Friday, December 4th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Film Night featuring four marine films, including "Shipyard" (Collingwood Shipyards), an appropriate C.P. film entitled "Alaska Diary", a C.N. film on the port of Halifax, and a 1952 film called "Antarctic Whale Hunt".
Friday, January 8th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Please note the Date. Annual Theme Slide Night. Members are invited to bring up to 20 slides each to illustrate "Highlights of a Trip Afloat". We are looking for views aboard ship rather than passing scenery.
The Editor's Notebook
If you are wondering whether you are paid up for the 1981-82 T.M.H.S. season, never fear. Only members in good standing have received this issue. If any of your friends mention that they have not received the November "Scanner", please remind them to send us their renewal. We sincerely thank all members who have continued their support of T.M.H.S. We are especially appreciative of all the kind notes that we received with your renewals and we thank you all for your words of support and encouragement.
In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Robert S. Pierson (president and founder of the Soo River Company), to Michael Andraza of Port Colborne, to Douglas W. and Warren D. Covey of Louisbourg, N.S., to Andrew LeBorde of Milwaukee, to Kenneth Davis of Don Mills, to Gerard Maheau of Port McNicoll, to W.A. Dale Wilson of Sudbury, to R.W. Morphew of Courtright, to Stanley Moore of Cardinal, to W.J. Hoy of Mississauga, to Miss M.B. Evans of Winnipeg, to Charles S. Butters of Port Colborne, to Capt. Ross M. MacDonald of Consecon, and to Capt. William Gulbronson of Nottawa.
In the October issue, we reported that MAXINE had been purchased at auction by Triad Salvage Inc., of Ashtabula, from the receivers of the defunct Wisconsin Steel Company, and that prospects for the future of the 58-year-old steamer did not appear bright. As matters have developed, however, MAXINE is now headed for a new career under the Canadian flag. Her reactivation should be reported under the heading of "good news/bad news", however, for the deal that means life for MAXINE also means the retirement of the oldest vessel presently operating in the Canadian lake fleet.
H. C. HEIMBECKER is seen upbound in the St. Mary's River above Six Mile Point on July 15, 1981. Photo by the Editor. Triad has arranged to send MAXINE to the Soo River Company in a straight exchange for its 76-year-old H. C. HEIMBECKER. The latter steamer was due for drydocking during October for her quadrennial survey and inspection, but it was thought that the cost of docking her and attending to known repairs (not to mention other work that might be required once her bottom could be inspected) would be prohibitive. Accordingly, HEIMBECKER will take MAXINE's place in Triad's scrapping berth. HEIMBECKER was at Owen Sound during the last week of October, unloading her last cargo (grain from Thunder Bay), following which she proceeded slowly (due to boiler problems) under her own power to Ashtabula. At Owen Sound (the port which, coincidentally, she had officially "opened" on May 4, 1981), she was stripped of considerable equipment of a salvageable nature.
MAXINE was originally scheduled to be drydocked at South Chicago this autumn so that she could enter service immediately but, with the AmShip yard there now closed, she will remain at South Chicago until the spring of 1982, at which time she will be taken to Port Colborne for fitting out in Soo River Company colours. MAXINE is to be renamed (d) J. F. VAUGHAN for her new duties .
Meanwhile, many a shipping enthusiast will shed a tear over the retirement of H. C. HEIMBECKER. An extremely handsome ship which looked superb in Soo River livery, she was one of four near-sisterships which were originally built for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. (She outlived the others by a wide margin as respects operating life, but WILLIAM E. COREY, (b) RIDGETOWN), still lies off Port Credit harbour as a breakwater. The other two were sold for scrap several years ago and one of these, MICHIPICOTEN, foundered in the North Atlantic.) She was in the Pittsburgh fleet, although latterly in layup, as (a) GEORGE W. PERKINS until sold in 1964 to the Reoch interests and renamed (b) WESTDALE (II). She passed to the Soo River Company in 1977 and has run as (c) H. C. HEIMBECKER ever since, mainly in the grain trade to Goderich and the Bay Ports. Her long life has proved to be a tribute to the quality of workmanship put into her by the crews of the Superior Shipbuilding Company, which built her at Superior, Wisconsin, in 1905 as the yard's Hull 512.
Photo by Wm. Rhinehart, courtesy Richard F. Palmer, shows how close inshore JEAN PARISIEN was after her October 10 grounding on Stony Crest in the American Narrows of the St. Lawrence River. In the dawn hours of Saturday, October 10, there occurred yet another in a recent series of accidents in the American Narrows section of the upper St. Lawrence River, this one coming very close to being the undoing of one of our newer lakers. The C.S.L. self-unloader JEAN PARISIEN was downbound with a cargo of Lake Erie coal for Quebec City when, about 6:15 a.m., in a heavy fog, she struck Comfort Island, bounced off, and then went hard aground on the rocks of Stony Crest (Jewel Island), just off Alexandria Bay, New York. With considerable hull damage, the PARISIEN took on water and soon acquired a sharp list to port. With the exception of the captain and four other men, the crew was removed from the ship. With authorities fearing a result of the type suffered some years ago by the Algoma self-unloader ROY A. JODREY in the same general area, the river was closed to traffic. JEAN PARISIEN was refloated during the afternoon of October 11 by the tugs DANIEL McALLISTER, ROBINSON BAY and CHRISTINE E. and, with the ship at anchor near Clayton, N.Y., for inspection of damage and temporary repairs, vessel traffic was permitted to resume. JEAN PARISIEN was taken to the Canadian Vickers shipyard at Montreal for repairs and was still there at the time of this writing.
