MV Abegweit (1947)

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This article is about the original vessel named MV Abegweit. For the second vessel, please consult MV Abegweit (1982).

The original ferry MV Abegweit is now owned by the Columbia Yacht Club of Chicago, Illinois, where she is used as a clubhouse.
Name: MV Abegweit
Namesake: Epekwit'k or Abegweit, the Mi'kmaq Nation's name for Prince Edward Island.
Builder: Marine Industries Limited shipyard of Sorel, Quebec, Canada
Yard number: 144
Laid down: November 1944
Refit: New hull paint in 1977 to withstand rusting from ice breaking.
Homeport: Borden. PEI-Cape Tormentine, NB
Nickname: "Abby"
Fate: Sold and is currently the Operations Center for the Columbia Yacht Club of Chicago, Illinois.
General characteristics
Class and type: RO/RO Ferry
Displacement: 7,000 tons
Length: 372 ft
Beam: 61 ft
Draught: 18 ft
Ice class: A1 100 East Coast Train Ferry Lloyds Class III
Installed power: 8 main engines Dominion Schutlz inline 12 opposing Diesel-Electric
Speed: 12 knots

The MV Abegweit was an icebreaking railway, vehicle, and passenger ferry which operated across the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait, connecting Port Borden to Cape Tormentine between 1947-1982.

The word Abegweit is derived from the Mi'kmaq word for Prince Edward Island, Epekwit'k, meaning "cradled (or cradle) on the waves."

Design and construction

MV Abegweit crossing the Norththumberland Strait in her glory days.

The first MV Abegweit was laid down as hull 144 in November 1944 and was launched in 1946 at the Marine Industries Limited shipyard in Sorel, Quebec. Her designers were the famous Montreal design firm of German & Milne. Her owners were Canadian National Railways (CNR), operator of the Borden-Cape Tormentine service from 1918-1977.

This vessel was the most powerful icebreaker in the world at the time of her commissioning on June 28, 1947 and was reportedly the heaviest vessel ever constructed in Canada as well. Her patron at the time of commissioning was Mrs. J. Walter Jones, wife of the premier of Prince Edward Island. She entered service on August 14, 1947 and earned the hearts of Islanders who affectionately called her the "Abby".

She measured 372 feet in length and displaced 7,000 tons. Her 8 main engines generated 13,500 brake horsepower (10 MW) and drove propellers at both bow and stern. She could carry 950 passengers and 60 cars (or one complete passenger train of 16 railway cars).


The growth of vehicle and rail traffic by the 1950s soon made her obsolete and subsequent vessels introduced in the 1960s and 1970s could carry more vehicles and rail traffic and could load and unload with greater speed. Her Captain was J.R.B. Maguire of Guysborough Nova Scotia.

Disposal and sale

The replacement for the Abegweit was a vessel that was laid down as MV Straitway, however while under construction CN Marine decided to name this new vessel MV Abegweit. To accommodate this change, the original MV Abegweit was renamed MV Abby in fall 1982 and she maintained this name through the end of her ferry service. After finishing service on the Borden - Cape Tormentine route, the MV Abby was moved to Pictou, Nova Scotia and placed for sale during the winter of 1982-83.

During the winter of 1982–1983, while the new MV Abegweit was in service between Borden and Cape Tormentine, the old MV Abby was docked at Pictou, Nova Scotia and advertised for sale by CN Marine. She was purchased by the Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago city ordinances barred the club from constructing a clubhouse on the waterfront, so the club decided to purchase the MV Abby and permanently moor her at their facility.

The MV Abby left the Northumberland Strait for good in April, 1983 and remains in "service" in Chicago. A curious phenomenon arising out of CN Marine's name-switch operation is that many in the general public assume the new vessel's name was "Abegweit II" - this is not the case as she was officially registered as MV Abegweit.

Columbia Yacht Club

The MV Abegweit was purchased by the Columbia Yacht Club in 1983 and moved to Chicago that spring. She continues to serve as club house for the CYC.

See also

External links

Coordinates: 41°53′02″N 87°36′43″W / 41.883947°N 87.611969°W / 41.883947; -87.611969