Introducing: SS Pumper

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The unusual and stately vessel resting between Manotick and Kars on the Rideau River has proven to be a fascinating subject for boaters and photographers since 2003, and a curiosity for history buffs, and for good reason. The SS Pumper, which had been sailing on the Great Lakes for 100 years, was granted no recognition for its long service in 2003 and the ship’s owners, the Pettitt family, agreed to cease operations on Niagara on the Lake.

Manotick is a village in the Rideau-Goulbourn Ward of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, situated in the city’s rural south. It is a city suburb on the Rideau River, about 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of downtown Ottawa, and immediately south of the suburbs Barrhaven and Riverside South.

According to the SS Pumper’s website, the expense of operating the tour boat, insurance, and the reluctance of the Canadian Parks Service or Niagara National Historic Sites to change their operational rates to a sum dependent on revenue rather than a fixed rental fee of $20,000.00 per year, as well as a rise in insurance of over 140 percent in the last two years (it was claims free for 15 years), were all factors in the shutdown of its service at Niagara on The Lake.

SS Pumper started life as an icebreaker and tug in Lake Erie in 1903, was seized for “running the line” (border), and then sold as a tour boat on the Niagara River before it was permanently transferred to Ottawa and used as a tour boat on the Rideau for a brief period in the mid-2000s. It is currently on the market and according to rumour listed at a very high price.

SS Pumper

North America’s ONLY genuine wood-fired steamship has been languishing at its current location since 2003, a piece of history in desperate need of a homeā€”and a future. “There she blows” a common expression used by lookouts on ships in the past can’t be used now with the SS Pumper; it is more the expression, “there she sits”!

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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