Herbert C. Jackson departs Duluth

UPDATE: Herbert C. Jackson has officially began her 2016 sailing season, this time for sure. The former steamer departed Duluth on Sunday afternoon and arrived Silver Bay at 6:00 pm to load iron ore. This was her third time departing – besides her initial sea trials on Thursday, she again departed Saturday but re-arrived that evening.

ORIGINAL POST: On Thursday, the Herbert C. Jackson departed Duluth for the first time with her new diesel engines to conduct sea trials, but returned an hour later and docked at the Port Terminal. After remaining there for a few days, the ship departed again early Saturday morning for the final time, bound for Silver Bay to load iron ore pellets. The repowering project was originally expected to be completed in June, but complications including an onboard fire caused extensive delays.

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This photo, courtesy of Ken Newhams of the Duluth Shipping News, shows the Herbert C. Jackson in the Duluth harbor after re-arriving on Thursday.

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Joseph L. Block arrives Sturgeon Bay, Herbert C. Jackson prepares to Sail

Inland Lakes’ 730-foot Joseph L. Block arrived Sturgeon Bay through the ship canal on Tuesday evening for some sort of work at Bay Shipbuilding. American Courage, John G. Munson, and the tug Invincible remain in layup at the shipyard – the Munson is having her steam engine replaced with a new diesel, a project that should be complete before winter.

In Superior, the Herbert C. Jackson seems to be readying to depart for the remainder of the 2016 sailing season – she was seen preparing to sail and conducting lifeboat drills earlier this week. She was also repowered over the winter, but the project took much longer than expected. The ship was supposed to be back in service in June, but an onboard fire and other complications slowed the work. Before the conversion, she was the last steamer in the Interlake fleet. Besides getting new engines, Herbert C. Jackson was also painted and some work was done on the hull/cargo hold.

Disembarking the James R. Barker

This is my third and final post from my James R. Barker trip. In part II, I left off in Indiana Harbor where we were just docking to unload on Wednesday, August 24. But, our trip still had more delays in store. We got news from the dock that the equipment was malfunctioning, and needed to be repaired before we could unload. They estimated that we could start unloading at 6:00 pm on Thursday – which meant a delay of over 24 hours. So after a walk on deck, we went to sleep that night wondering how much longer our trip would last!

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When I woke up at 6:00 on Thursday morning, I immediately noticed a different sound in the ship. I went to look, and saw the boom swung out and the belts running. Luckily for us, the dock had fixed their problem earlier than expected, and we had started unloading almost 12 hours early. I went on the stern deck, and found the fuel barge Warner Provider just departing from a nearby vessel.

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The barge, pushed by the odd-looking tug Coloma L. Warner, had fueled us the night before, and I was surprised to see her again. She quickly headed out the canal and on to another nearby port, presumably Chicago.

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And the vessel I mentioned that Warner Provider had just finished fueling? The Wilfred Sykes, which had arrived overnight after loading limestone in Cedarville and following us down Lake Michigan. I did say that pile of stone wasn’t going to stay that small for long, didn’t I?

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After unloading for most of the morning, the Sykes brought her boom back on board and departed the dock, bound for another load.

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We once again had an excellent view to watch the ship depart, although the weather didn’t exactly cooperate. The clouds and gray water do mach the background, though…

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The 678-foot ship barely had to slow down from her dock departure speed to make the turn, as she had much more room than we did.

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And with that, the Sykes swung around and picked up speed towards the canal.

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Wilfred Sykes was built in 1949, had was the first new American-built Great Lakes ship constructed after World War II.

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The Sykes is powered by two steam turbine engines providing a combined 7,000 horsepower and driving an 18 1/2 foot propeller.

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The ship’s two bow anchors weigh 12,000 pounds each, and are attached to 540 feet of chain. She was converted to a self-unloader at Fraser Shipyards in 1975, just before sailing on Lake Superior in the same storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.

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Ironically, the Sykes loaded at the opposite dock of the Fitzgerald in Superior on November 9, 1975, and took shelter in Thunder Bay during the worst of the storm.

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So anyway, this was our last meeting with Wilfred Sykes, and we say goodbye to her.

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Later in the day, the weather improved a bit, and I took the opportunity to shoot us unloading.

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Unloading is a really cool process to watch, and it was especially cool to watch the gates at the bottom of the cargo hold being opened from the deck.

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Sunset that night was quite beautiful, but the setting totally didn’t fit. We finished unloading shortly after 10:00 Thursday night, and backed from the dock and departed. Chicago looked really cool from the water at night, but it was too dark for the camera to see anything.

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The next morning was our last aboard the James R. Barker, and I got up one last time to shoot the sunrise. As we were heading due north on Lake Michigan, the sunrise was off to our starboard side.

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It was quite spectacular, as was the rest of the day. Unlike the previous time we sailed Lake Michigan, the water was flat calm and beautiful all day. We passed through Death’s Door just after noon, and arrived in Big Bay De Noc around 5:00 pm on Friday.

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It never rained, but the clouds sure made it look like it was going to.

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We sat up on the bow deck to watch the ship dock.

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I had to take at least one of the popular porthole shots, with the Escanaba shoreline in the distance.

