Bermuda's 'greatest party boat' is rusting away in Canada

  • The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

    The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

  • Ferry Canima on dry dock in St George in December 77

    Ferry Canima on dry dock in St George in December 77

  • The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

    The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

  • Signs of age: The old Bermuda tender Canima, which is now rusting away.

    Signs of age: The old Bermuda tender Canima, which is now rusting away.

  • The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

    The old Bermuda tender Canima, now rusting away.

A proud vessel once known as “Bermuda's greatest party boat” has been tracked to a lonely wharf in New Brunswick, Canada, where the rusting Canima has been branded an eyesore by locals.

Originally an Irish ferry, and bought out to Bermuda as a tender, the Canima was also a pleasure boat for holidaying students during the College Weeks of the Island's tourism heyday.

Now, for residents of New Brunswick's Miramichi Bay, the ageing boat's fate is as much of a mystery as its purpose there.

According to the local Moncton Times, the Canima looks “ghostly and decidedly abandoned” at its current berth.

Attempts to explore the ship's history are muddled by the fact that a few different Canimas have been associated with Bermuda over the years.

However, New Brunswick businessman Steve Hawkins told The Royal Gazette that he and US business partner Del Schultz haven't given up on their investment in the boat.

“We've been trying to do something with it, but the way the economy's been in the States, we haven't been able to so far,” Mr Hawkins said, estimating that Mr Schultz has put about $250,000 into maintaining the vessel.

Former Director of Marine and Ports Ron Ross recalled the Canima as a fixture of Bermuda's College Weeks party circuit in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“It was used for cruises back when the Island got 10,000 of these students at a time,” Mr Ross said. “Before that, she was used as a tender for the trans-Atlantic ships, to bring the visitors off the big ships and into Hamilton.”

Mr Ross, who inspected the Canima many times, said the old vessel could prove tricky to repair.

“It's very difficult recovering these old boats,” he said. “The old steel hulls get corroded with time.”

Complicating matters, the Canima was replaced in 1988 by two new tenders the Bermudian, which remains in service, and its sister ship, also named the Canima, which Government sold off to the local company Bermuda Island Cruises.

The newer Canima was renovated for a career as a party boat in Cuba, but eventually was sold off to Mexican owners, according to former owner Derek Morris of BIC.

The old Canima, meanwhile, had long since been sold off in Canada where Arizona businessman Del Schultz acquired it.

“Mr Schultz bought it off an auction, and we tried to open it as a restaurant in the Shedian,” Mr Hawkins said, referring to the nearby Shedian Bay. “It was anchored offshore and a storm came down from the Northeast.

“The boat took off, and it ended up on the beach for a year and a half. It cost us $100,000 to get it off the beach.”

The vessel is now being held at a private port at Miramichi Bay, he said.

In Mr Hawkins' recollection, the old Canima passed through the hands of several owners before reaching its present resting-place.

“It was sold to a company in Montreal, Quebec, where a guy wanted to take it out on the St Lawrence River for cruises,” the Moncton resident recalled. “He couldn't come up with the money to make it work.

“Then it was opened up as a restaurant by another guy in Campbellton, New Brunswick, and that went bankrupt as well. A guy from New York bought it and was going to fix it up as a museum, but he died from a heart attack. Then Mr Schultz bought it.”

The Canima appeared in the Schediac in 2003, and promptly ended up wedged on a sandbar, according to the Moncton Times.

Mr Schultz attributed part of the boat's difficulties to local opposition.

“I think there were people who didn't want to see it go ahead as a restaurant at the time,” he said. “I think that's how the boat ended up where it did.”

It has spent the past four years docked at Miramichi, where it caught the attention of Bill Anderson, whose son, Ramsay, undertook to investigate it.

Spotting the faded letters of “Hamilton” still stamped on the hull, Mr Anderson turned to Google and The Royal Gazette online to track the vessel down.

His search was frustrated, however, by the old Canima and its replacement of the same name in Bermuda.

Mr Ross said he had heard that the modern version of the boat was still in use in Mexico.

Its older namesake, however, continues to rust at the waterside while it waits for investment.

“Mr Schultz would probably sell it if he had a chance,” Mr Hawkins said. “But it's sitting at wharf right now.

“We have been trying to do something with it, but the economy's too bad. It's a historic vessel, one of the last riveted ships. It has a sister ship in Ireland, the Cill Airne.”

A search online reveals that a Cill Airne, built in 1962, is currently in the Irish port of Cork City.

According to the site, a sister vessel named Blarna was built in 1961by Liffey Dockyard, and based on the design of the Birkenhead and Wallasey ferries.

The site adds that the Blarna “left Cork in the mid-1960s to be a tender in Bermuda and was renamed Canima in 1966”.

The site gives 1988 as the year the vessel was sent off to Canada the same year as the modern tenders Bermudian and new Canima were purchased which corroborates the version of events given by the boat's present owners.

The confusion over which Canima ended up in New Brunswick the old or the new managed to perplex The Royal Gazette, which confused the vessels in a 2003 article.

How had the Canima been sent off to the Cuban tourism circuit in 1999, when Canadian reports had it being used in New Brunswick as early as 1988?

To confuse matters further, Mr Anderson's research found still another Canima with a Bermudian connection: the SS Canima a nineteenth century steamship operated by the Quebec and Gold Ports Steamship Company, which ran between the Island and New York.

However, it appears that the most fondly-remembered version of the vessel, once a mainstay of College Weeks, started life as an Irish ferry boat.

What the future holds for the Canima now is anyone's guess.

A story from last year's Moncton Times quoted local politician Carmel Robichaud, a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, calling for the deteriorating vessel to be towed away.

“In 100 years that will never be turned into a restaurant,” Ms Robichaud told reporter Kris McDavid.

“That boat should be removed, something has to be done.”

Do you have a story about the Canima? Have you got pictures of parties there? E-mail

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Published Jan 4, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated Jan 4, 2012 at 9:34 am)

Bermuda's 'greatest party boat' is rusting away in Canada

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