Our feature on the steamer JAMES B. EADS, which appeared in the December issue, prompted member William E. Young of Goderich to write concerning the adventures of the EADS during the winter of 1927-28. Mr. Young is a retired marine engineer who happened to be serving aboard the big wooden tug REGINALD on Georgian Bay during the spring of 1928. (REGINALD had been built back in 1894 by the famous Calvin Company Ltd. of Garden Island for its own fleet.)
Late in the season of 1927, JAMES B. EADS loaded a winter storage cargo of grain for Midland, Ontario. James Playfair's Great Lakes Transit Corporation Ltd. had only purchased the EADS earlier that same year from the Nassau Dredge and Ship Company of Chicago. Undoubtedly, Playfair had plans for work that would be done on his newly-acquired steamer during the winter months as she lay in the harbour of her owner's home port.
But the EADS, whilst downbound in the lower St. Mary's River, became trapped in heavy ice and all efforts to free her proved to be of no avail. EADS was stuck fast in the ice and there she remained for the duration of the winter, as also did a number of other vessels that had fallen victim to the early formation of the heavy ice. It was necessary to keep steam up in the boilers of the EADS and to keep a partial crew aboard, so Playfair arranged for teams and sleighs to bring coal and supplies down from the Soo to the ship. As well, the crew was changed off every few weeks and sent home to their families in Midland, from whence hailed most of the crews that worked on Playfair's boats. JAMES B. EADS was not freed from the icy grip of the river until the spring thaw, and it was in April of 1928 that she finally steamed into Midland harbour to deliver her cargo.
Today's mariners may speak of the problems they encounter in battling late-season ice and in having to rely on the assistance of powerful icebreakers such as U.S.C.G. MACKINAW when they are beset, but we wonder how many of them would care to change places with the men that spent that icy winter out on the St. Mary's River looking after JAMES B. EADS.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.