Tugboat Sinking - Wilderness North

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Tugboat Sinking

The James Whalen tugboat was found submerged in the Kaministiquia River on Sunday. (Logan Turner/CBC)

The head of an organization dedicated to preserving transportation history in Thunder Bay says he’s disappointed a century-old tugboat sank into the Kaministiquia River after taking on water over the weekend.

The James Whalen, which was built in 1905 and has been moored at Kam River Heritage Park since the city acquired it in the early 1990s, was found submerged in the river on Sunday.

Charlie Brown, the president of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, said the ship’s sinking is unfortunate.

Brown said the group had approached the city’s waterfront development committee to bring the retired tugboat over to its site near the Alexander Henry, a decommissioned icebreaker that has been turned into a museum ship.

“Our organization has been looking at trying to save the James Whalen for a number of years,” Brown said.

“We were just waiting for a response from that committee because it was sent off to city administration. We were hoping by the end of May we would get some kind of response to that, and perhaps we could move forward.”


‘It wasn’t taken care of’

The ship had taken on water and partially sunk last year, but water was pumped out and the tugboat was assessed and determined to be stable.

Margot McCabe, the granddaughter of N.V McCabe, who captained the ship for many years, said the sinking is upsetting for her family.

“One of the key principles that we were raised under is the idea of doing things right and taking care of things,” McCabe said. “Unfortunately, I think the sinking of the James Whalen exactly proves those points wrong.

“It wasn’t done right, and it wasn’t taken care of.”

Tugboat to be raised

Cory Halvorsen, the city’s manager of parks and open spaces, said the city is in communication with multiple contractors to raise the ship and bring it onto dry land for storage.

Halvorsen said a pump system that had been installed last year was removed for the winter.

“We planned to install the pump as soon as possible in the spring, but when we had checked earlier this spring the water in the sump was still frozen and the temperatures were still freezing, so the pump couldn’t be installed,” he said in a written statement.

Brown said, once the tugboat is raised and assessed, the transportation museum group would be open to discussing the vessel’s future.

“Certainly, if they’d like to contact us we can sit down with the city, and we can see if it’s feasible to then carry on with the original plan we proposed to the city,” he said. “We’d love to have the tug in with the Alexander Henry.”

From the CBC May 4, 2022

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