The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 11, n. 8 (May 1979)
Scanner (Toronto, ON), May 1979

Bascom, John N., Editor
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Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; Lakehead Navigation Season Opens; Montreal - Fort William Freight Service; Deep-sea Passenger Ship News; John Pratt, Revisited; Additional Marine News
Date of Publication:
May 1979
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Toronto Marine Historical Society
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Our May Dinner Meeting is the last meeting of our 1978-79 season. We will not be holding formal meetings during the summer months but we will have our usual gatherings in spots such as the Welland Canal, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, etc. Our next regular meeting will be held on Friday, October 5th, our annual autumn open slide night.

The Editor's Notebook

The April meeting was a resounding success even though those present suffered through the attempts of Ye Ed. to chair the meeting during the absence of our president. The address by Lorne Joyce on the Lloyd Tankers fleet was most interesting and his approach was, as usual, spellbinding. We sincerely thank Lorne for being our April speaker.

The May Dinner Meeting will be over by the time you read these words, so we feel it appropriate at this time also to thank Alan Howard for graciously accepting our invitation to speak at this special occasion.

Present plans call for the Mid-Summer issue to be ready for distribution during August. This will give Ye Ed. a much-needed rest and will allow him to pry his fingers off the typewriter keys and attend to other matters. Even though we will not be coming to you monthly via these pages during the summer, we hope that our regular correspondents will continue to remember us when they have some tidbit of information to pass along.

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Capt. Horace H. Thorn of Point Edward, Ontario. For many years, Capt. Thorn was master of our old friend, CEMENTKARRIER.

Trial By Lake Erie

Despite the many miracles of modern navigation which have assisted in reducing the number of marine accidents through the introduction of numerous time- and manpower-saving devices, the waters of this world continue to take their toll on our ships and crews. As far as our own Great Lakes are concerned, this toll has gradually been reduced, but we have not as yet been able to render completely safe those waters which normally present, to the professional seaman and to the yachtsman alike, such a calm face. There remain with us still three basic factors which we cannot eliminate completely from the scene, these being human error, mechanical failure, and the unpredictability of these waters which we believe we know so well.

As cases in point, we should not forget the loss by foundering on Lake Superior on May 20, 1953, of the steamer HENRY STEINBRENNER (I); the sinking by collision on Lake Superior of SCOTIADOC on June 21, 1953; the stranding near Marquette, on September 12th of the same year, of the Bethlehem steamer MARYLAND; the 1954 loss by collision in Lake Michigan off Milwaukee of the Oranje Lijn motorvessel PRINS WILLEM V (I); the foundering on November 18, 1958, of the self-unloader CARL D. BRADLEY (II) in Lake Michigan; the loss by collision, on May 7, 1965, of the self-unloader CEDARVILLE in the Straits of Mackinac; the foundering on November 29, 1966, in Lake Huron, of the Bethlehem steamer DANIEL J. MORRELL and the retirement and eventual loss on salt water of her sistership EDWARD Y. TOWNSEND as a result of hull damage sustained in the same storm; and the disappearance in eastern Lake Superior, on November 10, 1975, with all hands, of the Columbia Transportation steamer EDMUND FITZGERALD.

These tragedies, plus others of a less severe nature, bring sharply to our attention the fact that we may never take the Great Lakes for granted, nor feel complacent about our relationship with these familiar waters. If we have ever been faced with such complacency, it has been at least temporarily banished by these well-known accidents and should once again have been chased from our minds by the near-loss of the Canadian motorship LABRADOC (II) on Lake Erie in the major windstorm of April 6th, 1979.

LABRADOC (II) was the fifth of eight combination lake and coastal carriers built in the sixties and seventies by Canadian shipyards for the Thunder Bay firm of N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. She was constructed as Hull 656 of Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. at Lauzon, Quebec, and was commissioned in 1966, as was her sistership, PRINDOC (III). Powered by two twelve-cylinder Fairbanks Morse diesels, she measures 299.0 (315.0 overall) x 49.0 x 26.5, 3610 Gross and 2239 Net. LABRADOC is a stemwinder, equipped with four large hatches and fitted with two sets of kingposts and cargo booms. She has operated in both lake and coastal service, and her career has been generally uneventful until this spring.

LABRADOC spent Thursday, April 5, 1979, lying at the Pillsbury elevator at Huron, Ohio, where she loaded a cargo of approximately 160,000 bushels of corn which she was to deliver to Cardinal, Ontario. Despite the forecast of severe winds and the posting of warnings, LABRADOC, under the command of Captain Ray Chambers, sailed from Huron in the late evening of Thursday.

The ship made her way down Lake Erie en route to Port Colborne and, by 3:15 a.m. on Friday, April 6, she was in a position some 25 miles north of Fairport and about 30 miles northwest of Ashtabula. It was about this time, as she was battling her way through heavy seas, that her cargo began to shift and she soon took on a list of about 25 degrees to port. In this condition, her port rails were under water and the seas breaking over her began to pound even harder upon her big hatches.

