The now-infamous "Valleyfield Bridge Blockade", which began on November 21st when the Larocque railroad and highway bridge suffered a fractured shaft (in a partially-open position) whilst descending behind a passing ship, finally ended on December 10 when traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway was permitted to resume. No traffic moved through the Seaway for nineteen days during the blockade, and some 170 boats were forced to go to anchor or to tie up in river or Lake Ontario ports pending repairs to the bridge. Those repairs were delayed by adverse weather conditions and by a small fire that occurred in the machine shop of the firm that was called upon to do the repair work. Seaway Authority officials were thanking their lucky stars that the weather remained sufficiently warm that ice did not become a problem in clearing the backlog of waiting ships after the bridge was cranked open. However, there was a shortage of pilots to take all of the salt-water vessels through the canals. In the rush of the resumed traffic, the salties ARKANES and SEA PRIMROSE both suffered groundings, while BIOGRAD and FEDERAL DANUBE were involved in a collision on Lake St. Louis. The blockade was the most extensive of its type ever seen on the lakes (far surpassing even the famous HOUGHTON blockade of the St. Mary's River in September, 1899), and its effects will be felt by shipowners and their clients for a long time to come. It has been suggested that a number of vessel operators have been studying the possibility of taking legal action against the Seaway Authority in an attempt to recoup some of their losses, and a number of such suits will undoubtedly be commenced.
One of the side effects of the blockade has been the unintended lengthening of the 1984 navigation season on the lakes. With business conditions having softened considerably during the autumn, most lake fleets had decided not to sail late. Many lakers were laid up early in the fall, and it seemed that most of the remainder would be in winter quarters by mid-December. However, the Valleyfield fiasco delayed many lakers that were downbound with grain, and also trapped others upbound in the lower river, many of them having additional trips scheduled which it was feared they might not be able to complete. In order to accommodate the commitments of the shipowners, the Seaway Authority agreed to keep the Welland and St. Lawrence canals open as long as weather would permit, and a closing date of January 1st was finally announced. The U.S. Corps of Engineers agreed to postpone the closing of the Soo Locks, with the MacArthur Lock rescheduled to remain in service until December 28, and the Poe Lock until January 5th, weather permitting. The lay-up fleet has indeed been somewhat late in arriving at the Canadian lake ports this year!
Toronto Harbour was visited by some rather unusual vessels as a result of the bridge blockade. The Algoma Central Marine motorship ALGOCEN tied up in the Eastern Gap, while the C.S.L. motorvessels LOUIS R. DESMARAIS, J. W. McGIFFIN and RIMOUSKI were moored side-by-side at the foot of Sherbourne Street. Upper Lakes Shipping had CANADIAN MARINER on the north side of Pier 35, MONTREALAIS in the Polson Street slip, QUEBECOIS at the Hearn Plant, and CANADIAN PIONEER and CANADIAN EXPLORER in the Leslie Street slip. The tanker COASTAL CANADA tied up at the Texaco dock, while the salties LAKE ANNE and 26 DE JULIO were in the ship channel, the former inside the bridge and the latter out alongside Terminal 51. For several of these ships, it was their very first visit to Toronto. All cleared within a few days after the Seaway reopened. Hamilton harbour also played host to some interesting vessels during the blockade.
In the December issue, we commented upon the fact that the bridge blockade had trapped in the lakes the Canadian destroyer H.M.C.S. HURON, which had been undergoing a major refit at Port Weller Dry Docks. It is still too early to tell whether the bridge accident will cause the federal authorities to renew their earlier objections to having major repair work done on naval vessels at lake shipyards. However, no time was lost in getting HURON out of the lakes after the blockade had been resolved. She cleared Port Weller harbour on December 9th and, no doubt, received priority dispatch through the lower canals.
