The possibility of a carferry operation between Manitoulin Island and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan appears to be improving as the State of Michigan looks into the question of financial assistance for the project. A site for the Michigan terminal of the route has not yet been chosen although facilities could be located either in the Cedarville area or at the village of DeTour at the mouth of the St. Mary's River. The eastern terminal would be located at Meldrum Bay, the port formerly used by the diminutive NORMAC in her ferry run from Blind River. It has just recently come to light that a service of this nature has been under consideration for several years but no action had been taken earlier as there was no suitable boat available. That situation has now changed. Ontario Northland will commission its new CHI-CHEEMAUN in August and thereafter NORGOMA will be excess tonnage as far as the Tobermory-South Bay Mouth route is concerned while NORISLE will be needed only as spare boat.
A new fuel dock will make its appearance on the lakes this year as a result of the fuel shortage. Windsor Harbour Commission officials have decided that, since they have access to sufficient oil supplies, they will make bunkers available to lake shipping. No doubt charges will be such as to ensure that there will be no financial loss on the part of the city! Meanwhile we learn that the price of Bunker "C" fuel is now 30c per gallon in Canada compared with 9c at this time last year, while the cost of bunker coal has risen from $21. per ton to $40. The shipping industry has been promised that vessels will be allocated all the fuel they will need for the year, but this does not ensure that it will actually be available when and where required.
Also on the subject of bunkering services, we can report that the small tanker GULF SENTINEL (whose charter to Gulf for the Lake Ontario bunker trade has not been renewed) will be chartered this year to Shell, her earlier owners. She will be taken to Sarnia, but it is not yet clear whether she will run a mobile service from the Shell dock at Corunna (which might counteract the competition from the new dock at Windsor and at the same time eliminate the long lineups of steamers in the Stag Island channel), or whether she may be destined to run a cross-river service in a move to eliminate the traffic of tank trucks through the town of Marine City and over on the ferry DALDEAN. One thing is sure - she will certainly get a new name. We might hope that her old name of RIVERSHELL might be returned to her.
An announcement was made on March 15th to the effect that the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (a subsidiary of Canadian National) has decided to discontinue the Windsor-Detroit ferry crossing. The move really comes as no surprise as rumours of this nature were prevalent several years ago when the steam ferries LANSDOWNE and HURON were cut down to barges and the tug MARGARET YORKE constructed to push them. Grand Trunk-C.N. has obtained a contract permitting it to use the Penn Central tunnel under the Detroit River and it would seem that any traffic unable to use this route would be diverted to either the tunnel or ferry at Sarnia. The Windsor-Detroit crossing will remain in operation until the summer months.
A rather humourous side effect to the troublesome protest by truckers in the United States a few weeks ago was the movement of seven trucks loaded with engine blocks across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc aboard a railroad carferry. The American Motors parts had been manufactured in Ontario and were destined for the A.M.C. plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Arrangements were made for the trucks to cross by ferry rather than face possible violence at the hands of striking truckers in southern Michigan.
The question of who is building what at which American yards has become even more confused with the report that the American Steamship Company (Boland and Cornelius) has reached agreement in principle with the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. for the construction at Sturgeon Bay of three 1000-foot self-unloading bulk carriers. BoCo also has an option on two additional carriers of the same size from the same yard. The contract for the ships is largely contingent on the construction by Bay Shipbuilding of facilities large enough to handle such hulls. Accordingly, the yard has set out to build a new graving dock 1,150 feet in length and 130 feet in width. So, in an effort to lessen the confusion, we will list here the contracts presently placed with Bay with hull numbers and delivery dates:
Quite frankly, we do not see how it would be possible for Bay Shipbuilding to hold to a schedule as tight as this unless the company should be able to purchase the Erie Marine yard at Erie, the only other yard on the lakes presently capable of turning out 1000-footers. Erie is not active at present although the owners, Litton, are engaged in litigation with Bethlehem Steel over two projected sisters for STEWART J. CORT. Bethlehem wants to proceed with construction, however we understand that Erie Marine is refusing to go ahead, presumably in a disagreement over the contract price.
The Hanna fleet will be somewhat smaller this year as a result of a decision not to operate MATTHEW ANDREWS in 1974. Her owners apparently feel that she is no longer economical to operate in the ore trade. In addition, NATIONAL TRADER (the former WALTER E. WATSON, recently purchased from Interlake) will remain at the wall for the season. She is eventually to be converted to a craneship.
