Signs of Winter

Aside from the two feet of snow that has come and gone here in Traverse City in the past two weeks, a sure sign that winter is coming arrived at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy harbor this week, in the form of a crane. I’ll get to that in a second.

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First up for this post is a photo I really liked that I took this past Saturday, November 16th, when I visited the town of Frankfort, Michigan, about an hour from Traverse City. I headed down to the waterfront just after dusk, where I came upon the 67′ tug Krista S. She is owned by Luedtke Engineering and is active in their contract construction business.

Since it was dark I didn’t bother trying to take any more shots of the tug, although the bow view I did get turned out pretty well. Now fast forward to Thursday the 21st, and I paid a visit to the Maritime Academy with a particular goal in mind.

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The previous day, November 20th, a large crane was brought in and hauled out GLMA’s four smaller vessels in the harbor, and they were now resting up on blocks on the pier. Notice the State of Michigan‘s bow peeking out on the right side of this photo.

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Naturally, with the boats now high and dry, I wanted to take the opportunity to photograph them as much as possible since I haven’t really gotten any good shots of these vessels since starting school nor have I shared much information about them on here yet.

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The aluminum-hulled vessel seen in these shots is the one we call the “41.” She is a former USCG vessel that has been retired from active service, but found new life here at GLMA for cadet training.

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Also on shore next to the 41 is one of the Maritime Academy’s two lifeboats. This one and has a capacity of 40 passengers and resides afloat in the harbor during the summer. The other boat is stored up on the davit across the harbor, which I’ll get to shortly.

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Back to the 41, she is (you guessed it) 41 feet in length with a beam of 14 feet and a maximum draft of just over 4 feet.

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The vessel was built to cruise at around 24 knots while still being able to handle heavy seas, and these characteristics are evident in her stern design beneath the waterline.

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The 41 is driven by two propellers, each one measuring 26″ in diameter and with a dedicated rudder behind it. Power for the propellers comes from twin Cummins Diesel Model V-903M engines, each one cranking out 340 horsepower.

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It’s especially easy in this view to see the steep angle at which the rudders are offset from the vertical position, which helps the boat maintain maneuverability even at high speeds or in rough conditions.

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Although slightly barnacle-encrusted, another season in the water hasn’t appeared to damage the 41‘s hull too terribly badly. She’ll likely be cleaned up before going back into the water in the spring, although her “fleetmates” seem to need that more.

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The second and my personal favorite of GLMA’s smaller vessels is this one, the classic tug Anchor Bay.

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Built in the 1950’s for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the tug is slightly larger than the 41 at 45 feet long and 14 feet wide.

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I love this tug simply because of her stereotypical classic Great Lakes tugboat design, one that I am very fond of.

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Although once quite a powerful vessel, the original engine was removed in 2014 and the tug and is now driven by a much smaller and less powerful diesel. The new engine does not move the tug anywhere fast – she probably doesn’t break 10 knots at maximum speed – but for her current role as a cadet training vessel, she doesn’t need to be fast.

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I can speak from experience here, as one of my first semester classes that just ended was conducted between both the 41 and Anchor Bay. Although slow in speed and slow to maneuver and respond to rudder adjustments, the Anchor Bay is so much fun to operate for people like me who got a sense for what it’s like to operate a tug while working with larger vessels.

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Of course, the 41 is especially fun thanks to her high speed and incredible maneuverability, but I honestly couldn’t choose a favorite between her and the Anchor Bay – I appreciated the different aspects of vessel handling that each one had to offer and had a blast being able to learn how they operated.

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The third vessel that had been lifted ashore is the Northwestern, a 56-foot research vessel that isn’t really used by the Maritime Academy and belongs more to the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute (which also calls the Maritime building home).

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The largest of the Academy’s small vessels, the Northwestern is powered by two 8V71 Detroit Diesel engines, each producing 318 horsepower and giving the vessel a cruising speed of 10 knots.

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On the side of the pilothouse, the lettering “The Les and Anne Biederman Family Foundation Marine Technology Laboratory” is printed, denoting to whom the boat technically belongs.

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Like the 41, the Northwestern is also equipped with twin screws, however her propellers are actually slightly smaller than those of the 41, and the rudders also have considerably less surface area. Keep in mind that the 41 was designed with performance in mind, whereas that factor doesn’t really matter a whole lot for a research vessel like Northwestern.

