Odd Design Of The Turret Chief
By James Donahue
The Turret Chief was one of about 180 strange looking “turret deck ships” built by William Doxford and
Sons of Sunderland, England, at about the turn of the century. A few of these vessels, including the Turret Chief, found their
way into the Great Lakes.
While inspired by the whaleback Charles W. Wetmore, a radical cigar-shaped and deckles Great Lakes steamship designed
by Captain Alexander McDougall after it called at Liverpool in 1891, there was a financial reason behind the turret deck design.
Ships passing through the Suez Canal in those years were charged a fee based on flat deck space. By designing a ship
with sloping sides, the turret deck ships offered plenty of cargo space in the hold but a narrow deck above, thus cutting
the cost of passing through the canal. The designers claimed that the sloping sides also tended to strengthen the hull.
On the negative side, however, the narrow deck limited the width of the hatches so the task of loading and unloading
cargo was more difficult. Consequently, the turret deck design quickly became obsolete.
Built in 1896, the Turret Chief’s owners, the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Co. brought the vessel to the
Great Lakes in 1907. It became a casualty of the Great Storm of November, 1913 while on Lake Superior. The gale drove the
Turret Chief ashore on the Keweenaw Peninsula, near Copper Harbor.
The 253-foot-long vessel was salvaged, repaired, and sold to the Entente Steamship Company in 1914, which renamed it
Vickerstown. The vessel was acquired by the government for war service and returned to the North Atlantic under the name Jolly
Inez, then returned to the Great Lakes in 1922..
In 1927 the vessel stranded in dense fog on Saddlebag Island in False DeTour Channel. It was salvaged once again the
converted to a barge owned by T. L. Durocher Co. and given its final name, Salvor.
The barge made its final voyage on September 26, 1930. It was laden with breakwater stone bound for Muskegon when it
broke away from the tug Richard Fitzgerald in a storm on Lake Huron. The Salvor foundered just north of Muskegon, taking its
crew of five to the bottom with it. The wreck lies in 25 feet of water about three miles northwest of the Muskegon channel.