The improvement in weather conditions in the lower lakes area during the latter part of the winter permitted the opening of the Welland and St. Lawrence canals on April 4th and it was not long before the lakers that had been trapped by the inclement weather of late 1976 began to complete trips unexpectedly interrupted when navigation had come to an end. First ship up the Seaway was the Norwegian THORSHOPE which arrived in Toronto on April 6. The Welland was opened on the 4th by the upbound MANITOULIN. Things were not so easy on the upper lakes, however, and many difficulties were encountered in the St. Mary's River and in Whitefish Bay. It was so bad that only the newer and more powerful vessels tried to buck their way into Lake Superior, the older lakers either fitting out late or else operating only in other areas. The ore boats were flocking to Escanaba for their cargoes and for the first time in many years even the U.S. Steel ore carriers loaded there. Another problem area was the eastern end of Lake Erie. That lake was entirely frozen over during the winter and the ice pressed down into the area outside Port Colborne harbour. On the day the Welland Canal opened, the big Canadian icebreaker NORMAN McLEOD ROGERS was brought to Port Colborne to help the first of the ships through the thick ice and pressure ridges but after a couple of weeks things loosened up enough that her services were no longer needed.
The new Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. self-unloader CANADIAN OLYMPIC, upbound with ore from Sept Iles for Ashtabula on the return leg of her first trip of the season, suffered a steering failure while in the St. Lawrence River just west of Brockville on the morning of April 14, the result being that the ship veered across the channel and planted her bow firmly on Royal Island, about 20 yards from shore. The grounded freighter began to take water and kept her engines turning over so as to keep herself on the island, but she managed to block the entire channel between Royal and McCoy Islands, forcing other vessels in the area to anchor. The crew was able to control the intake of water and the ship was in no danger of sinking. McAllister tugs were summoned from Kingston and Montreal and the lighter MAPLEHEATH removed about 2,500 tons of ore, sufficient to allow the boat to be pulled free of her rocky perch on April 16. CANADIAN OLYMPIC completed her trip, unloaded her cargo and returned to Port Weller where inspection on the drydock showed damage to the starboard bottom plating back as far as the bowthruster tunnel. It is expected that she will be incarcerated until at least mid-May.
Another spring casualty was Mohawk Navigation's SILVER ISLE which was the victim of strange currents in the Seaway near the Eisenhower Lock about the same time that CANADIAN OLYMPIC was getting into trouble near Brockville. SILVER ISLE was caught in a nasty set across the channel and was forced against the pier, tearing a 50-foot gash in her starboard bow near the waterline . Her pumps were set to work and she was taken to Humberstone where she was moored at the Law stone dock, repairs being put in hand by Herb Fraser.
The Columbia fleet seems to be having a few unexpected problems this year. First its veteran self-unloader W. W. HOLLOWAY was damaged in a shipyard fire at South Chicago and now J. R. SENSIBAR has been the victim of an unusual accident which left her de-boomed. On Friday, April 15, the SENSIBAR was at the Edison dock at Trenton, Michigan. The unloading boom had been swung out over the starboard side of the ship when suddenly she lost power in her unloading machinery. The boom dropped and buckled as it hit the edge of the deck, almost the entire length of the boom disappearing into the water. Columbia was to have a new boom fitted as soon as possible. The SENSIBAR dates back to 1906 when she was built at Ecorse by the Great Lakes Engineering Works as FRANK C. BALL, a name she carried until 1930. Built as a bulk carrier, she was converted to a sandsucker in 1930 and to a self-unloading bulk carrier in 1941. She was dieselized and completely rebuilt topsides in 1960 and the following year she was lengthened.
A very similar accident recently involved the Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader GLENEAGLES, last boat in the C.S.L. fleet to be powered by reciprocating machinery. GLENEAGLES was late fitting out this year as a result of extensive repairs necessary to make good damage suffered by the ship in the ice jam in Port Colborne harbour at the close of the 1976 navigation season. She spent the winter above Lock 8 and when the canal opened was towed to the C.S.L. stone dock at Humberstone where repairs were put in hand. During the third week of April, GLENEAGLES was loading at the same dock. Her boom had been swung out over the side during the loading operation but was brought inboard to permit the passage of another vessel down the channel. The boom was then swung out again, at which time it dropped to the deck, breaking into two sections. Necessary repairs are now in progress, the far end of the boom having been fished out of the canal and a new midsection being built on deck. The fact that the steamer is being repaired would indicate that C.S.L. still considers her to be a viable unit of the fleet and that her future is rather more secure than has been rumoured during the past few years.
