The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 11, n. 2 (November 1978)
Publication:
Scanner (Toronto, ON), Nov 1978


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Creator:
Bascom, John N., Editor
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Website
Description:
Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; Stormy Vessel Passages; Collision In The Huron Cut; Additional Marine News
Date of Publication:
Nov 1978
Language of Item:
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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Toronto Marine Historical Society
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Meetings

December 1st - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Film Night. A programme of interesting marine films has been arranged by Gordon Turner.

January 5th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Annual Theme Slide Night. Members are invited to bring a few slides each. Slides should illustrate Pre-Seaway salties in the lakes, or salt water ships trading into the lakes in the few years following the opening of the Seaway.

The Editor's Notebook

If you should happen to be wondering whether you have sent in your membership fees and are a Member of T.M.H.S. in Good Standing for the 1978-79 season, don't worry. You would not be receiving this issue at all if you had not paid!

We are pleased to note that membership renewals have been coming in at a good rate this year. We are also grateful for the kind comments on our publication which many members have sent along with their renewals. The main theme of most of these comments is that we should "keep her steady as she goes" and this is precisely what we intend to do.

With this issue, our best wishes go to member Gordon Hunt of Ward's Island, Toronto, who is presently recuperating following major surgery. We hope to see Gordon "back on the bridge" again shortly.

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Richard Berg of Ashtabula, Ohio, to William J. Lewis of Rochester, to Marvin McInnis of Thunder Bay, and to Dr. W. N. Watters of Goderich.

Marine News

Once again, rumours have been circulating to the effect that the Kinsman fleet has been looking at four or five idle tinstackers for possible addition to its roster. In the past, such rumours have usually come to naught for various reasons, not the least of these being that United States Steel has been unwilling to dispose of any but its oldest ships. With the recent updating of the "Steel Trust" fleet, however, the company has formally declared most of its inactive tonnage to be entirely surplus to its needs. U.S. Steel broke tradition early in 1978 by dealing RICHARD V. LINDABURY, (b) KINSMAN INDEPENDENT (II), to Kinsman to replace the latter's HARRY L. ALLEN which was destroyed in a Duluth elevator fire. The latest rumours have generally been taken rather lightly, but observers have conceded that the tinstack fleet included such steamers as WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE, AUGUST ZIESING, D. G. KERR, D. M. CLEMSON and GOVERNOR MILLER which, if not of any use to the "Steel Trust", are still good enough to find a future with some other operator.

It was, therefore, with some considerable surprise that we learned that, on October 10, Kinsman closed a deal for the purchase from U.S. Steel of WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE. This vessel, which has been inactive for the past two years, will be reactivated this autumn for Kinsman and, while no official announcement has been made as to the renaming of the boat, it would seem reasonable to assume that she will bear the name GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER (III) .

With other Kinsman steamers, such as the aging KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, to name but one, nearing the end of their active lives, it is possible that Kinsman may acquire other tonnage to bolster its operations.

The new self-unloader BUFFALO, recently completed by Bay Shipbuilding for the American Steamship Company, cleared Sturgeon Bay on September 23. Her maiden voyage took her to Escanaba where she loaded a cargo of ore for delivery to Indiana Harbor. BUFFALO is a better looking ship than most of the recent products of the Sturgeon Bay yard and is very similar to the earlier SAM LAUD. Let us hope that BUFFALO will have better luck than did the LAUD, which was involved in a number of damaging accidents during her first few years of service.

The fitting out of the tanker IMPERIAL LONDON for service in the Caribbean and South American waters continues slowly at Ramey's Bend. By early October, she had been repainted in the Imperial blue hull colour, her boot top being a dark red. Her cabins have been opened up (they were earlier sealed as a precaution against vandalism) and painted white. Her stack is blue with two white bands. Several possible names for the ship have been mentioned but, at the time of this writing, no new name has yet appeared on her. We expect developments in this direction shortly, as her new owner will undoubtedly wish to get the tanker out of the lakes before the close of navigation.

IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD was placed back in service late in August after her five-week summer holiday lay-up at Sarnia. Despite the fact that she is still active, we continue to hear suggestions to the effect that Imperial Oil Limited would like to find a buyer for the steamer after the close of the season. IMPERIAL SARNIA, likewise, is going strong at the present and she is scheduled to go on the drydock at Port Weller during December for inspection. Once she has been docked, a decision will be made on whether or not to proceed with the extensive work which SARNIA reportedly needs if she is to remain in service. The fact that Imperial is going to the expense of putting her in drydock at all would indicate that there is still hope that she may be retained in the fleet.

