The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 10, n. 1 (October 1977)
Publication:
Scanner (Toronto, ON), Oct 1977


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Bascom, John N., Editor
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Website
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Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; St. Mary's River Marine Society
Date of Publication:
Oct 1977
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English
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Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rights holder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Meetings

Friday, November 4th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Film Night. We will present for your enjoyment five films ranging from a 1933 newsreel of shipping disasters to a modern study of supertankers.

Friday, December 2nd - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Program to be announced.

The Editor's Notebook

This issue kicks off the tenth volume of this, our humble effort at producing a news publication, and the ninth with Ye Ed at the helm. It has been an interesting decade for us and we hope that you have enjoyed reading "Scanner" as much as we have enjoyed preparing it for you. With your help, we shall continue to produce "Scanner" for many years to come. Whether or not we have the time to answer personally all your letters and submissions of news items, we do appreciate your help and trust that we may continue to receive it in the coming year. Ye Ed would be pleased to hear from anyone with suggestions or contributions of articles for possible inclusion in these pages.

MEMBERSHIP FEES ARE NOW DUE AND PAYABLE. Fees will remain at the present level of $10.00 per annum and should be sent as soon as possible to our Treasurer, Mr. James M. Kidd, 83 Humberview Road, Toronto, Ontario, M6S 1W9. This will be your last notice as postage costs prohibit the sending of individual billings. This is the last issue which will be sent to those who do not renew, so if you do not receive the November issue, you'll know why!

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Ernest A. Kettle of Terrace Bay, Ontario, to George Bryant of Willowdale, Ontario, and to Ivan McConnell of Goderich.

Marine News

The date is September 8, 1977 as IMPERIAL LONDON, in tow of STORMONT adn PRINCESS NO 1, negotiates the Welland bypass channel en route to Whitby for drydocking. Photo by the Editor.At long last, the steam tanker IMPERIAL LONDON has moved from her berth in the Marine Salvage Ltd. scrapyard at Ramey's Bend. The idle ship was towed down the Welland Canal on September 8th by the tugs STORMONT and PRINCESS NO. 1, her destination being Whitby, Ontario, where at the time of this writing she reposes in the McNamara drydock undergoing inspection and reconditioning for her new career in southern climes. Her purchase by Fletamar S.A. of Honduras is conditional upon a successful inspection of her bottom plating but it is thought that she will have no difficulty in this regard as her new owner has already let it be known that the tanker will be renamed VALLE DE AGUAN in honour of a fertile Honduran valley.

The former Halco tanker BAY TRANSPORT is now lying at the scrapping berth of Strathearne Terminals in Hamilton, the remains of the boat having been towed over from Toronto in late July. The engines were removed from the former Erie Canal type motorship late last autumn and this spring a local entrepreneur started scrapping the ship in Toronto's turning basin. These efforts were, however, of an amateur nature at best and their perpetrator appears to have had second thoughts about the job. BAY TRANSPORT is lying beside THORNHILL which is also at the scrapyard but which has not yet been touched by the wreckers.

This is what PRESQUE ISLE looks like without her barge. August 20, 1977 photo by Bill Bruce shows her downbound at Homer en route to the shipyard at Port Weller.Last month in these pages, we mentioned that the tug half of PRESQUE ISLE passed down the Welland Canal on August 20 for drydocking at Port Weller. The tug, looking somewhat peculiar with her usually-hidden forward end exposed to view, entered the shipyard where bottom work was done and her shafts pulled. The completion of repairs will be a protracted affair and accordingly the tug has been put on the wall of the old Empire-Hanna coal dock in Port Weller's lower harbour. There she will remain, undergoing further work, until her shafts can be reinstalled. The barge section of the combination is laid up at Erie, Pennsylvania, in the interim, her operation a victim of the ore miners' strike.

The tanker LIQUILASSIE, idle at Toronto for the last two navigation seasons, was towed to Hamilton on August 30 by the McKeil tug ARGUE MARTIN. We understand that she will be cut down to a barge for use in a service between Windsor and Sarnia, although we have no idea what she would do in such a trade. Her purchaser has tentatively been identified as Marinek Construction.

The Great Lakes Towing Company's tug OHIO was repowered early in the summer with a 2,000 h.p. diesel engine. OHIO is, of course, the former LAURENCE C. TURNER, a hull dating back to 1903. She was previously considered to be the most powerful of the G-tugs but her new engine outdoes her earlier installation by some 250 h.p.

