As if the Lake Michigan carferries have not had enough problems recently, what with their owners trying to dispense with their services and abandon their routes, the Chessie System's ferry SPARTAN put herself out of service with severe bottom damage sustained when she struck rocks near the south breakwall at the entrance to the harbour at Ludington on the morning of August 12th. The accident occurred during a heavy fog as the ship was inbound from Kewaunee. No explanation of how the accident came about has been released either by Chessie or by the U.S. Coast Guard which was investigating the grounding. Fortunately, no injuries were sustained by any of the passengers or crew and no automobiles or freight cars were damaged. SPARTAN damaged about 120 feet of her bottom plating and Chessie management authorized repairs, a move which was somewhat surprising for a company which has been seeking so actively to drop its ferry operations. SPARTAN arrived at the Sturgeon Bay yard of Bay Shipbuilding on August 18th and the following day was put on the drydock. Meanwhile, the service to Milwaukee and Kewaunee from Ludington was cut to one trip each per day instead of two, these routes now being handled by BADGER on an alternating basis. CITY OF MIDLAND 41 has been attempting to maintain the normal schedule of two runs per day to Manitowoc.
In the meantime, studies are continuing relative to efforts by the states of Michigan and Wisconsin to prevent the Chessie, Ann Arbor and Grand Trunk from abandoning their ferry operations. A task force is looking into the possibility of subsidizing current ferry operators or of setting up a bi-state operating authority to assume the maintenance of the services which the railways do not wish to continue. The whole subject of the abandonment of the ferry routes is very much a hot issue amongst the residents of the towns which the boats serve, as they can foresee dark days ahead should the ferries be taken out of service.
Last issue we mentioned the purchase by the Desgagnes Group Inc. of the motorship NORTHCLIFFE, the former NORTHCLIFFE HALL. We noted that while still in the Caribbean she had been renamed TRANSCARIB but apparently this name was never applied by her owners, Tara Corp. We now learn that Desgagnes has renamed the ship ROLLAND DESGAGNES for her new service on the St. Lawrence and the east coast.
The coaster IDA LUNDRIGAN has been bareboat-chartered by Common Bros. to Chimo Shipping Ltd. for a period of ten years. For her new duties on the Canadian east coats, the ship has been renamed A. C. CROSBIE.
In the Mid-Summer issue we included an item of late marine news relative to the sinking in Lake Huron on August 1st of a barge being towed by the McLean tug WILFRED M. COHEN. We now have more details for you. The barge was loaded with a cargo of steel and at the time of the accident was en route from the Canadian Sault to Cleveland. The barge apparently listed heavily and then capsized, despite the fact that seas were running to a height of only two feet. An attempt was made to tow the overturned barge ashore, but she finally sank just off Middle Island, near Rockport, Michigan, in 103 feet of water. The barge was owned by Great Lakes Barge Ltd. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a firm owned jointly by A. B. McLean and Sons Ltd. and Traders Metal Ltd. Salvage possibilities are being investigated.
The Reoch self-unloader BROOKDALE was the victim of a grounding incident in the lower St. Clair River near Willow Point on August 30th. The steamer went aground, was freed and then grounded again. With the help of the G-tug AMERICA, she was finally freed on September 1st, apparently without damage.
The latter part of the summer saw a slackening of the grain trade on the lakes and many of the Canadian lakers were put to the wall for a short lay-up or else were employed hauling ore up from the St. Lawrence, returning downbound light. Toronto harbour was the temporary home of four such ships, all members of the fleet of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. WHEAT KING arrived on August 17th, JAMES NORRIS on August 18, POINTE NOIRE on August 28 and R. BRUCE ANGUS on September 1st. All four vessels had left their berths in the turning basin by mid-September.
