The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 9, n. 4 (January 1977)
Scanner (Toronto, ON), Jan 1977

Bascom, John N., Editor
Media Type:
Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; You Asked Us; Bellechasse Again; Earl E. Belcher; Lay-up Listings
Date of Publication:
Jan 1977
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Toronto Marine Historical Society
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Friday, February 4th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Bruce Smith, our

President, will give an illustrated talk about his travels on the Erie Canal and on the Rhine


Friday, March 4th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Programme to

be announced.

The Editor's Notebook

Our December meeting featured Mr. Gordon Champion who

presented an illustrated talk on the subject of the rebuilding of TRILLIUM. In addition, Alan

Howard recounted the details of the career of the vessel prior to her rebirth. Gordon's

enthusiasm for the reconstruction job was evident throughout his address and he managed to keep

most of those present in stitches all evening with his stories of the strange things that

happened while the steamer was taking shape. We sincerely thank Gordon for coming to our

meeting to share his experiences on TRILLIUM with us. It was a shame that the weatherman proved

to be unco-operative again, thus preventing many of our out-of-town members from attending. It

never fails; every time we have a super-terrific programme planned, it snows buckets! Must be

something about the way we're living....

For those of you who may be interested in obtaining back

issues of this newsletter, we would suggest that you contact us right away. Our supplies of

many numbers are dwindling rapidly and quite a few are now completely out of stock. We have had

to raise the price per issue to $1.00 to keep pace with postage costs but our back issues are

well worth the price.

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to

Laurence M. Scott of Brockville and to Capt. Reginald Belcher of Victoria Harbour, Ontario.

Marine News

The National Sand and Material Company Ltd. sandsucker

CHARLES DICK last operated in 1973 and since then has lain idle at Port Colborne, at first

alongside the West Street wharf and latterly in Ramey's Bend. The ship was a victim of

provincial legislation prohibiting sandsucking operations in Lake Erie near the Canadian shore

as a result of complaints of alleged shoreline erosion caused by the operations of CHARLES DICK

and W. M. EDINGTON, the two vessels so engaged. National Sand kept CHARLES DICK just in case

the Ontario government should change its position on the sandsucking question, but as the

months have passed, it has become evident that no such change is to be forthcoming.

And now the axe has fallen for the poor old steamer

herself. Erie Sand, the firm which controls National Sand and Material, has at last given up

and, realizing that the DICK's old trade into Cleveland will never again be open to her, have

sold the vessel for scrapping. The deal was finalized on December 23rd, 1976 and on that date

CHARLES DICK became the property of Marine Salvage Ltd. We understand that demolition will

begin shortly. CHARLES DICK was long a familiar sight on Lake Erie and on western Lake Ontario

and plied her trade for more than half a century. Her demise leaves W. M. EDINGTON as the only

commercial sandsucker operating on the Canadian side of the lakes and even her trade is now

limited to the short run between the Niagara Bar and Port Dalhousie and Hamilton. The scrapping

of the DICK is truly the signal of the end of an era. We shall miss her, especially those

amongst us who were so familiar with the steamer and her crew.

The rebuilding of the forward cabin of PIERSON DAUGHTERS is

not being done at Toronto as was earlier reported, but rather at Port Weller where the ship is

moored at the old Empire-Hanna coal dock in the lower harbour. The old pilothouse was lifted

off shortly before Christmas and by the time this appears in print, it is likely that the new

cabin will be in place.

The Canadian Wheat Board has taken action in Quebec

Superior Court over the loss of 30,000 bushels of feed barley which were ruined whilst in the

holds of the C.S.L. motorvessel SAGUENAY at Montreal last winter. Much of the ship's cargo had

already been unloaded and there is no explanation of why the remaining barley spoiled. The

action names both C.S.L. and its subsidiary, Voyageur Colonial Ltd.

A 9,300-ton tanker is presently being built in Japan to the

order of Texaco Canada Ltd. The vessel is expected to run her sea trials in February and to be

delivered to her owners in March. The new boat will operate on the lakes, the St. Lawrence and

the east coast and will join TEXACO CHIEF (II) and TEXACO WARRIOR (II) in the company's fleet.

No name for the new vessel has yet been announced, but we would bet that she will be christened


Speaking of vessels coming to the lakes from salt water,

readers will remember that Nipigon Transports Ltd. is presently having a salt water ship

rebuilt at Singapore for lake service. We now understand that the bulk carrier will not look

like a salty when she comes to the lakes but instead will look much like the company's first

conversion, LAKE WINNIPEG. The new boat will, of course, be christened LAKE NIPIGON.