The small bulk cement carrier GUARDIAN CARRIER, (a) ETHEL EVERARD, which was purchased earlier in the year by the St. Lawrence Cement Company Ltd., arrived on the lakes in early June and has since entered service for her new owner after undergoing an extensive refit. The motorship has been renamed (c) ROBERT KOCH and is operating regularly on the run between Clarkson and Buffalo. In fact, she must have become a very familiar feature of the Clarkson area because in a recent radiotelephone conversation her master was heard to describe the port as "Koch Harbour".

The summer of '77 has turned out to be The Summer That Never Was for the cruise boat LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER. The vessel, refitted for lake service after her purchase by Midwest Cruises, was held at Montreal in late May because of a labour dispute involving her Far-Eastern crew. Since then, suits against the ship have been filed by Montreal Ship Repairs Ltd. who did the work on the boat, by the Charter New York Leasing Corp. which holds a mortgage on the vessel (and for which Midwest is in default on payments), and by Philcan Personnel Consultants of Vancouver. Midwest finally announced the cancellation of the remaining 1977 cruises while the company fights the various suits. It is not yet known whether Midwest is planning any lake cruising operations for 1978.

Another passenger steamer whose 1977 operations have never got going is CLIPPER, the former MILWAUKEE CLIPPER, (a) JUNIATA. When we last reported on her in the Mid-Summer issue, she was lying at Sturgeon Bay while her new owner, the Great Lakes Transit Company, and the U.S. Coast Guard haggled over the extent of repairs that would be necessary to have the steamer certified for operation. Great Lakes Transit, however, was not even able to pay the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. for the work that was done and the shipyard took legal action against the firm. In August, a Milwaukee judge authorized the seizure of CLIPPER and entrusted her care and maintenance to Bay Shipbuilding until such time as the matter is sorted out. Great Lakes Transit in the meantime is scurrying about in search of further capital and is optimistic of having CLIPPER in service during 1978. We do not share their optimism..

BLUEWATER BELLE, the former Trois-Rivieres ferry LAVIOLETTE, entered service for her new owner, Avery Cruise Line Ltd., on July 30th but advertisements offering the boat for sale have continued to appear in the Toronto press. We understand that Capt. Avery has been having a dispute with the city of Sarnia which has been forcing the cruise operator to load and unload passengers at less-than-satisfactory facilities in the Sarnia Elevator slip. It would indeed be unfortunate if BLUEWATER BELLE were forced out out of service after her prolonged and eventful voyage to the lakes and after Avery has spent so much money to rehabilitate the boat and to make her a virtual showpiece in her new colours. We sincerely hope that the difficulties may eventually be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.

Although it has been general knowledge since 1976 that the 1,000-foot self-unloader under construction at Lorain for the National Steel Corporation will be christened GEORGE A. STINSON, this fact has only recently been formally announced by officials of the Hanna fleet.

For several years now, it has been known that the International Harvester Company was negotiating with various parties for the sale of its Wisconsin Steel Division. Such a sale has now been completed and the new owner of Wisconsin Steel has been identified as the E.D.C. Holding Company, a subsidiary of Envirodyne Inc., Los Angeles, California. The lake steamer THE INTERNATIONAL has been included in the sale and she will continue to operate in the ore trade. She was built in 1923 at Lorain as (a) WILLIAM H. WARNER and for her new duties will be renamed (c) MAXINE.

Hearings in connection with the applications by the Chessie System and the Grand Trunk Western to abandon their Lake Michigan carferry operations are scheduled to begin in Washington on October 17th. Further hearings will be heard in the lakes area towards the end of the year.

Last issue, we mentioned the rather large number of accidents of one sort or another that have plagued the vessels of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. in 1977. Several of them have been quite serious and one almost did in the vessel involved. On August 4th, the 1926-built POINTE NOIRE fetched up in the West Neebish Channel of the St. Mary's River while downbound with grain. She stuck fast and the Columbia craneship BUCKEYE was summoned to lighter her. She was refloated on August 6 and her cargo was reloaded from BUCKEYE in the river. POINTE NOIRE was put on the drydock at Thunder Bay where it was determined that the damage was indeed serious. We understand that for a while it was touch-and-go whether she would be repaired but the work has since been done and POINTE NOIRE was back in service by mid-September.

BAIE COMEAU II, the former MONTE ALMANZOR purchased earlier this year by the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd., has been enrolled in Canadian registry as C.372001. Her measurements are recorded as follows: length 372 feet, beam 57 feet, depth 25 feet, Gross Tonnage 5216, Net Tonnage 3549.

The C.S.L. motorship ESKIMO, which had been operating on salt water under Bermudan registry, has been returned to the Canadian flag and now shows Hamilton, Ontario, as her home port. She was back into the lakes during the summer but in all probability will still spend most of her time on salt water as the lake package freight trade is capably handled by FORT HENRY, FORT YORK and FORT WILLIAM.

