The accident of August 25th, 1974, involving the bridge at Port Robinson (described in detail elsewhere in this issue) was the most serious accident ever to occur on the Welland Canal and by the time the waterway was reopened to traffic some two weeks later, long lines of anchored salt water vessels were awaiting passage at either end of the canal. No sooner was traffic moving, however, than a further stoppage occurred, the result of the refusal of pilots to handle upbound vessels. The pilots were withholding their services in protest to a decision by American pilotage authorities not to allow Canadian pilots to handle any of the salties passing through the St. Clair River. More than forty salties were anchored awaiting passage when the pilots returned to their jobs on September 19.
The canal closure and the pilots' strike have played havoc with the schedule of the Greek cruise liner STELLA MARIS II this summer. After the canal accident, she was trapped above the Welland and, to make up for not being able to proceed east of Port Colborne she made several trips out of Chicago running as far up the lakes as Sault Ste, Marie. Just nicely back on schedule, she proceeded down to Montreal and by September 17th was back in Toronto, upbound. She cleared port early on the morning of the following day and went to Port Weller where she was tied up in the harbour to allow passengers the opportunity of taking a sidetrip to Niagara Falls. She was, however denied passage up the canal and returned the same day to Toronto where she remained until able to go up the canal on September 19. The uncertainties of lake ship operation may possibly be sufficient to persuade the operators of STELLA MARIS II to forego the lake service next year. Meanwhile, over the winter months, the ship will be kept busy running from Washington to the Gulf of Mexico.
Two lake tankers have been sold for operation in foreign waters. Hall Corporation's steamer LAKE TRANSPORT, (a) CYCLO WARRIOR (b) TEXACO-WARRIOR, has been sold to unidentified Spanish buyers for use in a bunkering service. She is to be taken across the Atlantic under her own power and her fit-out crew was to report to the ship at Sorel on September 16th. One of our members will be aboard for the trip and in a future issue he will give us a description of the crossing. Meanwhile, the Marine Industries (Branch Lines Ltd.) tanker SPRUCEBRANCH, idle at Sorel since the close of the 1973 season, has been sold for operation in the Mediterranean. SPRUCEBRANCH was built in 1944 as (a) OTTERBURN PARK and was purchased by Branch Lines in 1946. She was originally a canaller but was lengthened and deepened in 1960. She cleared Sorel for Vigo, Spain, on September 6th.
The Amoco Oil Company is apparently attempting to upgrade its fleet by way of fitting automated boiler controls in its vessels. AMOCO WISCONSIN (1930) was at the shipyard at Sturgeon Bay in August for the work to be done and AMOCO INDIANA (1937) is to get the same treatment this winter. It is not known whether the last ship in the fleet, AMOCO ILLINOIS (1918) will be similarly converted.
The list of lakers scheduled for lengthening seems to be growing longer month by month. Latest to join the parade back to the shipyard is U. S. Steel's self-unloader JOHN G. MUNSON. A 666-footer built in 1952 at Manitowoc, the MUNSON will be taken in hand by Fraser Shipyards for stretching during the winter of 1975-76. She will receive an additional 102 feet in length during the course of the job and at the same time she will receive a new deck complete with one-piece hatches.
Two of the Hall Corporation bulk carriers sold last year for operation in Caribbean waters have been renamed. EAGLESCLIFFE HALL, the first to go, now carries the name EAGLESCLIFF, while WESTCLIFFE HALL, which tried to make it out of the lakes last fall and was unsuccessful, passed down the Seaway on July 24 under the name WESTCLIFF.
The Algonquin Corporation canal tanker CARDINAL, severely damaged in a collision on Lake Erie on May 23rd and idle at Toronto ever since, was towed from Toronto to Hamilton on August 19th. She now lies at Strathearne Terminals in the scrapping berth and has been stripped of much equipment. We presume that scrapping will get under way during the autumn.
