In the October issue, we reported that Canada Steamship Lines Inc. had sold its idle motorvessel ST. LAWRENCE, (a) SKAUSTRAND (73), (b) GAUCHO TAURA(76), for scrapping in the Far East, and that she would be sailed out of the lakes under her own power, with a cargo of scrap in her holds. When long-idle vessels are fitted out for such voyages, there are often problems encountered in getting them ready to sail, but apparently things went smoothly in the fitting out of ST. LAWRENCE. Although it had been hoped to have her out of Thunder Bay on October 25, she actually was able to clear the port on October 22. She sailed for Milwaukee, where she was to load a part-cargo of scrap, the intent being then to take her to Detroit, where she would top off with the remainder of her final cargo. At the time of this writing, she was expected downbound in the Welland Canal sometime around November 1st. Her Canadian crew is to take her only as far as Quebec City, where she will be handed over to a Taiwanese crew for the long deep-sea voyage to the scrapyard. In due course of time, we hope to receive a report on the date of her arrival in the Far East, and the identity of her final port.
It would appear that the Great Lakes have a new container ship, and a completely unexpected one at that. The Halco Inc. upper lake bulk carrier MAPLECLIFFE HALL has, this autumn, made three trips with Cast containers out of Montreal, one of these trips taking her to Detroit and two to Windsor. On each of these trips, MAPLECLIFFE HALL has had containers both in her holds and up on deck, and the vessel has had to undergo minor alterations in order to make her suitable for this peculiar service. Extra strengthening has been added to her tanktop, and special fasteners have been installed on the sides of her holds to secure the containers, although these alterations do not reduce her grain capacity, thus leaving her available for service in the grain trade as required. These trips appear to be experimental in nature, but if they prove to be successful, we may see more of MAPLECLIFFE HALL in the container trade, especially since rail rates for such cargo now appear to favour container trade by water. And why, one might ask, would a Halco vessel, in particular, be carrying Cast containers? The answer would appear to lie in the connection that the Royal Bank of Canada has with both Halco and Cast as a result of the financial difficulties of both firms.
With the discontinuation of service at the close of the 1983 season by the now-defunct Westdale Shipping Ltd., observers had been wondering what ves-sel(s) might be used to bring the annual winter's supply of road salt into the port of Toronto. This trade was for many years handled by the Westdale self-unloaders, and by other vessels, such as CALCITE II and ADAM E. CORNELIUS, that during the last few seasons had called here under charter to Westdale. The ship that has handled the salt trade into Toronto this autumn has been the Algoma Central Railway, Marine Division, self-unloading steamer E.B. BARBER. This 31-year-old ship has made at least four recent trips to Toronto with salt, and no doubt will make further calls at the port before the season is finished, thus treating local enthusiasts to the sound of her beautiful chimed steam horns as she calls for the opening of the Cherry Street bridge.
During recent years, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has adopted the policy of encouraging private companies to do much of the dredging required on the lakes, thus allowing the Corps to retire many of its own dredges. During the late summer and autumn, the Dunbar and Sullivan Dredging Company, of Cleveland, has been carrying on dredging operations in the Genesee River at Rochester, where Corps of Engineers crews might otherwise have been working. The Genesee River has always been subject to considerable silting, and those conditions have created headaches for the Lake Ontario Cement Company, which operates STEPHEN B. ROMAN, (a) FORT WILLIAM (83), into the port on a regular basis. On at least one recent occasion, the presence of the Dunbar and Sullivan equipment near her dock has forced the ROMAN to "cool her heels" for almost twenty-four hours before she could proceed in to unload her cargo of bulk cement.
The three Halco Inc. upper lakers that were converted from salt water ships, namely CARTIERCLIFFE HALL, (a) RUHR ORE (76), MONTCLIFFE HALL, (a) EMS ORE (76), and STEELCLIFFE HALL, (a) RHINE ORE (76), have been the subject of considerable controversy since they were rebuilt and brought to the lakes bad in 1977 and 1978. In particular, there have been serious concerns about crew safety in view of serious fires that have occurred in the accommodations of both MONTCLIFFE HALL and CARTIERCLIFFE HALL. (MONTCLIFFE HALL was rebuilt exactly as she had been before her 1981 fire at Sarnia, whereas CARTIERCLIFFE HALL was completely redesigned aft as a consequence of the 1979 fire that took seven lives aboard the ship on Lake Superior.) Now the third sister, STEELCLIFFE HALL, has also had a fire on board, and there is little doubt that this accident will once again provoke investigation. During the evening of October 2nd, STEELCLIFFE HALL was approaching the Cargill Elevator at Duluth, when her engine suffered a loss of power. Her chief engineer, William King, 46, went to check the machinery to see whether it was being supplied with sufficient fuel. As he moved alongside the engine, fumes which had accumulated inside the crankcase exploded, forcing open the compartment and seriously burning the engineer. The injured man was removed from the area, and the engineroom was flooded with carbon dioxide to smother the fire. At last report, King was in hospital, being treated for third-degree burns.
