It has "been evident throughout this navigation season that the veteran Boland & Cornelius self-unloader UNITED STATES GYPSUM was running on borrowed time. Her certificate had been restricted so as to allow her to operate only in that area of the lakes bounded by the western end of Lake Erie and Port Huron and it was obvious that she would not last long being tied to such a small area of operation. Her apparent end, however, came somewhat unexpectedly and in a bizarre fashion. It seems that on November 5th, the GYPSUM was operating as usual on the Toledo to Detroit coal run when she got into some shallow water and damaged her after end, putting her rudder out of commission. Because of the press of business, BoCo obtained coast guard approval for her to be towed for several trips rather than be put on dry dock for repairs immediately. On Friday, November 10th, she was upbound for the Detroit River on her second trip under tow. The lead tug was the "G-tug" MAINE, the MARYLAND taking the stern. When the tow was abreast of Bar Point, the MAINE, for some reason turned around, went back to the GYPSUM and rammed her in the bows. The steamer sustained a large enough wound for water to flood her hold and she soon settled to the sandy bottom in about 17 feet of water. The steamer was pumped out and taken to Detroit where she was unloaded at the old Great Lakes Engineering Works slip. It appears obvious that the UNITED STATES GYPSUM has made her last voyage for her present owners, as her condition does not warrant any large expenditure of funds.
Moving on to another salvage job, both sections of the SIDNEY E. SMITH JR.(II) were "afloat" by early October and were subsequently made fast to the shore, the stern being moved upriver and moored at the south end of the Peerless Cement dock. Both sections were stripped of cabins and torn steel and the scrap thus removed were sold for $5.00 per ton to Kenneth R. Beaudua, Marine City, Michigan, and John R. Emig, St. Clair, Michigan. We understand that the stern section may be used as breakwater by the Sarnia Yacht Club whose facilities are now more or less open to all the nastiness that Lake Huron can throw onto its southern beaches.
Still another salvage job is in the news. Back on June 26th, 1959, the Liberian liberty ship MONROVIA was rammed and sunk in Lake Huron off Alpena, Michigan, by the Canadian upper laker ROYALTON. MONROVIA was the first salt water vessel to come to grief in the lakes after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway earlier in the same year. In any event, the ship and her cargo of high grade Belgian steel have lain in the depths of Lake Huron ever since. Now three Alpena men have joined forces to remove the steel, the small crane boat MASSEY D. being used for this purpose. The steel is being cleaned by their firm, Alpena Steel & Wire Corp., and is then being sold to a Detroit area company.
Readers will recall that in the last issue we gave details of the collision on October 5th of the Bethlehem ore carrier ARTHUR B. HOMER and the Greek salty NAVISHIPPER in the Fighting Island Channel of the Detroit River. Subsequent to the collision, the NAVISHIPPER was held in Detroit by Coast Guard officials until such time as her owners posted bond to cover potential damage claims. The bond of one million dollars was posted on October 11 and that evening the ship prepared to leave the Detroit Marine Terminal dock in the Rouge River. As tugs of the Great Lakes Towing Company were taking the vessel down the Short Cut Canal past the lower end of Zug Island, she broke her lines and struck the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway bridge across the canal, putting same out of commission for about 24 hours. The NAVISHIPPER arrived at Toledo where repairs were taken in hand, the next day.
The barge A. E. NETTLETON, currently under charter to the Escanaba Towing Company, very nearly came to grief in Lake Superior recently. On the 2nd of November, she was downbound with a cargo of grain for Buffalo, in tow of the tug OLIVE L. MOORE. High winds and heavy seas caused the towline to part and the NETTLETON drifted helplessly during the night, the MOORE being unable to render assistance. With morning light Coast Guard ships and aircraft set out in search of the barge and found her at anchor near the south shore of the lake and about eighteen miles west of the dreaded Keweenaw Peninsula. It is understood that she had taken on considerable water and had a list of about fifteen degrees. There were no injuries to the crew of the barge. It seems that Escanaba's problems are continuing without respite.....