Rather alarming news comes in the form of word of the approval by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) of an Interim Capital Construction Fund to be established by the Bob-Lo Company of Detroit. What is so horrible about this? Well, the stated objective of the company is to replace its venerable passenger steamers (yes, steamers!) COLUMBIA and STE. CLAIRE with four 1,000-passenger day boats to be built during the period 1974-84, and to purchase in 1974 an "existing vessel" with a capacity of 980 persons. Cost of the project is estimated at somewhere near $8.2 million. The thought of COLUMBIA and STE. CLAIRE (1902 and 1910 respectively) being retired is absolutely revolting and, while we have no desire to see a company forced into abandoning plans for expansion and the updating of its facilities, we hope that some way-can be found to keep these famed Detroit institutions operating.
While on the subject of Bob-Lo, we should report that the city of Wyandotte has expressed approval of the plans for construction of a new dock for the Bob-Lo steamers, the site chosen being located on property owned by the BASF Chemical Corp. The present wharf, judged to be inadequate for present requirements, is located in Bishop Park at Wyandotte.
When the Toledo-Detroit coal shuttle starts up after its short annual winter lull, it is a sign that spring is not far off no matter how nasty the weather is. The straightdecker BENSON FORD went into operation on March 4th while the BoCo self-unloader CONSUMERS POWER sailed from Ecorse on March 6th, Not far behind were HENNEPIN and J.R.SENSIBAR. HENNEPIN also managed to officially open Cleveland harbour for the year, arriving on March 20th to load salt for Toledo. With the reappearance of HENNEPIN, many shipwatchers will heave a great sigh of relief as the old girl had run late into the winter until forced into lay-up by ice conditions, and it had been rumoured that she would not fit out this spring.
First ship of the year into Toronto was IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD which arrived from Port Weller on March 25th to load gasoline for Kingston. The first ship in port to get steam up for the coming year was GODERICH which was seen emitting copious clouds of smoke from her funnel on March 19th. Trouble is that these days there are so few steamers around, and you just can't tell what is going inside the engineroom of a motorship. Anyway, GODERICH didn't get anything for her achievement, but Captain Angus Graham of IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD was awarded the traditional harbourmaster's topper for his feat.
It begins to look as though shipping may get off to a very slow start this year on the Canadian side of the lakes, this despite a planned early opening of the St.Lawrence canals. The cause of it all is the Seafarers International Union which pulled its members out on strike against the shipping companies on March 15th, effectively blocking the plans of a number of fleets to get fit-out crews working early. At the time of writing this, we had heard nothing further and certainly no word of any negotiations. Officials of the union seem to be bragging about the possibilities of a lengthy strike.
If a few years ago it looked as if the 1970's were to be the years of the ascendency of the Steinbrenner empire together with the Kinsman Marine Transit Company, it now looks as if exactly the opposite may be true. Kinsman las sold the steamers BEN MOREELL and A. T. LAWSON in compliance with the divestiture ordered by the courts, but the buyers are as yet unidentified. It is suspected that they may be the same parties who last year purchased Great Lakes Towing from American Shipbuilding and, if this is true, the two bulk carriers may still operate this year in Kinsman livery. More alarming is the persistent rumour that Kinsman will sell almost every ship in its fleet if the offer is right. It is known that the fleet will not operate KINSMAN VOYAGER, HARRY L. ALLEN or SILVER BAY and this trio is likely to go for scrapping soon. We have also heard that Kinsman may sell as many as seven ships to another U.S. self-unloader operator (not BoCo) including, believe it or not, PAUL THAYER, WILLIAM R. ROESCH, J. BURTON AYERS (presently being converted to a self-unloader) and THOMAS WILSON (the latter badly in need of tank top replacement). Only time will tell, but suffice it to say that, at the moment, the Kinsman star is not at the zenith!
Studies are underway into the feasibility of operating some sort of waterborne commuter service between New Baltimore, Michigan, located on Lake St. Clair, and Ecorse which is situated downstream from Detroit. No details on the type of service intended have been released, but it is known that a hydrofoil operation is under consideration.
Seems to us that not long ago we were hearing rumbles about the U.S. Coast Guard retiring its larger lake buoy tenders in favour of newer, smaller vessels. Any thought of this coming to pass, at least for the next few years, can now be discounted as the U.S.C.G. has announced plans to rebuild five ships over the next five years. First to be taken to the C.G. yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland, will be BRAMBLE which is currently stationed at Detroit. She will leave station during August and her place will be filled by MARIPOSA which will be brought up from the coast. Upon her return, ACACIA will head east and one by one thereafter will follow MESQUITE, WOODRUSH and SUNDEW. The work will include installation of a bowthruster (in a ship so small?), the overhauling of engines, refurbishing and enlarging of crew quarters, and the fitting of a new cargo handling gear. The plans for the sending of the ships east and replacing each as she goes are so complicated that we won't even bother with repeating them. They could only have been dreamed up by government.
