Francis MacLachlan Part 3


The quote that follows is by Francis MacLachlan as an unedited note to go with the little schooner. A have been working with him over the the last year annotating photographs, curatorial style. He is now over 90, brimming with ideas and thinking of the future when five, ten, fifty years from now there will be an interest in a sailing vessel for youth training.

“While sitting around the wardroom of HMCS Cataraqui in Kingston we heard of a little cargo schooner, cheap that was available in New Brunswick. So we took the train in the fall of 1952 and had a look at the schooner on the beach on the Bay of Chaleur. Gordon Workman in the picture. She was in sad shape so we said to each other, do not buy her. Gordon tells me that on the way back on the train he got me to sketch a training vessel, I do not remember this but that is what he tells me. We immediately went to steel. I think I sketched a brigantine under the influence of Irving Johnston and his brigantine Yankee.
Outward Bound – climb mountains, go out in square riggers, these were approaches to youth leadership training. What we were not looking for was an old beaten up for and aft rigged wood schooner. This got me started thinking about designing our own training ship.
When I got back to Kingston I started talking to Mike Eames, a fellow naval architect about it. By the end of 1952, maybe early 1953 we had the design for what became the St. Lawrence 11 settled”.

It is this event in 1952 the gave birth to the Brigantines St. Lawrence 11, Pathfinder and Playfair.

Posted in People, Sailing and Watercraft | 4 Comments

The Mowat Boat – So what is a curator Anyway


After thousands of volunteer hours by the Marine Museums restoration boat building crew, the “Mowat” boat sets sail in Kingston Harbour. She is named after her last owner, the late Angus Mowat (father of Farley) who rescued the boat and then re-rigged her as a sloop. The restoration was preceded by extensive research. Her symmetrical lines are just visible.

After thousands of volunteer hours by the Marine Museums restoration boat building crew, the “Mowat” boat sets sail in Kingston Harbour. She is named after her last owner, the late Angus Mowat (father of Farley) who rescued the boat and then re-rigged her as a sloop. The restoration was preceded by extensive research. Her symmetrical lines are just visible.

So what is a Curator Anyway?

First and certainly important for me is that it is one of the best jobs in the world. Now having said that there are some challenges the first being that you must have a deep knowledge, in my case of maritime history. You can use the Lawrence Olivier technique, start with the exterior details, world history and then work into the interior, the regional maritime narratives. Or, the other way around but whatever technique is used, you cannot get by with just local or international alone, the two histories are inter-related. Mariners were among the first global traders and they carried their ideas to other countries and back to their own ports of call.
A good example is the “Mowat” boat, a beautiful clean lined twenty-five footer in the marine museum collection built near the west end of Prince Edward county around 1909. These wood boats were built in the hundreds but now only a few survive. They ‘fished’ out of eastern Lake Ontario and in larger numbers, Collingwood on Georgian Bay. But, it was Mr. Watts, a man in his late 20s who brought his boatbuilding skills and the designs he knew to our Lakes from Sligo, Ireland in the mid 19th century.
A curator will take the historical narrative about the lives and activities of those who lived in coastal communities and then match it to what is known about the boat; its construction, how it was used and then try to answer one of many questions; why this particular object provided a successful living for hundreds who populated our ports along the Lakes. The design was later shipped to a fishing community on Lake Winnipeg.
Curatorship in a maritime museum, in many museums is a mix of written history from many sources and a technological and often a scientific knowledge of objects – the historical narrative and the material culture. Out of this, exciting exhibits are mounted, public programming is developed and a few boats saved.

Maurice D Smith
Curator Emeritus

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Kingston Dry Dock Restored


It is 2010 and the work of restoration is almost complete. In the background the Doornekamp crew are cleaning up but in the foreground is a special visitor, retired geology Professor Lee Smith (not related). When he started describing the “tiny creatures” millions of years old in the cut limestone blocks he had the full attention of the crew.


Visible from the street this former Canadian Coast Guard ship attracts thousands of visitors each year. Someday the dock will be pumped down and we will once again see the vessel as shown here.


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Canadian Nautical Research Society – call for paper 2016

Call for Papers
Canadian Nautical Research Society Annual Conference and General Meeting
18-20 August 2016

“Where Rivers Meet Oceans”
New Westminster, British Columbia

The mighty Fraser River, one of Western Canada’s major waterways, winds from the Rocky Mountains down through treacherous gorges to the fertile plains of the Lower Mainland where it meets the sea at the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver. Renowned for its annual salmon run, natural habitat and present industrial and shipping uses, the river has fostered settlement and work for millennia, first with the Coast Salish peoples and later immigrants from around the world. New Westminster, the province’s first capital and gateway for the Gold Rush, has a long association with the Fraser River. Once known as Canada’s Liverpool for its port and terminals, the city has become a mature residential suburb with interesting cultural and heritage activities. A riverside promenade, commercial quay, steamboat museum and parklands welcome visitors.

Appropriately, the theme of the 2016 conference to be held in New Westminster is “Where Rivers Meet Oceans”. Papers related to this theme, unimpeded by geography or time period, are invited, as well as any topic in maritime history of interest to a predominantly North American audience.

All individual paper proposals should include the name and affiliation of the presenter, a title, a 250 word abstract, and short bio or CV. Proposals for complete panels should include the same particulars as well as a proposed panel title.

Membership in the Canadian Nautical Research Society is encouraged, though not required. All presenters will have to pay their own conference registration fee. Should presenters wish to publish their paper for a larger audience, the society’s peer-reviewed academic journal The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord is available.

New Westminster is accessible by public transit direct from the Vancouver International Airport, and has affordable accommodation in the city and close-by in the neighbouring municipalities of Burnaby and Coquitlam.

The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2016.
Please submit by email or post to:

Chris Madsen
741 East 10th Street
North Vancouver, British Columbia
V7L 2G2

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The Kingston Dry Dock Part 2

Part 2 – A Research Aid – The Kingston Dry Dock

The Kingston Dry Dock
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
A National Historic Site

Research by Earl Moorhead, Archivist

Post War Years


In the immediate post war years the shipyard set about repairing the entrance to the dock. The caisson has been moved to an outer position thus allowing repair work to the caisson chamber and to a dock wall that was subject to leaking. MMGLK Collections.