Capt. Chambers immediately roused all members of the crew and sent out radio calls for assistance. He received the same from the Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. bulk carrier CANADIAN MARINER which was in the immediate vicinity and which took up a position to windward of LABRADOC so as to provide some shelter for the smaller vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard tender MARIPOSA was sent to the scene from Detroit, but she could not reach the area for some few hours and then could do little in the heavy seas that were running. The U.S.C.G. also sent a rescue boat from Ashtabula, but the large swells and heavy accumulations of ice on the boat forced it to turn back and four of its crew required treatment for exposure upon their return. The Canadian Coast Guard dispatched its icebreaker GRIFFON from Port Colborne, but the storm had packed the lake ice into the eastern end of Lake Erie and, after she had made only two miles headway in six hours, GRIFFON was ordered to return to her berth. Canadian and U.S. rescue helicopters were dispatched to the scene as well.

The crew stayed aboard LABRADOC through Friday morning in the hope that the vessel might be saved, but by noon it had become apparent that her condition was worsening in the continuing windstorm. Fifteen members of the crew were removed then but the master and four others remained aboard until about 3:30 p.m. when they, also, were forced to abandon their efforts to save the ship. All of the crew members were removed by Air National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and were taken to the Cleveland area where two were treated for minor injuries.

With her crew having abandoned her, LABRADOC was pretty well given up for lost and, indeed, several radio newscasts contained the information that she had foundered. The ship, however, was not about to give up as easily as that and she continued to fight the storm, even without human assistance. During Saturday, April 7th, the McQueen Marine Ltd. tug ATOMIC, which had been sent from Amherstburg, managed to get a line aboard LABRADOC and began the long tow to the shelter of Point Pelee. She was assisted in her efforts by the tug GLENBROOK.

LABRADOC eventually grounded between Pelee Island and Point Pelee and, with the help of the tugs MALCOLM and BARBARA ANN, she was safely secured in sheltered waters. McQueen Marine wrecking equipment was summoned to the scene and, in due course, the vessel's list was corrected and she was brought back to a proper trim. Eventually, she was made ready to sail and was floated free of the shoal water. She was finally given Coast Guard permission to continue her interrupted voyage.

LABRADOC passed down the Welland Canal under her own power on Thursday, April 19th, two weeks to the day from the beginning of what had almost proven to be her last voyage. She was taken down as far as Port Weller and there she was placed on the drydock for full inspection and for the repair of any damage suffered during her escapade on Lake Erie. She was expected to remain on the dock for at least three weeks, there being considerable work to be done on her bottom on the port side where she had pounded on the lake floor whilst grounded.

Seldom do we ever see a ship in such dire straits live to sail another day. It is a credit to the builders and crew of LABRADOC that she survived her ordeal. But let her near-loss serve as yet another reminder that our Great Lakes are not millponds, and that they deserve considerable respect and caution from those who come in contact with them. Even Lake Erie can be a power with which to be reckoned.

Lakehead Navigation Season Opens

The first steamship to arrive in Port Arthur this season was the Northern Navigation Company's HURONIC, which docked April 24 at 8:34 a.m., and the first at Fort William was the Great Lakes Transportation Company's GLENORCHY, which docked on the same day at 9 a.m. Captains Wright and Burke, of the respective ships, were given the customary hat by port authorities.

--- Canadian Railway and Marine World, June 1924.

Marine News

The Paterson motorvessel LABRADOC was not the only laker to be affected by the severe windstorm which swept across the Great Lakes on April 5 and 6. On the evening of the 5th, the Westdale Shipping Ltd. self-unloader SILVERDALE left Toronto bound for Clarkson on her first trip of the season. The storm caught her as she was nearing her destination and what should have been a short trip turned into something much more lengthy. On five occasions, she fell into the trough of the seas and she was not brought under full control until she had been blown all the way down the lake to the area of the Main Duck Islands. She was eventually taken into shelter in the Kingston area.

Another victim was the former Inland Steel Company bulk carrier CLARENCE B. RANDALL which has been lying idle at Milwaukee and awaiting scrapping. She parted her mooring lines in the wind on the evening of April 5 and somehow managed to get herself wedged between docks. Come the following morning, the tugs JOHN PURVES and ARUNDEL were still trying to get her back to her berth. Although her peregrinations took her quite close to several vessels which were in the course of fitting out for the new navigation season, we know of no damage having been inflicted on any of the nearby lakers. There is no indication as to when RANDALL will be scrapped.

Yet another victim of the big wind was the Hall Corporation self-unloader HALLFAX, which had wintered at Prescott and was attempting to clear that port at the beginning of her first trip of the season on April 6th. As she backed out of the Prescott slip, she was caught in the wind and, as her new master attempted to bring her under control, she allegedly made two complete revolutions in the river. She was then blown stern-first against the north abutment of the Prescott - Ogdensburg highway bridge and succeeded in putting a large crease in her stern plating. By this time, the ship was totally out of control and she passed downriver under the north span of the bridge, completely out of the designated shipping channel. Once she was below the bridge, her crew managed to regain control of the ship but, by that time, she had insufficient room to permit any attempt to turn the boat and head her back upriver. As a result, she had to be taken down through the Iroquois Lock and then turned and brought back up again. On the upbound trip, she managed to avoid the bridge but, in attempting to make the slip from which she had departed only a short time previously (although it must have seemed like ages to her master), she fouled a marker buoy and hit the end of the pier a good wallop. We understand that, discretion being the better part of valour, the ship was put back in her lay-up berth while all involved heaved a sigh of relief, tried to figure out what had happened, and made arrangements for the repair of the damage suffered by HALLFAX.