A September arrival at the Strathearne Terminals scrapping berth is the big steam tug CHRIS M. Readers will recall that after many years of service at the Lakehead, she was used for a brief period of time to tow the tank barge ALFRED CYTACKI three years ago. The CYTACKI herself was broken up at the same yard early this year.
The bulk canal motorship JEAN-TALON, (a) FRANQUELIN (I), (b) PRINCE UNGAVA, which has operated the last few years for Desgagnes Navigation Ltd., has been sold Panamanian and renamed SOVEREIGN OPAL. The 1936-built vessel has operated mainly in the St. Lawrence carrying pulpwood during recent times, but on occasion she has strayed up into the lakes. She spent the past winter at Sorel.
Another former lake canal tanker has bitten the dust, NONNA VALERIA, (a) BRITAMOCO, (b) GULF TRANSPORT, was sold early in 1974 by Cabotaggio Cisterniero S.p.A of Italy to Italian breakers, C.N.Santa Maria. Scrapping operations apparently began at La Spezia on January 30th.
The Quebec town of Louiseville has been figuring in the shipping news recently and here we report some not so new news. Over the 1973-74 winter, the former Montreal-based National Harbours Board tug SIR HUGH ALLAN was scrapped at Louiseville. The retired Quebec-Levis steam ferry LOUIS JOLLIET is being used there as a floating warehouse, while the tanker GOLDEN SABLE is serving as a floating dock.
We have, since our last issue, learned more of the circumstances surrounding the retirement and sale for scrapping of the tanker ROCKET earlier this year, It seems that she was becoming a bit "ripe" and her liquid cargo was weeping around the rivets in her plating, thus escaping into the lake. The condition meant that she was in violation of environmental protection standards and, as the cost of repairs was excessively high considering her age and carrying capacity, she was sold for breaking up.
Unfortunately, we have more scrappings to report this month as the parade of old lakers across the Atlantic to European scrapyards continues, CITY OF GREEN BAY, the Ann Arbor Railroad carferry, passed down the Welland on July 5-6 in tow of SALVAGE MONARCH and CATHY McALLISTER. Next to go were the Canadian Dredge & Dock Company's breakwater hulls LACKAWANNA and KINSMAN VENTURE which had been lying idle at Toronto since the completion earlier this year of the RIDGETOWN breakwater project at Port Credit. Canadian Dredge & Dock arranged to sell the two vessels to Marine Salvage Ltd. who in turn sold them to Eckhardt & Co., K.G., West Germany. The sales were approved by U. S. MarAd. on July 24. The day previous to this, the 23rd, LACKAWANNA had cleared Toronto in tow of SALVAGE MONARCH and G. W. ROGERS, and KINSMAN VENTURE followed behind the same tugs on July 28th. The last of the present string to go is COLONEL JAMES PICKANDS which had operated earlier in the year for the Interlake Steamship Company, having been just refurbished after several years of idleness. She developed boiler troubles, however, and ran foul of air pollution control authorities, notably at Buffalo. She went to the shipyard at Bay City in late June for repairs, but it was apparently decided that the ship was not worth any major work and accordingly she was sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. for scrapping. She arrived at Cleveland for the last time with a cargo of iron ore on July 17 and shortly thereafter was sent round to Ashtabula for stripping. She passed down the canal during the night of September 17-18 in tow of SALVAGE MONARCH and HELEN M. McALLISTER.
The new Algoma Central self-unloading bulk carrier ALGOSOO was launched at Collingwood Shipyards on July 24th. An article appearing in the Sault Daily Star at the time of the launching gave details of the vessel but, more important, it stated that vessels of her type are being given a life-expectancy of only 20 to 30 years, this being the first time to our knowledge that a statement of this type has appeared in the press. It thus seems that the fears of observers have been correct - that there is virtually no chance of any of the newer vessels surviving as long as the old steamers we are now seeing sold for scrap after as many as 60 or 70 years of lake service.
The new Manitoulin Island ferry, CHI-CHEEMAUN, which has been under construction at Collingwood Shipyards, headed out into Georgian Bay for her trials on September 5th. She was in service at the time of this writing but her completion is far behind the scheduled delivery date. We have heard that the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, new owners of the ferry service, may be considering invoking a rather heavy penalty clause which was contained in the construction contract.
