Two issues ago we featured as Ships of the Month a quartet of vessels, namely LASALLE, GRIFFIN, JOLIET and WAWATAM. We always like to hear from readers who may have interesting comments about ships we feature and hence we were pleased to receive this anecdote from Capt. John Leonard of CHARLES DICK.
"The late Captain Bill Britton of Port Dalhousie told a story about WAWATAM, He was part of the crew that went to pick her up at Cleveland when Playfair bought her in 1914. Apparently she had not been looked after in later years of U. S. ownership and her condition had deteriorated somewhat. This manifested itself later in the voyage.
"They loaded coal in Cleveland for Midland, Ontario. The captain's name was Murphy and it was his first ship. Anxious to make a good showing, Murphy pushed WAWATAM out into Lake Huron when it might have been wiser to have anchored in the river. Before they got too far, the old girl rolled so much that she rolled her smokestack overboard. There was lots of dunnage aboard and they proceeded to build a makeshift smokestack out of wood, It not only worked, but it allowed the ship to proceed on her voyage to Midland.
"Mr. Playfair, however, was not too pleased, as he had planned a showing for the fine new steamer that he had purchased in Cleveland and here she was with a raggedy, burnt-up smokestack. He promptly demoted Murphy and made some disparaging remarks to the effect that he was too reckless and extravagant. In those days it was easier to get captains than smokestacks and so Murphy went back as mate. Incidentally, this incident might have some effect on Murphy's sailing career as I heard that he never did get a ship to sail again but ended his days as mate."
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.