Interestingly enough, another of Canada Steamship Lines' self-unloaders was involved in a grounding the the upper St. Lawrence River just a few days subsequent to the JEAN PARISIEN incident. At 2:23 p.m. on October 14, while passing Dark Island, between the American Narrows and Brockville, LOUIS R. DESMARAIS managed to touch the river bottom. Apparently, damage was not especially serious and, about five hours after the accident, the DESMARAIS was able to continue her voyage to Hamilton where she unloaded her cargo of iron ore.
The Johnstone Shipping Ltd. self-unloader CONALLISON, (a) FRANK C. BALL (30), (b) J. R. SENSIBAR (81), arrived at Toronto on August 21 for what observers had expected to be repairs to her recalcitrant unloading equipment. (She had taken 8 1/2 days to unload her last coal cargo at Quebec.) Little work was done, however, and, with the ship up for sale, her lay-up had every sign of becoming a long-term proposition. Nevertheless, CONALLISON did clear Toronto on October 17. bound for Port Colborne to load stone for Cleveland. She was chartered for the remainder of the season to Westdale Shipping Ltd. as a replacement for Dale's steamer ERINDALE which sustained rather extensive bow damage in an encounter on October 6 with the east abutment of the Allanburg Bridge as a result of a steering failure which occurred while she was downbound with corn for Cardinal. ERINDALE arrived at Pier 27, Toronto, on October 12 and promptly went into a premature winter lay-up; it is not yet known whether repairs will be put in hand during the winter or whether ERINDALE will be retired. CONALLISON, as a temporary replacement, has proved to be less than adequate due to the hopeless condition of her unloading gear. At the time of this writing, she was still operating but it was expected that her charter would soon be cancelled and the ship returned to lay-up at Toronto. CONALLISON is still for sale and her future can best be described as uncertain. Meanwhile, to maintain its cargo commitments, Westdale has renewed its charter of C.S.L.'s HOCHELAGA and this steamer has been reactivated from her mothballed condition at Thunder Bay and sent off with a cargo of corn for Cardinal.
Johnstone's CONDARRELL, the former D. C. EVEREST (81), has been kept busy under a charter to Algoma Steel, and her prospects for the future seem very good indeed. To the contrary, however, Johnstone's CONGAR (III), (a) IMPERIAL LONDON (77), (b) TEGUCIGALPA (80), laid up at Toronto during August and remains cold, moored in her usual winter lay-up spot along the west wall of the turning basin. She is for sale and, although she has been looked over by several parties, including Shediac Bulk Shipping Ltd. which operates her sistership SEAWAY TRADER, the former IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD (79), there have been no takers as yet.
Just for the record, we should note that Shediac's other tanker, the recently acquired METRO STAR, will not likely appear in the lakes during the foreseeable future. She is not fitted with the necessary gear (Port Colborne fairleads, etc.,) to enable her to run on the lakes, and she is presently operating on the St. Lawrence River and the east coast under charter to Gulf Canada Ltd.
The newest addition to the fleet of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., the self-unloader CANADIAN PIONEER, was christened at Port Weller on September 12 by Mrs. Alfred Powis, the wife of the president of Noranda Mines Ltd. The ship is rather different in appearance from the previous self-unloading stemwinders built for the fleet by Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd., and is designed in such a manner that she can be used in coastal and deep-sea service as well as on the lakes.
With no prospect of her early removal to the Caribbean as originally planned, WITTRANSPORT II is still languishing alongside the LaSalle Causeway at Kingston. She has recently been freshly painted, but we doubt that this minor improvement will persuade Kingston residents to adopt her as a permanent feature of their waterfront scenery.
In recent years, the Port Colborne area has seen the closing of a number of its major industrial facilities, with the result that the local economy has taken a definite nosedive. The town received good news on August 28, however, when Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. announced that it had purchased, from the Algoma Steel Corporation Ltd., the 13 acres of land on which has sat for many years the Algoma Steel plant which was closed four years ago. The plant lies at the outer end of the east wall of Port Colborne harbour. Also acquired by Upper Lakes is the lease on 120 further acres which are owned by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority. Demolition of the rusting steel plant will begin this autumn and Upper Lakes will use the area for repairing its own vessels. It is hoped that some of the space can be rented out for storage and warehousing purposes, but Upper Lakes has refused to divulge its plans for the majority of the land. It has long been known that the company would like to participate in the development of a Canadian shipyard that would be capable of building and repairing ships of larger dimensions than can be handled by the Welland Canal, and it just could be that the steel plant lands might eventually be used for such a purpose.
Work commenced this summer on the enlargement of the drydock at Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. The existing drydock is being altered from its previous 518 by 56 foot configuration to 645 by 70 in order to accommodate larger vessels and thus expand the yard's repair capabilities. As a result, the drydock was closed during the summer so that the work could be finished in time for the scheduled autumn docking of the Manitoulin Island ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN for her regular inspection. Strangely enough, the closing of the dock meant that CHI-CHEEMAUN had to be sent to Sturgeon Bay for repairs during July after her grounding at South Baymouth.