The small "pollywog" AIGLE MARIN, long a familiar sight on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, has recently been acquired by Capt. Raymond Harvey who has renamed her ANNE R. D. She has been chartered for two years to the Desgagnes group who will be using her to haul cement between Montreal and Sept Iles, Quebec. The steel coaster was for many years the running mate of the ill-fated AIGLE d'OCEAN which was lost in the North Atlantic off the Labrador coast after striking ice.

The Westdale Shipping Ltd. self-unloader PINEDALE, idle this season at Hamilton and used as a source of parts for the other self-unloaders of the fleet, has not as yet been sold for scrapping. It had been intended to dispose of the veteran steamer but the scrap market is presently at a particularly low ebb and it has been decided to await an improvement in the price of scrap before the ship is sold. Meanwhile, we understand that Westdale has given thought to the retirement of yet another of its older self-unloaders at the end of this season. To offset the attrition which seems to have set in amongst the fleet's original set of upper lakers, the company has been looking at several U.S.-flag self-unloaders which shall, for the time being, remain nameless.

The decline in tonnage using the port of Montreal in recent years has not only affected dock operations but has also reduced the demand for marine bunkering facilities. Readers will recall that Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. in the early 1960's built two outboard-powered bunkering barges for Imperial Oil Ltd., IMPERIAL LACHINE and IMPERIAL VERDUN. Both barges operated successfully for a number of years but with demand falling, IMPERIAL LACHINE has carried on alone for the past few years, the VERDUN remaining in lay-up as spare boat. We understand that Prilam Navigation has been attempting to obtain IMPERIAL VERDUN for use in bunkering at Quebec City but that this firm's efforts have not been successful to date.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority has let it be known that it intends to proceed with the testing of "shunters" to speed up the transit of the Welland Canal by large ships. It has called for tenders for the delivery in May 1978 of two such units which are to be 15 feet long and 52 feet wide (!) with 3,500 h.p. delivered through two Kort nozzles each. It is hoped that these two prototype shunters, which in reality will be little more than high-powered platforms, will be able to speed the canal passage by boats to whose bow and stern they will be attached. The S.L.S.A. hopes to acquire an "older scrap-type vessel of perhaps 500 feet" (no names mentioned) on which to try out the shunters in 1978. Since the shunters are intended to help powered vessels make the transit, it would appear that this older boat would be sent up and down the canal under her own power with the shunters assisting all the way on each passage. It is planned to further test the units in 1979 by leasing a 730-foot laker so that it can be seen what they will do with a larger hull. The S.L.S.A. has not mentioned how it might go about persuading a shipping company to part with a 730-footer for the year! No decision on the expansion of the shunter system will be made until at least the end of the two-year testing program.

LAVIOLETTE is not the only former St. Lawrence River steam ferry to find a new lease on life in the excursion trade. LOUIS JOLLIET was for many years one of the summer passenger and auto ferries on the service between Quebec City and Levis. She was retired several years ago when new ships were built for the route and since then has not operated despite changes of ownership. Recently purchased by La Compagnie d'Excursions Maritimes de Quebec, she has been altered somewhat to make her more suitable for the excursion trade in which her new owner will operate her from Quebec City. She could not be made ready in time for the 1977 season but is expected to begin service in 1978. We wish her every success.

In our last issue, we mentioned the accident to which BELLE RIVER fell victim during her trials. It was then our understanding that she was out on her trials when the grounding occurred but we now know that this was not the case. It seems that the shipyard crew was ballasting BELLE RIVER down in preparation for her trial trip and that as the self-unloader settled lower in the water, she came into contact with a rocky section of the bottom of Sturgeon Bay harbour. As she was moved away from her berth, the rocks punctured her bottom and sliced through her plating like a canopener for a distance of about 300 feet. The Bethlehem 1,000-footer BURNS HARBOR was hurriedly hauled out of the Sturgeon Bay drydock where she was under construction and on August 6 BELLE RIVER was put on the dock for repairs which took almost a full month. The American Steamship Company had not taken delivery of BELLE RIVER as of the time of the accident and the builder had to make good the repairs at its own cost.

BELLE RIVER departed Superior, Wisconsin, on her maiden downbound voyage on September 3 with a record cargo of 62,802 tons of Montana coal. She delivered this, the largest cargo of coal ever carried on the Great Lakes, to the Detroit Edison power plant at St. Clair, Michigan, on September 6 and then returned to Superior to load an even larger cargo of 64,726 net tons. About the physical appearance of BELLE RIVER, we will comment only that it is as might be expected.