The ISLAND TRANSPORT, newest unit of the fleet of tankers operated by the Hall Corporation, has now entered service having been converted from the enlarged canal bulk carrier ROCKCLIFFE HALL by Canadian Vickers Ltd., Montreal. Quite frankly, your editor had been looking forward to seeing the result, thinking that the rebuilt ship would probably be as good-looking as the bulk carriers that Vickers produced when they were still in the shipbuilding business. Sadly, this is not the case, and the ISLAND TRANSPORT is one of the ugliest ships on which we have ever cast our eyes. The entire bridge structure (pilothouse and texas cabin) has been moved aft and the two cabins have been set atop a very small house much smaller even than the pilothouse, and this gives the bridge a top-heavy appearance. The original diminutive after cabin has been left in place as has the short funnel. However, it was apparently decided that exhaust uptakes should be higher and, instead of raising the funnel, the rebuilders have seen fit to add to the stack seven exhaust pipes all of which take an abrupt turn aft just above the rim of the funnel. Three of the ship's four extremely heavy masts remain in place (although for what reason we do not know, since there is no need for heavy cargo booms now) and the bridge structure has had a hole cut in its backside so that it now rests right up against the mainmast. ROCKCLIFFE HALL had a very blunt bow, typical of modern canallers, but it still looked better before the rebuild. Someone has seen fit to add to the bow, but for some reason only to the upper part of the bow, a sharp section which points up and out from the rail. This may have been intended to give the ship a flare similar to salt water vessels, but the entire effect is one of phoniness, exceeded only by its apparent uselessness since, if the addition were designed to keep water from spraying back on the deck, this effect will surely be counteracted by the gaping anchor pockets just below. We could go on, but need we bother? We only hope that the entry into service of this monstrosity will not displace one of the older and infinitely more handsome steam tankers of the Hall fleet.
The Welland Canada pilots' work stoppage in late October to reinforce contract demands has long since been concluded, but still the salt water ships are lined up at both ends of the canal. Traffic has been rather heavy in the past few weeks, but no matter how empty or full the canal itself has been, there always seems to be a long line of ships waiting for pilots, especially at the Lake Erie end where the salties are gathered for their last downbound passage prior to the closing of the canals for the winter season. The Welland will close on the 15th of December and there will be no extension of this date since the entire period when the canal is closed will be needed to connect the new section of the canal which will bypass the city of Welland. As of November 13th, there were still 110 salt water vessels above Port Colborne, and more ships were waiting to pass up into Lake Erie.
Speaking of the new canal section, perhaps we should elaborate for the benefit of those who have not seen the new channel. The new section has now been watered, but not completely, and the channel is still blocked by dikes below Humberstone and above Port Robinson, just inside the new section. However, the old canal banks have been out through at the spots where the canals meet, and thus the end sections of the new cut are fully watered. Much more clearance of mud will, however, be needed at these locations. It appears that the old channel will be kept open from Humberstone north to a point just south of the Union Carbide plant at Welland where closure will be forced by a new railroad right-of-way currently being prepared on either side of the channel. Negotiations are currently underway on how to keep this section of the old channel from turning stagnant once regular vessel traffic stops. We have no word yet on what this section of the canal will be used for, nor have we heard any final decision on the uses to which the City of Welland will put those portions of the old channel falling within its boundaries. Incidentally, for the benefit of photographers, it would appear that there will be roads on each side of the new channel for its entire length, so our photography will not be hindered.
Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. freight handlers, on strike at various ports since September 6th, ratified a new contract proposal on November 14th. The contract calls for substantial wage increases over a three-year period. However, despite the settlement, the C.S.L. package freighters have not returned to service, presumably because of the advanced state of the season which would make it uneconomical to fit out for only one or two trips. Cargo has been removed from those ships whose holds were filled with goods. We trust that the service will resume next spring ......
Work has started on the stripping of WIARTON which has lain at the Strathearne Street slip in Hamilton for some considerable time now. The cabins and machinery have been removed from the after end, and the foremast has been lifted out, but no other work done. We might suspect that the hull may be destined for some future use as a barge or breakwater, but only time will tell.
