Thursday 31 July 2014

Self Unloading Crane Ship YANKCANUCK (Final Chapter)

Today my Dad would have turned 88 and like so many good people, he died too young almost 23 years ago. He was a farm boy who became a sailor, and then while working on the Welland Canal, he operated bridges, and locks, and when he retired, he was a lockmaster for Lock 8 which along with making certain ships transited the longest lock on the Seaway without issue, he got to operate a really neat motorized cart which allowed him immediate access of the complete length of the lock, as well as a fun ride with Grandpa during a visit home to Port Colborne. What was really neat while growing up was that my Dad seemed to have first hand knowledge of when a special boat was coming through like the tall ship CHRISTIAN RADICH, or a navy ship like the Canadian destroyer with a Sea King helicopter on board, HMCS FRASER,, or the ship that we found by accident during our visit to the Soo last September, the self unloading crane ship YANKCANUCK.  
Though she looked pretty rough tied off to the Purvis Marine dock in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, I recall a much different appearance when seeing her for the first time as a kid tied up to the Algoma furnace plant wall with her bold black and white hull, a massive crane amidships and her yellow stack with two crossed flags: America's "Stars and Stripes" and Canada's flag then, the "Red Ensign". I even recall my Dad telling me that the reason why she had this unusual name was because the shipowner, (Captain John Manzzutti) was a Canadian and his wife, (Eleanor Cox) was an American, hence naming of his shipping company and this cargo ship with a crane the  "YANKCANUCK".
When launched in 1963 at Collingwood Shipyards, the 324' YANKCANUCK was the most modern vessel in company fleet which consisted of two small canallers, the MANZZUTTI and MANCOX. Like her smaller sisters, the YANKCANUCK was also equipped with a crane and was designed specifically to haul finished steel products between the Algoma Steel plant in Sault Ste. Marie and the Windsor/Detroit market. She was also known to move product throughout the upper lakes and frequented Port Colborne where Algoma also had a mill there. Since she had an ice-strengthen bow, the YANKCANUCK opened a new sailing season at the Soo on March 19, 1964. That was the earliest date ever then, though it's a regular occurrence these day with perhaps the exception being 'this" year thanks to that nasty @#%&! 'Polar Vortex' c):-o. Though she was sold to the Algoma Steel Corporation in 1970, it was business as usual for the versatile  YANKCANUCK as shipments were also sent up the St. Lawrence to Montreal and Port Cartier and then returning home with iron ore from Sept Iles, Quebec. Her powerful and movable crane came in handy more than once to lighten grounded ships and then reload them in deeper water. It was also used to transfer steel to salties in deep water anchorage in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and when owned by Purvis Marine, it was used to load and discharge cargo in the Arctic and outports along the Newfoundland and Labrador coastline.
She returned to the Soo in 2008 and has been laid up at the Purvis Marine and Salvage dock ever since. However, despite her grim and tattered appearance, her presence suggests that her potential value to be used once again to move cargo is far greater than having her cut up as scrap. Regardless of her state, I enjoyed seeing her again and I know my father would have too. Happy Birthday Dad, we miss you c);-))

Update - November 20, 2016:

I couldn't believe my eye. I thought she was gone years ago and there while driving along the harbour front at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on September 17, 2013 was a familiar object, the old ore carrier, YANKCANUCK. As the sun was setting I quickly got this shot of her on my iPhone. It's definitely not my best pic but it was my first of her, a ship that in the past was only a visual memory. 
However from now on it will be my photos in this post that will be my memory as the grand lady YANKCANUCK took her final voyage behind the line of fleetmate tug W.I. SCOTT PURVIS for dismantling just up the St. Mary's to the Purvis scrapping facilities last Friday on November 18, 2016. Like so many other "Great" lakers, she too will soon be gone, but also not forgotten.  