When CS&E amalgamated with Canada Steamship Lines in 1947 the yard gained a sinecure on the repair of CSL’s large fleet of canalers which wintered at Kingston. This situation provided prosperity until 1959 when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened; 750 foot maximum Seaway vessels quickly overran the Great Lakes rendering the canalers obsolete and they soon disappeared from the commercial shipping scene.

As early as 1953 the management of Kingston Shipyards was anticipating the consequences of the Seaway and was planning for another rebuilding of the graving dock]. Kingston Shipyards was always the ‘poor cousin’ within the CS&E establishment and Manager R.W. Sutton realized that little money would be forthcoming from his own corporation for such a massive undertaking at Kingston. In 1958 he began lobbying independently for support in order to save ‘his’ yard. With the support of many of the Canadian shipping companies, including Paterson, Hall Co, and Misener, (whose position was that a dry dock east of Port Weller would help them by providing competitive rates and close help if a ship was damaged on the St. Lawrence section of the Seaway) and with the support of Kingston federal M.P., E.J. Benson – Minister of Revenue – Sutton had reason to be both sanguine and frustrated at the same time.

Industry opinion favoured his proposal and the untried route through the St. Lawrence section of the new Seaway provided a constant stream of damaged ships which his undersized dock could not accommodate: these casualties provided concrete ammunition for his argument but no business for his troubled yard. Drawings and specifications were draughted up in 1960-64 detailing the proposed expansion of the dry dock, which entailed removing the southerly half of the existing structure, excavating the existing dock bed for extra draft, and extensive dredging of the immediate harbour easterly from the gate: thus to rebuild at the proposed new dimensions of 750 feet in length, 90 feet breadth at grade and 76 feet wide at dock bed, with a working draft of 26 feet. The closure was to be by a pontoon gate. But the capital was not forthcoming, and only the drawings exist.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has extensive bibliographic, archival and artifact collections. Go to for detailed information about using research resources. 



—— City of Kingston Directory 1906
Greenwood, John. Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping. Freshwater Press, Cleveland: 1990
Muirhead, George. Kingston Dry Dock. Report. City of Kingston Planning Department, Kingston: 1974
Page, Donald. Original Shipyard Use of Present Marine Museum 
. Unpublished Mss.: 1981
Perkins, M. Ports Annual 1981. Canadian Marine Publications, St. Catharines: 1981
Rushbrook, Audrey. Turning the Historic Kingston Dry-dock into a Maritime Museum. Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, Kingston: 1977
Wallace, William. Canadian Ports and Shipping Directory . National Business Publications, Gardenvale: 1956.


Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada. Queens Printer, Ottawa: 1880, 1889, 1892, 1893
Moorhead, Earl. Murney Point: Its Evolution, Historic Kingston. Kingston Historical Society, Kingston: 1986.
Perley, Henry. The Dry Dock at Kingston, Transactions of the Canadian Society of CivilEngineers .v.X. John Lovell Montreal: 1896.


National Archives of Canada Finding Aid for RG 11M.Unpublished Mss. (Hard copy reference for MMGLK Fiche 1982.73.1-51)

Manuscript Sources

QUA Kingston Shipyards Dry Dock Book. 1891-1894(Transcript)
QUA City of Kingston Land Registry Abstract Index. Original Survey Water Lot 29 Microfilm 1544 p.489.
MMGLK Kingston Shipbuilding Company Fonds RG 4 “Letters re. Dry Dock Extension 1958-1964” 1983.129.10
MMGLK Great Lakes Ship Registry Database
NAC MG 13 W.O. 44/33, W.O. 44/49, W.O. 55/873

Cartographic Sources

Acc# Title

The MMGLK plan collection 1982.73.1-51 is a fiche copy of original ink on linen drawings held by the NAC; MMGLK accession numbers for the fiche are given first with NAC references following the titles.

Note: duplicate drawings in 1982.73 collection are not listed.

The MMGLK plans 1995.45.3-6 are PMTs of plans held at the NAC; MMGLK accession numbers are listed with the NAC reference following the text title.

The MMGLK plan collection 1981.2.3746-56 consists of original linen drawings, their provenance being the Kingston Shipbuilding Company.

Copies of the plans from the Public Record Office are in the Library Vertical File Marine Railway.

