Stella Desgagnes

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The Stella Desgagnes is seen in this photograph transiting upbound in the Welland Canal
during the afternoon hours of October 8th, 1988. At the time it was taken she was sailing southbound
in the canal above lock 2 and was heading for lock 3 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Welland Canal Classics - Stella Desgagnes
By contributing Editor Skip Gillham

STELLA DESGAGNES was constructed along the banks of the Welland Canal at Port Weller Dry Docks. She was Hull 19 from the St.Catharines, Ontario shipyard and launched on April 9, 1956. She originally sailed as TECUMSEH for the Beaconsfield Steamship Co. and was designed for trading through the pre-Seaway locks of the St. Lawrence Canals. TECUMSEH measured 78.94 metres (259 feet) in overall length by 13.29 metres (43.6 feet) at the beam. She was registered at 2,293 gross tons and able to carry 4,300 tons deadweight or 135,000 bushels of grain.

This motor vessel was the last freighter to use the Cornwall Canal in July 1958 before that section was flooded in preparation for the new Seaway. With the waterway in service in 1959, TECUMSEH was not longer limited by the size of the old locks and was accordingly lengthened by 27.43 metres (90 feet) and deepened over the winter of 1959 - 60. This resulted in a new carrying capacity of 5,900 deadweight or 220,000 bushels of grain.

Corporate reorganization in 1963 moved TECUMSEH to Mohawk Navigation and she remained in their colours until a sale to Quebec & Ontario Transportation in 1967. She was renamed NEW YORK NEWS, the third with this name in company history, and returned to work carrying various grain, newsprint, salt, pitch, pig iron, zinc, clay, coke, sugar and steel among the various products for this versatile ship. From 1968 to 1983 the vessel made 381 trips with Thunder Bay, Thorold and Baie Comeau the most popular loading ports while Toronto, Chicago and Duluth were the main discharge centres.

Service was interrupted by a minor collision with NORDGLIMT off Escoumins, Quebec on July 9, 1967, and a more serious problem at Pugwash, Nova Scotia on July 18, 1967. The vessel buckled amidships at the latter port while loading salt and the two sections had to be separated and towed to Halifax and rejoined.

The Q & O fleet was sold to Desgagnes Navigation in 1984 and she continued to operate on their account. The name was changed to STELLA DESGAGNES in 1986 and that year, on June 11, she opened the navigation season at Wallaceburg, Ontario. When she last called there on July 26, 1987, it marked the final commercial bulk carrier to stop at that historic port.

STELLA DESGAGNES was idle at Montreal in 1993 and sold late in the year to Beam Shipping. She was registered in Panama as BEAM BEGINNER and sailed December 30, 1993, for new service in the south. The voyage was interrupted by apparent rudder damage and the trip ended at Becancour, Quebec on January 15. The hull was resold and towed back through the Seaway to Hamilton in July 1995 where she was dry-docked and given a refit.

She departed again under tow, as WOLF RIVER on August 27, 1997, and headed through the familiar waters of the Welland Canal enroute to Thunder Bay, Ontario. WOLF RIVER resumed service in June 1998 carrying pulpwood from Thunder Bay to Duluth but has seen only limited work in this new role and has mainly been idle.

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Posted: June 6, 1998       Last Revised: July 23, 2001
Photo by: Jeff Cameron - Copyright © - 1988, 2000

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