For several years now, the C.S.L. package freighter FRENCH RIVER has been idle at Hamilton, this despite suggestions that she was to be used as a carferry on the St. Lawrence (a deal which fell through two years ago), or converted to a cement carrier as was her younger sister, ENGLISH RIVER. We now understand that FRENCH RIVER will be drydocked at Port Weller this fall refitted in order that, in 1979, she can be reactivated in the package freight trade as a replacement for the retired FORT HENRY. This news comes as a bit of a surprise because we really have not thought that the C.S.L. package freight service was in a sufficiently healthy state to require the use of FRENCH RIVER in addition to FORT YORK, FORT CHAMBLY and FORT WILLIAM. Meanwhile, FORT HENRY has been given a proper lay-up at Kingston and C.S.L. is seeking a buyer for the steamer. We believe that the main reason for her retirement is that she is more expensive to operate than the other boats used on the route.

The inactive Kinsman steamer PAUL L. TIETJEN has been sold for scrapping, but not to Marine Salvage Ltd. as might have been expected. Instead, the ship has been acquired by an Ashtabula firm identified as Triad Salvage Inc. We have not heard previously of this concern but suspect that it may well have some connection with Acme Scrap Metals which has, in recent years, dismantled numerous vessels, including the tanker VENUS and the Kinsman steamer CHICAGO TRADER.

The late remains of the Johnstone Shipping Ltd. tanker CONGAR (II) are rapidly disappearing at Strathearne Terminals in Hamilton. Little is left of the ship, which for many years served on the east coast as IMPERIAL HALIFAX, except for her bow section.

Despite the scrapping of the steam canal tanker LAKE TRANSPORT (II) at Sorel recently, the Hall Corporation's idle tanker BAFFIN TRANSPORT still continues to lie untouched at the same port. It is not known whether she, too, will be broken up at Sorel, but it is certain that she has no future with the Halco fleet.

The tanker MAPLEBRANCH (II), the last vessel in the fleet of Branch Lines Ltd. to carry a traditional "Branch" name, may well be nearing the end of her active service for the company. The motorship was built twenty years ago at Sorel by Marine Industries Ltd. and since has seen service from the Great Lakes to the Arctic, carrying everything from crude oil to bulk cement. Now, however, she is showing the ravages of time and hard use, and her condition appears to be such that her owner is seriously considering the economics of further operation. It may well be that the refurbishing of the tanker might be economically unwarranted, in which case it would not be surprising if the ship were put up for sale in the near future.

During the month of July, the Bethlehem Steel "Maritime Class" bulk carrier STEELTON (III) was sold to Medusa Cement for eventual conversion into a bulk cement carrier. STEELTON has not operated in 1978 and has been lying at Erie since last autumn. Now comes word that the steamer has been renamed HULL NO. 3 in preparation for her upcoming conversion. It seems possible that the sudden renaming of the boat may be designed to free the historic name STEELTON for use on another boat of the Bethlehem fleet.

The hull of CAPE TRANSPORT was removed during August from Sill's Marina at Sodus Bay where it had been lying since being towed over from Toronto in December of 1977. Preparatory to her move to the Caribbean via the New York State Barge Canal for use as a water tanker, CAPE TRANSPORT has been taken to Clayton, New York, where her tanks are being cleaned. At present, it is not known whether it will be possible for her trip southwards to be made this year.

The Cleveland Cliffs Steamship Company's WALTER A. STERLING is now in service after her conversion to a self-unloader. The conversion was to have been done by the American Shipbuilding Company at Lorain, but the STERLING was removed from the shipyard during the summer when it became obvious to her owner that she would be caught in the midst of the yard's labour problems. She was taken to Toledo, where the remaining work was completed by the Merce Boiler and Welding Company. The ship cleared Toledo on October 2.

In our last issue, we speculated that the new self-unloader "building at Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. for Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. would be named CANADIAN PIONEER. Only a few days after we wrote that item, we visited Port Weller again and found that the shipyard workers had welded the raised letters of the ship's future name to her hull fore and aft. But the name was not CANADIAN PIONEER; it was CANADIAN TRANSPORT. We wondered how this might be, since the company already possessed a ship of this name, the idle giant lying in ordinary at Tampa, Florida. Now all has become clear. On October 5th, the old (24 years) CANADIAN TRANSPORT cleared Tampa in tow for a Spanish scrapyard. This leaves the name free for use on the new laker but, if hitches should develop in the registry process, Upper Lakes Shipping will name the new motorship CANADIAN TRANSPORTER. She should be out of the graving dock and alongside the fitting-out wharf shortly.

We have mentioned previously that the Upper Lakes Shipping bulk carrier ST. LAWRENCE PROSPECTOR will be rebuilt as a 730-foot "laker" during the coming winter at the New Brunswick yard of the St. John Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. It was thought that her sister, ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR, would be left as she is, but the company seems to have had a change of heart and is intending to rebuild the NAVIGATOR in a similar manner. We have heard reports to the effect that the work may be done either at St. John or at Port Weller, but we would opt for the former. The fact is that the Port Weller graving dock will be occupied for some time to come with CANADIAN TRANSPORT (ER) and with her sister for which a contract has already been let. In addition, the yard will have to shut down for a while if management goes ahead with plans to construct a gate between the regular drydock and the graving dock. The work on the NAVIGATOR, which will involve the construction of an entire new forward end, could not be done in the drydock itself without obstructing the heavy schedule of repair work which the yard attracts. Bearing all this in mind, it seems to us likely that Port Weller will not be given the job of converting ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR.

Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. is also intending to have its salt water bulk carrier CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER converted to a self-unloader. Of course, we will never see the HIGHLANDER in the lakes, as she is far too large to transit the Seaway locks. She will be used on the St. Lawrence River and the east coast.

For some time now, we have been hearing rumours to the effect that the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. is on the verge of retiring its steamers SHELTER BAY and HERON BAY. As fate would have it, however, it is an entirely different vessel of the Q & O fleet that has succumbed to her advanced age.

The motorship PIC RIVER arrived at Toronto via the Eastern Gap on the evening of October 17 and proceeded to the Canada Malting Company's elevator at the foot of Bathurst Street. There she lay for the duration of the deck officers' and engineers' strike, unloading her cargo of malt and barley. On the morning of October 25, she moved over to the foot of Sherbourne Street and, at 1:30 that afternoon, she sailed from Toronto via the Western Gap, her destination being Strathearne Terminals at Hamilton. We understand that she either has been or soon will be sold for scrapping, the reason for her sudden retirement being her somewhat precarious condition. PIC RIVER was built in 1896 as a barge, (a) JAMES NASMYTH (37), and later sailed as (b) MERLE H. (49). She and her sister, BLACK RIVER, were rebuilt as diesel-powered bulk carriers over the winter of 1952-53 at Port Weller. The Soo River Company's steamer GEORGE G. HENDERSON, a veteran of nearly seventy years' service, was recently placed on the drydock at Port Weller. We are pleased to report that she passed her survey and inspection with flying colours despite her age, and should be able to serve the Pierson interests for many years to come. Amongst the Soo River vessels, she is surpassed in age only by the 1905-built H. C. HEIMBECKER.

The small bunkering tankers MARINE FUEL II and WM. H. BENNETT returned to Cleveland upon completion of their tour of duty with the visiting U.S. Navy destroyers in September. The BENNETT is not operating at present and is lying at the Marine Fuel dock at Cleveland. MARINE FUEL II is presently in service at that port along with MARINE FUEL OIL.

The mid-October strike of deck officers and engineers brought Canadian lake shipping to a virtual standstill for a week and a half. The deck officers agreed to terms within a week of the commencement of the strike but the engineers' dispute continued and, early on the morning of October 24, the Canadian Senate gave approval to back-to-work legislation which had passed quickly through the House of Commons the previous evening. The engineers obeyed the legislation and Canadian lakers were back in operation very soon. Although a number of the boats had continued in service during the strike, with supervisory personnel replacing striking crew members, the BROOKDALE, NORDALE, FERNDALE, SILVERDALE, E. J. NEWBERRY, PIC RIVER, METIS, ENGLISH RIVER, H. M. GRIFFITH and JEAN PARISIEN all spent at least part of the time at the wall in Toronto. The government resorted to legislation to end the strike in order to ensure the smooth flow of grain movements during the autumn.

The idle tanker WILLOWBRANCH, formerly of Branch Lines Ltd., is still lying along the west wall of the Toronto turning basin. After her arrival in port in tow of the tug ROBERT H. on August 14, very little had been done to her apart from the preliminary stripping of some of her equipment. In mid-October, however, work on the vessel was started in earnest. Ship Repairs and Supplies Ltd. is looking after the cutting down of the tanker to a barge, in much the same manner as CEMENTKARRIER was reduced earlier in the year.

In several past issues, we have mentioned that the former Westdale Shipping self-unloader PINEDALE was serving as a breakwater on Lake Huron, allegedly in the Kincardine area. At least, that is where we thought she was, as we had been told earlier that she was to serve there at a construction site. We were led astray, however, for we now learn that she is not on Lake Huron at all but rather on Lake Ontario, where she serves as a breakwater during the construction of an Ontario Hydro generating plant near Bowmanville, east of Oshawa.

The retired Westdale self-unloader LEADALE, meanwhile, has been lying at Hamilton after her sale to Mexican interests fell through and her Canadian registry was restored. She has, nevertheless, been sold by United Metals Ltd. through a U.S. broker to Uruguayan purchasers who plan to scrap her in South America. Since arriving at Hamilton under tow on August 24th, she has been loaded with scrap metal and will soon be departing under tow to keep her appointment with the cutting torches.

