The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 9, n. 7 (April 1977)
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Scanner (Toronto, ON), Apr 1977


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Bascom, John N., Editor
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Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; You Asked Us; Nelson James Wilson
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Apr 1977
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English
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Meetings

Friday, May 13th - Annual Dinner Meeting. Note the date. Details below.

This will be the Society's last regular meeting of the current season. Our meetings will resume in October. Watch for details in a later issue.

The Editor's Notebook

Our speaker at the March meeting was Dr. Gordon Shaw who gave us a most interesting talk on the operations of the Canadian Pacific B.C. coastal steamships from the early fifties onwards. Dr. Shaw was intimately involved in the transition of the once-great fleet from its glory days to its present status and he gave us a fine insight into the problems faced by the service. The program was much enjoyed by all and we sincerely thank Dr. Shaw for his kindness in addressing the faithful.

The Annual Dinner Meeting will be held on Friday, May 13th and our guest speaker will be Peter B. Worden. Please note carefully the date. A roast beef dinner will be served at 7:00 p.m. in the Ship Inn (located in the cellar of the Marine Museum of Upper Canada) and the bar will be open earlier for those who might enjoy a pre-dinner restorative. The cost will be $10.75 per person and guests will be welcome.

The capacity of the restaurant is limited and reservations are required. There will be no tickets available at the door. By the time this appears in print, we may well be sold out but those wishing to enquire should immediately contact Mr. James M. Kidd, 83 Humberview Road, Toronto, Ontario, M6S 1W9. Correspondence must enclose remittance for tickets desired.

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Ronald Graham of Goderich, to Hubert Brooks of Toronto and to Bryce Grant of Windsor.

Marine News

The most cheerful piece of news we have to report this month concerns the steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM which, at least for the present, has been spared the ignominy of being reduced to a barge. On March 9th, the Michigan Highway Commission voted 3-1 in favour of retaining the CHIEF as an operative steamer and of spending $400,000 to give the old girl a partial refit. The state officials are seeking from the U.S. Coast Guard at least a one-year extension of the ship's certificate so that it would not be necessary to put her on the drydock this spring as was originally required. This is indeed a most happy decision as it means that for a while longer yet, the sweet aroma of coal smoke will waft across the Straits of Mackinac announcing to all the fact that CHIEF WAWATAM is at her old stand just as she has been since 1911.

HARRY COULBY has a new lease on life in the Interlake fleet. The steamer's great beam is emphasized in this July 20, 1976 photo by J. H. Bascom showing her on Lake Nicolet.For a number of years, rumour has been rampant to the effect that the Interlake Steamship Company might be in the course of selling its straight-deck bulk carrier HARRY COULBY, a wide variety of other operators being named as prospective purchasers. Interlake has consistently denied any such suggestions and has recently indicated that it will not be selling off any of the smaller vessels in its fleet, these boats being needed for (amongst other purposes) the grain trade. As an indication of how much Pickands Mather values HARRY COULBY, the firm is presently engaged in converting the steamer from coal to oil-firing as she lies in winter quarters at Ashtabula. Cost of the conversion is estimated to be in excess of $500,000. The job was considered to be necessary because of the dwindling number of coal-bunkering docks remaining in operation around the lakes. HARRY COULBY was built in 1927 at Lorain by the American Shipbuilding Company and measures 615.2 x 65.2 x 28.6, Gross 9439 and Net 7457, it being her great beam that makes her such a good cargo carrier. The COULBY is powered by a two-cylinder De-Laval steam turbine installed in 1957.

Speaking of Pickands Mather, we have learned that P.M. and the Republic Steel Corporation have signed a letter of intent to the effect that the Interlake Steamship Company should float all of Republic's domestic iron ore (an estimated 7 to 8 million tons per year) starting not later than 1985 and possibly rather earlier. As such, Pickands Mather will be edging Cleveland-Cliffs out of the Republic ore contract. In order to handle the considerable increase in business which the new deal will mean for Interlake, the company will have built two more 1,000-foot self-unloaders (similar, presumably, to MESABI MINER and JAMES R. BARKER) and in addition will be converting ELTON HOYT 2nd to a self-unloader.

Cleveland-Cliffs is not showing any indication of a cut-back in operations in anticipation of its loss of the Republic ore contract, not surprising if one considers how far in the future the change lies. To the contrary, the company has let to the American Shipbuilding Company a contract for the conversion to a self-unloader of WALTER A. STERLING, a ship that was lengthened by AmShip only last summer. The STERLING will be going to the shipyard for the work during the autumn of 1977.

A recent casualty was the Columbia Transportation motorvessel W. W. HOLLOWAY which suffered a serious fire in her forward cabins while laid up at the AmShip South Chicago yard on February 16th. The damage was pretty well confined to the spar deck and to the accommodations in the texas cabin, and is believed to have started from welding operations which ignited insulation inside a bulkhead. Local firemen attended at the scene and although it took quite a lengthy period of time to get the fire extinguished, this was eventually accomplished. The damage, estimated to be about $400,000., will be repaired by the shipyard and the boat is expected to be back in service by the end of May. W. W. HOLLOWAY, (a) HENRY A. HAWGOOD, (b) C. RUSSELL HUBBARD, was built back in 1906 and was converted to a self-unloader in 1957. She is one of only three Hawgood steamers still in active operation on the lakes, having served that fleet until sold in 1911 to a Columbia predecessor.

