Gordon Campbell writes:
In the mid 1980's, I operated this boat. As one can see it was strenuous work. Relaxation between the long bouts of labour was important to maintaining a high level of the legendary productivity of Marathon employees. Here the senior commodore of the fleet, Vince Pourier consults with the crew leader, the Pond Leader, during the rare breaks in the constant action of driving wood. The photo from the collection of Vince Pourier, was likely taken circa 1980.
Orville was built circa 1951, mothballed circa 1985 and has been scrapped at the last report about circa 1997. It was one of the early type of dozer boats. It was built in a small shipyard near Owen Sound.
The boat could do about 14 knots at full power and threw a large wake due to the tubby hull shape. The boat was short with a length of about 14 feet. Beam was about 9' gunwhale to gunwhale. However it drew about 6 feet of water. In the picture there is as much steel below the waterline as above. The paint scheme as pictured here was originally yellow and grey, but later all orange was used.
Powered a 4 cylinder, Cat Diesel which delivered about 130HP on the shaft depending on the condition of the engine and the environmental conditions the little boat shepherded the rafts of wood by pushing and position. It was keel cooled by water flowing in bladders in side the tugs hull. Navigation did not exist. It had one horn, one light, one trouble light, one pike pole, one fire extinguisher and the famous water bucket. It had two joined fuel tanks could last about eight days or 280 operating hours between bunkering.
There was one boat driver or operator per shift. Normal shifts during the season's height was three shifts, of eight hours for a five day week. The longest serving boat operator was Vince Pourier. Second longest was supposed to be a person by the name of Len Lavoie. Progression on the dewatering was feeder bridge, short pole, long pole. Promotion then split, the choice was to Raftsman, or to Pond Leader. Raftsman, who eventually aspired to Boat Driver, worked long pole and operated the Cancel for rafting purposes when required.
While sluggish in straight line speed, Orville was extremely maneuverable. It could almost turn on its axis with a power burst. An accomplished operator could literally make the boat dance in the water doing whirls, twirls and figure eights. The job of the vessel was to yard and move wood into the pond of the jackladder. Loosening the rafts of floating wood, Orville guided seemingly endless rows of wood to the point where long pool men directed the floating wood into the wooden pond at the bottom of the jack ladder. The Jack Ladder was a huge chain ramp with rows of large steel chocks that lifted the wood in a hoped for orderly fashion from the cold waters of Lake Superior. The term was dewatering.
Orville was also the primary rafting boat in the pond. Its companion vessel was the Cancel which will be featured at a later date. As a result of being on Lake Superior and part of the Marathon Pulp Mill fleet with the flag vessel MDC Everest (command of Capt. George Matheson), Orville at one time was the smallest registered vessel and smallest tug on the Great Lakes. The second smallest was Cancel.
Hardworkers on the walkways of the pond would tug, pull and straighten the eight (8') foot lengths of wood into two organized rows lifted up to the saws. The two saws cut which cut the wood into four foot lengths for the debarking, sorting processes and later for chipping or wood storage.
The 8' standard was used in the woodlands to determine cordage in the field. The woodyard however was installed to process the 4' length. This resulted in an never ending dispute about just what was a cord of wood. To confuse the issue more. Chips were measured in tonnes and long tons as it enterred the mill process.
Since the statute of limitations is up, it was believed by the more knowledgeable workers that the company managers deliberately used the confusing numbers to artificially inflate the wood losses. Thereby the mill's owner/operators derived better tax positions, well, in other words paid much less tax. This postulation has since been confirmed by divers. According to the mill numbers there should be about 12 feet of wood on the bottom of the Peninsula Harbour and Jellicoe Cove were the numbers of losses accurate. One salvage company has taken a look at the commercial viability of wood salvage off the lakd bottom here and in the storage area at Port Monroe. Salvage operations never begun. There isn't all that much sunken wood.
Orville was named for the first Woodyard Superintendant, the late Orville MacKenzie. Orville MacKenzie was also my godfather. Strange that I was one of the last of the drivers aboard the boat. There was no job invented that I liked better than working on that vessel.