Friday 22 June 2018

Lake Ontario Stone Boat - Self Unloader ROBERT S. PIERSON

I can't tell you how many times I have travelled up and down the 401 (a.k.a the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway) while going to and from Toronto, and taking a quick look over towards Lake Ontario with hopes of seeing a laker or saltie edging along the deep lake's northern shoreline. For the most part, the 401 which runs between the Quebec border and Windsor, is a very boring drive with perhaps a few exceptions that I have noticed along my usual run between Toronto and our exit to the Ottawa bound 416 at Prescott. One quick-peak area I look forward to while heading east  beyond Oshawa's Harmony Road exit and around the bend before the General Motors of Canada Head Office building, you may see the masts and cranes of a salty unloading at the port of Oshawa.
Soon after that between Waverley and Liberty Road exits you might luck out and see a cement-carrier with her tug barge or self unloader at the St. Marys cement plant at Bowmanville. The Highway 2 exit near Brockville was great place to see either up and down the St. Lawrence until a huge cement sound barrier were erected on the river-side of the highway. However an ideal spot to see a huge section of Lake Ontario is between the Shelter Valley overpass and the village of Colborne and the Big Apple ( exit and where the highway passes atop several of the rolling hills of Northumberland County, and you can see for miles around, providing you're not driving the vehicle 🚙. One time, years ago I recall seeing the Upper Lakes self unloader JAMES NORRIS ( as she motored near the shoreline to pick up a load of limestone at the CRH Ogden Point quarry dock at Loughbreeze, south of Colborne. The app MarineTraffic has certainly made my ship-watching search a lot easier and like on June 8th when we were returning from Ajax where we picked up our son for a weekend visit home, I could see on MarineTraffic's live map that there was going to be a good chance for me to photograph the 630' Lower Lakes Towing self unloader ROBERT S. PIERSON taking on load of stone, if I could find a vantage point.

It's not like I hadn't seen this Great Lakes veteran before. While heading back home from our "Return to Our O'Stompin' Grounds Tour" to Leamington and Windsor which marked our 40th wedding anniversary, I got a few snaps of the PIERSON discharging stone at CRH's Clarkson cement plant loading dock which the big grey-hulled lady had picked up their quarry in Loughbreeze. Fortunately Lake Ontario was as flat as a pancake on that September 24, 2014 day but my little Canon camera's zoom could only bring up so much, and I've found enlarging them on the computer can be disappointing too as the photo starts to blur and details aren't as clear. What can I say other it's 📷just hobby.
However I was pretty pleased with what I was seeing through my new Canon Rebel T6 with just a 75-300mm lens from my first vantage point at the end of Front Street south of the village of Lakeport and even more so from on a stone beach at the end of Victoria Beach Road, west of the long loading dock that like CRH's dock in Clarkson, it extended quite a bit out into Lake Ontario.

With her twin side-by-side stacks and extended wheelhouse jutting out towards her holds, the built in 1974 sternend self unloader offers a unique look perhaps like that of a ferocious bear-like WOLVERINE, a name she proudly displayed for many years. 😮NAAA!!!, probably not. However when Lower Lakes Towing of Port Dover acquired her in 2008 the  WOLVERINE's, name was changed to ROBERT S. PIERSON in honour of a unique gentleman who was very well known in the Canadian shipping industry and formerly had worked for Lower Lakes Towing and American subsidiary Grand River Navigation Company until her died in December 23, 2007.

The downbound ROBERT S. PIERSON seen here in these photos by my friend Nathan Attard while approaching the Welland Canal Bridge 21 in Port Colborne, was built at the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio, and like her subsidiary fleetmates previously and even now named CALUMET and MANITOWIC, she was specifically designed to carry cargoes up Cleveland's Cuyahoga River, hence the designation, "River-class".
These days, the only river trading I'm aware of for the ROBERT S. PIERSON is when she's transiting the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers to pick up or transport road salt to such ports like Johnstown, just south of here on the St. Lawrence River.  

However, when she's not hauling limestone to Clarkson, she maybe taking it other ports like Hamilton which is where she went after loading her hard as a rock cargo soon after I snapped my photos.
Hey, it's Friday evening and I've got to go cut ✂🔪the grass 🌾🌹before it rains ☔ tomorrow. Regardless, it's the first weekend of the summer so have a good one. Meanwhile, if you're wanting to read more about the ROBERT S. PIERSON and her previous life as the WOLVERINE, check out this interest article by George Wharton: 👋👋


  1. Thx for posts, l live just outside Colborne over looking the lake, my daily routine is to watch the waves and ships from my kitchen window. Nice to have a record now as often go to Kingston, Jamestown and Iroquois to watch traffic.

  2. Sorry, Johnstown at foot of 416.