The May Dinner Meeting is the last meeting of the 1975-1976 T.M.H.S. season. The next regular meeting of the Society will be held on:
Friday, October 1st - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Open Slide Night. As usual for our first autumn meeting, members are invited to bring a few slides each to illustrate their summer shipwatching activities.
The Editor's Notebook
By the time most of you receive this issue, our Annual Dinner Meeting will have come and gone. At the time of this writing, we are expecting a good crowd for the meal itself and also for the address by our guest speaker. We wish to thank Mr Thomas E. Appleton for coming all the way from Ottawa to speak to us on the history and vessels of the famous Allan Line. Mr Appleton is an excellent speaker and this meeting cannot fail to be the highlight of our season.
As usual, your Program Committee will be taking a well-earned vacation during the summer months and accordingly we will not meet again as a group until October. Nevertheless, we are certain that impromptu meetings will be held as usual along the Welland Canal, at the Huron Cut under the Bluewater Bridge, and along the banks of the St. Mary's River. We'll see you there.
And this ink-stained wretch will also be taking a bit of a holiday from his editorial desk to air out the cobwebs and get set for a new season of literary excellence! But just to make sure that you don't forget about us (how could you?), we'll be coming your way with our Mid-Summer issue in July. Until then, best wishes for a happy summer of shipwatching.
In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to William Wayhill of Toronto, to Ted Belcher of Victoria Harbour and to Bill Casey of Redford Township, Michigan.
The 1976 navigation season is now well underway. Very few problems of any serious nature were caused by ice accumulation and as a result not only were many lake ports able to open for navigation quite early in the spring, but for the second consecutive year the United States Steel Corporation's Great Lakes Fleet was able to continue operations right through the winter.
We would be remiss if in these pages we did not mention some of the more notable "openings" for 1976. The Welland Canal saw its first complete passage on April 1st when CANADIAN LEADER locked down with coal for Hamilton. The first vessel movement on the canal came on March 28th when CANADIAN LEADER and SEAWAY QUEEN headed out into Lake Erie from their berths above Lock 8. Toronto Harbour had its first arrival of the season in the early morning hours of April 4 when SHELTER BAY arrived with beans from Toledo. The first salty to enter Toronto was ALKA which sailed in on April 5. This ship was also the first salty of the 1975 season. Duluth - Superior saw its first arrival on April 7 as INCAN SUPERIOR came in from Thunder Bay. The American Lakehead saw its first lake bulk carrier of the season on April 8 when EDWARD L. RYERSON sailed in through the Superior Entry to load taconite at the Burlington Northern dock at Allouez. The Duluth Ship Canal saw its first salty of 1976 the following day when the Yugoslavian OPATIJA arrived to load grain at Duluth. On April 8 OPATIJA was the first ocean-going ship to pass up through the Soo Canal. The Lake Superior port of Marquette opened on March 31 with the loading of a cargo of ore into FRONTENAC (the Canadian one) for delivery to the Soo plant of Algoma Steel. Cleveland opened on March 27th with the arrival of SATURN, while LEON FRASER was the first arrival of the season at Lorain on March 29. PHILIP R. CLARKE opened Conneaut on March 24th and ALGORAIL opened Sandusky on March 30.
After five years in the lakes, CONGAR, the former IMPERIAL HALIFAX, has apparently reached the end of her useful career. In this October 21, 1972 photo by J. H. Bascom she is seen in the Welland Canal below Lock Two.But there are some lakers that will not be joining the parade of vessels going back into service this spring. A number of the smaller and older Canadian vessels, notably tankers, will be remaining in ordinary and a few of them are facing the prospect of early scrapping. CAPE TRANSPORT, COVE TRANSPORT and RIVERSHELL were idle at Toronto last year and the prospects for them for this year are anything but bright. The first two have been stripped of certain items of equipment and the latter ship lacks a service on which she could be useful. In addition, Johnstone Shipping's CONGAR will remain in idleness at Toronto (she did run in 1975) and has already been partially stripped. She reportedly will be sold for scrapping shortly. The last tanker idle at Toronto is LIQUILASSIE which remains along the facing of the pier at the foot of Yonge Street. She is not scheduled to fit out this spring but we understand that she may run later in the year. In addition to the vessels mentioned above, the Halco tankers BAY TRANSPORT and BAFFIN TRANSPORT will remain at the wall. BAFFIN TRANSPORT is apparently suffering mainly from old age (old for a salty, that is - she is 21 this year) and her retirement has been rumoured for a couple of years. BAY TRANSPORT is pretty small for Halco's operations and time is catching up with her as well.
Two other vessels not scheduled to start the 1976 season are Branch Lines' tanker WILLOWBRANCH, currently laid up at Sorel, and the Canada Cement Lafarge electric-motorship CEMENTKARRIER. The retirement of the latter is not entirely unexpected but we hope that her present idleness may be only temporary.