1982.73.1 General Arrangement [Pumps](1890), Wm.Murdock. NAC RG11
1982.73.4 General Arrangement Main Engines(1890),Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.6 General Arrangement of Auxiliary Engines(1890), Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.8 Arrangement and Setting of Boilers(1890),Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.10 Boilers for Pumping Plant(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.12 Main Engines.Details(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.14 Main Engines. Bedplate and Columns(1890), Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.18 Main Engines. Entablature and Pump Bedplate(1890)
Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.19 Main Engines. Details(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.21 Auxiliary Engines. Details(1890), Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.23 Auxiliary Engines. Cylinders and Pistons(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.25 Auxiliary Engines. Piston Rods, Connecting Rods and Eccentrics(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.27 Auxiliary Engines. Valves, Reversing Levers and Front Columns(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.29 Details. [Pumps and Piping](1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.31 [Site Plan](1909)(Collingwood Shipyards)
1982.73.32 [Property Plan](1891), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.33 Soundings and Borings for New Crib, Also Permanent Points(1918)Corriveau. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.34 Extension to Government Drydock(1929), Eugene LaFleur. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.35 Details of Traveling Crane(1890), Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.36 Section of Schooner Minnedosa [in drydock](1892).N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.37 [Plan of Kingston Showing Power Dry-dock Property](1881), Eugene LaFleur. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.38 Sites Being Considered for Proposed Larger Dry-dock (1931), Eugene LaFleur. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.39 Arrangement of Boiler Exhaust Pipe(1900), Wm.Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.40 Plan of Kingston Dry-dock Premises: Water line 1907 and Waterline as Surveyed 1797(1907), Wm. Murdock, N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.41 Arrangement of Steam Pipes (n.d.), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.42 Indicator for Hauling Gear (n.d.), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.43 Floor Plan Engine Room(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.44 Site Plan(1929),Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.45 Site Plan [Power Dry-dock and Marine Railway](1890)
Eugene LaFleur. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.46 Replacement of Boilers(1937), Corriveau. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.47 Replacement of Boilers(1937), Corriveau. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.48 Plan of Yoke for Caisson(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.49 Extension to Government Dry-dock.Plan and Profile.(1929)(Canada Public Works)
1982.73.50 Arrangement of Traveling Crane(1890), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1982.73.51 Section of Schooner Bangalore: Keel and Bilge Blocks(1892), Wm. Murdock. N.A.C. RG11
1995.45.3 Engine Bldg. West Elevation.(1890)(N.A.C. RG 11)
1995.45.4 Engine Bldg. South Elevation.(1890)(N.A.C. RG 11)
1995.45.5 Engine Bldg. West Elevation.(1890)(N.A.C. RG 11)
1995.45.6 Dry Dock. Site Plan. Plan, Cross Section, Longitudinal Section, Elevation, Caisson, Boiler House Plan(1896), Henry Perley. Transactions of The Canadian Society of Civil Engineers V.X 1896
1981.2.3746 Dry Dock. Section for Proposed Extension.(1953), Kingston Shipyards [hereafter KSY]
1981.2.3747 Plan of Government Dry-dock as Extended (n.d.), KSY
1981.2.3748 Dry Dock Plan and Sections(1939),KSY
1981.2.3749 Arrangement of Dry Dock at Gate End(1951),KSY
1981.2.3750 Dry Dock as Extended(1944),KSY
1981.2.3751 Dry Dock Borings at Entrance(1957),KSY
1981.2.3752 Arrangement of Dry Dock at Gate End(1959),KSY
1981.2.3753 Caisson Well of Dry Dock (n.d.),KSY
1981.2.3754 Proposed Dry Dock Extension(1960),KSY
1981.2.3755 Proposed Dry Dock Extension(1960),KSY
1982.2.3756 Proposed Dry Dock Extension(1963),KSY
———– Sketch of the Battery at Mississauga, Kingston showing in Yellow the Repairs by the Royal Engineer Department for the Purposes of Placing it in a Secure and Defensible Position. 23 Apr.1838. PRO. WO 55/873 p.448
———— [Kingston Harbour Depicting Marine Railway] 27 March 1839. MPH 891/1 p.2503

Numbers e.g. 1982.2.3755 are known as Accession numbers (Inventory location numbers)


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The Kingston Dry Dock Part 1

Part 1 – A Research Aid – The Kingston Dry Dock

The Kingston Dry Dock
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
A National Historic Site

The Dry Dock was restored
by the Canadian Government in 2010/2011

Research by Earl Moorhead, Archivist

A copy of an ink on linen drawing prepared by Public Works showing the general layout of the to be constructed Kingston Dry Dock.

A copy of an ink on linen drawing prepared by Public Works showing the general layout of the to be constructed Kingston Dry Dock.

The Company Established

In 1839 a group of high profile Kingston entrepreneurs and political figures consisting of: Mayor Thomas Kirkpatrick, John Counter, Henry Gildersleeve, Mrs. Thomas Cassady, John Cartwright, James Frazer, John Strange and David Smith formed a real estate syndicate, buying up local properties designated for future purchase and fortification by the British military establishment. Thomas Kirkpatrick was the local solicitor acting for the Board of Ordnance and was privy to ‘insider’ information. This syndicate proceeded to make a deal with the military acquiring Lots 28 and 29 in return for Murney Point

Of this group John Counter, Henry Gildersleeve, David Smith, Thomas Kirkpatrick, John Cartwright, joined by John Mowat and John Watkins had leased the reserve from the Board of Ordnance in 1836 for a period of three years. They later incorporated the Marine Railway Company (in 1838) with the power to erect a dry dock and marine railway, harbour, wharves and other appurtenances needful. Official title to the land was obtained in 1841 although they had been in operation on site for four years (to the great consternation of Lt. Colonel Sir Richard Bonnycastle).

Marine Railway and Graving Dock

The works constructed in 1836-37 were primitive consisting of a rough and ready marine railway track and capstan powered by horse. In 1838-39 a stone engine house and additional two-storey building had been erected. The existence of a rudimentary dry dock cum building slip is mentioned by Lt. Colonel Bonnycastle in 1838 during the abortive ‘Patriot Invasion’ and the occupation of the Marine Railway property by British troops]. A Royal Engineers plan dating to 23 April 1838 shows the Marine Railway Company property in detail: the steam powered marine railway with engine house is located running along the property line and parallel to Lower Union Street, with a stone Engine House at its landside end. Part of the battery rampart to the north, had been removed and a shipbuilding slip had been excavated in the midst of the old battery with a dry dock forming part of the slip; this does not seem to be a full graving dock in the modern sense but simply a trench to facilitate shipbuilding; two ships are depicted on the railway and one under construction in the slip. A second plan (at smaller scale) dating to 1939 shows the marine railway, an extensive wharf to the immediate south, a foundry (the Ontario Foundry) and aslip or dry dock to the north, cutting through the old battery rampart as before but drawn as open to the water. The company launched its first ship the steamer Gildersleeve in that year, and later in 1839 built three gunboats for the Royal Navy.

