The newest addition to the fleet of the American Steamship Company, the self-unloading stemwinder BELLE RIVER, was christened at the Sturgeon Bay yard of the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. on July 12th by Mrs. William G. Meese, wife of the chairman and chief executive officer of the Detroit Edison Company for which the new ship will operate. The keel of BELLE RIVER had been laid on March 11, 1976 and she was launched on September 30th, 1976. She is 1,000 feet in length and has a beam of 105 feet and a molded depth of 56 feet which will give her a draft on the midsummer marks of 34 feet. BELLE RIVER is named for the newest Detroit Edison power generating plant to which the carrier will deliver low-sulphur Montana coal at a rate of 67,000 tons per trip. The plant is scheduled for completion in the mid-1980's. Trials for the vessel were held about a week subsequent to the christening ceremonies but BELLE RIVER got herself off to a rather inauspicious start. A machinery malfunction occurred during the trials and the boat had to be towed back to the shipyard. During the tow, BELLE RIVER grounded and the extensive repairs needed are expected to keep her out of operation until late August or early September.
Work is progressing at Lauzon and at Collingwood on the most recent self-unloaders being built for Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. The Lauzon boat, Davie Shipbuilding's Hull 684, was launched on July 7th and was named JEAN PARISIEN. Although we have yet to see a photo of the vessel, we are given to understand that she will be similar in appearance to the Collingwood-built H. M. GRIFFITH and J. W. McGIFFIN.
The other self-unloader, Collingwood's Hull 212, has not yet (at the time of this writing) been launched. It is expected that she will be christened LOUIS R. DESMARAIS in honour of the recently-retired C.S.L. board chairman. The DESMARAIS will be unusual in that although she will be another of the McGIFFIN type, she will not have a rounded bow. She will be given a sharp, ice-breaking bow to enable her to engage in winter navigation.
The Kinsman Lines steamer BEN MOREELL was officially rechristened ALASTAIR GUTHRIE in ceremonies held at Duluth on July 14th. Sponsor of the boat was Mrs. Alastair Guthrie. The ship has been named for the 84-year-old head of Guthrie-Hubner Inc., a Duluth grain brokerage firm.
Kinsman's reactivated steamer GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER did not long remain in service. All spruced up for her return to operation this spring, she laid up in the Frog Pond at Toledo on June 15th awaiting an improvement in business conditions. As of the final week of July, Kinsman's PAUL L. TIETJEN was still in service but running on borrowed time. She was due for her five-year inspection in early July but was not drydocked at that time.
Kinsman's GEORGE D. GOBLE made an unusual trip down the Welland Canal on July 16 with a part-cargo of barley consigned to Oswego. The remainder of her cargo was unloaded at the Lake & Rail Elevator in Buffalo. As far as we can recall, this was the GOBLE's first transit of the Welland Canal.
The passenger steamer MILWAUKEE CLIPPER, (a) JUNIATA, was drydocked at Sturgeon Bay in June in preparation for her entry into the excursion service for which a Chicago group purchased her from the Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Company. She is intended to run short daytrips out of Chicago for her new owners and will operate under the name CLIPPER. Unfortunately, difficulties have been encountered and as of mid-August the ship was still at the shipyard. Considering her age (71 years) and the fact that she has lain at Muskegon without turning a wheel since 1970, the expected reactivation of the steamer is a most welcome surprise and we wish her every success. Late reports, however, indicate that a dispute has arisen between Great Lakes Transit Company and the Coast Guard which may make operation impossible.
At long last, the Scott Misener Steamships Ltd. bulk carrier RALPH MISENER has got the monkey off her back! The ugly bucket-type unloading rig which graced (?) the ship's deck since she was built has finally been removed, much to the satisfaction of most observers who now note that the boat is not really so bad-looking after all. The unloader had never operated according to specifications and during the last few years was used very infrequently. Its removal has considerably increased RALPH MISENER's carrying capacity.
Now that TEXACO BRAVE (II) has arrived on the lakes, Texaco Canada Ltd. has taken the opportunity to refit both TEXACO CHIEF (II) and TEXACO WARRIOR (II). The latter two boats have been laid up in turn at Toronto to have their tanks cleaned and lined with a protective coating.
In our last issue, we mentioned that the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. was in the course of purchasing a salt water vessel to add to its fleet. The ship has turned out to be the Spanish motorship MONTE ALMANZOR which was brought into fresh water in late May. She has since been refitted at Port Colborne and renamed BAIE COMEAU II. It is said that the company had originally intended to rename her MANICOUAGAN (III) but that certain parties had disapproved of the proposed name due to their inability to pronounce it!
