The 1985 navigation season has, in general, been a gloomy one for lake vessel operators. The economy did not really recover to the extent that had been anticipated, and available cargoes often fell short of expectations. During the summer, many ships that had operated in the spring were laid up, the doldrums particularly affecting the Canadian grain trade. There were lakers laid up in most ports on the Canadian side of the border and some were even anchored in Hamilton harbour with storage grain in their holds. There followed a series of acrimonious exchanges between the Wheat Board and the grain handlers as to why grain was not moving and whether the Lakehead elevators were full or empty (a simple matter of observation, we would have thought). Then, in mid-September, many of the idle Canadian lakers began to fit out. The four ships anchored at Hamilton headed east with their cargoes, and many boats that had been laid up light began to move to Thunder Bay for grain. At the time of this writing, there had been no formal announcement of the reason for this unexpected movement, but it was noted that most of the grain cargoes were being delivered to the deepwater ports of the lower St. Lawrence River, and that loading there were a large number of Russian salties. It would appear that there has been a massive sale of Canadian grain to the Soviet Union, and the fleets involved in moving the grain have estimated that Wheat Board requirements will keep many of their boats active throughout the rest of the current season, and perhaps into the 1986 season as well. As an example of how the grain shipments have affected Canadian fleets, the Halco organization had operated only one upper laker in the early part of 1985, but four were put in service when the grain started to move. Needless to say, shippers are ecstatic over the unexpected grain movement. Unfortunately, however, it is not expected that this grain activity will be of sufficient proportions to stop the flow of smaller and less economical lakers to lake and foreign scrapyards.
In the mid-summer issue, we commented upon the return to service of the former Canada Steamship Lines package freighter FORT YORK, which was put into operation during July as a barge. Operated by Charpat Transportation Inc., and towed at first by PRESCOTONT and ARGUE MARTIN (although it was intended that her regular tug would be TUSKER, which also had been acquired by Char-pat), she took a good load of lumber out of Thunder Bay on her first trip. Her second load was considerably smaller, and the third was hardly a load at all. FORT YORK was tied up at Windsor at the conclusion of her third voyage, and it was said that certain of the backers of the service had withdrawn their support. Nevertheless, by late September, FORT YORK was back in operation, the motive power being provided by TUSKER. It remains to be seen how long FORT YORK will remain in service.
The Marine Fueling Division, Reiss Oil Terminal Corp., has reorganized its lake bunkering service. In recent years, the company has operated the 1960-built tanker MARINE FUEL OIL, (a) L. G. LaDUCA (66), at Cleveland, while the larger, 1978-built, REISS MARINE did the necessary bunkering at Duluth. Current economic conditions have caused Reiss to discontinue its Cleveland operations and MARINE FUEL OIL was upbound at the Soo on July 28th, bound for Duluth, where she was to replace REISS MARINE. The latter vessel has been withdrawn from service, and as yet there has been no word as to her disposition. Both of these small motortankers were built at Warren, Rhode Island, by Blount Marine Industries Inc.
In previous issues, we had commented upon the reconstruction of the motorvessel ARCTIC, which was begun last winter in the shipyard at Thunder Bay. The purpose of the work was to convert ARCTIC into an oil/bulk carrier so that she might carry a more varied range of cargoes. The shipyard completed the reconstruction during mid-summer, and ARCTIC was scheduled to leave the Lakehead about the middle of July. However, problems were encountered, and she did not pass down the canal at Sault Ste. Marie until July 27th, en route to Arctic service. She will be back on the lakes during the coming winter, when Port Weller Dry Docks will reconstruct her bow.
With shipbuilding activity at a very low ebb these days, Port Weller Dry Docks has had to content itself with repair work and, as a result, employment at the yard has sunk far below the level which it attained while new construction 'was under way. It was thus with considerable pleasure that the shipyard announced on August 13th that it had concluded an arrangement for the building of a $20,000,000 passenger and freight vessel designed to service the ports of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 236-foot ship, which is to be completed in August of 1986, will provide cabin accommodation for 86 passengers and will be capable of carrying 450 cubic metres of general and refrigerated cargo. She will replace BONAVISTA on her east coast route, and will operate on a purchase option basis for C.N. Marine in conjunction with ULS International Inc.