The alleged sale of W. C. RICHARDSON to overseas buyers has not materialized and the veteran Columbia Transportation craneship has instead been sold to Consolidated Dock Inc. of Toledo, a subsidiary of the Wills Trucking Company. She was towed from Cleveland to Toledo on September 5 and there will be used to unload salties. A row of tires has been suspended along her port side to protect the old girl and she has been linked to the dock with a long conveyor at either end of which are large hoppers. The RICHARDSON'S cranes are used to unload bulk cargoes from salties, the material being dumped into the hopper on deck and carried ashore. Her first job was to unload a cargo of calcium nitrate from the salty FALKNES.

One of the most distinctive types of ships plying the lakes and St. Lawrence River has been the goelette, the small wooden motorized schooner, usually built and operated by the members of a family, which for many years was the mainstay of transportation to and from the small ports of the lower river. The goelettes frequently came into the lakes with cargoes of pulpwood, taking back with them almost anything they could carry. The last of the goelettes was built in 1959 and since then they have been the victims of attrition primarily due to old age and hard use. They have generally been replaced by larger steel coasters which undoubtedly haul more cargo for less cost but which lack the charm of the little wooden schooners. Only a very few goelettes are still in service and they must be considered to be living on borrowed time. For this reason, we are indeed pleased to hear that the goelette PASCAL III has been acquired by Capt. Victor Beaulieu who has converted her to a floating museum in an effort to preserve something of the river life of old. Appropriately enough, she has been rechristened LA GOELETTE. Now at Montreal, she spent the summer visiting various ports along the St. Lawrence River.

The Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader LOUIS R. DESMARAIS was launched at Collingwood on July 8, the day after JEAN PARISIEN was launched at the Davie yard in Lauzon, Quebec. The PARISIEN is presently fitting out in anticipation of November delivery to C.S.L.

Meanwhile, CARTIERCLIFFE HALL was christened at the Davie yard on August 12. She will be the first of three new Halco bulkers to enter service and will be placed in operation in early fall. She was observed in the Lauzon drydock in early September with her new bow fitted in place, the old forward section lying outside the drydock. At the same time, the new bow for MONTCLIFFE HALL was on the ways and by now it should be joined to the stern section as this carrier is scheduled to enter service prior to the end of navigation for 1977. STEELCLIFFE HALL is not due for commissioning until the spring of 1978.

Unless the Canadian federal government reverses its present policy, ferry service to Lake Erie's Pelee Island will soon be a thing of the past. Federal authorities have discontinued the operating subsidy provided for the Pelee Shipping Company Ltd. of St. Thomas, Ontario, and the company accordingly withdrew its ferry PELEE ISLANDER (built in 1960 at Erieau) from service on September 18th, the run being far from profitable without the subsidy. The service will continue through October 16 with the run being handled by the small carferry UPPER CANADA but this boat cannot handle large agricultural equipment nor can she operate in the heavy ice conditions characteristic of Lake Erie in winter. Residents of the island who normally depend on the ferry service between the Island and Sandusky, Leamington and Kingsville will thus be without the benefit of any water transportation and will have to depend in future on air services. Pressure is being applied to have the decision on the subsidy rescinded by the government.

The strike of iron ore miners in the northern United States which began in August continues into October with no end in sight. It has greatly reduced the number of American lakers in operation as most of the fleets have laid up a large proportion of their tonnage, particularly the older and smaller units. A few, however, are keeping some of their ships busy on unusual runs. As an example, Columbia Transportation has sent its WOLVERINE as well as the affiliated Pringle sisterships WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER down the Welland Canal to fetch ore from Picton to Lake Erie ports. Meanwhile, Boland and Cornelius sent its self-unloader SAM LAUD down the Welland with a load of sand from Grand Haven for Hamilton, her downbound passage being logged on September 12th. Five days later, the same fleet sent ADAM E. CORNELIUS down the Welland with sand for Port Weller. As the strike continues, we may well see more unusual visitors to the Lake Ontario region. Meanwhile, even as the American lake ports are clogged with idle ore carriers, the Canadian lakers are bringing ore up from the St. Lawrence at a great rate. Even the little PIC RIVER brought a cargo of ore from the St. Lawrence to Republic Steel in Cleveland. How many years has it been since a 373-footer carried ore on the lakes?

Among the fleets which have sent numerous boats to the wall during the late summer doldrums on the lakes this year has been Kinsman Lines. Four of the Steinbrenner ships which are now laid up are in need of drydocking for inspection and survey, namely PAUL L. TIETJEN, GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER, MERLE M. McCURDY and HENRY STEINBRENNER. It is our understanding that the latter two will be docked eventually but that the HENRY is likely to be the only one that passes. GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER was reactivated this spring and we thought that she was not due for her five-year until next year but apparently she is now in need of a further inspection for some reason, possibly because of her condition. The TIETJEN made her last downbound trip through the Soo on July 23 en route to Buffalo with grain. She then laid up at Toledo. She was due for her five-year in early July and it is extremely improbable that either she or the GEORGE M. will ever again turn a wheel.

