Casualties were unfortunately rather numerous during the summer of this year and perhaps the most serious of the various accidents was the grounding of the E. J. BLOCK in the St. Mary's River late in July. The bulk carrier, a unit of the Inland Steel fleet, struck bottom in the Middle Neebish channel near Sailors' Encampment and damaged thirty-two plates on the starboard side. Repairs were immediately commenced at Fraser Shipyards in Superior and were estimated at a quarter million dollars.
The morning of July 29th brought fog to the Soo area and the U. S. Steel steamer, D. G. KERR, downbound in the St. Mary's River, grounded at Mission Point which is located on the Soo, Michigan, side of the river at the upper end of Little Rapids Cut. The freighter swung in the current until she was facing upriver completely blocking the dock of the Sugar Island Ferry. The ship was moved under her own power after several hours. Fortunately, the ferry SUGAR ISLANDER escaped damage as she was on the other side of the river at the time, but we understand that several prominent residents of the island were a little upset over the interruption of service.
A rather strange accident occurred on July 18th at Superior. The bulk carrier, KINSMAN INDEPENDENT, was docked at the Burlington Northern ore dock for loading when she was struck directly on the stern by her sistership, the U. S. Steel steamer, WILLIAM J. FILBERT. The latter was approaching the dock when a gust of wind reportedly swung her out of control. The Kinsman ship suffered extensive damage and repairs were undertaken by Fraser Shipyards. The FILBERT was undamaged. KINSMAN INDEPENDENT formerly sailed as the FRANCIS E. HOUSE for U. S. Steel. Another strange incident occurred aboard the Detroit River carfloat, ROANOKE, the former CITY OF FLINT 32, which entered service on July 1st, Only in service a week and a half, she was docked at Windsor on July 10th when a string of boxcars broke loose and ran down the yard towards the dock. The engineer of yard engine 6705, which was just pulling 21 cars off the deck of ROANOKE, saw the cars coming and jumped clear just before the collision. The impact reportedly demolished the engine as well as one boxcar and a flatcar. In addition, the whole train was driven backwards on the deck of the ferry and a number of cars were derailed on striking stopblocks. We understand that ROANOKE had to be towed to Nicholson's Dock in Ecorse to have the wreckage lifted off the deck!
The barge WILTRANCO made an unusual departure from her Lake Michigan trade in early August when she made a trip to Silver Bay to load taconite for Cleveland. Towed by the big tug, OLIVE L. MOORE, the barge is now owned by the Escanaba Towing Company, and has been reregistered in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, It is also noted that the numeral 1 has been dropped from her name.
The completion of the new U. S. Steel ship under construction at Lorrain has been delayed by the switch from a large Fairbanks Morse diesel to two smaller Pielstick units. We understand that propulsion problems had been worrying the officials of the steel company for some time.
The Great Lakes area has lost its last lightship. The HURON, which was stationed in Lake Huron above the entrance to the St. Clair River, was removed on August 19th and taken in to Port Huron for ceremonies. On August 24th, she moved under her own power to Detroit where the official decommissioning took place on August 25th. Several groups have announced interest in obtaining the veteran lightship for museum purposes. Not only was HURON the last lightship on the Lakes, but she was the only U.S. lightship ever to be painted with a black hull.
It has been announced that the bulk carriers WILLIAM P. SNYDER JR. and WILLIS B. BOYER have been sold by Pickands Mather & Co., Interlake Steamship Division, to Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. in a move which would appear to prepare Cliffs for the takeover of the contract to haul Republic Steel ore starting in 1972. Both ships were formerly units of the Shenango fleet until their sale to P. M. several years ago. The BOYER, formerly the COL. JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER, has operated under charter to Republic since the sale. The SNYDER will take up her new duties in 1971 while the BOYER will go to Cliffs following the expiry of the present charter to Republic at the beginning of the 1972 season. With all due apologies to the fleets involved, these two handsome vessels have never looked as good in P. M. or Republic colours as they did in Shenango's distinctive livery, and it will be most interesting to see how they look with Cliffs' green on their massive forward cabins.
One of the oldest vessels on the lakes, the self-unloading sandboat, JOSEPH S. SCOBELL, has been sold by the Erie Sand Steamship Co. to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne, for scrapping at Humberstone. The ship has been inactive at Sandusky since 1968. The SCOBELL was built in 1891 by the Cleveland Shipbuilding Co. and entered service for the Lake Superior Iron Mining Co. as GRIFFIN. She had served in many trades over the years and had been converted to diesel power for her service with Erie Sand.
The McNamara sandsucker, CHARLES R. HUNTLEY, has returned to the lakes after several years on the East Coast and is now operating in the Hamilton area. Her appearance has changed considerably since she is no longer propelled by her steam engines, but rather by two Harbormaster marine outboards. Along the same lines, we understand that the Lake Erie drillboat, NORDRILL, formerly the C.S.L. canaller, SIMCOE, has been fitted with the same type of unit so that she may move about the lake under her own power.