Toronto Harbour was officially opened for the 1979 navigation season on April 6th with the arrival of the tanker TEXACO WARRIOR which had wintered at Montreal. The first salt water vessel to enter the port was the Christensen Canadian African Lines' motorship THORSCAPE, which arrived on April 8th. The first complete upbound transit of the Welland Canal was accomplished on March 28 by H. M. GRIFFITH, while the initial complete downbound passage came on March 29 with TADOUSSAC.

The Q & O steamer MELDRUM BAY, the former GEORGE HINDMAN (IV), arrived at Toronto on April 10 with the grain cargo that she had not been able to deliver last autumn. She had wintered at Humberstone. Unfortunately, her first trip under her new name was not particularly auspicious. She suffered from boiler problems en route (much the same problem as that suffered in 1978 by her sistership, HOCHELAGA) and spent a week at Toronto undergoing repairs. We understand that her owner gave some consideration to the possibility of repowering MELDRUM BAY instead of repairing the burned-out boiler.

MELDRUM BAY was not the only Q & O vessel to begin the 1979 navigation season with problems. BLANCHE HINDMAN (she had not as yet had her new name, LAC STE. ANNE, painted on her) went through a particularly lengthy fit-out at Toronto. It seems that proper attention was not paid last autumn to the draining of her bilge piping when she went into winter quarters. As a result of damage due to freezing, much replacement has been necessary.

The retired Q & O steamer HERON BAY, her name now abbreviated to HERON B., wintered at Quebec City, presumably in preparation for an eventual tow to a foreign scrapyard. We understand that, early in the spring, she was taken over to the Davie shipyard at Lauzon and there was cannibalized for parts. Much of her equipment has apparently been salvaged for further use on the barges owned by Techno-Maritime Ltee. Meanwhile, LEADALE is also languishing in the Quebec City area, having been towed there during 1978. She is resting at a berth in the St. Charles River and is owned by a representative (that Mr. Richardson whom we mentioned in an earlier report) of United Metals, Hamilton, the firm that operates the scrapyard at Strathearne Terminals. It seems evident that an overseas buyer for LEADALE is being sought.

The 83-year-old BLACK RIVER was placed in commission this spring by the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. despite earlier rumours to the contrary. She left Toronto on her first trip of the season on April 11 and proceeded to Sorel where she loaded pig iron for Cleveland. We are told that BLACK RIVER's certificate expires on July 17, 1979; we have no idea whether Q & O will give the historic vessel her necessary drydocking or whether they may simply try to obtain an extension until the end of the season. It is entirely possible, of course, that she may simply be withdrawn from service in mid-season, but we hope that this will not be the case.

Last month, we speculated that Westdale Shipping Ltd. might well be seeking the services of Canada Steamship Lines' self-unloader HOCHELAGA to replace its retired FERNDALE (II). We now learn that HOCHELAGA is presently operating under charter to Westdale with a C.S.L. crew aboard. We presume that this arrangement will continue until Westdale can actually purchase another boat (or HOCHELAGA herself) for its fleet.

The former Paterson canaller MONDOC (III) was, as previously mentioned, sold for off-lakes service around the beginning of the new year. It seems that her Canadian registry was closed on January 18th but we have yet to identify her Jamaican purchasers or learn of any new name which might have been given to her. MONDOC had been removed from the lakes prior to the close of the 1978 season so that a buyer might be found for her while she was on salt water.

We had earlier speculated on the possibilities of further service for the Kinsman steamer KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, concluding that her future did not seem to be very bright. We have since learned that neither ENTERPRISE nor her sistership, HENRY STEINBRENNER (III), will be placed in service this year. The only good news is that neither ship has been sold for scrapping or otherwise and, for the present, they will be held in reserve. These very handsome boats measure 587.1 x 58.3 x 27.7, tonnages being 7658 Gross and 6415 Net for the HENRY and 7692 Gross, 6449 Net for the ENTERPRISE. Both have served only one other operator and were "tinstackers" until their sale to Kinsman in 1965. KINSMAN ENTERPRISE was built in 1906 as NORMAN B. REAM, Hull 70 of the Chicago Shipbuilding Company, while HENRY STEINBRENNER made her appearance in 1907 as GEORGE F. BAKER, Hull 518 of the Superior Shipbuilding Company, West Superior, Wisconsin. These two steamers, along with the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company's HERON BAY (II), the former J. PIERPONT MORGAN, which also was retired near the close of the 1978 season, were the last active members of a once-large group of "beatle-browed" tinstackers. Apart from WIARTON (THOMAS LYNCH), used as a wharf at Hamilton, the only other surviving member of the class is U.S. Steel's PETER A. B. WIDENER which is idle at Duluth and has not operated since 1974.