The first departure from Toronto harbour for the 1977 season took place on Monday, March 7th when the Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. bulk carrier GODERICH was towed from port by the tug PRINCESS NO. 1. The 71-year-old steamer was taken to Port Weller where she was raised in Lock One (specially activated for the occasion) and placed on the drydock at the shipyard. The unscheduled trip was necessitated by the fact that the steamer had taken on a rather alarming list to starboard after her storage cargo of soya beans had been unloaded at Victory Mills earlier in the winter. During the latter part of the winter, pumps had been working on the ship almost continuously, as evidenced by the stream of water which invariably could be seen coming from her side. The damage to the ship's hull (necessitating the replacement of some ten plates) was apparently caused during a 1976 grounding but she also had rudder damage which was painfully obvious when the ship was riding light. It is indeed gratifying to note that Upper Lakes considers the elderly steamer to be worth the cost of repairs.

The next departures from Toronto came on Thursday, March 10 when the Q & O motorships NEW YORK NEWS and FRANQUELIN were towed across to Port Weller. The two boats had earlier been scheduled to be towed to the shipyard at the end of February but their departure had been delayed by ice conditions and by the fact that the drydock was needed for emergency repairs to GODERICH.

Navigation of the upper lakes by bulk carriers resumed in mid-March after a two-month hiatus forced by extremely heavy ice conditions. U.S. Steel's ore carriers JOHN G. MUNSON, CASON J. CALLAWAY, ARTHUR M. ANDERSON and PHILIP R. CLARKE cleared their lay-up berths at Milwaukee on March 15 and two days later passed up through the Soo Canal en route to Two Harbors, the latter port having been opened for them by the veteran steam tug EDNA G. Due to the heavy ice that is still clogging ports and channels around the lakes, it is unlikely that most other fleets will bring their vessels out for service on the upper lakes until mid-to-late-April. Meanwhile, as we go to press, we have a report that the Welland Canal will be opening on April 4th. We get the distinct impression that the Seaway Authority will be having problems at the Welland as the spring wears on and the ice in Lake Erie breaks up and jams into Port Colborne harbour. The opening of the Welland will necessitate the removal of C.S.L.'s self-unloader TARANTAU from the draw of the old Thorold guard gate where she spent the winter as a result of being trapped in the ice last January. Perhaps we are mistaken, but to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that a ship has actually wintered in the draw.

As a result of being unable to operate its boats throughout the winter, the U. S. Steel Corporation has far less ore stockpiled than at the same time last year. This will have a happy result for shipwatchers in that the company's Great Lakes Fleet will reactivate two steamers which did not operate in 1976, namely AUGUST ZIESING and WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE. There is little likelihood that any of the company's other inactive boats will fit out this year or, for that matter, ever again. In fact, as regards the scrapping of old tinstackers at Duluth, one of our spies has reported that GEORGE G. CRAWFORD has been completely cut up and that cutting has started on the after end of WILLIAM J. FILBERT, the last of the former Mills trio of sisterships.

Although as far as we know no public announcement has yet been made, we have heard that the new self-unloader under construction at Collingwood Shipyards for Algoma Central will be named ALGOLAKE. She will be very similar in appearance to J. W. McGIFFIN and H. M. GRIFFITH and as a result will aesthetically (but not economically) be a blight upon the landscape of the lakes.

PIERSON DAUGHTERS is now sporting her new pilothouse. The job of removing the old structure and fitting the new cabin was done as the boat lay in winter quarters at the old Empire-Hanna coal dock on the east side of Port Weller harbour below Lock One. The new pilothouse, looking a bit like the new houses fitted on PONTIAC and FRONTENAC a few years ago, has been set atop the old texas and a new lounge has been added at the after end of the texas, complete with large observation windows. Although when we first saw the uncompleted steel box in position on the ship we were somewhat worried about what the end result would be, we must say that it doesn't look too bad at all and is actually more in harmony with the character of the rest of the ship than was the old pilothouse, a remnant from the days when the boat was a normal 586-foot laker.

With the Kinsman fleet deprived of the services of CHICAGO TRADER and with PAUL L. TIETJEN unlikely to turn again, the Steinbrenner interests are finding themselves short of vessels to operate. At the present time, we believe that only HARRY L. ALLEN, C. L. AUSTIN, FRANK R. DENTON, GEORGE D. GOBLE, KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, MERLE M. McCURDY, BEN MOREELL and HENRY STEINBRENNER are operable, and some of these are certainly in less than perfect shape. We have now heard a report (which we must stress is not confirmed) that Kinsman will fit out GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER this spring using certain equipment removed from CHICAGO TRADER and that the company will have the use of this boat through 1977 and part of 1978. GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER has not operated since 1974 and we understood that she was in pretty rough shape, so much so that she was shunned by prospective buyers. In fact, we even had been told that she was either sold or on the verge of being sold for scrapping. While we would very much like to see this distinctive laker back in service and dislike playing the role of Doubting Thomas, we must say that we will believe in the return to operation of GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER only when we see it for ourselves.