Another steamer lying idle at Hamilton during the 1978 navigation season has been the Misener bulk carrier ROYALTON which was towed over from Toronto in the spring. She was being held in reserve by Misener and it was anticipated that she would be reactivated during autumn for the late grain trade. Further service by this 54-year-old boat would now seem to be in considerable doubt, for she was recently the object of an episode of vandalism wrought by some less-than-law-abiding residents of the Steel City. It seems likely that Misener management will not consider the cost of refitting ROYALTON for service unless there should be a marked improvement in grain movements.

Observers have remarked recently on the number of Huron Cement boats that have been running down the Welland Canal to pick up cargoes of cement at Bath, Ontario. Huron Cement has sold its plant at Oswego, New York, to Canada Cement Lafarge Ltd., and the influx of Huron boats to Bath is suspected to be related somehow to this sale. A particularly frequent visitor to Bath has been the 1904-built steamer J. B. FORD.

One of the most notable lake steamers for many years was the Reiss self-unloader CHARLES C. WEST, the first modern steel-hulled Great Lakes vessel to be built with a cruiser stern. The WEST became a member of the fleet of the American Steamship Company when BoCo bought out the Reiss shipping interests in 1969. Due to her relatively small size, the WEST saw but a few years of service for Boland and Cornelius and has since spent many years languishing in idleness in the Frog Pond at Toledo. She would certainly have been sold for scrap a long time ago had it not been for legal action instituted as a result of an accident involving a crew member who was injured aboard the ship. In any event, the litigation having been concluded, CHARLES C. WEST was towed out of Toledo during the third week of September, her destination being Buffalo where she will be dismantled by interests who have yet to be identified.

We seldom report sales involving salt water freighters because it is too hard to keep track of these vessels, particularly once they are no longer trading into the lakes. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to mention the sale of three ships from the fleet of Ellerman City Liners. Ellerman boats have been seen on the Great Lakes for many years and have been the subject of much interest because of the fact that this British line has always made it a practice to combine carrying capacity with pleasing appearance when ordering new vessels. This aspect of ship construction has pretty much fallen by the wayside with most operators these days. During the summer months, Ellerman sold its CITY OF WELLINGTON and CITY OF NEWCASTLE to the Mulroy Bay Shipping Company Ltd. and the Venture Bay Shipping Company Ltd. of Monrovia, and they will now operate under the flag of Singapore as EASTERN ENTERPRISE and EASTERN ENVOY, respectively. In addition, CITY OF RIPON has been transferred to William Thomson's Ben Line and, under the name BENVANNOCH, will continue to fly the British flag. All three of these handsome motorships were built at British yards in 1956 and all gross in the area of 7,700 tons. They have been frequent visitors to the lakes for several years.

In recent years, the larger Toronto Island ferries have normally been sent to Whitby for drydocking at the McNamara yard when necessary. The most recent to make the trip eastward is the 43-year-old passenger ferry WILLIAM INGLIS, laid down as COLUMBINE and first christened (a) SHAMROCK (II), which, after completing her summer assignment as mid-day boat on the Ward's Island route, departed Toronto for Whitby on October 4. She had been scheduled to leave the previous day but was forced to turn back by weather conditions. At the time of this writing, TRILLIUM was expected to head for Whitby in tow of the tug WILLIAM REST on October 30 with the INGLIS returning to Toronto under her own power on October 31.

Stormy Vessel Passages

In the October issue, we reproduced vessel passages for Port Colborne, Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie for two days immediately following the Great Storm of November, 1913. We mentioned that only three of the boats named were still in service on the lakes, namely PRESQUE ISLE (I), HUGH KENNEDY, and WILLIAM G. MATHER (I). Readers who are up on their marine history must have realized that one more of the ships is still active in these waters. Whether they did not recognize her name, or whether they were just too shy to write to us, we do not know, but Capt. John Leonard was the only member who spotted her in the passages and contacted us. We refuse to reveal whether our omission was deliberate or unintentional.

The fourth ship, of course, was TOILER, which was later renamed (b) MAPLEHEATH. For many years, this canaller served the fleet of C.S.L. Retired after the Seaway opening, she was sold to McAllister Towing for whom she now serves as a lightering barge.

More On Rapids Queen

Readers will recall that our October "Ship of the Month" was the passenger steamer RAPIDS QUEEN. The early history of this ship is in considerable doubt, as we really do not know for whom she was built or whether it was actually intended that she serve on the St. Lawrence River at all.

Rev. Edward J. Dowling, S.J., an honourary life member of T.M.H.S., has advised us that he has access to an 1892 American vessel register. It indicates that, in 1892, the year she was built, the steamer COLUMBIAN, signal letters KLGR, was registered to the Morgan Iron Works of New York City. This is somewhat odd, for she was built by the Delaware River Company at Chester, Pennsylvania, but it would seem to suggest that she was not built for the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company Ltd., but rather that she was built "on speculation" for sale to any party who might want her.

We will report more on this rather interesting question should further information become available.