The Hall Corporation has recently purchased three West

German bulk carriers which for the past few years have been operating under charter to the

Navios Corp. section of the fleet of the United States Steel Corporation. The three sisterships

were built in 1960 and measure 546 x 74 x 40, but none have yet been identified by name in the

press. Hall Corp. is currently negotiating with Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. of Lauzon, Quebec, the

terms of a $27,000,000 contract for the lengthening of all three ships to 730 feet and their

conversion for lake service. The rebuilding would give each vessel a carrying capacity of

27,000 tons at full Seaway draft.

ATLAS TRAVELER, mentioned in our last two

issues, did in fact operate on the Picton - Charlotte cement service late this fall and we

understand that she performed well, having proven herself to be a pretty good icebreaker. ATLAS

TRAVELER is currently laid up at Hamilton for the winter. Meanwhile, ATLAS TRAVELER's

predecessor on the route, the tiny PEERLESS, left Charlotte on November 25th with a Venezuelan

crew and was able to clear the Seaway before the onset of the ice problems. We were surprised

to see the former owners of PEERLESS find buyers for the little motorship so quickly, but we

wish her all the best in her new duties. We hope that in due course we will find out something

about her exploits in South American waters.

The former Canadian Coast Guard light tender C. P. EDWARDS,

retired several years ago and idle since at Parry Sound, was sold earlier this year and has

since been put back into service by east coast operators. The former steamer, now repowered but

looking not much different than she did when in her old service, is now registered at Halifax.

She was seen at Ogdensburg on December 5th unloading a cargo of binder twine which she had

brought from Haiti.

The 1976 season was marked by extremely strange weather

conditions in the Great Lakes area and the cold, damp weather of summer has now given way to

unusually cold temperatures. As a result, ice came early to the lakes and greatly hindered the

rush of salt water ships to leave the lakes prior to the closing of the Seaway and the last

trips of lakers hurrying to the lower lakes and the St. Lawrence with their cargoes of storage

grain. As an indication of the early freezeup, your Editor noted that large sections of Toronto

harbour were frozen over by the first week in December, it being most unusual for such ice

conditions to appear so early. And on the upper lakes, severe ice problems were in evidence

during the latter part of November. The ice formed so early on the St. Lawrence canals that in

mid-December the canals had to be closed to vessel traffic in order that a solid ice cover

could be formed to prevent the clogging of Hydro dams with broken ice. Paths then had to be cut

through the solid ice to allow ship movement. The ice on the St. Lawrence was the worst since

the opening of the Seaway in 1959 and on the upper lakes should really put the test to winter

navigation plans. Ice caused particularly nasty problems on the Welland Canal, particularly in

the area of Lock 7 where broken ice pushing down out of the long level jammed the lock and on

several occasions trapped ships in it. The Welland was scheduled to close December 30, but had

to be kept open several days longer to allow vessels beset by ice in the waterway to fight

their way clear and out of the canal. The last vessel to make a complete downbound passage was

FRONTENAC. The TARANTAU, upbound, found the going so difficult that it was decided that she

would just tie up along the canal and remain there for the winter.

The St. Lawrence Seaway, originally scheduled to close for

the season on December 18, was held open until December 24. The last salty to clear the system

made it out on Christmas Eve. She was the ATTICA, a ship most observers had thought would not

make it out of the lakes this year. ATTICA, a Liberian bulk carrier with a load of soya beans,

was at Port Huron on December 13 when she was found to have a 17-foot crack in her plating,

allegedly the result of improper loading at Chicago. She was taken to the Detroit Edison dock

at St. Clair where divers drilled a hole at the end of the crack to keep it from spreading. The

U.S. Coast Guard, which would not permit the ship to enter open lake waters without more

permanent repairs being effected, expressed considerable surprise that the ship had not already

broken apart. Some repairs were completed, but final repairs were not made before ATTICA was

hustled out of the lakes just as the lower canals closed.

And as if it was not bad enough that the last few trips of

most lakers were delayed by ice problems, the autumn of 1976 has been a virtual nightmare of

groundings and accidents, a perfect horror for shipowners but a windfall for the operators of

tugs and salvage vessels. There have been too many accidents for us to give a

detailed description of each but we will give a brief account of an many as we can:

The Interlake Steamship Company's steamer JOHN SHERWIN

grounded on Escanaba Shoal on November 28 after she missed a winter channel marker. E. G.

