The ideas for feature articles in this series often come from our members in the form of suggestions or requests, sometimes for specific vessels and occasionally for any ship of a particular fleet. It may well be that the near-extinction of general cargo services on the lakes has stirred up interest in the package freight operations of the old Tree Line, and it may simply be that today's marine historians have developed a particular fascination with the fleet of unusual stemwinders that the company operated. Either way, we have received several requests to feature some of the Tree Line steamers, and to such requests we most readily accede. In fact, on only one previous occasion have we featured one of the Tree Line stemwinders (see TRANSLAKE, Ship of the Month No. 98 - January, 1981). Accordingly, this time around, we are pleased to present the story of what was, perhaps, the most famous (or, rather, infamous) of them, the one out of ten that will remain forever on, or should we say under, the Great Lakes.
The ten cabins-aft canal steamers that were to form the backbone of the Tree Line fleet were built in 1919, 1920 and 1921 by assorted French shipyards. The contracts for their construction were awarded by the French government, which intended the ships for coastal service as colliers. All ten of the vessels were of generally similar dimensions and appearance, and all of them were named for professions which were somehow related to ships, their construction and the materials from which they were built, or their operation. The boats were christened CHARPENTIER (carpenter), GREEUR (rigger), MARINIER (mariner), MINEUR (miner), PEINTRE (painter), PERCEUR (driller), RIVEUR (riveter), SOUTIER (stoker), TOLIER (sheet-ironworker) and TOURNEUR (lathe operator). The only major differences amongst the various ships of this class were that five of them were built with two-cylinder compound engines, while the remaining five had more modern triple expansion machinery. Regardless, all had two engines each to drive their twin screws, and all were considered to be somewhat underpowered.
OAKBAY began her life as (a) MARINIER when she was built in 1919 by Chantiers de Normandie at Grand Quevilly, a town located within the City of Rouen, on the River Seine in the northwestern area of France. She was 219.2 feet in length, with a beam of 35.0 feet and depth of 13.2 feet. Her tonnage, at the time that she was brought into Canadian registry, was measured as 1265 Gross and 694 Net. She had three cargo holds, with capacities of 650, 500 and 450 tons.
MARINIER was powered by two fore-and-aft compound engines that were built for her by Chantiers de Penhoet at St. Nazaire, France. There is, however, disagreement on the actual measurements of her engines. Lloyd's Register of Shipping indicates that they had cylinders of 15 and 30 inches and a stroke of 18 inches, while the Record of the American Bureau of Shipping shows the cylinders as 16 and 30 inches, and the stroke as 20 inches. As the machinery in each of the vessels differed slightly in cylinder and stroke, we have no way of ascertaining, at this late date, which of the measurements might be correct, although we suspect that Lloyd's figures may be the more accurate .
In any event, MARINIER's machinery produced Nominal Horsepower of 66 and Indicated Horsepower of 715. Steam at a working pressure of 125 p.s.i. was supplied by two coal-fired, single-ended, Scotch boilers which measured 12.5 feet by 10.5 feet, and which apparently were built for the ship by the engine manufacturer. Both engines and boilers would serve the vessel, without any major alteration, throughout her relatively short life.
MARINIER was a most unusual steamer, as also were her nine near-sisters. She possessed a remarkable sheer on such a small hull, and her bow was gracefully flared, with a raked stem, as was common on coasters of the day. She carried a full forecastle, with a closed rail which ran back for a short distance from the stem. Some of the "group of ten" had large openings cut into the closed rail to allow the mooring lines to pass to the forward winch located on the forecastle head, but MARINIER had only a crude sort of fairlead perched atop the rail on each side.
MARINIER's spar deck was raised up by means of a full length trunk, into which were fitted her three large hatches, which measured 24 feet by 40 feet. Her quarterdeck was flush with the top of the trunk, and the large after cabin was completely closed in with plating that ran down its sides and around the stern. Her counter was particularly long and rose upward and outward to a point about half-way up the closed-in cabin; it then reversed direction, and curved inboard to the edge of the boat deck. We have no idea why the after ends of these ships were constructed in such a peculiar manner, but it may well have been thought that such a design would help to throw off the heavy seas that these little colliers might encounter in the English Channel and out on the North Sea.
