Browse some sample images and read about the ships that have visited Owen Sound harbour in the brief storylines below.  Want to see more?  You can also browse these and additional images in our Adobe Lightroom "Harbourscapes" portfolio.  Click here for details and links.
Living in the small port city of Owen Sound provides me with the opportunity to marvel at the large freighters as they visit the shores of this historic Great Lakes city.  For much of its early history, Owen Sound was considered a major port.  Its location on Georgian Bay provided much needed access to the upper Great Lakes as well as rail transit to the lower Great Lakes and points south.  At its commercial peak, the port of Owen Sound  was known as the “Chicago of the North”. Today, while no longer one of the the Great Lakes’ busiest commercial ports, Owen Sound remains an important part of Canada’s shipping heritage.  Two commercial silos remain in operation and it continues to be an important winter port for a few Great Lakes freighters each year.
CCGS Constable Carrière
The CCGS Constable Carrière docked in Owen Sound harbour.
The CCGS Constable Carrière was built in Halifax, Nova Scotia by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. in 2013.  It was the fourth of nine Hero Class vessels to join the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. Its mission is to support the Compliance and Enforcement program in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.  As part of the program, the Constable Carrière is supported as a joint mission by the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  The CCGS Constable Carrière is named after Constable J.L. François Carrière, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Constable Carrière died on November 30, 1997, while conducting an underwater search of a vessel believed to be smuggling illegal drugs.
The Manitoulin docked at the Great Lakes Elevator Company silos in the Port of Owen Sound.  (Image of ship with multi-layered textured map background.)
Re-registered under the Canadian flag and relaunched in 2014 as the Manitoulin, this 664' vessel was originally built at the Uljanik Shipyard (Pula, Croatia) in 1991 for the United Shipping and Trading Company Ltd. (Denmark).  Originally sailing under the name Lalandia Swan, she was purchased by the Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. (Port Dover, Ontario) in 2014.  In 2014/2015 the ship underwent an extensive rebuild at the Chengxi Shipyards (Jiangyin, China) where she was converted to a self-unloading carrier.  At the time of her re-launch, Manitoulin had the largest carrying capacity of any existing river class self-unloader and was anticipated to be the most efficient vessel of its class on the Great Lakes. 
Algoma Algoway
The Algoma Algoway's frequent visits to Owen Sound harbour
A familiar sight in Owen Sound harbour in recent years, the 650' Algoway takes up position for winter lay-up on the west harbour wall in front of the Great Lakes Elevator Company silos.  Built in 1972 by Collingwood Shipyards (Collingwood, Ontario) for Algoma Central Corp, the Algoway is a self-unloading carrier with a 250’ boom capable of discharging  3810 tons per hour. 
A Late Harbour Snowfall
From left to right the the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin, the Olympic, the Chi Cheemaun and the Cuyahoga
An unusual snowy April day made for some interesting photographs. This shot captured four ships docked in Owen Sound harbour.
MS Chi Cheemaun
Before and After:  The MS Chi Cheemaun docked in Owen Sound harbour in 2015 and again in 2017 proudly displaying her new colours.
The MS Chi Cheemaun returning to her home port where she will dock for the winter.
Travelling by ferry is a long standing Great Lakes tradition dating back to the 1930s when a small, wooden vessel known as the Kagawong first carried people and automobiles across Georgian Bay between Tobermory and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. 
Built in 1974, the MS Chi-Cheemaun (Owen Sound Transportation Company Limited) continues this tradition today.  Measuring 364' in length the ship can carry 648 passengers and 240 vehicles, including room for large highway vehicles such as buses and transport trucks.  The Chi-Cheemaun makes the 40 km (25 mi) trip in about one hour and 45 minutes, four times each day during peak season and twice a day during May and October. From November to April she winters in her home port of Owen Sound.
Digitally enriched textured layers are added to these images of the Frontenac to add a unique painterly look and feel to the final photographic composition.
The Frontenac docked at the Great Lakes Elevator Company silos on a cold December day.