The sightseeing boat CAYUGA II may well have seen her last service in the Toronto area. Last fall, we commented upon the fact that the boat had been sent to Oshawa for hauling out of the water for winterization in anticipation of further service on Toronto Bay and its environs this coming summer, an eventuality which we would have thought was somewhat remote since passengers had been avoiding her like the plague throughout 1976. Now we learn that, with still more work to be done, her owners seem to have run a bit short of the folding green, a development not calculated to send the people at the Oshawa Marina jumping for joy. The Toronto Harbour Commission will not lift the boat except at the owner's risk (and cash in advance) because the cable slings on its heavy-lift shear-leg crane would collapse CAYUGA II's aluminum hull. And so, it looks as if CAYUGA II has little if any operating future in this area.

Thanks to Gordon Turner who has done some extensive digging, we can present the following information on LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER which will soon be making her appearance on the lakes for the summer cruising season. The vessel is owned by Midwest Cruises Panama S.A. and is registered in Panama. She measures 90.86 x 14.28 x 4.992 (yes, that's in metres) while her Gross is 3007, her Net 1583 and her Deadweight 864. She was completed in December 1952 by Oskarhamns Varv A/B, Oskarhamn, Sweden, as (a) BORE III. She has a modified icebreaking bow and is propelled by a single screw driven by a Skinner Una-flow engine. She originally carried two funnels, the forward one a dummy containing private quarters for the owner, but she now sports only one rather heavy but traditionally-shaped stack. She was actually built for a ferry service and operated for many years between Stockholm, Helsinki, Abo and Mariehamn. About 1970 she was converted for the Baltic cruise trade and thereafter ran cruises from Helsinki to Tallinn and Leningrad. She was rebuilt in 1972. She was purchased by Midwest in 1976 and, although it was planned to have her in the lakes last summer, she was caught in Finland by a strike of local seamen. Once released, she was sent to the West Indies where, over the winter, she has been making special cruises for school students. We hope that she will have more success in the lakes than had STELLA MARIS II and WORLD DISCOVERER, the two earlier Midwest lake cruise boats.

The Anatomy of a Collision

A few years ago, we presented in these pages the story of some of the boats which had run the passenger trade between Toronto and Hamilton, notably the vessels of the Hamilton Steamboat Company. One of the steamers featured in chat article was the hard-luck MODJESKA, a misfit if ever there was one. This less-than-handsome vessel blundered her way from accident to accident throughout her active years on Lake Ontario and, although most of the difficulties in which the boat found herself were relatively minor, the year 1924 brought for her and her master, Capt. James Henderson, two serious mishaps. MODJESKA by that time was owned by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd.

This is how MODJESKA looked at the time of her 1924 collision with TORONTO. She is seen at the wharf at Grimsby Beach, Ontario, in a postcard view from the collection of Don McCartney.The first accident occurred on July 5th when MODJESKA and the big C.S.L. paddler TORONTO, both leaving their docks at Toronto, collided in the Bay. The damage to MODJESKA was not great but TORONTO was out of service for a month or so while repairs were put in hand. MODJESKA's second accident of the season came but a few days later when, while proceeding at a high speed through a dense fog, the steamer ran onto the breakwater off Toronto's Western Gap, knocking the breakwater some ten feet out of line and seriously damaging the boat.

As usual, the Dominion Wreck Commissioner hastened to investigate both occurrences. The findings in both cases are extremely interesting but those in the case of the collision with TORONTO are most unusually so in view of the evidence that was presented. The text of the findings of the Enquiry is reproduced from the September 1924 issue of Canadian Railway and Marine World.

"Enquiry held at Toronto, July 15, 16 and 17, 1924, by Capt. L. A. Demers, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Capts. J. B. Foote and John Williams, as nautical assessors, into the collision between Canada Steamship Lines' steamships MODJESKA and TORONTO in Toronto Harbour, about 400 or 500 yards from their wharves, on July 5, about 8:00 a.m., when each suffered material damage to its hull above water. The witnesses examined were Percy Grant, resident manager, Canada Steamship Lines, Toronto; Capt. Jas. Henderson, master; Thos. Manson, first officer; Ernest Mason, second officer; and the first engineer and two wheelsmen of MODJESKA; Capt. C. A. Booth, master; H. W. Webster, first officer; Chas. Hann, second officer; and the first engineer and wheelsman of the TORONTO. Francis King, K.C., represented Canada Steamship Lines and F. L. Webb appeared for Capt. Henderson. Following are extracts from report and finding delivered July 28.