Meanwhile, the talk making the rounds of the lakes is that Kinsman has been negotiating with the United States Steel Corporation for the purchase of at least one and possibly three steamers which it would use to replace its own older boats that seem to be expiring of old age. The vessel most prominently mentioned as a candidate for such a sale is the coalburner RICHARD V. LINDABURY. She would, no doubt, make a fine addition to the Kinsman fleet but we find it a bit hard to accept word of this deal until we have definite confirmation. In the past, U.S. Steel has always held to a policy of only offering for sale its oldest and smallest boats. The LINDABURY did operate in the early part of 1977 and she is far from the bottom of U.S. Steel's list bearing in mind the number of hulls that the "Steel Trust" has in lay-up at the American lakehead.

The Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. steamer HELEN EVANS went aground on Whaleback Shoal in the St. Lawrence River west of Brockville late on the evening of September 21st. Fortunately, the ship received only minor damage and was floated free 36 hours later with the help of several McAllister tugs. HELEN EVANS was en route from Sept Iles to Cleveland with a cargo of iron ore at the time of the accident. There has been no report as yet on how the steamer managed to get out of the marked channel.

The August 1977 issue of Marine Engineering Log carried an advertisement of the offering for sale of two motortankers of 32,000 and 39,000 bbl. capacity, the price being $125,000 each. Persons interested were invited to contact Pierre Simard of Simcor Inc., Montreal. The two tankers were not identified but it seems evident that they would be the idle Branch Lines motorships ELMBRANCH and WILLOWBRANCH.

Federal Commerce and Navigation Ltd. is expanding the scope of its operations into the Great Lakes. To handle the increased business, the line is having built in South Korea six new carriers. FEDERAL SCHELDE, FEDERAL RHINE, FEDERAL CLYDE and FEDERAL CALUMET will be 730 feet in length while FEDERAL ST. LAURENT and FEDERAL SAGUENAY will be 620-footers. The latter two vessels will be fitted with deck cranes. In addition, the company has also purchased the 1971-built 535-footer FEDERAL ST. CLAIR which has already journeyed into the lakes. FEDERAL SCHELDE, RHINE and CALUMET will be coming into the lakes this fall with cargoes of Australian sugar consigned to the Redpath plant at Toronto.

The Parks Department of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto which runs the ferry service across Toronto Bay to Ward's Island, Centre Island and Hanlan's Point, has finally disposed of the 52-foot, 60-passenger diesel ferry SHIAWASSIE. This vessel, built in 1962 at Kingston, was the first unit of a proposed fleet of smaller ferries which someone in the parks department saw as replacements for the larger ferries WILLIAM INGLIS, THOMAS RENNIE and SAM McBRIDE. Fortunately for all concerned, this plan was never implemented and SHIAWASSIE herself remained as a white elephant for her entire career with the ferry service. She operated only very rarely, usually on the Ward's Island run, and the residents of the Island hated the boat with a vengeance because of her many inadequacies. She was sold earlier in the year to Mid-Ontario Tours who took her to Georgian Bay for service in the Wasaga Beach area. This proved to be unsuccessful and late in the summer she appeared back in Toronto, having been purchased by Sherwood Marine, the same firm which owns the excursion boat CAYUGA II. SHIAWASSIE has since been taken to the Niagara River where she has been running excursions despite the fact that she is manifestly unsuitable for such a trade. She even managed to ground on the Niagara Bar during her first week of service, an event which brought smiles of pleasure to the faces of Toronto Island residents who at last are free of this unpopular vessel.

Ships of the Great Lakes on Postcards

Volume Two of this series dealing with lake ships appearing on commercial postcards is now available. The work of T.M.H.S. member Bob Welnetz of Manitowoc, the book is an eighty-page softcover which retails at $4.00 postpaid to the U.S.A. or Canada. Interested parties should address the Welnetz Studio, 3501 Custer Street, Manitowoc, Wisconsin 54220, U. S. A.

St. Mary's River Marine Society

A new marine historical society was formed in the Canadian Soo during the summer months for the purpose of organizing shipping enthusiasts in the area. Another purpose of the Society is to assume the duties of preserving NORGOMA as a floating museum at the Soo. The group will be holding six meetings per year and has already published the first issue of its newsletter. The Society would welcome the support of T.M.H.S. members.