Visitors to the Welland Canal this spring will, once again, be treated to an extended exposure to the scenic beauty of the tug PRESQUE ISLE. The tug and her barge wintered at Milwaukee, but the tug arrived at Port Weller in late April for the replacement of an engine, a job expected to take about one month. PRESQUE ISLE's bridgewings, which are too wide to allow her to pass through the canal locks, were cut off at Milwaukee on April 4, just as they were back in 1977 when she spent the better part of the summer at Port Weller. Her earlier incarceration was also a result of engine problems.

There has been some considerable confusion over the circumstances of the scrap tow of BAFFIN TRANSPORT and whether or not the 23-year-old tanker arrived safely at her destination, all this due to reports that she had broken tow in mid-voyage. BAFFIN TRANSPORT was downbound at Quebec City on November 11, 1978 in tow of the tug OCEAN CROWN, an assist being rendered in the St. Lawrence River by YVON SIMARD. She was duly taken southwards by the deep-sea tug but, on December 11th, she was reported to have broken free from the tug in a position 22.27 N., 92.49 W., in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico, only a short distance from her intended destination, the Mexican port of Tuxpan which is located about midway between Tampico and Veracruz. BAFFIN TRANSPORT was subsequently recovered and the tow resumed, the tanker being safely berthed at Tuxpan on December 19. Her purchaser has been identified as Navieros de Tuxpan S.A. and the sale is said to have been completed on August 25, 1978.

Last issue, we mentioned again the problems facing the Straits of Mackinac steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM. We are pleased to report that the CHIEF was granted a further extension of one year of continued operation, but it presently seems unlikely that she will last out this period, at least not in her present shape. Her operator is considering conversion to a tug/barge operation in October, and it has not been specified whether CHIEF WAWATAM herself will become the barge or whether other tonnage will be used.

One of the salt water vessels which has been a familiar visitor to the lakes for many years has been lost and will no more be seen in these waters. On January 20, 1979, while bound from Montreal to Antwerp, the Polish Ocean Lines motorvessel ZAMOSC was in collision with the Japanese vessel JINEI MARU on the River Scheldt. Severely damaged, ZAMOSC was beached in a position 51.22 N., 03.46 E., near Terneuzen, the Netherlands. Soon after she was run aground, ZAMOSC heeled over onto her side and settled in the sand. It seems apparent that she is considered to be a constructive total loss. ZAMOSC was one of a group of four Polish vessels which have traded into the lakes for a decade, her sisters being ZABRZE, ZAKOPANE and ZAWIERCIE. These four ships were of somewhat unusual appearance, their stacks being perhaps their most notable feature. ZAMOSC measured 401'11" x 58'1" x 34'2", 6581 Gross, 3549 Net, and was built in 1969 by Stocznia Szczecinska at Szczecin, Poland.

Two more of the Ellerman Lines Ltd. vessels which have traded into the lakes have now been sold out of the fleet, both to owners with addresses in Cyprus. The 6977-ton CITY OF DUNDEE has been purchased by the Dundee Maritime Company Ltd. and renamed DUNDEE, while the 7012-ton CITY OF LICHFIELD has gone to the Serenity Maritime Company Ltd. as LEEDS. Both vessels were built in 1961. Judging from the names of the new owners and the renames chosen for the ships, we wonder whether there may still be some British money in these two handsome boats.

When the Columbia fleet laid its steamer MIDDLETOWN up at Lorain last fall, it was with the intention that she be drydocked at the AmShip yard. This did not come to pass because of the continued AmShip strike, and MIDDLETOWN was accordingly towed into Port Colborne in early April for the necessary work. It is now rumoured that Columbia may send its idle THOMAS WILSON to Port Weller for the rather extensive repairs which she requires.

Vessel Passages

There are certain amongst us who are so involved in this fascinating hobby of ours that we are drawn back each year to a particular place to do our boatwatching or our marine photography. Ye Ed. and various others return again and again to Sault Ste. Marie, there to endure downpours of rain, numbing cold, excessive heat, sitting day after day in a car in a parking lot near the St. Mary's River or doing battle with leaky boats and uncooperative motors, and playing hide-and-seek with miniature tsunamis otherwise known as cruiser wakes, all this in addition to the more enjoyable aspects of ship photography whether done from ashore or from a small boat. But we usually consider that it is all worthwhile, for nowhere else on the lakes is photography so good or the passing lakers so numerous.

Those intending to head up to the Soo this summer might wish to cast their eyes over the following, an excerpt from the vessel passage column which appeared in The Evening Telegram, Toronto, on Monday, August 25, 1947. It gives some indication of what the vessel traffic was like in the immediate post-war years and should evoke a few good groans from those who will wish that they could have been at Little Rapids Cut with a camera.

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.



August 25, Upbound: ALGOWAY, BEAUMONT PARKS, 2:30 a.m.; LEHIGH, 3:30; JOHN C. WILLIAMS, 4; GEORGE W. PERKINS, 5:30; SASKADOC, 6.


Of particular interest in these passages is the mention of no less than eight steamer and barge combinations, something we have not seen on the lakes for many years.