The Norwegian full-rigged ship CHRISTIAN RADICH, fresh from her July 4th appearance in New York's triumphant Operation Sail '76 and a subsequent tour of various Great Lakes ports, sailed into Toronto harbour via the Western Gap on the morning of August 31 and moored at Harbourfront Park's York Quay. The 238-foot training ship, which dates back to 1937, was greeted by a nine-gun salute and martial music on her arrival. She stayed in port for four days and was open to public inspection, large crowds thronging the Simcoe Street slip area to get a view of the vessel. The RADICH cleared port on the evening of September 3rd and in passing out the Western Gap went close to Exhibition Park where the Canadian National Exhibition was in full progress. Her departure was signalled by the booming guns of H.M.C.S. HAIDA which created such a commotion that we could feel the house shake on Ward's Island! CHRISTIAN RADICH then took off down Lake Ontario en route to Montreal and home. Ye Ed caught a fleeting glimpse of the ship out on the open lake, barrelling along before a northwest wind which was rising up on her stern. It's been many a moon since we have seen such an awe-inspiring sight. CHRISTIAN RADICH passed down the Seaway and crossed the Atlantic but on September 23rd the news media reported that the ship had run into hurricane-like winds in the Bay of Biscay. The vessel, with 103 persons aboard, is said to have lost much of her sail but at the time of this writing there was no word of any other damage which the RADICH may have suffered.
Motorists seeking to avoid the chore of highway driving around Georgian Bay by availing themselves of the Manitoulin Island ferry service were much discombobulated in late August when service between Tobermory and South Bay Mouth was suspended as a result of an accident involving the new ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN. It seems that the "Big Canoe" was approaching the Tobermory dock on the evening of August 29th when a gust of wind propelled her into the slip rather faster than her skipper might have wished. Rather severe damage was done to the hinged bow of the boat and she was taken out of service and sent around to Collingwood Shipyards for repairs. But with both NORGOMA and NORISLE sold, there is no stand-by boat for the popular run and, with the Labour Day holiday weekend approaching, officials of the Owen Sound Transportation Company were understandably worried over the prospect of thousands of irate motorists stuck without ferry service. Temporary repairs were rushed at Collingwood and, CHI-CHEEMAUN's bow gate still inoperative, the vessel was pressed back into service on September 3rd, it being necessary for vehicles to be loaded and unloaded over the stern. It seems likely that the ship will finish out the season as is and that complete repairs will not be undertaken until the winter months.
Readers will recall our previous comments about repairs done to the bow of ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR at Toronto during early August. At the time of our earlier report, we had no information about how the damage had been done. We now learn that the ship had an argument with a lock wall in the St. Lawrence Seaway below Eisenhower Lock while upbound with ore for Lorain. She unloaded at the latter port and sailed light ship for Toronto where repairs were put in hand.
The Bultema Dock and Dredge Company of Muskegon has purchased a 120-foot tug for lake service. The vessel is EDMOND MORAN, obtained from the Moran Towing Company and formerly used on the American east coast. The tug has been renamed BARBARA ANDRIE. She is much larger than any of the other Bultema tugs and we are wondering what she will do for a living in fresh water.
While on the subject of tugs, we should make mention of the former Canadian Dredge and Dock Company tug HELEN S. which lay idle for many years in the Kingston boneyard. The tug, partially stripped of her superstructure, had been taken to Belleville where she lay in a rather sorry state for about two years. Her owner, William Grimshaw, had plans to convert the hull into a sailing vessel and work progressed slowly with volunteer help. Moved during 1975 to the south shore of Green Point on Prince Edward County's Long Reach, the conversion job is now almost complete and HELEN S. has taken shape as a four-masted sailing ship complete with bowsprit. She was scheduled to sail for Port Credit during September for the application of the final touches and Grimshaw hopes to have HELEN S. in commercial service by next summer.
We recently reported on accident damage sustained during the early summer by the American Steamship Company's self-unloaders SAM LAUD and H. LEE WHITE. We can now confirm that the LAUD grounding took place at Buffalo on July 4th and caused severe bottom damage which was subsequently repaired at Lorain. The incident wherein the WHITE rammed the dock at the Algoma Steel plant in the Canadian Sault occurred not on July 10 but rather also on the 4th. It looks as if the Glorious Fourth was not so glorious for Bo-Co and rather more Bi-Accidental than Bi-Centennial ...