The July 1985 issue of "Marine News", the publication of the World Ship Society, reported that KITO MARU, (a) CEDARBRANCH (II)(?8), (b) SECOLA (80), was sold by Naviera Cerralvo S.A., Mexico, to Gulmar Inc. for scrapping, and that the tanker arrived at Brownsville, Texas, on February 24, 1985. It is said that the dismantling of the vessel began during March. The motorship was, of course, best known for the two and a half decades of service that she put in with the fleet of Branch Lines Ltd., having been built for that firm by Marine Industries Ltd. at Sorel, Quebec, in 1951. Just before she left the lakes in 1979, she served briefly for Secola Shipping Ltd., an affiliate of the now-defunct Johnstone Shipping Ltd. of Toronto.
Yet another of the old Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. upper lakers has been dispatched to the scrapyard. OUTARDE (III), (a) ROBERT HOBSON (75), had been idle at Toronto since she laid up there in the autumn of 1983, the Q & 0 fleet having been dissolved at the end of that navigation season. OUTARDE never operated for the Groupe Desgagnes Inc., which purchased the Q & 0 fleet. Early in 1985, she was sold to ULS International Inc. for scrapping at Port Colborne, along with LAC STE-ANNE and MELDRUM BAY, the former having been taken to the old canal below Humberstone in the spring, and the latter still lying idle at Toronto, completely stripped out. OUTARDE lay in the Leslie Street slip at Toronto until August l6th, at which time she was towed outbound via the Western Gap. She was upbound in the Welland Canal on August 17, in tow of the tugs ATOMIC, JAMES E. McGRATH and B.J. MURER, and was placed in the scrapyard at the end of the east wall of Port Colborne harbour. Scrapping was begun within a week of OUTARDE's arrival at the scrapyard.
An interesting lake cargo record was set on August 6th, when the Columbia Transportation Division's 1,000-footer COLUMBIA STAR carried a load of 64,188 gross tons of taconite pellets downbound through the Soo Locks. In doing so, the motorvessel broke her own previous record, that of 64,068 tons, which she had set on July 11. Both of the cargoes were destined for Toledo, and set new cargo tonnage records for that port.
In the Mid-Summer issue, we reported the sale for overseas scrapping of the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company's PONTIAC (II) and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's JOHNSTOWN (II), both of these steamers having been resold via Marine Salvage Ltd. PONTIAC was towed from Ramey's Bend on May l6th, while JOHNSTOWN was towed down the Welland Canal on May 18-19. We have learned that both vessels departed Quebec City on May 28th, in tow of the Polish ocean tug KORAL, and that they arrived safely on June 24th at San Esteban de Pravia, Spain.
Back in the May issue, we commented upon the sale for scrapping of the Nipigon Transport Ltd. steamer LAKE WINNIPEG, (a) TABLE ROCK (48), (b) NIV0SE (62). In the Mid-Summer issue, we followed up with a report that LAKE WINNIPEG had departed Montreal on May 2nd, in tow of the tug IRVING CEDAR, and that her destination was Sacavem, Portugal, where she would be dismantled by Batista e Iramos Lda. We can now confirm that LAKE WINNIPEG arrived at her intended destination on May 19th. Her departure from the lakes is particularly significant, in that she is the very first 730-foot laker to be sold for scrapping.
Now that there is only one boat (CHI-CHEEMAUN) available for service on the ferry route between Tobermory and South Baymouth, it has become imperative that repairs be put in hand with the greatest possible dispatch if ever the big ferry should become disabled. A perfect example of such a situation occurred during mid-August. On the evening of Sunday, the 18th, in high winds and misty conditions, CHI-CHEEMAUN departed South Baymouth on her regular southbound trip. As she attempted to negotiate the sharp turn to port after leaving the harbour entrance, the ferry ran up on the rocky bottom and went hard aground. While CHI-CHEEMAUN was hung up on the shoal, the passengers were comforted by the dispensing of free food and beverages from the cafeteria and bar, and the crew made blankets available. In the early hours of the following morning, some 100 passengers were taken ashore in lifeboats, but 200 more remained on board the ferry during the night. After dawn on Monday, August 19, CHI-CHEEMAUN managed to work herself free of the rocks and she made her way to the South Baymouth dock for inspection. She was allowed to continue her interrupted journey to Tobermory, complete with all her passengers and their automobiles. After unloading at Tobermory, the ferry was sent straight to the shipyard at Collingwood, arriving there at 8:13 p.m. on Monday. She was put on the drydock and, with shipyard crews working around the clock to complete repairs, she was back in the water late on Tuesday . She was at Tobermory by 4:45 a.m. on Wednesday, August 21, and was scheduled to resume service with an 11:20 a.m. sailing that day. The Tobermory -South Baymouth ferry route is very heavily travelled during the summer, and any interruption in the service will produce long lineups of traffic, with travellers forced to make the long and circuitous drive around Georgian Bay if the boat is out of service for any protracted period of time.