With the word that WILLOWBRANCH will not be placed in service this season by Branch Lines Ltd., we are reminded that ELMBRANCH is the last of the wartime-built tankers still remaining in the Branch Lines fleet. She spent the winter at Sarnia and made a few trips on the upper lakes this spring, but has now retreated to the St. Lawrence where, we understand, she will operate until July when she is due for survey. It appears that Branch Lines will not go to the expense of drydocking the ship and that she will be retired at that time. ELMBRANCH was built in 1944 at Collingwood for the government-owned Park Steamship Company as (a) NORWOOD PARK and until the cessation of hostilities she operated under charter to Imperial Oil Ltd. In 1945 she was bought by Branch Lines and was given her present name. The twin-screw motorship was originally built as a canaller but in 1960 was lengthened at Sorel to 321 feet. At one time there were three other similar vessels in the Branch Lines fleet, but POPLARBRANCH, FIRBRANCH and SPRUCEBRANCH all predeceased ELMBRANCH.
An upper laker that may have had the biscuit is Hanna's bulk carrier NATIONAL TRADER, (a) H. H. PORTER (25), (b) YOUNGSTOWN (57), (c) WALTER E. WATSON (74), a steamer that dates back to 1920. Owned for many years by the Pickands Mather organization, she was sold late in 1973 to the National Steel Corporation, the intention being to convert her to a craneship for operation by the Hanna Mining Company, Agents. She has never operated for Hanna and has lain idle at South Chicago since 1974. We understand that on April 14 she was sold to Western Metals of Thunder Bay, ostensibly for scrapping. But we keep hearing rumours that a Canadian vessel operator is interested in obtaining the ship for their fleet. It should be known fairly soon whether NATIONAL TRADER is destined for the cutting torch or for further service.
Detroit ship fans and firemen alike are up in arms over the recent retirement of the city's steam firetug JOHN KENDALL. The City of Detroit is in desperate financial straits and to cut expenses the Fire Department on April 5th laid off 241 firemen, demoted 200 others and eliminated three engine companies and two ladder companies. The KENDALL was considered expendable and was placed in mothballs, despite efforts by local businessmen to keep her running and legal action by her crew who wished not to be laid off. There was no suggestion that the layup was to be unalterably permanent (original plans called for her to be idled for only fifteen days) but bearing in mind the fact that JOHN KENDALL dates back to 1929 and that Detroit expects soon to purchase a new, more mobile, and less expensive to operate fireboat, we would not be surprised if the KENDALL never turns a wheel again. JOHN KENDALL is a 128-footer powered by a compound engine and is notable not only for her two tall funnels mounted in tandem, but also for the whistle she blows, a beautiful triple chime inherited from E. G. MATHIOTT via JESSE JAMES.
Port Colborne harbour has a new pilot boat this year. In place of the old launch, which was anything but suitable for work in rough seas beyond the pierheads, is the new VALHALLA 9, a 47-foot former yacht originally built at Selkirk on Lake Winnipeg and rebuilt last winter at Hamilton. Nine lake captains have joined forces to purchase and operate the vessel. VALHALLA 9 is a very substantial craft and should be able to withstand whatever Lake Erie throws at her.
A bit of a surprise this year is the return to the lakes of CAPE BRETON MINER which made her first trip in many moons up the canal on April 10th. Now owned by Leitch Transport Ltd., an Upper Lakes Shipping subsidiary, the boat carries the Leitch name on her boom nameboards and her funnels are a plain red and black with no white diamond. She was brought back to the lakes to substitute for CANADIAN CENTURY which will be idle until at least the end of May if not longer due to major surgery on her unloading gear. Late last fall the CENTURY's cargo elevator managed to disgorge most of its buckets over the side and presently her elevating machinery is spread all over Port Colborne's west pier, while the ship herself is now at the Law Stone dock in Humberstone, for the installation of new equipment of the loop-belt type. Readers will recall that earlier this year CAPE BRETON MINER lost her first mate and a deckhand when the two were buried beneath a shifting cargo of gypsum while the ship was unloading at the Alpha Cement Company plant on the Hudson River at Cementon, New York.
While on the subject of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., we should report that work is proceeding well at Port Weller Dry Docks on the yard's Hull 60, a self-unloading stemwinder which will look much like CANADIAN PROGRESS. It is expected that she will be completed in time for an October delivery. It appears that she will be christened CANADIAN OLYMPIC in honour of the hosting of the 1976 summer Olympics by the City of Montreal. We gather that the company may have had other names in the wings just in case the on-again-off-again Olympics did not come off as planned.
The U.S. Coast Guard tug RARITAN was a casualty of early spring navigation. On April 7th she was testing a new hull coating designed to reduce friction in ice and somehow she managed to hole herself while just below Ten Mile Point in Lake Nicolet on the St. Mary's River. She began to take on water very rapidly but the sister tugs KAW and ARUNDEL, assisted by the icebreaker MACKINAW, were able to get the tug safely back to her dock at the Soo base. As yet we have seen no explanation of how the accident occurred but a formal enquiry was held after the return of RARITAN to base.
It is expected that the exploration of the wreck of EDMUND FITZGERALD will begin during May. The work will be done by an unmanned underwater recovery unit to be flown to the lakes from a naval base at San Diego, California. The expedition will also involve the Duluth-based buoy tender WOODRUSH.
It is entirely possible that we may see a regular passenger service across Lake Ontario between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake this summer, but don't hold your breath waiting. An outfit calling itself Sherwood Marine Inc. of Toronto, claims to be intending to operate such a service with a $700,000 92-foot aluminum-hulled excursion boat currently under construction at Cornwall by Marlin Yachts, Summertown, Ontario. The three-decked ship is to be given the unimaginative name CAYUGA II, but any resemblance between this boat and the proud steamer which formerly bore the name CAYUGA is of the type that could only be seen by an observer who had tarried too long in the local tavern. An announcement by Sherwood Marine indicates that it is intending to operate three round trips per day across the lake commencing June 15th, the fare being $19.00 return. In addition, it is planned to run a four-hour moonlight each night at a cost of $16.00.