On the five steamers that had triple expansion engines, the forward ends of the sides of the after cabin were recessed, with the centre section of the cabin extending forward to the break of the quarterdeck. In the case of MARINIER and her four sisters with the fore-and-aft compound machinery, there was no forward extension of the centre part of the cabin. At the forward end of the boat deck above, sat her small, five-windowed, varnished wooden pilothouse, which was protected from the elements by nothing more than a canvas dodger that ran across the rail at the forward edge of the boat deck. Above the pilothouse was an open navigation bridge which was equipped with wide bridgewings, and a weathercloth was also carried on the rails in this area.
MARINIER's boat deck looked rather bare. Apart from the pilothouse, the only large pieces of equipment on deck were the two large lifeboats. There were a few small ventilators and a thin pole mast which rose in the very short space between the pilothouse and the tall but thin and unraked stack. Perhaps the most notable features of the steamer's after end were two enormous ventilator cowls that rose like rabbit's ears, high over the back of the pilothouse, one on either side of the ship.
MARINIER and her sisters were duly commissioned in the service of the government of France. Five of the ships were almost immediately given new names of French geographical nature, but the remainder, including MARINIER, kept their original names throughout their few short years of French service. Apart from the fact that the boats were designed as colliers, we know nothing of their service in those early years, and it is not surprising that we likewise have no idea why five of them were given new names. As a matter of fact, we do not even know whether there may have been other vessels operating in the service of the French government, which may have been built to the same design.
In 1922, the Ogilvie Flour Mills Company Ltd., Montreal, decided to enter the lake shipping industry so that the company itself could control the supply of grain for its mills. Accordingly, it formed a subsidiary which was called the Bay Line Navigation Company Ltd., Montreal, and its first three ships were acquired during the winter of 1922-23. They were the old wooden bulk carriers BIRCHBAY, (a) HARRY A. PACKER (19), (b) ERIC W. (23); PALMBAY, (a) PUEBLO (16), (b) RICHARD W. (23), and YEWBAY, (a) CUMBERLAND (13), (b) COLLINGE (16), (c) STUART W. (23). These veteran steamers were formerly operated by the Canada Import Company, which was controlled by the Webster family of Montreal, and it so happened that some of its directors also sat on the board of Ogilvie Flour Mills. For business reasons, it was considered expedient that Bay Line Navigation should acquire the three boats, but they were little more than obsolete tonnage, and none lasted long with the fleet. BIRCHBAY was wrecked in 1923, and YEWBAY and PALMBAY were retired in 1924 and 1925, respectively.
Ogilvie, quite understandably, sought to acquire more suitable vessels for its service but, in the meantime, was also forced to find a new name for its fleet. The old and powerful Hudsons Bay Company operated ships under its Bay Steamship Company Ltd., and did not appreciate the fact that Ogilvie had chosen a similar name for its new lake services. The Hudsons Bay Company threatened that legal action would be instituted unless Ogilvie hacked off, and thus the Bay Line Navigation Company Ltd. was retitled the Tree Line Navigation Company Ltd., Montreal.
Be all this as it may, Ogilvie had learned of the ten small French colliers which, apparently, were available for purchase. Even though they were somewhat smaller than full canal size, it was considered that they would be suitable for hauling grain from the Canadian Lakehead to the company's mills at Montreal. The purchase of the vessels for Ogilvie was handled by the Anderson Company of Canada, Montreal, and by its subsidiary, Anderson Overseas Corporation (France). The actual transfer of the ships took place under the supervision of Capt. H. N. McMaster, who became general manager of Bay Line/Tree Line. Each of the ten ships was registered to an individual new company, and by May of 1923, most of them were en route across the Atlantic under their own power. By the early summer, all of them had arrived safely at Montreal, and proceeded into the lakes.