The Can-Am Hover Express which operates the hovercraft service between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake seems to be having a successful opening season. The run was started early in the summer with just one boat, the TORYOUNG 1, registered in Canada. As the season moved along, however, a second boat was added and she was christened (yeah, you guessed it!) TORYOUNG 2. The newer vessel is registered in the U.S. Each boat carries about sixty people and many Torontonians have found the hovercraft, which makes the crossing in just over an hour, to be a handy way of travelling to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The line, however, escaped by the skin of its teeth when on Monday, September 16 it almost lost TORYOUNG 2. The boat had arrived in Toronto early in the evening and loaded up for the return crossing to Niagara. There were only four passengers for the trip, however they noticed what appeared to be a large tear in the fibreglass hull aft on the starboard side. The fears of the travellers were apparently allayed by the crew and the boat set out, leaving the harbour by the Western Gap. A short distance off Gibraltar Point, the passengers suddenly became aware of water entering the cabin and at about the same time, the vessel lost power, presumably due to the rising water. By this time, the lake was kicking up a bit of a swell and things started to get a bit sticky. The harbour police and Canadian and American Coast Guards all dispatched rescue craft and in due course the hovercraft was found and towed to Toronto, its passengers and crew being rescued safely, although a bit damp. The hovercraft itself was taken to the seawall at the Island Airport where it was supported by the cable of the harbour commission derrick. Were it not for this, the vessel would have sunk completely - as it was, the water was about half way up the sides of the cabin windows. Once the boat was raised, it was noted that there was a huge gash down the starboard side aft and the press reported that the passengers had thought that the boat might have hit something in the harbour. Nevertheless, some further digging has turned up the fact that the boat, when arriving from Niagara the trip before, had used the Eastern Gap which is at present closed to traffic due to the dredging operations going on there. It looks now as though the hovercraft may have struck one of the pontoons supporting the pipeline attached to the big suction dredge CANADIAN and that this collision may have caused the tear in the boat's hull. An inquiry will be held and the officers of the hovercraft may have a bit of explaining to do
From Lake Log Chips comes a report that the former lake barge MANILA was observed off Tampa, Florida, on June 10. It is reported that the barge looks just as she did when in lake service except for the loss of her aft pilothouse and the fitting of a notch in her stern for pushing. MANILA was originally built for the Minnesota Steamship Company and last saw lake service in 1956 when she was owned by the Pioneer Steamship Company (Hutchinson & Company).
On June 20, the Detroit Metropolitan Water Services began filling its water intake located in Lake Huron off Sarnia. The bottom of the lake will eventually be dredged in the area of the intake and a wooden crib is to be constructed around the intake tunnel. The construction of the tunnel has been one of the most difficult marine construction jobs ever undertaken in these parts.
A minor grounding incident occurred at Detroit on August 4th when JOHN J. BOLAND found the bottom off Renaissance Centre. She had been attempting to get close to shore to unload a cargo of stone but found there was not sufficient water. She was released without damage seventeen hours later, part of her cargo having been transferred to NICOLET.
The Toronto steam sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM, or rather what is left of her, was returned to Toronto from Whitby in tow on August 6. During her stay at the small port east of Toronto, her hull was examined and repaired where necessary and the rotten wooden upperworks were removed, nothing much remaining above the main deck except the stack housing, funnel and paddleboxes. The contract for the rebuilding of the cabins to the original plans has been let to Herb Fraser & Associates and we understand that the hull will soon be towed to Port Colborne for the necessary work to be completed over the winter. We have further heard that when she reappears she will be officially classed as a new vessel and her carrying capacity will be reduced from earlier limits of 2000 (and later 1600) to a measly 1050 in regular ferry service and 500 in excursion service. It seems that the Parks Department will use her only when really needed on the Island service (a new dock will have to be built for her at Centre Island) and the rest of the time, including weekdays, she will run from Ontario Place and also from the planned Aquatic Park at the tip of the Eastern Headland, as well as in the charter trade.