Now far be it from us to throw cold water on a new passenger service of any kind, but we just cannot see how a successful service could be run by a boat of this size. CAYUGA II is allegedly to be licensed to carry 400 passengers but we have seen photos of the ship under construction and if they are to get 400 people on her they will need people-pushers of the type employed in Japanese subways! In addition, we wonder what will happen the first time she gets caught in an easterly blow on Lake Ontario. We would have thought that a much larger ship would be a prerequisite for a route across such an exposed section of the open lake. We wish her operators well, but we still long for the days when the graceful CAYUGA glided back and forth on the route she served so well for so many years.
Cleveland's Erie Ore Dock, also known as the Nypano Dock, has been closed down and is unlikely to see further operation. The facility was one of the oldest ore docks on Lake Erie and since 1912 has been operated by the Erie Dock Company, a subsidiary of Pickands Mather and Company. But the new owner, Conrail, has not seen fit to keep the Nypano in service even though it is serviced by three Hulett unloading machines. The dock is located in a section of the Old River that is rather difficult for modern lakers to reach and in addition its operations were hampered by the fact that there is no space for ore storage. Hence ships' cargoes had to be unloaded directly into railroad cars, thus resulting in unloading delays if cars were not available at just the right time.
A rather interesting accident occurred back on January 21 when, during the hours of darkness, the Penn Central managed somehow to dump six hopper cars into the Cuyahoga River from Bridge No. 1 at Cleveland. By early March, the crews were still working to repair the bridge and a Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company crane was still fishing debris out of the river. It is indeed fortunate that the accident did not happen at the height of the navigation season.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority is studying the possibility of using a rather unique method to speed up the passage of the canal by large carriers and thus avoid the immediate necessity of making extensive canal improvements. The idea is to use "Shunters", small pushtugs similar to those used to shove around barges at loading facilities on the Mississippi and Ohio River systems, to hook onto the bow and stern of each vessel and manoeuvre it through the canal. The Authority expects to have two of these shunters built and in operation during the 1977 navigation season.
ST. CLAIR, the new BoCo self-unloader under construction at Sturgeon Bay, was christened on April 22 and is expected to be in service shortly. Meanwhile, it has been announced that the Bay Shipbuilding Company has won a contract to build for the United States Steel Corporation's Great Lakes Fleet a 1000-foot self-unloading bulk carrier for 1978 delivery. In the event that the Corps of Engineers goes ahead with the lengthening of the Poe Lock at the Soo, U.S. Steel will be able to exercise an option under the contract with Bay to increase the length of the ship to 1100 feet.
Incidentally, the ship next after ST. CLAIR to be delivered by Bay Shipbuilding will be Inland Steel's JOSEPH L. BLOCK and next again after her will be BoCo's BELLE RIVER which is due out in 1977.
This spirited 1973 photo by Alan W. Sweigert shows CHARLES DICK downbound in the Cuyahoga River at Cleveland, a scene never to be repeated.Monday, March 29th was the day chosen by Ontario Minister of Resources Leo Bernier to drop his bombshell announcement that the provincial government would refuse to renew sandsucking licences for firms operating in the Canadian waters of Lake Erie. This decision means that both CHARLES DICK and W. M. EDINGTON will be forbidden from venturing into Erie waters to dig sand in the future. The EDINGTON will likely remain in service since she is small enough to function economically on the sand run to the Niagara Bar from Hamilton and Port Dalhousie, but the government's actions will mean the end of the trail for National Sand's 1922 steamer CHARLES DICK. The DICK did not operate during 1975 and is presently lying idle in Ramey's Bend right alongside the half-gone HENNEPIN. Although she does not appear to have been touched as yet, the chances are overwhelming that she will soon be sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. for scrapping. So-called conservationists, typified by those who would describe Bernier's decision as a "verdict for the people", must surely be rejoicing over their victory, but we cannot help wondering whether their priorities are misplaced in their concern over "potential environmental losses".
The latest hull turned out by Collingwood Shipyards hit the waters of Nottawasaga Bay on April 29. The new boat has been christened SOODOC (II) and is a sister of ONTADOC (II) which was completed last year by Collingwood Shipyards for N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay.
As mentioned last month, we manage every once in a while to get word about one of the former lakers now enjoying the warmer climate of the Caribbean. Latest to come into the news is the former JEAN TALON which traded into the lakes under that name but was better known to locals as Quebec and Ontario's motorship FRANQUELIN (I). After leaving the lakes and the St. Lawrence River area she saw service in the Caribbean as SOVEREIGN OPAL but in recent months she had been idle at Mobile, Alabama. However on February 6th she cleared Mobile under the new name FALCON III, arriving at Antigua on February 20.
The most recent acquisition of the fleet of the Algoma Central Railway is now in the lakes. ALGOSEA presented herself at Montreal on April 25 and on the 28th was upbound in the Welland Canal bound for Port Colborne where her self-unloader conversion will be handled by Herb Fraser and Associates.
Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. has also made the move of acquiring an oceangoing vessel for its fleet, a boat that will operate on the lakes during the inland navigation season and which will presumably augment CHAMBLY ERA et al. in salt water service during the winter months. The vessel is the Liberian motorship GAUCHO TAURA which is known to have made at least one trip up the Seaway in 1975. She was built in 1962 at Nagasaki, Japan, by Mitsubishi Zozen K.K. for A/S Skaugaas, Norway, as (a) SKAUSTRAND. She measured 563.1 x 75.3 x 41.5, Gross 15,894. She was later transferred to A/S Salamis, I.M. Skaugen and Company, Managers, Norway, and in 1965 was lengthened to 649.8, Gross 18,275, Net 10,091. She was sold in 1973 to Gotaas-Larsen Argentina, S.A., Buenos Aires, and under the name (b) GAUCHO TAURA was operated under Liberian registry by Gotaas-Larsen Inc. She was sold to C.S.L. earlier this year and appeared at Montreal during the last week in April, at which time she was repainted in C.S.L. colours and renamed (c) ST. LAWRENCE (III). She cleared Montreal on May 2nd for Pointe Noire where she was scheduled to load iron ore for Hamilton.
The Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. is also expanding its salt water services. Not only does the firm use THOROLD on ocean runs, but now it has chartered the newly-built German 6850-ton motorship FRANK SCHRODER for use in running newsprint down the east coast of Canada and the U.S.A. from Baie Comeau. The fleet also charters the Norwegian-owned BAIE COMEAU for the same route.
Even though we have seen the last of WORLD DISCOVERER in the Great Lakes, there will be a cruise ship on our waters this summer. Midwest Cruises, the same firm that has promoted lake cruise operations for the last two years, has obtained the services of a vessel named LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER (remember that they tried to tack the "Lowell Thomas" onto the DISCOVERER's name as well), a 304-foot steamer (yes, she is steam-powered) built by Finnboda at Stockholm in 1953. Originally named BIRGER JARL and owned by Svea Lines of Stockholm, she was later acquired by Jakob Lines, Finland, and under the name (b) BORE NORD she has been operating short cruises from Finland. The 3236-ton vessel is to carry 250 passengers into the lakes and, from what we understand, the quarters are considerably less luxurious than those found aboard either WORLD DISCOVERER or STELLA MARIS II. In fact, one source has likened the accommodation to that found in a Pullman car! The idea appears to be to pack in the people at greatly reduced rates. We wish the ship success during the 1976 season but considering the fact that each year a different boat comes to make the lake cruises, we can't help wondering whether the cruise promoters are flogging a dead horse....
Foreign passenger ships will be no rarity on the St. Lawrence this year. Starting June 19, ALEXANDR PUSHKIN will be making six- and seven-day trips from Montreal to Quebec, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Perce Rock, and up the Saguenay River to Bagotville. She will also make longer trips down the east coast. The Russians will also bring in the new ODESSA for similar service. She is due to arrive at Montreal for the first time on July 17, the day of the opening of the Olympics. Another vessel brought out from the U.S.S.R. will be the small passenger ship MIKHAIL KALININ which will be used to provide accommodation for Russian dignitaries during the Olympic games.
We have recently heard a good number of rumours to the effect that there may soon be activity in the Kinsman fleet by way of the acquisition of several vessels to replace some of the more decrepit units now operating. The rumours have it that Kinsman has been casting covetous eyes on some of the idle U.S. Steel steamers, but whether the company is in any position to lay out the sums necessary to obtain the ships is yet another question.
The Great Lakes area can look forward to seeing a number of handsome old sailing vessels during the coming summer as a result of Operation Sail '76 which will have over 200 such ships in the New York area for a giant review on July 4th. Arrangements are being made for some of the ships to visit Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit and Chicago during August of the Bicentennial year and it is hoped that we may see some of them in a few Canadian ports as well. Amongst those coming to the lakes will be CHRISTIAN RADICH which also visited these parts in 1964. One major sail-training ship which definitely will not be coming to the lakes is the U.S. Coast Guard's EAGLE. The U.S.C.G. objects to having to lower EAGLE's rigging in order for her to pass beneath Seaway and Welland Canal bridges, but this problem does not seem to bother other operators of sailing vessels. Figures, doesn't it....
One rather interesting sailing vessel which has already arrived on the lakes is the 1891-built Thames sailing barge MAY which came to Toronto on the deck of a freighter during the week prior to Easter. She is now lying across the end of the Redpath Sugar dock in Toronto, a not unusual place for her since she is owned by Tate and Lyle, of which Redpath is a subsidiary. We imagine that she will spend her summer barnstorming around the lakes. When back in her home stomping grounds, MAY normally operates in charter service but she occasionally carries freight to the Isle of Wight from London. She is all the more interesting to local historians in that she is fitted with a one-piece keelson cut from a tree felled in the late 1880's on Lake Ontario's own Garden Island, the home of the famous Calvin family. MAY has created quite a stir each time she heads out into the lake under sail.