GRACE, tug LOREN CASTLE and U.S.C.G. ACACIA all tried to pull her off but she could not be

moved until the craneship BUCKEYE had lightered her ore cargo. SHERWIN was refloated December

1st and continued her trip to Ashtabula. OCEAN SOVEREIGN (see December issue) managed to make

it to salt water before the Seaway closing but only did so with the assistance of a veritable

fleet of tugs. The ship could not be steered because of rudder damage sustained in her accident

at the Soo.

The Norwegian salty KINGS STAR ran into trouble on Lake

Erie on November 30 when she suffered a power failure while trying to fight a nasty storm in

the area of Point-aux-Pins. She drifted for a whole day and was finally towed to Cleveland by

C.C.G.S. GRIFFON and G-tugs IOWA and VIRGINIA. ENDERS M. VOORHEES suffered bow damage on

November 19th when she hit the pier at the Lower Beauharnois lock on the Seaway. Two plates had

to be replaced when VOORHEES went to the shipyard at Lorain.

CLIFFS VICTORY went hard aground December 9 while downbound

in the Johnson Point area of Middle Neebish Channel. She was allegedly pushed onto the rocks by

the pressure of heavy ice in the channel. The ship was freed December 11 after a portion of her

cargo had been removed but by then a nasty backup of shipping on the St. Mary's River had

occurred and the Coast Guard was even thinking of having MACKINAW break open the Neebish Rock

Cut, which had previously been closed for the winter, in order to provide an alternate channel.

CLIFFS VICTORY did suffer some bottom damage but she did not take any water. It was found,

however, that she had lost her rudder in the incident. Her ore cargo was reloaded in Lake


STEWART J. CORT also did her share of blocking traffic at

the Soo. She got stuck in the ice in Middle Neebish on December 7 and had to be rescued by the

Coast Guard. Then on her next downbound trip on December 12, CORT got caught in ice above the

Poe Lock and could not free herself. She blocked both the Poe and MacArthur Locks for more than

a day and once again the U.S. Coast Guard had to assist, U.S.C.G. NAUGATUCK being called in to

break up ice jammed between the CORT's hull and the lock piers.

Two other groundings in the St. Mary's occurred on December

13 and again held up traffic which had been stymied for a week due to other accidents. THOMAS

WILSON grounded in the upper river and the salty UNIMAR found the bottom in the lower river.

Both boats were freed on the 15th, UNIMAR managing to free herself, while THOMAS WILSON had to

be lightered in order to float her free.

The various troubles at the Soo involving CLIFFS VICTORY,

STEWART J. CORT, THOMAS WILSON and UNIMAR resulted in one of the worst traffic jams seen at the

Soo since the famous ice jam of 1926. Many of the ships caught in the river were trapped by the

rapidly forming ice and had to be cut out by the Coast Guard before they could continue on

their way.

HARRY L. ALLEN managed to ground in Lake St. Clair on the

morning of December 17 and she was soon trapped in ice that enveloped her hull. The veteran

ALLEN of the Kinsman fleet was freed later in the day, apparently without damage, by the Coast

Guard tug KAW.

IMPERIAL ST. CLAIR, vicim of a late-season grounding, is shown inbound at Toronto's Eastern Gap in this October 14, 1975 photo by the EditorJ. F. SCHOELLKOPF JR. went aground in Sandusky Bay on

December 2nd, apparently as a result of heavy ice having shifted a channel buoy out of

position. The ship also managed to get a buoy chain fouled around her propellor in the process.

The self-unloader was freed later the same day. IMPERIAL ST. CLAIR, Imperial Oil's entry into

the winter navigation game, ran aground on Telegram Rock in the Parry Sound Channel on December

23 and holed herself to the extent that 35,000 gallons of diesel oil escaped into Georgian Bay.

She was lightered by ARCTIC TRADER and was floated free the following day with the assistance

of C.C.G.S. MONTMORENCY, further oil spillage being prevented by the shifting of cargo to other

tanks. The oil that was spilled presented no great clean-up problem as the oil was

simply pumped out from beneath the ice where it was trapped or burned off where it was on the


The Liberian bulk carrier PEARL ASIA, better known to lake

observers under the name of CRYSTAL CROWN as a unit of the Sugar Line and a frequent visitor to

the Redpath refinery at Toronto, got into trouble off Port Weller on December 2nd when she went

aground about half a mile from the west pier in westerly winds gusting over 40 knots. The tugs

LAVAL and WILFRED M. COHEN left the sheltering OCEAN SOVEREIGN tow to render assistance but

were unable to free the ship. These tugs then left the scene on the 3rd and were replaced by

NIPIGON from Hamilton and DANIEL McALLISTER which came from Kingston with the lighter

MAPLEHEATH. Part of the ship's bauxite cargo was removed and on December 5 she was floated free

and taken to Hamilton for inspection and the reloading of her cargo. PEARL ASIA was back at

Port Weller on December 7 awaiting upbound passage for Thorold where she was to unload the

bauxite. PEARL ASIA is owned by the Good Hope Shipping Company Ltd., Monrovia.

