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The Chicago Traveler


by Matt B on August 21st, 2007

Straight east from the Aon Center and the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Tower, resting directly on Lake Michigan is the Q.S.M.V. (Quadruple Screw Motor Vessel) Abegweit, the “Queen of The Northumberland Strait.” At 372 feet long and 62 feet wide, this massive ship was able to carry 950 passengers and 60 cars and worked for the Canadian National Railways for 35 years before becoming the Operations Center for the Columbia Yacht Club here in Chicago.

In June 1947, Mrs. J. Walter Jones, wife of the Premier of Prince Edward Island, christened the Abegweit, making year-round service possible from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick to Borden, Prince Edward Island. Because ice in the Northumberland Strait can be 18 feet thick or more, this vessel was created to be the most powerful icebreaker in the world at the time of her commissioning. Her hull is 1-1/4 inches thick, and her 16 engines deliver 15,400-horsepower to four massive, 13-foot nickel-plated propellers.

Unfortunately, “Abby” (as she was affectionately called by the Islanders) could not keep up with the growth of vehicle and rail traffic over the years, and she was retired in 1981. In 1983, she was purchased by the Columbia Yacht Club, who made her their main floating base.


Photo credit: (c/o Flickr) Beige Alert, jeremyvaught

Abegweit c/o Columbia Yacht Club: 111 N Lake Shore Dr; 312-938-3625
Office Hours
Mon - Tues: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Weds - Fri: 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Sat - Sun: 10:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Pay lots nearby
Columbia Yacht Club: http://www.columbiayachtclub.com/
Colin Love’s incredibly informative website: http://members.shaw.ca/colinluv/

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions, Sports and Recreation

15 opinions for Abegweit

  • Dave Stewart
    Aug 22, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    I have a lot of great memories sailing on this old girl. Great to see they don’t scrap all the ships which retire. We miss you Abby!!

    Dave Stewart
    Charlottetown, PEI

  • ANNE
    Aug 22, 2007 at 3:32 pm


  • betty
    Aug 22, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    The bridge is nice but it took something from the island Abby. it is good that she been taken care of

  • Vivian
    Aug 22, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    While in Chicago on business, I had the opportunity to tour the Abbie. It has been preserved beautifully, even the orange leather seating. They also keep the history of its roots alive. It is a private club, but if you introduce yourself as an Islander, they treat you as their guest and you can tour throughout. They mentioned that the boat was featured in some Hollywood movies. It is great to see a piece of Island history has such a good home. It is a prominent feature of the Chicago waterfront.

  • Ron MacArthur
    Aug 22, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    She carried 100 cars plus train cars and large trucks below. Great ship. Spent many hours on her and many of them in the winter. Once caught in the northern ice in the spring for 18 hours. Trip in winter took from hour and a half to three hours. hour and 10 minutes in summer. Miss her.

    Aug 22, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    I was 10 years old when i went to toronto with my mom and i just could not understand how we could go on a boat with a train .She was a thing of beauty

  • Barry
    Aug 22, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    I miss the beautiful smell of the food coming from the kitchen and the beautiful gold stairs,reminds me of the Titanic in a way.

  • Bernadette Desroches
    Aug 23, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I used to play on this ship every Sunday my father work on this ship for 30 years his name is Arthur Sexton from Borden PEI.

  • The Best of The Chicago Traveler 2007
    Feb 14, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    […] Abegweit. Resting peacefully on Lake Michigan, this beautiful ship was once the most powerful icebreaker in […]

  • Joanne McInnis Tiedemann
    Jun 11, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Just got home from taking a trip on ACCl line up through Erie Canal all the way to Chicago. Saw the Abegweit resting there and had so many memories of her come back. I was born on PEI and traveled on her often after moving to the Boston area. My aunt worked on her as a cook for the crew for many many years. I was so excited finding her in Chicago a few years ago but could not get on board, hope to accomplish that next time I get to the area. It is nice to see she still has life even if it is just looking beautiful for the Columbia Yacht Club. Please treat her well.

  • Matt B
    Jun 11, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    The Abegweit is definitely a majestic addition to Lake Michigan, and we here in the city are more than honored to have her.

  • Rena MacInnis
    Aug 6, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Fantastic memories as we look at this website. Had many trips on the ship.

  • bernadette sexton
    Sep 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    my father and all of my 5 brothers worked on the abeweit. my father for 45 years. I as a child play on the ship while going to work with my father. miss you abeweit. happy to see you,re looking good

  • Matt B
    Sep 21, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It is so good to hear from folks like you who have given the ship its great history.

  • Ian P
    Oct 23, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Sept I was lucky enough to board the Abegweit one last time. Looking around brought back many memories of trips between PEI and mainland. She is still a beauty for sure. Thanks to the members who were kind enough to take us on a tour.

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