old steamer, a self-unloader built at Manitowoc, has not operated since 1981, and has been laid up at South Chicago. It will be an unexpected pleasure to see her back in service this year.
Over the years, we have recorded numerous changes that have occurred in the freight trade between Montreal and Newfoundland, and now we have yet another development to report. During April, Atlantic Container Express Inc. took on charter, from the Carlton Steamship Company Ltd., the 5108 Gross ton ro-ro container vessel CICERO, a 482-foot motorship built in 1978 by the Smith's Dock Company Ltd., Middlesbrough. With the acquisition of CICERO, Atlantic Container Express has returned CATALINA, (a) INISHOWEN HEAD, (b) CAST BEAVER, (c) INISHOWEN HEAD, (d) SUNHERMINE, to Boreal Navigation Inc., Ste-Foy, Quebec, and LADY M. A. CROSBIE, (a) BALTIC VANGUARD, (b) CORTES, to the United Baltic Corporation Ltd., London. Atlantic Container Express was formed in 1982 by Clarke Transport Canada Inc., Canada Steamship Lines Inc., and A. Harvey & Company Ltd. CICERO, which will be brought under the Canadian flag, is a sistership of CAVALLO, which is operated between Halifax and St. John's by Atlantic Searoute Ltd., a joint venture of Fednav Ltd. and A. Harvey & Company Ltd. Both vessels were originally built for Ellerman's Wilson Line Ltd. of Hull, U.K.
The Toledo area has a new excursion vessel operating in 1984, this being the 200-passenger motorship ARAWANNA PRINCESS, which was built by Hans Hansen Inc., Toledo, for Toledo River Cruise Lines. She is typical of the many small excursion boats which operate out of the various Mississippi River cities and towns, for she has been given a fancy pilothouse, twin feathered "stacks", and a decorative sternwheel aft. Joining ARAWANNA PRINCESS on the Maumee River this summer will be SANDPIPER, a steel-hulled, diesel-powered, 65-foot "replica" of a Miami and Erie Canal barge, which is being built by The Andersons for River Adventures Inc. (The original canal barges of more than a century ago were, of course, unpowered vessels that were pulled along the waterway by mules.)
The Amoco Oil Company's tug AMOCO MICHIGAN, which spends her time shunting around the fleet's big oil barge AMOCO GREAT LAKES, got herself into a bit of trouble when, on March 17, she stranded near Whaleback Shoal in Green Bay. The tug JOHN M. SELVICK attended in an effort to free AMOCO MICHIGAN, but ran into trouble in heavy ice. The U.S.C.G. MOBILE BAY was called to the scene, and the Amoco tug was finally freed and taken to the Bay Shipbuilding drydock at Sturgeon Bay for repairs.
Another spring accident victim was the U.S.S. Great Lakes Fleet self-unloader JOHN G. MUNSON which, only a few days into her 1984 navigation season, ran onto the outer breakwater at Lorain on March 21st. The steamer damaged her bow and lost her port anchor, which will be located and reclaimed later in the season. The MUNSON proceeded on her way and underwent inspection at Conneaut, repairs having since been put in hand. At the time of the accident, JOHN G. MUNSON was engaged in a most peculiar trade, ferrying surplus taconite pellets from Conneaut to Lorain.
During the month of April, the Huron Cement Division, National Gypsum Company, was gearing up for a strike against its fleet and its plant at Alpena, Michigan. The company's veteran steamer J. B. FORD, which was not scheduled to operate in 1984, was to be towed out of her lay-up berth at Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 16, with Selvick tugs taking her to Sturgeon Bay for the removal of her propeller. This operation would permit her to be employed as a barge, running primarily into Alpena, for she would require none of the company's striking unlicensed crews to man her. Huron had been looking forward to a year of improved business and did not relish seeing it being ruined by a labour dispute. If the J. B. FORD experiment succeeds, it is possible that E. M. FORD may also be operated as a barge for the duration of the strike. The fleet had intended to keep its steamer S. T. CRAPO operating with a complete crew of officers on board. Huron may well be forced to buy Canadian cement to keep its operations going, and those of its vessels that are able to operate way well run down the Welland Canal as a result. The labour dispute revolves around Huron's demands that its unions agree to certain give-backs to keep the firm on a sound financial footing.
At long last, the former Ford Motor Company lake bulk carriers are now sporting the insignia of the Rouge Steel Company which now operates them. On their bows, the boats now carry a rust-red rectangle with a white letter 'R' on it, accompanied by the words 'The Rouge Steel Company*. The company fleet now consists of four vessels, the straight-deck steamers ERNEST R. BREECH, BENSON FORD (II) and WILLIAM CLAY FORD, and the self-unloading motorship HENRY FORD II.
Residents of Ludington, Michigan, have strenuously voiced their objections to a request made by officials at Muskegon, Michigan, for a $1.5 million low-interest state loan to help finance the inauguration of a Lake Michigan ferry service between Muskegon and Milwaukee. Folks in Ludington are seeking to protect the Michigan - Wisconsin Transportation Company, which was formed in 1983 and began to run a ferry service between Ludington and Kewaunee, with additional service to Milwaukee. Supporters of the Muskegon project argue that their planned service on the southern lake crossing would not have any adverse effects on the northern route. We would not wish to see the existing service prejudiced, but it would be pleasant to see more ferry routes operating on Lake Michigan now that all of the railroads which formerly ran cross-lake ferries have, for various reasons, abandoned their ferry services.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.