It was announced in July that two 1000-foot self-unloaders on order for the American Steamship Company at the Bay Shipbuilding Company, Sturgeon Bay, have been sold (before construction has even begun) to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. There are rumours making the rounds to the effect that Bethlehem in turn may peddle one of the ships to United States Steel, but we have nothing firm on this yet, BoCo has made it quite clear that the transfer of the two orders does not mean that the company is giving up its plans for fleet expansion. The reason for the move is a delay in the Detroit Edison funding of the development of new coal sources, and since the two ships were to operate solely for Detroit Edison coal movement, there would have been a possibility of the ships sitting unused for several years on completion.
Meanwhile, Litton Industries have closed its shipyard, Erie Marine, located at Erie, Pennsylvania. There were no plans for further construction except for a possible order for Bethlehem Steel, but nothing was forthcoming from this source because of the considerable friction which had arisen between Erie and Bethlehem over the cost of the projected vessel. There is a possibility that the yard may be sold to another shipbuilding firm.
Still on shipbuilding and such matters, late news comes to us of yet another lengthening project. Fraser Shipyards Inc. has apparently won a contract to lengthen Bethlehem Steel's bulk carrier ARTHUR B. HOMER in October 1975. How Fraser is ever going to keep itself straight and on schedule with the multitude of lengthening jobs it has planned for the next several years, we do not know, but at least the lengthening of each ship will be done well, as has been illustrated by CASON J. CALLAWAY and ARMCO.
National Steel has been in dire straits ever since the strike on the Canadian side of the lakes began in August. A serious shortage of ore has resulted from the inactivity of Hanna's Canadian boats (Carryore and Nipigon Transports) and thus Hanna has been running the larger U.S. carriers down the Seaway for ore. The real monkeywrench went into the works when GEORGE M. HUMPHREY and LEON FALK JR, got trapped in Lake Ontario during the Welland closing. It seems highly likely that Hanna will continue to operate the big U. S. boats down the Seaway for the remainder of the season in an effort to build up their dwindling ore stockpiles for the winter.
Contrary to other reports which have appeared recently, we can (with a good big sigh of relief) relay the word that there are no plans for the retirement of the craneship W. C. RICHARDSON. The aging steamer, a unit of the Columbia Transportation Division fleet, will continue to operate - barring, of course, any major accident.
One casualty of the month of September is the Cleveland-Cliffs motorship RAYMOND H. REISS which, early in the month, had to be towed in from Lake Huron for the replacement of her engine bed, a major operation! She was taken to Nicholson's Dock at Ecorse where repairs are being rushed through on a round-the-clock basis in an attempt to have the ship ready to go back in service by November 1st.
The Bultema Dock & Dredge Company is presently using the former Roen cranebarges HILDA and MAITLAND NO. 1 to carry steel from the Sault Ste. Marie plant of the Algoma Steel Company. In this trade, they are assisting the Canadian motorship YANKCANUCK.
As usual for this time of year, the American vessel operators are letting it be known that vessels will be operating into the winter months this season. The following is the breakdown as we have it now, although this is obviously only a preliminary guesstimate.
Changes are occurring in the fleet of the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. The aging coal-burner (your scribe thinks she's the last one on the Canadian side of the lakes) RUTH HINDMAN has been sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. and will be scrapped, although she may run out the season. It seems that she has come due for inspection again and the chances of her coming out of this would be extremely remote indeed. We will miss her, but the Hindman fleet probably won't for the company could be negotiating for the purchase of another ship. If a sale is completed, we wonder whether there will then be a BLANCHE HINDMAN (III) sailing the lakes. ...... (Keep guessing, brothers!)
Were it not for the fact that the bottom seems to have fallen out of the scrap market recently, you would probably have two more scrap tows to watch for. Marine Salvage Ltd. has been negotiating for the purchase of the idle U. S. Steel steamers HENRY H. ROGERS and GEORGE G. CRAWFORD, but it looks as though the deal may not go through as Marine Salvage would apparently have difficulty peddling the hulls across the Atlantic.