Collision In The Huron Cut

The Huron Cut, located at the northern end of the St. Clair River, between Port Huron and Point Edward, has always been a dangerous stretch of water. It is a narrow channel with a considerable current and vessels must negotiate relatively sharp turns both above and below the cut.

Today, the authorities permit only one-way traffic through the channel and ships wishing to pass through it must wait out in Lake Huron or below the Port Huron traffic buoy until any other vessel in the cut has cleared. This regulation is the result of numerous accidents which have occurred in the area, most notably the sinking of SYLVANIA at the Peerless Cement dock at Port Huron after she was rammed by RENVOYLE in 1967, and the collision of PARKER EVANS and SIDNEY E. SMITH JR. (II) in 1972 which sent the SMITH to the bottom just below the Blue Water Bridge. Prior to the SMITH sinking, two-way traffic in the channel was permitted and it was not uncommon to see boats passing or overtaking right underneath the bridge.

Members might be interested to read the following account of an earlier accident which occurred in the area. We are indebted to Al Sykes who culled the item from the Welland and Port Colborne Evening Tribune of June 3, 1940.

COLLISION OF TWO STEAMERS - RAMMACHER Forced to Put in for Repairs.

Port Huron, Mich., June 3 (AP) -

Two Great Lakes steamships collided head-on in the St. Clair River a few minutes after midnight today, forcing one of them to put in for repairs.

The ships were the WILLIAM A. REISS, flagship of the Reiss Steamship Company, and the JOHN J. RAMMACHER, owned by the Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Company Ltd. of Toronto.

The two vessels collided beneath the Blue Water International Bridge connecting Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario. Witnesses reported that the RAMMACHER, 253 feet long, was pushed down ten feet by the impact, but recovered. The REISS, 592 feet long, swung across the river and barely missed going aground.

Plates above the waterline were buckled on both ships, but the REISS continued upbound. The RAMMACHER, which was downbound, put into Sarnia Bay for repairs.

WILLIAM A. REISS is still active in 1978, serving the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company. The JOHN J. RAMMACHER, later renamed WALLACEBURG, last operated in 1965 and was scrapped at Hamilton in 1966.

Ship of the Month No. 78

Bayton

During the last few months, we have featured in these pages a number of passenger vessels which, although well known in their own areas, have generally been ignored by the various other marine publications of the Great Lakes. This time around, by special request, we feature the Misener steam bulk carrier BAYTON. It has been thirteen years since this vessel last operated, but for those of us who knew her so well, it seems as if it were only a year or two since we last saw her going about her appointed rounds. BAYTON, with her rather antiquated appearance, was a bit of an anachronism during the last few years of her active life, but she served her owner well and, indeed, is still extant on the lakes, serving in a much different capacity than was ever imagined for her by her builder or her original owner.

One of the most famous vessel operators on the Great Lakes at the turn of the century was W. H. Becker of Cleveland, a gentleman who, over the years, built up a fleet of steamers which, although not by any means the largest American lake fleet, was very much an important part of the shipping scene. The Becker fleet was also renowned for the handsome design of its freighters which were generally considered to be amongst the best looking ships ever to sail the lakes, second, perhaps, only to the designs of the famous Captain John Mitchell. The Becker steamer JOHN A. DONALDSON, (b) J. H. MACOUBREY, (c) WILLIAMSPORT, for instance, was acknowledged at the time of her building to be one of the best freighters ever built for lake service. The Becker operations were an influence on the lake shipping scene for many years, and even after the Becker management itself had faded away, a large portion of the fleet survived until the second half of the century under the auspices of the Midland Steamship Line Inc.

One of the companies which operated under the management of W. H. Becker was the Columbia Steamship Company of Cleveland. In 1903, this firm let to the American Shipbuilding Company a contract for a new bulk carrier. This boat was constructed as Hull 421 of the company's Cleveland yard. She was launched on April 7, 1904, and the Becker interests had her christened FRANCIS WIDLAR.

Young photo dated 1919 catches FRANCIS WIDLAR downbound in Little Rapids Cut.The new carrier had a length of 416.0 feet, a beam of 50.0 feet and a depth of 28.0 feet. When she was enrolled at Cleveland as U.S.200910, her tonnage was specified as being 4682 Gross and 3368 Net, although these figures were reduced in later reconstruction to 4176 Gross and 3000 Net. She was powered by a triple-expansion engine which was built by the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company (American Shipbuilding Company), and which had cylinders of 22, 35 and 58 inches and a stroke of 40 inches. The engine developed 1,500 I.H.P. on 170 p.s.i. of steam which was produced by coal-fired Scotch boilers.