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Unlike the 41 and Anchor Bay, however, the Northwestern actually has her name and home port welded onto the hull. Come to think of it, there are actually no name-related markings on either of the other two vessels.

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Of course, I couldn’t make a stop at the Maritime Academy without shooting the State of Michigan. Although it’s not easy to tell, the ship has been shifted forward along the dock face to her winter mooring position, and her port anchor has been dropped.

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Here’s a shot of the now-empty academy harbor where the four vessels that are now ashore normally reside. The second lifeboat can also be seen on the right side of the photo, mounted on its set of gravity launch davits.

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There haven’t yet been any signs of ice in the harbor, but the water temperature has dropped to the mid-30s and its only a matter of time before the ice arrives.

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Here’s one last parting shot of the bow of the State. Notice the Anchor Bay and 41 that can be seen to the right of the ship, finally resting in their winter cribs.

That will conclude this post. Although the weather certainly didn’t cooperate for these shots, I wanted to share something of the Maritime Academy’s other vessels since I haven’t done that yet, and give my readers a little update on the looming winter that will be here before we know it.

American Valor Sold to Lower Lakes, Sarah Spencer Towed for Scrap

Yes, you read that title right – Rand Logistics announced officially on November 3rd that they had acquired the historic steamer American Valor from Algoma Central. The 767-foot vessel was built at the American Shipbuilding Company yard in Lorain, Ohio in 1953, and launched as Armco for the Oglebay Norton Company. She is the seventh member of the AAA-class, which consists of eight classic-styled lakers built in the early 1950s. Like the majority of her sisters, she has received numerous upgrades throughout her career. The vessel was lengthened from 647′ to 767′ in 1974 by Fraser Shipyards in Superior, and she was converted to a self-unloader eight years later at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. She also underwent numerous operations on her cargo hold throughout the ’70s and ’80s, increasing the number of holds from the original three to seven and thus making her capable of carrying multiple commodities in the same trip. Armco was also given both bow and stern thrusters for added maneuverability.

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The ship operated continuously for Oglebay Norton until 2006, when she was a part of the mass sale of that fleet to American Steamship Company. Her new owners painted her in their traditional color scheme and renamed her American Valor, only to operate her for two seasons before laying her up for good on November 13, 2008, at Toledo. The ship has not sailed since, and has simply sat awaiting economic conditions to warrant a return to service. However, in December of 2017, American Valor was sold to Algoma Central Corp. along with three of her ASC fleetmates (Buffalo, Adam E. Cornelius, and American Victory.) Algoma renamed the vessel Valo on paper, however no actual changes were ever made to the hull, and various rumors circulated regarding her future while the ship remained sidelined in the Toledo harbor. Scrap seemed the most likely option as she is too big to fit through the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway, which serve nearly 100% of Algoma’s cargo contracts. But now, with her sale to Lower Lakes, the future for this historic steamer is much more optimistic. Rand’s announcement states that their current plan is to repower the vessel with a set of new diesel engines for a planned return to service in 2021, something that many boatwatchers will be happy to see. Of course, conversion to a barge or scrapping can’t be ruled out completely, however those are much less likely options (Photo above courtesy of Scott Taipale, Facebook).

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I took this shot when I made a brief visit to Toledo in June of 2017, back when the vessel was moored at the Lakefront Dock. This is sadly the best shot I’ve taken of the ship, as I haven’t made it back to Toledo and therefore had the chance to get better photos of her. Hopefully, assuming she does return to service, that will change though.

The other big Great Lakes development (as of last week at least) is the scrapping of the long-inactive Sarah Spencer. The barge has not seen service since 2009, and has been laid up in Toledo since 2014.

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Originally launched as the steamer Adam E. Cornelius, the vessel entered service in 1959 under the operation of American Steamship. She only lasted as a powered vessel for thirty years, as she was cut down to a barge in 1989.

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As you can see in these photos, the ship’s original pilothouse was left alone in the conversion, and even as a barge the vessel was operated from that pilothouse. Power was provided by the tug Jane Ann IV, which was not equipped with a raised pilothouse to see over the deck of the barge. You can see Jane Ann IV in the first photo above, moored astern of the barge. I took both of the shots above on my June 2017 Toledo trip, the only time I ever saw the vessel.