The Marine Railway Company as originally constituted continued in operation from 1836 to 1862. Its heyday would seem to have been the 1840s and early 1850s with many vessels repaired and built under the supervision of shipwright Henry Thurston. In 1853, in an effort to raise capital, the company mortgaged its property by Deed Trust to local lawyer (later Senator) Sir Alexander Campbell. The national depression of 1857 broke the back of the company, it defaulted on its mortgage and in chancery court Campbell gained control of the property and assets. In 1862 the Marine Railway Company became defunct. Campbell sold the property in 1863 to local shipbuilder John Carruthers for $50,000. The records show that Carruthers, in conjunction with C.W. Jenkins, built four vessels in 1868 and 1869 Annandale, Rose, Shamrock, and Thistle – these presumably at the old Marine Railway shipyard

In 1872 Carruthers sold the shipyard and marine railway to William Power. He operated profitably for thirteen years; between 1872 and 1878 building many of Kingston’s best known vessels:Africa, A.G. Ryan, Bangalore, Bedford, Ceres, China, Cuba, Elm, F.A. Folger, Hyderabad, Maid of Erin, Marquis of Lorne, Ox, Pierrepont, Portsmouth, Rideau, Singapore, and Where Now.William Power was the first to attempt constructing a proper graving dock onsite, and although according to engineer Henry Perley it was never operational and had to be razed, it is depicted on a plan drawn up by Canada Public Works draughtsman Eugene LaFleur in 1881.

Sold Back to the Government

By 1885 William Power was aging [64 yrs], he was losing repair business to Oswego shipyard and no doubt the attempted renovation and expansion of the shipyard facilities had drained his capital resources; he quit-claimed the yard back to John Carruthers, who had evidently been financing him. In 1888 Carruthers sold the property back to the Crown for $19,500. As early as 1880 the issue of the need for a graving dock on the Great Lakes was raised due to the fact that marine railways were incapable with dealing with the most recent large vessels and their repairs had to be done at graving docks in the United States with a consequent loss of revenue to Canadian business. In 1889 the federal government decided to make use of its newly acquired waterfront by building a state of the art dry dock. At the time there were only three dry docks in existence in the country: Halifax, Quebec City, and Esquimalt – there were no Canadian graving docks serving the Great Lakes.

William Power’s failed attempt to privately undertake the construction of an expensive graving dock may have intrigued some politicians in Ottawa – political intrigue on the part of the Conservative Minister of Public Works, Hector Langevin, certainly was a factor in its construction. The site was no doubt chosen partly because it was in the Prime Minister’s, Sir John A. Macdonald’s constituency, but as well many of the largest shipping and forwarding concerns on the Canadian Great Lakes were located there – Richardson Grain Forwarders and Montreal Transportation Company. Another factor was the proximity of the prosperous Oswego dry dock had a monopoly on lower lakes repairs at the time.

The Dry-dock

The first ship in the Dry Dock was the passenger ship St. Lawrence. The stone building is now part of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes.

The first ship in the Dry Dock was the passenger ship St. Lawrence. The stone building is now part of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes.

Civil engineer Henry Perley drew up the plans and specifications and the contract for construction was awarded to the Connolly Brothers. The contractors heavily subsidized the Conservative party election in 1890 and although the 15th highest bidder out of 19 tenders, got the contract to build the dry dock. They won the contract under suspicious circumstances and their bid of $260,000 was one of the highest. With extras, including the revised widening of the whole dock from 48 to 55 feet their bill eventually rose to $344,276.

Perley’s article published in the Transactions of the Civil Engineers of Canada 1896 gives the best overview of the dry dock’s original design and construction: details of the pumping plant and engine house fell to others. The basic dimensions of the dry dock were based upon the breadth and depth of the Welland Canal which connected the upper and lower lakes – 79 feet wide at grade or coping level, 48 feet wide at the water line (later revised to 55 ft to accommodate the then largest steamer) and sloping inward to 47 feet in width at the bed, 280 ft long and with an operational depth of 15 ft 6in or 22 feet from the top of the coping. An entrance apron extending 20 feet beyond the caisson or iron gate was constructed and upon which the caisson could be situated, thus allowing the dry dock to accommodate a vessel of 310 ft in length.

The bulk of the material used for the dock bed and sidewalls was limestone quarried in Belleville Ontario; this was worked into ashlar stones 2 ft 8 in high by four ft long, each stone averaging 3 tons in weight. The central 6 feet of the bed carried the cast iron keel blocks at 5 foot intervals. A rudder well 24 feet long was located at the lake end of the dock to facilitate replacement of rudders and propellers – common repair work. The quoins or corner stones of the dock were of granite. Underneath the foundation of the dock bed was a system of arterial drains to carry off leakage in from the lake via the auxiliary pump.

The dock was closed by an iron caisson or gate which moved on rollers, powered into position by a yoke connected to the auxiliary pump engine. The dock was emptied by 22 inch discharge pipes connected to two 18 inch centrifugal pumps, they in turn powered by two high pressure vertical steam engines located within the engine house approximately 13 feet below ground level. Within the engine room a three tone gantry crane ran overhead. The engines were served by four 14 foot cylindrical boilers located in the adjacent boiler room, identified by the imposing 90 foot chimney. Perley concludes his description with a performance rating. The dock held 2,100,000 gallons of water which could be discharged in 75 minutes. Upon opening a valve to a inlet culvert the dock could be filled (to gently re-float a repaired vessel) in 55 minutes.

Perley remarked that a large portion of the dry dock property in 1892 was manmade, using earth and stone from the excavation of the graving dock. His costing of the project was broken down thus: property $20,000; graving dock $365,000; pumps and engines $26,000; stone engine house $26,000; gate $18,000; and engineering and extras $42,000, for a total of $497,000.

Between 1891 and 1908 the dry dock was owned and administered by the Department of Public Works but details of its operation remain open to question. A dynamo room and coal sheds had been added to the premises in 1892 but few if any other repair shops or facilities appear to have been erected. The Kingston City Directory 1906 lists merely the Canada Dry Dock Office onsite. However between December 1891 and April 1894, 93 vessels entered the dock for repair, they included a mixture of sail and steamships, but it is of note that all were wooden hulls. Whether the government hired private jobbers on a single contract basis; whether the dry dock was leased for a set period to a ship repair company; or whether the ship owners were responsible for the repairs themselves is still an open question.

The Dry-dock Leased

In 1908 a more stable arrangement was established whereby the newly formed Kingston Shipbuilding Company (a subsidiary of Collingwood Shipyards) leased the dry dock, engine house and administration building on a ‘bare boat’ basis whereby the company provided all tools, materials, and manpower. The company erected much needed additional facilities on the lease land and surrounding property, allowing it to deal with iron hulls and to effectively build as well as repair vessels (first new build was the Polana in 1911). Over time the site became de facto the Kingston Shipbuilding Company shipyard and the government’s jurisdiction and interest in the property lapsed into that of a mere landlord.

