2018 Season Begins in Duluth

The barge Erie Trader, pushed by her tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort, made her way out of the Port Terminal slip in Duluth on Tuesday, where she has spent the last few months in winter layup. After departing, the pair encountered thick ice outside the harbor, and were forced to stop for a few hours while the tug worked to free her barge. By evening, the pair was underway for Two Harbors, where they will load their first cargo of iron ore pellets. Edwin H. Gott and Kaye E. Barker are currently set to leave the harbor on Thursday, while James R. Barker and Burns Harbor should depart on Friday. Lee A. Tregurtha is expected to get underway in the following days. The Soo Locks open for the season on Sunday, March 25, and Duluth should see its first arrival of the season early next week.

In addition, Sturgeon Bay will start to see its first departures of the season later this week. Numerous vessels are set to depart on Friday, while others will follow soon after. Paul R. Tregurtha, which is currently having exhaust gas scrubbers installed at Bay Shipbuilding, will likely remain laid up until mid-May when the installation is complete.


New Names, New Vessels for Algoma

American Steamship’s former river-class vessel Adam E. Cornelius will be renamed Algoma Compass to reflect her recent change of ownership. She, along with the Buffalo, American Valor, and American Victory, was sold to Algoma in a surprise move by ASC late last season. Although not official yet, the Buffalo‘s new name will likely be Algoma Buffalo.  The Compass is currently undergoing preliminary work at Huron, and will be drydocked before entering service for Algoma this season, while Buffalo is currently moored at Sarnia, Ontario. The company has not yet announced their plans for the two steamers. The Valor is laid up in Toledo, Ohio, while the Victory is tied in Superior. Neither vessel has seen service since 2008.

Meanwhile, two of Algoma’s new Equinox-class vessels are currently on their delivery voyages to Canada. Algoma Sault, the second of Algoma’s 740′ self-unloading vessels, is expected to transit the Panama Canal this weekend, and should arrive on the Lakes sometime in the next month. The ship was built in China, and stopped for fuel in the Philippines before making the trans-Pacific voyage. Algoma Innovator, the first of two 650′ Equinox vessels, is due to arrive in Montreal next weekend. She is carrying a cargo of bauxite that was loaded in Greece. The Innovator and her sister, Algoma Endurance, were constructed at the 3 Maj shipyard in Croatia. Aside from having a shorter overall length and a forward-mounted self-unloading boom, the vessels are similar to their larger Equinox counterparts.

The arrivals of the Sault and Innovator will bring a total of seven Equinox-class ships in service for Algoma. Algoma Equinox arrived in 2013, and was followed by Algoma Harvester and G3 Marquis in 2014. Algoma Strongfield joined in mid-2017, and Algoma Niagara arrived later in the season. Algoma Endurance is still under construction in Croatia, but should join the fleet later in 2018.



The above two photos show Algoma Innovator and Algoma Sault, respectively, at their builders’ yards prior to departure. (Both photos courtesy Algoma Central Corp.)

When Ice is Actually Useful

This past weekend, I made my annual trip up to Sturgeon Bay to photograph the winter layup fleet. A total of ten vessels are laid up at the shipyard, in addition to the American Courage and tug Invincible, which are in long-term layup.


We started out by walking onto the ice (which seemed to be well over a foot thick) at the Sunset Park boat launch. Stewart J. Cort was in the graving dock, while the “Footers’ Row” was comprised of Paul R. Tregurtha and Mesabi Miner. To the right of the Miner‘s bow are Roger Blough and Cason J. Callaway.


All three of the 1,000 foot vessels at the shipyard belong to the Interlake Steamship Co. The only one missing is James R. Barker, which is wintering in Duluth.


The Tregurtha and Miner both appear to have received new coats of paint down to the waterline in the past few weeks. In addition, the Paul R. is in the process of having exhaust gas scrubbers installed, as was done with the Miner last winter.


The 105′ wide Roger Blough seems to dwarf the Callaway in this photo.


I was surprised at the thickness of the ice around the laid-up vessels, as it is normally kept broken up. However, it allowed for some excellent photos, and going this close to the “Queen of the Lakes” reminded me just how large she really is.


This shot gives an idea of just how massive the Tregurtha is – her bow thruster tunnel, which appears to be rather small, measures over six feet across.


The bow of Stewart J. Cort looms over the graving dock gate, which seemed to be the only place where open water could be found. Much of the Cort‘s hull was covered in tarps as the vessel was given a fresh coat of paint.


Getting decent shots from the shipyard side of the harbor is especially difficult, however a towering snow pile located in a parking lot allowed me to shoot the Joseph L. Block, Wilfred Sykes, and American Courage on the south side of the yard.


It seems that there isn’t a winter when the Block and Sykes cannot be found at Bay Shipbuilding – last winter, both vessels were in the exact same spots as well.


American Courage, meanwhile, has not left her layup dock in well over two years. A lack of demand has forced her to remain sidelined since the 2015 shipping season.


