Heritage Lives: Yachting On The Welland Canal

By Terry Hughes

The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, in recent years, has been more friendly towards private boat owners and in particular, those folks who own luxurious yachts. 

They range from 60 to 110 ft. in length and one featured its own bow and stern bow thrusters. The cost of purchasing and operating these vessels must be astronomical but as the saying goes, ‘if you got it, flaunt it!’

At one time, while traveling with my parents to Port Colborne on the old Highway 58 on the east side of the old canal, a vessel that lay across from the Robin Hood Mill caught my eye. As the photos show (top right, bottom right) she had the lines of a sailing vessel yet featured a funnel indicating her power source was steam. Two stars stood out on her funnel and her hull was painted in an off-white colour scheme. Much of her trim was gilded in gold. Some time later I found out she was owned by Capt. Scott Misener and her name was Venetia. 

Built in Leith, Scotland, this 198-foot vessel served as a subchaser and armed with two deck guns sunk two submarines, one of which sank the Lusitania during the First World War.

After returning her to the American owner, she came to the Great Lakes and in 1940 became the property of Capt. Misener. Again she was involved in the Second World War as a training vessel and returned to peacetime service as a yacht. She set sail for the upper lakes in 1947 and picked isolated bays to catch a bountiful supply of fish along with some consumption of alcoholic beverages.

 After returning home to Port Colborne, the owner let it be known that she was available for charter. Whether she left her berth afterwards is unknown because operating this vessel was expensive!  The photos were taken by the late George Shook at her berth across from the Robin Hood Mill in the early 1950s.

1959 marked the first year of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Queen Elizabeth was invited as a special guest at its opening. She arrived here on HMS Britannia (above, left) but had departed the vessel before it arrived on the Welland Canal. 

Along with a destroyer escort (not in photo) we see her rounding the curve near Notre Dame College School and being greeted by four ambassadors (in the water!) from the local community, a custom of some boys in those days for any ship passing through Welland.

One of the ship’s masts was too tall to fit under the bridges so it was hinged to enable her to safely pass underneath. 

Next Column: The City Puts the Bite On Feeder Lock Park

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

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