Sunday 27 July 2014

Straight-decker ALGOMA MONTREALAIS (Final Voyage)

There's just no stopping her. Her life has been rejuvinated. When the shipping season ended last December, the MONTREALAIS, which is French for "Montrealer", berthed for winter in Montreal, the city where this traditional straightdeck bulk carrier was built in 1962. Everyone who's been tracking ships along the Great Lakes, were certain her sailing days were over, that she'd be towed overseas and scrapped like so many other Papachristidis and Upper Lakes Steamship's "Canadian-named" classics. While other uniquely designed 'Great Lakes' straightdecker with their wheelhouse and accommodations forward, have been repowered to diesel to extended their life, ALGOMA MONTREALAIS remained a steamer.
Then the worst winter in 35 years arrived which virtually halted normal winter and spring ship movement due to thicker than normal ice conditions west of Port Colborne. Shipments of iron ore, grain and other essential cargoes became delayed by over a month and despite the extra costs to operate a "steamer", it was ALGOMA MONTREALAIS size and just under 29,000 ton cargo capacity that extended her life and usefulness once again when she set sail on June 29 destined to Superior, Wisconsin to pick up a load of iron ore (

In less than 30 days, ALGOMA MONTREALAIS has been doing what she does best, move cargo like talconite iron ore pellets to a Hamilton, Ontario steel mill, then carried a load of cement back up to Duluth, Minnesota and now she's laden with a load of grain destined for the overseas grain elevators in Baie Comeau, Quebec. Since her late season departure, the MONTREALAIS has become somewhat of a media event as Boatnerds everywhere have been actively tracking and snapping her movement in Superior/Duluth, the Soo, Port Huron, and Welland Canal. I final got a chance to snap her last Thursday night as she glided downbound beneath the International Bridge near Prescott, then past pleasure crafts and the corn starch plant in Cardinal, and finally transiting Iroquois Lock way past my bedtime. Where ALGOMA MONTREALAIS will be heading next? Who knows, but boat-crazies like myself will keep you posted again, and again... c);-b

As new fuel efficient Equinox-class bulk carriers came into service, the extended life of the original Papachristidis classic straightdecker came to an end in May 2015, when she was renamed MONT, and scrap-towed to Turkey where she was dismantled. Gone but not forgotten. c):-(

Monday 14 July 2014

Search & Rescue Lifeboat CCGS CAPE MERCY

Winter returns on paper at least, in just 5 months and 1 week on December 21st, or like last year, maybe even sooner. YIKES!! But regardless the big question is, whether weather conditions will return to normal levels of winter harshness or are we all destined to experience another Polar Vortex driven, "WINTER FROM HELL!!"? It sure was a doozy, eh? It also begs you to wonder, was the worst winter in 35 years an 'Act of God' or 'Mother Nature's' doing, or was it a result of man's multiple years of environmental abuse causing one more Global Warming induced 'Extreme Weather Event'. Regardless of who or what is to blame for the delays in winter and spring cargo movement, shipping associations on both sides of the border are already talking about what went wrong and what needs to be done if another "WINTER FROM HELL!!" returns more sooner than later. Good luck with that boys & girls because unless someone at the meeting is psychic or has in their possession a crystal ball, who can predict for certain what the weather will really be like tomorrow, not to mention nearly 6 month from now.
The Great Lakes normal ice breaking resources provided by the American and Canadian coast guards performed admirably but they weren't enough. Fortunately once the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in late March, Canada was able to send in two heavy polar-class icebreakers, the CCGS PIERRE RADISSON (shown at the top and snapped by Ron Beaupre as she passed his place in Mariatown, Ontario) and CCGS DES GROSELLIERS, along with the heavy endurance breaker, CCGS MARTHA J. BLACK (snapped by my friend Nathan Attard in Port Colborne      
With icebergs still floating around in Lakes Superior in June, it maybe easy as usual to 'Blame Canada' for the colder that normal winter temperatures, but perhaps fleet owners may want to reconsider the design of their ships because while many long and lumbering rounded-bow thousand footers sat mired in the spring ice on the lakes and St. Mary's River channel crying "Help Me"!!, it was traditional pilothouse and accommodations forward lakers like the ALGOSTEEL (snapped leaving Welland Canals Lock 3 last summer by my Kanata friend Shaun), that seemed to motor through the brash with minimal ice breaking assistance. Go figure c):-o
Though perhaps arriving later than usual, summer has definitely returned and whether weather conditions or some mechanical issue causes commercial and private-user boaters to cry "HELP", first responders maybe Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue lifeboats like CCGS CAPE MERCY which I snapped last fall in Cobourg, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The 48' MERCY which was built in 2001 at Metal Craft Marine of Kingston, Ontario and is one of 36 self-righting motor lifeboats that have entered service since 1997. Staffed with a crew of four including two rescue specialist, the Cape-class motor lifeboats have a range of 100 nautical miles and can reach a top speed of 25 knots. Based on a US Coast Guard design, there are 10 Cape-class boats on the Great Lakes and all stationed along Ontario's shorelines in Thunder Bay, Tobermory, Goderich,  Sarnia, Amhearstburg, Port Dover, Port Weller, Burlington, Cobourg, and Kingston. Regardless of the marine distress, the coast guard's motor lifeboats like the CAPE MERCY and local volunteer auxiliaries offers a fast and professional search & rescue service. For proof, check out this youtube link: Cool eh!! c);-b

