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Downbound St. Marys River, June 23, 2009.

Roger LeLievre

-- Canadian Leader --
(Feux-Follets 1967 - 1972)

By George Wharton

On November 15, 1966, the keel for this classic Great Lakes bulk steamer was laid at Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. of Collingwood, ON. The new laker was launched on June 16, 1967 as the Feux-Follets for Papachristidis Shipping Ltd. of Montreal, QC becoming their newest, largest and final addition to their 5 vessel fleet.  Upon her completion, she was designated the fleet's flag ship.  The Feux-Follets was built to replace the steamer Don-de-Dieu which had previously been sold to Labrador Steamship in 1967.  She also proved to be the last new steam-powered laker to have been built on the Great Lakes.  The new bulk steamer was named in honor of the Feux-Follets Ballet Group of Montreal. a group that was avidly supported by the fleet's owner Mr. Phrixos Papachristidis.  The name itself translates from French as "will of the wisp" or, more literally, "like gases over water."

The Feux-Follets is powered by a Canadian General Electric 9,900 s.h.p. (7,282 KW) cross-compound steam turbine engine built by Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd., Peterborough, ON with 2 heavy fuel oil fired Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers with Bailey automatic controls.  The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller which can push the vessel along at speeds of up to 19 m.p.h.  She is also equipped with an 800 h.p. (588 KW) KaMeWa controllable pitch propeller bow thruster.  The bulker is capable of carrying 28,300 tons (28,755 mt) of ore at a mid-summer draft of 27' 09" (8.47m) and approximately 26,997 tons (27,431 mt) at the new Seaway draft of 26' 06" (8.08m).  Cubic cargo capacities of her holds include 30,500 net tons* of coal (27,232 tons / 27,670 mt), 27,303 tons (27,742 mt) of wheat, 25,683 tons (26,096 mt) of corn and rye, 22,534 tons (22,896 mt) of barley and 20,713 tons (21,046 mt) of oats.  The cargo is contained in 6 holds serviced by 17 hatches.  Other capacities include 765 tons (777 mt) of fuel oil, 18.7 tons (19 mt) of diesel oil, 93.5 tons (95 mt) of potable water and 10,935 tons (11,111 mt) of water ballast.

On October 12, 1967 the Feux-Follets entered service sailing on her maiden voyage in ballast from Collingwood, ON to Port Arthur, ON (now part of Thunder Bay, ON) for a load of grain for a St. Lawrence River port.  While downbound on this voyage, on October 17, the bulker lost power while approaching the Soo Locks drifting close to the new, still drying Poe Lock.  Power was restored and control was regained before any damage was done.  The bulker set a Seaway record on May 7, 1969 carrying 961,988 bushels of #1 Northern wheat.

For a number of reasons, Mr. Papachristidis decided to leave the Great Lakes shipping industry.  Thus, on March 16, 1972, the Feux-Follets with her fleet mates Montrealais, Quebecois, Petite Hermine and Grande Hermine were sold to Jackes Shipping Ltd., a division of Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. of Toronto, ON for $25 million.  The Feux-Follets was renamed Canadian Leader, the Petite Hermine and Grande Hermine being renamed Canadian Hunter and Canadian Mariner respectively with the Montrealais and Quebecois retaining their names.

The Canadian Leader immediately distinguished herself with her new fleet on March 28, 1972 by being the first Upper Lakes vessel to pass down through the new Welland Canal bypass of the city of Welland, ON.  On August 5, 1972, the laker struck the loading dock at Thunder Bay caving in the bow and flooding the forepeak.  Temporary repairs were completed there with permanent repairs being completed at Port Weller Dry Docks at St. Catharines, ON.  On April 1, 1976 (also on March 24, 1998), the Canadian Leader's Captain was awarded the "Top Hat" at ceremonies held annually at the Lock 3 Visitors' Center of the Welland Canal at St. Catharines for being the first vessel to transit downbound through the Welland Canal officially opening the Canal for the new navigation season.  The Canadian Leader set a Huron, OH port record on November 18, 1982 when over 1 million bushels of grain were loaded on board.  Then on April 16, 1983, she struck the west pier of the Conrail bridge in Toledo, OH while outbound with a load of grain.  Major damage was caused to the bridge and lesser damage to the vessel.