FRANCIS WIDLAR was a typical laker of her period, although she was rather shorter than some of the bulk carriers which would be built by lake shipyards in the next few years. She was given a half (or sunken) forecastle and by this we mean that, to enter the accommodations in the forecastle, it was necessary to descend from the shelter deck a distance of about half the height of the usual "full" forecastle which was usually entirely above the level of the shelter deck. The WIDLAR was fitted with the usual turret-style pilothouse which was placed on the forecastle forward of the officers' accommodations in the texas cabin, an open bridge being provided on the monkey's island as was the custom of the day. In typical Becker fashion, FRANCIS WIDLAR's hull was painted green, while her forecastle and cabins were white. The stack was black and carried the large white letter 'B' which denoted the boats managed by Mr. Becker.

FRANCIS WIDLAR served the Columbia Steamship Company faithfully for many years which passed for the ship in a generally uneventful fashion as she passed up and down the lakes with her cargoes of iron ore, coal and grain. The only major change in her appearance came about the time of the First World War when, like many lakers, she was given an enclosed upper pilothouse. The upper houses placed on numerous boats were flimsy affairs which afforded only minimal shelter from the elements; FRANCIS WIDLAR, on the other hand, received an extremely handsome house which obviously was designed to last. And last it did, for half a century!

Great Lakes vessel operators were, in the early decades of this century, much given to shifting their boats around amongst various affiliated companies under their control. Becker was no exception, and when a reorganization of its operations was undertaken in 1920, FRANCIS WIDLAR was transferred to the Valley Steamship Company. There was no alteration in her colours with this change in official ownership. There is some suggestion that, in 1920, FRANCIS WIDLAR was operated by the Becker Steamship Company, but it is our understanding that Becker did not form this affiliate until 1922.

FRANCIS WIDLAR, however, was not long to operate for her new owner. On November 12, 1920, whilst downbound loaded in Lake Superior with what would have been one of her last cargoes of the season, the WIDLAR encountered heavy weather. As she neared the eastern end of the lake, she failed to negotiate the turn to starboard which would have taken her southeastward and into the shelter of Whitefish Bay. Instead, she continued on and, in due course, made a violent and unexpected rendezvous with the rocks of Pancake Shoal. This menace to navigation is located off the Canadian shore of Lake Superior, about 4 1/2 miles south of Coppermine Point and 31 1/2 miles north by west from the Point Iroquois lighthouse.

Early in 1921, the Reid Wrecking Co. crew works on the battered FRANCIS WIDLAR which has spent the winter on Pancake Shoal. Young photo.FRANCIS WIDLAR struck the shoal hard and the efforts of her crew to free the steamer were to no avail. Caught in a position where she was exposed to the full fury of the wind and waves of the late-season storm, she took an awesome beating but, fortunately, her crew was removed without loss of life. The WIDLAR was duly declared to be a constructive total loss and the Valley Steamship Company abandoned her to the underwriters.

The Reid Wrecking Company of Sarnia and Port Huron, under the inspired direction of Tom Reid, was never one to shirk the responsibility of undertaking seemingly hopeless salvage tasks if its fearless leader thought that there was even the most remote chance of success. This was proven on many occasions, perhaps most notably in the case of the wresting of the stern section of WILLIAM C. MORELAND from Sawtooth Reef in Lake Superior. The Great Lakes Towing Company was originally asked to undertake the salvage of FRANCIS WIDLAR but its big wrecking tug FAVORITE was busy elsewhere and Great Lakes Towing was unwilling to take on the job. As a result, Reid was awarded a contract to attempt the removal of FRANCIS WIDLAR from Pancake Shoal. The hull remained in its exposed position throughout the following winter and, during 1921, the efforts of the salvors proved successful as the steamer was refloated.

FRANCIS WIDLAR, once freed from her rocky perch, was considered still to have life in her yet and, accordingly, was not consigned to the scrappers. With considerable difficulty, she was towed by the tug SMITH to Batchawana, where she was temporarily patched. She was then taken to Port Arthur where she was drydocked for repair.

W. D. Becker, the successor to W. H. Becker, put in a bid for the WIDLAR, but his bid was unsuccessful. On October 12, 1922, while the ship was still lying at the Port Arthur shipyard, she was purchased from the underwriters by the Mathews Steamship Company Ltd. of Toronto, Albert Ernest Mathews, prop. Mathews, after reregistering the boat at Toronto as C.141675, arranged for the battered vessel to be taken to the yard of the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. and there she was readied to take up duty in the Canadian grain trade.

Mathews ships were generally given names ending with the suffix "ton", and although in some cases the names referred to actual towns, they were usually chosen to reflect some aspect of lake shipping and Mr. Mathews' interest therein. Thus came into existence names such as LAKETON, RIVERTON, YORKTON, and MATHEWSTON. FRANCIS WIDLAR was duly renamed (b) BAYTON, a name she was to carry through the remainder of her days. It might be argued that her name was reflective of no particular bay, there being a good many such bodies of water around the Great Lakes, but it is our thought that the name was probably intended to honour Georgian Bay and its many harbours, commonly referred to as "The Bayports", to which BAYTON frequently traded with cargoes of grain.

