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Historical Perspective
Featured Lake Boat:

Sylvania and Renvoyle Collision
at Port Huron, MI June 1, 1967

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Another "Collision Under The Bridge" - Jon Paul Michaels & Brent Michaels

On June 1, 1967 at 10:10pm EST the 389' Canada Steamship Lines Package Freighter, Renvoyle, struck the Str. Sylvania as it unloaded cement stone at the Peerless Cement Dock just south of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, MI. The Sylvania, a 572' self unloading ship in the Tomlinson Fleet had been unloading at the Peerless Dock for a little more than an hour when it was rammed by the Renvoyle which had lost control in the current resulting in the Sylvania sinking at the dock. The Str. Renvoyle which just completed loading 525 tons of freight had departed the CSL Dock in Sarnia, ON at 9:55pm EST intending to make a 180 turn in the River just below the bridge and proceed to Montreal, QC. The Renvoyle's Captain, Henry Tupper, after learning of downbound traffic in the Lake Huron Cut, decided instead to proceed up into Lake Huron and make his turn above buoy's 11 & 12 and then proceeded downbound. Unfortunately after ordering Full Ahead on the engine and hard starboard on the helm, the Renvoyle failed to respond to her rudder and swung broadside in the St. Clair River due to the strong current always present in the area. At this point the Renvoyle was just below the bridge and slightly upriver of the Sylvania but rapidly heading for the exposed starboard side of the self unloader moored at the Peerless Dock. Captain Tupper seeing the imminent danger unfolding before him called for full astern and dropped the starboard bow anchor with one shot of chain to stop his ship from proceeding any further across the river towards the Sylvania. His actions were for naught as the Renvoyle's forward motion caused it's bow to strike the helpless Sylvania on the starboard side at hatch #27 slicing approximately 5' into it's hull above and below the waterline. The pumps on the Sylvania were immediately activated by the engine room crew but due to the side tanks and unloading tunnel being connected, once the hull was breached, sinking was almost inevitable. The Sylvania settled on a ledge that extends out from the dock and luckily the mooring cables held, keeping the ship from sliding off into the deeper part of the river. The cabins and most of the spar deck remained above water but the engine room partially flooded. The Sylvania was refloated on June 17th by McQueen Marine Ltd and repaired at a cost of over 1 million dollars. The Renvoyle suffered relatively minor bow damage, $20,000, and was able to resume its voyage.

(This article originally appeared in the Boatnerd News Photo Gallery on January 5, 2009)

Sylvania sunk at Peerless Cement Dock as seen from the Blue Water Bridge. New
(Marc Vander Meulen collection)

Closer view.
(Photo by Paul Michaels)

Sunken Sylvania as seen from the deck of the Howard L. Shaw
(Photo by Don Boone)

Sunk at dock in Port Huron in 1967
(Photo by Ralph Butler III)

Closer view of sunken Sylvania
(Photo by Ralph Butler III)

Bow of sunken Sylvania
(Marc Vander Meulen collection)

Renvoyle in the Welland Canal showing bow damage.
(Photo by Paul Michaels)

Another view of the Renvoyle's bow damage.
(Photo by Paul Michaels)

Renvoyle in the Welland Canal after the collision
(Photo by Dave Glick, Rich Weiss collection)

Sylvania refloated with a patch on the starboard side.
(Photo by Paul Michaels)



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Last updated: June 3, 2012.

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