During the Great Depression the yard was bought up by R.M. Wolvin becoming part of his shipbuilding conglomerate Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering. In 1929 efforts were underway to extend the dry dock. An as-built plan dating to June 1930 shows the lengthening to the landside end of the structure. The addition was of reinforced concrete, 92 feet long 67 wide at ground level, with other dimensions matching existing. The new overall length being approximately 372 ft. This extension served well during the Depression when repair work kept the shipyard alive and most vessels were tugs and 250
ft canalers.

Part 2 will continue with the post war years and a selection of research sources.

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Thomas Bingley Fuller Benson Part 1

Thomas Bingley Fuller Benson

Thomas Bingley Fuller Benson. 1876 to 1941. The bare facts are there, in an obit and certainly in the Benson Collection at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. In the collection there is a letterbook, accounts and expenditures, notebooks and a range of photographs. But best of all, there is almost eighty drawings, many in his own hand that vividly demonstrate the range of his work. There are secondary sources among them the Annals of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club by Jerry Snider, Club Archivist. Snider admired his work and you will find fulsome praise for a design or races won in his weekly Schooner Days that appeared in the Toronto Telegram between Another admirer was Leroy F. Grant who often complimented Benson in his history of the Lake Yacht Racing Association. Benson was a brilliant man, like yacht designers in general.

Thomas Bingley Fuller Benson’s great great grandfather and mother were both born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. They settled in Kingston. Their only child, Bingley’s grandfather practised law in Port Hope. He married Alicia Maria, a United Empire Loyalist. They had nine children, one of them, Thomas Moor Benson, to be a County Court Judge was the father of Bingley. T B F was named after his father (T), an uncle (B) , and his mothers’ father, Archdeacon Thomas Brock Fuller of Toronto.

T B F, born in October, 1876, was a well-connected young man. They were comfortable but not wealthy. It was a solid middle class family where the daughters were expected to make good marriages and the son to work hard and to make his own way after getting the best schooling they could afford. One of Bingley’s sister’s , Clara Cynthia Benson, was the first woman to get a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the U of Toronto. Later she earned a doctorate. Her papers are at the University of Toronto.


Benson at the age of 14 Source: MMGLK – Benson Collection

At school he excelled in advanced mathematical calculations and sportsmanship. But – is it possible to be a proper schoolboy without this – “Progress and Conduct for the Form ending Christmas 1892 – “all he needs is a little more devotion to study””. The history marks were not as good nor was English Literature but algebra, Euclid, especially Euclid was much better. Scripture in his Anglican school, just fair. Two years later at eighteen years of age and now in the 6th form Bingley was a star student. He was not required to write his arithmetic, algebra and Euclid in-school examinations – This was a special concession by his teacher simply because, “he has done a good years’ work and should get safely through his Matriculation examinations”.

And from the Principal, “I must speak in praise of his devotion to cricket and the good effect of his example in this respect”. Bingley exemplified the Christian precepts of sound mind and body, This was in the English public school tradition. The objective of Bishop Ridley College (estab 1889), St. Catharines, Ontario was to prepare boys for university, their motto, “may I be consumed in service”, remains aspirational but now since 1973, for boys and girls.

He moved on to study engineering at the The School of Practical Science, the same school that George Herrick Duggan, a mentor had attended in 1883. Established in 1873 it did not become part of the University of Toronto until 1906.

He was an ideal candidate to work at Collingwood Shipyards at structural engineering. The ships were made of steel and riveted. Strength was the prime component. Being young and smart he could move easily between the drafting office and into the shipyard. Crawling through the hull to ensure construction integrity was dangerous work but it was bread and butter employment to him. It was in fact very good training for the designer of yachts, particularly in the early 20th.  He had to be intimately aware of scanting rules, the regulations that determined the physical dimensions of steel used in the construction of a ship and working with a Classification Society, Lloyds being a good example.

His passion was the design of yachts and for this he spent a short time exposed to the talent of George Herrick Duggan in Montreal.

His mentor, Duggan first achieved fame in a series

And yes he was a member of the prestigious Royal Canadian Yacht Club that overlooked Toronto harbour and The National Yacht Club, commanding the view to the westerly approach to the harbour.

Collingwood Shipyards

Looking for Work

Knapp B B Shop c 1907

The Knapp boatbuilding shop located on the east shore of the Cataraqui River in the village of Barriefield, now part of Kingston, Ontario. Source: MMGLK – Norris Collection

The dinghy incidents

“I have the pleasure of placing an order with you for a 14 ft. sailing dinghy to be built from the accompanying design and furnished with spars, oars and rudder for $50.00” Benson was careful about this by giving the builder some flexability, at least on paper. “Should you wish to make any additions in the construction or specification, if you will advise me first of them, I will be pleased to them my consideration and let you know whether they are acceptable”. The letter sent near the end of February , 1903 to James Knapp & Sons of Barriefield, Ontario. The village, on the east side of the Cataraqui River is now part of Kingston. Initially it was the early 19th century bed room community for the Royal Navy Dock Yard workers. Benson dutifully sent his down payment of $15.00. Delivery date, May 1st. Blueprints were sent and a laying-off table.

In the midst of all this he paid his fees for the year 1903/04 to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and asked in return for the roster of 14s. So, very ambitious.

On the 17th he asked the builder to reduce the size of the mast from 3 ¾ inches to 3 ½ and from 2 ½ to 2 ¼.

A few days laster, April 22, he was having 2nd if not third or fourth thoughts he asked the builder, “in looking over the distribution of weights and relative positions of the centre of effort of the sail and the center of lateral resistance of my dinghy I am inclined to think that the boat wants to be improved if the centre board case and after thwart were moved one frame space further aft”.  He had invested his intellectual capacity and reputation into the final result. Although the modern designer has more sophisticated tools methinks the degree of commitment is the same. There are so many design and on the race course variables, not to mention the crew, is it no wonder he is showing a certain temperament.

