Canada’s oldest Great Lakes vessel, the 80-year-old Cuyahoga, may have reached the end of its life after a fire broke out in its engine room on 23 May. The ship was towed into Kingsville, Ontario by McKeil Marine tugs Ecosse and Stormont three days later. The vessel was still transporting bulk commodities such as stone, iron and coal. Although the owners of the Lower Lakes Towing division have not publicly stated the fate of the ship, it is likely that the Cuyahoga has been retired.
The fire caused the vessel to become disabled near Point Pelee, Ontario. A spokesperson for the US Coast Guard revealed their agencies provided assistance and relief to take care of the 20 crew members who were onboard the Cuyahoga. Eight of the crew members were removed from the vessel and taken to the shore as a safety precaution, but there were no reports of injuries or pollution. The ship’s crew was able to extinguish the fire successfully but the vessel remained at anchor.
The ship was initially known as the J. Burton Ayers, a name that she sailed under for more than 50 years. She was built in 1943 and became part of a significant World War II supply movement, transporting iron ore to the mills creating tanks, aircraft and artillery. The Cuyahoga was acquired by Lower Lakes in 1995 and, along with a sister ship called the Mississagi, became one of the oldest Canadian Lakers. However, her sister was retired and scrapped in 2021.
While it is not unusual for vessels to have long lives, the Cuyahoga is considered a piece of living history of the Great Lakes. The ship was designed elegantly, featuring the first use of the cruiser stern design and was powered by a double compound steam engine. Her class of 16 A1-type Maritime Class Bulkers was seen as the pinnacle of style during that time.
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