The labour problems which had earlier closed the Lorain yard of the American Shipbuilding Company (some had thought permanently), were resolved during September by means of contract changes accepted by the Boilermakers' Union. The changes mean that workers who formerly had performed only one type of work, in accordance with their contract, will now be able to handle jobs of various natures, and this will allow the yard to function more economically than had earlier been expected. As a result, the yard, which had closed after the completion of the Interlake Steamship Company's self-unloader WILLIAM J. DeLANCEY this spring, began calling back workers and looking for shipbuilding and repairing contracts. The Lorain yard is one of only two on the lakes which are capable of building 1,000 foot vessels.
Meanwhile, the South Chicago drydock operated by AmShip has been closed permanently after the completion of the recent work done on the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company's CLIFFS VICTORY. Presumably, AmShip feels that it can accommodate available repair work at its Lorain and Toledo shipyards. Incidentally, the work on CLIFFS VICTORY guarantees the continued operation of that unusual boat, something that had been rumoured to be in doubt.
Strangely enough, Cleveland-Cliffs has formulated some rather unusual plans for four of its older vessels, plans which have not exactly impressed observers with the likelihood of their success. It seems that Cliffs has approached several U.S. shipyards to ask for tenders on the conversion of the steamers WILLIS B. BOYER (1911), WILLIAM P. SNYDER JR. (1912), CADILLAC (1943) and CHAMPLAIN (1943) to container carriers for use on a proposed service between Chicago, Detroit and Quebec City. Understandably, the shipyards have expressed certain misgivings about the plans and, apparently, have declined to bid on the conversions. We rather wonder, in this day of much more economical container movements via rail, where Cliffs could find enough container traffic to keep even one boat busy. At least the scheme has one good side effect; the fact that the SNYDER is mentioned serves as confirmation that, indeed, the veteran steamer, laid up last winter at Ashtabula and languishing there ever since, has not yet been sold for scrapping.
October 5th was a most unhappy day for shipwatchers around the world, for that day marked the death of a marine dynasty. Since well back into the nineteenth century, the Canadian Pacific organization has been known for its beautiful passenger vessels and the gracious lifestyle which could be enjoyed aboard them. Canadian Pacific steamers served the Atlantic, the Pacific, the east and west coasts of North America, the Great Lakes, and the inland waters of western Canada but, one by one, the company's great ships have been retired from service and their routes closed as C.P. has systematically withdrawn from the business of transporting passengers. In 1981, there remained but one Canadian Pacific passenger boat in service, this being the beautiful PRINCESS PATRICIA which, for almost two decades, has run the Alaska cruise service after having been converted from her original role as a ferry. But all good things seem destined to come to an end and, on October 5, this 32-year-old steamer, which was built by the same Fairfield yard at Govan, Scotland, (Hull 730), that built KEEWATIN and ASSINIBOIA, left Vancouver on her last Alaska trip. With C.P. making public its "reasons" for "rationalizing" the famous PAT out of service, observers began speculating as to whether the ship herself has any hope of seeing service for another operator. Such a possibility seems pleasant, but rather unlikely.
Meanwhile, another passenger vessel has just embarked upon her career, although under less than auspicious circumstances. The aluminum-hulled CANADIAN EMPRESS, built at Gananoque for Rideau-St. Lawrence Cruise Ships Inc. of Kingston for service on the St. Lawrence and Rideau Rivers, was completed this autumn, albeit somewhat behind schedule. The delays encountered in finishing the impressive antique-style interior of the EMPRESS caused her owner to cancel her September cruises but, on October 1st, she set out from Kingston on her maiden voyage up the Rideau River bound for Ottawa, a trip that has not been made by a commercial passenger boat in more than a half century. At about 9:30 a.m., only 1 1/2 miles above Kingston, CANADIAN EMPRESS struck a rock in the channel whilst approaching the lock at Kingston Mills. The vessel began to make water but was moored safely on the tie-up wall below the lock, where passengers disembarked and divers could examine the hull for damage. The EMPRESS was drydocked in the lock for repair and then returned to Kingston the following day. Her four remaining trips of 1981 were rerouted to the St. Lawrence, for her owner feared further damage from uncharted obstructions if the boat ventured into the Rideau again. Parks Canada, which operates the Rideau canals, will investigate to ensure that the river is safe for CANADIAN EMPRESS, and it is hoped that her interesting adventures on this generally forgotten waterway will be resumed in the spring of 1982.
The Bob-Lo Island steamer line enjoyed a successful season in 1981, much more so than in 1980, and it would now appear that the future of the veteran passenger steamboats COLUMBIA and STE. CLAIRE is secure. The operators of the boats have undergone significant corporate changes in the past few years and suffered a notably poor year in 1980, partly due to local economic problems but more particularly as a result of poor relations with certain segments of the population of Detroit and its environs.
October 6th was an unusually rough day out on Lake Ontario, with strong winds whipping up suddenly in the afternoon. A barge belonging to Lakeshore Construction of Muskegon, Michigan, was caught on the lake where it was assisting in laying intake pipe for a power station near Olcott, New York. The barge was blown out of position and, eventually, it wound up off Niagara-on-the-Lake, where an attempt at rescuing the eleven-man crew was made by the tug ELMORE M. MISNER. The seas proved too high for the tug to come alongside the barge and the men were finally lifted to safety on the morning of October 7th by a Canadian Forces helicopter from the Trenton, Ontario, rescue centre.