A major grounding occurred on June 3rd when BLANCHE HINDMAN found the bottom of the St. Clair River just off St. Clair, Michigan. The steamer sustained no serious damage but she was held fast until the afternoon of June 7. She was finally freed by the combined efforts of the tugs BARBARA ANN, MARY E. HANNAH, KINSALE, MAINE, MARYLAND, WILFRED M. COHEN and G. W. ROGERS. Also helping were ATOMIC, BAGOTVILLE and PAUL E. Incidentally, since the accident, BLANCHE HINDMAN has finally been given a white forecastle.
A more serious grounding occurred on June 21 when IRVING S. OLDS missed the turn at Mission Point on the St. Mary's River and wound up on the rocks of Mouse Island. The OLDS was lightered of part of her ore cargo and was released with the help of tugs. She was then sent off to the shipyard where, we understand, extensive repairs were to be made to her hull plating.
The Interlake Steamship Company's newest vessel, MESABI MINER, entered service in late spring and was upbound in the St. Clair River on her maiden voyage on June 7th. Christening ceremonies were held at Duluth on her arrival and the ship's sponsor was Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey. The boat has operated regularly ever since, apparently without any major difficulties.
MESABI MINER'S sistership JAMES R. BARKER, however, recently found herself in a rather delicate situation. In the early-morning hours of July 19, the BARKER was downbound in the St. Mary's River whilst MESABI MINER was upbound. When both ships were in the vicinity of Six Mile Point, below the Soo, a dense fog descended on the river reducing visibility to nearly zero. Both went to anchor in the upper end of Lake Nicolet and in the morning, when the fog lifted, they and several other anchored vessels prepared to get underway. The BARKER, however, soon encountered difficulty in raising her stern hook. The tugs NIBROC and RAY DUROCHER were sent to the scene and the larger JOHN ROEN V was also summoned. When divers went down under the BARKER'S fantail, it was found that the anchor chain had been wrapped twice around the port wheel and that the anchor itself was only some eight inches from the starboard screw. With only thirty inches clearance between the bottom of the boat and the riverbed, the divers cut the chain and freed the wheel, allowing the BARKER to resume her trip late on July 20th.
An enexpected visitor to the lakes on several trips since May has been the ROLAND DESGAGNES, the former Halco motorship NORTHCLIFFE HALL. She has been running from the St. Lawrence to the Algoma Steel plant at the Canadian Soo. Meanwhile, the Desgagnes Group has also sent into the lakes its JACQUES DESGAGNES, the former pulpwood carrier LOUTRE CONSOL.
The newest vessel of the fleet of Nipigon Transports Ltd. is now in service. Looking little different from a typical works-aft salt water bulker, which is exactly what she used to be, LAKE NIPIGON passed up the Welland Canal on her delivery voyage from Singapore (via the Suez Canal) on May 19. She was then berthed at the Law Stone dock at Humberstone where she was given the final touches, including removal of special strengthening members which had been placed in her for the delivery trip. Registered at Winnipeg as C.341240, she entered regular service for her owners in mid-June. Now full Seaway size, LAKE NIPIGON was built in 1971 at Govan, Scotland, as the 527-foot TEMPLE BAR. She has a bulbous bow and from photos we have seen, the only major work that was done to convert her for lake use (apart from the lengthening) was the rebuilding of her deck and hatches.
FERBEC, the ship purchased by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. for use in the St. Lawrence River titanium trade, has entered service after a refit at the Davie shipyard at Lauzon. FERBEC will remain a stranger to those of us who confine our shipwatching activities to the waters of the lakes as she is too large to transit the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Meanwhile, the boats which FERBEC replaced on the route, namely Upper Lakes Shipping's CANADIAN TRANSPORT and CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER, have both been put into mothballs in Florida waters. The former went to the wall in April while the HIGHLANDER retreated southwards in mid-August.
A few years ago, the entire lake shipping community was buzzing over the North Traverse dredging project in the St. Lawrence River near the Ile d'Orleans. Readers will recall that a number of former lake vessels were used as dredges and spoil-scows in the project. In the meantime, the newly-deepened channel has quietly been silting up to the point where a new dredging project must be undertaken to keep the channel in navigable condition. It is our understanding that the majority of the boats used in the earlier job, and which have since been lying idle at Sorel, will be reactivated for the current project and if this is true, many of our former lake friends (such as BULKARIER, CREEK TRANSPORT, HUTCHCLIFFE HALL and NORMAN B. MacPHERSON) may yet see some further service.
