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!
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.
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.
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?
After unloading for most of the morning, the Sykes brought her boom back on board and departed the dock, bound for another load.
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…
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.
And with that, the Sykes swung around and picked up speed towards the canal.
Wilfred Sykes was built in 1949, had was the first new American-built Great Lakes ship constructed after World War II.
The Sykes is powered by two steam turbine engines providing a combined 7,000 horsepower and driving an 18 1/2 foot propeller.
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.
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.
So anyway, this was our last meeting with Wilfred Sykes, and we say goodbye to her.
Later in the day, the weather improved a bit, and I took the opportunity to shoot us unloading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It never rained, but the clouds sure made it look like it was going to.
We sat up on the bow deck to watch the ship dock.
I had to take at least one of the popular porthole shots, with the Escanaba shoreline in the distance.
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.
The clouds made for a very cool shot of the deck.
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.
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.
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!