John Pratt, Revisited

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Trial By Lake Erie
Lakehead Navigation Season Opens
Marine News
Vessel Passages
Montreal - Fort William Freight Service
Ship of the Month No. 84 "The Weedcutter"
Deep-sea Passenger Ship News
John Pratt, Revisited
Additional Marine News
Table of Illustrations

In our March issue, we commented at length on the history of the tug JOHN PRATT, (b) YOUVILLE, in response to an enquiry received from member Tom Wilson. We knew then that there was more to the story, but we could not put our hands on the necessary information at the time.

Lloyd Tankers expert Lorne Joyce has mentioned that JOHN PRATT was chartered by Lloyd Tankers Ltd. for a short period of time during the autumn of 1936 to replace the burned wooden tug MUSCALLONGE. The latter had been destroyed by a fire which started on August 15, 1936 in the big tug's galley while she was towing the oil barge BRUCE HUDSON on the St. Lawrence River near Brockville. MUSCALLONGE was beached by her captain, the famous Steve Ahern, but the fire could not be extinguished and she was totally destroyed. Thereafter, BRUCE HUDSON was normally towed either by RIVAL or ETHEL which, like MUSCALLONGE, were chartered from Sin-Mac Lines, but JOHN PRATT also was briefly used under charter for similar service.

One might wonder why JOHN PRATT was given her new name in 1957 after 46 years of service, particularly when there was no concurrent change of ownership. She was renamed YOUVILLE in an apparent attempt to erase the memory of a particularly tragic accident in which the steam tug was involved during the 1957 season. We express our thanks to Michel Vezina for sending us transcriptions of period newspaper accounts of the accident; if anything has been lost in the translation, it is due solely to the writer's poor efforts at interpreting the original material which was written in French.

On Wednesday, April 24, 1957, JOHN PRATT was making herself busy in the harbour at Montreal. Along with YVON DUPRE JR., she was assisting the Swedish freighter NYLAND when she was caught off balance in the current. Out of position while straining with the freighter's lines, she was pulled over and capsized, sinking rapidly in about forty feet of water. Drowned in the accident were her captain, 62-year-old Zotique Bibeau of Montreal, as well as her cook, a deckhand, and the wheelsman. Four other crew members were rescued; they had been out on deck at the time and were able to jump free of the tug as she was pulled over on her side.

The wreck of JOHN PRATT was immediately buoyed by the National Harbours Board tug GLENKEEN and salvage attempts were begun, for it was not anticipated that the tug had received anything but minimal damage in the accident. Nevertheless, she was lying in such a position that she was blocking access to certain wharves and numerous vessels had to he redirected to other sections of the harbour. Among those ships inconvenienced in this manner were the Cunard liners SAXONIA and IVERNIA, and the two-funnelled Canadian Pacific veteran, EMPRESS OF FRANCE, all of which had to discharge their passengers at other than their normal berths.

JOHN PRATT was dragged out of the shipping channel on May 1st in preparation for attempts to refloat her. She was subsequently raised and repaired, returning to service the same year under her new name. While the change of name may have helped others around the port to forget the events of April 24, 1957, we doubt that the four persons drowned in the accident received much solace from her owner's actions.


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