The Upper Lakes Shipping bulk carrier WHEAT KING has been wintering in the drydock at Port Weller where she was undergoing extensive repair work, including the removal of steam auxiliary facilities aboard. On Wednesday, February 2nd, while workmen were welding in the after end of the motorship, oily waste caught fire and the flames spread to the bilges. Prompt effort by the drydock firefighting team and the St. Catharines fire department confined the actual fire to the after end of the shaft compartment but the resultant heat and smoke caused heavy damage in the crew's accommodations. According to the latest reports reaching us, it would appear that damage is relatively extensive but that repairs will be carried out and the vessel is expected to return to service in the Spring.
The longest ore shipping season ever seen on the Great Lakes closed on February 1st, 1972, with the downbound passage at the Soo of the U.S. Steel bulk carriers BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS and ENDERS M. VOORHEES in that order. The previous record for late navigation at the Soo was set the previous winter when the ore carriers of the same fleet closed the locks on January 29th. The FAIRLESS and VOORHEES passed down to Lake Michigan with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard tug ARUNDEL and icebreaker MACKINAW. The passage through Lake Michigan was made with the assistance of the breaker EDISTO and, after unloading, both steamers went into winter quarters at Milwaukee. The FAIRLESS unloaded her cargo at Gary, Indiana, while the VOORHEES had been bound for South Chicago.
A new shipping company recently incorporated in Cleveland has announced plans to commence operations in the Spring. The firm, Marine Transit Inc., has been formed by four Cleveland lawyers, a law professor and two former executives of the Wilson Marine Transit Co. The company intends to offer employment opportunities to minority ethnic groups. Marine Transit Inc. apparently has a commitment to purchase two bulk carriers from an as yet unnamed fleet and is reportedly negotiating for as many as four self-unloaders. It is to be expected that the bulk carriers will come from the Wilson fleet and that the self-unloaders are the four that American Steamship Co. has suggested it would like to sell, but no confirmation has yet been received. The company claims to have several cargo contracts lined up to keep its vessels active.
Whenever a municipality goes on an austerity drive, it is bound to mean that the public will lose some facility which will be sorely missed. The city of Detroit has been having its problems with financing recently and this has had two effects on persons sharing a marine interest. Firstly, the cutback has forced the fire department to lay up its big steam firetug JOHN KENDALL, for years a familiar sight on the river. The 128 foot two-stacker was built in 1929 at Toledo and was recently best known for her melodic triple chime whistle which she inherited, in reverse chronological order, from JESSE JAMES, E. G. MATHIOTT and R. E. MOODY. The KENDALL was decommissioned on January 27th and there seems little chance that she will be reactivated. The second result of the municipal money troubles is that the Dossin Museum, which houses the Great Lakes Maritime Institute and a sizeable collection of marine material, is in danger of having to close its doors to the public. The Museum is currently trying to avoid that possibility by staging a major drive for funds.
A charge of violating the Beach Protection Act which had been laid against the Ontario Lake Erie Sand Co. Ltd., was dismissed in Windsor on January 13th. It had been alleged that the sandsucker W. M. EDINGTON had, on September 17th, 1969, taken a load of sand from an area in Lake Erie that she had not been licensed to work. A similar charge against the National Sand steamer CHARLES DICK had previously led to a conviction.
Residents of the Michigan Sault's Sugar Island area have once more been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the ferry service provided across Little Rapids Cut by the Wellington Transportation Company's carferry SUGAR ISLANDER. Late navigation forced ice to pack into the restricted channel and the ferry encountered severe difficulties in maintaining its schedule during the latter part of January. In addition, the ferry further downstream operating between DeTour and Drummond Island was also forced to abandon attempts to fight the heavy ice. Emergency service on both routes was provided by the Coast Guard. Some of the Sugar Islanders have petitioned U. S. government representatives to provide an ice-breaking ferry for the area. One wonders what their tax bill would look like should such a ferry be provided,.....
