Marine News

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
Ship of the Month No. 93 Brookton
A Generous Donation to the Society
You Asked Us
The Shipbuilders revisited
An Old Friend Revisited
Additional Marine News
Table of Illustrations

ROBERT S. PIERSON is seen on her first downbound passage of the Welland Canal, April 6, 1980. Photo by J. H. Bascom.
The Soo River Company's recent acquisition, ROBERT S. PIERSON, (a) WILLIAM K. FIELD (34), (b) REISS BROTHERS (70), (c) GEORGE D. GOBLE (80), is now in service, resplendent in her new colours. The coal-fired steamer, the only such boat in service on the lakes under the Canadian flag, was put into operation in early April after an extensive refit at Hamilton. To our own way of thinking, the ship looks better now than she has at any previous stage in her career, and we wish her well in her new endeavours.

ROBERT S. PIERSON, however, is not the only new addition to the Soo River fleet in 1980. No sooner had it become evident, during mid-April, that the Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. steamer GODERICH was not being fitted out for the new season, than we learned that the Soo River Company had acquired the ship and would place her in service immediately. The deal was closed on April 14 and the boat was formally handed over to Pierson on April 17, although it was on the 16th that the painters moved in and began to dress GODERICH in her new colours. They suit her very well indeed. GODERICH entered service under her old name prior to the end of April, it being intended that she would make one trip under her old name and then be renamed (d) SOO RIVER TRADER. The vessel is, of course, an interesting acquisition for the Pierson interests in that she was built back in 1906, having sailed previously for the Pickands Mather fleet as (a) SAMUEL MATHER (III)(25), 00 PATHFINDER (II)(64). She is, in fact, of the same vintage as PIERSON INDEPENDENT, the Soo River hard-luck boat of 1979. We wish SOO RIVER TRADER better luck and a long career under the shamrock insignia.

Over the many years that have passed since the colours first were seen, we have all become inured to the rather strange livery of the Mohawk Navigation Company Ltd. The juxtaposition of blue and green on the ships' hulls has never been considered to be particularly pleasing, but likewise it has not been the worst that we have seen. Mohawk's SENNEVILLE, however, has now traded her normal livery for something decidedly worse and it sends shivers up and down the spine to think that SILVER ISLE will look the same when she is repainted in 1981. SENNEVILLE's hull is now a bright orange while her forecastle and quarterdeck are yellow. The word 'Pioneer' is spelled down her sides in large black letters. The stack is red with a narrow black smokeband and it features the stylized letters 'JR' in yellow and orange. Now what, we might well ask, would prompt anyone in his right mind to paint a ship in such hideous array? We know not, but we can report that 'Pioneer' refers to the Pioneer Grain Company Ltd., an enterprise of James Richardson and Sons Ltd. (the 'JR' on the stack). Richardson is, of course, a major Canadian grain dealer and has been much involved with these two vessels in recent years, although they have been operated for Mohawk by Scott Misener Steamships Ltd.

The Misener boats will also appear in slightly different colours this year, the familiar silver bands on the stacks being replaced by gold bands. In addition, RALPH MISENER has lost the jig-saw puzzle from her stack and she will henceforth carry the gold bands as well, although she has first been given bands of a yellowish colour to test the merits of a slightly different type of paint. The change to the gold bands was first rumoured some years ago when it was announced that Misener hulls would be painted blue, but it has only been this spring that the stack changes have actually been made. Regrettably, we must voice the opinion that the change is hardly for the better.

Royal Hydrofoil Cruises Ltd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, will begin service across Lake Ontario on May 15 using its 125-foot, 200-passenger hydrofoils PRINCE OF NIAGARA, QUEEN OF TORONTO and PRINCESS OF THE LAKE. The service is scheduled to continue through October 31. The hydrofoils will make a one-way lake crossing in 70 minutes, two boats normally being in service and one in reserve at any time. The round-trip fare between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake will be $35 for adults, $25 for children. At these prices, we wonder how Royal will be able to keep even one of its boats in service...

MENIHEK LAKE entered service in late March as the Welland Canal shunter test vessel, this tour of unusual duty being scheduled to last about six weeks. In order to prepare her for her new service, MENIHEK LAKE has had the shunters attached fore and aft and facilities have been cut into her hull to allow easy access to and from the shunters. The steamer is ballasted with both water and sand so that she draws 26 feet of water fore and aft. This will be the first real test of the shunters under anything approximating operating conditions, the tests last year with MARINSAL having been little more than preliminary tinkerings. We understand that MENIHEK LAKE has been turned in her own length in the area below the Guard Gate at Thorold with no difficulties at all. We do, however, have a few questions: the shunters may work when semi-permanently attached directly to a ship and with special ladders and control equipment in place, but how are they to be attached quickly to a vessel which desires passage of the canal without getting involved in major structural alterations? And how would a shunter be attached to a bulbous-bowed ship? We shall see in due course, no doubt.