One of the longest permanent lay-ups in Great Lakes history has recently come to an end. In 1952, after many years of service for the Great Lakes Transport Corporation, the canal-sized tanker PANOIL was laid to rest at the inner end of the main slip at the Nicholson yard in River Rouge, Michigan. There, the steamer, a sistership of MEXOIL which operated into the early 1950s under charter to the British American Oil Company Ltd., was used as a storage hull for bunker fuel. She remained there until September 10, 1981, at which time the Gaelic tugs KINSALE and DONEGAL took her in tow and moved PANOIL to Nicholson's south slip for scrapping. Although not much altered during her lay-up, PANOIL had fallen victim to gradual deterioration over the passage of her 29 years of idleness, and her cabins and hull had fallen into a very sorry state of disrepair.
On October 23, the tugs GLENEVIS and GLENBROOK towed the old steam GATELIFTER NO. 1 from her berth at Port Weller en route to Port Maitland, Ontario, where she will be cut up for scrap by Newman Steel Ltd. The old gatelifter has not been used in recent years, with the Seaway Authority instead relying on its newer gatelifter HERCULES, which normally is stationed in the St. Lawrence canals. The retirement of the Welland Canal's own gatelifter, of course, means that there is no such vessel immediately available should urgent problems be encountered at one of the Welland locks.
The 1981 season has not been of the best for the Dundee Cement Company's barge MEL WILLIAM SELVICK, the former SAMUEL MITCHELL. We have already commented upon her May 9 collision with J.N. McWATTERS in the Welland Canal. Now comes word of a potentially serious accident which occurred on October 15 in the Huron Cut. Upbound loaded from Detroit for Holland, Michigan, the SELVICK broke away from the tug JOHN PURVES in the current near the Blue Water Bridge at about 12:45 a.m. She veered to the Port Huron side of the St. Clair River and her bow struck the remains of the old Peerless Cement wharf, holing her bow and punching the dock back in a V-shaped indentation about two feet deep. The barge then swung around and again struck the wharf, this time with her stern, into which a second hole was punched. The two holes in the SELVICK caused her to take on water, but she was soon moored alongside the dock and the prompt action of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Port Huron Fire Department in getting additional pumps aboard the barge kept her afloat.
By mid-October, all of the Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. vessels, which had spent part of the summer laid up at Toronto, had returned to service. All, that is, except POINTE NOIRE which has not fitted out at all during 1981. Returning to service after lay-ups of various lengths were, in order, JAMES NORRIS, FRANK A. SHERMAN, RED WING, GORDON C. LEITCH, CANADIAN OLYMPIC and WHEAT KING. (Contrary to some reports, HILDA MARJANNE was never at Toronto this summer, but rather was laid up at Hamilton.)
In the last issue, we mentioned the tug TUSKER and her September accident at Port Colborne. We stand corrected, however, in that the Algoma Central boat involved was ALGOCEN and not A. S. GLOSSBRENNER. We also understand that the damage to TUSKER was rather more severe than earlier reported, and required a protracted sojourn in the Canadian Dredge and Dock Company's drydock at Kingston.
The former C.S.L. package freighter JENSEN STAR, (a) FRENCH RIVER (8l), which was purchased earlier this year by Montreal interests, and which operated into the Arctic during the summer of 1981, seems unlikely to be seen again in Great Lakes waters. Her new owners are now refitting her for deep-sea service. To be perfectly frank, we know of few ships whose hull forms make them less suited for deep-sea trade than the C.S.L. River class package freighters, and we wonder how JENSEN STAR will make out with her new duties abroad.
Ship of the Month No. 105
This month, we feature yet another canal-sized laker, but not by any means one of the mass-produced canallers which emerged from British shipyards during the years following the First World War. Indeed, this particular canaller was a most remarkable vessel, this for a number of reasons. She was owned, built and registered in the United States. She was of unusual construction and was designed for an unusual trade. And she met an untimely end under rather bizarre circumstances. Despite all this, however, little of a detailed nature has ever been written about her and, to set the record straight in this connection, we feature her story this month.
In the early 1920s, the United States Steel Corporation ordered from the Federal Shipbuilding Company of Kearney, New Jersey, a pair of motorships designed to carry steel products on the Great Lakes and the east coast. The ships were sufficiently successful that another pair was ordered several years later. The first two boats were originally intended to be operated by U.S. Steel's lake shipping subsidiary, the Pittsburgh Steamship Company, but it was instead decided before their completion that they would be operated by another subsidiary, the United States Steel Products Company (commonly known as Isthmian Lines), which opened an office in Cleveland specifically for their management.
STEELVENDOR is downbound at Galops in this Deno photo, Bascom collection. The first pair of ships, completed in 1923 as the yard's Hulls 76 and 77, were christened STEELMOTOR and STEELVENDOR, respectively, these names reflecting the type of vessels they were and the trade for which they were intended. The later pair, built by the same yard as its Hulls 83 and 84, were named STEEL CHEMIST and STEEL ELECTRICIAN, and were placed in service in 1926.