As a result of the failure of the Larocque bridge, the Seaway Authority has turned its attention to the other vertical lift bridges within its jurisdiction to verify their condition. Very quickly, it discovered similar metal fatigue problems in the nearby St. Louis de Ganzague Bridge, and this structure was permanently raised until the end of the shipping season to ensure that, if any failure occurred, it would do so with the bridge in the open position so that no vessel stoppage would result. Repairs to this span, as well as permanent repairs to the Larocque bridge, will be put in hand during the winter months. Seaway crews will then address the other four vertical lift bridges on the St. Lawrence canals, and the five remaining vertical lift spans on the Welland Canal, in order to ascertain (if such is possible) that no such embarrassing situation like the Valleyfield Bridge Blockade might ever happen again on the Seaway system. Be this as it may, the possibility for failure in any one of the locks or bridges on the Seaway is an ever-present hazard, and the Authority's commendable (but probably long-overdue) maintenance work can do nothing but alleviate those difficulties that may be discernible at the present time.
The keel of the new bulk carrier which is being built at Collingwood Shipyards for N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay, was laid on Monday, November 5, only four days after the launch of HON. PAUL MARTIN, the previous ship built on the Collingwood ways. We understand that the Paterson fleet has decided to name the new vessel PATERSON (II), thus retaining the name that was carried for three decades by the 1953-built steamer whose demise has recently been announced. Meanwhile, on October 9, the old PATERSON (I) was towed to the new Shearmet Recycling dock on the Mission River at Thunder Bay, and by mid-December, her after end had been stripped out, her big stack was gone, and much of her port side aft had been cut away. It appears likely that little if anything of this handsome steamer will be left by the time her replacement is commissioned. Incidentally, the tentative date for the launch of PATERSON (II) at Collingwood is Thursday, April 18, 1985.
Shearmet Recycling is now making fast work of the dismantling of the old U. S. Steel steamers which have been lying since the autumn of 1983 at the company's scrapyard on the Kaministiquia River at Thunder Bay. Much of the after end of JOHN HULST has been cut away, and cutting is progressing rapidly on HORACE JOHNSON. By mid-December, the latter had lost her forward cabins, and her hull was cut down to the top of the sidetanks. Meanwhile, Shearmet has taken delivery of two more former tinstackers. The steamer HOMER D. WILLIAMS cleared Duluth for Thunder Bay behind Malcolm Marine's TUG MALCOLM on November 12, and the motorvessel EUGENE P. THOMAS departed her Duluth dock on November 17 behind the same tug. Both WILLIAMS and THOMAS last operated in July, 1981. Both were retired as a result of their small size, but the withdrawal of the THOMAS was hastened by severe engine damage that she suffered on what was to be her last trip. HOMER D. WILLIAMS and EUGENE P. THOMAS will apparently be broken up at Shearmet's new scrapyard on the Mission River at Thunder Bay, and it is said that another idle tinstacker, EUGENE W. PARGNY, may join them during the spring of 1985.
A belatedly received report indicates that Triad Salvage has acquired the veteran bulk carrier FRANK R. DENTON, (a) THOMAS WALTERS (53), from the S & E Shipping Corporation (Kinsman Lines Inc.), and that she arrived at Triad's Ashtabula scrapyard on November 14th behind the G-tug OHIO. It would appear that work on the scrapping of DENTON will be commenced as soon as the Triad crews have finished dismantling her former fleetmate (and, originally, near-sistership) C. L. AUSTIN, (a) WILLIS L. KING (53). The DENTON is now 74 years old, having been built in 1911 by the American Shipbuilding Company at Lorain, and she last operated in 1982. She has been laid up for the last two seasons at Buffalo. The scrapping of AUSTIN and DENTON leaves the once-proud Kinsman fleet with but four vessels, the steamers MERLE M. McCURDY, KINSMAN INDEPENDENT (II) and WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE, and the ALASTAIR GUTHRIE which, in 1984, was used as a barge in the grain trade.