We would also note that only twelve of the ships named herein were still operating in 1978 under the same name AND for the same owner (or affiliate thereof). Let's see how many of our readers can spot them. Remember that the ships must have been in active service in 1978.

Montreal - Fort William Freight Service

The Montreal and Lake Superior Line, which heretofore operated six steamers, viz.: A. E. AMES, J. H. PLUMMER and H. M. PELLATT of the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Company; WAHCONDAH and NEEPAWAH, owned by R. O. and A. B. Mackay interests, Hamilton, and the Fairgrieve steamer ARABIAN, under the joint management of F. Plummer, A. B. Mackay and J. B. Fairgrieve, has been dissolved.

NEVADA was one of three British steamers acquired in 1907 by the Canadian Lake Line. This 1909 Young photo shows her downbound at the Soo.The Canadian Lake Line has been formed to commence operations on the opening of navigation. The fleet will be composed of the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Company's steamers A. E. AMES, H. M. PELLATT and J. H. PLUMMER, Capt. J. B. Fairgrieve's steamship ARABIAN, and three steel package freight steamships, the MORENA, CORUNNA and NEVADA, which have been purchased in Great Britain by C. H. F. Plummer. These recently acquired vessels, which were built in 1890, are each 1249 tons gross, 768 net register, classed 100 Al; length, 232 feet; breadth, 34 feet; depth 18 3/4 feet molded; cubic capacity, 84,950 cubic feet, carrying 1,378 tons deadweight inclusive of 150 tons in bunkers, on 13 feet draft, steaming 10 knots on a consumption of 11 tons of coal per day.

They are lofty between decks, have three hatchways, fitted with triple (expansion) engines, h.p. nominal 99, cylinders 17 1/2, 26 1/2 and 44 inches diameter, 30 inch stroke, one tubular boiler, working pressure 160 lbs; water ballast in double bottoms and peaks; three steam winches, steam steering gear, one deck steel, and complete awning deck.

The Canadian Lake Line, with its seven steamships, will give a regular semi-weekly service between Montreal, Prescott, Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, Cleveland, Windsor, Walkerville, Courtright, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, Port Arthur and Fort William. It will be under the general management of F. Plummer, Toronto, with the following staff: traffic manager, H. Young, Toronto; general agent, J. Brown, Montreal; soliciting freight agent, Montreal, J. Nelligan; agent, Toronto, W. H. Hickey; agent, Hamilton, E. Jordan; agent, Cleveland, Ohio, C. C. Phillpott; agent, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, G. A. Boyd; general agent, Port Arthur and Fort William, J. J. O'Connor; with general agents at each of the twin ports; general agent, Winnipeg, J. McLerie. The Michigan Central Railroad agent will represent the line at Courtright, Ontario, the Wabash Railroad agent at Windsor, and the Pere Marquette Railroad agent at Sarnia.

Upbound at Little Rapids Cut in a photo by Young, H. M. PELLATT sports her newly-acquired Canadian Lake Line colours in the spring of 1907. Another line will also give a semi-weekly service between Montreal and Fort William, the fleet comprising the Mackay steamships WAHCONDAH and NEEPAWAH, the Montreal and Great Lakes Steamship Company's BICKERDIKE, the Montreal Transportation Company's ADVANCE, the Mathews Steamship Company's HADDINGTON and EDMONTON, and the ROSEDALE, which has been bought from the St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Company by a syndicate of Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton people, including R. O. and A. B. Mackay.

These vessels will be operated as the Merchants and Montreal - Lake Superior Line, the intermediate ports of call being Toronto, Hamilton, Cleveland, Windsor, Walkerville, Courtright, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Arthur. G. E. Jaques and Company, Montreal, have been appointed general eastern agents, and will have charge of Montreal and Toronto traffic, G. Sommerville being general agent at Toronto, and T. Burke, soliciting freight agent. R. O. and A. B. Mackay, Hamilton, will be general western agents in charge of Hamilton district, southern Ontario, lines of Wabash, Michigan Central, and Pere Marquette Railroads at Detroit and St. Clair River ports. H. W. Cowan, formerly with the old Montreal and Lake Superior Line, will be engaged with R.O. and A. B. Mackay.

(Ed. Note: In case anyone is curious, the above was taken from the April, 1907, issue of The Railway and Marine World. How times have changed!)

Ship of the Month No. 84

"The Weedcutter"

by Captain John Leonard (with additions by the Editor)

Of all of the odd types of ships that this writer recalls seeing during his time, one of the most curious was a steam-powered weed-cutting boat which was owned and operated by the Parks Department of the City of Toronto during the first half of the present century. To the best of the writer's knowledge, this vessel was never registered with the Department of Transport and, therefore, did not have an official name or number. The boat was used to cut the marine weeds that grew (and still grow) in profusion in the many lagoons about the Toronto Islands. Many visitors to the Islands saw her and wondered about the strange-looking little sternwheeler that ran up and down the lagoons. They would have been surprised to learn what an historic craft she really was.