We understand that the Huron Cement Company has called for bids on the construction of a 600-foot bulk cement carrier and that one of the bidders is Fraser Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin, a yard that has recently concentrated more on rebuilding and repairs than on new hull construction. It is to be assumed that the advent of a new cement carrier in the Huron fleet would spell the end for such picturesque oldtimers as J. B. FORD and E. M. FORD.
The Welland Canal witnessed an unusual passage on June 14th when the tug JAMIE A. BAXTER passed downbound en route to New Orleans. The vessel, built at Sturgeon Bay by Peterson Builders, was delivered to her owners on June 9 and arrived at Montreal on June 16. She is rather like the tug-half of PRESQUE ISLE and is destined to operate as the pusher unit for a similar tug-and-barge combination which will operate on salt water.
Speaking of PRESQUE ISLE, the tug-half of the 1,000-footer passed down the Welland Canal on August 20th on the way to Port Weller Dry Docks. Her operators were apparently taking advantage of a lull in the ore trade (due to the miners' strike) to get the tug onto the dock for inspection and repairs.
One of the most handsome boats running the lakes this year, and at the same time one of the oldest, is the Soo River Company's steamer H. C. HEIMBECKER. The former WESTDALE, transferred to Soo River from Westdale Shipping Ltd. earlier in the year as part of a corporate reorganization, is now resplendent in her new colours, showing off a white forecastle and a fancy white stripe running from the bow back to beyond the break of the forecastle. The real eye-grabber, however, is her tall white stack complete with narrow black band, wide black smokeband and black outline of a shamrock. Apart from PIERSON DAUGHTERS which, of course, has the full white stripe and the company's name down the sides, the only other Soo River boat to display the hull stripe is E. J. NEWBERRY. We presume that the others will soon be painted in the same manner.
In our May issue, we mentioned that the Hall tanker FROBISHER TRANSPORT had been sold to Shell Canada Ltd. We are now beginning to wonder whether this is, in fact, the case. FROBISHER TRANSPORT has been observed in the lakes on several occasions during the summer and in each case she has still been in full Halco colours. We do know that Hall has been trying to peddle the tanker to other operators but it is possible that as yet no sale has been consummated.
Halco has, however, disposed of another of its units. The small tanker SEA TRANSPORT (II) has been sold to Danish interests. Ever since she entered the Hall fleet several years ago, the ship has been one of the company's smaller units and recently she has proved to be excess tonnage.
Speaking of the Hall fleet, some of our members may have observed a change in the company's houseflag. The flag still sports the "wishbone" and 'H' but the upper field (above the wishbone) is now black whilst the lower field is a bright red.
During the earlier months of the 1977 navigation season, observers have been watching with great interest the rebirth of LAVIOLETTE as Avery Cruise Line Limited's excursion steamer BLUEWATER BELLE. Berthed at Sarnia for the last stages of her refurbishing, she has been painted a bright blue and white and her stack has been made white with a blue smokeband on which appears a large old-English-type letter 'A'. The forward car deck has been glassed in and the boat deck has been fitted with large orange lifefloats. The former ferry's old deep steam whistle has been replaced by a chimed whistle but it now appears that we may not hear its tones echoing across the water after all. The Mooretown-based firm was expecting to operate BLUEWATER BELLE in the excursion trade out of Sarnia but if she has operated at all this summer, it has been on a very limited basis. There recently appeared a notice in one of the Toronto newspapers showing a photo of the steamer and advertising her for sale. We must therefore assume that Avery has either spent all its money on the rebuilding and has none left for operation, or else that the market for such an operation at Sarnia did not prove to be as great as expected. We somehow doubt that the latter would be the case.
The advent of lake cruising by Midwest Cruises' steamer LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER has been considerably delayed by a complicated labour dispute involving the crew and its representation. As of mid-August, the boat was still at Montreal and Midwest was hoping that things would be straightened out in time for the ship to finish out the season with a series of four-day cruises, presumably to be run out of Windsor. It appears that this is not to be.
Despite earlier rumours to the effect that her condition was sufficiently deteriorated as to make further operation after this year very unlikely, the Hindman Transportation Company's steamer PARKER EVANS was sent to Port Weller Dry Docks in early August for her four-year inspection. Considerable repair work was done on the boat and she has since re-entered service, her continued operation, at least in the foreseeable future, now assured.
