James R. Barker ends her Season in Sturgeon Bay

I was finally able to make it up to Sturgeon Bay this weekend, but sadly, I didn’t even get the photos I wanted of the layup fleet! But the good news is that I was able to watch the 1,000 footer James R. Barker arrive through the ship canal for winter layup. This was actually my first time watching a ship larger than 500 feet enter Sturgeon Bay through the canal – which seems rather odd. With the amount of time I have spent in Sturgeon Bay, you would think I would have seen a ship come in by now!

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On Saturday morning, I noticed the Barker heading towards Sturgeon Bay, and I headed out to the ship canal to wait for her. She took a long time to make her turn, and I waited in the cold for well over an hour. But she finally poked her bow through the trees on her way in.

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I begin to feel smaller and smaller as the ship comes closer – When she came past me, I was within arm’s reach of the hull. Note the wake to the left of her bow – that’s her bow thruster in motion to keep the bow off the canal wall.

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Here’s a close-up shot of her bow – notice that there isn’t really any ice, although the temperature was just above zero.

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I rather like this shot – I’m so close to the Barker, I can’t even get her whole name!

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And here’s a shot of her stern section as she passes by.

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The ship has already begun to release some of her ballast water, and a few feet of her propellers was visible through the spray they kicked up.

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Finally, I can get her whole hull into one shot. The canal widens a bit here, so the going gets a bit easier.

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And I say goodbye to James – for now.

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My next spot is right on top of the first of three bridges the Barker will pass through. She slowly approaches through the track cut by the Mobile Bay‘s departure earlier last week.

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This was the widest shot I could get before her bow disappeared between the raised bridge spans.

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I then crossed to the other side of the bridge for a stern view as she continues through the harbor.

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On the way to my next spot, I was surprised to find the chemical barge Louisiana. She is moored in the same place her sister Texas was last year. Louisiana is the third ship in the Moran Towing newbuild program – you’ll remember the tug/barge combos Texas/Mariya Moran and Mississippi/Leigh Ann Moran that departed Sturgeon Bay last summer, and since then, both Louisiana and her new tug (which I did not catch the name of) have been launched and look to be almost done.

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Here’s a stern view of the barge, from the Michigan Street Bridge – my next Barker watching spot. The tug that will be paired with Louisiana is in the shipyard, but I wasn’t able to get any photos of her either.

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I once again waited for the Barker to move through the harbor, but then I noticed that she had stopped moving. There was no ice in the canal, but the ice in the harbor was actually rather thick. The 1,000 footer had gotten stuck just before the Oregon Street bridge, and the tug Jimmy L. (not visible here) was breaking the ice around the ship.

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But the mighty Barker was freed quickly, and began making what was probably the tightest maneuver in the Sturgeon Bay harbor: between the Oregon Street and Michigan Street Bridges. The lifting spans on both bridges are not lined up exactly with each other, so the ships have to make a turn with little room to spare to navigate between them.

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But it wasn’t long before the ice stopped the Barker again. She was now stuck with her stern not completely through the Oregon Street Bridge, but the Jimmy L. came quickly to the rescue.

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I think this is my favorite photo from the day – the Jimmy L. circles around James R. Barker to try and free up the ice blocking her in.

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And as the Jimmy L. heads back around to the stern of the huge ship, the Barker gets moving again.

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This was the last photo I took of the Barker, as I wasn’t able to get across the Michigan Street Bridge for stern shots. Once getting through the bridges, she moored next to her sister ship American Spirit for the winter, and Alpena was docked on her other side. As far as I know, repairs to the Alpena after the onboard fire have been progressing – there aren’t any visible signs that the ship had a fire from the outside.

Although I didn’t have time to get good shots of the entire layup fleet, I am planning a return trip at the end of February – hopefully by then, the ice will be thick enough to walk on!


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