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Flo Cooper / Sandra Mary

(Thunder Bay, ON July 14, 2001). Steel diesel tug Flo Cooper [C.310464] built by Russel-Hipwell at Owen Sound in 1962. 75'; 97 g.t. In commission. Hull No. 1206. Bill Breaker's father's last vessel as chief engineer. Also engineered by Foster Hay according to Dick Warkington. Acquired by McNally Ltd., Hamilton, Ontario and renamed b] Sandra Mary.

"The keels were laid for 8 vessels in 1962, ranging from a 25 work boat for the Ontario Paper Co., to an 80 foot, 900 hp tug for C.A. Pitts General Contractor Limited. This tug, the Flo. Cooper, operated on Lake Ontario in a large dredging operation until freeze-up in 1962." - Owen Sound Sun - Times, Jan. 31st, 1963.


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Sea trials, early July, 1962.

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Dr. John Hay writes (Feb. 18, 2010): "My father Foster Hay supervised the building of this tug for his employer C. A. Pitts Construction in 1962...he is standing in the Engine room doorway in this photo (above) of the tug undergoing sea trials in Owen Sound Harbour.

This is a photo of my Dad (Foster Hay, in the Flo. Cooper engine room (below left)) that I found last year in the Toronto Telegram archives. I think these pictures were all taken the day that the boat was christened by Florence Cooper the wife of the owner of C. A. Pitts (Syd Cooper). I believe that both Mr. and Mrs. Cooper are still alive. Incidentally, the Flo Cooper was the last winner of the CNE tugboat races which was around 1963. During that race another tug was sunk and this race was stopped after that accident.
(n.b. for more drama from the CNE tug race in 1961, see the RCL 12 page).

Photos courtesy Dr. John Hay.
Foster Hay standing in the Flo. Cooper engine room, 1962. Click to enlarge Florence Cooper, the wife of the owner of C. A. Pitts (Syd Cooper) on the bridge of the Flo. Cooper. Click to enlarge Florence Cooper christening the boat named after herself. Click to enlarge

The Flo Cooper was involved with many marine construction projects over the years including The Nanticoke coal unloading dock, Bickerdike pier in Montreal, The Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station (where I got hurt), the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island and Hibernia.

My father was a marine engineer and was the chief engineer on the tug for 5 or 6 years and then was promoted to marine superintendant. His job after that was supervising all of the Pitts Marine equipment (the Pitts-Merritt dredge, smaller and bigger tugs, numerous scows, barges, drilling equipment, etc.) keeping everything in good repair with the help of people like Bill Breaker. When Pitts would get a contract for dredging, dock work, etc., my father was often the construction boss for these jobs.

In the summer of 1970 and 1971 I was a deckhand on the Flo Cooper. On Septemher 7, 1971 I was operating the winch when I goofed and got my foot caught in the machine and ended up with a right hip disarticulation. My Dad was the boss on the job at that time and he was there to reverse the winch to get me out of that mess. This happened at Douglas Point in Lake Huron, not far from Owen Sound. In fact, the police brought blood for me from Owen Sound which I received in the Kincardine hospital. There was a small story about this in the Owen Sound Sun Times after the accident. I had a university degree before this mishap and continued my studies (after getting fitted with an artificial leg) and became a physician graduating from Queen's in 1978.

C. A. Pitts doesn't exist anymore and neither does my father. My dad was involved with Pitts from 1957 when he started working for Pitts as chief engineer on the tug John Drews (when they had a big dredging job on the seaway) until the summer before he died in Nov. 1996. My father's boss for many of these years was Ralph Rausch who was president of Pitts Engineering when the company was sold. Ralph lives in Scarborough and he could embellish the story as well."

 

OSMRM Collection

 

Owen Sound Sun Times, July 5th, 1962.

 

Purvis Yard, Soo, summer 1987. Bill Breaker photo from Gerry Ouderkirk.

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Sandra Mary - Ex Flo Cooper (Thunder Bay, ON July 14, 2001)

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Lake Ontario, 2002. Photo by Gerry Ouderkirk.

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GAO notes: My friend Capt. Eric Rogers owns Toronto Drydock.
These photos were taken by me at the drydock on August 25, 2004.
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Photo by Bill Coring. Québec City, 2006. Gerry Ouderkirk Collection.

 

Mike Coutts of McNally Construction Inc. notes: Sandra Mary/ Ex Flo-Cooper in 2006. She had a major refit in 2005-2006.

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Sandra Mary on the St. Lawrence River by Mariatown, ON, June 26, 2007.
Ron Beaupre (boatnerd.com).

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Sandra Mary & Carl M at Sarnia's North Slip, Mar. 15, 2009.
John McCreery (boatnerd.com).

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For more Russel exhibits visit Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum 1165 1st Ave West, Owen Sound, ON N4K 4K8
(519) 371-3333     http://marinerail.com