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These next few photos show the tug Molly M I towing Sarah Spencer across Lake Erie towards her final destination of Port Colborne, where she will be cut up.

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The barge hasn’t operated since 2009, and was originally laid up in Detroit until she and her tug were moved to Toledo in 2014. While in layup the following spring, both vessels broke free of their moorings and floated freely down the Maumee River thanks to strong currents and heavy ice floes.

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The remainder of both vessels’ layups was uneventful until last year, when the tug Jane Ann IV was hauled ashore and scrapped at Calcite, Michigan, leaving the barge alone. It was announced just last week that Sarah Spencer would be towed to the Marine Recycling Corp. yard for scrapping, and the tow left Toledo on October 18th (three photos above courtesy of Jeff Cameron, Facebook).

This very likely isn’t the last scrap tow the Lakes will see this season though – the MRC scrapyard has finished demolition work on Algorail and now has berths available, in turn meaning that more ships could be brought to the yard before the season is over.

The Return of Hamburg

I left off on Saturday, September 8, when I spent a day in Ludington and caught the Badger both arriving and departing on her daily Lake Michigan crossing. Remember two posts ago, when I said that the Le Champlain returned to Traverse City but that I was out of town on that day?

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I took a few extra days off of school in order to make the trip home, and Le Champlain made her second visit to Traverse City while I was gone. But I was okay with that, because on Sunday, October 6, I boarded the Badger that I had just seen a week earlier to cross Lake Michigan on my return trip to Traverse City.

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I took very few photos during the crossing, however I did grab this shot of the Spartan at her berth from Badger‘s stern deck when we tied up in Ludington.

Later that week, the Hamburg paid her second visit to Traverse City, and I was in town for that one.

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Just like on her first visit, Hamburg put her anchor down off the Maritime Academy, and used our harbor to bring passengers ashore. When I arrived, the ship’s lifeboat #3 was docked and unloading passengers in the small nook where the State of Michigan is backed in (the training ship is moored on the dock opposite the lifeboat, outside the frame of this photo).

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As I watched, another lifeboat departed the ship and began making its way to our harbor.

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Meanwhile, behind me, #3 backed from the dock she had been at and shifted docks to allow the next lifeboat to arrive.

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The ship appears very far away in these shots, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that she was actually quite close to the shore.

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The lifeboat gradually got bigger as it closed on the harbor…

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Once again, although it appears small, these lifeboats are actually very large, much larger than lifeboats found on Great Lakes and ocean cargo vessels alike.

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Cruise ships like Hamburg were built specifically to visit smaller ports that may not have docks large enough to accommodate them, so they are typically fitted with lifeboats that are also capable of being used to ferry passengers to and from the ship.

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From looking in the windows, it’s clear that the boat was designed to operate as a passenger ferry in addition to a life saving craft, as it appears to have some passenger comforts that wouldn’t be found in a typical lifeboat.

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I got many odd looks from the people on board boat #4 as I stood on the end of the Academy’s pier shooting the vessel as it arrived, which made these shots awkward to take.

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Here, you can see #3 tied up at the dock where the Academy’s training lifeboat rests on its davits, while #4 enters the harbor. It will tie up forward of where #3 was now, across from the State of Michigan’s stern, to unload its passengers.

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The craft is still dwarfed by the State, a vessel that must have been quite impressive to boat #4‘s passengers since it came so close to the training ship while docking.

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And with one last parting shot of Hamburg anchored in the bay, I headed on my way. The ship departed later that evening to continue its cruise, and likely won’t be back until next year since the fall cruise season is rapidly winding down on the Great Lakes.

With that, I’m officially caught up on the events of the past few weeks. Now that winter is quickly approaching (yes, I said winter), only time will tell how my boatwatching adventures will play out in the near future.

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In my last post, I chronicled the events of September 24, when the cruise ships Le Champlain and Hamburg paid a daylong visit to Traverse City. I had mentioned that I had more catching up to do, so this post will continue where I left off.

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On Saturday, September 8, a friend and I were feeling adventurous, so we made the two-hour drive down to Ludington to catch a specific vessel.

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You guessed it, that vessel is the historic carferry Badger.

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Now into the fall season, the ship only makes two lake crossings per day as opposed to the usual four during the summer.

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We arrived in Ludington just in time to catch her 9:00am departure for Manitowoc.