The U. S. Steel bulk carrier BENJAMIN P. FAIRLESS will be converted to burn oil fuel this winter by Defoe Ship Building Company, Bay City, Michigan. In addition, the vessel will be fitted with automated boiler controls. We understand that the same work will be done on ENDERS M VOORHEES, a sister ship to FAIRLESS, next spring.
Meanwhile, the same firm's new self-unloader ROGER BLOUGH continues to suffer problems of one sort or another. Difficulties have been encountered with the bunker tanks, with the sewage system, and with the propeller which creates a funnel-shaped disturbance in the water beneath the stern that leads to a significant problem of vibration in the after end of the ship.
Western Engineering Service Ltd. of Thunder Bay, a local towing firm, has acquired a new tug, the 1944-built British tug BEAMISH. The tug, originally constructed as a "Coastwise" class Admiralty tug for wartime service, is 113' 5" in length and it will be interesting to see what she will be used for in the lakes.
The fleet of self-unloaders operated by Canada Steamship lines Ltd. continues to grow in size. We have learned that the diesel bulk carrier FRONTENAC, the newest of C.S.L.'s maximum-sized straight-deckers, is to be converted this winter at Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. There will be no changes in hull form (as there were with SAGUENAY) but the unloading boom will be carried aft rather than forward as in the case of all other conversions done by C.S.L. She will also differ from SAGUENAY in that she will have two belts in her hold instead of three.
For collectors of vital statistics who have not as yet been able to obtain this information, we are pleased to be able to give official numbers and tonnages on two recent additions to the lake fleet:
On the same subject, here are the details of ISLAND TRANSPORT which we have described elsewhere in this section: Length overall 352'6". Beam 43' 10". Depth 26' 6". Gross 3542, Net 2478. Capacity 42360 bbls at mid-summer draft of 20'7". She has eight cargo tanks.
Our readers will remember that the former Boland & Cornelius self-unloader PETER REISS was to be operated this year in the coal trade under tow of the tug JOHN PURVES which was purchased from the Roen Steamship Company by Clepro Marine for the purpose. The REISS, which was to be renamed but never was, operated for only a short period before being caught in the middle of a strike which threatens to put an end to the service for good.
Court action taken against the Wellington Transportation Company of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, by residents of the Sugar Island community in an effort to block fare increases on the ferry SUGAR ISLANDER which went into effect in May 1971, has been dismissed by a judge of Chippewa County circuit court. Also dismissed was the request from residents that the court declare the 1971 renewal of the Wellington's ferry-operating franchise void so that a new license and franchise might be negotiated. We congratulate the Wellingtons, members of T.M.H.S., on their success.
The cement barge SEA CASTLE (ex. JOHN L. A. GALSTER) broke away from her tug LAUREN CASTLE off Charlevoix, Michigan, in heavy weather on October 16. She grounded between Fishermans Island and Norwood on Lake Michigan and was not released until October 20th when another tug managed to pull her off. Both LAUREN CASTLE and SEA CASTLE sustained damage and repairs were taken in hand on both ships by Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay.
When the Reiss Steamship Company was purchased by the American Steamship Company in 1969, it did not take long for BoCo to rechristen the large steamer REISS BROTHERS. Her new name was, of course, GEORGE D. GOBLE, in honour of the head of grain transportation for The Pillsbury Company. The ship has since passed to the ownership of the Kinsman Marine Transit Company. It now appears that Mr. Goble has been one of the active voices in opposition to the purchase of the Wilson fleet by the Kinsman parent firm, American Shipbuilding, so what are the bets that the GOBLE comes out with a new name in 1973?
The last log boom was to be taken across Lake Superior this fall, bringing to an end one of the more interesting chapters of lake history. The last of the great booms was, however, not destined to reach shore intact for, while en route to Ashland, Wisconsin, on October 20th, the boom broke up in very heavy weather and the hundreds of logs that escaped from the tow have since been making navigation more interesting on the lake although interesting is hardly the word we would use to describe the result should a steamer run foul of a group of these logs.