The forward end of the former U.S. Steel steamer JAMES A. FARRELL was gutted by fire at Duluth on March 10 as the vessel, partially dismantled, lay at the scrapyard of the Hyman-Michaels Company. The fire was caused by a cutting torch, but there was little of value destroyed in the blaze, for the beautiful woodwork and furnishings which once had graced the FARRELL's forward cabins, and particularly her guest quarters, had long since been removed. By April 12, the ship's stern had been cut down to the water line, whilst her bow was down to the level of her name on the forecastle .

Another recent fire occurred aboard a different boat, but one that also has sailed her last on the lakes. For several years now, CLARENCE B. RANDALL (II), late of the Inland Steel fleet, has lain idle at Milwaukee after being sold, allegedly for scrapping, to the Afram Brothers Company. During the late winter, cutting began on the RANDALL, her after cabins being gradually removed along with her stack. On March 14, a cutting torch ignited material in the after accommodations and damage was occasioned to the galley and three staterooms. It is said that the ship is being cut down for use as a floating dock, but we would not be surprised to see her completely dismantled. CLARENCE B. RANDALL was built in 1907 and sailed originally as (a) J. J. SULLIVAN (62).

Yet another fire of note occurred on March 19, this one causing severe damage to staging and the conveyor belt aboard the new BURNS HARBOR, presently nearing completion at Sturgeon Bay for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. It would seem possible that this set-back in preparing the new vessel for service may result in a delay in her commissioning. BURNS HARBOR is scheduled to be christened at the Bay Shipbuilding yard on May 24, 1980.

In the April issue, we listed those vessels of the United States Steel Corporation, Great Lakes Fleet, which would be in service during 1980, the list including 17 bulk carriers and five of the "Bradley" self-unloaders. Contrary to our previous report, however, HOMER D. WILLIAMS will be operating and the coal-fired JOHN HULST will not, at least at the beginning of the season. Indeed, prospects for the ore trade during the remainder of the navigation season are such that even more vessels may go to the wall as time passes.

It now seems fairly evident that MARLHILL has turned her wheel for the last time. The cracked boiler which she suffered in early April whilst fitting out at Toronto is a sufficiently serious problem that the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. has decided not to proceed with repairs, although no disposition of the steamer has yet been announced. She is presently lying at the foot of Yonge Street, Toronto.

The Chessie System has come up with a "solution" to some of the Lake Michigan carferry service's problems, but it is unlikely to attract positive comment from anyone but Chessie executives, particularly since the States of Michigan and Wisconsin do not have the funds available to step in. Chessie would agree to sell its three ferries and dock facilities for the total sum of $20,000,000 and then lease the service back for $1.00 per year. Other little considerations would be thrown into the pot to sweeten it for Chessie, most of them calling for payments of one sort or another, and the grabber being that Chessie must be allowed to sell off one ferry (CITY OF MIDLAND 41, no doubt). A serious reply to this offer hardly seems warranted; Chessie's generosity is exceeded only by its nerve...

As a late item of marine news, we included a small item at the very bottom of page fourteen of the April issue concerning the impending scrapping of the 73-year-old Medusa Cement steamer C. H. McCULLOUGH JR., (a) WARD AMES (16). For those who might have missed it, we should reiterate that the handsome old boat has been sold to Western Metals Corporation of Thunder Bay and will be dismantled there. The tugs are due to pick her up at her lay-up berth at South Chicago on or about May 15. McCULLOUGH, long in the fleet of the Interlake Steamship Company, was purchased in 1970 by Medusa, the eventual intention being to convert her to a cement carrier. She was operated briefly in the bulk trades but has been inactive for several years. Her condition was recently found to have deteriorated sufficiently that the cost of refurbishing her (in addition to the costly conversion) would have been prohibitive .

There is some suggestion that PIONEER may eventually be converted to a bulk cement carrier, just as was originally intended by Medusa Cement when it purchased the former STEELTON from the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. PIONEER's future has, of course, been in considerable doubt of late, but Medusa is in the course of negotiating with Penn-Dixie Cement on a possible deal which would see PIONEER made over into a cement boat for Lake Michigan service. No definite news in this regard is expected in the immediate future.