By the time this appears in print, we doubt that any of our readers could possibly have missed hearing the song entitled "The Wreck of the EDMUND FITZGERALD" which recently has been burning up the pop charts. Written and recorded by well-known Canadian performer Gordon Lightfoot, the ballad presents an interesting, if not entirely realistic, account of the circumstances of last fall's tragic accident and has produced quite a stir in local music circles, possibly since songs written about Great Lakes freighters are few and far between. The record is available as a single or as a cut on Lightfoot's "Summertime Dream" album. Well worth a listen ...
The forward section of the new BoCo 1000-foot self-unloader BELLE RIVER was launched September 9 at the Sturgeon Bay yard of Bay Shipbuilding. The vessel is the first 1000-footer to be built by Bay and is the yard's Hull 716. She should be delivered to BoCo during 1977.
By the time you read this, the new Upper Lakes Shipping self-unloader now under construction at Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. will have been officially christened CANADIAN OLYMPIC. Christening ceremonies for the stemwinder are due to be held at the shipyard on Saturday, October 2nd.
The Delta Queen Steamboat Company has now doubled its fleet size by placing in service the giant (it may be a blah word but we can't think of a better one...) steam-powered sternwheeler MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, recently completed by Jeffboat Inc., Jeffersonville, Indiana. The massive cruise vessel, by far the largest such craft ever to be seen on the waters of the Ohio or Mississippi or any of their tributaries, made her trials during July and on July 20th cleared Louisville's Cox Park Landing with a goodly load of dignitaries and assorted invited guests for a two-day shakedown cruise downriver to the scenic Ox Bow Bends. The first scheduled way stop made by the new boat (this would be a good candidate for the stickler in a trivia quiz years from now) was at Brandenburg, Kentucky, on July 21st. MISSISSIPPI QUEEN seems to have made a good splash in the press and amongst many travellers (despite the fares charged) but the comments we have heard from riverboat purists lead us to believe that they are having a hard time convincing themselves that this $21.5 million gargantuan hotel-on-a-barge belongs on the river. As for Ye Ed, having seen MISSISSIPPI QUEEN just before her completion, we believe that we'll be satisfied with DELTA QUEEN for quite a while yet to come. We aren't yet ready to be pampered with saunas, pools, movie theatres and the like while we're steamboatin' on the river.
Speaking of DELTA QUEEN, we are pleased to report that the U.S. House of Representatives voted early in July to approve a further five-year extension of the boat's exemption from the safety-at-sea legislation, thus ensuring a continued period of operation for the venerable steamer. The vote was all but unanimous and it seems unlikely that the Senate will reverse the decision of Congress. Three cheers for a grand old lady!
The Columbia Transportation self-unloading steamer SYLVANIA seems to have come upon hard times this summer. On August 20th, the ship was lying in the Black River at Lorain, having been towed to that port for repairs which were to be completed by the American Shipbuilding Company. That morning, a fire broke out in her cargo hold and the local fire department had to be called to the scene. The fire was extinguished but we understand that there was damage occasioned to the vessel. It is to be hoped that SYLVANIA will be repaired and put back into the coal trade, but bearing in mind the age of the steamer (she dates from 1905), it is entirely possible that if the damage is anything but very minor, Columbia might decide to junk the old girl. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
The former Goderich Elevator and Transit Company barge C. S. BAND is now reposing at the McNamara Marine yard at Whitby, Ontario. Until recently, the BAND, which now is owned by McNamara, was being used in connection with the construction of the Ontario Hydro nuclear generating plant at Douglas Point on Lake Huron. She was towed into Port Colborne on September 21st by McNamara's tug SOULANGES and was taken down the canal the same day by G. W. ROGERS and PRINCESS NO. 2. She spent the next day at the old Empire Hanna coal dock in Port Weller harbour and then made the trip across Lake Ontario to her current resting place. It is not known what plans McNamara may now have for the veteran barge. The C.S. BAND last operated in the mid-fifties as OWENDOC for N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. and prior to her acquisition by McNamara she had served as a grain storage hull at Goderich.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.