Logistec Corporation, which controls Agence Maritime Inc.,

an operator of coastal and St. Lawrence River vessels, has bought the Davie Brothers shipyard

at Levis, Quebec, presumably to service the fleet's own boats. The coaster FORT GASPE (formerly

St. Charles Transportation's ROBERT McMICHAEL) of the Agence Maritime fleet was damaged while

in Arctic service during the summer and was put into the small shipyard for inspection. Found

to be in bad condition, she was put at the old Imperial Oil wharf (latterly owned by the

shipyard) at Levis to await repairs. The Levis city fathers put up quite a stink about FORT

GASPE being a blot upon their landscape and wanted her moved from their fair shore. Logistec

dug in its heels and Levis finally relented on the condition that the repaired vessel will be

leaving in the spring to resume service. Another Agence Maritime boat, FORT LENNOX, was to

winter at Levis with FORT GASPE but on December 13 she was damaged in an accident near

Sept-Iles. She will winter at Rimouski before going to the Levis shipyard in the spring.

For the past year, observers around the world have been

wondering what would become of the two Italian liners MICHELANGELO and RAFFAELLO which were

retired as part of the Italian government's "rationalization" programme and relegated to an

anchorage in the harbour at Portovenere on the Italian Riviera. Word has now come that the

sisterships have been sold to Iran for use as floating naval barracks, the purchase price being

$18,000,000 each. MICHELANGELO will pass her days housing seamen at the naval base of Bandar

Abbas on the Persian Gulf while RAFFAELLO will pull similar duty at Bushire. The vessels will

be sailed out to Iran under their own power and with an Italian crew and, once there, they will

be maintained by an Italian crew of 60 for a period of three years. A town councillor at

Portovenere was quoted as saying "We are happy to see the ships sold - but mainly to have them

removed from our harbour. We prefer our splendid, open gulf as a panorama, with no ships and no

danger of pollution."

As one who was aboard MICHELANGELO on many occasions at New

York, Ye Ed. must perforce disagree. We would far rather see such beautiful ships riding at

anchor, still with the possibility of being sold for useful operation, than relegated to use as

floating dormitories in some forgotten (or rather unknown) ports on the Persian Gulf. We

sincerely hope that some day, these fine vessels may return to grace the shipping lanes where

they belong.

Speaking of the Italian Line, we should mention that, of

course, the beautiful LEONARDO DA VINCI was not retired as planned and has been kept in service

for at least a further year, a concession to the wave of outraged public opinion that opposed

the retirement of this graceful vessel. The ship has been operating cruises out of New York but

patronage has has been very poor, presumably because the line has not publicized the trips and

many people are not aware of the fact that the ship has been spared, at least for now. O

Rationalization, great and wonderful are thy ways*.

Farewell John Kendall

Over the past few years, steam fans around the lakes have

felt considerable anxiety over the future of the Detroit firetug JOHN KENDALL, a steamer whose

position has been anything but secure, especially since budget-trimming by a

financially-troubled municipal administration put her into mothballs a year ago. In fact, the

KENDALL herself has been saved from the scrappers' torches but the same cannot be said for her

steam machinery.

Detroit firetug JOHN KENDALL givs a farewell salute to SOUTH AMERICAN in honour of her departure on her final voyage, October 16, 1967. PHoto by the EditorThe twin-stacked, chime-whistled KENDALL is a veteran of

1929 when the 128.3 foot steamer was built at Toledo. Ever since then she has served as the

Detroit fireboat, much to the disgust of certain critics who have labelled her a municipal

liability, claiming that she could not reach distant points along the waterfront in time to do

any good in the event of a serious conflagration. The city has talked about replacing the

KENDALL with a small, highspeed boat (which could get to a fire even if it couldn't do anything

once it got there), but so far the city seems to have been hard-pressed to come up with the

funds necessary to go ahead with construction. Close museums it may, but Detroit still has no

money for a fireboat!