Not long after their arrival on the lakes, OAKBAY and her sisters were refitted so that they would be more suitable for their new duties. The refitting of OAKBAY was handled by the Montreal Dry Dock and Ship Repairing Company. On her rather heavy pole foremast, which was set at the break of the forecastle, a cargo boom was fitted, and a kingpost with two cargo booms was added on the spar deck between the second and third hatches. A steam winch was placed on either side of the kingpost, not only to handle the mooring lines, but also to work the cargo hoisting equipment. It may have been at this same time that OAKBAY was given a new mainmast, a very scrawny pipe mast which was stepped in the same spot as had been its predecessor.
In addition, a rather handsome wooden upper pilothouse was built on the old open bridge. It had four small windows and one large centre window in its front, with a small sunvisor over the big centre window to improve visibility. Some of the ships carried awning frames set over the wings astride the new wheelhouse but it does not appear that OAKBAY was ever so equipped. It is interesting to note that, for some peculiar reason, all of the ships fitted with compound engines (ASHBAY, BEECHBAY, ELMBAY, OAKBAY and PINEBAY) got pilothouses with five windows, while the vessels equipped with triple expansion machinery (CEDARBAY, MAPLEBAY, POPLARBAY, SPRUCEBAY and WILLOWBAY) received similar pilothouses but with seven windows.
A very colourful livery was chosen for OAKBAY and her nine near-sisters. Her hull was painted a very dark green, and the forecastle rail was white. In later years, the whole upper section of the forecastle (above the level of the top of the trunk) also became white. The cabins were white, with the exception of the old lower pilothouse, whose woodwork was varnished. Her stack was black, with a large white letter 'T'. On the bow appeared the white outline of a shield, within which were painted the letters 'T.L.N.' in white. The 'T' was the largest of the three letters and was centred in the shield, with the smaller 'L' and 'N' appearing on its left and right, respectively. Sometime between 1926 and 1931, OAKBAY was given an additional decorative touch. Painted across the front of her pilothouse, below the windows, was a large red pennant, on which appeared her name in white letters. As far as we know, the only other Tree Line stemwinder to have any such decoration was CEDARBAY, which at one time carried her name in large and fancy letters across the entire front of the pilothouse.
Although it was originally intended that OAKBAY and her sisters would operate primarily in the grain trade from the Lakehead and from various transfer ports (such as Port Colborne) to the mills at Montreal, Ogilvie also arranged to carry cargoes such as coal, sugar and pulpwood whenever they came to be available. Each year, in fact, several Tree Line boats would call at Toronto to unload sugar. It did not take the Tree Line long to discover that there was a demand for more lake vessels to carry package freight, and as its boats were suitable for that trade, they began to carry more and more general cargo as time passed. By 1928, the Tree Line was well established in the package freight trade between Montreal and Fort William, with calls at major way ports, and in time the service was extended to include stops at Chicago and other large Lake Michigan ports.
In the general cargo trade, the Tree Line operated in direct competition with Canada Steamship Lines, the conglomerate which had bought out the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. in 1920. The Tree Line's manager was J. D. Calvin, a member of the famous Calvin family of Garden Island, Ontario. The Calvins had long been associated with Montreal Transportation, and it was the M.T.Co. boats that, for many years, had carried the grain to the Ogilvie mills. The Ogilvie connection lasted up until 1920, when the remains of the M.T.Co. were formally swallowed up by C.S.L. (The Montreal Transportation fleet had been operated in conjunction with C.S.L. ever since 1916, when Roy M. Wolvin, one of the founders of C.S.L., had acquired control of M.T.Co.)
It is apparent that the demise of the Montreal Transportation fleet was one of the factors that had led to the decision by Ogilvie (probably with some Calvin prodding) to purchase its own fleet. Eventually, of course, the Tree Line would become a division of C.S.L. (this happened in 1937), but OAKBAY had left the fleet by that time, and so the history of the fleet from the point of her departure onward is irrelevant to our present considerations.