"The MODJESKA master's evidence shows that the TORONTO had left her wharf, also the DALHOUSIE CITY, about 8 minutes before the MODJESKA cast off her lines. The weather was clear, a breeze of about 4 or 5 miles blowing across the harbour from the eastward. The master avers that he was 5 minutes later than the usual hour; that he had on board 500 passengers; that one short blast of the whistle, not sonorous, was given, serving to direct the casting off of the lines, and that the injunction was obeyed. The mate was stationed astern, the second mate forward, the master being alone on the bridge with two wheelsmen who were manipulating a hand steering gear. A full speed astern order on the starboard engine was given and when the stern was about 10 feet from the wharf, full speed astern on the port engine was ordered, therefore both engines worked jointly to impel the ship sternward until she had attained a sternway of 7 miles, when it was noticed, with some degree of trepidation, by MODJESKA's master, that TORONTO was crossing her path.

"The helm was aport and in obedience to the position of the rudder and the force of the wind the stern was veering over to the eastward. A signal of two blasts was given to indicate that the ship was turning to starboard, though the helm was aport. Not receiving an answer, a second two-blast signal followed within an interval of seconds, which was also unanswered, the ship's engines being stopped, and when at 200 feet an alarm signal was given and the ship put at full speed ahead, the impact occurring 15 seconds after this order was given, at the same moment the DALHOUSIE CITY's stern was towards and close to him. It is said that the danger signal was given when it was seen that TORONTO's wheels were going ahead, that the danger signal was sounded twice, and that when the collision occurred MODJESKA's speed sternway was nearly stopped. TORONTO had left her pier adjacent to the MODJESKA's somewhat before 8 o'clock, after disembarking her passengers, to go to the coal dock. The master was not on the bridge, the first officer being in command pro tem, this being an old custom approved by former managers. She was turning inward to go toward the east where the coal chutes are. The mate heard one signal, which he did not understand, also the two signals of danger, but he did not reply, keeping full speed on his ship with a hard port helm. The engines were reversed before the collision but only for an appreciable moment.

"It has been established that ships belonging to the Canada Steamship Lines are ordered to leave their wharves at a specified time, the interval between each departure having proved in the past to be sufficient to enable each ship to have a clear passage when backing from the slip and evoluting until the respective ships were heading on their course. On July 5, sometime before 8 a.m., the TORONTO backed from her wharf, which is the one next westerly to that at which MODJESKA was moored. She gave a long blast, the usual signal of advice to other ships in the harbour, or ships about to leave. The TORONTO had been somewhat delayed owing to the reluctance of passengers to disembark promptly when the gangways were in position. At 8:08 a.m., the MODJESKA, without giving the long blast of warning, also backed at full speed from her slip. The wind, which was fresh from the eastward, caused both ships in their evolutions to bring the stern to the wind. The TORONTO was turning inwards on a port helm, while MODJESKA was turning outwards. At a distance said to be 200 yards, MODJESKA gave one signal of 2 blasts while under sternway at a speed of 7 miles. This was followed immediately by another two blasts. Both signals were unanswered by the TORONTO.

"The court fails to comprehend the significance of such a signal. The master said that it was indicating that he was directing his course to port. This was erroneous in the extreme. The ship had sternway and her stern was going to starboard, while TORONTO was advancing towards her, dangerously near. This was realized and the signals of 2 blasts were given in rapid succession. When at 200 ft. distant or thereabouts, two distinct danger signals were given and the engines put full speed ahead, the collision occurring almost simultaneously with the last danger signal. None of these signals were answered by TORONTO. It is stated that the first two-blast signal was not heard, that the second was indistinct and its meaning not comprehended by the TORONTO.

"The court is of the opinion that the Rules of the Road in this instance did not apply, that it was purely a case of judgment and ordinary seamanship to avoid each other. The MODJESKA, having so many passengers, failed first to sound the long warning blast when leaving the slip. While that signal was immaterial in importance with respect to the TORONTO, as the latter knew of the moment of MODJESKA's departure, which is a daily performance, yet it indicates, on the part of the master, an indifference to the application of a signal, the meaning of which is known and understood by all. The sounding of the two-blast signal was wrong. The signal that should have been sounded was a danger signal, and a corresponding order given to the engineroom to stop, and go ahead if needed. The master should have had uppermost in his mind the safety of his passengers, instead of endeavouring to cross the path of TORONTO and relying on the latter to keep out of the way in his anxiety to get his ship on her course. He was wrong in waiting till he was 200 ft. from the TORONTO before an order to go full speed ahead was given. He was also wrong in basing his conduct and the manoeuvring of his ship on the expectation as to what the TORONTO would do and should have done.

"Rules 27, 37 and 38 have not been complied with by the MODJESKA, for which the master is held in default. The court is unaware of any rules existing which give a passenger steamship precedence or right of way over another which is not carrying passengers, as in the case under review; but it is believed that it has been considered a moral obligation, as well as a matter of professional etiquette, for the freight steamship, or one which did not have any passengers, to permit the former to proceed on. If the court is wrong in its impressions, it would suggest that the harbour authorities give the matter their consideration.