In recent years, various lake shipowners have voiced growing discontentment with the services provided by the Great Lakes Towing Company at some of the ports served by its harbour tugs, those tugs often being available only at specified hours and at reportedly high rates. As a result, other tug operators began to run competition with Great Lakes Towing, and they have been relatively successful in luring business away from the G-tugs. In fact, this competition has been the cause of litigation between Great Lakes and some other tug owners. In response to the opposition, Great Lakes appears to have reconsidered its operations, and has reinstated some of its former services Notably, it is said that the G-tugs will soon return to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, a port which they had previously served for many years, but which they abandoned a considerable period of time ago. We understand that Great Lakes will be placing two tugs at the Soo, one of them being MAINE (which briefly bore the names SAIPAN and HILLSBORO, and which returned to the lakes this spring after a year at Tampa, Florida). The G-tugs will face stiff competition at the Soo from Seaway Towing Inc., which has mounted a successful operation there, latterly with the tug CHIPPEWA, (a) DOLOMITE. Seaway Towing provides pilot service at the Soo, assistance for salties in the canal, and general towing service on the St. Mary's River.
A recently announced scheme to return the former Chicago, Duluth and Georgian Bay Transit Company passenger steamer SOUTH AMERICAN to the lakes and restore her as part of a museum and hotel complex at Menominee, on Lake Michigan, appears to have been vetoed by the bankers who were to finance the project. We understand that the principals involved in the plans may now be looking at other lake ports as possible future homes for the long-idle and much deteriorated SOUTH AMERICAN, but we doubt that anything more will come from the scheme than has been produced by many such previous ideas. As previously stated, we believe that the steamer, now devoid of her machinery and lying at Camden, New Jersey, is beyond reasonable hope of restoration after her seventeen years of inactivity.
Just as promised, the American Canadian Line, operating out of Warren, Rhode Island, brought its Blount-built cruise vessel CARIBBEAN PRINCE to the lakes during the summer of 1984, for a series of one-way trips between Detroit and Owen Sound, with stops at various other points along the route. The boat trial itself appears to have pleased those few passengers that booked on the vessel, but a major complaint voiced by those on board the B.Y.O.B. cruises concerned the bus trip that was necessary at either the start or the end of the lake cruise, a "feature" of the service that we had suspected would prove to be something less than popular. As a result of poor patronage, CARIBBEAN PRINCE made only four trips on the upper lakes, and she was then sent off to other duties on the St. Lawrence River and elsewhere. As might have been expected, the operators of the PRINCE have announced that she will not be back on Lake Huron, but rather will operate, along with the similar NEW SHOREHAM II, through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the New York State Barge Canal. As a result, the lakes in 1985 will again be totally devoid of any overnight passenger service.
Canonie Transportation, of Muskegon, Michigan, is the current owner of the 110-foot diesel tug ARUNDEL, which served on the lakes for many years in the colours of the U.S. Coast Guard, and which was purchased by Canonie after she was retired from government service. ARUNDEL was one of a group of similar tugs, which included KAW, OJIBWA and NAUGATUCK, and she was the last of them in Coast Guard service on the lakes. It is now reported that Canonie has renamed the 45-year-old ARUNDEL, giving her the name (b) KAREN ANDRIE.
The Federal Court of Canada is presently hearing evidence in the lawsuit commenced by restaurateur John Letnik in connection with the sinking of his harbour restaurant NORMAC at Toronto. It was back on June 2, 1981, that the restored steam sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM suffered a hydraulic blockage whilst attempting to make her Toronto dock after an evening charter, and the result was that she could not be stopped. She proceeded up the Yonge Street slip, and eventually struck the old NORMAC, which was moored at the head of the slip alongside Queen's Quay. The NORMAC was damaged in the accident and diners aboard her fled ashore after the collision. Some two weeks later, NORMAC suddenly sank, under rather unusual circumstances, and Letnik later took legal action for the recovery of alleged losses. Amongst the various defendants in the suit are TRILLIUM's master, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (her owner), and the Toronto Harbour Commission. The trial, which began on October 1st, has already lasted almost a full month. Interestingly, the remains of NORMAC are once again visible this autumn as a result of low water levels in Toronto Bay. After the accident, her superstructure was cut away and her hull plating cut down to below the normal waterline, but the hull itself has never been removed.
In the October issue, we reported that J. W. Purvis Marine Ltd. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, had sold its small tug DUCHESS to Parry Sound operators. In that report, we were in error, for the vendor of DUCHESS was not Purvis, but rather A. B. McLean Ltd., also of the Soo. Another McLean tug recently in the news was the 69-year-old MISEFORD, which was attacked by vandals whilst lying at her dock at the Soo. The young trespassers apparently caused considerable damage to the tug and her navigational equipment during their rampage.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.