This fall, the city fathers decided that JOHN KENDALL had

to go and they put her up for bids. The only bid was from Robert Massey, an Alpena salvager who

bid the princely sum of $10,000. A few builders of fireboats suggested that they would take the

KENDALL as a trade-in on a new model (just like a new car?) but such a solution required that

Detroit authorize the building of a new boat, the giant step that the council has shied away

from making so far. The third alternative was to accept the overtures of two confessed reformed

alcoholics who were trying to raise money to purchase the KENDALL so that they could present

her to Father Vaughn Quinn who runs the Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Centre for alcoholics. You

see, the good Father specializes in buying old firetrucks for his charges to rehabilitate while

they are rehabilitating themselves and it must have seemed that JOHN KENDALL would be a good

subject for their efforts and that the finished product, pretty but useless, would have made a

good display somewhere.

City council stalled for time, hoping that somebody would

come up with the means to save the KENDALL, but none came forward and there was the additional

worry that with the onset of cold weather, her seacocks might freeze and the city would then be

faced with the cost of raising the steamer from the bottom of the river. But nobody was able to

propose any reasonable means of purchasing and providing for the maintenance of the KENDALL as

an operating or display relic and so she was eventually sold late in November to Massey's

Panoceanic Engineering Corporation of Alpena, Michigan. She will be dieselized and converted to

a salvage tug but gone will be the KENDALL so well known to Detroiters.

Ye Ed. will retain fond memories of JOHN KENDALL in

operation, including that rainy, cold Monday, October 16, 1967 when he stood on the deck of

SOUTH AMERICAN, then departing Detroit on her final voyage out of the lakes, and watched the

KENDALL follow the SOUTH down the Detroit River, spray shooting high from her nozzles and a

lovely, haunting chord issuing from her triple-chime whistle. We also recall another occasion

when we called at the marine fire station and the firemen on duty blew the whistle just so we

could record it. Three-and-two will last many years on tape but we hope that someone in Detroit

at least cared enough to save the E. G. MATHIOTT - JESSE JAMES whistle of the KENDALL for

posterity as a memento of what a city has lost.

You Asked Us

Last month, we attempted to answer questions posed by

Robert Ireland concerning the wooden tugs KEENAN and MINNIE A. CLARK. We had very little

information on the final disposition of either boat and for this reason we are very

happy to have heard from George Ayoub of Ottawa who has done some digging and came up with the

following additional details.

MINNIE A. CLARK was renamed (b) RED FOX by the Dominion

Fish Company Ltd. in 1921. We do not know when they sold her but her last owner was Frank Gerow

of Port Arthur in whose name she was registered until 1944. Thereafter she does not appear in

the registers and we assume that she was abandoned in the Lakehead area.

As we surmised in our history of KEENAN, it was in 1936

that she was sold to J. P. Porter and Sons Ltd. She was last registered in 1937 and there is no

record of her after that date nor does she appear in any wreck listings. It seems likely that

she was simply abandoned for age.

George has also given us a bit more information on the

overseas doings of OUTARDE (II) in response to our earlier question, but this most recent

detail does little to solve the problem. If anything, it makes it even worse. You see, OUTARDE

was originally sold to Spanish breakers and we assumed that she had been taken to Santander,

Castellon or Bilbao for scrapping. This may still have been the case but the plot thickens as

we learn that her last recorded owner was the Atlantic Shipping Company Ltd., Gibraltar, and

that Lloyds later reported her as "scrapped". Now who or what was the Atlantic Shipping Company

and what interest would this firm have had in an old laker? Did OUTARDE actually get to

Gibraltar or was the sale perhaps defaulted so that she lay around in some European port and

was finally broken up?

Michel Vezina of Beauport, Quebec, has asked us about

several St. Lawrence River vessels. Admittedly, we are no experts on the lower St. Lawrence and

we can but pass along his questions in the hope someone may be able to reply.

-- What was the vessel named GUIDE which sank in the Gulf

of St. Lawrence near Godbout on October 15, 1926? We know nothing about her at all.

-- What happened to Logistec's FORT GEORGE which was

recently sold out of Canadian registry?

-- St. Charles Transportation bought four American L.S.T.s

in 1946. Two of them were renamed ROBERT McMICHAEL and FRANK J. HUMPHREY. What were their

L.S.T. numbers? None of our registers or references show their original "names".

Bellechasse Again

In our May 1976 issue we featured BELLECHASSE as a Ship of

the Month. We reported that this big tug was broken up at Sorel in 1954 and we have every

reason to believe that this was, in fact, the case. Nevertheless, we have had it brought to our

attention that BELLECHASSE appeared in the Canadian List of Shipping each year up to and

including the 1964 edition. While we hesitate to say that a government publication is in error,

we believe that this is probably yet another case wherein the appropriate parties simply were

not notified that a ship had been scrapped and thus the official listing was not changed. There

is absolutely no evidence to suggest that BELLECHASSE was still in existence as late as


Earl E. Belcher

It is with regret that we report the death of Earl E.