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It had been quite a few years since I’d last seen Badger, as she doesn’t deviate from her Ludington-Manitowoc route and I rarely make it to either city. This trip was actually my first time ever visiting Ludington, and the last time I was in Manitowoc was some time ago.

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This was also my first time shooting the vessel, so I made sure to take plenty of photos as she passed us and exited the canal.

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The ferry has a very squared off stern – obviously useful for the purpose she was built for, but it makes for an interesting appearance.

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And with Badger past us, she heads for the open lake and Wisconsin. We’ll see her again soon enough though.

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After Badger departed, we ventured down to the ferry dock to get shots of her sister ship, the long-inactive ferry Spartan.

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With the laid up vessel easily accessible, we walked the length of her hull and I took plenty of close-ups of the ship, so I’ll talk about her history a little bit over these next few photos.

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Both sister ships were built by the Christy Corporation in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, with construction on the Spartan beginning in late 1950.

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Spartan was launched on January 4, 1952, however she was not christened until September 6 of that year after the successful launch of Badger, when both ships were christened in a joint ceremony.

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Spartan entered service in the fall of 1952 for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, also known as C&O, operating out of her home port of Ludington and making trips to Milwaukee, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee, Wisconsin.

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The ship’s power is generated by four coal-fired boilers that drive two compound Skinner Unaflow steam turbines, giving the ship a total of 7,560 horsepower and a top speed of close to 20 miles per hour.

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In the mid-1970’s, C&O decided that the ferries were no longer profitable and that they wanted out of the business. By this point, only three vessels were left in service: Spartan, Badger, and their older fleetmate City of Midland 41. 

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The company was given permission to begin phasing out ferry routes, and in September of 1979, Spartan was laid up in Ludington. She was briefly reactivated in 1980, however that only lasted a short time and she was laid up again, this time permanently.

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Since then, Lake Michigan Carferry was formed to keep the Badger in operational service. Spartan has sat quietly in the Ludington harbor since being laid up for the final time in 1980, and now serves as a supply vessel to keep the Badger and her rare steam power plant in operation.

Speaking of the Badger…

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We did other things during the day after shooting the Spartan, however the main reason we stayed in Ludington was to catch Badger returning to her home port that evening.

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The ship had arrived in Wisconsin at noon, and departed Manitowoc at 2:00pm for the return trip across Lake Michigan. She arrived at 7:00, with the setting sun creating a nice backdrop.

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I was exited to watch the steamer arrive – the ship must back into her dock in order to unload the vehicles onboard, which means that she must complete a 180-degree turn in the harbor.

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The 410-foot Badger isn’t exactly the most maneuverable vessel either – she and her sister both have two propellers, but steering is only provided by a single rudder (most twin screw vessels today have a dedicated rudder for each propeller). She also lacks a bow thruster, another feature of many lakers sailing today.

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To complete the maneuver, the Badger utilizes one of her most basic staple features – her anchor. It was about at this point that the captain gave the order to let go the starboard anchor, which once upon the bottom would provide a pivot point for the vessel to spin on.

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Once the anchor takes hold, the ship begins to swing around – notice that the lift gate at the stern of the ship is raised in preparation for the upcoming unload.

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As the vessel swings around, the sun glints off her tall hull – especially at this angle, it’s easy to see that the ship is rather top-heavy.

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Thanks to the Spartan, the Badger is able to continue operating as a steamer – due to the rarity of the steam engines that power Badger, parts are simply taken off the Spartan whenever they are needed to keep costs down and prevent the ship from being out of service for extended periods of maintenance time.

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LMC has kept up well with maintenance on the vessel, and today she stands as the last coal-fired steamer operating on the Great Lakes.

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She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016, which was about the same time that the fiasco regarding her coal ash dumping was resolved. (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about – basically, the EPA demanded that the vessel retain the ash, a byproduct of her steam plant, onboard instead of dumping it into Lake Michigan, a practice the vessel had done for the entirety of her career.)

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In this bow close-up, you can see the starboard anchor chain paid out forward of the vessel as she backs to the dock.

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The steamer gradually eases into the pier and prepares to unload her passengers and cargo.

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I’ll end this post with a final shot of the vessel tying up, with the Spartan astern of her in the background.