"However, in this instance, it is evidence that TORONTO, being the first out manoeuvring for a position, felt that she had precedence and therefore ignored the signals given. An old custom established by former managers of the company, gave the master the liberty to either take the ship out of the dock himself or leave that duty to the mate, and this was instituted and countenanced in order to permit, or with a view of educating the mate as to such duties. The court is of the opinion that there are times when the master for personal or official reasons may entrust his officer to moor or unmoor the ship, in order to move her to some other wharf, slip or dock, but in this instance it fails to see the utility of making it a practice, especially for the reason given. Since the practice was established at the instance of former managers and countenanced by the present one, the master cannot be held in default for the happenings, but the court advises against a continuation of the system. It is satisfied that in view of the result, the manager will issue orders against such transfer of responsibilities.

"The court finds that the first mate, Webster, failed sadly, wilfully in the carrying out of Rule 22. The court has stated previously that the Rules of the Road were inapplicable in this case. It had reference to the meeting and crossing signals. Rule 22 is a general rule and therefore should have been applied. Webster states that he did not hear the first two-blast signal but heard the second two-blast signal which to him was indistinct. If such was the case, his bounden duty was to sound an alarm signal as directed by Rule 22. He states that he heard the danger signals which he also ignored. He has therefore violated grossly the rule. Rule 30 in this instance is not applicable as this is meant for ships having already shaped a course. By this rule also it is made obligatory to sound a danger signal when signals are misunderstood or compliance impossible. Rules 37 and 38 were also violated.

"The court finds that both ships were in default, but TORONTO more flagrantly violated all rules of prudence, good judgment and elementary seamanship and navigation. It also finds James Henderson, master of MODJESKA, in default for lack of prudence but owing to his good record and the special conditions attending the casualty, the court will show some clemency and will suspend his certificate for two months from July 18 to Sept. 18, 1924 inclusively. The MODJESKA officers are exonerated from blame. The court exonerates TORONTO'S master from any participation in this casualty but advises him that if the first officer has to be educated, it must be under his personal guidance.

"With respect to first officer Webster, the court, viewing his evidence from every angle, is bound, in view of his wilfulness in ignoring the signals heard, to suspend his certificate (No. 10,048) for the remainder of the navigation season. There is not a semblance of error of judgment perceptible in the whole of his evidence but unwillingness to give way to the other ship is manifestly indicated. The court is of the opinion that the time of departure of each ship should be controlled, also by the harbour authorities."

We have only two comments to make on the subject of the court's findings of 53 years ago. First is that Capt. Demers was unusually and unexpectedly lenient in terms of punishment levied in this case. Second is that we wish there were still enough passenger steamboats around for this problem (dangerous as it was) to exist in 1977!

Lay-up Listings

Although the winter is almost over and the 1977 navigation season has already begun, we can look back with interest at the various boats that we have observed in their winter quarters. It is interesting also to remember some of the lay-up fleets of past years that we have known. In view of the major items of marine news which we carry this month concerning the updating of the fleet of the Interlake Steamship Company, it might be interesting to look back at the 34 vessels (yes, it really was 34) which made up the fleet in 1958. Thanks to Duff Brace of Ashtabula, we present a look at the boats in Interlake colours back then and the ports in which they laid up during the 1958-59 winter.

Buffalo - HENRY G. DALTON, WILLIAM McLAUCHLAN, PATHFINDER.

Erie - ALEX B. CHISHOLM, FRANK PURNELL (I), JAMES C. WALLACE.

Ashtabula - E. G. GRACE, JAY C. MORSE, SATURN (III), WALTER E. WATSON.

Lorain - JOHN SHERWIN (II). Duluth - FRANK ARMSTRONG.

Sandusky - ADRIATIC, JOSEPH SELLWOOD.

Toledo - ARCTURUS, E. A. S. CLARKE, HARRY COULBY (II), C. H. McCULLOUGH JR., D. 0. MILLS, AMASA STONE, VERONA.

Detroit - ROBERT HOBSON, AUGUSTUS B. WOLVIN.

River Rouge - HERBERT C. JACKSON (under construction).

Indiana Harbor - ELTON HOYT 2nd, J. L. MAUTHE.

South Chicago - HARVEY H. BROWN (II), J. A. CAMPBELL, CRETE, COLONEL JAMES PICKANDS, CHARLES M. SCHWAB.

Sturgeon Bay - FAYETTE BROWN (III), HARRY W. CROFT, SAMUEL MATHER (IV).

By the way, this might be a good opportunity for a little surprise quiz. Two of the ships mentioned above were sold out of the Interlake fleet in 1959. Which ones were they?

And thanks to Alan Sykes of Welland, we can really go back in time and give the lay-ups for the various Welland Canal ports for the winter of 1932-33. This should really bring back some memories!

Thorold - BELVOIR (I), CHICAGO TRIBUNE (I), JOHN 0. McKELLAR (I), NEW YORK NEWS (I), ROYALTON (all with storage newsprint).

Dain City - REINUNGA (Norwegian vessel trapped in canal at closing).

