Sunday, December 23, 2012

Canima - now on the bottom

 1. Well up in Shediac Bay, Canima remained aground until completion of new channel to deep water. Mounds of sand alongside are from a basin that was dug to allow the ship to float in place.

With the sinking last week of Canima in the Miramichi, NB, area, another ship with an interesting story, will likely be at the end of its existence. There is also an irony in the ship’s name which is also worth a mention.
The ship in question was built in 1961 by Liffey Dockyard in Dublin, Eire for the Cork Harbour Commissioners as Blarna. Cork (also known as Cobh) was a frequent stopover for transatlantic passenger ships, but they did not berth in the port. Instead, as they had done since the earliest days of steam, they anchored in the roadstead, and took on mail, and passengers using a tender, or small passenger ferry. The ship was rated for 1400 deck passengers, on a meagre 150 foot overall length. At 502 tons, is was not a large ship, but it was fitted with two Crossley engines, of 860 bhp total, driving twin screws.
Despite the waning transatlantic passenger trade, the port Commissioners still needed such a tender , but it could also double as an excursion vessel to earn additional revenue.

The years between 1961 and 1966 saw the demise of most transatlantic liners and so the boat was sold to the Bermuda Marine and Port Authority to perform essentially the same work in Hamilton, Bermuda, but for cruise ships (many of which in those days were retired transatlantic liners, that it had served in its earlier life.).
Renamed Canima,  the boat revived a name with strong Canadian ties. In 1874 the Quebec and Gulf Ports Steamship Company, which had operated a mail service between Quebec and the Maritimes, was facing elimination with the opening of the Intercolonial Railway. The company secured a contract to transport Her Majesty’s mails between New York and Bermuda. To service the route they refitted their ship Princess Royal, renamed it Canima for the service.The line eventually expanded to serve the Caribbean and Quebec and Gulf Ports Steamships renamed itself the Quebec Steamship Co. The first Canima was a screw steamer with auxiliary sails, built in 1863, measuring 712 gross tons. It was replaced by more modern ships in 1879 and broken up in 1884.
See more on this topic, and a painting of the first Canima at:
[One point of clarification- Quebec Steamship Co was acquired by Canada Steamship Lines, which was controlled at the time by Lord Furness of the UK. Following World War I, the mail service was transferred to ships more directly owned by Furness.]

Back to 1966, the second Canima lasted in Bermuda until 1988 when a new ship was acquired and  given the name. The second Canima became the inauspicious sounding Chauncey M. Depew. Depew was a US senator and was involved in the Vanderbilt Railway empire, including the New York Central. For more see:

The ship was bought by Canadian interests and arrived in Méchins, QC, December 5, 1988, for conversion to a whale watching vessel, but the plans fell through. It remained at the Verreault yard and wharf for nearly a year before moving to Trois-Pistoles, QC, where it was renamed Gobelet d’Argent II. [silver gobelet]. Intended to replace the Trois-Pistoles - Escoumins ferry, that plan also fell through, and the ship languished until the mid 1990s when it was moved to Campbellton, NB. There it was converted to a static disco-bar, which ran into financial difficulties and was sold.

The new buyer intended to re-commission the ship as a floating antique shop. Moving it to Caraquet, NB, he renamed it Canima, installed new engines and generators and carried out hull work. The ship’s Canadian registration was closed October 1, 1998, but before work could be completed the owner died.
Sold again it was moved to Shediac, NB where it was to be converted to a floating restauarant. These plans were disrupted in November 2003 when the ship was blown away from the pier and grounded in the bay. In October 2005 it was blown further up the bay and into even shallower water.  After months of digging a new channel to open water, it was freed in November 2005 and tied up at the Pointe-du-Chêne wharf. Later it was towed to the Millbank area near Lower Newcastle, NB where it has remained ever since, and completely idle. As recently as January 2012 the US owners reported that they still hoped to revive their restaurant scheme when the US economy improves. A New Brunswick politician was more skeptical, and allowed that it would not be converted in 100 years.
Neighbours complained about the unsightly ship, and it is possible that it changed hands again recently.  However about 10 days ago the ship sank alongside the wharf, and salvage may not be an option - it may be a case of wreck removal instead.

2. Once at Millbank the ship remained idle until it sank at the berth.
[ You may see this photo in the Bermuda Royal Gazette Online for January 4, 2012. It is uncredited and is an un-authorized use. Nevertheless, numerous interesting stores about the ship appear in that august gazette.]

1 comment:

  1. HI Great Blog entry,

    Here is Cill Airne, sister of Blarna, it is now a restaurant in Dublin not far from where the 2 ships were constructed.