Posted on Friday, June 1, 2012 by Martin Cox
New owners, Skyline International Development Co., began the 550 mile move of the 350-foot SS KEEWATIN from Peterson’s Tower Marina at Douglas, Michigan to Port McNicoll, Ontario, Canada, the ship’s onetime home port. The City of Port McNicoll plans to renovate the 104-year-old steamship and feature her as part of a waterfront park.
“If I was younger, I wouldn’t be selling it,” said R.J. Peterson. He his wife, Dianne, a local marina-owning couple in Douglas, took out a personal loan to buy the vessel, saving her from scrap and restored KEEWATIN’s interiors, opening the ship to the public for paid tours way back in 1967.
“The KEEWATIN is a treasure that needs to be preserved,” said Peterson (who turns 85 this year), “Here, it’s just a local attraction I brought to town. In Ontario, it’s a Canadian steamship with national historic connections,” he added, noting the ship was part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s rail-to-water transportation system of deluxe travel during the first half of the 20th century.
The SS KEEWATIN, the last Edwardian liner, has been a tourist attraction for the last 44-years at Douglas, Michigan on the east shore of the Kalamazoo River, a few miles from Lake Michigan.
The ship was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Scotland and delivered to Owen Sound, Ontario in 1907. Wayne Brown informs MaritimeMatters that she ran between Owen Sound and Port Arthur/Fort William from 1908 until 1911. In 1912 the Canadian Pacific Railway moved their southern Great Lakes Terminal to the newly built company town of Port McNicoll.
The KEEWATIN then commenced running from Port McNicoll to the Canadian Lakehead for the next 54 years.
At 2:46 pm May 31, 2012 she was towed away from her berth and reached her first destination at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River at Lake Michigan. US Coast Guard regional office in Milwaukee granted permission at 1pm and the tow began at 2:46. Canons roared, cars blew their horns, and all boats in the marinas blew their sirens and rang bells and alarms. With the support of the Coast Guard, changes were made for the deep water tow: water-filled ballast bags were used to lower the bow and raise the stern, while doors and hatches were secured.
Arrival in Port McNicoll is expected June 23rd at 1:30 pm.
Special thanks to Eric Conroy, the S.S. KEEWATIN Marine Museum and Wayne Brown