"Weedcutter", with Bob Kenmore steering and Joe Farrell tending the boiler, works on Long Pond, Centre Island, in this photo courtesy Capt. J. Leonard."The Weedcutter", as it was commonly known by the Island residents, was built in Scotland in the early years of the century. It seems that weed-cutting boats had been invented and constructed by Scots shipbuilders for use on some of the great rivers of the world, such as the Nile, Ganges, etc., and it was to them that the City of Toronto commissioners turned for their weedcutter when it became evident that such an animal was needed if the residents of the city and the islands were to get the greatest possible use and enjoyment out of their island facilities. The boat was shipped "knockdown" to Toronto and there was assembled. Her builders and the assemblers in Toronto did a good job, for she was destined to serve for some fifty years.

Because she was never registered, no details of her dimensions are available. To the writer's knowledge, however, she was about thirty-five feet long, ten to twelve feet beam, and drew about two and a half feet of water. She was powered by a small high-pressure single cylinder marine engine about 4" by 6". This engine drove a stern paddlewheel by means of a shaft and bevel gears. The sternwheel was about five feet in diameter and hinged on the stern so that it could also be used as a rudder. Steam was supplied by a Scotch marine boiler which was located forward of the engine. The size, horsepower, and working pressure of the boiler and engine cannot be ascertained.

Another shaft, which was used to drive the cutting knives, ran on bearings overtop of the engine drive shaft. This was operated off the main shaft by means of a belt clutch which could be disengaged when the "cutter" was not cutting weeds. This would be, for example, at times when the crew was going to the intended work site or coming home. The "cutter" did not cut the weeds under water like a mowing machine, but rather with a scythe-like motion. The drive motion for the cutting knives was unique.

Keyed on the drive shaft was a double-flanged wheel, something like a railroad car wheel, only smaller and having a flange on both rims. This wheel was "bent" so that it ran lopsided. It looked peculiar but, of course, the "bend" had been carefully calculated earlier on the drafting board. The port and starboard shaft ends, which connected to the cutting knives, ran in the flanges of the "bent" wheel so that, when the wheel revolved, the motion was transmitted to the cutting knives which moved under the water. The cutting of the weeds was thus accomplished with a lateral motion.

The knives were actually pieces of steel, bolted onto a frame and sharpened on the forward side. These knives could be raised out of the water by means of a lever so that they could be sharpened; the lever was also notched so that the knives could be lowered to various depths in the lagoons. When the chopped weeds floated to the surface, they were picked up by a gang of men on a scow, which came along a few days later. The men used pike poles and rakes to "harvest" the weeds and, when the scow was loaded, they took it to a remote place on the island where the rotting weeds were used as landfill.

The Weedcutter's life was uneventful. Sometime during the mid-twenties, a passing speedboat swamped her and she sank but, fortunately, there were no casualties. She was soon raised and was then equipped with a bulwark which ran around her to raise her sides and prevent further occurrences of a similar nature. The sudden immersion, however, had done her old Scotch boiler no good and, accordingly, it was replaced with a new boiler which was supplied by H. W. Petrie Ltd. of Toronto, and which, as we remember, carried about 125 p.s.i.

About 1934, the Weedcutter went to Hamilton, ignominiously towed there and back by a gasoline tug, in order to cut the weeds and clear out a regatta course for racing shells. The Hamilton newspapers made quite a fuss about this odd little boat from Toronto, and they dubbed her "Little Mississippi" because of her stern paddlewheel.

The Weedcutter was operated by two kindly "ancient mariners". Bob Kenmore, who ran the engine, also did the steering and looked after his machinery. Joe Farrell fired the boiler, looked after the water, and was lookout and deckhand. The islanders called them "Captain" Kenmore and "First Mate" Farrell. The Weedcutter ran from May through September and, after lay-up in the autumn, Bob would go to Maple Leaf Gardens where he served as engineer. Joe Farrell looked after one of the many skating rinks operated by the Parks Department in the city.

Woe betide any unsuspecting yachtsman who let his craft get in the way of the Weedcutter, for he would soon be cast adrift by the sharp cutting knives which neatly sliced through anchor ropes. More than once, the writer was able to make a few dollars by diving for some luckless yachtsman's "lost" anchor.

The Weedcutter may have been an interesting piece of machinery, but she was hardly the most handsome vessel on Toronto Bay. The piece de resistance was her stack, which normally was quite battered. Indeed, it sometimes assumed a forward rake. This was due to the fact that it frequently collided with many of the low bridges spanning the lagoons when the overzealous operators tried to chop weeds too close in to the bank.

Sometime during the forties, both Bob and Joe passed away and there remained none to give the boat the tender loving care which they had lavished upon her to keep her in working condition. Typical of government agencies, the Parks Department attempted to operate the old boat with only one man; this was an austerity move designed solely for budgetary considerations. It failed, however, for one man did not have the interest or the ability of his two predecessors and the Weedcutter was denied the repairs that were needed to keep her in the pink, as it were.