During the 1984 season, the Hansand Steamship Corporation's steamer JOSEPH H. THOMPSON, (a) MARINE ROBIN (52), was the subject of much speculation as she lay idle at Ecorse, Michigan. The Hanna fleet, which had operated the THOMPSON ever since she came to the lakes, fresh from her rebuilding from a C-4 salt-water carrier in 1952, obviously had no further need for the ship, and all sorts of rumours surrounded her future. It has now been confirmed that she has been sold to the Upper Lakes Towing Company Inc. (Clyde Van Enkevort, president) of Escanaba, Michigan, the same firm that owns the tug OLIVE L. MOORE and operates the barge BUCKEYE (II). The THOMPSON was towed away from Ecorse on December 15th, the G-tug OHIO taking her to Menominee, Michigan, where work was to begin immediately on her conversion to a barge. The first step involved was said to be the cutting off of her stern so that a towing notch might be constructed. The new owner of the THOMPSON, who has had considerable experience in the operation of barges (WILTRANCO II, A. E. NETTLETON, etc.), is presently attempting to arrange cargo contracts for the THOMPSON for the coming season. No new name for the ship has been announced.
During the week of December 17th, Misener Shipping Ltd. terminated its two-year charter of the Halco Inc. straight-decker OTTERCLIFFE HALL, which had been renamed (b) ROYALTON (II) for her Misener service. The vessel will winter at Port Weller Dry Docks, where she will be given her end-of-charter survey, and also her regular inspection, as well as considerable repair work. ROYALTON has been an interesting temporary addition to the Misener fleet, although only her stack received her charterer's colours. Unfortunately, even though she has a large cargo capacity and is economical on fuel, her physical condition has left much to be desired. Her hull is sorely in need of repairs and she has suffered from a number of mechanical problems, all of which pre-dated her charter to Misener in their origin. The Misener fleet, not anticipating a particularly heavy movement of Canadian grain during 1985. has no immediate plans to replace ROYALTON, and considers its present fleet adequate to handle its cargo commitments for the coming season. It is interesting to note that the Valleyfield Bridge Blockade trapped ROYALTON in the Seaway, upbound with a most unusual cargo of sugar which was trans-shipped from a salty and bound for the Redpath plant at Toronto. When the canals reopened, ROYALTON completed her trip, and on December 15 she cleared Toronto for her winter berth at Port Weller.
At Hamilton, the former Canada Steamship Lines package freighter FORT YORK has been moved away from the scrapping berth at the foot of Strathearne Avenue, and is now moored along the outboard side of FORT HENRY. This move fuels speculation that the breakers may be in no rush to dismantle either of the modern steamers, and also that some other ship may be anticipated to arrive in the scrapping berth shortly. It has been rumoured that FORT HENRY may be the ship eventually to be used in the Merritt Island museum project in the old canal at Welland.
Much has been said recently concerning the scrapping at Port Colborne of the former Westdale Shipping steamer ERINDALE. We have received word that she is not being scrapped by M. & M. Metals, but rather by Ken Elliott of Hamilton, a former partner in Strathearne Terminals Ltd. We hate to say it, but the details surrounding the dismantling of this handsome vessel are becoming more confused with each successive report!
In the Mid-Summer issue, we mentioned that the Gaelic Tug Boat Company of Grosse Ile, Michigan, had purchased two additional tugs, these being MESSENGER and ATLAS, which came from the Galveston, Texas, area. Gaelic commenced the refitting of the two tugs for lake towing duties. We speculated (and not without reason) that both tugs would be given new names honouring places in Ireland, but this guess has proved to be incorrect. MESSENGER, which already has entered service for her new owner, has been renamed PATRICIA HOEY. It is said that ATLAS, which is undergoing much more extensive reconstruction (including the installation of new machinery), will be rechristened SUSAN HOEY when she is recommissioned.