That was all for our adventurous Saturday in Ludington. I was very happy to finally have some good shots of the classic Badger, and watching her both arrive and depart Ludington in the same day was pretty cool. I still have one more post to write until I’ll be fully caught up on the events of the past few weeks, so stick around for that one. Also, in reference to the title of this post – I’ve now reached 150 posts on Freighter Freak! Thank you to all my dedicated readers for sticking with me this long, and I hope that number only increases in the future.

The French and German Invaders

It’s been a while, but I’m back with more photos, this time from my (current) hometown! As many know, Traverse City is unfortunately not a cargo port, with the largest vessel in the vicinity being our own training ship State of Michigan. However, that changed back on September 24…

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I meant to post these shots sooner, however my school schedule has prevented me from doing so. But anyway, September 24 brought not one but two cruise ships to Traverse City.

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The first of the two is the 430-foot French vessel Le Champlain, operated by Ponant cruises of Marseille. Launched in 2018, she is the newest cruise ship to enter the Lakes in quite a few years.

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The vessel is very uniquely designed, but I love the contrast between her deep blue hull, red boot topping, and white superstructure.

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The other vessel is the German liner Hamburg, and has visited both the Great Lakes as well as Traverse City numerous times since she was built in 1997.

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At 472 feet in length, she is slightly longer than Le Champlain, although she is also much boxier and more like a stereotypical cruise ship.

I should also note that the five photos above were all taken by my good friend Tristin – he happened to have a class that day in which he was able to take a boat out and get shots of the two ships from up close, and he was kind enough to share them with me and allow me to in turn share them here. I had been at work during the day and missed the opportunity to get any shots in the daylight, so I was even more thankful for Tristin’s close-ups.

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So now we transition to my photos, which are considerably worse for two reasons: they’re all from land, and all are taken with my phone. And it was getting dark by the time I was able to get down to the harbor. Oh, well. (This is supposed to be a shot of both ships – Hamburg is the white speck on the right side of the photo.)

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The phone’s zoom feature isn’t too terrible, but the quality of such shots decreases significantly, meaning I have to sacrifice one of the two. I think you can tell which one I went with.

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So anyway, back to the present – that’s the Le Champlain‘s fast rescue boat, or FRB, approaching me from the ship.

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Traverse City has no docks (or shoreside facilities) that are large enough to accommodate such ships, meaning they must anchor in the harbor and ferry passengers between the ship and land.

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This time, Le Champlain‘s FRB was sent to pick up a few lingering passengers on shore, but both ships used their lifeboats to transport the majority of their passengers. (Notice in Tristin’s shots above that some of the lifeboats from both ships are missing, and that the davits used to launch them are extended over the water.)

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After picking up their passengers, the FRB turns from the dock and begins to speed back to its mother ship. You can see Hamburg anchored in the distance, just above the FRB.

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To provide some context of the location, the Hamburg is anchored directly off the Maritime Academy, which is at the lowest end of the bay. Le Champlain anchored further up the bay, and closer to the west shoreline.

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Le Champlain was constructed at a Fincantieri yard in Romania, which is the same company that owns and operates the Bay Shipbuilding yard in Sturgeon Bay.

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The second member of the Ponant Explorers-class of ships built for the company, the vessel is named after the famous French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

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Built as a luxury cruise ship, the vessel can only carry up to 180 passengers (in comparison to Hamburg‘s capacity of 420 people), making it ideal for those who desire a more quiet vacation.

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After shooting the Le Champlain, I headed over to the Maritime Academy to get a few shots of Hamburg before the sun set entirely. Notice in this one that the ship was hoisting one of its lifeboats back on board.

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Both vessels were preparing for departure now that it was getting dark, and the Hamburg raised her anchor and began turning around to head out of the bay.

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I also took the opportunity while I was there to grab a shot of the GLMA campus, which I don’t believe I’ve shared here yet since beginning school. Obviously the main attraction is our training ship – which appears somewhat threatening from this angle with its protruding bow – but that’s not the only boat the Maritime Academy has in its possession. Note the two vessels on the left – the one moored closest is a 41-foot former USCG response boat, while the other is a 44-foot tug that formerly worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Both are now owned by the school and used for cadet training.

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I returned to my original spot by the Le Champlain to watch the cruise ships depart – notice that the glowing Hamburg has now turned around and is heading north to continue her voyage.

