S.S. Keewatin

The Old Man and the SEA
Barrett Smith by Kenneth Lane Smith

When the hulking cargo ship passed by Barrett Smith’s house in the middle of the night, he was ready. Like a good sailor he flashed the porch light three times — two long and one short — sending a friendly 3 a.m. salute to the CSL Tadoussac’s crew.

A few hours later, Barrett makes the annual trek from Lock 7 to the Lock 3 Museum to witness the official opening ceremony of the Welland canal for yet another year. This is one event that Barrett, along with a few of his seafaring pals, always look forward-to after the long winter season.

Barrett’s love of the Great Lakes travel began in his home town of Port McNicoll in Georgian Bay, when he was just 13 years old, as a crew member on the passenger ship SS Keewatin.

Over the next seven years he sailed on three different ships in the Great Lakes, but his favourite memories are those of his time on the Keewatin and the camaraderie of his fellow crew mates.

As much as shipping was in his blood, it was the natural gas business that ultimately became his career, first working for Consumers’ Gas, and then as a private heating contractor.

Life on the water was never far from his mind, so much so that he had the back of his home constructed as a replica of the Keewatin’s wheelhouse, allowing him to view the passing ships in Lock 7 every day.

The addition was complete with real brass porthole windows and a ship’s flagpole
which he used to proudly display his collection of over 40 shipping flags, as tributes
to visiting ships in the lock.

In 2008, Barrett had the chance to go back and visit the Keewatin, which he
considered “his ship”, when it was moored in Saugatuck, Michigan. He visited it again after it was moved back to its home port of Port McNicoll, Ontario, on June 23, 2012 for restoration, and where his love of life on the sea began 69 years before.

SMITH, Nathaniel Barrett, passed away peacefully at home on Sept 26 in Thorold, Ontario. He will be greatly missed.

Family and friends are invited to join in a celebration of his life to be held on Saturday October 11th 2014 starting at 1:00 p.m. with remembrances at 2:00 p.m. Light refreshments to follow.

The Welland Canals Centre
1932 Welland Canals Pkwy
  (at Lock 3),
St. Catharine’s,
ON L2R 7K6 

For those who wish to remember Barrett with a donation, a scholarship fund for student volunteers at the SS Keewatin has been established. Donations may be made online:

Once you have completed the donation form you’ll have an opportunity to Review Your Donation and Add special instructions for the Recipient through a drop-down text entry box. Please use this box to include the name of the donor as you wish to have it recognized, as well as any message.

Donations may also be made by postal mail. Please make cheques payable to “Friends of Keewatin” with a reference to the “Barrett Smith Memorial Fund”. Please also indicate the name of the donor as you wish to have it recognized, as well as any message. Mail to:

Friends of Keewatin
311 Talbot Street
PO Box 189
Port McNicoll, Ontario
L0K 1R0


Barrett Smith
Memorial Fund

  • Elma Adie
  • Paul Armstrong
  • Barbara Barrett
  • Marina Barrett
  • Marva Bethune
  • Bill Bird
  • Stephen & Anastasia Charlton
  • Joyce Connors
  • Bonnie Fish
  • The Partners of Fogler, Rubinoff and your friends
  • Edward & Margaret Harvey
  • Eleanor Henry & Deanne Henry
  • Anne & Keith Hollinshead
  • Lanson Hunt
  • Mary Mark-Lau
  • Hilda & Craig Manson
  • Jennifer & Frances Norman
  • C. & B. Rose
  • John and Karen Schrempf
  • Sandra & Daniel Smith
  • John G. Temesvary
  • R. & A. Tucker
  • Carrol Wong
  • The Smith Family
Donated in Memory of
Barrett Smith to

The S.S. Keewatin
Student Volunteers
Scholarship Fund

Thank You