Engineer’s Day at the Soo Locks next Weekend!

Next week Friday, June 30, the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan will host their annual Engineer’s Day open house. From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, the public will get the opportunity to walk across the gates of the MacArthur Lock to the area between the MacArthur and Poe Locks. The Administration building will also be open for tours. In addition, there will be a large tent set up between the locks with a variety of displays. The area between the locks offers some very unique views of passing ship traffic that can’t be found anywhere else! Also open on that Friday will be the Edison Sault Electric Plant, which is located just down the river from the locks.

I will be attending the Engineer’s Day open house, as well as the Boatnerd cruise taking place on Friday evening with Soo Locks Boat Tours. However, prior to Engineer’s Day, I’ll be making the extra-long trip around Lake Michigan to boat watch along the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, something that I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do! I look forward to sharing my photos after I return!

A New View of a Not-So-New Shipyard

This past Saturday, I was up in Sturgeon Bay for the annual open house, an event that is only held once each year. I (surprisingly) have never been able to tour the shipyard on this day in years past, however I was glad to have finally gotten the opportunity. Being able to see the shipyard from the inside was absolutely amazing, and the tour was set up with employees or retired employees at each location to provide information and answer any questions.

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The tour started with Bay Shipbuilding’s massive graving dock, the only operating one on the Great Lakes large enough to accommodate the 1,000 footers. The dock measures a massive 1,158 feet long, and is somewhere around 150 feet wide. Unfortunately, the dock wasn’t holding any large lakers on Saturday, however the hull of one of Bay Shipbuilding’s new tug-barge combos was being assembled.

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The next stop on the tour was the tug Invincible. She has been laid up in Sturgeon Bay since 2014, when the owners of her former barge McKee Sons reclaimed their barge and laid it up in Muskegon, leaving Lower Lakes with no choice but to send the tug into layup.

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Some reports indicate that the tug will eventually be mated with the barge Lewis J. Kuber, to replace the aging Olive L. Moore. However, rumor at the shipyard is that Lower Lakes has listed the tug for sale.

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Just astern of the Invincible is Bay Shipbuilding’s other in-ground graving dock, this one obviously much smaller. It measures 225 feet long and 40 feet wide, and is actually the repurposed hull of a former steamer that ran aground in the 1900’s. The shipyard uses this dock for tugs and other small vessels.

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Docked in the shipyard was the appropriately named tug Bay Ship. The yard uses the tug (in addition to the Selvick fleet) to move vessels between berths, break thin ice, and perform any other necessary work.

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The next stop was Bay Shipbuilding’s floating drydock. I didn’t expect that we would get to actually climb onto it, but doing so provided some excellent shots! This drydock, completed in 2013, measures 654 feet long, 117 feet wide, and is completely automated. These two tugs, Bradshaw McKee (foreground) and G.L. Ostrander, were being worked on in the drydock on Saturday.

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Bradshaw McKee is owned by Michigan-Ohio Barge, a division of Port City Marine Services, and is mated with the barge Cleveland Rocks, which was also in the shipyard. While we were watching, the worker that can be seen on the left was working with the tug’s anchor chain, which was being arranged on the drydock floor by a crane above.

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The tug G.L. Ostrander was behind the McKee in the drydock, and is currently receiving her five-year inspection. Her barge, Integrity, was on the other side of the shipyard. The cement-hauling pair are owned by Lafarge. Note the tug’s large bow thruster opening near the keel at the front of her hull.

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The next slip over held Bay Shipbuilding’s newest construction, the chemical barge Kirby 155-02. This barge was launched last fall, and spent the winter at the Centerpointe Yacht Services dock between the Michigan and Oregon Street bridges.

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The barge is the second in a series of ATB units being built for Kirby. The first ATB, Kirby 155-01 and tug Heath Wood, were delivered in November 2016.

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The barges have a capacity of 155,000 barrels, and are designed to carry petroleum and other chemical products.

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I was unable to get a close-up photo of the tug that will be mated with Kirby 155-02, named Paul McLernan, however this photo that I took in August of 2016 of her sister Heath Wood provides an example as to what the new tug looks like.