For many years, the former Pyke Salvage Company steam tug SALVAGE PRINCE has been lying idle at Toronto, occupying various docks around the harbour in succession. At one time, the boat was occupied by a number of persons who "lived" aboard and wanted to convert the tug into a salvage vessel for Caribbean service. They removed her steam machinery and many other contents, and then departed the scene. Recently, SALVAGE PRINCE has been lying behind the west inner wall of the Eastern Gap, and thus has been a ready target for vandals who created havoc aboard and who, on several occasions, cast the tug adrift. On the latter occasions, local police launches were forced to chase after her and return her to her moorings. Then, in late August, the SALVAGE PRINCE settled to the bottom, the water line now up to her anchor pockets. The tug might have sunk due to natural causes, or she might again have been attacked by vandals, and perhaps she might even have been scuttled intentionally to prevent further wanderings about the harbour. Regardless of the cause, her sinking virtually guarantees a lengthy stay at the Eastern Gap for the once handsome but now mouldering SALVAGE PRINCE.
Amid suggestions that the fleet would soon be disposing of more of its idle tonnage, the Upper Lakes Shipping lay-up fleet at Toronto continued to grow during the summer months. QUEBECOIS and MONTREALAIS tied up alongside the north wall of Pier 35 on August 4th and 8th, respectively, and CANADIAN AMBASSADOR laid up in the ship channel, just inside the Cherry Street bridge, on August 25th. There have since been several departures, with MONTREALAIS going back into service on September 12th, QUEBECOIS on September 13, CANADIAN MARINER on September 21, and CANADIAN AMBASSADOR on September 23rd. The rest of the lay-up fleet, however, remains idle. At the time of this writing, FRANK A SHERMAN was on the face of Pier 35, WHEAT KING was on the east wall of the turning basin, and RED WING and CANADIAN HUNTER were on the north side of the Leslie Street slip. SEAWAY QUEEN was on the north wall of the ship channel, loading storage soya beans out of trucks. Of the five latter vessels, none would appear to have much hope of ever seeing any further service. WHEAT KING has been stripped of much of her navigational equipment and her sale for scrapping is considered to be imminent. (Another idle ULS steamer that recently went back into service is CANADIAN LEADER, which spent most of the summer idle at Hamilton.)
One of our Mid-Summer issue scrapping reports concerned the Hanna fleet's 730-foot steamer LEON FALK JR., (a) WINTER HILL (6l), which had been converted from an ocean tanker to a lake bulk carrier and lengthened in 1961. The FALK, long out of class, had been idle at Ecorse, Michigan, since August 15, 1980. Her registered owner, the Skar-Ore Steamship Company of Cleveland (a Hanna affiliate), sold her to the Andover Shipping Company for scrapping in Spain, and the FALK departed Ecorse under her own power on August 15th. She was downbound in the Welland Canal during the night of August 16-17, and arrived at Quebec City on August 19th. Shortly before the departure of FALK on her last trip, her near-sistership PAUL H. CARNAHAN went into lay-up at Ecorse, her certificate expiring during August. It had been said that CARNAHAN, and perhaps even the idle GEORGE M. HUMPHREY, might also follow the FALK out of the lakes for scrapping, but no action in that respect had occurred up to the time of this writing. It would appear likely that the Hanna fleet will shortly consist only of the 1,000-foot GEORGE A. STINSON, which has gone through a recent ownership reorganization (allegedly involving the Skar-Ore affiliate), and which will continue to serve the Hanna interests. Certain rumours had been circulating concerning a possible sale of the STINSON, but they subsequently have proved to be unfounded.
Another scrap sale reported in our last issue was that of the Carryore Ltd. steamer MENIHEK LAKE. The Hanna interests (which control Carryore) had decided that this beautiful 26-year-old vessel was no longer economical to operate, and she was sold for dismantling in Spain. MENIHEK LAKE had been idle at Hamilton since the summer of 1984, but was fitted out early in August of 1985 for her final voyage. She departed Hamilton during the evening of August 15th, and she arrived at Quebec City on August 17. MENIHEK LAKE and LEON FALK JR. departed Quebec on August 30th in tow of the tug CAPT. IOANNIS S. Meanwhile, there has been much speculation concerning the future of MENIHEK LAKE'S Carryore fleetmate, the 25-year-old CAROL LAKE. She does not have a promising future (being slightly less than full Seaway size and, like MENIHEK LAKE, a steamer), but it has been said that the current grain movement may prompt her owner to operate her this fall. Even so, she may well be sold for scrap during 1986. Only time will tell...