For two seasons now, the steam tanker LIQUILASSIE has lain idle at Toronto, her usefulness on the lakes apparently at an end. Observers have rather doubted that a buyer could be found for her in view of the fact that she was originally built on the lakes for service on Lake Maracaibo and hence is of unusually shallow draft. Nevertheless, LIQUILASSIE's owners were recently approached by interests from the Caribbean who wished to buy the tanker for service down south. The potential purchasers apparently were unwilling to offer more than the scrap value of the ship and thus the sale has not been finalized. Meanwhile, LIQUILASSIE continues to lie across the end of the Terminal Warehouse pier awaiting whatever the future may hold for her.
We earlier commented upon the proposed sale of IMPERIAL LONDON by Marine Salvage Ltd. for Caribbean operation. Honduran interests have been negotiating for the purchase of the tanker but we have heard that as yet they have been unable to show the colour of sufficient money to persuade the scrap firm to part with possession of the ship. It is for this reason that IMPERIAL LONDON has not yet been taken off to drydock at either Port Weller or Whitby as was earlier expected.
The Paterson motorvessel HAMILDOC (III), which was this spring sold for off-lakes use, is now operating under the name THARROS. She was sold by Paterson to the Tharros Navigation Company, a Greek concern, and is now flying the Liberian flag.
During the latter part of July, there appeared in the drydock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the rather elderly diesel tug SEAWAY NO. 1 which was undergoing hull repairs as well as sandblasting and painting. Although we have as yet no confirmation of the facts, we are led to believe that the tug has been purchased by the Great Lakes Pilots Association for use at the Soo, not only as a tender for ferrying pilots to ships but also to render assistance to salties as they transit the locks. This should help to reduce the number of accidents which have plagued salties at the Soo, ocean vessels often having insufficient ballast capacity to make them manageable in high or changeable wind conditions. No doubt we shall hear more of SEAWAY NO. 1 shortly.
The question of whether or not VACATIONLAND will be returning to the lakes for service on the Meldrum Bay - DeTour Village ferry service as well as the Straits of Mackinac carferry run is still very much up in the air. At its meeting on June 23, the Michigan State Highway Commission abeyanced for three months a decision on the proposed purchase of the vessel by the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority, the delay period to be utilized for a further analysis of the proposal (at a cost to Michigan taxpayers of $100,000). Meanwhile, the British Columbia provincial government has approved the E.U.P.T.A. bid of $1,587,000 for the boat, the finalization of the deal to be contingent upon the ability of E.U.P.T.A. to come up with greenbacks in sufficient quantity.
Meanwhile, the Michigan State Highway Commission on June 29 made the decision to purchase the Straits carferry CHIEF WAWATAM for the scrap price of $102,000 and thus remove her operation from the hands of what was left of the Mackinac Transportation Company, her life-long owner. This seems to have been a wise move since the Michigan taxpayers were already paying for the operation of the veteran ferry. The CHIEF herself left her station at the Straits on July 21 and steamed down to Sturgeon Bay where she was scheduled to go on the drydock for her five-year inspection and survey.
It seems that seldom in recent years have we been able to get through a navigation season without labour disputes interrupting either the operation of the boats or the availability of cargoes. It seems that 1977 will be no exception. The shipment of grain from the port of Superior, Wisconsin, was interrupted by a strike of inspectors employed by the Wisconsin Bureau of Grain Regulation, members of the Wisconsin State Employees' Union, who walked off the job on July 3 as a result of a wage dispute. Several salt water vessels scheduled to load at the port left without cargoes while others, as well as numerous lakers, were diverted to Duluth and to Thunder Bay where grain cargoes were available. The workers were still off work at last word.
To make matters worse, the contracts of U.S. ore miners, members of the United Steelworkers' Union, expired on August 1st and lake shippers were anticipating the early depletion of supplies of iron ore and taconite ready to be shipped from northern ports. As cargoes have dried up, most firms have sent a large proportion of their boats into layup until the dispute should be settled and as early as the last week of July, a good number of the smaller carriers had already received layup orders. For instance, the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet, which commissioned this spring 22 vessels, laid up 11 at the onset of the strike, including all of its coal-burners. Its four operative "supers" (LEON FRASER, BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS, ENDERS M. VOORHEES and A. H. FERBERT) were sent down the Seaway and the other seven boats running will try to keep themselves busy on the upper lakes until things return to normal. There has been no resolution of the dispute as of this writing.
The tinstacker ENDERS M. VOORHEES was on July 17 involved in an accident which could have had tragic results but which fortunately ended happily. The ore carrier was westbound in the Portage Canal when a small boat occupied by five persons cut in front of the steamer. The motorboat's engine malfunctioned and before the VOORHEES could be stopped, she struck the boat whose occupants took to the water. They were fished out by a nearby boat but the VOORHEES in all the confusion veered against a mudbank. She was able to free herself without damage.