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Across the slip from Kirby 155-02 was the Cleveland Rocks, mated to Bradshaw McKee. You can see the Paul McLernan docked behind the barge. Prior to Saturday, I had just assumed that Cleveland Rocks was in port so her tug could receive hull work, however according to shipyard employees, the barge is in for a major refit herself. Her owners want to convert the open-topped barge, built in 1957, to a self-unloading powdered cement carrier. This will require lengthening of the barge by approximately 150 feet, the addition of an entirely new bow, and the installation of a spar deck as well as hatch covers. The conversion won’t be complete until at least the summer of 2018.

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The next stop was the shipyard’s main and largest building, where I was very surprised to find the incomplete hull of another new tug. The most obvious part of the tug that is visible here are her twin Kort nozzles, into which the propellers will go eventually.

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The tug’s name, Millville, has already been welded onto the hull. The employees showing us the tug told us that it will be rolled out of the building into the shipyard on Saturday, May 13. I’m assuming that this tug will eventually be mated with the barge that is being assembled in the graving dock.

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The last stop in the shipyard tour was the lifeboat of the 1,004-foot Edwin H. Gott, on display near the main gate.

I was unable to get pictures of the three vessels on the other side of the shipyard, and the tour unfortunately didn’t extend to them. American Courage is still in long-term layup there, as well as Manitowoc, which is waiting to enter the graving dock to receive her five-year inspection. The cement barge Integrity is also docked on the south side of the shipyard, waiting for the inspection on her tug G.L. Ostrander to be completed. However, there were other events going on in Sturgeon Bay on Saturday.

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At the cruise ship dock next to the Oregon Street bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay was open for tours, along with her barge CGB 12002.

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The Mobile Bay, part of the Coast Guard’s 140-foot “Bay” class of cutters, was built in 1978, and has served in Sturgeon Bay for most of her career.

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Her 120-foot barge was built at Marinette, WI in 1992, and is equipped with a bow thruster to aid in maneuverability.

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After the tours ended, I stuck around to watch the pair depart from the dock and return to the Coast Guard dock, just across the harbor.

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The tug swung out from the dock stern first, before beginning to back out into the harbor.IMG_4508

The crane that you can see on the deck of the barge has a lifting capacity of 20 tons, making the buoys the vessel handles no problem.

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And with that, the pair turned and headed for their home dock at the end of the day.

That was all from Sturgeon Bay on Saturday. I’m really glad I was able to finally make it to the shipyard tour, and I hope to be able to do it again next year to share more photos of hopefully different vessels!

Bay Shipbuilding Open House this Weekend!

This Saturday, May 6, Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, WI will be hosting its annual open house. This is the only day of the year when the public gets a chance to see the expansive shipyard from the inside. Guided walking tours of Bay Shipbuilding and Centerpointe Yacht Services will be provided, which includes the grounds and various buildings at the shipyard. Across the harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay will be open for tours. At the nearby Graham Park dock, an emergency rescue boat and city police boat will also be available for tours. The Door County Maritime Museum, located at the south end of the Michigan Street Bridge, will be hosting various events and tours as well.

Tickets for the event will be sold on Saturday at both shipyard entry gates and the Maritime Museum. Prices are $15 for adults, $6 for children ages 11 to 17, and free for children 10 and under.

I’m excited to attend this event, as it is surprisingly my first time actually being able to tour the shipyard. I look forward to sharing photos later this weekend!

Sturgeon Bay Updates

Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay has seen quite a bit of traffic over the past week. Late last week, Walter J. McCarthy Jr. departed from winter layup and headed to Lake Superior to begin her 2017 season. On Monday evening, Interlake’s Mesabi Miner departed from Bay Shipbuilding and headed towards the Soo Locks to load her first cargo of the season at Duluth. Over the winter, the Miner was outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers, similar to those added to her fleetmates James R. Barker and Lee A. Tregurtha last winter. The Miner is Interlake’s fourth vessel to be fitted with the new system, which is designed to remove sulfur and other emissions from the ship’s exhaust. Also on Monday evening, Pathfinder/tug Dorothy Ann left the shipyard after spending the past two weeks there for some sort of unspecified repairs. She headed for Stoneport to load. Great Republic arrived soon after the Pathfinder’s departure, presumably also for repairs of some sort. John G. Munson remains docked, but is expected to begin her sea trials for her new engines within the next few days. Manitowoc, Calumet, and American Courage all remain in layup.