Last month we ran down some of the major lake fleets as regards the number of ships they would be operating this year. One of the firms mentioned was the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton and Company. We had been somewhat puzzled in that we could not make sense out of the number of ships which the company had indicated it would run. But now that the shipping season is underway, it is evident that all the self-unloaders are operating, together with one craneship (BUCKEYE), and all the straight-deckers with the exception of WILLIAM A. REISS which is still in the course of an extensive refit. The REISS will re-enter service late in the summer and it is highly likely that not long thereafter THOMAS WILSON will head to the wall for conversion to a self-unloader. It is known for sure that over the coming winter the WILSON will receive oil-firing and automated boiler controls.
Last issue we also mentioned that the U.S. Steel fleet would be operating 22 vessels including the chartered PRESQUE ISLE. Of course, this figure did not include the "Bradley" self-unloaders, all of which will be operating with the exception of IRVIN L. CLYMER. It was originally thought that T. W. ROBINSON would remain idle this year but we note with pleasure that she is out and running. The idle W. F. WHITE has, of course, been sold.
W.F. WHITE, soon to enter service for Westdale Shipping as ERINDALE, is seen in the Cuyahoga River in this 1974 photo by Alan W. Sweigert. She is yielding to the none-too-gentle ministrations of the G-tug TEXAS.The two newest units of the fleet of Westdale Shipping Ltd. have now made the move over to the Canadian side of the lakes. BROOKDALE (II), the former BoCo FRED A. MANSKE, has left her layup berth at South Chicago and on April 27 loaded sand at Grand Haven for delivery to Hamilton where she will be refitted. ERINDALE, formerly U.S. Steel's W. F. WHITE, left Duluth under tow on April 26 and at the time of this writing was en route to Toronto where she will undergo a general refit and a conversion to burn oil fuel. She will also go on the dock at Port Weller for inspection and survey.
The tugs which, as we went to press, were heading towards Toronto with ERINDALE, are scheduled to return up the lakes dragging with them the rather woebegone AVONDALE which has spent the winter in the old canal below Humberstone. The old girl has been sold for scrapping and it looks as if the job will be done in Duluth by Hyman Michaels. It is only speculation on our part, of course, but we'd bet that some sort of deal was made whereby AVONDALE was exchanged for W. F. WHITE which was destined to be broken up at Duluth prior to her sale. During the early spring AVONDALE took on a very alarming list to starboard and had her nose down on the bottom of the old canal. We had visions of the job that would have been necessary to remove her had she settled completely or gone over on her side, but now she has been pumped out in preparation for her long tow to the American Lakehead.
Ship of the Month No. 57
Since Yours Truly took over the job as Editor of this publication in October 1969, we have received many enquiries about various ships and we have tried to do our best to answer all of them. At least two of our members have written to us asking about a large two-funnelled Canadian tug which they had seen on the upper lakes during the 1940's. We were able to identify the tug as BELLECHASSE and to tell our correspondents something about her, but until recently we were lacking much of the detail necessary to write a comprehensive history of the ship and to feature her in these pages. Fortunately, we have now been able to remedy this situation and to dig up an excellent photo (a rarity indeed) of the vessel.
In 1942 BELLECHASSE went to Owen Sound to help in the raising of HIBOU. She is seen here in port, moored alongside CARIBOU, with MANITOULIN in the right background. Photo courtesy Robert Ireland.C.G.S. BELLECHASSE (C.133935) was built in 1912 for the Dominion government by the Kingston Shipbuilding Company Ltd. and was especially designed for service in the channels of the lower St. Lawrence River. She was launched at Kingston on May 15, 1912 and was christened by Mrs. E. Grimason, aged 90, who was presented with a loving cup by the builders for sponsoring the new vessel. BELLECHASSE probably took her name from Bellechasse Bay and from rocky Bellechasse Island which are situate on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River below the Isle of Orleans and off the village of Berthier. A light station was established in Bellechasse Island back in the 1860's.
BELLECHASSE was a steel-hulled steamer with a length of 142.2 feet, a beam of 27.0 feet and a depth of 12.0 feet, her tonnage being registered as 417 Gross, 302 Underdeck and 216 Net. She was a twin-screw vessel, her engines and boilers having been built at Collingwood by the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. Steam was supplied at 180 p.s.i. by two single-ended boilers which were oil-fired and equipped with four Morrison corrugated forced-draught furnaces. Nominal horsepower of 183 was developed by two triple-expansion engines, each having cylinders of 12 1/2, 21 and 34 inches and a stroke of 21 inches. Bunker tanks were placed longitudinally on either side of the boiler room and carried enough oil to give BELLECHASSE a cruising range of 2,000 nautical miles.
The tug was built to Lloyds 100A1 class and was given a straight stem, an elliptical counter stern, a five watertight bulkheads. She was specially strengthened forward and along the waterline for service in a light icebreaking capacity. The construction of BELLECHASSE for the Dominion Department of Marine and Fisheries was done under the superintendence of Capt. F. M, Duguid, Naval Constructor to the Marine and Fisheries Department.
BELLECHASSE was completed in November 1912 and was a particularly handsome double-decked tug with two tall stacks in tandem and two very tall raking masts. Her hull was built with a delightful sheer to its lines. She was specially designed and outfitted as a survey and inspection vessel for service in the St. Lawrence River below Quebec City in the employ of the Superintending Engineer. Her deck windlass was designed for channel sweeping operations and on her foremast she carried a searchlight of 16,000 candlepower. Like most Canadian government vessels, her port of registry was Ottawa.