As if it were not bad enough that SILVER ISLE punctured herself rather nastily in a spring collision with a Seaway lockwall, Mohawk's other stemwinder SENNEVILLE struck a rock in Thunder Bay harbour on June 3 while attempting to clear port with a grain cargo. The grounding was attributed to low water levels which have made access to the various Lakehead elevator slips something of a problem. SENNEVILLE was lightered and floated free the following day, the only damage being a cracked plate which was subsequently repaired.
Another summer accident involved the Algoma self-unloader AGAWA CANYON which, on July 18, had an argument with the west abutment of Bridge 11 on the Welland Canal at Allanburg. The accident was caused by a steering failure and, although no damage was caused to the bridge and only minor damage to the abutment, the ship herself received a rather nasty 30-foot gash in her port bow. She was diverted to Toronto where her salt cargo, originally consigned to Kingston, was unloaded. The ship was then repaired at Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. and soon returned to active service.
During 1976, Toronto harbour was graced by the presence of the Thames sailing barge MAY which had been brought across the Atlantic by the Redpath Sugar Company as a promotional stunt. MAY returned to her home waters last fall but this year Redpath has brought over yet another sailing barge, this time the ETHEL. This pretty vessel is currently operating out of Toronto and will be barnstorming around the lakes for the next three years, sailing to Florida each winter. She arrived on the deck of the Finnish salty PUHOS.
The Columbia Transportation Division steam craneship W. C. RICHARDSON has been welded up at Cleveland in preparation for an overseas tow. The boat has apparently been sold to foreign buyers who did not really want the RICHARDSON herself but only her cranes. It seems that Columbia threw the boat into the deal as a means of transporting the cranes to their new owners.
The fleet of Techno-Maritime, a Quebec-based operation, has increased the scope of its services with the recent purchase of a goodly number of assorted tugs and scows. Amongst recent acquisitions have been M.I.L. VENTURE, ZULU, M.I.L. 211, M.I.L. 214, U.T.S. NO. 1, NADINE G. and CAPITAINE SIMARD.
During 1976, many American lakers sported Bicentennial colours emblazoned on pilothouses, texas cabins, bridge rails, bunker hatch rails, stacks and even hull sides. Not to be outdone in the decoration department is the 71-year-old steamer GODERICH of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. which during 1977 has been showing off the fact that this year the town of Goderich, Ontario, has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. The crest adopted by the town for the occasion has appeared on the ship's bows while the dates 1827 and 1977 appear on either bridge rail. In addition, the ship's name has once again appeared, complete with fancy red shading, on the dodger. It was painted there when Upper Lakes first bought the boat but in recent years has been conspicuous by its absence. Unfortunately, GODERICH missed the actual celebrations at which she was to be the star feature; she was delayed in Toronto and arrived at Goderich a day late.
The east coast fishing schooner PHILIP E. LAKE, which was brought to Toronto last fall by a group of local buyers, left Toronto in June. She was sold for off-lakes use, having never really been used whilst here, and made the trip out through the Seaway under her own power.
Another former east coast fishing boat, the AVALON VOYAGER which for a while after the departure of the tug QUEEN CITY served as the base for the Toronto pilot tugs, is currently lying at the inner end of the Ward's Island pier of the Eastern Gap, looking very much the worse for wear. She is up for sale, although no great rush of buyers has come forward.
Along about this point in time, we rather suspect that the officials of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. are wishing that they could somehow forget about the 1977 navigation season which has been one fraught with trouble for their ships. CANADIAN OLYMPIC and WHEAT KING have both been involved in serious groundings while HILDA MARJANNE was the victim in a relatively minor one. GODERICH required urgent hull and rudder repairs early in the season and both CAPE BRETON MINER and ONTARIO POWER have needed extensive refits which have immobilized them during the summer. MEAFORD was involved in a collision which opened up a nice gash down her port side and POINTE NOIRE has been the victim not only of a June collision on the Detroit River with the tanker SATURN but also of an August 4th grounding in the West Neebish Channel. Upper Lakes people could be forgiven for thinking that somebody up there doesn't like them!
The U.S. equivalent of Upper Lakes in 1977 would appear to be the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton and Company, which also has had more than its fair share of misery. W. W. HOLLOWAY was the victim of a shipyard fire while J. R. SENSIBAR was de-boomed at Trenton. SYLVANIA and G. A. TOMLINSON have both been out of service for repairs following mechanical failures and several other Columbia boats have also been the victims of other assorted minor mishaps.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.