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Most lakers keep their lights off at night to help the crew navigate and see better, so I was caught off guard by the brightly lit cruise ships before I remembered that I was shooting a completely different type of ship.

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It’s hard to tell from these shots, but notice the lights at the waterline of Le Champlain – those lights are actually underwater, a feature I had only previously seen on upscale yachts and didn’t expect to see on a cruise ship (or on the Great Lakes, much less). They definitely added a super cool effect to the ship’s presence in the harbor, though.

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With Hamburg now past Le Champlain, I took one last shot of the two vessels together.

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By the time Le Champlain began turning around, it was getting too dark to continue shooting, so this was the last photo I took of the classy vessel.

That was all for the action on September 24, an exciting day for a port that sees no action other than the happenings at the Maritime Academy. Le Champlain would return to Traverse City a little over a week later, however I was of course not in town when that happened. Stay tuned to find out where I was though – I still have some catching up to do from the last few weeks!

Lee and the Canadians

I left off yesterday with G3 Marquis downbound in the Rock Cut late in the morning on August 31st. Today’s post will be the last with my photos from Labor Day weekend, as it was a rather short trip – we stayed in the Soo through Saturday night, but then returned to Traverse City.

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After we watched the Marquis head into the lower river, we returned to Mission Point for the afternoon, where the classic Lee A. Tregurtha was coming up the channel.

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Lee met the Sugar Islander II, docked on the other side of the channel this time.

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On this trip, the 1942-built veteran was heading for Marquette to load iron ore pellets, likely for delivery to the Rouge River.

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I saw Lee A. back in June here as well, but it’s always good to meet a classic laker.

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The ship’s steam plume from her exhaust gas scrubbers blends perfectly with the puffy clouds in this shot.

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Since I feel like I’ve gone through the history of the Tregurtha many times, I don’t really know what else to say about her…

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…so here’s a stern view.

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And here’s another one.

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And here’s one last one with some rocks as Lee heads for the locks.

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The next vessel, and our last upbounder of the trip, is Algoma’s bulker Algoma Spirit.

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I saw both of her sister ships, Algoma Guardian and Algoma Discovery, for the first time on my Engineer’s Day trip, however I had yet to meet the Spirit.

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Now that I’ve seen all three of the sisters, I find it interesting that I saw them within a two-month time span and in the same location.

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Like the Guardian and DiscoveryAlgoma Spirit started life on saltwater in 1986.

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She operated as Petka until 2000 when the trio was sold to Viken Shipping, and was subsequently renamed Sandviken.

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The ship visited the Lakes frequently sporting her bright green hull paint, and made frequent trips between the Great Lakes and Europe until all three sisters were sold to Algoma in 2008.

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Upon her arrival in Canada, her deck cranes were removed, her hull was painted in Algoma colors, and she was renamed Algoma Spirit. She has continued to be a productive member of Algoma’s dry bulk fleet, and likely will for at least a few years to come.

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After Algoma Spirit had passed us, we had just one more vessel to catch before it was time to head back to Traverse City.

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Canada Steamship Lines’ Whitefish Bay was downbound with a load of iron ore pellets from Two Harbors.

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Built in 2013, the ship is the third member of CSL’s Trillium Class, which consists of four self-unloaders and two gearless bulkers.

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The Trillium Class began in late 2012 when Baie St. Paul arrived on the Lakes from China. Thunder Bay followed in early 2013, with Whitefish Bay arriving in Montreal in July of that year.

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The four self-unloaders are all 740′ long and 78′ wide, with a carrying capacity of 37,690 tons.

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The two gearless bulkers, CSL Welland and CSL St-Laurent, share the same dimensions and are designed very similarly to the self-unloaders, although they were built at a different shipyard and approximately two years after the self-unloaders.

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Whitefish Bay was another repeat vessel for me on this trip, as I caught her on Engineer’s Day as well.

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It was barely daybreak when I last saw her, so my shots of her were quite dark. Needless to say, I was happy for these much brighter ones.

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And with Whitefish Bay past us, our boatwatching adventure had come to an end. Although short, we still saw plenty of traffic, and it was a nice break from school. With this saga complete, I’m back to the stage of not knowing when I’ll get the chance to go boatwatching again, so sit tight – it may be awhile, but it’ll happen eventually.

