CAPTAIN JOHN'S BOAT LEAVES WATERY GRAVE.
Captain John's restaurant rose from the deep yesterday. After five years in a watery
grave at the foot of Yonge St., the once-popular tourist attraction was hauled out of 7.3 metres (24 feet) of water'to the delight of hundreds of onlookers.
"I'm just glad it's over," said relieved owner John Letnik, who spent the night babysitting what was once his pride and joy. "Anything can go wrong, I'm not leaving until the bitter end," he added.
Opened in 1970, Captain John's was the city's first floating restaurant. Today, all that remains of this Toronto landmark - the 84-year-old NORMAC- is a rotting hull full of slime covered furniture and a dozen liquor and beer bottles floating on the water's surface.
The boat sank two weeks after the ferry TRILLIUM, loaded with passengers, failed to reverse engines at her docking space beside the Harbor Castle Hotel, crashing into the smaller of Captain John's two dining boats. The impact sent 290 surprised diners scurrying for safety. Miraculously nobody was injured.
Metro police blamed the collision on a mechanical defect that prevented the Trillium's forward turning engine from reversing. The former Detroit fireboat that once served as a ferry in Georgian Bay would have been left to rest in peace if the Toronto Harbor Commission hadn't ordered Letnik to remove it. So, on the fifth anniversary of its sinking, the 350-tonne vessel was raised at an estimated cost of $100,000.
Teams of divers from Can Dive Services Ltd. of Mississauga worked around the clock yesterday to prepare the ship for its resurrection. Arriving at dawn, divers began the painstaking job of inserting 20 massive air bags into the hull. When inflated, the bags dis-placed the water, assisting two 200-tonne cranes in the actual lift.
For Letnik, a former dishwasher who worked his way up to become a chef before opening his own restaurant, it's one horror story that won't be put to rest until the NORMAC completes its voyage through the courts.
Letnik tried to sue the Metro parks commission, owner of the paddle-wheel ferry, but the courts ruled the ship sank two weeks after the accident because of a rotting hull. Letnik is appealing the ruling. (picture of raised ship appears with article)
Toronto Sunday Star
June 15, 1986