There is more to this story but we will end with this. “

Now the rules of the 14s were very stringent, he was demanding, pricing every component that went into the boat and very much at a disadvantage unable to visit the builder himself. He asked a friend at the Royal Military College to inspect the work at Knapps.

It was a very important commission, the client if any is not identified


The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has extensive artefact, bibliographic and archival collections. Go to and follow the Research links. 

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A Sailors Life On the Lakes


In the early 20th century sailing vessels used docks at the east end of Toronto Harbour while steamships commanded the more centrally located western docks. To the south a two masted schooner; alongside two small sailing barges for local traffic and to the right a Lakes schooner. Source: MMGLK – Snider Collection

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister described himself as the worker’ friend. To retain power he had to exercise a high degree of skill to keep the support of both the business community and labour. The National Policy that featured protective tariffs to encourage manufacturing was introduced in 1878 just as Canada and much of the world was coming out of a depression but it was obvious that provinces, Quebec and Ontario were enjoying the benefits. By the coming 1887 election the Conservative party knew it was barely hanging on to power and that concessions had to be made to labour to retain their support. Thus was created in 1886 the “Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labour”. Many Kingston, Ontario residents gave testimony – Captain Thomas Donnelly, engineers Gilbert Johnston and Robert Marshall; sailors James Fleming and Willard Stephens; a carpenter, Joseph Thorn and shipwright, Isaac Oliver.

In the 1880s sailors were employed by the day. When they reached a port they were paid off. Kingstonion, Captain Thomas Donnelly claims this was caused by the emerging union movement. The sailors were there to sail the ship while stevedores did the loading and unloading. Donnelly, paternalistic when it suited him was critical of a system that permitted the men to go ashore to saloons and spend their money. The chief characteristic of the Kingston waterfront at the time was a mix of industrial concerns and bars while not to far away there were ‘houses of entertainment’, all operated as enterprising businesses.

Sailors on the Lakes did not have Articles of Agreement as sailors did at sea. The informality of the Lake system created problems for Captains; Donnelly, “I think the men should be shipped and paid off at a shipping office as is done at Atlantic ports. It would be better for the men and better for the vessel owners, and better for the Captains, and would cause less trouble. There would be no such thing as beating men out of their wages” and in a grudging admission, “may possibly be done”. The shipping office system was intended to work in concert with federal and provincial shipping legislation that gave some protection to the sailors – but not on the Lakes.

Forty years earlier the Canadian Lake ship owners had attempted to impose draconian rules. “That no sailor shall be entitled to receive his wages whilst his vessel is trading in a foreign port (United States). That ¼ of his wages becoming due shall remain in the hands of the Master or his employer until he has fulfilled the terms of his agreement, and such be forfeited if he leaves without sufficient cause before such terms is expired, except by giving notice fourteen days previously of his intention to do so or unless with the consent of the Master on board, or at the expiration of his agreement”. Many sailors were barely literate so it did not make sense to obey rules interpreted to them by the Captains who were quick to take advantage of their vulnerable position. Control of sailors on the Lakes only worked when times were tough – during the Depression years of the 1930s, for example.

The captains made the point that once, “outside”, away from a port they are dependent on the sailors. “Half an hour after you have gone out of port, you might require the best work out of your men; of the men perhaps perhaps there are only four in all, and if one of two turn out to be inferior hands there is great danger both for themselves and the vessel and of course these men cannot be replaced” Donnelly goes on to describe the ideal. “We have a class of small vessels on the north shore of the Bay of Quinte that pick up their crews in the neighborhood, and the men stay with the captain all year, and they give better satisfaction then do the men they can pick up at the largest ports” and the essence of the matter, “and fewer expenses are incurred”.

Owners left little margin for safety in meeting unexpected weather conditions when loading their sailing ships. For many owners each passage was a calculated gamble based on escaping gale force winds and high seas. Overloading made ships top-heavy and more prone to working in a seaway as hundreds of joints and fastening held together with spikes and bolts started to move wood planking, opening up seams to let in more water. Manning pumps was backbreaking work and in addition, timber piled high on the deck made the vessels top-heavy. Moving around the deck to handle lines was difficult. Grain cargoes were – slippery. A gust of wind, the schooner heels and the cargo shifts to the leeward side of the cargo hold, or at best piles up on the shifting boards. Permanently heeled the vessel is difficult to handle and if the weight of tons of water are added on deck a ship can easily go down – as many did.

Naturally the owners and captains denied overloading their ships. Captain Parsons told the Commission, “on the American side I have seen many a one that I considered over-loaded; not on this side” No doubt said in mock humility. Sailors everywhere had few rights until after World War Two. Today on the Lakes they are among the best paid workers with good benefits but the lure of shore and steady relationships is important to a new generation of sailors. Shipping companies are making adjustments to their schedules to attract crew and some are willing to accept less money for a month on, month off schedule.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has extensive artefact, bibliographic and archival collections. Go to and follow the Research links.

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Part 1 – Francis MacLachlan: Student and Shipyard Days

I first met Francis MacLachlan in 1958 when he invited me to join the brigantine St. Lawrence 11 for a run from Toronto to Port Hope Ontario. I was a witness, so to speak, of an approach to leadership training that made use of the daily occurrences of life aboard a sailing vessel. The theory is deceptively simple. The ships environment provided the inescapable real life situations for a crew faced with storms, calms, cooking, navigation but mostly learning to live and handle the ship helping each other. The Captain and senior crew were there to help build self- confidence in the crew and to provide leadership opportunities. And yes, everyone gets wet, turns in exhausted, washes decks, goes aloft and cleans dishes.