The State of Wisconsin is anxious to obtain federal funds to improve the Lake Michigan carferry service of the Ann Arbor Railroad, this despite the many indications that the Ann Arbor wants out of the carferry business altogether. Funds, if forthcoming, would be directed for use in repairing ARTHUR K. ATKINSON, which is out of service and suffering from a fractured crankshaft, and to build a new 450-foot 35-car ferry and reconstruct docks to fit her.
Recent reports indicate that McAllister Towing has changed its mind about junking the big tug DANIEL McALLISTER which is now lying at Kingston with engine troubles. Her owners had been looking around for a used tug and pricing the construction of a new one to replace her, but found that used tugs are at a premium at the moment and the cost of a new unit would be prohibitive. DANIEL McALLISTER will now be repaired and returned to service.
What with all the conversions and lengthenings announced during the last year, it is not surprising that we hear suggestions that Cleveland Cliffs may be going to lengthen its EDWARD B. GREENE. A 629-footer, the GREENE was built in 1952. In addition, we hear that something may be in the works for Interlake's HERBERT C. JACKSON ....
In previous issues, we had mentioned the strong possibility that either PIC RIVER or BLACK RIVER (or even both) might not operate in 1974. PIC wintered this year at Port Weller Drydocks where she was to be inspected to determine the cost of repairing extensive bottom damage. Happily, the projected repair bill is not as high as originally expected and we have received confirmation that repairs will now be effected and that PIC RIVER will operate in 1974. BLACK RIVER wintered at Hamilton and her future is still up in the air, although we understand that Q.& O. has been keeping its options open by telling crews that they may be needed if BLACK RIVER should be put into service. Guess we will simply have to wait and see.
Last issue, we told of the work done on CHICAGO TRIBUNE this winter to reduce the height of her trunk and we wondered why they did not remove it altogether. Well, if you ask a good question in these pages, you usually get an answer from somebody and we are happy to report that we now know why the trunk has not disappeared completely. It seem that the TRIBUNE was built to carry the trunk and has exceptionally large (for her size) holds. The bracing that could be built into her hull is, therefore, limited and the framework of the trunk gives her the additional strength necessary to keep her in one piece. Next question, please.
Scrapping operations are progressing at Kewaunee on the remains of the canal tanker TAURUS and on the Roen barge SOLVEIG. In addition, work has commenced on the dismantling of the former C.S.L. package freight canaller SASKATOON.
A recent visit to Kingston gave your editor an opportunity of seeing the former Halco canaller NORTHCLIFFE HALL lying alongside the La Salle Causeway, the new registry port of Nassau having been inscribed on her stern in a somewhat less than professional paint job. Her Canadian registry was closed on December 7, while that of WESTCLIFFE HALL (which managed to get as far as Prescott on her way to salt water last fall) was closed on December 4th. Knowing the reputation of being a poor sea boat which was picked up by NORTHCLIFFE HALL during her years of lake operation subsequent to her lengthening, we would not wish to sail her on the open ocean ....
Speaking of Kingston, now might be a good time to report on the current roster of derelicts in the Canadian Dredge & Dock junkyard there. The dredges LELAND and MIDLAND are present and accounted for but in terrible condition. The former has not operated for almost a decade and the latter has been idle for almost fifteen years. The dredge PRIMROSE is also there but she is still in operating condition and looking quite respectable. The tugs LOTBINIERE and J.A. CORNETT are both out of commission and looking quite rundown, while with them is the WORKBOAT NO. 11, a little stemwinder which might better be remembered as CHARLES D., for she lay alongside Magee's Drydock at Humberstone when BELVOIR was built there in 1954. Tug TRAVELLER is moored at Kingston as well, but she is still on the C.D.D. active list. Bringing up the and of the list and looking the most forlorn of all is that ugly of uglies, JACQUES GRAVEL, a ship used during the Seaway construction but whose physical appearance defies description. Built as an auxiliary aircraft carrier during the second war (if flyers had trouble landing on the big carriers, how did they ever get back to her?), she later served on the east coast for the Anticosti Shipping Company,
Marine Industries Ltd. has been changing a few names in its fleet recently and these changes should be recorded. The tank barge BALSAMBRANCH is now M. I. L. BALSAM while the tug FOUNDATION VENTURE has been renamed M. I. L. VENTURE. The derrick barge FOUNDATION SCARBORO is now M. I. L. SCARBORO and the bunkering barge HALFUELER. better known on the lakes as TRANSLAKE and latterly used at Halifax after being cut down to a barge, has not been scrapped at Sorel as expected but rather has reappeared as M. I. L. FUELER.