Belcher of Waubaushene, Ontario. Mr Belcher, T.M.H.S. member number 247, passed away in

November 1976. We would like to express to Mr Belcher's family our deepest sympathy. With his

passing, we have lost an enthusiastic supporter of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.

Ship of the Month No. 62 SAND MERCHANT

Never before in these pages have we presented the story of

a ship specifically designed and built as a sandsucker and since there have been a number of

such vessels active on the Great Lakes over the years, we thought it to be about time that we

featured a sandsucker. We were inspired by the recently received word of the imminent demise of

CHARLES DICK which made us think back to an earlier unit of the fleet of National Sand and

Material Company Ltd., the steamer SAND MERCHANT. This vessel is the fitting subject for an

in-depth look at this time as 1977 brings with it the fortieth anniversary of her tragic loss

in an accident which remains to this day one of the unexplained mysteries of the lakes.

This is SAND MERCHANT as she appeared at the time of her loss. Photo from the collection of Capt. John Leonard shows her upbound in the Galops section of the Williamsburg Canal, St. Lawrence River.The steel-hulled sandsucker SAND MERCHANT (C.153443) was

built at Collingwood, Ontario, by the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. in 1927 for the

Interlake Transportation Company Ltd., (Mapes and Fredon), Montreal. Her keel was laid on April

28th, 1927 and on September 7th she was delivered to her owners. The chief dimensions of the

new vessel were as follows: length overall, 259.75 feet; length between perpendiculars, 252.0

feet; moulded breadth, 43.5 feet; moulded depth, 20.0 feet; deadweight on old Welland Canal

draft of 14 feet, approximately 2,300 tons; Gross Tonnage, 1981; Net Tonnage, 752.

SAND MERCHANT was propelled by a triple-expansion, surface

condensing engine with cylinders of 15/2, 26 and 44-inch diameter and a stroke of 26 inches.

Steam was supplied by two coal-burning Scotch type marine boilers measuring 13 feet by 11 feet,

with natural draft and a working pressure of 200 lbs. On her trials which were conducted on

September 1st, 1927, a mean speed of 10.42 knots was maintained on a draft of 7'9" forward and

12'8" aft.

The new steamer was a single-deck type vessel with sunken

forecastle and a raised quarterdeck and she was fitted with six transverse watertight

bulkheads. Cargo was carried in two open, hopper-sided holds. When SAND MERCHANT was loading,

sand or gravel was pumped from the bottom of the lake through 18-inch diameter pipes by two

18-inch centrifugal pumps. The material thus brought aboard was discharged into double steel

troughs running down each side of the deck and arranged one over the other. By means of various

sizes of screens and cover plates, sand or any desired size of gravel could be screened out and

discharged into the holds. The residue was flushed over the side and back into the lake by

means of spillways.

As SAND MERCHANT was originally constructed, cargo was

unloaded from the holds by means of two swinging, stiff-legged derricks, each one equipped with

a two-yard grab bucket. One derrick was mounted aft of the forecastle while the second was

placed in front of the stack. In 1930, certain changes were made in the unloading equipment.

The derricks were removed and in their place was fitted an elevator system and a conveyor belt

discharge to the dock over a swinging boom. The unloading boom was hinged aft and was suspended

from a large A-frame mounted immediately forward of the funnel.

SAND MERCHANT was a very substantial-looking canaller.

Forward, she carried a large, square pilothouse atop a texas cabin that was almost hidden by

the assorted machinery carried on the forecastle. The pilothouse had a somewhat bare appearance

in that it was not equipped with a sunvisor. The ship was frequently navigated from an open

bridge located atop the pilothouse, surrounded by a canvas dodger and topped by a protective

awning. Aft she was fitted with a full cabin which had an overhang out to the sides of the ship

extending for the entire length of the deckhouse. The funnel was of medium height but was quite

thick for a canaller and was surmounted by a very prominent cowl. When SAND MERCHANT entered

service, she carried the distinctive Mapes and Fredon funnel design, a black stack with three

gold bands. Her hull was painted black and her cabins white.