And, finally, there came the day when some official at City Hall decided that it was no longer necessary to cut the weeds in the lagoons. It was said that fast speedboats with gasoline engines would chew the weeds up anyway and that the city would be saved the time and expense of cutting them. The old boat ran into the early fifties, but by mid-decade she was considered obsolete. She was hauled up on the south shore of Meade's Island (or, as it was commonly called, Island Park itself) just east of the Manitou Road bridge; this was where the Parks Department's "wharf" was located and where the garbage boat CHIQUITA was moored when she was not in use. Ye Ed. recalls Saturday morning trips by motorboat to Centre Island to do the shopping and, passing by in the lagoon, he saw the last remains of the Weedcutter as they were cut up for scrap, or for fill, or whatever. This would have been about 1954 or 1955.

She is gone now, but the writer will always have a soft spot in his heart and a fond remembrance of this unique vessel and her kindly crew. A strange thing she may have been, but she made her special way into the hearts of the islanders. Today, the Island park is administered by the Parks Department of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, and the lagoon weeds are never cut. They thrive and are fruitful, and there are times when it is difficult to push even a canoe through them. Would that we still had the old Weedcutter to do her thing with them, and to put on a good show for the residents and visitors alike at the same time.

(Ed. Note: Ye Ed. can recall when, as a little kid, he would stand on the bank of the lagoon behind his island home, watching in awe as this strange craft made its way eastwards toward the Algonquin Bridge and then back again to the west. He had always hoped to be able to write something about the Weedcutter, but the information simply was not available.

The original of this article by Capt. Leonard appeared in the April 1977 issue of "Boiler Bulletin". We wish to express to its writer our sincere thanks for his generosity in allowing us to reproduce it here and our apologies for any changes that have crept into it. Of the latter, there were very few, for the original was written by an expert who knows whereof he speaks.)

Deep-sea Passenger Ship News

As we have explained to our readers on previous occasions, we normally report in these pages only the most important news concerning deep-sea passenger vessels. The reason for this is that we do not always have ready access to the information when it is timely and, in any event, most news of this type is given far better coverage in other journals available to those who find such matters of interest. We have a difficult enough time keeping up with marine news originating on the Great Lakes! We have a special situation this time around, however, for we have news of the construction of not one but two major cruise vessels and, as this is an extremely unusual circumstance these days, we felt that we should comment for the benefit of those members who are interested in such things.

The first of the new vessels will be built for Hapag-Lloyd A.G. as a replacement for its aging but beautiful EUROPA, the former KUNGSHOLM, which was built in 1953 and acquired from Swedish American Line in 1965. The new boat will also be named EUROPA and will be built by the Bremer Vulkan shipyard for delivery in 1981. With a length overall of approximately 640 feet, her Gross tonnage will be about 27,000. She will be powered by two slow-speed reversible diesels geared to a single fixed-pitch propeller, each engine putting out 15,460 h.p. for a trial speed of 22 knots. She will have a crew of 275 and will accommodate 600 passengers in five luxury suites, 30 single and 280 double cabins.

The new EUROPA will definitely be a ship of "contemporary design". She will have twin funnels athwartship, a transom stern, a severely cut-away bow, and a superstructure resembling a modern apartment building. Aesthetically, graceful she will not be, but at least she will be another cruise vessel in service and her construction indicates that the famous German operators have no intention of relinquishing their share of the cruise traffic.

A more recent announcement came from Home Lines Inc. which has indicated that it, also, will commission a new cruise boat in 1981, presumably as an addition to the services already maintained by its OCEANIC and DORIC. No word has been released concerning the name of the ship, but we must assume that she will be named HOMERIC. The vessel, to be 672 feet in length and 90 feet in the beam, will have a Gross tonnage of 30,000 and will be built by the La Sayne Sur Mer shipyard at Toulon, France. She will have eight decks, 14 public rooms, and 516 staterooms, 369 outside and 147 inside. It is said that accommodation will include 1005 lower beds and 150 sofa beds. The vessel is to be powered by Fiat diesels.

Now, those of you who have been paying attention to the above will have noticed something very extraordinary about all of this. Both EUROPA and HOMERIC (if we may take the liberty of calling her that) will he of approximately the same size, give or take 30 feet. But EUROPA will be built to carry a comfortable load of 600 passengers while, if our addition is correct, Home Lines is intending to pack some 1,150 passengers into a boat which also will boast 14 public rooms. There is not much doubt in our mind as to which boat we would sail in should we have the choice!

It is clear that EUROPA will be designed for the longer cruises, attracting a clientele demanding of the gracious life aboard ship. HOMERIC, on the other hand, has obviously been designed for yet another quickie service out of New York to the Caribbean, the kind of run on which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the passengers from the stevedores. Would that the new Home Lines boat could be a throwback to her famous and beautiful namesake which was retired so unexpectedly some years back after having suffered fire damage.

John Pratt, Revisited

In our March issue, we commented at length on the history of the tug JOHN PRATT, (b) YOUVILLE, in response to an enquiry received from member Tom Wilson. We knew then that there was more to the story, but we could not put our hands on the necessary information at the time.