Brig 2

The steel hull, was built in 1953 at the Kingston Shipyards, Kingston, Ontario following Lloyds construction rules. The St. Lawrence 11 has had regular refits and is still in service (2014). MMGLK: MacLachlan Collection

Francis MacLachlan with the principal collaborator, Mike Eames designed the St. Lawrence 11 and then, at roughly ten year intervals, Francis modified the design for two successor ‘brigs’, Pathfinder and Playfair. The two charities that operate the vessels; Brigantine Incorporated (Kingston) and Toronto Brigantine Inc. are now celebrating a combined 150 years of sailing on the Great Lakes, and, on occasion, at sea. Thousands of young men and women have sailed before the mast as crew while others in senior positions have earned leadership responsibilities.

As a recent engineering graduate of Queen’s University at Kingston in 1949 Francis made a choice that required high level mathematical skills and an ability to find practical solutions to problems. That fall he went to Kings College, Newcastle-on-Tyne in England to study naval architecture. There he met a student one year ahead of him, Mike Eames, the first of many who contributed to the brigantine idea – but that was a few years away.

His boarding house was at 58 South Parade in Whitley. Across the road was the Rex Hotel, still there and at the bottom of the street, the Promenade and a magnificent view of the beach and the River Tyne on the east coast of England. (you can have a look at the boarding house by googling the street address) The landlady provided breakfast and dinner and in the summer she moved the students around the corner to cheaper “digs” but at the same price so she could rent her rooms to summer holidaymakers, usually working class families with only two weeks a year vacation. The war ended in 1945 but food rationing stayed in place until the mid 1950s. The city was a strategic target for German bombers including the shipyards. Francis, in his daily travels was witness to many bombed out areas yet to be rebuilt. Visiting the continent, France, Holland was relatively easy and for a student in his early 20s, the stuff of adventure and romance. King’s College was in the heart of Newcastle, a city that lived heavy industrial manufacturing and shipbuilding. Each day was a bus ride, later, driving his 98 cc James Comet motorcycle. Flat out – 37 miles per hour, rounded up to 60 kilometers.

Mosquito 1

The Mosquito featuring the cellular structure. MMGLK: MacLachlan Collection. 

Together M&E (MacLachlan and Eames) designed high performance racing dinghies utilizing some of the lessons learned in building aircraft in World War Two. Ultra-thin plywood, carefully cut and jointed together to create a light hull. Mike and Francis were a natural fit with the same ambition, to establish a yacht design company. The first M&E design was Mosquito. “Mike was fascinated by some of the methods used in plywood aircraft construction and proposed a 14 ft. dinghy using very light materials deriving stiffness from an “eggbox” construction.

In many ways this idea is what is employed in steel ship construction: the steel plate material is very thin compared to the ship size and the hull gets its strength from transverse bulkheads”, walls of steel that went from one side of the ship to the other side.

Mosquito 2

Mosquito being launched from the beach near the mouth of the river Tyne. MMGLK: MacLachlan Collection

“Mosquito was built almost entirely of 1/8 inch plywood by fellow students. She was single chine, completely decked and light. She was fast. In an early sail off the North Sea entrance to the Tyne River she flipped and broke her mast. It was back to the drawing board and Mosquito No. 2”.

Francis – “In the fall of 1951, the International Yacht Racing Union announced a series of trials to pick a new two man dinghy for competition to be held in Holland the following spring. The new Flying Dutchman was the front runner. Mike was hooked so we produced our design No. 8, Typhoon, twenty feet long, completely decked with a long self-bailing cockpit with a curved down inboard deck built almost entirely of 3/16 in. mahogany plywood” Mike and Francis were working in big ship shipyards on the River Tyne, “but as members of the College Sailing club they had use of a building shed on campus so with the help of other club members Typhoon took shape during the winter of 1952. The use of thin plywood enabled much more than usual curving of the bottom and topside surfaces to be achieved the result that the chine completely disappeared over the forward part of the hull length.

Typhoon 2

The Typhoon, taken to Holland for the Flying Dutchman trials.MMGLK: MacLachlan Collection


Typhoon cut through the water like a round-bilged hull with little of the pounding associated with chine hulls”. At the trials in Holland British, American and European boats competed with rotating crew and Typhoon did very well, “particularly in strong winds”. The Flying Dutchman was the winner and the Typhoon a close 2nd.

The following year, 1952 both men had Canadian job offers they could not refuse. They left large shipyards on the river Tyne where the survival of industry was uncertain. In fact thousands of Brits saw no future in staying in the UK; they were immigrating to Canada, a first point of entry for many, Pier 21 in Halifax. For Francis working in the shipyard was valuable experience. He attributes some of the structural design of the brigantine St. Lawrence 11 to the oil tankers he saw under construction at the Vickers Yard. Mike Eames joined the Canadian Naval Research Establishment in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he achieved fame as a lead in the design of high speed navy hydrofoil craft. Francis started as a lowly demonstrator in the engineering department at Queen’s University. Typhoon was shipped to Kingston and was succeeded by Tempest and then Design No. 10, Hurricane.

But then, as Francis says, “the axe fell”. The design of a hydrofoil was a consuming passion for Mike. Francis succumbed in a different way. His friend, Gordon Workman enticed him back into the Sea Cadet corps where they both soon realized that marching on the parade square had to be supplanted with realistic training opportunities on the water. They both headed ‘down east’ to look at an abandoned schooner hauled up on a beach in the Bay of Chaleur. The narrow schooner hull was not stable enough to carry the added weight of a square rig, necessary to get the trainees aloft and into the rigging. Workman and MacLachlan wanted a ship stronger than a planked wood hull. It was a valuable lesson that confirmed what Francis had been thinking about all along. His hero was Captain Irving Johnston, a first class seaman who eventually circumnavigated the world seven times in two vessels named Yankee and with a crew a little older then that planned for the Great Lakes. And the Yankee sailing rig – a brigantine with two masts, the foremast carrying square sails. Slowly the specifications of the Kingston training ship evolved; a hull with enough beam to give high initial stability in the event of a knockdown gust of wind; enough space inside to carry twelve to sixteen trainees plus officers and a steel hull with watertight compartments. This was to be for M&E, design no. 11.