The year 1931 saw the Royal Trust Company,

Montreal, take possession of SAND MERCHANT, presumably because of unpaid accounts (which might

have related to her original construction). Royal Trust then chartered the boat to the National

Sand and Material Company Ltd., Toronto, a subsidiary of Standard Paving and Materials Ltd.,

Toronto. The Great Depression was, however, inflicting its miseries upon the business community

at that time and SAND MERCHANT operated only intermittently in 1932, spending the rest of her

time at the wall in Toronto harbour. In 1933, there was no work at all for either SAND MERCHANT

or CHARLES DICK and National Sand kept both steamers laid up for the season in Muir's Pond

above Old Lock One in the third Welland Canal at Port Dalhousie.

Business improved somewhat after 1933 and in 1934 SAND

MERCHANT operated intermittently again. The three subsequent years, 1935, 1936 and 1937, saw

the ship in full operation, normally on Lake Erie where she would load sand off the Canadian

shore and deliver it to Cleveland in much the same manner as did CHARLES DICK in the latter

years of her career.

The autumn of 1936 saw SAND MERCHANT in operation, as

usual, on Lake Erie. On Saturday, October 17th, the steamer completed her task of loading sand

off Point Pelee and at about 1:15 p.m. she got underway for Cleveland which lay 36 nautical

miles away, southeast by east. The weather was fine and clear, but there was a strong northwest

wind blowing which at times reached a velocity of 30 to 38 m.p.h. The weather deteriorated as

the trip progressed.

SAND MERCHANT had covered seven miles of her voyage when

the steering transmission cable on the starboard side leading from the pilothouse aft to the

steering engine gave way. The ship, which was under the command of Capt. Graham MacLelland, was

stopped and the steering cable was renewed. To get at the broken cable, it was necessary to

remove the covers of the starboard buoyancy tanks but these covers were apparently replaced

securely before the ship resumed her voyage to Cleveland at about 6:00 p.m.

Later in the evening, about 8:30 p.m., the second officer,

Wilfred John Bourrie of Victoria Harbour, Ontario, called the master because the ship had taken

a port list of about five degrees. The master had been asleep on the settee in the wheelhouse

as he had been on duty throughout the preceding night and during the morning to supervise the

loading and, in addition, he had been on the bridge throughout the repair of the steering

cable. The master, having been called by the second mate, immediately went aft to inspect the

cargo hoppers and he found that the after hoppers had shipped a considerable quantity of water.

Capt MacLelland then proceeded to have the ship's head brought into the wind to try to correct

the list, but by 9:00 p.m. he found that this manoeuvre had not produced the desired effect.

The list had developed further and was gradually increasing. The sea had also risen somewhat

and water was being shipped over the sides into the open cargo holds. With her load of about

3,000 tons of sand, she would have had a freeboard of about 3 1/2 feet had she been on an even

keel at this point. It should be noted that SAND MERCHANT was equipped with four large buoyancy

tanks fitted on each side of the cargo holds fore and aft, extending from the side of the ship

toward amidships.

Finding that he could not keep SAND MERCHANT'S head up to

the wind because she was becoming loggy, the master let go the starboard anchor and ordered

that distress signals and flares be sent up and that the officers should get out the boats. He

enquired as to the state of the buoyancy tanks and was informed that they were dry. Capt

MacLelland remained on the bridge, working his engines, and sent the wheelsman aft to assist in

the launching of the lifeboats. It was impossible at this stage to take soundings of the tanks

because of the water coming onto the decks. The cargo elevator buckets were operated but

revealed no water in the tunnel or conveyor space. Operation of the pumps in the engineroom

showed that there was no water in the portside buoyancy tanks.

Difficulty was experienced in lowering the

boats. The starboard boat could not be lowered due to the list and was finally cut loose and

allowed to remain on deck so that it would float off in the event that the ship foundered. The

port lifeboat did reach the water and was afloat for some minutes before SAND MERCHANT gave two

final lurches to port, turned over on her side, and immediately sank. The actual sinking

occurred at about 10:00 p.m. when the steamer was some 17 miles northwest of Cleveland.

A few crew members had been able to board the port lifeboat

before the sinking but the boat capsized when SAND MERCHANT went down. Capt MacLelland was able

to jump from the bridge just as his vessel rolled over on her side. The unlaunched starboard

lifeboat also capsized during the sinking. All the Crewmen were thus thrown into the water and

those who were able regained the overturned boats. The survivors maintained their precarious

hold on the boats until the morning of Sunday, October 18th. Capt MacLelland reported later

that as the lanterns and flares were stored inside the overturned lifeboats, the men in the

chilling water had found no way of showing a light despite the fact that several ships had

passed close to the lifeboats during the night, some of them coming as close as one-half


With the coming of daylight, the three survivors clinging

to one boat were rescued by the steamer THUNDER BAY QUARRIES in command of Capt. James Healy.