Membership fees will be $5.00 per annum and interested parties should contact the St. Mary's River Marine Society in care of its secretary, Mr. Randy Johnson, 7 Montgomery Avenue, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, P6B 1M4.

We wish the St. Mary's River Marine Society every success in its efforts.

Ship of the Month No. 68 NISBET GRAMMER

The canallers were an interesting breed of lake steamship. They were perhaps the hardest worked of all the lakers as they shuttled back and forth through the old St. Lawrence and Welland Canals with their cargoes of grain and coal as well as just about anything else that could be crammed into their small holds. But if the lives of the canallers were busy, they were also frought with danger, for the canallers were continually bumped in and out of locks hardly bigger than themselves, flushed down the rapids of the upper St. Lawrence, operated in close proximity to ships many times larger than they, and pushed into storms on the upper lakes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence which they might better have weathered in some sheltered anchorage. Be this as it may, very few of them were totally lost in accidents within the confines of the Great Lakes area (although a number did succumb to enemy action and to heavy weather on salt water during both wars). NISBET GRAMMER, our October Ship of the Month, had the misfortune to be one of the unlucky canallers that met an untimely demise in a watery grave.

To properly trace the story of NISBET GRAMMER, it is necessary to go back in time to December 22, 1922 on which date was formed the Eastern Steamship Company Ltd. of St. Catharines, Ontario. The founding fathers of this concern were Judge Louis B. Hart, John J. Rammacher, Edwin T. Douglass, John B. Richards, Norman P. Clement, G. J. Grammer, and the latter's son Nisbet Grammer who also was president of the Eastern Grain, Mill and Elevator Corporation of Buffalo. These gentlemen all had connections with the grain business and all were associated with the firm of Boland and Cornelius, Buffalo vessel managers, and they formed the new company in order to operate ships capable of carrying to eastern coastal ports the grain which the upper lakers were forced to unload at ports such as Buffalo and Port Colborne due to their inability to transit the small locks of the old canals. Nisbet Grammer was named to the position of president of the Eastern Steamship Company Ltd. and Boland and Cornelius, quite naturally, were the operating managers.

Eastern's principals were not experienced in the operation of canal boats or in the building of them, so on the day the company was formed, they made an arrangement with the well-known shipping entrepreneur A. B. Mackay of Hamilton to obtain for the firm the vessels it would need. Mackay was also named to the position of chairman of Eastern. He was to obtain ten new steam powered canallers and he departed immediately for Great Britain to see what could be obtained from British shipyards. It appears that Mackay dealt with Messrs H. E. Moss and Company of Liverpool, who were represented by one Mr. A. G. Jones, and that contracts were let to five British yards who were each to construct two canallers. The yards involved were Napier and Miller Ltd., Old Kilpatrick, Scotland; J. Samuel White and Company, East Cowes, Isle of Wight; Furness Shipbuilding Company Ltd., Haverton Hill on Tees, England; Earles Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd., Hull, England, and Cammell Laird and Company Ltd. of Birkenhead, England. In addition to the two vessels ordered for Eastern, the Cammell Laird yard was also given an odd order for a single ship of the same design. This boat proved to be the EUGENE C. ROBERTS which became the property of A. B. Mackay and appears to have been built as his commission for obtaining the other ships for Eastern. She never ran under Eastern colours.

This extremely rare photo shows the launch of the Eastern Steamship Co. canaller NISBET GRAMMER into the Mersey at Birkenhead on April 14, 1923.The first of the Cammell Laird hulls was laid down on February 2nd, 1923 and on Saturday, April 14, 1923, she was launched and christened. It is to be noted that although the Cammell Laird contract was the last of the five to be let, their first boat was launched only ten days after the first boat of the entire series (believed to be the JUDGE HART which came from the White yard at East Cowes) took to the water. The new ship was named NISBET GRAMMER and was given official number 147208, her enrollment being taken out at Liverpool.

Cammell Laird made quite an affair out of the launching, a full report of which was carried in The Journal of Commerce on Monday, April 16th, 1923. The sponsor of NISBET GRAMMER was Mrs. A. B. Mackay who, for performing her duties, was handed a bouquet of flowers by Miss Nancy Laird. Mr. R.S. Johnson, managing director of the shipyard, also presented Mrs. Mackay with a gold manicure set in a tortoise-shell case! The report indicated that Mrs. Mackay was very graceful in the discharge of her duties at the ceremonies but also stated that "she threw the bottle with the greatest accuracy and hit the ship exactly on the spot", a description which might lead one to wonder whether she had been practising at the local baseball diamond back home. It was her first launching but she professed that now she had launched one ship, she wanted to do another! As the boat slid stern-first down the ways into the waters of the Mersey, the sun made a dramatic appearance from behind the clouds, an event reported as being an auspicious omen for the ship's career. If only it had been so.