STEELVENDOR, registered at New York as U.S. 223082, emerged in good order from the Kearney shipyard and was ready for service during the summer of 1923. She was 250.3 feet in length, 42.9 feet in the beam, and 17.2 feet in depth, with tonnages of 1695 Gross and 973 Net. She shared all of these dimensions, complete with duplicated tonnages, with her almost exact sistership, STEELMOTOR. Indeed, the two looked very much alike. STEEL CHEMIST and STEEL ELECTRICIAN had similar dimensions and tonnages, although they were rather different in external detail, a few more modern features having been incorporated into their design.
STEELVENDOR's hull was built on the transverse system of framing and she had a complete double bottom which was used for the carriage of bunker oil and water ballast. Four watertight bulkheads were fitted and she was given two large and unobstructed cargo holds. The deck was trunked and over each hold was fitted a single but very large hatch, which measured 40 feet by 20 feet. The deck itself was strengthened so that STEELVENDOR could carry a sizeable deckload of heavy steel products.
STEELVENDOR was powered by a McIntosh and Seymour (of Auburn, New York) six-cylinder, four-cycle diesel engine which was designed to develop 750 brake horsepower at 135 revolutions per minute, with direct connection to the propellor shaft, and which enabled the ship to manage a speed of about nine knots on a 14-foot draft. The diesel engine was of the trunk piston type, and had cylinders of 22 inches diameter and 32 inches stroke. She was fitted with a Kingsbury thrust bearing and a four-blade, built-up propeller of manganese bronze, 10 feet in diameter and with 8-foot pitch. Her various pumps were operated either on steam or on compressed air and, in order to provide steam, an oil-fired donkey boiler was installed.
The ship had a relatively sharp flaring bow and an elliptical counter stern. Her anchors were carried in slanted pockets located quite close to the stem. She was given a half-forecastle (raised one-half a deck level above the spar deck), the forward portion of which was enclosed by a solid rail. A square texas cabin on the forecastle provided quarters for the master and guests, and was surmounted by a pilothouse with seven windows across its rounded front. Provision was made for a large awning to be fitted over the entire bridge deck and many photos of STEELMOTOR and STEELVENDOR show them with the canvas awning in place, shading the entire navigation area despite the fact that neither boat was fitted with an open bridge or monkey's island for conning the ship from an open-air position.
The entire spar deck, from the break of the forecastle to the fantail, was surrounded by a closed rail, into which were cut rather large scuppers. The after deck was flush with the spar deck and sported a large cabin which was protected from the elements for most of its length and around the stern by awnings and a wide overhang of the boat deck. Her stack, not as high as that carried by most steamers but certainly higher than the funnels placed on the majority of early motorships, was placed far forward atop the after cabin and, like the masts, showed very little if any rake. The foremast was carried abaft the pilothouse, while the main was stepped quite far aft of the stack.
STEELVENDOR was a rather handsome canaller, but her appearance would certainly have been improved if she had not been fitted with her unusual cargo-handling equipment. This consisted of two 5-ton, 3-motor, variable radius, fixed base, revolving deck cranes, which were built by the Brown Hoisting Machinery Company, and which were installed at Cleveland after STEELVENDOR had sailed into the lakes from her builder's yard. These cranes were of a most unusual design and were really nothing more that open steel framework with hoisting machinery and an operator's cabin perched in it. One was mounted immediately abaft each hatch. They sported rather long latticework booms to reach out over the holds, as the hoists did not travel up and down the deck. The cranes were normally operated by the wheelsman and watchmen, who earned extra wages as a result of these additional duties.
These peculiar derricks could handle about 100 tons of finished steel products per hour. They had a capacity of 10,000 pounds on a single line with a lifting speed of 130 feet per minute and a radius of 50 feet. The maximum hoist possible was approximately 65 feet. Each crane was operated with a combination of three 240-volt direct current Diehl electric motors, a rotating motor of 25 horsepower, a boom motor of 15 horsepower, and a hoisting motor of 50 horsepower. The hoisting and boom controllers were fitted for dynamic braking when lowering, while the rotating motor was braked dynamically in both directions. When the cranes were not in use, the counterweights were lowered to the bottom of the shafts and unhooked, and the booms were lowered to deck level by means of lines and then were secured there. While the boat was running, the forward crane was usually turned to face aft, so that the two booms could be secured lying fore-and-aft, side-by-side over the after hatch.
STEELVENDOR and STEELMOTOR were designed to carry U.S. Steel's finished steel products (such as rails, etc.) on the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence River, but they were also fitted out in such a manner that they were suitable for coastal operation during the winter months. Most of the products they carried were destined for overseas markets and were thus trans-shipped at Montreal. It was because of the docking conditions at Montreal that the boats were fitted with these specially-designed deck hoists.
STEELVENDOR and her three running-mates ran successfully on the lakes for some two decades and, for this entire period, they carried the same colours. Their hulls were grey, their cabins white, and their stacks were painted all buff without any smokeband. They not only carried their cargoes all the way down to Montreal, but went about such other trades on the lakes as their owner found for them, for which they were suited with their big holds and cargo-handling gear. On several occasions, they even called at Toronto with loads of railroad rails. They were very adaptable ships and could carry almost any kind of steel product made by U.S. Steel or its affiliates.
