Posted by: cruise2 | 31 October, 2011

Keewatin To Return to Canada

by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing for

Earlier this month saw the final tours on board the former Canadian Pacific Great Lakes cruise ship Keewatin, which has been moored at the Lake Michigan port of Douglas, Michigan, near Saugatuck, since 1967.

Roland Peterson, now 85 and owner of Douglas’s Tower Marina, purchased her after her retirement in 1965 in order to save her from the scrappers and has since maintained her as a nautical museum. An Edwardian-era passenger ship, she was built on the Clyde in 1907 and capable of carrying 288 passengers.

Keewatin features a two-deck high central well topped by clerestory windows, a central stairway, oak-finished cabins, observation lounges, formal dining room and hand-painted Italian glass windows throughout.

The deal for her purchase by Skyline International Development Inc was recently closed. Skyline intends to have the 350-foot 3,886-ton Keewatin towed next spring to her former home port of Port McNicoll, in Tay Township on Ontario’s Georgian Bay. As part of the deal, the new owners of Keewatin will dredge the Saugatuck-Douglas harbour so that they can tow their ship away.

“We are thrilled to return the world’s last Edwardian passenger steamship to the people of Tay Township and Canada,” said Gil Blutrich, Skyline chairman and president.
“This is a historic Canadian vessel and I believe the Keewatin will deliver both tourism dollars and wonderful memories to the community for years to come.”

Port McNicoll as an 800-acre resort village about seventy minutes north of Toronto. With six and a half miles of shoreline, the entire area is being redeveloped by Skyline International as a $1 billion resort community of condominiums, cottages, hotels, shops and marinas.

In their heyday, Keewatin and her sister ship Assiniboia operated weekly cruises from Port McNicoll to Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, with Keewatin sailing on Wednesdays and Assiniboia on Saturdays after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific boat train from Toronto. One-way passengers could transfer back to the railway in Thunder Bay to continue their journey west and vice versa.

Although still in the rail business, Canadian Pacific abandoned its last connection to shipping In October 2005, when the independent CP Ships container ship operation was sold to Hapag-Lloyd. It had ceased its passenger ship services over a number of years, closing down its Transpacific Empress operation on the outbreak of war in 1939, the Great Lakes trade in 1965, its Transatlantic Empress operation in 1971 and its Alaska cruise service in 1981, but it was still carrying passengers in twenty-one of its container ships prior to the sale to Hapag-Lloyd six years ago.

But many signs of Canadian Pacific remain, even in to-day’s cruise industry.
Princess Cruises, for example, took its name from the 6,062-ton Alaska cruise ship Princess Patricia, which it chartered for two winters to cruise from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera from 1964.

Carnival Cruise Lines adopted its funnel design from the former CP Ships logo by changing the colours and making a circle out of a triangle when it purchased its first ship, Empress of Canada, from Canadian Pacific, and renamed her Mardi Gras.

This ship was Canadian Pacific’s last North Atlantic liner and every new Carnival ship to this day has been built with an Empress Deck. Canadian Pacific was also the first line to build a dual-purpose North Atlantic liner and world cruise ship, with its 42,348–ton Empress of Britain, eighty years ago in 1931. This design was adopted post-war by Cunard Line’s 34,183–ton Caronia and has most recently been adapted by Queen Mary 2.

While Douglas may be losing the forty-five-year presence of its Edwardian cruise ship, the area will at least be gaining an active cruise ship in 2012, when Travel Dynamics returns to the port of Saugatuck next summer. Seven calls are planned for the 2,354-ton Yorktown, which has a shallow enough draught, beginning on June 7.

Whether Keewatin will be gone by then remains an open question but the present plan, if dredging proceeds well, is that Keewatin will be moved from Douglas to Port McNicoll in June.


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