To the right of the Courage and tucked in behind the main building was the nearly-completed hull of a tug being constructed by the shipyard. She will be mated with a yet uncompleted barge that was docked elsewhere in the yard.


Our final stop was Bullhead’s Point, which sits directly across from the shipyard. A few minutes’ walk across the frozen harbor gives angles that cannot be beat, and usually aren’t accessible during the rest of the year. But of course, by the time we made it there, a snowstorm had started up, drastically reducing visibility.


Notice in this photo and the previous one that the Miner‘s accommodation block is surrounded by a framework of some sort that is covered in plastic, which leads me to assume that it is being painted or having some sort of work done.


The next vessel over from the Miner is the John G. Munson, which has also spent the last two winters laid up in Sturgeon Bay.


Moored to the right of the Munson sits the incomplete hull of a barge, which I assume will be paired with the tug that I photographed earlier.


Further to the right is a group of Lower Lakes Towing vessels. Robert S. Pierson is first from the left, with the tug Victory moored facing her. The barge James L. Kuber is rafted outside of both vessels. Visible to the right of the barge’s notch is the tug Invincible, which has been in long-term layup at the yard since 2014.


This view shows Roger Blough and Cason J. Callaway moored perpendicular to the slips. American Courage, Joseph L. Block, and Wilfred Sykes are all blocked in behind the two vessels.


Although it’s difficult to tell, the Blough was given a fresh coat of paint as well as her five-year inspection earlier in the winter.


The accommodation block of American Courage is visible in the middle of the two vessels, just over their decks.


And here’s one last close-up shot of the bows of the two classic lakers.

That was all for my weekend in Sturgeon Bay. I certainly got much better shots than last year, mostly due to the ice being thick enough to walk out on. I still hope to make it up to Duluth this winter to photograph the vessels there, so stay tuned!

Winter Layup Updates

With the Soo Locks now closed for the winter, most vessels have arrived at their layup ports. Duluth is hosting a total of six vessels this winter, among them James R. Barker at Midwest Energy, Lee A. Tregurtha and Kaye E. Barker at Fraser Shipyards, Edwin H. Gott and Erie Trader/tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort at Port Terminal, and Burns Harbor at Elevator M. Arthur M. Anderson, which sat out the 2017 season, is laid up at the CN dock. It is rumored that she will have some sort of work done this winter and will operate next season. American Victory is moored at the NP ore dock near BN in Superior, and Edward L. Ryerson is at the Barko dock near CHS.

The last vessel to join Sturgeon Bay’s layup fleet, Mesabi Miner, arrived over the weekend. She became the twelfth ship to arrive there for the winter. Also laid up are Wilfred Sykes, Roger Blough, James L. Kuber/tug Victory, Paul R. Tregurtha, Robert S. Pierson, Stewart J. Cort, John G. Munson, Joseph L. Block, and Cason J. Callaway. The Tregurtha is in the process of having exhaust gas scrubbers installed, a procedure which Bay Shipbuilding has already completed four other times for Interlake. American Courage and the Lower Lakes tug Invincible both remain in long-term layup. The barge Cleveland Rocks is also spending the winter at the shipyard, and is being converted into a self-unloading cement carrier.

I hope to make it up to both Duluth and Sturgeon Bay at some point this winter to photograph the vessels in layup, and look forward to sharing them!

First Vessels arrive Duluth for Layup

Just after sunrise on the morning of January 9, Interlake’s Kaye E. Barker made her way into Duluth to lay up at Fraser Shipyards, becoming the first vessel to arrive there for the winter of 2017-18. Later that day, her fleetmate James R. Barker arrived, and after stopping for fuel at the Husky Energy (formerly Calumet fuel) dock, she backed through the harbor to Midwest Energy, which will serve as her home for the next few months. The following day, Lee A. Tregurtha arrived, and joined Kaye E. Barker at Fraser Shipyards. As of now, no further information is available regarding other vessels that will spend the winter in Duluth, however I will update as vessels arrive!

Since mid-December, the barge James L. Kuber and tug Victory, Paul R. Tregurtha, and Robert S. Pierson have all arrived in Sturgeon Bay for the winter. Interlake’s Mesabi Miner and Stewart J. Cort are expected soon, as are Cason J. Callaway, John G. Munson, and Joseph L. Block. The rapid buildup of ice in the St. Marys River and other parts of the Lakes has prevented traffic from moving much, and many vessels are behind schedule for their last loads of the season.

A Smoky Arrival

This past weekend, I traveled up to Duluth for the first time in over a year, and was able to get some amazing shots because of the freezing temperatures! It never breached zero all weekend, with most days around -10 to -15 degrees. Unfortunately, due to the weather and constantly changing schedules, I was only able to see one vessel arrive through the ship canal.