Her accommodations provided for a total complement of 22, including staff, officers and men. The crew's quarters were placed forward on the lower deck, the staff's quarters on the lower deck aft, and on the main deck were the staff dining saloon, officers' cabins, mess room, galley and pantries, baths and wash houses. A special draughting room was provided in a large teak deck house aft of the enclosed pilothouse and chartroom. The ship was fitted with cold storage rooms forward on the lower deck and in addition to the usual lifeboats she carried on the boat deck a motor launch capable of a speed of 10 m.p.h.
BELLECHASSE saw about thirty years' service for the federal government. When the Department of Transport took over operations on the St. Lawrence River from the Department of Marine and Fisheries, BELLECHASSE was transferred to the new operating agency.
In 1942 BELLECHASSE was sold to the United Towing and Salvage Company Ltd., Montreal and Port Arthur, an affiliate of the Sincennes-McNaughton Lines Ltd., Montreal, and Marine Industries Ltd., Sorel. She was refitted the same year as a salvage vessel for her new owners and her registry was transferred to Montreal. Apparently it was at this time that her foredeck was plated in to make her more suitable for salvage operations on the open lakes. Her tonnage was altered in the rebuild to 389 Gross and 100 Net.
One of the first jobs given to BELLECHASSE by her new owners was to participate in the raising of HIBOU in the summer of 1942. The motorship HIBOU (see Ship of the Month No. 44, Vol. VII, No. 3, December 1974) had overturned and sunk off Owen Sound in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 21st, 1936. BELLECHASSE spent the summer of '42 working at Owen Sound but she did not get to share in the glory of the moment when on October 2nd the superstructure of HIBOU at last broke the surface of Georgian Bay. Instead, BELLECHASSE was down on the St. Clair River where the previous day she had freed the stranded steamer MANITOU (of the same line as HIBOU) at Courtright, Ontario. MANITOU had been retired by the Dominion and Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd. in 1942 and was on her way to Sorel, having been purchased by Sincennes-McNaughton. She was never used by the line and was broken up at Sorel in 1944. MANITOU was on her delivery voyage to Sin-Mac at the time she grounded and had to be assisted by BELLECHASSE.
BELLECHASSE remained in service for United Towing and Salvage until 1948 when she was laid up at Sorel. She was really too big for her duties as a lake salvage tug and, despite the fact that she was one of the best-looking tugs ever to sail the Great Lakes, she was uneconomical to operate in that she required such a large crew. After lying idle for six years, she was finally broken up at Sorel in 1954 by Marine Industries Ltd.
Our Inland Seas
That was the title of a book by James Cooke Mills which appeared in 1910, published by A. C. McClurg and Company, Chicago. A hardcover of almost 400 pages, the book dealt specifically with the Great Lakes and with "their shipping and commerce for three centuries", and was well illustrated with many interesting photos of lake vessels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But in recent years the book has become increasingly difficult to obtain and hence has become quite a collector's item.
Those who were not able to lay their hands on a copy of the first printing will, we are sure, be happy to know that the book is once more available, a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any shipping observer. Our Inland Seas has been reprinted by Freshwater Press Inc. and the reprint is an exact reproduction of the original 1910 version, complete with its engraved cover. Even the original photographs have reproduced well.
Our Inland Seas is available from Freshwater Press Inc., 258 The Arcade, Cleveland, Ohio 44114, U.S.A. Cost of the book is $9.50 and it will be shipped postpaid to those whose orders are accompanied by payment in full.
Ships Of The Canal
We are always pleased to recognize in these pages the literary efforts of those of our members who manage to get their words into print, either in books or in regular displays of their journalistic talents. The latest of our members to achieve this plateau is Alan Sykes of Welland, a gentleman who has been a member of our Society for about a year and who has attended a number of our regular meetings.
Alan is at present doing a weekly column for the Welland Tribune. Entitled Ships of the Canal, it is currently appearing on a trial basis but, it is hoped, will soon become a regular feature of the journal from the Rose City. Each column consists of a photo of the vessel under study together with a fairly detailed account of its history. Alan opened his series with LEMOYNE.
We wish Alan well with his new venture and would recommend to our readers that, if possible, they should obtain a copy of the Welland Tribune so that they may see the fruits of his efforts for themselves.
Last month in these pages we reported the recent demise of the Greek motorship XENY, the former PRINS WILLEM II (II) of the Oranje Lijn. We stated that to the best of our knowledge she had not returned to the lakes since her sale out of the Dutch flag in 19-68. Well wouldn't you just know it? It seems that our best knowledge just was not good enough.
Three of our members, namely Gordon Turner, Barry Andersen and Dan Cornillie, all got in touch with us to advise that XENY did make at least one trip into the lakes. Seems that she passed up the Welland Canal on July 31. 1971 and was back down again on August 19th. Dan was even kind enough to send along a photo of her in the canal. We regret that a shortage of space on our photopage has made it impossible to share the view with our readers.
Marine Exhibit at Port Huron
The Lake Huron Lore Marine Society has asked us to advise all our readers of a marine exhibit which will be on public display from July 28 to August 29 at the Museum of Arts and History, 1115 Sixth Street, Port Huron, Michigan. In addition to the museum's permanent marine gallery, there will be a special Bicentennial showing of marine artifacts and pictures. All visiting marine buffs should enjoy this special display.
The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free of charge. The showing will be the only exhibit of its kind in lower Michigan.