In our last issue, we reported on the possibility that the Kinsman steamer GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER might be fitted out and operated this season. We did, however, express a certain incredulity concerning this news based (understandably, we believe) on the reportedly poor condition of the vessel and the fact that she had been idle for so long. As it turns out, our doubts were unjustified, for the STEINBRENNER, which has been laid up at Toledo since 1974, began to fit out in April and should be in service by the time this appears in print. It is likely that GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER will operate for the remainder of the season and for part of 1978, at which time she will be due for her five-year survey and inspection (which she will not likely be given). It is with great pleasure that we see her re-enter service.
While still on the subject of the Kinsman fleet, we have even more good news for lake boatwatchers for not only will they be seeing GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER in service this year but also, for at least part of the season, they are to see PAUL L. TIETJEN in operation. We understand that the latter steamer may run until about July at which time she will be out of class.
The Kinsman steamer BEN MOREELL, which has been the recipient of extensive repairs during the winter (and which has thus eaten up a large proportion of the company's 1976 profits), will appear this season with a new name. The 55-year-old bulk carrier has been renamed (c) ALASTAIR GUTHRIE in honour of a prominent Duluth grain broker.
In our last few issues, we have reported on the recent retirement of the Kinsman steamer CHICAGO TRADER, a victim of the high cost of repairs necessary to permit her to pass inspection. CHICAGO TRADER has served as a source of parts needed to put GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER back in service, the TRADER herself having since been sold to the Acme Scrap Metal Company for scrapping. She will shortly be towed from Toledo to Ashtabula where demolition will be put in hand.
Scrapping operations are proceeding rapidly at Humberstone on CHARLES DICK. The veteran Canadian sandsucker is disappearing under the torches of Marine Salvage Ltd. very quickly and when last observed, was cut back through the after cabin. It will not be long before there is nothing left of her at all.
But another steamer has escaped from the clutches of the scrappers and has an operating future ahead of her. Ever since the firm bought the tanker IMPERIAL LONDON last summer, Marine Salvage has indicated a desire to sell her for operational purposes. We now learn that she has been sold to unidentified "southern" operators who will take her down to Caribbean or to South American waters. IMPERIAL LONDON is scheduled to go on drydock at Port Weller during May so that she may be refurbished for her new owners.
The Chessie System on April 4th announced that its summer schedule of sailings across Lake Michigan will be maintained by its carferries BADGER and SPARTAN and that the older (1941) CITY OF MIDLAND 41 will not be placed in service this season. The railroad has offered to donate CITY OF MIDLAND 41 to either the state of Michigan or Wisconsin or both for use in the passenger and auto trade across the lake but as yet there is no word as to whether Chessie's offer will be accepted.
In its efforts to obtain a ship for use on the proposed passenger and auto ferry run between Meldrum Bay and DeTour Village, the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority submitted a bit of $1,587,000 for the idle British Columbia government ferry SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, once the pride and joy of the Michigan State ferry operation at the Straits of Mackinac. The idea was that the boat is suitable for the laying of railroad tracks on her main deck so that when not in use on the passenger run, she could take the place of CHIEF WAWATAM on the Straits railway carferry service. Late reports, however, say that the E.U.P.T.A.'s bid for the former VACATIONLAND was not successful. In the meantime, we have also heard that the inactive Ann Arbor Railroad carferry ARTHUR K. ATKINSON may well be under consideration for use in the dual service.
The new Algoma Central self-unloader ALGOLAKE was christened at ceremonies held at Collingwood in early April and the ship should now be in service. The town of Collingwood, for which the shipyard is the major industry, had been crying the blues over the prospect of wholesale unemployment in the area due to the layoffs expected once ALGOLAKE was completed. Algoma Central, however, rekindled the town's spirits by announcing during the christening ceremonies that it had awarded to Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. a contract for yet another self-unloader, a sister to ALGOLAKE.
As reported some months ago, Cleveland Tankers Inc. will soon be taking delivery of yet another tanker built off-lakes for the company. As a result, its motortanker POLARIS has been retired and offered for sale. POLARIS was built in 1945 at Hingham, Massachusetts, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company as LST 1063. The 326-foot boat was bought by Cleveland Tankers from the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1948 and was converted to a tanker at Oakland, California, coming into the lakes via the Mississippi in 1949. While POLARIS was never a good-looking ship and indeed looked every bit the L.S.T. she formerly was, we view her departure from the Cleveland Tankers fleet with a certain sadness, as her withdrawal marks the retirement of the last of the older tankers from the fleet. The company at one time in its fleet had such interesting steamers as ROCKET, COMET, MERCURY and PLEIADES, as well as numerous other boats and it is a bit disheartening to the true steamboat fan to note that the active fleet now consists (apart from the new vessel under construction) of the dumb barge PHOENIX and the powered barges SATURN and JUPITER.