Built for the the Canada Steamship Lines in 1968 by Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. (Lauzon, Quebec), the 730' Frontenac was named after Mr. Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac.  Frontenac was a French soldier, courtier, and Governor General of New France in the late 1600s. Originally built as a straight deck bulk carrier (wheelhouse forward), she was converted to a self-unloading carrier by Collingwood Shipyards (Collingwood, Ontario) in 1973.  She sails under the Canadian flag with a home port of Montreal (Quebec). In the days following the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in November of 1975, the Frontenac was one of several vessels that aided in the search and recovery mission.  In 2002 she was involved in a rescue operation when she spotted a small group of boaters in distress on Lake St. Clair.
John D Leitch
The John D Leitch arrives in Owen Sound harbour on a cold and icy January night.
Built by Port Weller Dry Docks (St. Catharines, Ontario) for Upper Lakes Group, Inc. (Toronto, Ontario) on April 15, 1967, the ship was originally christened the Canadian Century in honour of Canada’s 100 birthday.  At the time of her launch, she was the largest capacity self-unloading vessel on the Great Lakes. After undergoing some major renovations in 2001-2002, she was renamed the John D Leitch in honour of the long time President of the Upper Lakes Shipping Co.  In 2011 she was sold along with rest of the Upper Lakes Group fleet to Algoma Central Corporation.  The John D Leitch measures 730’ in length and has a capacity of almost 32,000 tons.
The Saginaw in Owen Sound harbour.  (The image with two ships, features the Saginaw sailing towards Owen Sound harbour as the barge St Marys Challenger, powered by the tug Prentiss Brown heads back out to open water.
Originally named the John J. Boland, this vessel was built in 1953 by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. (Manitowoc, Wisconsin) for the American Steamship Co. (Buffalo, New York).  The ship was sold to the Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., (Port Dover, Ontario) and renamed the Saginaw honour of Michigan’s Saginaw River.  In 2007 the Saginaw’s steam power plant was removed and replaced by a new MaK 6M43C 6-cylinder 8,160 BHP diesel engine with a speed rating of 16 mph. Classified as a self-unloader, she has a forward mounted 250’ boom with a 120 degree swing.
The Saginaw is registered under the Canadian flag with a home port of Port Dover

Note:  In April 2013 the Saginaw became stuck in ice outside Marquette harbour (Michigan) and was eventually freed with the assistance of CCGS Samuel Risley (also featured in this collection).
The Mississagi discharging a load of mixed stone (from Bruce Mines, Ontario) at the Great Lakes Elevator Company dock in the Port of Owen Sound (Ontario, Canada)
The 620’ Mississagi was built in 1943 for the United States Maritime Commission. She had fifteen sister ships, also built to the same design, known as “Maritimers".  The vessel was originally commissioned the Hill Annex, but was renamed  the George A. Sloan later in the same year.  In 2001, the ship was purchased by the Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., (Port Dover, Ontario).  After undergoing extensive renovations, she was rechristened under the Canadian flag as the Mississagi.
Rt. Hon. Paul E. Martin
Rt. Hon. Paul E. Martin wintering in Owen Sound harbour.  (The Algoma Algoway also visible.)
The Rt. Hon. Paul E. Martin sails past the docked Algoma Algoway as she heads out of Owen Sound harbour.
Measuring 740 feet long by 78 feet at the beam, the 9000 horsepower Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin has a capacity of 37,696 tons. Originally built in Collingwood (Ontario, Canada) and launched in 1973 as the H.M. Griffith, the ship was rebuilt under the Canada Steamship Lines flag and renamed the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin in 2000 (in honour of CSL President Paul Martin, before he became the 21st Prime Minister of Canada in 2003)
Algoma Olympic
The Algoma Olympic docked in Owen Sound harbour.
Originally named the Canadian Olympic, this ship was built in 1976 by the Port Weller Dry Docks (St. Catherines, Ontario) for the Upper Lakes Group, Inc (Toronto, Ontario). The ship was named in honour of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.   Along with other vessels in the Upper Lakes Group fleet, the Olympic was sold to Algoma Central Corporation in 2011, and renamed the Algoma Olympic.  Powered by two 5,000 horsepower diesel engines, the 730 foot bulk-carrier can carry up to 35,100 tons at her maximum draft. The Olympic’s 250’ boom has a 100 degree swing and is capable of unloading at a rate of over 6,000 tons per hour.
