Historical, Emotional Experience
For the people of Marathon, Ontario it was an emotional occasion; a time for reclaiming their own history. For Infosuperior, it was astounding to get phone calls from as far away as British Columbia, from people who used to live on the big lake. These calls expressed appreciation for articles posted about Lake Superior communities and history, in this case the community of Marathon, Ontario. The town lies on the Canadian side of the lake some 400 km./250 mi. west of Sault Ste. Marie. The population is over 3000 persons.
On July 7th, 2018 the tug Peninsula returned to its Lake Superior Canadian North Shore home at Marathon through an effort organized by the Marathon and District Historical Society. The vessel operated in the Marathon and nearby Heron Bay area for many years, towing huge booms of logs to the Marathon pulp mill. Stan Johnson of the Historical Society points out that the vessel is named after the town itself, which used to be called “Peninsula.” The tug is actually a World War 2 navy vessel which was used to retrieve damaged ships from the western North Atlantic. As Stan puts it, “There isn’t another vessel like her in the entire world. This is the last one.”
Related October 16, 2017 Infosuperior Article: “Bring Home the Peninsula”
The Tug Ran on Its Own Power From Thunder Bay to Marathon
The tug is actually in fairly good condition and ran under its own power as it was brought from Thunder Bay to Marathon. The boat is powered by a 12 cylinder Detroit Deisel. Keith McCuaig of Marathon acted as skipper. The run out of the Kaministiquia River in Thunder Bay east some 221 km./137 mi. to Marathon took 12 hours under blue skies and in good weather, with only light chop.
Stan says the Marathon and District Historical Society raised about 125, 000 dollars in one year to support the Peninsula tug project. He says donations for the vessel came in from Vancouver, Halifax, Northwest Territories, every Canadian province and also Alabama.
“This is a Major Accomplishment for Marathon…”
Stan stresses that bringing the tug to Marathon is a major accomplishment. “People in Marathon now realize that the tug is here. This is not a pipe dream. It can become a major tourist attraction for Marathon. What’s more, it’s iconic; it represents the working history of this town and the pulp and paper industry. At one time, the tug Peninsula towed vast rafts of wood on Lake Superior to the mill in Marathon. This is the largest Marathon Paper mills icon that exists. Marathon Paper Mills was the forerunner of American Can, James River, Fort James and now includes Domtar Packaging. When you buy a package of paper towels at the supermarket, those were originally created by Marathon Corporation out of Wisconsin.”
At time of writing, the tug was sitting at the dock beside the former Marathon pulp mill in Peninsula Harbour, a position where it was frequently seen between stints of towing logs on Lake Superior between the years 1946 – 57.
Phase Two Fundraising…Restoration
The vessel will be taken out of the water (or may already be out of the water) in Marathon and the Historical Society is raising funds for restoration. The number one objective is to complete work necessary to allow public tours of the vessel.
Donations can be made to:
Marathon & District Historical Society, P.O. Box 728, Marathon On., P0T 2E0, CANADA or online through:
Family Ties to Lake Superior History
Seventeen people were aboard the Peninsula for the delivery voyage to Marathon. Stan explains that, “Everyone on board during the trip from Thunder Bay to Marathon contributed to the project or were closely linked to the vessel in some way. This project took so much commitment and dedication. People traveled here on their own money from places like Vancouver, Ottawa and Owen Sound to be be on board for this delivery. Some had relatives who participated in the official launching of this vessel years ago or who had worked in drafting at Montreal Drydocks where the vessel was built. Keith McCuaig, who acted as master of the vessel during the voyage from Thunder Bay to Marathon, is the great grandson of David Coveney, lighthouse keeper at Peninsula Harbour’s Hawkins Island lighthouse in the 1920s. Keith’s brother Neil was also aboard.
Stan noted that taking people out on the waters of Lake Superior aboard the vessel would be impractical. He said that passing the rigourous Transport Canada inspection would likely cost in excess of $100,ooo and that the tug burns about 30 gallons of fuel an hour when moving at higher speeds. He said the vessel requires a crew of at least three and that with all of these costs, operation of the vessel is impractical.
Stan asked Infosuperior to extend thanks to all of the individuals and organizations that helped to purchase the Peninsula and bring it to Marathon, including the Town of Marathon, the donations from across Canada and USA, the local Marathon Mercury newspaper, CFNO Radio, Dougall Media, CBC Radio, Infosuperior, Lake Superior Magazine and many more.
Regional industries like forestry and pulp and paper are inextricably linked to Lake Superior and local history through the Peninsula. Congratulations to the Marathon and District Historical Society for opening our eyes to this history and for taking the steps to preserve it.