More recently, on August 21, 1998, the Canadian Leader ran aground on Crab Island Shoal while downbound on the St. Marys River on the Drummond Island side of the Detour Channel.  The grounding was suspected to have been caused by steering gear failure.  She was pulled off her strand on August 23rd with the aid of Purvis Marine tugs Anglian Lady, Avenger IV and Wilfred M. Cohen.  There was substantial forepeak damage with flooding which was temporarily repaired with the laker proceeding to Port Weller Dry Docks for permanent repair.  She returned to service on September 28, 1998.  Then on December 10th, 2003, the Canadian Leader experienced steering problems while downbound on Lake Huron with grain from Thunder Bay to Baie Comeau, QC.  She anchored in Lake Huron before entering the St. Clair River to make repairs but had steering trouble again by Harsens Island above Lake St. Clair.  The vessel was permitted to proceed to Port Colborne, ON for more complete repairs.

On September 26, 2005, the Canadian Leader grounded in the St. Lawrence River near Grondines, QC (between Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City) due to engine failure.  At the time, she was upbound with a load of iron ore from Pointe Noire, QC for Hamilton, ON.  The vessel was freed September 28 having received bottom plate damage and water in the forward hold.  She proceeded to Quebec City for further inspection and temporary repairs before being allowed to proceed to Hamilton to unload her cargo.  She then went to Port Weller Dry Docks where she was drydocked for permanent repairs; returning to service in mid-November.

The steam powered laker sailed under the ownership of Upper Lakes Shipping being operated and managed by Seaway Marine Transport of St. Catharines, ON until mid 2009 when after unloading iron ore at Dofasco, the Canadian Leader laid up for what proved to be a final time at Hamilton, ON July 7, 2009.  Seaway Marine Transport is a partnership jointly owned by Upper Lakes Shipping and Algoma Central that commercially manages and operates the dry-bulk and self-unloader fleets of both companies.  Her cargoes had remained focused in the bulk agricultural products, iron ore and cement clinker trades.

On November 6, 2010, the retired bulker departed Hamilton, ON under tow of McKeil Marine tug Jarrett M assisted by tugs Lac Manitoba and Seahound on her final voyage to Port Colborne, ON for scrapping.  The tow arrived at International Marine Salvage, Port Colborne on November 7, 2010. 

*The Great Lakes shipping industry standard for coal is the "net ton" (2,000 lbs.).  All other tonnage figures shown in this article are "gross tons" (1.12 net tons or 2,240 lbs.) with metric mt shown thus ( ).

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  730' 00" (222.50m)
 Beam  75' 00" (22.86m)
 Depth  39' 08" (12.09m)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  28,300 tons (28,755 mt)
at a draft of 27' 09" (8.47m)
 Power (steam turbine)  9,900 s.h.p. (7,282 KW)

Canadian Leader video from Port Huron, MI.
Bill Bird

Scrap Tow from Hamilton, ON to Port Colborne, ON, November 6 / 7, 2010

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4-CanadianLeaderbow-11-07-10-bb.jpg (53521 bytes) 5-CanadianLeadermen-11-07-10-bb.jpg (58980 bytes) 6-CanadianLeadertow-11-07-10-c-bb.jpg (57098 bytes)
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Leaving Hamilton towed by Jarrett M, Nov. 6, 2010.
Ted Wilush
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Stern view with assisting tugs Seahound and
Lac Manitoba. Ted Wilush
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Into Lake Ontario. Ted Wilush
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At Allanburg, ON, May 30, 2009.
Bill Bird
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Passing under Port Colborne's Bridge 21,
May 30, 2009. John McCreery
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Upbound the St. Clair River, May 31, 2009.
Jeff Mast
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Arriving at Hamilton, May 12, 2009.
Eric Holmes
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Stern view. Eric Holmes
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Upbound the Welland Canal approaching Lock 7,
May 30, 2009. John van der Doe
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Leaving Hamilton, ON headed for the open lake,
Apr. 26, 2009. John McCreery
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Bow view. John McCreery
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Stern view into Lake Ontario. John McCreery

Winter lay-up at Toronto with a storage load
of sugar, Jan. 3, 2009. Bill Bird
2-CanLeader-4-4-09-jm.jpg (113078 bytes)
Upbound the Welland Canal departing Lock 1 on
first trip for 2009, Apr. 4, 2009. John McCreery
3-CanLeader-4-4-09-jm.jpg (78624 bytes)
Stern view. John McCreery

Downbound Welland Canal emerging from Lock 4,
Nov. 5, 2008. John McCreery

Reflected image. John McCreery

Stern view passing the Cuyahoga.
John McCreery

Toronto after unloading, Mar.16, 2008.
John McCreery

Downbound entering the St. Clair River,
May 20, 2008. Marc Dease

Approaching the St. Lawrence Seaway's Iroquois Lock, Sept. 13, 2008. Fritz Hager

Marquette ready to load, Oct. 13, 2007.
Rod Burdick

Downbound at Point Edward, ON, Nov. 23, 2007.
Marc Dease

Winter lay-up at Toronto with a wonter storage load,
Jan. 23, 2008. Gerry Ouderkirk