Port Dalhousie - FRANK B. BAIRD, NORMAN P. CLEMENT, DALHOUSIE CITY, WILLIAM H. DANIELS, CHARLES DICK, EDWIN T. DOUGLASS, ALBERT C. FIELD, JUDGE HART, JOHN IRWIN (I), MALTON, WATKINS F. NISBET, JOHN S. PILLSBURY, ROBERT W. POMEROY, RAHANE, JOHN J. RAMMACHER, JOHN B. RICHARDS, SIOUX, JAMES STEWART, WAHCONDAH, WILLIAM C. WARREN, SHELTON WEED, YORKTON.

Port Colborne - BAYTON, BENMAPLE, BERRYTON, JOSEPH P. BURKE, CHEYENNE, C0-TEAUDOC (I), FAIRLAKE, FAIRRIVER, W. C. FRANZ, GANANDOC, RALPH GILCHRIST, JOHN A. HOLLOWAY, C. H. HOUSON, CHARLES R. HUNTLEY, JUDGE KENEFICK, KINGDOC (I), LAVALDOC, LOCKWELL, ONTADOC (I), PORTWELL, RIVER-TON, ROCKCLIFFE HALL (I), HOME SMITH, STARWELL, J. FRATER TAYLOR, SHIRLEY G. TAYLOR, GEORGE L. TORIAN, TROISDOC (I), WESTCLIFFE HALL (I).

You Asked Us

Or, rather, we asked ourselves. In last month's ship of the month feature, we remarked that we did not know the origin of the name TAGONA. It seems that she may have been named for the Tagona Water and Light Company which was formed in 1894 at the Canadian Soo by Francis Hector Clergue.

Ship of the Month No. 65 WINONA

Last month, we presented in these pages an account of the lives of three early canallers and this month we again go back to the old canals for yet another steamer, one just a bit earlier than last month's trio. The ship we nave chosen was unusual not only in that she had a particularly inauspicious start to her career on the lakes and that she finished out her life in a rather strange manner for a canaller, but also in her most distinctive and unusual appearance. After only a bit over three decades on the lakes, she looked so old-fashioned as to be an anachronism even then.

The history of shipping on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes in the early years of this century is a fascinating study in that it is really the story of a small number of extremely active, determined and powerful men who built up their own fleets, often in a most ruthless manner, and who alternately fought amongst each other or joined forces with one another in the furtherance of their own interests. Two of the more prominent of these shipping entrepreneurs were R. O. and A. B. MacKay of Hamilton, the sons of Aeneas D. MacKay who had been active in lake shipping in the 1870's.

Brothers R. O. and Adam B. MacKay got far more involved in shipping than had their father and when the steel canallers began to come into favour shortly after the turn of the century, replacing their earlier wooden counterparts, the MacKays saw no reason why they should not jump on the bandwagon and add some of the new carriers to their fleet. They eventually bought a number of steel canallers and, as was the fashion of the day, they were registered to different companies. One of their firms was the Winona Steamship Company Ltd. of Hamilton, a concern which was incorporated in 1905 with a capital of $100,000. R. O. and A. B. MacKay were directors of the company as were also J. A. Milne, D. Brown, and E. J. Jordan. The Winona Steamship Company Ltd. soon let a contract to the famous shipbuilding yard of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. for the construction of a canal steamer.

That WINONA was a canaller of unusual appearance is evident in this 1930 photo by A. E. Young showing her in Little Rapids Cut.The new vessel was built at Swan Hunter's yard at Wallsend-on-Tyne during 1906. As built, she had a length of 252.0 feet, a beam of 43.5 feet and a depth of 21.3 feet, these dimensions giving her a Gross Tonnage of 2085 and a Net of 1327. She was fitted with two single-ended Scotch boilers measuring 13'9" by 10'3". They supplied steam to a triple expansion engine having cylinders of 20 1/2", 33" and 54" and a stroke of 36" which developed Nominal Horsepower of 175 delivered to a single screw. This machinery was built for the boat by MacColl and Pollock Ltd. of Sunderland.

Built as the yard's Hull 771, she was given official number 122851. It is believed that she was originally registered at Newcastle, England, although she was not long on the lakes before she was showing Hamilton, Ontario, as her home port. The boat was launched during the summer of 1906 and she was christened WINONA. The name not only reflected the owning company's name but also honoured the town of Winona, a small community located in the rich agricultural area on the southwest shore of Lake Ontario between Hamilton on the west and Grimsby and the St. Catharines area on the east. Winona was linked to the city of Hamilton by the tracks of the Hamilton, Grimsby and Beamsville Electric Railway Company.

WINONA was completed during August 1906 and arrived on the lakes during September after crossing the Atlantic under her own power. When WINONA got to the lakes, it was evident to observers that she was just a bit different from all the other canallers which had been built in English and Scottish shipyards in the first few years of the century. Although it could not really be said that she had a flared bow, she was not quite as bluff in the bows as was the normal canaller. She carried a full forecastle with a closed rail for about half of its length and the curved bulwark from the forecastle deck to the shelter deck carried down into a closed rail extending back along the shelter deck to a point just aft of the forward deck winch fairleads.