In the April issue, we gave details of the opening of the various canals, the entire Seaway system (including the American Soo Locks) having been put in operation on March 24. More details are now available. The first ship to pass through the Soo Canal (and only the MacArthur Lock was open until April 1) was YANKCANUCK, upbound on March 24 from the Government Wharf for the Algoma Steel plant. The first downbound passage was logged on March 25 by V. W. SCULLY. Strangely enough, the first passage of a U.S.-flag laker did not come until March 31 with PHILIP R. CLARKE upbound behind the salty THEANTO A.S. It is thought that this is the first time ever that a salt-water vessel has preceeded the first American ship through the Soo Locks after opening in the spring. From March 25 through 31, there were frequent passages by assorted Canadian boats.

The port of Cleveland opened on March 26 with the arrival of the Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader HOCHELAGA.

The demise of the three steam-powered Amoco lake tankers may not occur as imminently as was earlier expected, although there is considerable doubt as to how long the trio of veteran boats can be kept in service. In fact, only one of the new Hannah barges will be chartered by Amoco, this barge being especially built to carry asphalt, a product which the old ships cannot handle. AMOCO ILLINOIS, AMOCO INDIANA, and AMOCO WISCONSIN will remain in service for the foreseeable future, although ILLINOIS is due for inspection in 1981 and there is considerable doubt as to whether she will pass. The other two will run at least through 1983 when they, also, will require docking for inspection and survey. Amoco does not wish to be totally dependant upon the services of others to move its products and has already given some consideration to the possibility of building additional vessels should its three old steamers have to be retired due to age or condition.

Probably as a result of her poor showing during the 1979 season (with a late start and various mechanical problems), the Toronto excursion steamer BLUE WATER BELLE has been seized by a lienholder, tentatively identified as the Royal Bank of Canada. This is particularly unfortunate, as we understand that the BELLE had a good booking of charters lined up for the 1980 season. We sincerely hope that the difficulties may be resolved and that the BELLE's lovely chimed whistle will once again echo around Toronto Bay this summer.

Toronto will have yet another excursion boat in service during 1980, the most recent addition to the growing force being the converted wooden fairmile THE LADY GALADRIEL. The 108-foot vessel, built in 1944 at Weymouth, Nova Scotia, has recently laid idle in the Toronto turning basin, her owner of late having been Rohan Contracting Ltd. of Willowdale. She has been extensively renovated and repowered for her new duties and will allegedly specialize in corporate charters.

There may be good news for those of us who have wanted to see the Toronto steam sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM operating a more extensive series of harbour trips so that the general public would have access to the boat which was rebuilt with their tax money. Through the close of 1979, TRILLIUM had operated only in charter service with perhaps one venture per year onto the Hanlan's Point ferry service. It now seems that the Metropolitan Toronto Parks Department has budgeted for two crews for TRILLIUM in 1980 and, if true, this would virtually guarantee her use on public excursions as well as private evening charters. In addition, we understand that an appropriation of funds has been set aside for the eventual rebuilding of the Centre Island ferry docks so that TRILLIUM may be able to assist on this popular ferry route.

Although it is not really an item of "marine" news, we should report that, by the time this appears in print, the famous "Tin Goose" or Ford Trimotor airplane belonging to Island Airlines should be back in service between Port Clinton, Ohio, and the Lake Erie Islands (Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island). The plane, the last Ford Trimotor in commercial service, was severely damaged in a 1977 crash at Put-in-Bay but has been extensively rebuilt since. Despite the presence of other planes available for the run, the line estimates that it lost up to 80% of its business while the tourist-attraction Trimotor was out of service. Accordingly, it has stockpiled all sorts of spare parts for the 52-year-old aircraft in the hope that it can be kept serviceable for at least fifty more years to come.

Late word received has given us some understanding as to why Mohawk Navigation's SENNEVILLE has been painted in her new colour scheme. It seems that the orange and red colours have been the trademark of James Richardson and Sons Ltd. in the prairie provinces, where their country elevators have been painted in the same colours. The scheme has simply been extended to include the lake fleet. The colours may not look so bad on a small grain elevator located in the middle of a prairie wheatfield, but a Great Lakes freighter is an entirely different matter.

Another late report concerns GODERICH/SOO RIVER TRADER. She cleared Toronto on her maiden voyage on Saturday, April 26, and entered the Welland Canal, upbound for Thunder Bay, late that evening. When she left her lay-up berth, her new paint scheme was not entirely finished, only the starboard side (which had been next to the dock) having been completed. The work is to be concluded shortly. Incidentally, the ship did leave Toronto with the name GODERICH still showing in white letters on a black patch on the white forecastle, the change to SOO RIVER TRADER not yet having been given formal approval.


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