When Ice is Actually Useful

This past weekend, I made my annual trip up to Sturgeon Bay to photograph the winter layup fleet. A total of ten vessels are laid up at the shipyard, in addition to the American Courage and tug Invincible, which are in long-term layup.


We started out by walking onto the ice (which seemed to be well over a foot thick) at the Sunset Park boat launch. Stewart J. Cort was in the graving dock, while the “Footers’ Row” was comprised of Paul R. Tregurtha and Mesabi Miner. To the right of the Miner‘s bow are Roger Blough and Cason J. Callaway.


All three of the 1,000 foot vessels at the shipyard belong to the Interlake Steamship Co. The only one missing is James R. Barker, which is wintering in Duluth.


The Tregurtha and Miner both appear to have received new coats of paint down to the waterline in the past few weeks. In addition, the Paul R. is in the process of having exhaust gas scrubbers installed, as was done with the Miner last winter.


The 105′ wide Roger Blough seems to dwarf the Callaway in this photo.


I was surprised at the thickness of the ice around the laid-up vessels, as it is normally kept broken up. However, it allowed for some excellent photos, and going this close to the “Queen of the Lakes” reminded me just how large she really is.


This shot gives an idea of just how massive the Tregurtha is – her bow thruster tunnel, which appears to be rather small, measures over six feet across.


The bow of Stewart J. Cort looms over the graving dock gate, which seemed to be the only place where open water could be found. Much of the Cort‘s hull was covered in tarps as the vessel was given a fresh coat of paint.


Getting decent shots from the shipyard side of the harbor is especially difficult, however a towering snow pile located in a parking lot allowed me to shoot the Joseph L. Block, Wilfred Sykes, and American Courage on the south side of the yard.


It seems that there isn’t a winter when the Block and Sykes cannot be found at Bay Shipbuilding – last winter, both vessels were in the exact same spots as well.


American Courage, meanwhile, has not left her layup dock in well over two years. A lack of demand has forced her to remain sidelined since the 2015 shipping season.


To the right of the Courage and tucked in behind the main building was the nearly-completed hull of a tug being constructed by the shipyard. She will be mated with a yet uncompleted barge that was docked elsewhere in the yard.


Our final stop was Bullhead’s Point, which sits directly across from the shipyard. A few minutes’ walk across the frozen harbor gives angles that cannot be beat, and usually aren’t accessible during the rest of the year. But of course, by the time we made it there, a snowstorm had started up, drastically reducing visibility.


Notice in this photo and the previous one that the Miner‘s accommodation block is surrounded by a framework of some sort that is covered in plastic, which leads me to assume that it is being painted or having some sort of work done.


The next vessel over from the Miner is the John G. Munson, which has also spent the last two winters laid up in Sturgeon Bay.


Moored to the right of the Munson sits the incomplete hull of a barge, which I assume will be paired with the tug that I photographed earlier.


Further to the right is a group of Lower Lakes Towing vessels. Robert S. Pierson is first from the left, with the tug Victory moored facing her. The barge James L. Kuber is rafted outside of both vessels. Visible to the right of the barge’s notch is the tug Invincible, which has been in long-term layup at the yard since 2014.


This view shows Roger Blough and Cason J. Callaway moored perpendicular to the slips. American Courage, Joseph L. Block, and Wilfred Sykes are all blocked in behind the two vessels.


Although it’s difficult to tell, the Blough was given a fresh coat of paint as well as her five-year inspection earlier in the winter.


The accommodation block of American Courage is visible in the middle of the two vessels, just over their decks.


And here’s one last close-up shot of the bows of the two classic lakers.

That was all for my weekend in Sturgeon Bay. I certainly got much better shots than last year, mostly due to the ice being thick enough to walk out on. I still hope to make it up to Duluth this winter to photograph the vessels there, so stay tuned!