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The SS Keewatin is Home
Hundreds of boats escorted the SS Keewatin back to her home port of Port McNicoll. With Coast Guard ship escort running in front and Police boats following behind and an armada of old tugs, passenger boats and recreational boats following her down the Bay it was a spectacle that will probably never be repeated in the area. Boating Georgian Bay followed the homecoming both on the water and at the docks. The Port McNicoll harbour was shut off by police boats but we got in by boat before the arrival to photograph the crowds and we had a prime location in front of the crowd barriers not five feet from the stern cleat. The crowds were large and helicopters constantly circled overhead . The two US tugs that brought her in did a remarkable job of gently turning her around in the Harbour and bringing her up to the pier. A choir was on hand, bagpipers, politicians, VIP's, Friends of Keewatin, RCMP and enough OPP officers to rival downtown Montreal policing. It was a well orchestrated and perfectly managed event. Extremely efficient shuttle bus service from Midland, shade tents, good food, portable washrooms, Keewatin souvenir vendors ... it was all there. Skyline Developments and Friends of Keewatin volunteers did a marvelous job. Even the day after the homecoming there were plenty of cars and people wandering in to get a look at the ship. Looks like Port McNicoll has a great tourist attraction in it's midst. IT was nice to see the signs in town welcoming her back and it bodes well for the small town that hasn't seen this much action since the Keewatin left back in 1966. Here is a gallery of the homecoming from both on the water and on the pier below:

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People begin lining the shore at 10:30am Looking out the harbour to the Bay Keewatin coming down the bay Armada of Boats
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Beautiful Lines Along the shore near Midland point Weather was fantastic View Port Stern
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Coast Guard out front & police stern Note tug pulling Keewatin Stern View Crowds are deep
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Lots of boats waiting outside harbour Entering harbour Helicopters circled above Coming down harbour
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Badger leads her in Starting to turn her Two tugs & pilot turn her Sideways in harbour
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Brought in stern first Completely turned around Getting close Pilot assists
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American Girl gets a workout Almost home Crowd can't wait Just off the pier
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Keewatin is here Welcome home Town is glad she's back Next day volunteer tour
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Tug Wendy Anne did her job Bow Up close next day Rudder & Prop
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Majestic at pier Businesses are glad she's back too!    

SS Keewatin

  • SS Keewatin leaves Mackinaw City US June 19th under tow to Port McNicoll
  • Once in Canadian waters she will pick up a Canadian pilot and be escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard
  • Near Tobermory she will be joined by the media boat the Prescotont, an antique Canadian Pacific tug and passenger tour boat Miss Midland
  • Closer to Port McNicoll she will be joined by the HMCS Badger that will do a cannon salute
  • It is expected that hundreds of boats will escort her in to the harbour entrance ... although Port McNicoll harbour will be closed to private boats the day of festivities
  • Once on the pier at 1.30 pm the celebrations, music and BBQ will start
  • Shuttle buses will take visitors from Midland (old Doral factory) to Port McNicoll
  • Pier in Port McNicoll opens 10.30 am but parking will be difficult (take shuttle from Midland)
  • Boating Georgian Bay will be there to cover the event by water and land

ss keewatin An amazing piece of Georgian Bay history is unfolding over the next few weeks. The S.S. Keewatin is actually on her way home under tow to Port McNicoll Ontario. Port McNicoll is the home port of the ship that was launched July 1907 and retired 1966 after 60 seasons moving passengers from Port McNicoll to Thunder Bay and return. Port McNicoll was originally CPR's biggest port and the 288 passenger ship had a crew of 86 with a top speed of 14 knots. It was the first Great Lakes ship to have radar installed (for more details see our previous article on this page).The ship was built 5 years before the Titanic and shares many features in common including her propulsion boiler systems.

The ship had been sitting trapped in a mud bottom of US Kalamazoo harbour until she was recently dredged free by King Company. She entered Lake Michigan June 4th at 10 am for the first time in many years. 70,000 lbs. of bagged water ballast was added to her bow to bring the bow down 2 to 3 feet for steerage. Along the way she stopped for fresh paint and some improvements and went through Coast Guard and insurance inspections before getting a clean bill of health for the tow home.

This is very exciting news and who ever thought this could really happen? - thanks to Skyline Developments purchase of the ship from US interests and the foundation that will support her. She will be docked just steps from her original berth in her home port and she will be offered to the public for restaurant and museum service. She will undergo further refit when she arrives and it is expected she will be a major tourist attraction for the area.

AND HERE IS THE IMPORTANT NEWS! SHE WILL ARRIVE AT PORT MCNICOLL ON JUNE 23 RD AT 1:30 PM 105 years from the day she first left that port. It is expected that thousands of spectators and boats will be there to welcome her home on this very historic occasion.

Although our US friends were sad to see her go, she belongs at home as a unique piece or maritime history.

SS Keewatin The 1907 350' CPR ship SS Keewatin (meaning Blizzard of the North) has a planned move to Port McNicoll Georgian Bay in 2012 where it would go on display as part of the new resort development staging there. The move is subject to a vote by Tay Town Council who must still vote to accept the ship in the Port McNicoll ship basin. The ship has been resting for 45 years in Lake Kalamazoo Michigan which is just north of Chicago on the east side of Lake Michigan. To move the ship the channel between the Lake Kalamazzo and Lake Michigan must be dredged to accommodate her 16 foot draft at a cost estimated to be a million dollars.

Until 1965 the ship moved passengers and freight between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior's Thunder Bay until 1965. It had 105 staterooms and could handle 288 passengers propelled by a 3,300 HP coal boiler. Currently it has been in use as a stationary museum in Michigan.. It would make way for visiting cruise ships to visit her current location in Holland Michigan.

The SS Keewatin is famous for the company she kept as well. She did sea trials with the Lusitania that was sunk by a German submarine that subsequently triggered the first World War. She also shares the same propulsion system and partial layout as the Titanic.

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