Ship of the Month No. 58
The steam-powered canal-sized bulk carriers and package freighters which were built in such large numbers for the lower lakes service during the first three decades of this century were generally considered to have been a pretty hardy group of vessels. Granted, many of them fell victim to enemy action during the two wars and a few were overcome during the war years by severe weather conditions on the high seas, conditions for which they were never designed, but by and large the majority of them lived uneventful lives, trading up and down the lower canals until the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway rendered them uneconomical to operate.
This is the short-lived KEYSTORM as she appeared while upbound light on the long level of the third Welland Canal.We tend to forget the fact that a few of these ships came to tragic and violent ends right here on the Great Lakes. REGINA fell victim to the Great Storm of November 1913 on Lake Huron. NESBITT GRAMMER was rammed and sunk by DALWARNIC in Lake Ontario on May 31, 1926. NOVADOC (II) stranded near Juniper Beach, Michigan, on November 11, 1940 in the famous Armistice Day storm that wrought such havoc on Lakes Superior and Michigan. JUDGE HART ran aground in Ashburton Bay, Lake Superior, in heavy weather on November 26, 1942 and foundered when she freed herself from the rocks. And so on. But perhaps the strangest circumstances surrounding the loss of a canaller were those in which KEYSTORM was lost in 1912, the ship then being in only her third season of service.
Keystone Transports Ltd. was a subsidiary of the Montreal Light Heat and Power Company Ltd. which, in association with the Koppers Coal Company of Pittsburgh, founded the shipping line in 1909 for the purpose of carrying coal to its Montreal power generating plant. The company began operations with two chartered Norwegian steamers, C. SUNDT and DRONNING MAUD, which ran to Montreal with coal from Sandusky, Ohio. The same year, Keystone Transports Ltd. ordered three canal-sized bulk carriers from Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Wallsend-on-Tyne, and these were to be the first of fourteen canallers that would be built at various yards for Keystone and its affiliates.
The three vessels were not exact sisterships, but they were very similar in appearance and design. The first two to appear from the builder's yard were KEYWEST (I) and KEYPORT, built in 1909 as Swan Hunter's hulls 817 and 818 respectively. Third ship in the series was KEYSTORM (we do not know her hull number) and she made her appearance on the lakes in June 1910, having sailed across the Atlantic under her own power. She was 250.0 feet in length with a beam of 42.6 feet and a depth of 18.0 feet. Her tonnage was registered as 1720 Gross and 1295 Net. She was designed for a carrying capacity of 2300 tons on light draught of 14 feet.
KEYSTORM was given Official Number 129749 and like her two sisters was registered at Newcastle, England. KEYPORT and KEYWEST were, of course, transferred to Canadian registry in later years but KEYSTORM did not last long enough for this change to affect her.
KEYSTORM was powered by a triple-expansion engine with cylinders of 15, 25 and 42 inches and a stroke of 30 inches. This was the same machinery that was fitted in KEYPORT and KEYWEST but unlike her sisters, which received two scotch boilers each, KEYSTORM was fitted with one larger boiler. This change reduced slightly her carrying capacity compared with the other two ships, but she gained the advantage of being able to make better time. On her trials KEYSTORM achieved a speed of 10 knots per hour, not bad for a canaller.
KEYSTORM entered regular service soon after her arrival on the lakes and spent most of her time carrying coal to Montreal from various Lake Erie ports. Like her sisters, she was a very good-looking ship and was quite advanced in design compared with some of the other canallers then in operation. She was given a three-quarter forecastle but her quarterdeck was not raised and was flush with the shelter deck. Her large texas cabin was given a rounded front and atop this house was carried a rather large pilothouse, again with a rounded front. On the monkey's island atop the pilothouse was carried an open bridge and this was surrounded by a very prominent canvas dodger or weathercloth. To provide shade for the men on the bridge she was given awnings which were raised over the bridge wings and monkey's island.
KEYSTORM was fitted with two very heavy spars equipped with booms for cargo handling. The foremast was stepped abaft the first hatch while the main was located well forward of the after cabin. In this aspect she differed markedly from KEYPORT and KEYWEST, both of which carried the foremast right behind the forward cabin and the main aft of the funnel. KEYSTORM was given a very tall but not too heavy funnel which, like the masts, was virtually unraked. The hull had almost no sheer at all. The steamer was painted in the usual early Keystone colours, olive green hull with white cabins and a black funnel with a wide silver band on which was carried the familiar red, black and silver keystone insignia.
But KEYSTORM was to have a very short career, one that was brought to a sudden end in an accident caused by the negligence of her master and first officer. In the early morning hours of October 26, 1912 she ran aground on Outer Scow Island Shoal in the St. Lawrence River below Alexandria Bay while downbound with a cargo of coal. Some five hours after the accident she slipped off the shoal and foundered in deep water from which she was never raised. The facts of the accident and the results of the investigation which was later held can be reported in no better fashion than by quoting from the official report of the Dominion Wreck Commissioner.