U.S. Steel never was known for engaging in frequent transfers of ownership for its vessels from one subsidiary company to another, but each of the four craneships did go through at least one change of ownership during its Steel Trust years. Sometime prior to 1941, STEELVENDOR and STEEL CHEMIST passed from the United States Steel Products Company to the United States Steel Export Company, while the ownership of STEELMOTOR and STEEL ELECTRICIAN was transferred to another subsidiary, the Tennessee Coal Iron and Railroad Company, of Mobile, Alabama.
With the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the canal-sized craneships began to spend more and more of their time on salt water, aiding in the transport of steel products as part of the war effort. (In 1940, STEELVENDOR had carried steel from Duluth to the Vickers plant at Montreal for use in the construction of the "Flower" class corvettes that were built there for war service on the North Atlantic.) From 1943 onwards, they spent almost all of their time on the coast, but the need for them there ceased with the conclusion of the hostilities. By 1946, they were no longer needed even on the lakes, for U.S. Steel could ship its products eastward more economically by land, and the company's craneship needs on the upper lakes were capably handled by the steamer CLIFFORD F. HOOD. This bulk carrier, (a) BRANSFORD (l6), (b) JOHN H. McLEAN (43), had been transferred from the Pittsburgh Steamship Company to yet another subsidiary, the American Steel and Wire Company, in 1944, and had been converted to a craneship at Lorain by the American Shipbuilding Company. Accordingly, the canallers were sold off to other owners who found that they had a need for them, and STEEL CHEMIST was the last of the four to operate on the lakes for U.S. Steel.
STEEL ELECTRICIAN was sold in 1945 to the Warrior and Gulf Navigation Company and, in 1946, to the American Eastern Corporation, New York. In 1947, she was purchased by N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Fort William, who returned her to the lakes and operated her until the early 1960s as (b) FARRANDOC (II). After a brief spell as (c) QUEBEC TRADER, she passed to Caribbean owners who ran her as (d) SAN TOME, but she was finally broken up for scrap in South America during 1969. STEELMOTOR was sold in 1946 to Chinese operators and she was last heard of running in Far Eastern waters as (b) TAI WHU. The STEEL CHEMIST was sold in 1946 to the Inland Steel Company, which ran her as a craneship as (b) THE INLAND for two years, and she was then converted to the tanker (c) TRANSINLAND, under which name she operated for many years in the ownership of Gaston Elie's Coastalake Tankers Ltd., Ottawa, (Transit Tankers and Terminals Ltd.). She later passed to the Hall Corporation, which operated her sporadically as (d) INLAND TRANSPORT until she was retired after a grounding and oil spill incident in the North Channel. After a protracted lay-up at Sarnia, she was finally acquired for scrapping by Harry Gamble of Port Dover, Ontario.
STEELVENDOR, however, did not last long enough to be with the fleet at the time of the disposal of the canallers after the war. She came to a more unfortunate end on Lake Superior in 1942 which, unhappily, was accompanied by the loss of a life. In fact, she was, until then, the only large motorship ever to be lost on Lake Superior and, as far as we know, this is a record that she still holds.
Under the command of Capt. Gerald L. Kane (who would later serve as master of CLIFFORD F. HOOD), STEELVENDOR cleared Duluth harbour at 8:00 p.m. on September 1st, 1942, a Tuesday, with a cargo of steel billets bound for Waukegan, Illinois. Downbound on Lake Superior the following day, she was beset by heavy weather of the type which frequently is encountered on that lake in the late summer and autumn. When she was east of Keweenaw Point, and some 18 miles off Manitou Island, her cargo shifted and she took on a very heavy list. With the ship heeling over, water found its way into the engineroom and the engineers were forced to abandon their machinery.
With the crew cut off from the controls, STEELVENDOR's diesel engine continued to run and, while the crew waited to be rescued, the ship began to turn in large circles on the open lake. Her predicament was sighted by the Interlake Steamship Company's steamer CHARLES M. SCHWAB and by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company's WILLIAM G. CLYDE, and both these vessels approached the distressed STEELVENDOR as closely as they could, following her around in her uncontrolled circles.
After about two hours, the rising water in the engineroom put the diesel engine out of action, and the SCHWAB and CLYDE could then move in closer to STEELVENDOR in order to take off her crew. The ship was finally abandoned at 3:45 a.m. on Thursday, September 3. 1942. Of her crew, 22 found their way to the SCHWAB, whilst two more were taken safely aboard WILLIAM G. CLYDE. Only one person lost his life, an oiler, John N. Sicken of Chicago, who left the ship prematurely and was drowned in the heavy seas.
Six minutes after her crew abandoned STEELVENDOR, she was finally overcome by the water rising in her holds, and she foundered. Salvage was totally out of the question as a result of the depth of the water in the area of the sinking, and so the remains of the canaller still lie to this day on the floor of Lake Superior. United States Steel never replaced her, despite the fact that she had been a valued vessel to the fleet for all of her twenty seasons of service.
(Ed. Note: We thank Gordon Bennett of Cleveland for suggesting STEELVENDOR as a Ship of the Month. Gordon sailed on her during the 1940 season. Much of the technical data on the ship was provided by Robert Campbell of Toronto in the form of clippings from trade magazines which date from the time of her commissioning.
Homer D. Alverson Makes The News
As we have noted in these pages on many occasions, it is only very rarely these days that items of marine interest manage to find their way into the daily press, and then only because of a particularly unusual or tragic set of circumstances. Gone are the days when the routine comings and goings of everyday boats were considered to be of interest to readers of newspapers.