St. Lawrence Seaway near St. Lambert Lock,
JJuly, 7, 2007. Michel St-Denis

Coming off Lake Huron at Point Edward, ON,
Aug. 16, 2007. Marc Dease

Arriving at Marquette to load iron ore, Oct. 13, 2007.
Lee Rowe

On Lake St. Clair, Dec. 9, 2006.
Boatnerd Staff

St. Lawrence River near Quebec City, June 18, 2007.
Michel St-Denis

Stern view. Michel St. Denis

Entering the St. Clair River at Port Huron, Apr.,> Bill Bird

Loading at Thunder Bay, May 7, 2006.
Rob Farrow
CANADIAN-LEADER-(9).jpg (54076 bytes)
Upbound St. Marys River, July 12, 2006.
Greg Barber

Daylight at Marquette, Aug. 16, 2005.
Rod Burdick

At Marquette, MI Aug. 16, 2005.
Lee Rowe

Being towed Sept 28, 2005 after grounding,
St. Lawrence River.. Jacques Trempe

St. Lawrence River in the American Narrows by Wellesley Island, NY, July 21, 2005. Fritz Hager
CANADIAN-LEADER-(3).jpg (51798 bytes)
Upbound St. Marys River, July 25, 2005.
Greg Barber

At Port Weller Dry Docks, Oct. 13, 2005.
BoatNerd Staff

St. Lawrence River, May 2005.
Jacque Trempes

Unloading cement clinker at Duluth,
May  27, 2005. Chris Mazzella

Another view. Chris Mazzella

Welland Canal, Sept. 22, 2004.
Alex Howard

Into the lock. Alex Howard

Unloading at Duluth, MN, Dec. 3, 2004.
Dick Wicklund

Detroit River, Aug. 26, 2004.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Unloading cement at St. Lawrence Cement, Duluth, MN, Dec. 2, 2004. Glenn Blaszkiewicz

Different views at Welland Canal
Aug. 19, 2004. Alex Howard

Downbound at the Soo approaching the Mac Lock,
Nov. 21, 2003. Scott Best

Entering the lock. Scott Best

Meeting the Canadian Provider below the lock.
Scott Best

Downbound the Welland Canal exiting Lock 7,
Sept. 13, 2003. Scott Guenthner

Another view. Scott Guenthner

Bow profile. Scott Guenthner

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Feux-Follets downbound St. Marys River
July 20, 1971. Roger LeLievre

Stern view. Roger LeLievre

Loading grain at Duluth, MN, 1973.
Roger LeLievre

At Duluth, MN April 10, 1977.
Gene Onchulenko
(from the 2002 MHSD calendar)
IceJamStClairRiver84.jpg (73127 bytes)
1984 St. Clair River ice jam with the
Canadian Leader leading the way.
Tom Manse collection courtesy of
Roger LeLievre

Welland Canal, 1984. Rudi Rabe

Loading at Thunder Bay, ON.
Rob Farrow

Port Huron, MI. Rod Burdick

Loading at Sarnia's Cargill Elevators,
Aug. 1, 2000. George Wharton

Welland Canal, July 7, 2001.
Mike Nicholls

Upbound Welland Canal, Aug. 11, 2001.
George Wharton

Another view. George Wharton

Bow profile. George Wharton

Stern view. George Wharton

Detroit River, Aug. 14, 2001.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Departing Thunder Bay, ON, Oct. 2001.
Rob Farrow

Loading at Toledo, OH, Dec. 4, 2001.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Upbound Welland Canal, Apr. 10, 2002.
Alex Howard

Stern view. Alex Howard

Downbound lower Lake Huron with 25,609 mt of grain from Thunder Bay for Quebec City,
Apr. 17, 2002. George Wharton

Into the St. Clair River. George Wharton

Stern view. George Wharton

Welland Canal Apr. 19, 2002.
Dan Sweeley

Upbound the St. Lawrence Seaway approaching
the Iroquois Lock with iron ore for Hamilton,
Apr. 26, 2002. Dave Beach

Detroit River, June 29, 2002.
Mike Nicholls

Another view. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Upbound Detroit River, July 11, 2002.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Aerial view, Lake Erie, Oct. 28, 2002.
Don Coles

Another view. Don Coles

Loading at Toledo Oct. 31, 2002.
Mike Nicholls

Welland Canal.

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