The sub-zero temperatures, combined with the much warmer water, creates a thick fog-like substance known as sea smoke. There wasn’t a point in the weekend where sea smoke was absent, and it made for some excellent yet somewhat ominous shots of the inbound ship.


The vessel in question is Mesabi Miner, a 1,004 foot vessel owned by the Interlake Steamship Company.


The ship had been sitting at anchor outside the Duluth harbor for a few days, and was arriving on Sunday to refuel at the Calumet fuel dock.


Those keeping up with current vessel positions know that a small party of at least six or seven ships are currently sitting at anchor outside the Duluth harbor, some waiting to load at Burlington Northern in Superior and some waiting for Two Harbors.


The Miner is on the western end of Lake Superior to pick up a load of iron ore pellets from Burlington Northern, however she, like the other anchored ships, has a long wait ahead of her due to the loading delays that come along with the weather.


The ship’s ice-coated bow silently pushed the ice out of her path as she made her way toward the harbor.


To my surprise, the Miner‘s horn was in good working condition when she saluted the bridge – at this time of year, most ships’ horns are frozen over.


Notice Mesabi Miner‘s rather wide stack – she spent last winter in Sturgeon Bay, where, like many fleetmates before her, she was outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers to reduce emissions. The extra equipment necessitated the reduction of stacks from two to one.


After the Miner‘s arrival, we headed into the visitor’s center to warm up. I grabbed this shot while there, focusing on the top of the Canal Park tug Bayfield‘s mast. In the background but not in focus are Algoma Equinox, G3 Marquis, and Whitefish Bay.


Later in the afternoon, the sea smoke cleared enough to allow me to shoot the party of vessels sitting outside the harbor. St. Clair, shown here, had arrived Duluth earlier in the day, fueled, and departed, dropping anchor to wait her turn to load in Superior. I had been planning on seeing her arrival, but of course her schedule changed too quickly for me to keep up with.


Anchored nearby was her fleetmate Walter J. McCarthy Jr. The McCarthy was waiting to load in Two Harbors, and arrived there on Monday to pick up her cargo.


To the right of St. Clair are Whitefish Bay and G3 Marquis.


This was the closest shot I could get of the two vessels, which were on the hook closer to the Superior entry.


The final two ships in the party were Algoma Equinox (foreground) and Algoma Discovery.


I then headed up to Two Harbors, where the Erie Trader and her tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort were loading ore.


Up until last year (feels weird saying that now, doesn’t it?), the pair were operated by American Steamship, however their charter came to an end and the vessels were purchased by VanEnkevort.


Just before leaving the breakwall, I grabbed a shot of the sun setting over Lake Superior. The temperature was close to -20, and there was a stiff breeze blowing as well, but the results of the trip were well worth it!

That was all from my latest Duluth trip. I hope to make it up at some point during the winter to photograph the winter layup fleet, but until then, hopefully these photos will hold you over.

And last but certainly not least, I would like to sincerely wish all of my readers a very happy New Year and extend my thanks to you for your continued support! I cannot wait for the adventures 2018 will bring, and I look forward to sharing many more photos with you.

Algoma Central purchases Four Vessels from American Steamship

Algoma Central, the operator of the largest Canadian fleet of Great Lakes vessels, has announced that it has acquired four ships from the American Steamship Company. Three of those vessels – American Valor, American Victory, and Adam E. Cornelius – are currently in long-term layup, while the fourth, Buffalo, has been in active service for the company. Late last week, Buffalo arrived in Sarnia, Ontario, and is currently moored at the Government Dock with her ballast water pumped out. It is unclear whether Algoma will continue to sail her for the remainder of the 2017 shipping season or lay her up in Sarnia. Adam E. Cornelius is currently tied up in Huron, Ohio, and has sat out the last three seasons. American Victory is laid up at Elevator M in Superior, Wisconsin, and the Valor is docked in Toledo, Ohio. Neither of those vessels have seen service since 2008.

According to the company’s announcement: “The availability of these vessels presented an opportunity to expand Algoma’s vessel fleet and capacity at extremely attractive values. Both the Buffalo and Adam E. Cornelius will provide efficient capacity to serve customers in the river-class segment of Algoma’s Domestic Dry Bulk market. Both ships will complement the Company’s existing fleet to ship salt, aggregates, and other commodities. These additions enhance Algoma’s versatility in offering its customers different cargo sizes and vessel configurations to meet their specific needs.” In regard to the Victory and Valor, Algoma is keeping its options open and has not yet made a definitive plan for either ship. Because both vessels are still steamers, there is the possibility that they may be re-powered as motor vessels, or converted into articulated tug-barge units.

Algoma has not yet announced potential names for any of the vessels, and it is presumed that the three currently in layup will be towed and/or sailed to Canadian ports in the spring. I will be heading to Duluth this coming weekend, as it has been well over a year since my last visit, and I hope to be able to photograph the Victory laid up for potentially the last time. Stay tuned for updates on this sale!