The sailing vessel approach to leadership training has been very successful internationally and continues to be so. On the Lakes the success of the first brigantine, St. Lawrence in 1954 led to the construction of two others in Toronto, the Pathfinder, 1964 and Playfair in 1973. All were designed by Francis MacLachlan, essentially to the same design but with variations reflecting the needs of the non-profit owner. His advice as a naval architect has also been felt in the United Kingdom and the United States, especially with the UK Sea Cadet Brig, Royalist. The three brigantines have been to sea and have sailed all of the Great Lakes. He continues to be consulted and the philosophy of leadership he exemplified has been taken up by a wide range of successors spread across Canada and internationally.

The organizational structure aboard each ship has evolved over time but the philosophical approach established by MacLachlan in the 1960s remains. Put trust and confidence in the youthful participants, boys and girls; lead and teach through example, and assume the best of each individual. At the core of what each captain does, is that philosophical approach established in Canada by Francis MacLachlan almost sixty years ago. So in addition to his technical mastery of making a vessel safe at sea it is his positive example that continues to work to this day; all three vessels are still in commission.
In Part 2: Francis MacLachlan and his three brigantines.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has extensive artefact, bibliographic and archival collections. Go to and follow the Research Links

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Francis MacLachlan, Mike Eames and the Three Brigantines – Part 2

brig 3

The brigantine St. Lawrence ll, dry docked in the mid 1970s, Canada Dredge & Dock (now Metalcraft Marine), Kingston, Ontario in the early 1970s.

Francis MacLachlan and Mike Eames were engineers and naval architects. That gave them a particular point of view. They realized that in a successful design, form follows function, the number of masts, the height of the rigging, the use of square sails versus fore and aft sails, each of these decisions was influenced by ‘what you wanted the darned thing to do’. The hull had to be built to Lloyds rules, a very detailed lists of specifications that was all about the strength of the steel frames and plates need to survive gale force winds and the survival of the vessel should it go aground.

Francis took on this exacting work. He drew up a set of lines on paper, working to what he decided was the ideal ‘look of the vessel’. He wanted a ‘clipper’ bow and a slight hollow in the hull forward. The artsy stuff but then he built a model (on exhibit at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes) to check some technical decisions about the appearance of the hull where the steel plates were welded lengthwise, these are called the chines. As Francis says, “to test the plateability to prove what the drawings intend”. It is an artistic judgement wrapped up in the mathematics of naval architecture, and also a point of pride since it will determine how the vessel moves through water.

Mike Eames had a task that was somewhat alien to his soul. He was dedicated to making boats and ships lighter and faster. His hero was the eccentric and brilliant British yacht designer Uffa Fox who said, “weight was only of use in a steam roller”. They agreed that a ‘square rig’ that sent the crew aloft to set and take in the sails was the right choice. As in any sport, the physical challenge is a part of developing self-confidence. This contributed to the ‘function’. There were square rigged vessels in service, noticeably, the world circumnavigator, the brigantine Yankee. But Mike, a demon for details hit the books, especially, Underhill’s Masting and Rigging. We commonly say the brigantine St. Lawrence 11 is two masted but in fact each mast is made up of a robust lower section and a topmast. Their respective heights, and where they overlap each other, are subject to bending forces from the wind depending on the sails that are set – more maths. And to make Mike’s work more challenging, the horizontal yards that crossed the mast carried the square (really rectangular) sails adding more weight aloft that had to be compensated by adding weight to the hull.

And now there were two sets of calculations, hull and rigging that included pressure of the wind on the sails that had to be combined to determine the stability, the safety of the vessel in a wide range of weather conditions. Like a punching bag that when hit bounces back because of the weight at the bottom of the bag. Francis took on the detailed calculations; the weight of every piece of steel, the wood masts, steel rigging, ballast and after each calculation a change might have to be made to the length, bream, draft and height of the rigging. An iterative process that had to be done over and over to achieve the safety required.

Years later these calculations were tested in full public view during a royal visit to Kingston. The Royal Yacht Britannia was anchored in the harbour. St. Lawrence 11 was a part of the welcoming fleet. And then a rare phenomenon, a white squall, an intense downward burst of wind, localized to a small area of the harbour. As the brig heeled over the greeting party in front of city hall thought it was a part of the show. The deck was in the water, but with the masts heeled over, the sails lost their full force and the weight of the hull popped the brig back up. From a distance it looked like a well-practised ‘evolution’ put on to entertain the folks ashore.

Over the course of five years of so, 1951-57 MacLachlan and Eames exchanged over fifty handwritten letters. Many were nine or more pages in length and in ink with few strikeouts. They exchanged gossip, resolved differences of opinion, touched on the philosophical. They went through the disappointment of professional partnership that was not to be, but with a string of successful designs. And they remained friends.

The three brigantines are now at 150 years of combined service. In early August the Toronto vessels, Pathfinder and Playfair were in Killarney at the north end of Georgian Bay. The St. Lawrence 11 had just left Quebec City and is bound for Prince Edward Island. For the crew, the experience of being in sail will be remembered into their antiquity, as the halcyon and formative days of their youth.

Mike Eames, as a senior scientific officer in the Naval Research Establishment in Halifax was a leader in the design of H.M.C.S BRAS D’OR, the 150 foot hydrofoil that when launched in 1969 was for a while at 62 knots the fastest warship in the world. She can be seen at the Musee Maritime du Quebec on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River at L’Islet.


Francis MacLachlan in the Audrey Rushbrook Memorial Library, Marine Museum of the Great Lakes with a detail drawing of the Brigantine St. Lawrence II.

Francis at 88 and Rosemary, with family and friends from far away places celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday mornings Francis, the sailmaker Andy Soper and Maurice have breakfast at a rotating selection of marvellous downtown restaurants in Kingston. “Of shoes, ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings” these are the talking points. And yes, every so often we solve a world problem, but not too often. The success of the Kingston and Toronto brigantine is a constant topic of discussion.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has one of the largest integrated marine history collections in Canada, many designated as Canadian Cultural property. Tracing your roots, writing a history or earning a doctorate, the museum collections of artifacts, pictures, plans and archives are available to all.

Maurice D. Smith is Curator Emeritus, Marine Museum of the Great Lakes



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