Bring Home the “Peninsula”
Posted on: October 16, 2017
Tug "Peninsula"
The tug “Peninsula” on her maiden voyage in the Marathon area, 1946.

Purchase Negotiations Underway

The Marathon & District Historical Society has kicked off a project to enhance Marathon as a tourist attraction, and preserve fond memories for folks from the Marathon – Pic River area at the same time. At one time, the tug “Peninsula” towed vast rafts of wood from the mouth of the Pic river into Peninsula Harbour at Marathon. Currently owned by Gravel and Lake Services Limited in Thunder Bay, she is still at work, apparently, the only tug in her class for which this can be said.

The Marathon District Historical Society is looking into purchasing the “Peninsula” and moving her to a well-earned retirement, prominently located in Marathon. Preliminary negotiations have started at $100,000.00 to buy her back, and the overall cost of purchase, transfer, and permanent relocation is estimated to be $200,000.00. The town of Marathon is located on the Canadian shore of Lake Superior, approximately 400 km./250 mi. west of Sault Ste. Marie.

Built to Bring Home Damaged Atlantic War Ships

The “Peninsula” has quite a history. She was built late in the Second World War for the Canadian Navy. She was used as an oceangoing retrieval tug, and was launched on 29 Nov, 1943 at the Montreal Dry Dock. During the latter part of WWII and shortly thereafter (1944-1946), the tug sailed under the name Norton-W31. At the time, the “Peninsula” was the only tug available for salvage work in the Western North Atlantic. The tug retrieved damaged frigates and battle-class trawlers, towing them into safe harbor, largely in Nova Scotia. [Specific details of her military activities are available from The Marathon and District Historical Society.]

A New Life on Lake Superior 

In early 1946, having been declared surplus, Norton-W31 was sold to Marathon Paper Mills, and began her new life on Lake Superior. She was renamed the “Peninsula,” in honour of the town that would be her new home. Peninsula is the town which was later to become known as Marathon. Her first captain was George Matheson, then the youngest Captain on the Great Lakes. Apparently the last of the Norton Class tugs still in service in Canada, the “Peninsula” may well be the sole remaining exemplar of those rugged WWII retrieval vessels.

Town Symbol

The Marathon & District Historical Society proposes to bring the tug home as a symbol of the town, and as a tourist attraction, much like Wawa’s goose and Dryden’s moose. The small lake freighter D.C. Everest, which served the mill at Marathon, was scrapped before memorabilia could be obtained from her. The historical society proposes that the “Peninsula”  be rescued from the same fate, in order to preserve a piece of Marathon’s and Canada’s history. The society’s plan is to bring the tug home and to position the vessel at the base of Stevens Avenue, where she would be in prominent view, overlooking the harbour from which she sailed from 1947 to 1981.

The tug "Peninsula"
The tug “Peninsula” is the first (furthest left) of the 4 tugs in this 2011 picture. Photo: JBailey/ (Kaministiquia River, Thunder Bay).

Support Efforts to Protect Lake Superior’s Maritime History

The Marathon & District Historical Society is reaching out to anyone who supports Lake Superior maritime history to participate in fundraising efforts. The society says that all sponsors will be suitably recognized. The society is a charitable organization and all donations are tax deductible.

Donation Details

Donations can be made to: Marathon & District Historical Society, P.O. Box 728, Marathon On., P0T 2E0, CANADA or online here through Canada Helps.

Stan Johnson is the president of the Marathon & District Historical Society and can be reached at sbjohnson at sympatico dot ca.

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