John B. Aird prepares for Scrap Tow, Lewis J. Kuber renamed

Algoma Central’s John B. Aird arrived in Montreal last week Wednesday under her own power after unloading her final cargo of salt at Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ontario. Although Algoma has made no official announcement, the vessel’s name has been shortened to John B. and her stack markings have been painted out in preparation for an overseas scrap tow. The Aird has had a rather short and uneventful career – she was constructed in 1983 for Algoma Central, and has operated for them since. Although she wouldn’t seem like a likely candidate for the scrapyard, keep in mind that Algoma is building seven new Equinox Class vessels, and is most likely trying to weed out their older vessels so they can be replaced.

In Toledo, Ohio, workers were removing the name from Lower Lakes Towing’s barge Lewis J. Kuber. She will be renamed Menominee. She and her fleetmate James L. Kuber, as well as their tugs Victory and Olive L. Moore, were purchased from the now-bankrupt K&K Integrated Logistics in early 2011. Part of the sale agreement was that the vessels would retain their K&K names for at least five years before Lower Lakes could rename them. With Lewis J. Kuber‘s renaming, new names are also expected for the barge James L. Kuber and their respective tugs. It is also rumored that Lower Lakes will retire the Olive L. Moore, and the Menominee will be pushed instead by the tug Invincible, currently laid up in Sturgeon Bay.

Algoma Strongfield begins her Delivery Trip

Algoma Central’s newest addition to their Great Lakes fleet, Algoma Strongfield, has departed from her builder’s yard in China and begun her delivery voyage to the Great Lakes. She is the fourth vessel constructed as part of Algoma’s newest class of ships, the Equinox Class. The vessel is currently on her way to the Philippines to refuel before making the voyage across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and up the U.S. East Coast before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. Algoma Strongfield is expected to arrive on the Lakes in June. The ship will join her sisters Algoma Equinox, Algoma Harvester, and G3 Marquis in the grain and iron ore trades.

Algoma Strongfield will be the first Equinox Class vessel to arrive on the Great Lakes since January of 2015. The Chinese shipyard that was to build all eight vessels had already delivered the first three and was constructing Algoma Strongfield when they filed for bankruptcy, which brought the entire project to a halt. However, Algoma was able to acquire the vessel and complete her construction. According to the company, there are another seven Equinox Class vessels that will still be delivered. Two of those vessels, which will be 650′ self-unloaders, are likely intended to replace the aging Algoway and Algorail. The other five vessels will all be sisters to the current Equinox gearless bulk carriers, and all five will be self-unloaders. Two of these ships are expected to arrive on the Lakes before the 2017 shipping season comes to a close.

Soo Locks open for the 2017 Season

At 12:01am on Saturday, March 25, the Soo Locks officially opened for the 2017 navigation season, with the upbound passage of Interlake’s 1,000 footer Stewart J. Cort. The locks have been closed since January 15, and have undergone various repairs and upgrades over the winter, such as sanding, welding, painting, and hydraulic work. Currently, the Poe Lock is the only one open – the MacArthur Lock isn’t scheduled to open until early April. Even with just the Poe Lock open, Saturday saw plenty of traffic. Upbound vessel passages included Kaye E. Barker, James R. Barker, Cason J. Callaway, Tim S. Dool, and Edgar B. Speer, while Philip R. Clarke, Roger Blough, Burns Harbor, American Century, Lee A. Tregurtha, and Herbert C. Jackson were downbound throughout the day.

Of course, many ports around the Lakes saw their first departures quite a few days ago, as vessels prepared for the upcoming season. Duluth’s 2017 season opened on Wednesday, March 22, when Roger Blough passed under the Lift Bridge just before sunrise. The Blough headed for Two Harbors to load that port’s first ore cargo of the season. She was quickly followed out of port by Paul R. Tregurtha, Burns Harbor, Lee A. Tregurtha, Herbert C. Jackson, and American Century, which all departed Duluth between March 22 and 24. American Spirit left her layup berth at Port Terminal on Saturday and shifted to load iron ore pellets at the CN dock. The only vessel that hasn’t moved from her layup berth is the Arthur M. Anderson, which is laid up at CN. However, the Anderson isn’t expected to sail during the 2017 season.

Sturgeon Bay saw its first departure on March 22, when Joseph L. Block moved from her layup berth and headed for Escanaba to load ore. On Friday, Cason J. Callaway and James R. Barker departed, and both vessels transited the Soo Locks on  Saturday. Edwin H. Gott is due to depart soon, while the remainder of the layup fleet will slowly depart throughout the month of April.