This classic straight deck bulk carrier was built in 1963 as hull #1048 by Saint John Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Saint John, NB. Named to honor the province in which she was built, the vessel was launched April 20, 1963 as the Newbrunswicker for owners Calvert Distillers Ltd., Montreal, PQ. The Newbrunswicker entered into service under a bareboat charter to Eastern Lake Carriers Ltd. with Papachristidis Co. Ltd., Montreal, QC as managers. The vessel is powered by a Canadian General Electric 9,900 s.h.p. cross compound steam turbine engine with 2 heavy fuel oil fired Babcock & Wilcox water tube boilers; the power being fed to a single fixed pitch propeller giving her a maximum speed of 19 m.p.h. She is equipped with a 500 h.p bow thruster. Nineteen hatches feed into 6 holds where she can carry 25,884 tons at Seaway draft of 26’03” and is capable of carrying 27,951 tons at mid summer draft of 27’08 ˝”.
The Newbrunswicker passed upbound through the Welland Canal on her maiden voyage on May 2, 1963. During her first year of service, the vessel set a wheat record on September 17 by loading 918,215 bushels at Fort William, ON (now Thunder Bay) for Montreal, QC; a record that stood only until 1964. August 13, 1964 saw the vessel grounded on a shoal in the St. Lawrence River just below Cornwall, ON and not released until 3 days later. She then broke a soybean record June 18, 1965 when 885,700 bushels were loaded at Duluth, MN bound for a St. Lawrence River port; a record which stood until 1967. The Newbrunswicker came under the direct ownership of Eastern Lake Carriers Ltd. with Papachristidis remaining as managers in 1965.
The Newbrunswicker was renamed Grande Hermine in 1967. The Grande Hermine was named after La Grande Hermine, the flagship of North American explorer Jacques Cartier’s flotilla of 1534. (Jacques Cartier’s actual mission was to find a direct route from France to China.) Being of 78’08” in length, 25’ beam, 12’ in depth, and displacing 120 tons; La Grande Hermine had 3 masts, carried a complement of 112, and was armed with 12 guns. Following a fleet tradition, this was the third vessel in Papachristidis’ fleet to be given this name; the others being salt water vessels given the name in 1946 and 1955. The Grande Hermine continued to set records when, on April 16, 1969; 880,061 bushels of soybeans were loaded at Toledo, OH for Port Cartier, QC. The grain and iron ore trade shuttle carrying grain from various Great Lakes ports to elevators along the St. Lawrence River with return loads of iron ore from Gulf of St. Lawrence ports continued to provide the majority of the cargoes for this vessel under the Papachristidis banner until the end of 1971.
Just prior to the beginning of the 1972 navigation season, Jackes Shipping Ltd., Toronto, ON (division of Upper Lakes Group) acquired the Grande Hermine renaming the vessel Canadian Mariner. Taking the Upper Lakes fleet prefix “Canadian”, “Mariner” honors all of the sailors on and off the Great Lakes. Upper Lakes Shipping Corp., Toronto (ULS Corp.) assumed direct ownership of the vessel in 1979.
The Canadian Mariner’s boilers were automated in January, 1974 and the vessel was noted to have struck bottom in the St. Marys River in heavy fog in May of the same year. Of particular note, on April 16, 1979; the Canadian Mariner distinguished herself by answering the distress calls of the small N.M. Paterson & Sons bulker Labradoc during a spring storm on Lake Erie. The Labradoc had developed a 26 degree list to port in heavy seas about 18 miles northwest of Ashtabula, OH. The Canadian Mariner stood by upwind to act as a breakwall for the disabled vessel and to assist if needed to pick up survivors. Helicopters rescued the crew and the Labradoc survived the storm. The Canadian Mariner again touched bottom in the St. Marys River on December 25, 1981 while downbound with wheat. The vessel had taken on some water but was allowed to proceed.
From 1993 through to the January, 2000; the vessel operated under the management of Seaway Bulk Carriers, Winnipeg, MB (partnership of Upper Lakes Group and Algoma Central). The Canadian Mariner currently operates under the management of Seaway Marine Transport, St. Catharines, ON which is the new management group formed as a result of the combining of the Seaway Bulk Carriers and Seaway Self Unloaders fleets.
On June 18, 1997; steering gear failure caused the Canadian Mariner to ground hard upon a shoal adjacent to Crossover Island, NY while downbound in the St. Lawrence River. After being lightered by the D.C. Everest and the spud barge Henry T, and aided by tugs Wyatt McKeil, Carolyn Jo, Evans McKeil, Glenbrook, John Spence, and Robinson Bay; the Canadian Mariner was freed on June 27, 1997. The damaged vessel received a 200’ gash under #’s 1, 2, and 3 holds as well as bow thruster damage. After inspection, she was allowed to proceed to Quebec City, QC to unload, then proceed back to Port Weller Dry Docks, St. Catharines for repair; arriving June 26, 1997.
As has been the case throughout her career, cargoes carried by the Canadian Mariner have continued to be focused on the grain and iron ore trades; with other occasional cargoes including coal, sugar, and cement. With fewer grain cargoes, the economics of operating a straight deck steam powered vessel, and her age all point to a very uncertain future for the Canadian Mariner. Steam powered Seaway Marine fleet mates Algogulf (2), Algoriver, and Canadian Voyager were sent for scrap in 2002. The Canadian Mariner sailed in the spring of 2002 while her diesel powered fleet mate Canadian Miner was at Port Weller Dry Docks for her 5-year survey. The Canadian Mariner sailed again in the fall of 2002 after receiving a temporary extension to her 5-year survey which had just expired, to cover loads booked for her damaged fleet mate Canadian Prospector (victim of a collision in mid October, 2002). On her final load of the 2002 season, the Canadian Mariner cleared the Thunder Bay, ON piers late on December 13, 2002 with 24,596 tons (24,207.443 metric tonnes) of wheat bound for Montreal; returning to Toronto for lay up with a storage load of raw sugar. With a tow ring already welded to her bow, this laden voyage was probably her last.