The Red, the Blue, and the Gray

As many of you know, last Friday was Engineer’s Day at the Soo Locks. This trip, however, was special – my family and I did the Lake Superior Circle Tour first, beginning in Duluth, and we ended in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday evening, in time for the opening of the locks on Friday morning. We arrived in Duluth late last week Tuesday, missing the departure of the saltie Isa by just minutes.

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However, we were greeted at 6:00 on Wednesday morning by the Great Republic, arriving just as the sun rose.

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The morning sunlight made for some beautiful shots as the vessel quietly entered the ship canal.

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Great Republic was fully loaded with limestone, which she would discharge at the CN dock after making a stop at the Port Terminal for fuel.

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The Great Republic was launched in 1981 at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, for the American Steamship Company as American Republic.

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ASC needed a ship that would be small and maneuverable to navigate the twists and turns of the Cuyahoga River, and thus the idea for the 634-foot Great Republic’s design was formed.

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Notice how the vessel’s deckhouse is almost backwards – everything is situated as far back on the deck as possible. This is to provide maximum visibility and control to the crew while the ship was backing through the river.

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And not only that, but the vessel has eight rudders, bow and stern thrusters, and two propellers housed in Kort nozzles, making her the most maneuverable ship in the world.

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The early morning light provided excellent views of the ship’s unique design, and as she passed me, I almost wished I could have been able to photograph that complex rudder-propeller system.

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Back to her history, the vessel operated for ASC until 2011, when she was sold to Great Lakes Fleet, given a coat of red paint, and renamed Great Republic.

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The versatile Republic quickly begins the 90-degree turn to enter the harbor, which is a piece of cake for her eight rudders.

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So adieu to Great Republic.

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I rather like this cute little lift bridge in front of the Canal Park Visitor Center.

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And one more parting shot of the huge lift bridge and the retired Corps of Engineers tug Bayfield.

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Next, I headed over to the Holcim dock under the Blatnik bridge to shoot Algoma’s 730-foot Tim S. Dool, unloading cement. But unfortunately, the sun did not cooperate this time around, and so this was really the best I got of her. As we were leaving town later in the morning, she shifted down to Superior to clean her holds and load a cargo of iron ore pellets at BN.

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I knew the BBC Chartering’s Sjard was in the harbor, and after a bit of exploring, we discovered Port Terminal Road, which goes right up to the back of the slip where she was unloading her cargo of wind turbine parts.

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I was very happy to finally find this vantage point, but I was disappointed again by the lighting. Oh well, I shot her anyway.

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I think this shot turned out a bit better – note the small workboat to the right of her stern. Crews were working on the left side of the slip to complete the new docks being redone.

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But that wasn’t all for the Sjard – just before we left town and headed north, we stopped again to see if the lighting was any better. It was for this shot…

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But again, not so much for this one. But we couldn’t stick around any later, so I had to stick with these.

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When I looked to my left, I noticed the historic 1898-built J.B. Ford, awaiting her end. She had been docked near Heritage Marine since 1985, but Azcon Metals purchased the ship last year, and she was towed to this slip last fall to be scrapped.

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Lastly, I had to at least try to grab a photo of the Herbert C. Jackson. Her diesel conversion is reportedly nearing completion, however a fire in her stern section from welding work may put a setback on that date.

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And that was all for Duluth. As we began our trip north, I was looking forward to a day of shooting boats along the North Shore. But sadly, both Two Harbors and Silver Bay were unoccupied that day, and the only other vessels I got to shoot were in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The CSL Tadoussac is currently laid up at one of the grain elevators, and this was as close as I could get to her.

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But at the next elevator over, I got a surprise – CSL’s still somewhat new self-unloader Whitefish Bay was loading grain at Viterra.

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Unfortunately, Thunder Bay doesn’t seem to offer nearly as many spots for viewing the ships, so this was about the best shot I could get.

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I was very happy to see her, as it was our first meeting. I certainly hope our next one will come soon!

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On our way out of town, we also spotted Lower Lakes Towing’s Saginaw. I believe she was waiting for a load, but I can’t be sure.

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And that was all for Thunder Bay, and in fact, the rest of the lake. Another CSL vessel, Cedarglen, was in temporary layup as well, but I couldn’t even get close to her. I was disappointed that there weren’t any other boats to see that day, but happy with the shots I did get. Stay tuned – tomorrow will be my first Engineer’s Day post!

 

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