Lloyd Tankers expert Lorne Joyce has mentioned that JOHN PRATT was chartered by Lloyd Tankers Ltd. for a short period of time during the autumn of 1936 to replace the burned wooden tug MUSCALLONGE. The latter had been destroyed by a fire which started on August 15, 1936 in the big tug's galley while she was towing the oil barge BRUCE HUDSON on the St. Lawrence River near Brockville. MUSCALLONGE was beached by her captain, the famous Steve Ahern, but the fire could not be extinguished and she was totally destroyed. Thereafter, BRUCE HUDSON was normally towed either by RIVAL or ETHEL which, like MUSCALLONGE, were chartered from Sin-Mac Lines, but JOHN PRATT also was briefly used under charter for similar service.

One might wonder why JOHN PRATT was given her new name in 1957 after 46 years of service, particularly when there was no concurrent change of ownership. She was renamed YOUVILLE in an apparent attempt to erase the memory of a particularly tragic accident in which the steam tug was involved during the 1957 season. We express our thanks to Michel Vezina for sending us transcriptions of period newspaper accounts of the accident; if anything has been lost in the translation, it is due solely to the writer's poor efforts at interpreting the original material which was written in French.

On Wednesday, April 24, 1957, JOHN PRATT was making herself busy in the harbour at Montreal. Along with YVON DUPRE JR., she was assisting the Swedish freighter NYLAND when she was caught off balance in the current. Out of position while straining with the freighter's lines, she was pulled over and capsized, sinking rapidly in about forty feet of water. Drowned in the accident were her captain, 62-year-old Zotique Bibeau of Montreal, as well as her cook, a deckhand, and the wheelsman. Four other crew members were rescued; they had been out on deck at the time and were able to jump free of the tug as she was pulled over on her side.

The wreck of JOHN PRATT was immediately buoyed by the National Harbours Board tug GLENKEEN and salvage attempts were begun, for it was not anticipated that the tug had received anything but minimal damage in the accident. Nevertheless, she was lying in such a position that she was blocking access to certain wharves and numerous vessels had to he redirected to other sections of the harbour. Among those ships inconvenienced in this manner were the Cunard liners SAXONIA and IVERNIA, and the two-funnelled Canadian Pacific veteran, EMPRESS OF FRANCE, all of which had to discharge their passengers at other than their normal berths.

JOHN PRATT was dragged out of the shipping channel on May 1st in preparation for attempts to refloat her. She was subsequently raised and repaired, returning to service the same year under her new name. While the change of name may have helped others around the port to forget the events of April 24, 1957, we doubt that the four persons drowned in the accident received much solace from her owner's actions.

Additional Marine News

The testing of the Welland Canal shunters with MARINSAL continues. The most recent workout for the combination was a five-hour excursion out on Lake Ontario off the Niagara Bar on April 29. From all reports received, it would seem that operations to date have been successful.

The new Detroit firetug has been completed by Peterson Builders at Sturgeon Bay and should soon be on station. The tug, christened CURTIS RANDOLPH, was put through her trials by the shipyard in late April.

Although Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. had previously indicated that all vessels would be fitted out this spring, it seems that the 73-year-old steamer MEAFORD, (a) J. H. SHEADLE (I)(25), (b) F. A. BAILEY (30), (c) LA SALLE (66), may not operate. The veteran bulk carrier is badly in need of boiler work and, although it was originally intended to run her at least until the expiration of her certificate in mid-season, she presently remains cold at Toronto and has not been cleared for service through the Welland Canal in 1979.

Bad luck continues to dog EDWIN H. GOTT. The vessel was severely damaged during her mid-February maiden voyage from Sturgeon Bay to Two Harbors and for the following two months she lay at the latter port undergoing repair. She ventured out on the downbound leg of her inaugural trip in late April but encountered trouble in the lower harbour at the Soo when, on April 26, the supply boat OJIBWAY experienced difficulties in swinging her lift boom over the GOTT's side in order to deposit supplies on deck. To assist, GOTT was anchored and the operation was completed successfully. When the crew of the 1,000-footer attempted to raise her hooks and get underway, however, it was noted that her after chain came aboard with no anchor on the end of it. This may only have been a minor incident, but it served only to aggravate the misery of EDWIN H. GOTT's infamous entry into regular service.

During the last few months, numerous rumours have been making the rounds concerning the future of several vessels of the fleet of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. To put such rumours to rest, we can report that Bethlehem is, at present, contemplating no changes in its current fleet and that no sales, purchases, or conversions are anticipated.

As far as the Kinsman fleet is concerned, it seems that all vessels will begin operation with the exception of HENRY STEINBRENNER and KINSMAN ENTERPRISE. We might, however, pass along a word to the wise; should any of our readers happen to see any of the Kinsman boats under ideal photographic conditions in the near future, we would recommend that the opportunity not be allowed to pass by.

The brand new Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker PIERRE RADISSON was brought into the lakes this spring to assist with the opening of navigation at the Lakehead. Ice conditions were such that the ailing ALEXANDER HENRY, suffering from engine problems, was not able to cope with the situation herself.

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Scanner, v. 11, n. 8 (May 1979)

Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; Lakehead Navigation Season Opens; Montreal - Fort William Freight Service; Deep-sea Passenger Ship News; John Pratt, Revisited; Additional Marine News