NISBET GRAMMER measured 253.0 feet in length, 43.1 feet in the beam and 17.9 feet in depth. Her Gross Tonnage was 1725 and her Net was 1110. She was classed BS* (Great Lakes and River St. Lawrence) with the British Corporation and was designed with a hold capacity of 130,000 cubic feet for the carriage of grain. Mean draft while loaded was 14 feet. She was given a double bottom which extended all the way fore and aft, the peaks being fitted for the carriage of water ballast. There were three watertight bulkheads and one which was not watertight.

NISBET GRAMMER was powered by a surface-condensing inverted triple-expansion steam engine with cylinders of 16, 27 and 44 inches diameter and a stroke of 33 inches. This machinery gave her a speed of about 10 knots. Steam was supplied at 180 p.s.i. by two single-ended Scotch boilers which were 12 feet in diameter and 11 feet long. They were coal-fired and were fed from wing bunkers which were filled by means of a hatch in the top of the boiler casing in the after cabin.

Double-barrelled steam deck winches were located aft of hatches number one and six and in addition a steam snubbing capstan was placed on the forecastle deck. A large steam windlass was also fitted on the forecastle for use in manipulating the anchor chains. Two anchors were housed in bow pockets. Steering of the vessel was accomplished by means of rods and bevel gearing which operated a Wilson-Pirrie steam steering gear aft. An emergency tiller was located on deck aft and this could be operated with relieving tackle with leads to the capstan.

The only known photo of NISBET GRAMMER in operation comes to us courtesy of Robert J. MacDonald. It shows her downbound into Lake St Louis at Cascades Point below Lock One, Soulange Canal. The date must be 1925.She was built with a half or sunken forecastle and a flush quarterdeck. The deck crew was housed in the forecastle while the master's quarters and day-room were in the texas cabin. The engine crew's quarters together with mess and galley were located in the after cabin. The pilothouse was a fairly small "turret" style affair located forward of the texas and atop it was an open bridge with wings, a bit of an anachronism for the 1920's. Her funnel was rather thin and carried almost no rake. Pole masts without cargo booms were fitted behind the texas cabin and aft of the stack and they too were virtually unraked.

The steamer was painted in the Eastern Steamship Company's original colour scheme. Her hull was a brown shade and the cabins were white. We can only guess at the stack colours because we have found no historians who can recall them with any certainty and our only source of information is the odd rare photograph showing the Eastern boats in their early years. The smokeband at the top of the stack was black and there was a wide white band on which was superimposed a large black letter 'E'. Above and below the white band were narrow bands of what appears to have been red. Underneath the lower red band was a very narrow black stripe and the remainder of the lower portion of the stack also seems to have been red.

NISBET GRAMMER passed her trials (presumably held on the Mersey) with flying colours and she was handed over to the Eastern Steamship Company Ltd. in late April. She was brought across the Atlantic under her own power and, like most British-built canallers, probably carried a cargo of Welsh coal on her delivery voyage.

The GRAMMER entered service for Eastern on her arrival in Canada and apparently served her owners well. She and her nine cohorts, FRANK B. BAIRD, NORMAN P. CLEMENT, WILLIAM H. DANIELS, EDWIN T. DOUGLASS, ALBERT C. FIELD, JUDGE HART, WATKINS F. NISBET (which followed NISBET GRAMMER from Cammell Laird), ROBERT W. POMEROY and JOHN J. RAMMACHER, formed the nucleus of a fleet which was so successful in its early years that late in 1924 the company went back to British yards with orders for eleven more canallers for delivery in 1925 and 1926.

NISBET GRAMMER looked very much like the other nine Eastern steamers completed in 1923 and like them she changed her appearance very early in her career. The first change came in the first year or so of operation. It seems that Eastern management was not much enamoured of the brown hull colour which it had chosen for its steamboats and before long the ships were turning up with black hulls and white forecastles. This was definitely a change for the better and thereafter the Eastern boats were indeed classy in appearance. The second change was the fitting of an enclosed upper pilothouse, another move which did nothing but good things for the appearance of the steamers. Gone were the years when it was thought to be a mark of distinction and honour for the master and wheelsman to brave the elements in the storms of autumn while standing in straw-filled barrels on the open bridge and so from about 1925 onwards, the Eastern canallers sported rather small wooden upper pilothouses which perched atop the old cabin. The later series of Eastern canallers came from their builders with large square texas cabins and enclosed pilothouses above.

At about the same time as the Eastern boats received their new hull colours, the original stack design disappeared. Thereafter, the line's steamers had black stacks with the white band and black 'E'. This design was to last until the company ceased operations in 1936.