The St. Marys Challenger and the Prentiss Brown
The barge St. Marys Challenger powered by the tug Prentiss Brown in Owen Sound harbour.
The barge St Marys Challenger powered by the tug Prentiss Brown joins the Algoma Algoway in the harbour at Owen Sound early in on a rainy winter morning
Launched in 1906 in Ecorse (Detroit) Michigan as the William P Snyder, this veteran steamer of the Great Lakes was retired in 2013.  At that time she was the last active U.S. flag freighter built before World War II and one of the oldest operating ships in the world.  Having undergone several changes in ownership over the years, she has also sailed under the names Elton Hoyt II, Alex D Chisholm, Medusa Challenger, Southdown Challenger, and in 2005 was renamed the St Marys Challenger.  Originally designed as a steamer, she was converted to an articulated barge after her retirement in 2014.  Powered in recent years by the tug Prentiss Brown, she is still in operation on the Great Lakes (2017).
Whitefish Bay
The Whitefish Bay unloading at the Great Lakes Elevator Company silos in the Port of Owen Sound.
  Digitally enriched textured layers are added to these images of the Whitefish Bay to add a unique painterly look and feel to the final photographic composition.
The Whitefish Bay is a 740’ self-unloading lake freighter.  She was built for Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) in 2012. The vessel is the third of CSL's Trillium-class ships.  These new ships were designed to be more fuel efficient and to have a smaller impact on the environment. 
Note: This is not the first Whitefish Bay to sail the Great Lakes.  The original 730' Whitefish Bay was launched in 1962 and taken out of service and sold for scrap in 1993. 
The Cuyahoga unloading salt at the Port of Owen Sound (Ontario, Canada)
The 630’ Cuyahoga was built in 1943 by the American Ship Building Co. (Lorain, Ohio) for the United States Maritime Commission.  Originally named the Mesabi, (and part of a fleet of 16) this freighter class ship was designed to deliver iron ore to mills along the Great Lakes which at the time were producing steel for aircraft, tanks and other WWII supplies.  In 1943, the Mesabi was delivered to the Great Lakes Steamship Co. and renamed J. Burton Ayers.  After undergoing a couple of ownership changes, in 1974 she was converted to self-unloading carrier.  In 1994 J. Burton Ayers was purchased by its current owner, Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. and renamed the Cuyahoga.  With a home port of Nanticoke (Ontario) the Cuyahoga remins active on the  Great Lakes carrying stone, aggregate, salt, coal and grain.
USGS Sturgeon
USGS Sturgeon docked in Owen Sound harbour
The USGS (United States Geological Survey) Sturgeon is based in Cheboygan (Michigan).  The research vessel was built in 1974 and currently operates on Lakes Huron and Michigan. The Sturgeon was transferred to the GLSC (Great Lakes Science Center) in the 1990s and was later retrofitted and commissioned in 2004. She supports US fisheries related science, including deepwater studies, restoration ecology, and invasive species, to aid in management decisions for top fish predators. The Sturgeon is designed to function as an offshore work platform during the ice-free season and can be at sea fifteen days with sleeping accommodations for ten people.
CCGS Samuel Risley
CCGS Samuel Risley in the Port of Owen Sound
The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Samuel Risley is an icebreaker and buoy tender based in Parry Sound, Ontario, normally operating in the Great Lakes. The Risley has a rating of Arctic Class 2, which certifies that the ship has the capability to break ice up to 2 feet thick. The 230' vessel has a complement of 22, with 9 officers and 13 crew.  She was built in 1985 by Vito Steel Boat and Barge (Delta, British Columbia) and named after the 19th century maritime inspector and first head of Board of Steamship Inspectors for Upper Canada and Ontario.
Note:  In January 2015, CCGS Samuel Risley and CCGS Griffon worked to free several ships that had become icebound on the St. Clair River. In April 2013, the CCGS Samuel Risley was one of four icebreakers sent to rescue ten commercial vessels trapped in ice near Whitefish Point, Michigan.
You can find examples of Irwin's work on display and for sale at the Owen Sound Artists' Co-op in downtown Owen Sound, and online in his portfolio on Fine Art America.  You can also purchase limited edition prints by contacting him directly.  See the Buy Prints page for more details.
Back to Top