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I also took this opportunity to shoot the ship’s anchor winch. The big winch holding the links is a few decks below, but this is the one that is used to drop the anchor. Notice the yellow hook-like thing held up by cable – this is the secondary brake, which locks the anchor chain in place when lowered. While the ship is not docked, the hook is always raised so the anchor can be dropped at a moment’s notice if something were to come up.

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The clouds made for a very cool shot of the deck.

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This is the dock at Escanaba as seen from the water. It really isn’t big at all – just a skinny strip extending out into the harbor. The conveyor belt system actually runs through the loading machine, which is very unique.

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As we docked, a few of the deckhands prepared to be dropped over the side on the bosun’s chair. Here, a crew member waits on a step ladder to get on the seat.

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And then, after the ship docked, we disembarked for the final time. This was the last shot I took of the ship as we walked back to shore.

We drove home that night, and immediately had to get ready for school. And although getting off the ship for the final time was hard, I’m so thankful for the amazing trip we had.I want to offer my thanks to the captain and crew of the James R. Barker and Interlake Steamship Company for having us aboard – it was an absolutely amazing experience!

 

Climbing Aboard the James R. Barker, Part II

This is part 2 of my photos from my recent trip aboard the James R. Barker. In my first post, I ended with sunset on Lake Superior. We arrived in Whitefish Bay around 10:00 Monday night, and then entered Soo Harbor at 3:00 the next morning. I was a little disappointed that we transited the Poe Lock at night, because I was hoping to take some photos of the locks and river.  I did attempt some, but they did not turn out at all. I was glad to at least get the experience though! We didn’t end up departing the lock for another two hours, however, as we waited for the Baie St. Paul to lock downbound ahead of us.

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After we locked downbound at 5:00 am, I went back to bed for just an hour or so, and got up to catch the sunrise. But I got this instead – we were just arriving at the Rock Cut, with the rising sun to the left. I was really excited to see the Rock Cut from the ship, and it was really cool.

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We passed the small carferry Neebish Islander II, which only has to cross the channel to get to the mainland.

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We passed through the Rock Cut slowly, as it really is quite the tight channel. Keeping a straight course is one thing, but there’s one other factor that makes it more difficult: depth. The channel is barely deep enough for a fully loaded 1,000 footer – at certain points in the transit, the depth monitor showed less than a foot of water underneath the massive Barker. This causes excessive vibration, as the water from the propellers is pushed right back into them because the bottom is so close. Our trail of wake wasn’t muddy, however, like much of the St. Marys River: the bottom in the Rock Cut is, you guessed it, rock. Many will remember the grounding of the Paul R.Tregurtha a few years ago in the channel, putting the ship out of service for a few months.

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After the Rock Cut, the bottom turned to mud, and we came upon the classic laker Mississagi.

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Of course, the lighting was extremely poor. But the excessive wash-out from the sun actually has a cool effect on Mississagi.

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My stern shots turned out much better, but the ship quickly headed on her way.

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And with a quick pass completed, the Mississagi continued upbound.

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We came upon one other vessel before reaching DeTour – American Steamship’s 634-foot Buffalo.

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She is upbound light, presumably for Duluth or Marquette to load.

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Buffalo was built in 1978 by Bay Shipbuilding, at a cost of $25 million.

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Buffalo‘s two 3,600 horsepower engines push her past and away from the Barker, so adieu to her.

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After passing DeTour we exited the St. Marys River, and turned west for the Mackinac Bridge. Lake Huron was beautiful, even a bit wavy. We reached Mackinac Island by noon, and got to see the spectacular view of the island from the water.

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The Wilfred Sykes passed underneath the bridge before us, and passed us in between Mackinac and Round Island.

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She was headed light to Cedarville, just a few hours away, to load limestone.

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She continues on her way, so we bid her adieu – for now.

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It was our turn next – the massive bridge spread out before us.

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I have driven over the Mackinac before, and it feels extremely high up. Standing on the pilothouse deck, when we passed underneath, there was somewhere between 20 and 50 feet between our masts and the bridge!

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And once we passed underneath, we entered Lake Michigan. The Mackinac Straits are always windy, but this day was especially windy, kicking up some surf over the bow of the Barker.

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The rest of the day proved to be one of my favorites – we got to experience some good size waves. The farther we got from the bridge, the wavier it seemed to get – by dinner time, the waves were easily 8-10 feet, some pushing 12. And being aboard a 1,000 footer, we barely felt the rocking! The waves continued throughout the night, and the next morning was much of the same. But as we neared Indiana Harbor, the lake gradually calmed, and by the time Chicago was in view, the waves were much smaller.

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And, as you can see, the weather greatly improved by the time we arrived in Indiana Harbor!

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We slowly passed through the harbor entrance in the small yet busy port, leaving behind a lot of stirred up mud.

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Indiana Harbor has nothing to see – that is, unless you enjoy traveling to see steel mills and stockpiles of cargo.

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This would be our dock, just on the other side of the breakwall. We would unload into the hopper you can see in the center of the photo, just in front of the red building.

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We began slowing down again as we passed the small harbor light to the starboard side, as we had to make a 180 degree turn to our dock.

