Skip to content

Everything you wanted to know about the Yankcanuck

This edition of Remember This looks back at an iconic local vessel

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

The date, May 4, 1889 marks the launching of a ship that was built by the Detroit Dry Dock company under the name S.S. Manchester.  

One of the unique features of this ship was that it had a composite hull meaning that the hull was constructed with iron frames and keel with wooden planking.  The Manchester carried a variety of cargo around the ports of the Great Lakes for many years.  It was sold several times, undergoing a number of name changes in the following years. 

In 1928 it was converted to a crane equipped vessel. On December 31, 1945 the ship was sold to Captain Feliciano Manzzutti from Sault Ste. Marie. 

He made the final name change for this ship on June 3, 1946 when it became known as the Yankcanuck of the Yankcanuck Transportation Company. The ship name relates directly back to the husband and wife owners.  Eleanor Manzzutti was an American (Yank) while Captain Manzzutti was a Canadian (Canuck) so a combination of the two terms produced Yankcanuck.

However after sailing the Great Lakes for 70 years, the last composite hulled steamer on the Great Lakes suffered damage forcing the decision to have it dismantled and set on fire at Saw Mill Bay in 1960.

However, it did not take long to resurrect the ship name and construction of a new ship began on September 20, 1962 in Collingwood Ontario when the keel was laid. The M.V. Yankcanuck was built by Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering for Yankcanuck Steamship Limited. 

On April 27, 1963, in front of invited guests, spectators, and officials, the new Yankcanuck was christened with the traditional bottle of champagne.  

The ship was built with additional reinforcements for navigating icy waters and incorporated high impact Algoma Cor-Ten Steel which was manufactured by Algoma Steel Corporation. 

In addition, 90 per cent of the steel used in its construction was from Algoma Steel. The vessel measured approximately 324 feet in length but was also designed so another 50 feet could be added without jeopardizing the ship's seaworthiness, speed or class.  The vessel also had a carrying capacity of 4500 long tons. The Sault Star reported on Captain W.C. Dexter’s docking of the vessel at the Sault Harbour to officially open the 1964 St. Marys River navigation season.

Most the cargo carried by the Yankcanuck was steel products being transported from Algoma Steel down to Detroit. On December 31, 1970, Yankcanuck Steamship Company Limited was sold to the Algoma Steel Corporation, which led to the formation of the Algoma Steel Corporation – Marine Division.  

Skipper Manzzutti, the former owner, worked alongside Captain Leath R. Davis during the transition and in 1972, the crossed flags of Yankcanuck Steamship was replaced with the flaming A of Algoma Steel.  

The vessel changed owners over the years but continued to retain its original name.  In 1976 it was sold to Chemco Equipment Finance to raise money to build a new furnace and was bought back in 1983 and then sold to Purvis Marine Limited of Sault Ste. Marie in 1991. 

Over the years, the Yankcanuck had been upgraded with new technology but its job as a cargo ship remained constant.  She visited ports on the Great Lakes like Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay as well the East Coast in Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to the Arctic to carry supplies.  

The Yankcanuck’s final voyage was November 18, 2016 when she sailed through the Soo Locks. She was then towed from Purvis Dock to a scrapping facility. Like its predecessor the Yankcanuck continued to serve its function as a reliable cargo ship just as Captain Manzzutti intended.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here