Investigation into the Loss of the S.S. KEYSTORM
Following is the finding of Commander H.L.G. Lindsay, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, who was assisted by Captains F. Nash, F.J. Thomson and J. McGrath, acting as assessors:
The KEYSTORM, a vessel of 1037 tons register, belonging to the Keystone Transportation Company of Montreal, engaged regularly in the coal trade between various coal ports in the United States and Montreal, left Charlotte, N.Y., on October 25, about 3:00 p.m., for Montreal with a cargo of 2,273 tons of coal and arrived off Tibbett's Point in the St. Lawrence about midnight. At 12:15 a.m. on October 26, the master gave over the charge of the navigation to his first mate, with orders of a very definite nature as to what he should do, but for some reason or other did not go below to his quarters, but remained on the forward deck, evidently not being quite satisfied of the first mate's ability to run the vessel in the intricate channel in that locality and also being doubtful as to the state of the weather, which was at that time unsettled.
At 3:00 a.m., the ship being off Alexandria Bay, the master retired to his bed, the weather conditions, according to his evidence, being the same, but he did not take off his clothes, evidently expecting a call. From that point the vessel proceeded safely up to Sister's Island Light, which was a perfectly straight course from Sunken Rock Light. When passing the Sister's she ran into a bank of fog which obscured all lights and land marks. The first mate then showed a total disregard of prudence or common sense and, not knowing what course the vessel should steer by compass, never having, as he said, paid any attention to such a method of navigation, he tried to take the customary course by using what he supposed was the glimmer of the light on Sister's Island over the stern, but without being able to see the gas buoy on Chippewa Point Shoal which under ordinary circumstances would have shown on the starboard bow. Then, being doubtful of the ship's position, and without any reduction of speed, he sent down to call the master, but before this could be done the ship struck on the Outer Scow Shoal and became a total loss.
The court finds that the master, Louis Daigneault, showed a lack of judgment in allowing the mate to take charge of the navigation of this valuable vessel in this particular locality where the greatest amount of care is necessary for navigation even during the daytime, knowing as he did the limited experience the mate had in this work, and his going below at 3:00 a.m. was an act of culpable negligence as there were still dangers to avoid and in less than two hours it would have been daylight. The court therefore suspends his certificate from November 1, 1912 to November 1, 1913.
With respect to the conduct of John Leboeuf, the mate, the court is of the opinion that his neglect to call the master when the weather became thick, his lack of initiative in not stopping the engines when he lost his bearing, and his utter disregard of the compass course to be steered, was gross and culpable negligence, and suspends his certificate from November 1, 1912 to November 1, 1914.
The court severely reprobates the very loose method of navigation which seems to be customary on vessels of this class, and particularly the want of compass courses, and suggests a printed card of all courses and distances on the various runs, the card to be hung up in the pilothouse, ready for instant reference in case the leading lights or marks become obscured as happened in this case.
The court is of the opinion that everything was done in the engineroom with regard to the pumping arrangements, but in spite of this the water gradually gained and ultimately caused the vessel to slip off the shoal into deep water and founder about five hours after stranding. No attempt seems to have been made to try to get the vessel off the shoal and it is the court's opinion that under the circumstances it was just as well that such was the case.
- Canadian Railway and Marine World, December, 1912.
KEYSTORM at the time of her loss was valued at about $125,000 and her cargo at $300,000 and accordingly her owners were understandably reluctant to abandon her. In the early spring of 1913 a diver was sent down and he reported that the steamer was lying on her starboard side in deep water, with her bottom ripped out for a distance of about 60 feet back from the bow. The diver's opinion was that it would not be possible to salvage the ship and, as a result, KEYSTORM was officially abandoned in April 1913.
The underwriters let a salvage contract to A.J. Lee of Westmount, Quebec, and he arranged for salvage gear to be brought from Quebec, with airlocks and compressors coming from New York and divers from Halifax. It was determined that the stern of the ship was resting in 102 feet of water and it was thought that if the vessel could be lifted by means of compressed air, she could be shifted about three shiplengths into much shallower water and there the remainder of the necessary work could be accomplished. Lee was apparently interested in proving certain of his theories on the subject of compressed air and its value in salvage work and he started work in the fall of 1913 to seal up the wreck in preparation for the lift.
Lee went back to work on KEYSTORM in the spring of 1914 when weather conditions were suitable, but his efforts proved unsuccessful and the sunken collier stayed right where she lay on the bottom of Chippewa Bay. As the years of the First World War passed, other salvagers talked of the possibility of raising the ship and reclaiming her cargo but nobody ever succeeded in bringing the canaller to the surface.
If KEYSTORM had a short career on the lakes, her sisters did much better for themselves. KEYWEST ran through 1946 at which time she was condemned. Laid up at Kingston, she was scrapped there in 1947 and her remains were shipped by rail to the Sault Ste. Marie plant of the Algoma Steel Company. KEYPORT was to survive the longest. Keystone Transports was taken over by LaVerendrye Line Ltd. (Quebec Natural Gas Corporation) in 1957 and during 1957 and 1958 the less economical Keystone ships were retired. Five steamers, however, were kept in operation through the autumn of 1961 at which time operations were closed down, LaVerendrye Line being acquired by the Hall Corporation in 1962. The ships that finished out the service were KEYBAR, KEYSTATE, KEYSHEY, KEYVIVE and the oldest ship in the fleet, KEYPORT. She lay idle at Kingston until 1963 and on June 5 of that year was towed to Port Dalhousie where she was scrapped in the old drydock by A. Newman and Company.
But for the carelessness of two men, KEYSTORM might also have lived to operate into her second half-century.