The P. & H. Shipping steamer CEDARGLEN, (a) WILLIAM C. ATWATER (36), (b) E. J. KULAS (II)(53), (c) BEN MOREELL (I)(55), (d) THOMAS E. MILLSOP (II)(76), (e) E. J. NEWBERRY (82), has completed what would appear to be her last trip under her own steam. Due in 1985 for survey and inspection, the cost of which would apparently be prohibitive when combined with that of work that needs to be done to keep her operational, CEDARGLEN loaded her last cargo at Pool 7A elevator at Thunder Bay on December 10, 1984. She left the wharf at 5:34 p.m. and proceeded to anchor out in the bay. She pulled up her hook at 9:00 p.m. and departed for Goderich where, it is said, she will be used as a storage barge for grain. The retirement of CEDARGLEN is a sad event indeed. The 60-year-old steamer (hard to believe her age, is it not?) was the last conventional steamer in the Hanna fleet prior to joining the Soo River Company in 1976. She was always a handsome vessel, although in recent years two additions to her profile have detracted rather considerably from her appearance. One was the large steel "garden shed" which was erected immediately behind the funnel and abutting it, while the other was the horrible "stovepipe" that protruded from the very top of the stack itself, where no observer could possibly miss it. Despite these minor faults, CEDARGLEN has remained an impressive boat and we shall miss seeing her in service. The only positive aspect of her retirement is the fact that she has been replaced in the P. & H. fleet by ELMGLEN (II), the former JOHN 0. McKELLAR (II), the reactivation of which we cannot view with anything but extreme pleasure.
It is seldom that a Hake ship will go into winter quarters at one port, with a storage cargo in her holds, and then be moved to another port with the very same cargo still in her. This is, however, exactly what happened during the late autumn. On November 10, the P. & H. Shipping steamer 0AKGLEN arrived at Toronto with a storage cargo of soya beans which, presumably, was destined for Victory Mills. 0AKGLEN laid up near the foot of Jarvis Street and remained there until mid-December, when she rather mysteriously disappeared. It seems that she was towed around to Hamilton, where the local vegetable oil plant will handle her cargo during the winter months.
Over the last several issues, we have commented upon the sale for scrapping in the Far East of the Canada Steamship Lines Inc. motorship ST. LAWRENCE, which cleared the lakes under her own power early in November. It has since been ascertained that, when she paused at Montreal whilst outbound on her final voyage, ST. LAWRENCE was re-registered in the Cayman Islands. Her previous port of registry, of course, had been Montreal.
In the December issue, we mentioned that the old DREDGE PRIMROSE had been raised from the bottom of Kingston harbour on October 30, and had been taken to the Kingston yard of her former owner, the Canadian Dredge and Dock Company Ltd., for repairs. PRIMROSE has since been seized by the authorities, no doubt in an attempt to obtain security against the cost of salvaging her and cleaning up the substantial oil spill that the sinking of the 69-year-old dredge caused.
Another former Canadian Dredge and Dock Company Ltd. vessel recently in the news is the old steam tug FRANK DIXON (C.144369). Built in 1920 by Philip and Son Ltd., Dartmouth, 88.5 x 21.1 c 10.5, 133 Gross, 44 Net, she last operated about 1960. In the early 1970s, Canadian Dredge began to scrap many of the old hulls that were "decorating" its Kingston boneyard. FRANK DIXON was taken to Hamilton, and her machinery was removed and her superstructure stripped away as she lay in the Strathearne Avenue slip. Dropped from the Canadian register, she was acquired by parties who built a ramshackle wooden "deckhouse" on her, but she never moved from the Strathearne slip, and she has remained there as an eyesore supreme. On December 1.4, 1984, the DIXON was scheduled to be sold at a sheriff's auction at Hamilton, presumably because of unpaid dockage fees, etc. At the time of this writing, we are not aware of the outcome of the sale, but it is safe to assume that no prospective buyer would want FRANK DIXON for anything but scrap.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.