At first, the Tree Line package freight service was very successful. As may well be imagined, however, the onset of the Great Depression hit the general cargo trade very heavily, and business soon fell off to the extent that the Tree Line found it difficult to keep its handsome little canallers busy. In 1935, the company began to dispose of its ships, and by 1939 all but two of the stemwinders had been sold. (ELMBAY remained with the fleet until 1942, and SPRUCEBAY until 1945.)
OAKBAY was one of the first to be sold, for she and ASHBAY left the Tree Line fleet in 1935. ASHBAY was sold to Brazilian owners, and was soon taken away to salt water, but OAKBAY found Canadian buyers that would keep her on the lakes. On April 15, 1935, OAKBAY was sold to Capt. Henry C. Daryaw of Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario. Henry Daryaw was one of the sons of the well-known Capt. Chauncey Daryaw, who had sailed in such famous vessels as the schooner QUEEN OF THE LAKES. Henry himself entered the shipping business at an early age and was in command of Lake Ontario schooners prior to the turn of the century. His son, Henry, joined him in the shipping industry, and together they owned several wooden schooners and steam barges, operating in the coal trade on eastern Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River.
The Daryaws had the steamer refitted specially for their needs. The cargo boom was taken off the foremast, and the kingpost and its booms were removed from the spar deck. In their place was fitted an A-frame which sat on a platform which was raised above the tops of the hatches. Slung from the A-frame was a 66-foot boom equipped with a clam-shell bucket. The DARYAW ran almost exclusively in the coal trade, normally picking up her cargoes at New York State ports on Lake Ontario, and delivering them to Canadian ports such as Trenton, Kingston and Brockville.
HENRY C. DARYAW was apparently quite successful in her new service, and it seems likely that she would have carried on in it indefinitely had not the Second World War intervened. By late in 1941, the war had caused a great demand for tonnage on salt water to assist in the allied efforts, and many Canadian canallers had gone off to deep-sea service. The DARYAW was seen as a ship that might be used to advantage in the east coast coal trade and also in bunkering service, and at the close of the 1941 lake navigation season she was chartered to the Canadian government for just such a purpose.
The DARYAW was made ready for her trip to the coast and, on Thursday, November 20, 1941, she loaded a cargo of coal at Sodus, New York, for delivery to Dalhousie, New Brunswick. She then set off on her way eastward, under the command of Capt. Hyacinth Latraverse of Montreal, and with Henry Daryaw, Jr., aboard as a member of the crew. The upper St. Lawrence River was shrouded with fog when the DARYAW passed downbound, and it was necessary for her to proceed with caution, for she was not equipped with the various electronic aids to navigation that are available today.
At about 4:00 a.m. on Friday, November 21st, 1941, HENRY C. DARYAW lost her way in the fog, and ran foul of a shoal in the Brockville Narrows section of the river, a stretch of water that has claimed many vessels as its victims over the years. The engines were reversed, and by about 5:30 a.m. the steamer had been able to work her way off the shoal, but in so doing she had gored her hull on the rocks, and she began to take on water rapidly.
HENRY C. DARYAW settled with a severe port list and with her bow down. Only the top of her stack, the after part of the boat deck, the starboard side of her fantail, and the starboard sidelight at the tip of her bridgewing, were visible above the water. Tonnage was still very much in demand for the war effort, so much so that salvage of the DARYAW was attempted. However, her perch on the rocky shoal was precarious in the extreme and, during the salvage efforts, she slipped off the rocks and sank. The hull was eventually found to be resting, upside down, in some ninety feet of water, and it remains there to this day.
The OAKBAY/DARYAW will long be remembered by those who knew the Tree Line boats, and also by those residents of the Kingston and Brockville areas who recall her comings and goings in the local coal trade. She will also be remembered for the interesting triple-chime whistle which she sported. Most of the Tree Line stemwinders blew only rather plain, single-note whistles as they went about their business, but OAKBAY had somehow managed to acquire a chime, from where we have absolutely no idea. It served her well for the rest of its life and what remained of her own.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.