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Straightdecker ALGOMA MONTREALAIS (Revisited)

The MONTREALAIS came back,
They thought she was a goner,
But the MONTREALAIS came back, Because She's NOT DEAD YET, Baby!!

Come on now, eh! She's the right size: 730' long, the previous Seaway max length. She was built to last in 1962 with a hull that's 'Made in Canada' with Canadian steel and she's steel, or rather, 'still' in great shape. She's got the capacity of nearly 29,000 tonnes to carry grain, iron ore, or whatever. True, she's still powered with steam turbines but who's fault is that? The American self unloader LEE A. TREGURTHA which was originally built in 1942, then converted into a laker in 1961, was upgraded and re-powered to diesel 2006, and she's still motoring today. (See her story:

When ALGOMA MONTREALAIS arrived for winter lay-up, it was speculated her hull would be towed overseas and broken up as scrap, just like her sister, ALGOMA QUEBECOIS which will soon be completely dismantled at the International Marine Salvage yard in Port Colborne. Then a miracle or change of fate happened for the doomed MONTREALAIS. Perhaps we can blame it on the 'Polar Vortex' which because of the horrendous ice conditions that resulted from months of vicious cold temperatures on all the upper Great Lakes especially Lake Superior, the Spring sailing season was delayed for several weeks. Cargoes of grain and iron ore were ready to go to market, but the ships were virtually motionless or blockaded due to ICE. With the demand to receive and move products continuing, ALGOMA MONTREALAIS was given a reprieve and set sail at 0600 from her extended berth in Montreal on Sunday, June 29, and she's currently making her way across Lake Superior to pick up a load of taconite pellets in Superior, Wisconsin which will then be delivered to a smelter in Hamilton, Ontario. Well guess whose not quite ready to be made into scrap after all?
Meanwhile, please enjoy my friend, Nathan Attard's photos of the ALGOMA MONTREALAIS as she motored through Port Colborne at 5am on Monday morning. Thanks again Nathan.  

After passing beneath Bridge 21, the grand lady edged by a couple less fortunate fleetmates that are well on their way to becoming just memories, the 650' self unloader ALGOMA TRANSFER and ALGOMA QUEBECOIS.

Remarkably, for an 'old steamer', the MONTREALAIS is making good speed on her current assignment. Let's hope it's not her last one, again.

For more background info about the MONTREALAIS, check out these previous Carlz Boats post: & c);-b