A chapter of Sault Ste. Marie and international shipping history closed quietly this morning when the freighters Mancox and Manzzutti were towed from port on their last trip.
The two little ships are being towed to southern Ontario for scrapping.
Taken under tow about 3 a.m. at the Dorans dock by the Thunderbay tug Whalen assisted by the Sault tug John McLean, the Mancox and Manzzutti headed down the St. Mary's River for the last voyage after nearly 70 years of service.
Built from the same design in 1903, the Mancox came to life in a buffalo ship yard and the Manzzutti in Duluth.
When the ships first made Sault Ste. Marie their home in 1950, they had already served a long and distinguished career on all of the Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard, the Caribbean, and the North Atlantic sea lanes to Europe.
The Mancox and the Manzzutti became part of the Sault Ste. Marine's own history in 1950 when they were brought into Capt. F. Manzzutti's Yankcanuck Steamship Limited.
Capt. Manzzutti said the ships, built several years before wireless telegraph was invented, have been rebuilt, remodeled, and refurnished many times.
"They are now very modern little ships" Capt. Manzzutti said." they have all the electronics, fully equipped."
Sailing from the Sault as home port, the Mancox and the Manzzutti have had an active life serving Yankcanuck Steamships on the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic seaboard. The ships were designed originally to carry steel, but in their long years of service were converted at one time or another to carry almost every conceivable cargo. It's funny that they came back to carry steel,"Capt. Manzzutti said.
The sturdy vessels once saw service as coal barges, bulk carriers crane-ships and grain carriers.
"We converted them to crane-ships for self unloading" Capt. Manzzutti said," and used them to carry almost every possible cargo, pulpwood, lumber, grain trade and finally in their last years the steel for which they were designed originally." The conversion of the Mancox and the Manzzutti to crane-ships in the early 1950s made Yankcanuck Steamship the first and only 100 percent crane equipped shipping fleet in Canada, a distinction it still holds.
Both ships have seen service under six different names each in the registry of three different countries. Operated first under the American Flag, the two vessels were transferred to French registry for First World War service on the French Atlantic coast.
Returned to North America after the war the ships were renamed three more times before coming to Yankcanuck Steamships and Sault Ste. Marie.
Both vessels saw service under the Canadian flag on North Atlantic convoy runs during the Second World War. Finding a new home port in the Sault in 1950, one ship was named the Manzzutti, the other the Mancox-signifying the name of Capt. Manzzutti and his wife's maiden name-Cox.
Yankcanuck Steamships, founded in 1946 by Capt. Manzzutti (the Canuck) and with wife (the Yank) was the only husband and wife owned and operated fleet on the Great Lakes.
Built to be sturdy enough for Atlantic service, the Mancox and the Manzzutti managed to buck the Great Lakes ice in early spring and late fall. "They were the forerunners of the Yankcanuck in extending the navigation season"Capt. Manzzutti said.
The 325 foot Yankcanuck, built in 1963 to handle heavy ice conditions, has established Great Lakes winter navigation records. The modern vessel is now the last remaining ship in the Sault fleet. Capt. Manzzutti said he has preserved only a few mementos from the old ships-some old charts and kitchen cutlery for old times sake.
He plans, however one day to put out a booklet to preserve the history of the little shops.:They are the last of the old seaway ship", he said. They had to be good little boats then."
In the days prior to the 1959 opening of the modern international St. Lawrence Seaway, only small vessels could make the passage between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic via small locks on the St. Lawrence.
The Mancox and the Manzzutti with a length of 250 feet and a beam of 41 feet were the maximum size for the old locks. "Just like a box that fitted into the locks wit no room to spare," Capt. Manzzutti said.
The opening of the giant Poe lock in the Michigan Sault in 1968-1969 has since paved the way for projected lake freighters of dimensions that would astound the crew fo the "original seaway" ships. One ship now under construction is to have a length of 1000 feet and a beam of 105 feet. The monster will be driven by 14,000 h.p engines.
Smaller freighter have been developed in the 300 feet class with fast hulls and rapid loading devices to modernize the package freight business. Their sleek lines have to relegate the stately look of the turn-of-the-century ships. Mancox and Manzzutti to the pages of history books.
"When they left this morning, we just turned another chapter in history."the skipper said. I'm glad in a way to se them go nice and quiet.
The Manzzutti since 1965 and the Mancox since 1967 have been resting quietly at the Dorans dock, ready and waiting for changes in lake freight opportunities. It has been decided now that they have served their time and they have been sold for scrap.
Their kind will not be seen again.