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Club Ship History

The MV Abegweit began service as an icebreaking railway, vehicle, and passenger ferry that operated across the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait, connecting Port Borden, Prince Edward Island to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, from 1947-1982. The word "Abegweit" is derived from the Mi'kmaq word for Prince Edward Island in Atlantic Canada. The Mi'kmaq called the island "Epekwit'k," or "cradled on the waves."

The MV Abegweit was laid down as hull 144 in November 1944 and launched in 1946 from Marine Industries limited shipyard in Sorel, Quebec. Her designers were the famous Montreal design firm of Germand & Milne. She was owned by the Canadian National Railway, operator of the Borden-Cape Tormentine service from 1918-1977.

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

The Abby measures 372 feet in length and displaces 7,000 tons. While in ferry service, her eight main engines generated 13,500 brake horse power (10MW) and drove propellers at both bow and stern. She carried 950 passengers and 60 cars, or one complete passenger train of 19 railway cars.

The growth of vehicle and rail traffic by the 1950s soon made the Abby obsolete. Subsequent vessels introduced in the 1960s and 1970s could carry more vehicles and rail traffic, as well as load and unload with greater speed.

The replacement for the Abegweit was the MV Straightway. But while she was under construction, the CN Marine decided to carry on the name and call the new vessel the MV Abegweit as well. To accommodate this change, the original MV Abegweit was renamed MV Abby in the fall of 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 listed for sale.

In the winter of 1982-83, Columbia Yacht Club purchased the MV Abby as our new Club Ship. The Abby left the Northumberland Strait for good in April 1983 and remains "in service" today, hosting our members and their guests on the scenic Chicago lakefront at the foot of Randolph Street.