Over the last several years, we have been called upon to report the closing of various lake shipyards, but we are now pleased to comment upon the reopening of a shipyard, a rare event indeed in these times of depressed economic conditions. The American Shipbuilding Company closed its Toledo yard in 1983, and prospects for the resumption of shipbuilding activities at Toledo were bleak. However, the Toledo - Lucas County Port Authority retained hopes of seeing the shipyard reactivated, and the Authority purchased the facility in March of this year. It refurbished the yard's two drydocks (545 and 660 feet in length) and its gantry cranes, and has leased the facility to Merce Industries Inc., which will operate the yard. Ceremonies to mark the reopening of the shipyard, which has been renamed Toledo Shipyard, were held on September 5th. Meanwhile, in late August, Merce announced that it had signed a contract to build at the Toledo yard a 360-foot, self-unloading, bulk cement barge for the St. Mary's Peerless Cement Company. Construction of the barge was begun on September 3rd, and the vessel is scheduled to be delivered in April of 1986.
Readers will recall our earlier reports of the difficulties encountered by the veteran DREDGE PRIMROSE, a former denizen of the Canadian Dredge and Dock Company Ltd. boneyard at Kingston. In 1984, she was sold to the Acton Salvage Company for scrapping, but she sank whilst being towed from Kingston. She was eventually salvaged, but Acton went into receivership and the Federal Court ordered PRIMROSE sold to offset salvage costs. Recently, PRIMROSE was sold to the highest of two bidders, the Keen Kraft Marina Company Ltd., which plans to refit her as a floating restaurant, to be located at a marina at South Pickering, on Lake Ontario east of Toronto. Keen Kraft got PRIMROSE for the sum of $10,000 but that is a mere pittance compared with the staggering costs which will be encountered in refitting the old dredge.
An unusual visitor to Toronto on August 27th was C.C.G.S. SAMUEL RISLEY, a most peculiar-looking Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. The vessel, newly built on the west coast, is the long-awaited replacement for the retired ALEXANDER HENRY. She was on her way to her home base at Thunder Bay when she called at Toronto. ALEXANDER HENRY, of course, is now serving as a floating museum at Kingston.
In the Mid-Summer issue, amongst the reports of so many scrappings of lake vessels, we noted that the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company had applied to the U.S. Maritime Administration for permission to sell its famous racer CLIFFS VICTORY for dismantling in Taiwan. We understand that the intended purchaser is the Hai International Corp., of Monrovia, Liberia. At one time, it had been suggested that CLIFFS VICTORY might eventually become a floating museum at Toledo, but any such use of the ship is now out of the question. It is now said that WILLIS B. BOYER, (a) COL. JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER (69), also of the Cliffs fleet, may take the VICTORY'S place on display at Toledo if the museum concept ever comes to fruition.
The evening of September 3rd found U.S. Steel's self-unloader PHILIP R. CLARKE downbound light in the Black River at Lorain after unloading. The 767-foot steamer failed to negotiate a bend in the river and she ran foul of the Drawbridge Cove Marina, sinking one yacht and damaging at least ten others as well as the marina's docks and pilings. The CLARKE, which did not suffer any serious damage in the incident, was stopped just short of the Route 6 bridge. The cause of the mishap is under investigation.
The American Steamship Company's 770-foot self-unloader ST. CLAIR got into trouble at Duluth on September 2nd, while leaving port after loading a cargo of coal. Just as the motorship was entering the Duluth Ship Canal, vibration caused a wire in the engine controls to fracture, resulting in an automatic shutdown of the machinery. The vessel was manoeuvred through the draw of the aerial bridge with only her bow and stern thrusters for power, but the ST. CLAIR did strike the side of the channel, damaging her hull plating in the process. A heavy wind was blowing at the time, and it pushed ST. CLAIR back toward the bridge, which again had to be lifted. The big laker was again steered through the draw by means of the thrusters and, once back inside the harbour, she was taken in tow by tugs. Repairs were put in hand at the Duluth Port Terminal.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.