To show how closely marine events were once followed by the press, we present here a series of excerpts from "The Port Huron Daily Times", dated from 1885 through 1899, which are provided through the courtesy of Rev. Peter J. Van der Linden. They trace the history of the wooden-hulled schooner HOMER D. ALVERSON and, no doubt, such a close watch was kept on her activities because she was locally built and owned and, therefore, of interest to resident of Port Huron. We only wish that such items could be found in the pages of today's newspapers!
Monday, April 20, 1885:
The new schooner which is almost ready to launch at Dunford and Alverson's shipyard is one of the best built vessels on the lakes. The honor of naming her was claimed by Thomas Dunford of the firm of Dunford and Alverson, and he will adorn her with beautiful colors bearing the name HOMER D. ALVERSON, who is Thomas Alverson's oldest son. The bright little fellow is only four years old and is said to be "a chip off the old block". We hope that, in future years, Mr. Dunford will always be able to point with pride to the schooner and also to the man whose name she bears, and as they grow old together and go into port after completing the final trip, each may wear honors that will never fade.
Saturday, May 9, 1885:
The handsome schooner HOMER D. ALVERSON was launched at Dunford and Alverson's shipyard this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. She was built the past winter and is one of the finest vessels ever launched. She is 202 feet (overall), 35.6 beam, and 14 feet depth of hold. She will carry about 52,000 bushels and is A1 in every respect. She is framed out of 6 foot flitch and the frames are 21 inches from center to center. Her main keelson is 16 x 16, two assistant keelsons 14 x 14, two rider keelsons 16 x 16. Bilge strakes 2 x 8", 4 x 7", 2 x 6", from bilge up 5", three strakes of clamps 6", shelf piece three strakes 6". Two garboard strakes 6", one 5", and planked to the rail with 4" plank. She has six hatchways 8 x 14, her bowsprit will be 23 x 24 in the knightheads and 43' long. Her fore and main masts are 93' long, 26" in partners, mizzen mast 82' long, 20" in partners, fore boom 58' long, 16" in slings, main boom 6l' long, 16" in slings, mizzen boom 42', 12" in slings. Her very fine cabin is fitted with all modern improvements and her outfit is of the very best. She is owned by her builders who will run her until a purchaser is found who will give them the price they ask for. She cost about $40,000 and her outfit was furnished by David Robeson, Sr. She was named by Thomas Dunford in honor of Capt. T. A. Alverson's son.
Monday, June 1, 1885:
The schooner HOMER D. ALVERSON was hit by the A. L. HOPKINS in the St. Clair River just above South East Bend on her maiden trip, carrying 50.200 bushels of wheat on a 14' draft. Friday at 5:00 p.m. in clear weather this happened. She was in tow of the AUSTRALASIA and her starboard cat head was carried away, main and monkey rails split, and two tinker heads twisted off. The large stock was badly wrenched and one of the flukes nearly broken off the anchor. She proceeded to Buffalo to unload. Repairs will be made.
Monday, September 6, 1886:
Dunford and Alverson have sold their new schooner, the HOMER D. ALVERSON, to the Gilchrist Co. of Cleveland. The ALVERSON is almost a new ship, as she was one of the few launched last year. She is at present in tow of the propellor [sic] AUSTRALASIA and will probably remain behind that ship for the remainder of the season.
(Due to the demand for vessels caused by the Spanish-American War, many lake boats were chartered, late in 1898, through J. C. Gilchrist, Cleveland, to the Atlantic Coast Transportation Company, New York, for use in the east coast trade. HOMER D. ALVERSON was one of these and was taken to the coast.)
Wednesday, December 7, 1898:
The barge HOMER D. ALVERSON went ashore near Popham Beach, Maine, on Monday night (December 5th).
Friday, March 17, 1899:
The HOMER D. ALVERSON is so high on the beach that there is no chance of releasing her. She was insured for her hull value of $14,000.
Despite the somewhat florid terms used to describe the ALVERSON, these news clippings give a good account of the beginnings and final disposition of a typical lake schooner. She did not enjoy a particularly long life, but that is not surprising considering the fact that she was removed, at the age of 13 years, from her home waters of the lakes to the strange and hostile waters of the Atlantic coast. Nevertheless, the interest in the ship expressed through the Port Huron press at the time of her loss can readily be understood in view of her local origin.
In the October issue, we featured as our Ship of the Month No. 104, the early motorship TOILER, which was better known in later years as the canal-sized steamer MAPLEHEATH. As usually happens, however, a wealth of additional information has come to light since we penned the original article, and we now hasten to present this material for our readers. We do not regret the fact that this information has only now become available, for if our efforts do nothing but generate comment and additional research, then we have succeeded in one of our prime goals.
It seems that we were quite wrong in our description of TOILER as she appeared when new from her builder's yard. She did not, in fact, have her heavy deck masts or kingposts when she first came from Newcastle-on-Tyne, but rather these were added later. She originally carried one mast right abaft the forward cabin and another up on the quarterdeck, but neither of these was equipped with cargo booms. Perhaps the most startling feature of her original appearance, however, was the fact that she carried no stack at all; this gave her an unmistakably "bald" look aft. The complete lack of a stack and a "boilerhouse" (both of which were carried by her near-sister CALGARY) were, no doubt, the reason why she was called "the strangest looking vessel to visit the lakes during 1911".
