SAINTE MARIE when she was chartered by the state

A steel railroad carferry that replaced the ST. IGNACE, the SAINTE MARIE, was launched on January 22, 1913, at Toledo, Ohio by the Toledo Shipbuilding Company for service across the Straits of Mackinac. She received her engines from the wooden carferry SAINTE MARIE (1). This new vessel had four tracks and a capacity for 14 railroad cars.

The SAINTE MARIE spent most of her life as the spare boat for the venerable CHIEF WAWATAM and was chartered extensively each spring and late fall by the Lake Carriers' Association for use as an ice-breaker. In this capacity the vessel was well known to lake sailors. In the 1920's, she was also used to break the ice to release a blockade of freighters during severe early winters when vessels were held up because a few became stuck and blocked the channels.

An especially harrowing experience for the vessels and their crews occurred in the 1926 season, called by the newspapers "The Big Freeze." Storms in late November and early December left many vessels behind schedule. The temperature at Duluth, Minnesota plunged to 50 degrees below zero and the ice set in early. The St. Mary's River became plugged with ice and one vessel was caught in the West Neebish Channel, completely blocking it. SAINTE MARIE was called to try to release the vessels which were now accumulating in the river. Close to 100 were anchored or tied up until the grounded vessel could be released. They were literally frozen in. The huge carferry succeeded in releasing the vessels that were stuck in the upbound channel and then turned her attention to the ones stuck downbound. The way was cleared when the grounded vessel was released. Sailors who spent the two weeks locked in the ice will remember SAINTE MARIE well as she plowed her way through the ice to rescue the trapped vessels.

When the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker MACKINAW was built in 1942, SAINTE MARIE was not used as frequently. The MACKINAW took over the majority of ice breaking duties. In 1961, SAINTE MARIE was sold to the Sadoff Company for scrapping. The vessel was towed to Ashtabula, Ohio and cut up.

BUILT: 1913 Toledo Shipbuilding Co., Toledo, Ohio GROSS REGISTERED TONNAGE: 2,383
LENGTH: 250.0 ENGINES: One Forward 28", 52" Diameter X 40" Stroke
Two Aft 32", 58" Diameter X 48" Stroke
Vertical Inverted Fore & Aft Compound
BREADTH: 62.2 ENGINE BUILDER: Dry Dock Engine Works, Detroit, Michigan, 1893
DEPTH: 21.7

SAINTE MARIE (2) leaving the Soo Locks to break ice

Leaving her dock to cross the Straits of Mackinac