Monday 7 September 2015


Call me old fashioned. Call me sentimental. Call me a cab (or perhaps an über these days). Call me anything you want but I really felt proud when I saw the small survey boat KATELYN J. that was tied off to the east wall in Port Stanley on Lake Erie last September and that her homeport was my old home, Port Colborne, or as we call it, "Port", for short.
I don't know if it was because my dad worked on the Welland Canal or if it was because he used to sail on the Lakes and Gulf of St. Lawrence, but as long as I can remember I always got a kick out of seeing where a boat came from. Today, all you have to do is Google the ship's name and in seconds you'll often have several different sites that will tell you all you wanted to know about the boat included what country's flag it flies and it's homeport or port of registry. However, while growing up back then, the only way I could tell, was by trying to figure out the country flag that flew at the ship's stern, or by looking beneath the ship's name located there, and see a city name or her homeport.
Early on it was pretty easy going because the lakers and self unloaders that went through the canal were mostly Canadian or American flagged, but after the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, it got really interesting because ships from all or world passed by. Some of the country flags I remembered from social studies and geography in school but when I started seeing ships that came from cities like Helsinki, Hamburg and "Split", I'd look them up at the Port library and sit in amazement in front of the library's huge world atlas and see that these boats came all the way from Finland, Germany, Yugoslavia and more. They all passed right by me while waiting for the bridge to come down, and that happened a lot back then.

Believe it or not, I was also as much at aw when a Misener boat went by and I'd see my home, PORT COLBORNE written on the back of their ships then, just like on my friend, Nathan Attard's dad's boat, the SCOTT MISENER in the photo above. That's Nathan's dad, Joe, who was the 3rd engineer, waving ashore just passed the SCOTT's lifeboat davits on the second deck of the aft accommodations section. Whether it was the SCOTT which appears to be motoring towards Lake Ontario at Port Weller (above), or the JOHN O. McKELLER, JOHN E.F. MISENER, J.N. McWATTERS or my favourite, the GEORGE M. CARL, they all appeared to hail from my hometown, PORT COLBORNE. All was good for me (and my strange little mind, obviously) until the new RALPH MISENER came along in 1968, when instead of Port Colborne being displayed on her stern, it read ST. CATHARINES (YUCK c):-()) because in the late 60's Misener moved their head office from Port to St. Kitts, as we called it. Their simple and probably very cost-effective move 24 miles or so down the Welland Canal meant the end to Misener ships being registered in Port Colborne and showing the community as their homeport.
Because Port Colborne was home to Algoma Central's  subsidiary Fraser Ship Repair, the lakeside city and southern entrance to the Welland Canal received the unique acknowledgement of having a ship kind of named after it, the 658' self unloader, ALGOPORT in 1978. Unlike many other Algoma self unloaders, the Collingwood Shipyards built, ALGOPORT, was designed like fleetmates, ALGOWAY and ALGORAIL to specifically be able to service smaller lake ports with a variety of essential trades like stone or road salt along with the usual grain and ore products. Like her sister ALGOBAY, the PORT was a Nova Scotia-class self unloader and during construction she was given an ice strengthened and bulbous bow to work the coastal service during winter months while during the summer would mostly operate on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and Gulf, and Canada's east coast. While making her way to Clarkson, Ontario with a load of gypsum from Little Narrows, Nova Scotia, my fellow boat watching friend, Ron Beaupre, snapped these shots (above and below) of the sleek and well maintained looking ALGOPORT from off his "dock" in Mariatown, just west of Morrisburg as the PORT made her way upbound toward Iroquois Lock in May 2008.
Ron was fortunate for us all to snap the ALGOPORT again about a year later while she was motoring downbound and riding high in ballast just beyond Iroquois Lock (below).
No, on that day, the versatile  ALGOPORT was not destined to pick up a load at an Atlantic Canada port, but was to eventually make her way to China for a face-lift of sorts just like her sister ALGOBAY. With a strengthen hull and new bridge wings added (as seen in Ron's photo), to meet Panama Canal transit specifications, the PORT motored under her own power all the way to Balboa, Panama, on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal. On July 19, 2009 the ALGOPORT was hooked up to the tug PACIFIC HICKORY which was to take her to Jiangyin, China where after her smaller forebody was removed, a new one that met Seaway-max specifications would be added to her modernized aft section. As fate had it though, all would not be as while only a week away from reaching the destination that would revitalize to her sailing career, the tow encountered the rough seas of Tropical Storm Dujuan and the ALGOPORT broke in half and sank, six years ago yesterday. Little did Ron Beaupre know that when he snapped the ALGOPORT during her last downbound transit as a Nova Scotia-class self unloader, that the ship and her Lake Erie port name, would soon be gone forever, sitting at the bottom of the East China Sea, south of Japan. Thanks for being there that day Ron.

Though there were no injuries, loss of live or environmental concerns, the ship owner was still somewhat caught between a rock and a hard place with a new forebody being built at Jiangyin's Chengxi Shipyards with no aft section to be attached to it. However as luck had it this time, insurance proceeds from the lost at sea ALGOPORT were used to fund the construction for a new aft section. After all was said and done, instead of a rebuild, Algoma Central Corporation took delivery of a completely new self unloader on May 31, 2011. The name she was given was ALGOMA MARINER and as shown in a this photo below taken recently by another boat watching friend, Joanne Crack of Prescott, Ontario, the MARINER's aft section looks exactly like Algoma's new Equinox-class bulk carriers that we regularly see along this section of the St. Lawrence Seaway with the exception of the self unloading boom and machinery attached to her superstructure.  
The Seaway-max ALGOMA MARINER is 740' long by 77' 11" wide and her maximum carrying capacity is 37,162 tons in the mid-summer. Like her predecessor, the MARINER services the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and Gulf, and Atlantic Canada's saltwater ports which may explain the extreme rusting conditions on this relatively new ship's bulbous bow.
Even though the name of the ill-fated Nova Scotia-class ALGOPORT was not continued,  ALGOMA MARINER's formal christening was held in Port Colborne on August. 25, 2011 and while having lost her seafaring identity with the demise of Misener Shipping many years earlier, the community's name was returned, as shown in Joanne's photo, as ALGOMA MARINER's  port of registry or homeport.

That was quite the class act on Algoma Central's part, and if you want to see more classy boat snaps along the upper St. Lawrence River and Seaway be sure to become a member of Joanne's Facebook boat group, "The Prescott Anchor" by linking on to: You'll be glad you did!! c):-D

Hey, WAKE UP!! c);-b Plenty of time to nod off after checking the sad but amazing photos in this video entitled "The Sinking of the Algoport" with the background music of Newfoundland's "Great Big Sea" . I'm lost for words.

1 comment:

  1. Great story Carl. Wonderful history. makes me homesick for "Port". By the way, the name of the ship's chandler company came to me the other night - you may remember me mentioning that it was on West Street (we called it "Front Street" in my granny's house). Right next to Joe Ganham's old soda shop was "E.G. March - Ships' Chandler". ~jim w.