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
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.
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
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
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
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".
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
R. BRUCE ANGUS
C. S. BAND
C. W. CADWELL
JUDITH M. PIERSON
GORDON C. LEITCH
E. J. NEWBERRY
NEW YORK NEWS
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.