Work has been progressing during the summer on the salvaging of the cargo of copper ingots from the wreck of the passenger and freight propeller PEWABIC which lies in 180 feet of water, six miles southeast of Thunder Bay Island in Lake Huron. The PEWABIC, which was sunk by collision one hundred and nine years ago (August 9, 1865), has resisted several earlier salvage efforts but this time a young man named Gregory Busch has managed to bring up a good portion of the ingots which have a very high value on today's market. The ship also had some iron ore in her at the time of the accident and this may also be brought to the surface. Debunked for all time are the old chestnuts about the fortune in gold and/or cash in the steamer's safe. The safe was found and there was next to nothing of value inside,
A very serious fire occurred aboard the Cunard cruise ship CUNARD AMBASSADOR on September 12th while the ship was on the Gulf of Mexico enroute from Port Everglades to New Orleans. Fortunately, the ship was running without passengers at the time, being between cruises, and so there was no loss of life, although damage to ship will be heavy. The fire apparently began in the engineroom but soon spread out of control through the upper decks. Firefighting operations were hampered by the failure of the ship's generators and the men had to be pulled off the ship at night. The fire was finally brought under control the next day.
The magnificent passenger liner FRANCE is now officially retired and efforts are underway to sell the ship. As reported earlier, the French government has refused to continue to subsidize the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique for her operation and it had been announced that she would be retired late in the year. In mid-September, however, on completion of an eastward Atlantic Ferry run, the crew seized control of the ship to protest the retirement of FRANCE and the loss of seamen's jobs. The passengers, most of whom were in agreement with the crew's cause, stayed aboard for a few days and then went ashore in the tender at Le Havre, well-equipped with restorative spirits handed out from the bar by the rebellious crew. Other men of the French merchant marine supported the crew's stand but the government stood fast and so did the C.G.T. It was announced that the last four scheduled trips by FRANCE were to be cancelled, two transatlantic crossings and two cruises. For FRANCE, the future looks bleak and we can only hope that she will find a good buyer who will value her for what she is and will use her for what she does best, carrying unhurried travellers in an atmosphere of grace, style and elegance.
Early in the morning of September 10, the Detroit excursion vessel CITY OF WYANDOTTE (the newest acquisition of the Bob-Lo fleet) broke away from her moorings at the company's Detroit dock and began to run downstream with the current. There was nobody aboard at the time. The vessel was finally brought back to the. dock after she was snagged by anxious police, and she was returned to her dock. It is assumed that vandals slipped her mooring lines. No damage was occasioned in the incident.
George M. Steinbrenner III, chairman of the board of American Shipbuilding, pleaded guilty to two charges in connection with illegal contributions to the Nixon re-election cause when he appeared in Federal Court in Cleveland on August 30. He leaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one of instructing his employees to lie to the F.B.I. during the investigation, While Steinbrenner did not exactly come out of this thing smelling of roses, he did manage to avoid spending the text few years wearing stripes, for Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski dropped 13 other charges and the judge steered away from sentencing Steinbrenner to a jail term, instead fining him a grand (?) total of $15,000 on both counts. It is obvious that interest in the prosecution of this case waned once the Nixon era ended and Steinbrenner, who had earlier been made out to be a whipping boy for the administration, got out of this whole thing very easily in the end.