The Halco tanker, CHEMICAL TRANSPORT, made two long trips to Freeport, Texas, earlier this year, to pick up cargoes of caustic soda for delivery in Eastern Canada, This was the first visit of a Hall tanker to the Gulf of Mexico. Another travelling laker is the FORT ST. LOUIS of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. The package freighter cleared Montreal on August 14th for a forty-five day trip to deliver cargo to government installations in the Arctic, She was fitted with a helicopter to deliver cargo in areas without usable docking facilities.
The Papachristidis bulk carrier, FEUX-FOLLETS, has carried several unusual mixed cargoes of grain and bentonite down the Seaway this year. The bentonite, loaded in Chicago, has been taken to Sept-Iles, Quebec.
The newest unit of the Algoma Central Railway's fleet took the water at Collingwood Shipyards on August 27th. Given the name AGAWA CANYON, in honour of the famous scenic canyon northwest of the Sault to which the railway runs special excursions, the self-unloading bulk carrier is expected to enter service late in the fall. Unfortunately, the ship was the scene of an explosion only the following week. One shipyard worker was killed when "fumes" ignited in the cargo hold.
In our last issue, we reported that the Halco tanker, FUEL TRANSPORT, had fitted out and left the lakes after being sold to Panamanian buyers. It has now come to light that she was sold to the same firm that has taken so many other canallers and that she has been renamed WITFUEL. We are fast running out of available canallers!
The future of another Hall tanker, INLAND TRANSPORT, would seem to be in considerable doubt. She operated this spring, but laid up at Toronto July 16th. On August 3rd, she was towed out by the tug, HERBERT A. and went down Lake Ontario but her destination has not as yet been confirmed.
It is reported that the PARKDALE arrived at Carthagena, Spain, on June 8th where will be scrapped. In our May issue, we stated that PARKDALE and ALEXANDER LESLIE had departed Quebec in tandem tow behind the tug, SALVONIA, on May 12th. In view of the fact that we have no arrival date for LESLIE, we wonder whether she did not go as reported.
Speaking of lakers that have gone overseas for scrapping, many of our members will recall that, shortly after the parade of scrappings started, there were rumours about that several old lakers were operating in the Mediterranean area. Most historians had dismissed this information as there could be no verification. We have now learned that a visitor to Europe has reportedly observed the former laker PIONEER operating in the Adriatic Sea, so it looks as if there is still some digging to be done on the subject. PIONEER passed down the Welland Canal en route overseas on September 19th, 1961.
The steam tug, GRAEME STEWART, has now arrived at the Hamilton yard of United Metals for scrapping. The veteran tug was well known on the lower lakes and was responsible for towing out many of the lakers scrapped over the past decade.
The Hindman canaller, ELIZABETH HINDMAN, was sold this summer to a Thunder Bay firm which resold her to the American firm of Hyman-Michaels for scrapping. She arrived at Duluth on August 24th in tow of the tug, DANA T. BOWEN.
We have word that the tug and barge combination of LAUREN CASTLE and SEA CASTLE (JOHN L. A. GALSTER), is now back in the Lake Michigan cement trade. The barge was laid up earlier in the year while LAUREN CASTLE was off assisting the Roen barge LILLIAN which was involved in the construction of the new Detroit water intake in Lake Huron above Sarnia. LILLIAN had a large industrial crane fitted on her deck for the special job.
During the month of August, your editor had a chance of seeing once again the big Straits icebreaking carferry CHIEF WAWATAM, and we can state that she is alive and well and living at St. Ignace! The railroad ferry still operates a regular, although rather infrequent, service from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City. Readers will recall that she only recently emerged victorious from the onslaught of the MUSKEGON-MANISTEE tug and barge unit brought to the Straits by the Bultema Dock & Dredge Co. The State of Michigan had forced the recommissioning of the famous icebreaker as a result of the helplessness of the MANISTEE in the heavy ice which plugs the Straits each winter. Nevertheless, the 'Big Chief' has once again come into the news as a result of a petition by the Mackinac Transportation Co., a joint operation of the Soo Line and Penn Central, to abandon the service. For the second time in recent years, area residents have formed a committee to save the CHIEF WAWATAM, since the interruption of the service could lead to a cutback in railroad service to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The group seems to carry considerable support and we hope that their efforts are successful as the CHIEF has become something of a "landmark" in the area.
On September 14th, the tug HERBERT A. left Cleveland with the old steam dredge KING COAL, and the derrick scow, AFT (the former after end of the STEEL KING). Both hulls had been sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. for scrapping at Humberstone. They had been owned by Esco Dredge & Fill Co. Late on the 14th, the tow ran into heavy weather and KING COAL sank in about 36 feet of water just offshore to the west of Fairport. HERBERT A. and AFT arrived safely at Port Colborne.
The barge, WILTRANCO, was in the news again when she broke loose from the tug, OLIVE L. MOORE, in heavy seas on Lake Huron on September 15th. The barge was soon recaptured but her rudder was damaged in the process and it was necessary to call for help from the Roen tug, JOHN PURVES. The two tugs together managed to make only about 4 m.p.h. with the cranky barge. Then, on September 18th, the PURVES ran aground in the Livingstone Channel of the Detroit River during fog and the barge blocked traffic in the narrow channel for some time. The PURVES was finally freed and the tow reached Cleveland on September 19th. This must be one of the longest voyages in recent years since the barge had cleared Silver Bay on September 3rd.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.