Yankcanuck Steamships Ltd., which has for two years, been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Algoma Steel Corporation, became the Marine Division, Algoma Steel Corp., at the beginning of 1972. The former owner of the fleet, Capt. P. Manzzutti, will apparently remain in a consulting capacity until his retirement this May.
The McQueen tug AMHERSTBURG has been fitted at Sturgeon Bay with certain electronic equipment designed to assist in the location of underwater Arctic oil fields. The tug has been testing the machinery in the ice of Green Bay, Lake Michigan.
Another vessel has been added to the rapidly growing fleet of the Consortium Ile d'Orleans, the group concerned with the St. Lawrence dredging project. The ship that we reported in the last issue as named ILE D'ORLEANS is not, in fact, the old BULKARIER, but rather the east coast dredge LOADMASTER. This vessel was long known on the lakes as Upper Lakes & St. Lawrence Transportation's canaller NORMAN B. MacPHERSON. She was sold in 1959 and left the lakes that fall, being converted to a dredge by the St. John Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. Ltd. She was operated by that firm first as a steamer and latterly as a barge. In 1967 she was sold to Engineering Consultants Ltd., Saint John, and was fitted with outboard propulsion. She was acquired by McNamara Construction in 1971 and was refitted at Whitby. In the interim, she has returned to the Sorel area in preparation for her new duties. She has been transferred to the ownership of the consortium and the rename has been officially registered.
Three more wartime-built lakers are being updated during the winter months. The tinstackers SEWELL AVERY and ROBERT C. STANLEY are having their decks strapped while in lay-up at Superior, Wisconsin, while Columbia's FRANK PURNELL is getting new plating in her holds as well as automated boiler controls, this work being done at Cleveland.
Salvage experts are currently attempting to devise a method of raising the burned out hulk of the liner QUEEN ELIZABETH which now lies on its side in the mud of Hong Kong harbour. The consensus of opinion seems to be that further operation of the ship is next to impossible and so she will probably be removed for scrap. Unfortunately, the bottom of the harbour is covered by an extremely mobile layer of mud and it is feared that this will have seeped into the ship, greatly increasing the weight that must be lifted. It is feared that there may be serious consequences should the wreck not be removed prior to the arrival of the typhoon season.
The Hall Corp. has, let it be known that its small bulk carriers CONISCLIFFE HALL, EAGLESCLIFFE HALL and WESTCLIFFE HALL are available for purchase by some other operator. The three motorships are currently, laid up at Kingston. This is roughly the same status as that of SHIERCLIFFE HALL and STERNECLIFFE HALL, the last of the company's steam powered bulk canallers which have lain at Toronto for several years.
We understand that the Roen Transportation Co. of Sturgeon Bay is anxious to dispose of the odd assortment of vessels accumulated by the late Capt. John Roen during the course of his operations in the last few decades. Capt. Roen died last year and the heirs have not shown interest in maintaining operations. The fleet includes three large tugs, JOHN PURVES , JOHN ROEN IV and JOHN ROEN V, the barge MARQUIS ROEN equipped with cranes and an unloading boom, and four crane barges, LILLIAN, MAITLAND NO. 1, HILDA, and SOLVEIG (the first three being converted carferries), as well as various old hulls in differing stages of decomposition.
The U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender WOODBINE was officially decommissioned on February 15 in a ceremony at Detroit. The vessel, usually stationed at Grand Haven, was retired in a recent service reorganization which affected the lakes as well as salt water. The WOODBINE will be held in reserve at Detroit pending disposal.
Earlier in this news section we reported that the Detroit fireboat JOHN KENDALL had been laid up as a result of municipal pennypinching. We now learn that the Mayor of Detroit has received a strongly worded protest from the International Ship Masters' Association. This group is concerned that vessels and shore installations will not receive adequate fire protection without the KENDALL and the message also stated that the fireboat could prove of great assistance in the event of an oil spillage on the Detroit River or up the Rouge. There is no fireboat stationed at the Canadian port of Windsor across the river.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.