Clanky Clyde Comes to Town

Yesterday, I shared the first post with photos from my Labor Day weekend trip to Sault Ste. Marie, and left off on the night of Friday, August 30th, with the Stewart J. Cort upbound at the West Pier of the locks.

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There was some traffic early on Saturday morning that we didn’t get up for, so our day began with the upbound passage of Joseph L. Block late Saturday morning at Mission Point.

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Mission Point isn’t the greatest spot for morning shooting when it’s sunny, because the sun is over Sugar Island and makes these types of shots backlit.

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I don’t think I need to mention that I hate backlit shots, but of course I took them anyway and will still share them.

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The Block is on her usual run – she’s loaded with a cargo of limestone that she’ll end up delivering to Duluth, and then she’ll come back down with either iron ore pellets or blast furnace trim (or a combination of both).

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This is my first time catching Joseph since February when I saw her going into drydock in Sturgeon Bay for her five-year survey and a fresh coat of paint, and in fact my first time seeing her actually underway in a few years.

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Like her fleetmate Wilfred Sykes, I see the Block at least once or twice a year when she lays up for the winter at Bay Shipbuilding, but catching her in service is a little bit more of a challenge.

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This was my first time catching her in the Soo, so I was happy to see the ship in a new setting.

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Joseph L. Block passes the Sugar Islander II, which is loading up with cars for the never-ending trip across the channel.

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We didn’t have to wait long for our next vessel – in fact, we could hear her coming for quite some time before she actually got to the point.

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I’m making a reference to Clanky Clyde, which is pushing her barge Erie Trader towards the locks and her next load.

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The pair was constructed in 2012 in Erie, PA, and operated under charter to American Steamship as Lakes Contender/tug Ken Boothe Sr. until 2017.

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When ASC opted not to renew the charter for the pair, VanEnkevort swooped in and purchased the vessels, making the pair the third ATB in their fleet.

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Anyone who has seen this pair in person understands why the tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort is known as “Clanky Clyde” – for those who haven’t, just know that she has an incredibly loud engine.

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Her loudness aside, it’s always good to see one of VanEnkevort’s unique ATB’s – I call them unique because the company doesn’t exactly have an established paint scheme, and each vessel is different.

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We’ll have to wait until the fourth barge, Michigan Trader, is complete next year to see what color VanEnkevort opts to go for on her hull.

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As Erie Trader heads towards the locks, we head toward our next vessel.

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We returned to the Rock Cut to catch our third Equinox vessel of the trip – this time, it’s G3 Marquis.

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The Marquis and I had not previously met either – come to think of it, every single Algoma vessel I saw this past weekend was new for me.

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The other new thing for me was the vantage point – every time I’ve come to the Cut before, I’ve shot from the edge of the channel (as I did the previous evening with John D. Leitch), but this time I climbed the massive rock piles set back from the water, and it was totally worth it.

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The keel for G3 Marquis, the third member of the Equinox Class, was laid at the Nantong Mingde shipyard (the original yard that was supposed to construct the Equinox Class) on Christmas Day in 2013.

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After a ten-month construction, the ship departed China on her delivery voyage as CWB Marquis in late October of 2014, and arrived in Canada on January 8th, 2015.

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The ship was the first of two Equinox vessels that were to be owned by the Canadian Wheat Board and operated by Algoma, with the second being CWB Strongfield.

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As it turned out, that second vessel never came under CWB ownership thanks to Nantong Mingde’s bankruptcy, which left the partially-finished hull in limbo and forced Algoma to purchase it at auction and arrange for its completion at another shipyard.

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The original contract was restructured so that the Canadian Wheat Board only had possession of the Marquis, and the new vessel instead went straight to Algoma under the name Algoma Strongfield.

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The Marquis, however, remained under CWB ownership. In early 2016, the Canadian Wheat Board changed their name to Global Grain Group, and the prefix of the ship’s name was changed from “CWB” to “G3” and the corresponding logos were painted on the ship’s side and stack over the winter of 2015-16.

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Through all the corporate drama, G3 Marquis’ cargo contract has remained unchanged – on this trip, she was downbound from Thunder Bay with a load of grain for Port Cartier, which seems to be her regular run.

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With our first meeting complete, G3 Marquis continues on her way.

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I’m going to end this post here, but I still have more photos to share from Labor Day weekend. I think I’ll be able to squeeze those into one more post, so stay tuned for that.