Looking like some crashed and forgotten pirate’s galleon, Ontario’s wreck of the Grande Hermine floating restaurant is actually a dilapidated replica of an earlier ship.
The original Grande Hermine was a three-masted sailing vessel from the 1500s. While the original did not survive into the modern day, a replica was built for Montreal’s 1967 Expo event. This version of the ship was not meant for transportation, but rather it was built as a gimmicky floating restaurant. Once the fair ended, the floating replica was put on permanent display in a Quebec City municipal park. There is was left as a permanent display but the wooden ship didn’t suport the rain and snow, and after few years, the city had to dismantled it.
The ship that sits near the small town of Jordan, Ontario today is a former ferry boat built in Lauzon, Qc in 1914. She was then named Le Progrès and sailed between Trois-Rivières and Ste-Angèle from 1914 until 1955. In 1930, her name was changed for La Verendry but was still owned by the City of Trois-Rivieres. After being replaced by a much larger ferry boat, she was sold in 1956 to a local mariner and transformed as a cargo coaster. She was then named La Marjolaine. She sailed between Montréal and Sept Iles, carrying general cargo and pulpwood. As she had a steel hull capable to sail trough the ice, she was purchased in 1959 and transformed again to become a year round ferry, this time between isle -aux Coudres and Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, from 1959 until 1971. She was then used as a tour boat on the Saguenay River for two years but was required again as a ferry, this time from Montmagny to Ile aux-Grues. She was used until a new ferry was built in 1980. She was then sold to become a floating restaurant in Québec City harbour. But after few years, it closed as it was not a business success. She was sold to a business man who wanted to try firing up the whole floating restaurant thing once again, this time in Valleyfield. It was this owner who decided to transform the old ferry to become La Grande Hermine, using a lot of wood to build a tall ship structure, adding two mast and a bow spirit.. Unfortunately, it didn’t take the second time either, and the boat was again left to rot in the lake st-Francois water, keeling over dangerously to one side. She was purchased by a business man from Niagara Falls who had in mind to make a casino, but while trying to get the appropriate permit, the poor man died. The Grande Hermine was towed near the Jordan marina and abandonned. A fire destroyed much of the ship wooden structurein 2003, thought to have been started on purpose.
Today the ship’s skeleton still sits on the shores of Jordan, looking like it could topple over at any moment. But even in death, the ship has become a favorite landmark among people driving by, and a tantalizing target for those brave or foolish enough to try and explore it. Attached is a picture of the Marjolaine I took in 1976. Hubert Desgagnés
Know Before You Go
You can no longer see the listing masts of the Grand Hermine from the QEW, they aren’t there anymore. There is, however, a small but pretty beach right by the ship itself. Bring bug spray.