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The water you see in front of the James R. Barker is all that there is of the harbor, minus the small slip on the right.

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This pile of stone wasn’t very big when we arrived, but that would soon change.

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It took about half an hour for the ship to completely spin around, and then we docked and waited to begin unloading our iron ore pellets.

So that’s all for post number two! I should be able to fit the rest of my photos into one more post tomorrow.

Climbing aboard the James R. Barker

Two weekends ago, we disembarked the James R. Barker for the last time in Escanaba, Michigan, after spending an absolutely amazing and wonderful week on board. Unfortunately, school started this past week, leaving me almost no time to transition from life aboard the ship to a normal routine, much less post the photos I took on board. But, here they are.

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We drove to Duluth on Saturday, August 20, and spent some time there before heading up to Two Harbors where we would eventually meet the Barker. As we were driving over the Blatnik Bridge, we noticed the Arthur M. Anderson heading through the harbor towards the canal. We made it there just in time to catch her depart. She had unloaded limestone and was heading light to Two Harbors where she would load iron ore pellets.

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That weekend also happened to be Duluth’s Tall Ships festival 2016, so Canal Park was packed with tourists. The tall ships were docked all along Bayfront Park and the DECC, and I got a glimpse of the massive rubber duck at Bayfront Park as well! I was unfortunately unable to photograph anything else that evening besides the Anderson, as we were short on time.

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The Barker wasn’t expected to arrive in Two Harbors until early Sunday morning, but a family friend gave us a surprise: he offered to give us a tour of the laid-up J.A.W. Iglehart in Superior. It was dark by that point, so I didn’t take any photos, but being able to tour the ship was a very unique  experience, and a prequel to what was to come.

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So after that, we drove to Two Harbors and waited for the Barker to arrive. When the crew came ashore to meet us at 2:00 on Sunday morning, we were led out onto the iron ore dock and boarded the ship. We were given a miniature tour of our quarters before we went to sleep for a few hours. When I awoke later in the morning and went outside, the Arthur M. Anderson was just backing from the dock next to us.

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After clearing the dock, the 767-foot steamer began to turn for her departure.

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The Anderson was launched on February 16, 1952, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Division of U.S. Steel Corp. She was the second of three identical AAA class ships built for Pittsburgh – the Philip R. Clarke preceded her in 1951, while the Cason J. Callaway followed later in 1952.

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The ship was lengthened by 120 feet during the spring of 1975 at Fraser Shipyards, bringing her to her present length. She was converted to a self-unloader during the winter of 1981/82, also at Fraser.

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As many know, Arthur M. Anderson is famous for trailing the Edmund Fitzgerald on the night she sank in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Both ships were in radio contact throughout the trip, and the Anderson provided radar information to the Fitz when her radar went out.

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After making a quick turn, Arthur headed outbound for the Chicago area, where we would catch up with her later.

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The day was proving to be excellent for sailing – no waves on the big lake, warm temperatures – and of course, we’d be in port all day loading.

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So adieu to Arthur M. Anderson.

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And now, the first of many onboard photos! Even though the ship had arrived much earlier in the morning, we wouldn’t complete loading until late evening on Sunday.

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The iron ore dock that we were at was conveyor-fed, meaning a conveyor belt brought ore from stockpiles on shore to the dock before loading the ship. This meant we had to wait for cargo to be brought out before we could load. This process occurred about five times throughout the day – a period of loading, then waiting, then loading again.

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After a very long afternoon of waiting, the dock was finally ready to load the James R. Barker with the last of our cargo. It was sunset by this point – we and a few members of the crew had already gone for multiple walks around the harbor and out to the Two Harbors breakwater.

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The sunset over the hill was one of the best we’d see on the trip, and we spent the evening watching the loading process.

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Finally, at about 11:00 that night, we finished loading and backed from the dock. The captain allowed us into the pilothouse to watch as he and the wheelsman navigated the ship through the turn. In no time, we were cruising on open Lake Superior at 12 knots.

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One of my main goals during the trip was to catch a Lake Superior sunrise – and so on Monday morning, I got up early and went outside to see what it was like. I was greeted by this – one of the most stunning sunrises I have been able to photograph.

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Monday was spent transiting Lake Superior. After such a gorgeous sunrise, the day began cloudy and gray. We spent a lot of time walking the deck and enjoying the lake breeze.

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But later in the day, the water turned blue and the sailing was beautiful. The big lake was fairly calm, and by that I mean 2-4 foot waves, but we couldn’t feel a thing aboard the Barker.

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And, just like that morning, sunset that night was quite beautiful as well.

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I really like this shot, showing the sunset just to the left of the aft section of the ship. And as a side note, you’ll notice throughout these photos that the James R. Barker produces quite a lot of exhaust smoke. This is because the Barker and her fleetmate Lee A. Tregurtha had exhaust gas scrubbers installed over the winter at Bay Shipbuilding. Both ships reentered service in early summer, and now produce significantly less emissions – the smoke is white, and is now mostly water vapor.

And that’s where I’ll stop for now. I have a few more posts coming in the next few days, so stay tuned for more of the trip!