BAYTON gave the better part of a decade of good service with the Mathews monogram on her bows. A. E. Mathews had built his fleet up from humble beginnings until, during BAYTON's time, it was a force with which to be reckoned amongst Canadian lake vessel operations. But although the fleet was quite capable of turning a good profit during periods of good business conditions, it was an entirely different story when things began to go bad in the fall of 1929. Mathews, in fact, had overextended his interests and, without the financial backing that supported such fleets as Canada Steamship Lines and kept them going, he found it impossible to continue operations as the Great Depression deepened.

The Mathews boats ran through the 1930 season and BAYTON was no exception, but the writing was already on the wall. On January 8, 1931, the Mathews Steamship Company Ltd. went into receivership on petition of the Montreal Trust Company and the National Trust Company which were acting on behalf of the bondholders. Mr. G. T. Clarkson, of the Toronto firm of E. R. C. Clarkson and Sons, was appointed as official receiver and manager of the fleet. The Mathews Steamship Company continued to operate, but it was only a shadow of its former aggressive self and most of its boats spent their time languishing in ordinary. BAYTON ran spasmodically during 1931, 1932 and 1933 under charter to Toronto Elevators Ltd. and/or its affiliate, Sarnia Elevators Ltd., but she spent at least as much time at the wall as she did in service.

Late in 1933, the bedraggled remains of the Mathews Steamship Company Ltd. were sold to Colonial Steamships Ltd., Port Colborne, which had been formed by Captain Robert Scott Misener and associates specifically for that purpose. Misener had been associated with lake shipping for many years and had gone into business as a shipowner several years earlier when he and John O. McKellar had joined together to purchase the wooden steamer OVERLAND. Misener had gradually extended his venture and, during the Depression years, had been able to avoid the financial troubles which proved to be the undoing of Mathews.

BAYTON is upbound above the Soo Locks in this photo taken in the late Thirties by Edwin Wilson.The Misener purchase of the Mathews steamboats did not alter radically the appearance of any of the vessels, for the new fleet adopted the Mathews colours as its own. The boats kept their black hulls, white forecastles and cabins, and black stacks with two silver bands, and they even retained their old names. The only change in BAYTON's appearance was the removal of the large white Mathews monogram from her bows.

Once the effects of the Depression had worn off, Colonial Steamships kept BAYTON hard at work, mostly in the grain trade. During the 1946 lay-up, she was reboilered with two Babcock and Wilcox oil-fired water tube boilers which had been built in 1942 by Goldie McCulloch Ltd. and which originally had been installed in the corvette H.M.C.S. DUNDAS. After the close of hostilities in the Atlantic, the Canadian Navy declared H.M.C.S. DUNDAS to be surplus and she was purchased by Misener and was brought to the lakes specifically so that her boilers might be reclaimed. For the removal of her old boilers and the installation of the "new" ones, BAYTON was placed in the spare gate berth on the east side of the Welland Canal above Lock One. Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. had not yet been formed nor the shipyard constructed, but the spare gate berth was used as a drydock for the purpose. With the new boilers in place, BAYTON's triple-expansion engine was still, despite its age, capable of generating 1,460 I.H.P.

The next major change to affect BAYTON came during the winter of 1957-58. The steamer was laid up for the winter at the Union Carbide dock located on the east side of the Welland Canal immediately south of old Bridge 16 at Welland. There, her handsome old wooden pilothouse was removed and in its place was fitted a more modern structure built of steel. The new pilothouse was much larger than the earlier cabin and protruded noticeably over the forward end of the lower house; and yet, a catwalk was not placed around the front of the new wheelhouse as on most of the ships which still sported turret cabins forward. The new house was fitted with large windows which undoubtedly provided improved visibility for its occupants, and the structure certainly was much more comfortable than was its predecessor, but its installation did nothing at all for the appearance of BAYTON. Indeed, she looked very strange from that point onwards, as the new pilothouse contrasted markedly with the rather old-fashioned stern of the ship which was dominated by a virtually unraked stack topped by a very noticeable cowl. This stack had been placed in BAYTON at the time of her reboilering. Her masts also had very little rake and, due perhaps to her age and also the lasting effects of her grounding back in 1920, her hull had begun to look "tired" and was losing its sheer.

BAYTON, however, continued in operation and, in 1959, was transferred to Scott Misener Steamships Ltd., Port Colborne, when a capital reorganization of the Misener interests took place. Despite her age and relatively small size, BAYTON was still considered to be a useful carrier and she plodded on for a few years more, looking more and more her age with each passing year. In July, 1962, she fractured an engine piston whilst at Contrecoeur and was towed to Sorel for repairs. She was not fitted out in the spring of 1963 but did operate later in the season.

