Mayor Celebrates Restoration of J.B. John Lifeboat at Bayfront Park

Mayor John Murphy and event attendees celebrate the restoration of J.B. John Lifeboat which is now on display in Bayfront Park.

Steamer J.B. John
1909-2004

1909-  Launched March 9, 1909 as KAMINISTIQUIA at Newcastle-on-Tyne England for a         Canadian businessman bound for Great Lakes trade out of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Completed sea trials April 6, 1909. Loaded pig iron in Middlesboro, England for her maiden voyage, destination Montreal. She spent the next 6 years moving cargos around the Great Lakes.

1913- Survived a “Hurricane Blizzard” on Lake Huron in the Great storm of 1913. Caught in southern Lake Huron off Harbor beach in 35 foot seas and 95 MPH wind, the ship was caught between two huge waves. Only the skill of the Captain saved her as he was able to turn around and surf the face of the waves down the lake until they luckily hit the entrance to the St. Clair River and safety. In the 4 days of the storm 12 major vessels were lost and 250 sailors perished.

1915- Kaministiquia sold to Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey. Renamed WESTOIL and departed the great Lakes.

1916-WESTOIL began carrying case lots of kerosene and 55 gallon drums of oil to Argentina and Brazil. On one trip it was reported she returned with 44,198 boxes of coffee for New York City.

1917- United States enters WWI. WESTOIL fitted with Naval guns and a trained Navy gun crew, embarking on convoy duty between New York and Genoa Italy with kerosene and oil. On November 8 while transiting the Mediterranean Sea 50 miles west of Genoa 2 periscopes were sighted, one behind and one ahead. WESTOIL opened fire and after a running 4 hour gunfight with incredible accuracy from the Navy gun crew, the subs were driven off.

1918- on March 12 in the Mediterranean near Gibralter a submarine appeared astern, missed with a torpedo, and opened fire on the WESTOIL with her deck gun. Again, WESTOIL fought back and her accurate gunfire kept the sub at bay until a British destroyer arrived on scene and drove the sub off. WESTOIL had battle damage as gunfire had destroyed her forward cabin. She was escorted into port with one wounded, repaired and returned to service.

1918- on October 18 she was anchored in Genoa Italy harbor when she caught on fire. Sabotage was suspected. Locals fought the fire and put it out, but the volume of water pumped onto the flames caused the ship to sink to the harbors shallow bottom. She was raised, repaired and once again returned to service.

1921- WESTOIL returns to Great Lakes service

1922- Petoskey Transportation Company purchases WESTOIL to haul cement on a new venture in Petoskey, Michigan. Renamed J.B. JOHN  after Jonathon Baines John, Petoskey Portland Cement Company’s President.

1925- August 27 J.B. JOHN grounded due to low water at Collingwood, Ontario in her only notable incident wearing Petoskey Portland Cement colors.

1929- Converted to self-unloading cement carrier at Manitowac Wisconsin. New lifeboats were installed. One sits today on Petoskey’s waterfront.

1951- Renamed JOHN L.A. GALSTER after the new President of Petoskey Portland Cement.

1966- Last trip as a steamboat

1968- JOHN L.A. GALSTER had Wheelhouse, smokestack and upper decks stripped and was converted to a barge. Renamed SEA CASTLE. She was towed around the Lakes until 1980 when she was put in long-term layup in Muskegon Michigan.

2004- SEA CASTLE finally scrapped, ending a career that spanned 95 years, a killer storm, 2 World Wars, torpedoes, submarines and gunfights on the high seas, the great depression and then 58 happy years sailing for the Petoskey Portland Cement Company. She was Petoskey’s very own Great Lakes freighter and one with a heck of a story to tell.