Mathilda Desgagnes - Quebec, Canada

The general cargo vessel Mathilda Desgagnes is seen in this photograph while she was secured alongside the Chesapeake & Ohio coal docks in Toledo during the autumn of 1985. This was one of her few voyages into the Great Lakes during the 1980s. Photograph by Jim Hoffman

Welland Canal Classics - Mathilda Desgagnes
By contributing Editor Skip Gillham

Mathilda Desgagnes has been active in summer resupply trips to the Canadian Arctic since the earliest days. She was built by Davie Shipbuilding and launched at Lauzon, PQ on April 27, 1959, two days after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. She joined the Canada Steamship Lines fleet as Eskimo and operated in Great Lakes and ocean service.

Eskimo was 109.73 metres (360 feet) long by 15.54 metres (51 feet) wide and registered at 4,462 gross tons. A 3,200 horsepower Fairbanks Morse diesel engine supplied her power and when she reached Montreal on March 21, 1960, it was noted as the earliest arrival to that port.

The ship returned to Lauzon in 1964 and was rebuilt as a package freight carrier. The deck cranes were removed and side ports added to enable new trades on Great Lakes and ocean routes. She was chartered on occasion and hauled newsprint from Thunder Bay and likely Baie Comeau to U.S. ports including Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

Registry was changed to Bermuda on June 10, 1976, for work from U.S. East Coast ports to Nigeria with automobiles and trucks. She returned under the Canadian flag in July 1977 and loaded for the Arctic.

Eskimo had been idle at Collingwood when sold to Desgagnes Navigation in 1980 and she passed down the Welland Canal on May 30, 1980, prior to a refit and renaming at Lauzon. She resumed trading as Mathilda Desgagnes and continued her tradition of Arctic service. She also managed some ocean sailing including a trip from Quebec City to Africa with powdered milk in October 1980. In 1985 there were a number of voyages between the Magdalen Islands and Montreal with road salt.

Mathilda Desgagnes while sailing upbound in the Welland Canal

Mathilda Desgagnes has not been a frequent visitor to the Great Lakes but came inland in May 1989 to load salt at Fairport, Ohio for Rimouski, PQ. She continues to operate on the St. Lawrence in various bulk and freight duties and routinely returns to the Arctic in the summer.

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Posted: April 14, 2001       Last Revised: April 17, 2001
Photo by: - Jim Hoffman - Copyright © - 1985, 2001

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