The end for BAYTON as an operative vessel came in 1965. Part way through the season, she was laid up along the West Street Wharf in Port Colborne; she was suffering from engine problems, shaft damage, and a very noticeable dent in her bow which had been sustained in a canalling accident. Scott Misener Steamships finally came to the inescapable conclusion that BAYTON had reached the end of her rope and she was sold to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne, which had her moved back down through Lock Eight and into the scrapping berth at Ramey's Bend. It was generally expected that the Marine Salvage workmen would soon make short work of the venerable steamer.

Just as BAYTON was nearing the end of her active life, the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. was expanding its fleet with the purchase of several older American lakers. One of these was a boat only three years younger than BAYTON, namely the bulk carrier JAY C. MORSE which was acquired early in the spring of 1965 from the Interlake Steamship Company and renamed (b) SHELTER BAY (II). After operating SHELTER BAY for the 1965 season, Q & O decided that the ship was in need of reboilering. It was not thought that the cost of new boilers for such an elderly vessel could be justified and so Q & O searched for some good used boilers which might be obtained at a more reasonable price. The company did not have far to look and decided to purchase from Marine Salvage Ltd. the boilers which were then ensconced in BAYTON.

In due course, workmen went aboard BAYTON and commenced pulling apart the old girl's after cabin. Her stack removed and a hole chopped down through her upper decks, the Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers were lifted from the vessel and were carted 'round to the West Street Wharf in Port Colborne where SHELTER BAY was lying. During the summer of 1966, the boilers were installed in SHELTER BAY and she has operated with them ever since. Q & O, however, might better have searched elsewhere for boilers rather than taking third-hand equipment for the conversion. In recent years, SHELTER BAY has been plagued with boiler problems and a particularly nasty spate of difficulties during 1977 threatened to send the boat to the scrapyard. She was reactivated in 1978 for one further year of operation but continued struggles to keep the well-worn boilers in serviceable condition are almost certain to bring the ship to the end of her career at the close of the current navigation season.

Her boilers gone, the forlorn BAYTON lay at Ramey's Bend during the summer of 1966 alongside T.J. McCARTHY and GEORGE H. INGALLS which were being dismantled. The scrappers, however, were cheated of their prey when BAYTON was sold by Marine Salvage for use as a breakwater on Lake Michigan. The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was in the course of developing a new plant and ore-unloading facility on the lower west side of the lake, the new port being christened Burns Harbor. It was decided that several old hulls should be obtained to provide shelter at the new harbour and BAYTON was one of the vessels selected for the purpose. She was towed out of Ramey's Bend on September 9, 1966, and was taken to her final resting place where, in due course, she was sunk in position.

The elements were not long in taking advantage of the chance to make up for their lack of success 47 years earlier. The old hull was unable to withstand the strain of repeated batterings and, during the 1967 season, it broke into two sections. Notwithstanding this damage, BAYTON's last remains still lie at Burns Harbor and it seems likely that they will remain there for many years to come.

Shipwatchers, being the nostalgic sort that they usually are, had expressed sincere regrets back in 1965 when BAYTON was retired from service, much as they have done when other historic vessels have been withdrawn. They did not, however, kick up as much of a fuss on that occasion as on others, for it was almost universally acknowledged that the poor old BAYTON had lived a full, long life and that no operator with any sense at all could possibly consider the steamer to be worth the serious kind of money that would have had to be invested in her to keep her in service. BAYTON had been a credit to her builders and we were extremely lucky that she had survived her encounter with Pancake Shoal back in 1920 so that we might have the chance to see her in action in later years.

Additional Marine News

Scott Misener Steamships Ltd., St. Catharines, has been reorganized as Misener Transportation Ltd. and will reportedly branch into other lines of transportation in addition to its present lake shipping activities.

PIC RIVER, presently lying at Strathearne Terminals, Hamilton, has been renamed PIC R. and her stack has been painted black. It seems likely that the name PIC RIVER will be used by Q & O for another vessel of the fleet, possibly one of the former Hindman steamers. In the St. Catharines Standard of October 28th, Q & O announced that it was intending to retire four ships, of which two would be PIC RIVER and BLACK RIVER. A guess that the other two might be HERON BAY and SHELTER BAY would not be far wrong. As we go to press, HERON BAY is en route to Port Cartier with a cargo of grain, and from there she will proceed to Quebec City where she will lay up, her certificate having expired. At the present time, BLACK RIVER and SHELTER BAY are still operating and it is assumed that they will finish out the season before being withdrawn from service.

Meanwhile, the Q & O motorship FRANQUELIN, which grounded below Beauharnois on September 26 and was subsequently taken to Canadian Vickers at Montreal for repairs, is caught in the yard due to labour problems. We understand that Q & O has chartered other tonnage to take her place until she can be extricated from her predicament.

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Scanner, v. 11, n. 2 (November 1978)


Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; Stormy Vessel Passages; Collision In The Huron Cut; Additional Marine News