The first three seasons proved to be uneventful for NISBET GRAMMER but her fourth, 1926, was to be her undoing. On May 31st of that year, the GRAMMER was downbound in Lake Ontario with a cargo of grain. The weather was calm and, not surprisingly for that time of year, the lake was shrouded in a dense fog.

The year 1926 had seen an expansion in the package freight service provided by the Canada Atlantic Transit Company which operated steamers from Canadian ports to Lake Michigan. The company, which was controlled by the Canadian federal government, was the beneficiary of the transfer of two salt-water steamers from the Canadian Government Merchant Marine, namely the CANADIAN GUNNER and CANADIAN HARVESTER, canal-sized vessels which had been built just after the end of the first war. The first-named ship had been rechristened CANATCO and had already made her appearance on the lakes. The second was renamed DALWARNIC and on May 31, 1926 she was feeling her way through the fog on Lake Ontario, upbound on her delivery voyage.

Off Thirty Mile Point in eastern Lake Ontario, the paths of the two ships crossed. The DALWARNIC rammed NISBET GRAMMER and the deeply loaded grain carrier was badly holed. She began to take on water rapidly and wasted no time in making her way to the bottom of the lake. Fortunately, the DALWARNIC was able to remain close by and rescued the GRAMMER's crew, all of whom had made good their escape from the sinking steamer and were fished from the lake.

As might be expected, the inimitable Captain Demers, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, called for an enquiry into the accident and the following are the results as reported in the July 1926 issue of Canadian Railway and Marine World:

"Capt. L. A. Demers, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, with Captains J. Ewart and J. Williams as nautical assessors, opened an investigation at Toronto, June 15, into the collision between the DALWARNIC and the NISBET GRAMMER, when the latter was sunk off Thirty Mile Point in Lake Ontario on May 31.

"Judgment was given at Ottawa, June 22, the certificate of Capt. J. A. Cuthbert of the DALWARNIC being suspended for the rest of the season for having failed to exercise the caution which is expected of all seamen, but it was recommended that he be given a first mate's certificate for the season.

"The certificate of Capt. A. Laking of the NISBET GRAMMER was suspended for failing to give implicit instructions to his officer and M. Robson's certificate as first mate was suspended for three months for not having stopped his ship, sounded alarm signals and called the captain, thereby taking upon himself full responsibility. It was recommended that he be given a second mate's certificate if a certified second officer is obligatory on lake steamships.

"The DALWARNIC's mate was exonerated."

NISBET GRAMMER was the only steamer that the Eastern Steamship Company Ltd. ever managed to lose and it was indeed fortunate that her sinking was not accompanied by the loss of any of her crew. Eastern had a relatively good safety record and had the GRAMMER managed to avoid the meeting with DALWARNIC that foggy day out on Lake Ontario, it is highly probable that, along with the other Eastern canallers she would have passed to the ownership of the Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Company Ltd. of Toronto in 1936.

Of the 21 canallers originally built for Eastern and the 20 that passed to Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence during the difficulties of the Great Depression, six were lost on salt water during the second war, namely FRANK B. BAIRD, ALBERT C. FIELD, JOHN A. HOLLOWAY, WATKINS F. NISBET, ROBERT W. POMEROY and GEORGE L. TORIAN. Two more were lost by Upper Lakes due to accidents on fresh water, these being JUDGE HART and WILLIAM C. WARREN which were the victims of strandings in 1942 and 1947 respectively. The WARREN was subsequently salvaged and ran for another operator into the 1960's. The remaining twelve all lasted into the 1960's but all but two were scrapped during that decade. Today, only two survive; CHARLES R. HUNTLEY and NORMAN B. MacPHERSON, both units of the second group of ships ordered by Eastern, have been converted for use as dredges, the latter vessel under the name ILE d'ORLEANS.

NISBET GRAMMER came up short in the luck department. Considering that she lasted only into her fourth season of operation, it is not surprising that she was not often captured on film. Indeed, the photograph of her launching which appears in this issue is the only photograph of the vessel of which we are aware. Should any of our readers happen to know of a photograph of NISBET GRAMMER in operation, we should be glad to learn of it so that we might present it for our readers in these pages. Strangely enough, the third vessel of the order from Cammell Laird, EUGENE C. ROBERTS, which was built for A. B. Mackay himself, is also proving to be most elusive and we have never seen a photograph of that ship under her original name either, although several of our members recall having seen the ship with that name on her bows.

(Our thanks to Skip Gillham for providing the clipping on the launch of NISBET GRAMMER.)

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Scanner, v. 10, n. 1 (October 1977)


Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; St. Mary's River Marine Society