Meanwhile, there are all kinds of news about the Kinsman Marine Transit Company's fleet. Two vessels have been sold, namely J. BURTON AYERS and Hull 903 currently under construction at Lorain, the buyer in each case being the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton & Company. Hull 903 was christened on September 21, being given the name WOLVERINE, a good choice in our opinion. She will enter service in mid-October, while AYERS is already out and running in Columbia colours. Several operators are making efforts to purchase Kinsman's newest vessels, the year-old self-unloaders WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER. Negotiations are currently underway with the bank that actually owns the vessels and apparently there will be some news on this shortly. The steamers KINSMAN VOYAGER and JAMES E. FERRIS (we all knew it had to come eventually) will both be disposed of, probably for scrapping, as they are claimed to be uneconomical for operation. Bull! Besides, with FERRIS gone, what will they ever find to carry grain to Montana Mills in Cleveland? We thought that FERRIS was the only American upper laker small enough to get to the elevator. CHICAGO TRADER, SILVER BAY and PETER ROBERTSON are apparently being sought by the black shipping group from Cleveland who have been eyeballing boats for two years but never coughing up the money to pay for them. They had looked at KINSMAN INDEPENDENT earlier in the year, but we all know what came of that. The entire remaining Kinsman fleet is very much up in the air. Boats may be sold to just about any fleet (take your pick from the rumours) and the possibility must be borne in mind that Kinsman may decide not to sell them at all and keep on running the fleet as it is. We will simply have to curb our curiosity and wait to see what happens,,
The newest Marine Industries-built tanker for Branch Lines Ltd. will be christened LEON SIMARD. We understand that she is currently nearing completion at Sorel and is expected to enter service during the autumn.
Another of the old Goderich grain storage hulls has been sold for scrap. On August 20, the tug THUNDER CAPE towed D. B. WELDON up the St. Mary's River enroute to Thunder Bay where she will be broken up at a yard on the Kaministiquia River. The 412-foot WELDON, latterly owned by the Goderich Elevator and Transit Company Ltd., was built in 1896 for the Minnesota Steamship Company as MARICOPA, She later bore the names JOHN P. GEISTMAN and E. E. JOHNSON (I) but was perhaps best known as ALTADOC when sailing for N. M. Paterson & Sons Ltd. in the forties and fifties. She last ran about 1960 and after being purchased by Goderich Elevator she was stripped of both forward and after cabins. She was preceded to the scrapyard by the barges K. A. POWELL and F. H. DUNSFORD which had also served the Paterson fleet and which were towed from Goderich to the Kam for breaking up in 1973.
Scrapping operations are proceeding at Duluth on O.S. McFARLAND, the former Columbia craneship and Escanaba Towing Company barge, which was purchased for demolition by the Hyman-Michaels Company. At the same yard, the remains of SULTANA have now disappeared and the former Mohawk Navigation barge ALFRED KRUPP is as yet untouched.
One of the vessels delayed by the Welland Canal closing was the new Cleveland Tankers motorship SATURN, the first of two new tankers built for the firm on salt water. The vessel was waiting in line at anchor off Port Weller for a good part of the duration of the strike and passed up the canal on the day it reopened, September 9th.
A couple of months ago, your Editor was wondering what had become of the hull of WYCHEM 105, the former steamer SAMUEL F. B. MORSE, which for almost two decades lay in the Roen boneyard at Sturgeon Bay. We now learn that the hull of the vessel is presently being broken up at Sturgeon Bay and the job is nearing completion.
In a follow-up to the item on the scrapping of D. B. WELDON, we have had several reports to the effect that another Goderich storage hull, the former Reoch steamer ELMDALE, has been renamed K. A. POWELL. We have, however, yet to obtain complete verification of the reports.
One of the U. S. Steel ships laid up this year is JAMES A. FARRELL which was reposing at the American Lakehead, apparently in need of some work in her holds. In late July, she was taken round to the Fraser Shipyards drydock at Superior and a month later she was in the drydock for repairs and inspection. It is our understanding that she has not returned to service since her drydocking but is rather in reserve.
A taconite shiploading facility is to be built at Allouez Bay, an installation similar to the one already operating at Taconite Harbour. The unit will be specially landscaped and will offer considerable protection from noxious dust, features designed to gain the favour of local residents.
The Ford Motor Company motorship HENRY FORD II was back in service late in August after completion of her conversion to a self-unloader. We have not as yet had a chance to see her in her new role, but we understand that she looks quite smart, a happy result bearing in mind the aesthetic deterioration of some vessels which have had similar conversions recently.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.