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.

Disappointment in Sturgeon Bay

This past weekend, I made my usual winter visit to Sturgeon Bay to photograph the layup fleet. However, I made two very unfortunate mistakes: forgetting my telephoto lens at home, and not giving myself enough time to properly photograph the shipyard!


So, using only the standard lens on my camera, I got the best shots I could of the layup fleet. There are a total of 14 vessels at the shipyard this winter, making for plenty of work for the yard crew to complete in the next few weeks.


The weather is another reason I couldn’t get the shots I wanted – normally, the ice between where I stood and the shipyard was plenty thick enough to walk on, allowing me to get some great angles. However, the ice was basically nonexistent this weekend thanks to the recent bout of warm weather.


Docked in the “Footers Row” this year are, from left to right, Mesabi Miner, Edwin H. Gott, and Walter J. McCarthy Jr. The Miner is currently in the process of having exhaust gas scrubbers installed (similar to her sister James R. Barker last winter), while Edwin H. Gott is sporting a fresh coat of paint. The tug just to the left of the McCarthy is Lower Lakes’ Invincible, in long term layup at the shipyard.


A total of four Lower Lakes vessels are laid up at the shipyard this winter – Manitowoc is on the right in this photo. Not visible from this angle is her sister Calumet, in drydock, along with the tug Victory. Her barge, James L. Kuber, is tucked in farther to the right.


This is the closest shot I could get of Manitowoc. Cason J. Callaway is visible here between Manitowoc and Indiana Harbor. Next to her are John G. Munson and James L. Kuber.


Indiana Harbor is rafted outside of James R. Barker, which I unfortunately couldn’t get any shots of. The bow of Joseph L. Block is visible just behind Indiana Harbor – her fleetmate Wilfred Sykes, as well as American Courage, are both tucked behind the 1,000 footers.

So that was all for my short Sturgeon Bay weekend. The 2017 shipping season has already begun, with Pathfinder/Dorothy Ann‘s departure from Cleveland last week. Crews of American Steamship’s vessels will begin reporting this week, with other companies to soon follow. I hope to return to Sturgeon Bay soon, and hopefully before the layup fleet departs so I can post some better photos!

Lakes Contender/Ken Boothe Sr. sold, renamed

The tug/barge combo Lakes Contender/Ken Boothe Sr, operated by American Steamship Company, has officially been sold to VanEnkevort Tug and Barge Inc. The barge will be renamed Erie Trader, while the tug will be named Clyde S. VanEnkevort. Earlier this week, workers at the Donjon Shipyard in Erie, PA, where the pair is laid up for the winter, were applying the new names to the hull.

The pair were constructed at Donjon’s Erie yard in 2011, and entered service in May 2012 under charter to American Steamship Company. The charter has not been renewed, however, allowing VanEnkevort to purchase both vessels from their owner. Lakes Contender/Ken Boothe Sr. are also near-sisters to Great Lakes Trader/Joyce L. VanEnkevort, which was built in 2001 for VanEnkevort.



Both photos above show Lakes Contender and her tug at the Donjon shipyard in Erie after they were completed. (Courtesy of


This photo, taken by Ken Newhams of the Duluth Shipping News, shows Great Lakes Trader in the Duluth harbor.