Much to our surprise, CAYUGA II returned in mid-April to her berth in the York Street slip at Toronto. We gather that her owners have somehow managed to overcome their financial problems and that they are intending to use the ship in excursion service around Toronto Bay again this summer.
Last month, we reported that the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet would this year reactivate the steamers AUGUST ZIESING and WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE which did not operate in 1976. Unfortunately, it would now appear that this will not be the case, although all the straightdeckers which ran in '76 will be in service again this season.
N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay, has sold to Greek buyers its 291-foot motorship HAMILDOC (III). The vessel, built for Paterson in 1963 by Davie Shipbuilding at Lauzon, has already been delivered to her new operators and has departed for Mediterranean waters. Meanwhile, Paterson is also looking for a buyer for its 271-foot LAWRENDOC (II) which has lain idle at Cardinal since last July. We also understand that the company had thought this spring of disposing of its last canaller, TROISDOC (III), but was persuaded to keep the ship to service the Wallaceburg - Cardinal corn trade.
Back in the February issue, we mentioned that a Canadian self-unloader was being retired from service but we did not actually name the vessel. For those who have not guessed in the meantime, we can now identify the boat as the Westdale Shipping Ltd. steamer PINEDALE which has succumbed to machinery problems. PINEDALE is presently resting at Hamilton and will be cannibalized for parts to keep the other self-unloaders of the fleet (and particularly the ageing LEADALE and FERNDALE) in service. PINEDALE dates back to 1906 when she was built at Wyandotte by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company for E. D. Carter of Erie, Pennsylvania. She was sold in 1914 to the Algoma Central Steamship Line and in 1916 passed to the American Steamship Company for whom she operated until sold to the Reoch interests in 1960. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1932 at which time she was also lengthened. She ran variously as (a) E. D. CARTER (16), (b) WILLIAM T. ROBERTS (32), (c) DOW CHEMICAL (I)(39) and (d) NORMAN J. KOPMEIER (6l). She was the first of the ex-American upper-lake self-unloaders to cross the border for the Reoch fleet and her retirement at age 71 follows only a year after the loss by Westdale of AVONDALE (II) whose hull was condemned late in the 1975 season.
Mention has previously been made in these pages of the fact that the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company's stretched bulk carrier WALTER A. STERLING will be converted to a self-unloader later this year at the AmShip yard at Lorain. Now comes word that Cliffs' other super-size bulker, EDWARD B. GREENE, is also being considered for a similar conversion, although there has been no announcement as to when or where the work might be done.
The small Halco tanker ISLAND TRANSPORT has at last had her appearance improved by the raising of her funnel so as to hide the myriad exhaust pipes which previously stuck up out of her diminutive stack. Now if only they could do something about the rest of the boat....
The St. Lawrence Cement Company Ltd. is going into the shipping business and has purchased from New Zealand interests the small cement carrier GUARDIAN CARRIER, (a) ETHEL EVERARD, which was built in 1957 at Grangemouth. She is due to arrive at Clarkson on June 9 and will be used to haul cement between Clarkson and Buffalo. No new name for the ship has been revealed. It is a bit of a mystery why the firm would use a ship on a run through the Welland when the company's trucks now make the same trip in three hours.
We recently remarked on the conversion to oil fuel at Ashtabula of the Interlake steamer HARRY COULBY. It should be noted that two other lake carriers have also been given the same conversion, these being Columbia's straight-decker THOMAS WILSON (getting the job done at Cleveland) and the U.S. Steel self-unloader GEORGE A. SLOAN, the latter also getting automated boiler controls .
We are sure that anyone who has seen the rebuilt PIERSON DAUGHTERS since she entered service this spring will share our enthusiasm for the new look of this steamer. Her new pilothouse is a most attractive addition and her rebuilt funnel represents a considerable improvement over the poor excuse for a stack which she carried ever since her stretching in 1960 at which time she was given the stern of a T-2 tanker. The short white stripe which appeared on the forward end of her hull last year has now been extended aft to the break of the poop and is only broken amidships where the Soo River Company name appears. The funnel colours have also changed and the new stack design has been given to the other Soo River boats as well. The stack is now basically white with a black smokeband over narrow white and black bands. Although we originally thought that the "inkblot" (the black shamrock) would not appear in the new design, it seems to have reappeared in the form of a black outline (rather than a solid figure) on the white lower portion of the stack.
Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. has assumed from its subsidiary Leitch Transport Ltd. the ownership of six vessels, namely ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR, ST. LAWRENCE PROSPECTOR, CAPE BRETON MINER, ONTARIO POWER, CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER and CANADIAN TRANSPORT. The move is seen as an indication that the ships (with the exception of CANADIAN TRANSPORT and CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER which are too large to transit the Seaway) may now spend more time on the lakes and less on salt water where they are far less economical to operate. CANADIAN TRANSPORT and CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER may well be leaving the fleet soon anyway because Upper Lakes has lost back to C.S.L. the contract for the carriage of titanium ore between Havre St. Pierre and Sorel and it is unlikely that Upper Lakes would have any other use for the two vessels.
Now that C.S.L. has regained the St. Lawrence titanium contract from Upper Lakes Shipping to which it had lost it several years ago, C.S.L. is in need of tonnage to operate the route, it being apparent that the firm does not intend to use a laker for the service as it did previously (RIMOUSKI was normally assigned to the run). The company has purchased from Nippon Yusen Kaisha of Japan the 1966-built, 56,000-ton bulk carrier FERBEC and will shortly bring her to Canadian waters for the titanium run.
The lakes should soon see the arrival of LAKE NIPIGON, a vessel converted for the lake services of Nipigon Transports Ltd. in a Singapore shipyard. The boat is currently on her delivery voyage.
Another new vessel, but one which is already in the lakes, is TEXACO BRAVE (II) which arrived in Toronto for the first time on May 6th. Measuring 415 x 66 x 35, 8545 Gross, 3673 Net, the tanker was built for Texaco Canada Ltd. at Shimonoseki, Japan.
Hall Corporation Shipping Ltd. has recently sold its tanker FROBISHER TRANSPORT to Shell Canada Ltd. who will operate her in lake and coastal service. The 426.6-foot motorship was brought to Canada in 1974 when Halco purchased her from Scandinavian owners. No new name has been announced. We rather wonder whether she may be intended as a replacement for FUEL MARKETER (II). Halco is also trying to dispose of SEA TRANSPORT (II) but has had no takers.
CLARENCE B. RANDALL, the retired veteran of the Inland Steel fleet, is currently lying at the Milwaukee premises of a scrap firm. Observers report that the name has been painted out on her bow and stern and that the Inland Steel name has been painted off her sides . We wonder whether this may be in anticipation of a sale of the ship or just a preparation for scrapping operations. Either way, it would seem a bit useless to try to obscure the distinctive Inland markings.
The Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. has once again gone off-lakes to purchase a ship for its fleet. The firm has obtained a Spanish bulk carrier of approximately 7,000 Gross Tonnage for use in lake and east coast service. We hope to confirm the name of the vessel shortly.
MESABI MINER, now nearing completion at Lorain, was towed from the AmShip drydock on March 26 to allow ROGER BLOUGH to be put on the dock. In the meantime, work on the MINER has progressed and it is reported that exterior hull work was nearly finished by mid-April. She is due to be commissioned in early June. She will be a sister to JAMES R. BARKER but her boom will be a bit longer. Meanwhile, the keel has been laid at Toledo for the midbody of yet another similar vessel which has been ordered by the National Steel Corporation. She will follow MESABI MINER from Lorain where she will be completed.
We have heard rumours to the effect that in 1978 there will be two salt water cruise boats in the lakes. Apart from LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER which we assume will still be running in the lakes then, we have been at a loss to imagine what the second boat could be. Recently we heard from usually reliable sources that it will be the Hapag-Lloyd's EUROPA, (a) KUNGSHOLM, which is apparently scheduled to wander into the lakes on several of her 1978 cruises. The only difficulty as we see it is that EUROPA has a beam of 76'10" and as a result she may be just too wide to make it through the canals.
Member Frank Crevier of Algonac spent the winter down south and his travels took him to New Orleans where, on March 17, while riding the splendid new sternwheel steamboat NATCHEZ, he saw a familiar ship amongst the salties berthed at the freight sheds. It turned out to be ESKIMO and Frank has described for us her new livery. The former laker now has a black hull with white forecastle, poop and cabins. Her stack is black with a white band and on the band appear the letters "C.S.L." in black. A small red maple leaf appears inside the "C". ESKIMO, now registered at Hamilton, Bermuda, is operating with CHAMBLY in deep-sea service for a C.S.L. subsidiary.
Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. will soon be having a full wall built between its drydock and the graving dock so that the two chambers may be flooded and drained independently. A separate entranceway to the graving dock (familiarly called the "shelf") will be constructed.
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