The texas cabin on the forecastle was not unusual in any respect but ahead of the texas was a small pilothouse whose front was divided into five sections of which the forward three each contained one small porthole. On top of the pilothouse was an open bridge which was surrounded by a wooden dodger and surmounted by a rather heavy and noticeable awning-stretcher. The stern cabin was also something out of the ordinary in that the after half of it was extended out to the ship's side and the shell plating continued right up to the level of the boat deck, this expanse of steel being broken every so often by a porthole. The forward end of the after cabin featured a recessed boilerhouse on which was mounted the extremely tall and rather slender but well-raked stack. WINONA carried two masts, the fore being fitted well aft of the forecastle break and the main about two-thirds of the way down the deck, each mast carrying cargo booms. Even though WINONA was a combination bulk carrier and package freighter, she was not fitted with 'tween decks and thus was not built with sideports.

On her arrival in the lakes, WINONA was dispatched to Fort William where she was to load grain for delivery to Midland. It was then that her stretch of bad luck began, for on October 4th, 1906, while en route to Midland, she managed to run aground in Georgian Bay near the Giant's Tomb, doing considerable damage to her bottom in the process. WINONA was released from her spot on the rocks on October 5th by the tugs TRAVELLER and MAGNOLIA of the Midland Towing and Wrecking Company and was hauled around to Owen Sound for repairs.

The necessary repair work having been completed, WINONA sailed from Owen Sound on November 16, 1906 bound for the Lakehead where she was again scheduled to load grain. But mid-November is known on the lakes for its typically dirty weather and on the following day, in a blinding snowstorm, she ran hard aground on one of the Duck Islands (probably Outer Duck Island), a group of low-lying islands which stretch out in a southerly direction from a point to the east of the western tip of Manitoulin Island. The Ducks lie just to the north of the course which WINONA would have followed from Cove Island (at the mouth of Georgian Bay) to DeTour Passage (the entrance to the St. Mary's River) and just off the Ducks the ship would have been required to bring her helm a bit to starboard so that she could make a straight run of about 53 miles to her next change of course off the DeTour Reef Light. In the poor visibility, it would appear that the unlucky WINONA strayed too far to starboard and found herself in the shoal water of the Ducks.

WINONA was pulled from her perch in Lake Huron prior to the close of navigation for the 1906 season and she was taken to the shipyard at Collingwood where the extensive damage to the ship was surveyed. As a result of this detailed inspection, WINONA was abandoned to the underwriters as a constructive total loss. She lay in Collingwood throughout the 1906-07 winter during which time the insurers attempted to sell her. It was rumoured that her builders, Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, put in a bid for her, which is not surprising as they probably held a mortgage on the steamer. In any event, she was eventually repurchased by the Winona Steamship Company Ltd. and she was towed to Detroit where repairs were effected at the opening of the 1907 navigation season. She then returned to her intended service.

In 1908, the MacKay brothers consolidated their various ship-owning companies (including the Winona Steamship Company Ltd.) into the Inland Navigation Company Ltd., Hamilton. This new concern was incorporated under Dominion charter with a capital of $2,000,000 and the management was constituted as follows: President, W. Southam; vice-president, R. O. MacKay; general manager, Adam B. MacKay, and secretary, F. A. Magee. Other directors were G. L. Staunton, W. G. Walton, J. P. Steadman, F. H. Whitton, J. A. Milne, J. W. Nesbitt, G. Hope and C. W. Band.

A further change came in February 1910 when control of the Inland Navigation Company Ltd. passed to James Playfair of Midland, Ontario, at which time the name of the firm was changed to Inland Lines Ltd., the original Inland having been merged with Playfair's own Midland Navigation Company. WINONA, of course, was included in the fleet that was now under Playfair management. It was about this period in time that WINONA was chartered to the Canada Atlantic Transit Company, the lake package freight subsidiary of J. R. Boothe's Canada Atlantic Railway (which about 1920 was absorbed into the C.N.R.). Canada Atlantic Transit provided service between the railway's terminal at Depot Harbour on Georgian Bay and Milwaukee, Chicago and the Lakehead.

WINONA stayed under Playfair control for several seasons but major ownership changes were in the offing. During 1912, the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company Ltd. was greatly expanding its operations by absorbing a number of well-known Canadian lake shipping concerns. During the summer months, Inland Lines Ltd. was brought into the fold and Playfair became one of the major interests in R & O as well as in the moves that were to follow to produce an even larger company. In June of 1913, there took place a further consolidation wherein the enlarged R & O was merged with a number of other Canadian lake shipping concerns, the result being known briefly as the Canada Transportation Company Ltd. and then as Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal. In this manner WINONA came to be a part of the largest company ever to operate vessels on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes and in due course she was given the colours which have come to be associated with C. S. L.