The salty ADELFOI which grounded in the St. Lawrence on the Isle of Orleans late last year will apparently remain there for some time to come. She has cracked and her holds are flooded. The salvage vessel ATLANTEAN 1, as reported last month, went out to attempt salvage but on February 10 was impounded by the Department of Transport as a result of alleged safety violations at the site. She is currently lying at Quebec.
The tug TARA HALL (formerly known on the lakes as HERBERT A.) has encountered difficulties in effecting her flight from the lakes to warmer climes in the south. She suffered rudder damage off the St. Simeon River in the St. Lawrence on January 18, and had to be fetched by the Davie tug LEONARD W. which is stationed at Quebec City.
The coastal motorship MAURICE DESGAGNES suffered fire damage while lying at her dock at Montreal in the late evening hours of February 25th. She has since been taken to Canadian Vickers Ltd. for repairs.
The floating theatre L'ESCALE, formerly the ferry ARTHUR CARDIN, will be put to new use this year having been sold to new owners. She will operate from St. Marc-on-Richelieu and will run excursions on the Richelieu River.
Trouble appears to be brewing on the St. Lawrence over projected ferry services planned by three companies. Last year two companies, namely Maritime Agency Ltd. (owned by Logistec) and the Societe de Gestion de Matane (SOGEMA), applied to the Quebec government for permission to run a train ferry service across the St.Lawrence from Matane to carry newsprint. Quebec took no action on the applications and now Canadian Pacific has signed a contract with the North Shore Paper Company to run a carferry from Baie Comeau to Quebec City. They have even gone so far as to order from Burrard's at Vancouver a ship designed as a sister to INCAN SUPERIOR which is due to enter the Thunder Bay-Superior service in 1974. Quite naturally, the people of Matane are screaming bloody murder about the revenue that C.P. will divert from their area and even more so since C.P. did not request the approval of the provincial government before making their plans. Matters are made more interesting with the revelation that SOGEMA has an option to purchase a carferry currently laid up at Grand Rapids, Michigan, and by our calculations that vessel could only be the Grand Trunk steamer GRAND RAPIDS. We shall have to keep our eyes open for developments on this front, but our guess is that the politicians will not care to oppose the "National Dream"!
Reports emanating from Sorel indicate that the job of stripping the former Chesapeake and Ohio carferry PERE MARQUETTE 22 is well in hand. We presume that 1974 will see her departure for the Caribbean and the moving of PERE MARQUETTE 21 to Sorel for a similar job.
Despite predictions that Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. would soon be dropping entirely its lake package freight run, we learn that appointments have been made for all vessels except FRENCH RIVER which spent last year in ordinary at Hamilton. It should be remembered, however, that a few of the package freighters will probably be out on charter to other operators and we will be lucky to see any more than three ships on the lake run.
We have learned that the buyers of U. S. Steel's craneship CLIFFORD F. HOOD are A. Ziff & Sons who operate under the name of Union Pipe & Machinery Ltd. They are the same firm that purchased MICHIPICOTEN before she went down the river for scrap. It is to be hoped that the HOOD may find the same fate as MICHIPICOTEN. At the time of her sale, HOOD was the oldest ship in the Tinstack fleet, having been built at West Bay City in 1902.
Two more old vessel will be making their way to Strathearne Terminals at Hamilton for scrapping in 1974. One is the Halco tanker INLAND TRANSPORT currently laid up at Sarnia, inactive since a grounding in the fall of 1972. The other is the barge IRONWOOD, once a unit of the Nicholson Transit fleet and more recently cut down to the deck and used in the Port Huron area.
The fleet of Hannah Inland Waterways is growing. The company now has the former Escanaba Towing tug LEE REUBEN and has renamed her MARY A. HANNAH. In addition, the Bultema Dock & Dredge tug MUSKEGON has been purchased. Hannah is also building on the gulf coast two barges of 16,000 and 24,000 tons for 1976 delivery. The smaller barge will operate out of Tawas City for the National Gypsum Company.
We left this item to the end of the Marine News section in the hopes that it might not be so easily seen. You see, we did get egg on our faces over the ORION cruises. It seems that ORION is not coming into the lakes after all, but now we are supposed to be getting a boat named STELLA MARIS. This ship is not to be confused with a small passenger vessel of the same name that visited the lakes about a decade ago - she burned! In any event, we are not, positively not, going out on a limb to dig up and publish all the dope on the STELLA MARIS scheduled to run on the lakes, until we have some sort of proof that she actually is coming. No way are we getting caught for a third time.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.