There were four survivors clinging to the other lifeboat and they were picked up by the collier

MARQUETTE and BESSEMER NO. 1. In all, 19 of the 26-man crew were drowned, including the first

mate, Bernard Drinkwalter of Port Stanley and his wife, second mate Bourrie, and chief engineer

Walter MacInnis.

The preliminary investigation into the foundering was

conducted by Capt. Henry W. King of Toronto, government examiner of masters and mates. As a

result of his findings, a formal and thorough investigation was held at Toronto by Mr. Justice

E. M. McDougall of the Quebec Superior Court acting as wreck commissioner. Capts G. D. Frewer

and L. McMillan served the inquiry as nautical assessors.

After lengthy hearings, the court found that Capt.

MacLelland had done all within his power to save the ship and was in no way responsible for the

foundering. The court advanced the opinion that the responsibility for the loss of life must be

laid upon the shoulders of the first officer and, to a lesser degree, upon those of the second

officer, first of all for failing to call the master sooner when it should have been evident

that something serious was amiss and in addition for failing to get the crew off and the boats

away. Both these officers, Drinkwalter and Bourrie, were drowned.

The court also found that the foundering of the ship was

not caused by any wrongful act or default of the operating company. SAND MERCHANT was

well-found and had been maintained in good condition with ample buoyancy reserve and full

stability. She had been inspected by Canadian government inspection officials and had been

declared to be seaworthy in every respect. The court found that at no time had the master been

urged to overload or otherwise reduce the efficiency or stability of the ship.

The court did decide that some criticism was to be levelled

against the master for the reason that there had never been a boat drill aboard SAND MERCHANT.

The wreck commissioner stated that "here was, no doubt, laxity of discipline, but the loss of

life can scarcely be ascribed to this cause as the direct consequence of such neglect". Capt

MacLelland was not censured for his indiscretion in not holding boat drills. It was found,

however, that the presence aboard ship of the wife of the first officer distracted his

attention from his duties and the master was censured for having allowed Drinkwalter to bring

his wife on board for the trip.

It was suggested by a technical witness who was called to

testify at the hearings that water must have penetrated to the port tanks but neither this

expert nor any of the other witnesses could

say for certain how the water might have got into the buoyancy tanks. The court found that "if,

for one reason or another, the special hatch cover giving access to the Number One buoyancy

tank had not been replaced (after the repair of the steering cable), the considerable aperture

so created at this then vulnerable point in the vessel's protection would have admitted quite

sufficient water to the port tank to increase and aggravate the existing list to a point where

all further stability in the vessel would disappear and her foundering become inevitable."

In conclusion, the court recommended "that a Board of

Inquiry be set up, consisting of men skilled in nautical matters, to conduct an investigation

into the design, construction and navigation of ships of the type of the SAND MERCHANT, with

particular regard to such subjects as possible application of load line regulations to lake

vessels; construction and possible change in the design of open hoppers on vessels of this

type; necessity of regulations concerning boat drills; attention to superstructural loading and

unloading equipment and facilities; storage of cargo bearing on stability of the vessel and

methods of discharge of water from cargo space; and the possible provision of protected

emergency access to buoyancy tanks from machinery space aft or pump space forward." We can find

no record of the results of such inquiry if, indeed, any such inquiry was ever held.

And so, although a good many theories have been put forward

over the years, the actual cause of the sinking of SAND MERCHANT has never been determined. Our

own thought would have to be that regardless of the fact that other factors of unknown nature

may have been operating, the officers of SAND MERCHANT should probably never have commenced the

crossing to Cleveland in the weather conditions that were then prevailing, knowing that the

ship could have remained in relatively calm water by staying where she was in the lee of the

Canadian shore.

As the years have passed, there have been thoughts given to

the raising of SAND MERCHANT, but forty years have now gone by and still she remains on the

bottom of Lake Erie, holding deep within her any evidence there may be to explain her

mysterious capsizing and the snuffing out of the lives of nineteen persons.

Lay-up Listings

Navigation on the lower lakes having now come to an end for

the 1976 season, we feel safe in presenting the following as a complete listing of vessels

wintering in Toronto harbour. We exclude tugs, ferries, and vessels operating through the

winter in harbour duty.
































We would like to present in the February and March issues listings of

vessels wintering in other ports around the lakes. We would very much appreciate the assistance

of our readers in sending us such material.

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Scanner, v. 9, n. 4 (January 1977)

Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; You Asked Us; Bellechasse Again; Earl E. Belcher; Lay-up Listings