MacNaughton had Bad Luck on the Lakes
By James Donahue
The freighter James MacNaughton survived 63 years on the Great Lakes in spite
of three serious accidents that marred her record. This vessel also was known by two other names before it was scrapped in
The boat was in a collision that sank a car ferry at Astabula, Ohio, was
partially sunk at Duluth, and was struck by fire on Lake Superior.
The steamer was known as the Ben Moreell when it collided with the railroad
car ferry Ashtabula, loaded with empty railroad cars, at Ashtabula harbor. This accident happened on Sept. 18, 1958.
The Moreel, commanded by Capt. M. D. McQueen, had just unloaded 12,900 tons
of ore at Ashtabula and was leaving the port empty when it rammed the side of the inbound ferry Ashtabula shortly before 9
The Ashtabula, with Capt. Louis Sabo at the helm, was returning from Port
Burwell, Ont., with empty railroad cars. They hit near the harbor entrance. The cause of the crash was never made public.
The ferry took a hole in its side and sank in 37 feet of water. All 77 officers
and crew members of the two boats escaped injury.
The Moreel did not sink, but took serious bow damage below the water line
and had to be towed off for repair.
Toward the end of its career, the vessel was known as the Alastair Guthrie
when it sank at its moorings at Duluth. This odd event happened on April 17, 1979 as the vessel was taking on grain for its
first trip of the season.
Water was discovered in the engine room. The ship’s crew frantically
rigged pumps but they weren’t fast enough. The stern settled to the bottom of the slip in 37 feet of water. There was
more than five feet of water in the engine room. It was discovered that someone accidentally left a cooling valve open.
The fire occurred on the Guthrie on Sept. 22, 1983. The freighter had steamed
from Duluth and was on its way across Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie, when fire was discovered in the No. 4 compartment.
Crew members managed to contain the blaze in that portion of the ship. No
one was hurt. The Guthrie returned to Duluth with 146,000 bushels of damaged cargo.