The old motor tug HERBERT A., latterly owned by Herb Fraser and Associates of Port Colborne, passed down the Welland Canal under her own power on October 24th bound for Sorel, Quebec. She has been sold to the Carrick Corporation of Nassau, Bahamas, but it has not yet become clear whether they will operate her as a tug or whether they may use her as a coastal cargo vessel.
In our last issue, we noted that the veteran Providence Shipping steamer MICHIPICOTEN was due at the Welland Canal on her last voyage on Friday, October 27th, bound down the St. Lawrence with salt. As it turned out, the vessel did not pass down the Canal until Sunday, October 29th, but it really made very little difference to would-be photographers since the weather was so horrible on the Sunday that no good photos could be obtained.
Speaking of MICHIPICOTEN, one of her sisters is also in the news. These days, it seems that the old coal-fired steamers are dropping like flies since the cost of bunker coal has skyrocketed and there are so few ports (and none east of Port Colborne at all) where coal can be obtained by a vessel. It is, therefore, very happy news when we learn that one such coal-burner is to be converted to oil fuel rather than being consigned to the scrappers. It is all the more pleasant news, since the vessel concerned is the Reoch bulk carrier WESTDALE, a frequent visitor to our harbour. The job of fitting oil-burning equipment is apparently to be done by Herb Fraser & Associates at Port Colborne during the winter months. WESTDALE is, incidentally, the last of four sister vessels to remain in service. All four were built in 1905 for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company, the WESTDALE being originally christened GEORGE W. PERKINS. Of the others, WILLIAM E. COREY (later Upper Lakes Shipping's RIDGETOWN) is now part of a breakwater at Nanticoke, Ontario; HENRY C. FRICK became MICHIPICOTEN and has just been sold for scrapping; and the last of the group ELBERT H. GARY is now Kinsman Marine Transit's R. E. WEBSTER and is currently idle with little hope of further service as a result of boiler troubles and the recent expansion of the Kinsman fleet. The vessels were very similar in appearance but the COREY could always be readily distinguished by her forecastle which was a whole deck high, rather than just half a deck as in the other three ships.
It has been learned that two more self-unloading bulk carriers will soon be built for the Kinsman Marine Transit Company. As our readers will, no doubt, be aware two such vessels are already under construction at the yard of American Shipbuilding in Lorain, Ohio. Hull 901 is to be ready for 1973 delivery while Hull 902 is to follow in 1974 The two new orders will also come from the Lorain AmShip yard and will be, naturally, Hulls 903 and 904. The reason for the new order is that Kinsman has just won the contract for hauling stone for the Republic Steel Corporation, the contract previously being held by Boland & Cornelius. The obtaining of this contract may well prolong the life of some of the older Kinsman vessels until such time as the new self-unloaders are in service.
The railways have, in recent years, been stealing much trade from the lake fleets through new concepts which have been developed to facilitate the hauling of almost any commodity by rail. The Ontario Paper Company Ltd, has almost dropped the shipment of pulpwood by water and now comes word that no paper will be shipped by water in future. The last cargo of paper to be taken by boat from the plant at Thorold to Chicago will be loaded aboard CHICAGO TRIBUNE during the winter months and she will take it up the lakes in the Spring. This does not mean, however, that the Quebec & Ontario Transportation Company Ltd., the shipping arm of Ontario Paper, will be going out of business. Rather, the company is turning its eyes more and more to the grain trade, with considerable emphasis being placed on the grain run to the Bay Ports, a service in which Q & O has not engaged for at least half decade.
We have heard that Canada Cement Lafarge Ltd. may have dropped the idea of shipping cement in tug-barge combinations. Readers will recall that such vessels were being studied as a replacement for the aging but still efficient electric motorvessel CEMENTKARRIER and to handle the increased production which will result from the opening of a new plant at Bath, Ontario. In place of the tug and barge, we think interested parties might be well advised to watch for Canada Cement purchasing another lake vessel for conversion to a cement carrier.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.