S.S. Norisle cleanup means historic ship one step closer to dry dock, refit and renos

by Robin Burridge

MANITOWANING—After months of work, phase one of the S.S. Norisle refit is almost complete.

With assistance from the federal Job Creation Program (JCP), the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society Inc. was able to hire a group of workers last fall to clean the 60-year-old steam vessel.

“Phase one involved the removal of all the piping systems, electrical system and fire extinguishing system,” explained S.S. Norisle Steamship Society Inc. chair Dave Ham. “The workers have done a great job of cleaning the vessel. They also removed all the woodwork, some of which will be saved and some of which had to be thrown away because of rot. The team cleaned and collected the debris from the bilge area down in the bowels of the ship and dried it out, in addition to clearing the area under the engine room.

Mr. Ham said that originally the ballasting was scheduled to be done during phase one, but the group decided to leave it until phase two, the dry docking work, to insure the ship’s stability during its transfer Purvis Marine Limited in Sault Ste. Marie.

“The crew is right on time,” said Mr. Ham. “The coal removal is the final part of phase one, which we hope to have competed by the end of February.”

Mr. Ham explained that the society’s JCP has been extended to complete the coal removal. He was also happy to inform The Expositor that the society had successfully sold the 150 tons of coal to a southern Ontario buyer.

The work to the S.S. Norisle is part of the society’s ongoing project to restore the ship as a heritage cruise ship, preserving the vessel and creating a Northern Ontario historical attraction.

“We have been very lucky to be able to have all this work done on the ship,” said S.S. Norisle Steamship Society Inc. board member and founder Jean McLennan. “There are only five steamboat passenger cruisers left in the world, so we are very lucky to have the Norisle.”

Ms. McLennan said she is amazed at how the project has come along thanks to generous donations from not only the government, but also private individuals.

“It just blows my mind away to think of how generous and supportive people have been of the project,” explained Ms. McLennan. “This ship really has the potential to be an asset to Northern Ontario and Canada as a whole.”

Mr. Ham said that once the coal is removed, the next step is to seek funding for phase two of the project. Once funding is obtained, the Norisle will be transported to a dry dock, Purvis Marine Limited in Sault Ste. Marie, where it will be restored to its former glory.