The year 1915 was an important one for WINONA. On April 24th, while under the command of Capt. H. W. LaRush and bound from Port Arthur to Montreal with a cargo of grain, WINONA stranded on Lone Brothers Island in the St. Lawrence River. Damage was not particularly severe and WINONA carried on in her regular service. But the effects of World War I were making themselves felt and by the early summer WINONA had been requisitioned by the Canadian government and taken to the Atlantic for service on salt water. She is known to have been operating for the British government by August 4. She got into trouble again, however, on December 28 when, while under the command of Capt. Charles O. Allen and on a voyage from Montreal to Sunderland, she was in collision with the salt water steamer TONSBERG. Damage to the canaller was minor.

While many of the requisitioned canallers returned to the lakes late in 1915 to help move downbound grain cargoes and spend the winter on the lakes, WINONA did not do so, nor was she to show herself in freshwater for more than five years. She operated both in deep-sea and coasting trades and from 1918 to 1920 ran in the coal trade between Great Britain and Sweden, the boat having come through the hostilities without damage from enemy action. It was not until 1921 that Canada Steamship Lines brought WINONA back to her old home waters of the lakes.

It was probably about the time that she returned from salt water that WINONA was given an enclosed upper pilothouse, a rather peculiar structure that was roughly the same shape as the old lower house, with five sides to its front, but which protruded out over the sides of the cabin beneath. Instead of portholes, it had windows, one each in the front three sides and two in each of the others, the windows each being divided into two sections by a vertical bar. The new pilothouse was topped by a rather prominent sunvisor and the entire structure looked anything but modern even for those times. As well, additional space was added to the texas, this being a square section built onto the starboard side of the cabin and covering most of the starboard side of the lower pilothouse. It presumably housed additional accommodation for the officers but it was not a permanent addition to the ship and disappeared again prior to the boat's departure from the lakes during the Second War.

WINONA stayed on the lakes during the 1920's and operated regularly. In the 1930's, she saw considerable service on the east coast, operating from Montreal and the Maritime ports to Newfoundland. The desperate conditions of the Great Depression, however, conspired to keep WINONA inactive from time to time, but unlike a good many vessels, she did not spend all her time during this period in lay-up. Many of her periods of idleness were spent at Toronto but by 1939 she was permanently reactivated.

At the end of the 1939 season, WINONA came to Toronto and laid up in the ship channel with a winter storage cargo of coal. Before the St. Lawrence canals had closed for the winter, however, it was decided to shift WINONA to the east coast so that she would be available if required for wartime service, hostilities having broken out during the autumn. WINONA was hurriedly fitted out again and was shifted to a berth near the mouth of the channel where her coal cargo was unloaded. Under her own steam, she cleared Toronto and the lakes late in November for what was to prove the last time.

WINONA went into service on salt water and in 1940 she was turned over to the British government. During that year, the British sank a number of ships in the entrances to continental ports along the English Channel in order to prevent the use of those ports by German surface vessels and submarines. It is said that WINONA was filled with cement and sunk in the harbour entrance at Zeebrugge, Belgium, for this purpose, but if she actually was used in such a capacity, she was subsequently refloated and refitted.

WINONA was withdrawn from class in November 1946 and it appears that it was at that time that she was sold to the Lien Yih Steamship Company Ltd. of Shanghai, China. She was placed in Chinese registry and apparently was sailed out to the Far East, presumably for coastal service in Chinese waters. Her tonnage at this time was shown as 2059 Gross, 1318 Net. In 1947, WINONA underwent the only name change of her career as her new owners renamed her (b) EDDIE. The former laker served her Chinese operators for ten years and finally met her end on September 7th, 1956 when, at the age of fifty years, she stranded and broke in two at Aparii, Luzon, in the Philippine Islands.

Thus far from her home waters ended the career of a little steamer which was truly and oddity among canallers, a single and most distinctive boat which stood out amongst her mass-produced running-mates, and a vessel whose life history is not well known to many modern-day lake historians.

Nelson James Wilson

It was with great sadness that, just as we went to press with this issue, we learned of the death at Kingston, Ontario, on Saturday, March 26th, of Nelson James Wilson, a long-time member of the Toronto Marine Historical Society. He had celebrated his 55th birthday on January 12th and was taken ill only two days before his passing.

Nels was a lifelong resident of the Portsmouth area and was an active observer of the shipping scene. During the 1940's he had worked on the Sin-Mac tug RIVAL and salvage barge COBOURG and in 1948 and 1949, her last two years of service, he was a fireman on the C.P.R. steamer MANITOBA. He was a founding member of the Kingston Marine Society and worked very hard in his efforts for that group. For several years he wrote a regular marine historical column for the Kingston Whig-Standard.

Nels was a regular and enthusiastic correspondent who contributed much to these pages over the years. He was also a very good friend. We shall sorely miss both his support and his friendship. To his family and to his many close friends in the Kingston area, we extend our most heartfelt sympathy. We can only wish that there were more like Nels Wilson in this world.

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Scanner, v. 9, n. 7 (April 1977)


Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; You Asked Us; Nelson James Wilson