The July, 1911, issue of "The Marine Review", described TOILER as "by far the largest craft of her type (i.e., motorship) actually afloat". It mentioned that her four-cylinder, two-cycle, reversible diesel engines were built by the Diesel Motorer Company of Stockholm, Sweden, and that they developed about 400 I.H.P. at 250 r.p.m. It went on to report that her deck machinery and engine accessories were worked by compressed air, the compressor being driven by a small diesel engine. Power for electric lighting was supplied by a dynamo driven by a small paraffine motor. Cabin heating was accomplished by small coal stoves, augmented by hot water which was heated by the exhaust gases from the machinery.
The maiden voyage of TOILER took her not directly to Montreal, but rather from Newcastle to Calais, France, with a cargo of 2,650 tons of coal. She is said to have made that trip in extremely heavy weather, managing an average speed of only 5.9 knots per hour. Running light on the return trip, she averaged 8.2 knots. We presume that she then sailed from Newcastle to Montreal (probably with coal), but therein lies a further mystery. As previously reported, our records indicate that TOILER made her maiden arrival at Montreal on September 21, 1911, whereas the July, 1911, "Marine Review" reported that she "reached Montreal some weeks ago".
We mentioned that TOILER stranded near Cardinal, Ontario, on May 24, 1912, and that she was rebuilt and repowered at Kingston over the winter of 1912-1913. The August, 1912, issue of "The Marine Review" reported that TOILER had run ashore on May 20, 1912, at the foot of the Galops Rapids, that she was released on May 31 after the lightering of 35,000 bushels of grain, and that she docked at Kingston on June 10, 1912. The January, 1913, issue of the same publication included the following detail, under the heading "The TOILER's Mishap":
"The oil engine boat TOILER met with an accident early in the fall (sic) while manoeuvring in the locks below Kingston, one of her cylinders on the starboard engine breaking at the housing near the bed-plate from some cause not yet explained. The steamer lay about three weeks (sic) at Montreal while repairs were made on the broken engine. Considerable difficulty, however, was experienced in getting the engine to run again because of the disarrangement of fuel and air valves and setting of same.
"After many unsuccessful attempts, the owners cabled Swan & Hunter, builders of the vessel, and they sent out their representative, and after several days of effort failed to start the engine. The TOILER was towed from Montreal to Kingston light, and the owners asked assistance from the American Ship Building Co., Cleveland.
"This was promptly given by two members of their engineering department, who, after an hour or two, located the difficulty and the vessel proceeded under her own power to Port Dalhousie to load grain.
"This vessel seems very much underpowered, as she only develops about 360 B.H.P. with both engines and has difficulty with the strong current in the St. Lawrence River. She is also at a disadvantage owing to the absence of a suitable auxiliary air compressor formanoeuvring the main engine when in the locks. The TOILER only makes about six or seven miles an hour.
"Last fall, the Kingston Ship Building Co. installed a steam boiler and all her auxiliaries were changed over from compressed air to steam, which was found a decided improvement for lock conditions."
Small wonder, it seems, that Messrs. Richardson and Playfair decided to remove TOILER'S peculiar diesel machinery and replace it with more conventional steam power! Despite the various inconsistencies that have appeared in the "Marine Review" reports concerning TOILER, we believe that this added information gives us a far more complete story of TOILER'S early years than was available heretofore.
(Ed. Note: We extend sincere thanks to Leonard J. Barr II of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, for his comments on TOILER'S early appearance, and to Robert J. MacDonald of Erie, Pennsylvania, for sending along copies of the articles taken from "The Marine Review".)
Additional Marine News
It was on December 7, 1976, that the Government of British Columbia passenger and auto ferry SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, made her last trip on the Horseshoe Bay - Langdale route that she had served since 1967. She has laid idle ever since her retirement, although there had been rumours that she might return to the lakes for the proposed ferry service between Manitoulin Island and DeTour. (She was originally built for the State of Michigan and ran across the Straits of Mackinac until the opening of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957.) But now comes word that she has been sold for $1,300,000 to the Quesnel Redi-Mix Cement Company Ltd. which submitted the highest of six public tenders. What the new owner will do with the ship has not been revealed, but her chances of returning to passenger service seem to have diminished considerably.
On November 6, 1981, Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. will launch its Hull 222, built to the order of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. The most interesting feature of the event is that only the 600-foot after section of the vessel is being built at Collingwood. This portion of the 730-foot motorship will be towed to Thunder Bay where it will be joined to the vessel's 130-foot bow section, which is being built at the Lakehead by Port Arthur Shipyards Ltd. Although U.S. shipyards have frequently used this technique in building larger lakers, this is the first time in recent years that Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. has used different shipyards to construct the bow and stern sections of one vessel. Hull 222 is being built in this manner in order to allow the Collingwood yard to free its ways for an early start on its next new ship.
Upper Lakes Shipping's deep-sea self-unloader CANADIAN HIGHLANDER made an unusual voyage during August from Tampa to Vancouver with a cargo of phosphate rock. An unloading delay was encountered with Vancouver longshoremen, unfamiliar with Great Lakes type self-unloaders, refused to allow the HIGHLANDER'S crew to operate her unloading gear, but the problem was resolved.