Winter Updates, Part III

With the Soo Locks now closed for the season, most of the Great Lakes fleet has tied up for the winter. On Lake Superior, there are a total of six active vessels laid up in the Twin Ports this winter. Mesabi Miner is moored at Midwest Energy; ASC fleetmates H. Lee White and American Spirit are laid up at Elevator M and Lakehead Pipeline, respectively; and Tim S. Dool, Lee A. Tregurtha, and Kaye E. Barker are all wintering at Fraser. Also at the shipyard is William A. Irvin, which will be drydocked after the Dool‘s work is complete. The Irvin will receive hull maintenance and repairs as well as a new coat of paint before being returned to the Minnesota Slip in the spring, where she will be reopened for tours. Two additional vessels, American Century and Burns Harbor, were both expected to lay up in Duluth, however neither ship made it up through the Soo Locks before they closed on January 15. The Century ended up in Toledo for the winter, while ASC surprisingly sent Burns Harbor back to Sturgeon Bay. In long-term layup in the Twin Ports are Arthur M. Anderson, tied at CN, and Edward L. Ryerson, at the Barko dock near the CHS elevators. Unlike recent rumors have indicated, there are no plans to scrap either vessel, and they may return to service at any time as economic conditions warrant.

There are ten ships laid up at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay so far, and the shipyard has been full of activity as of late. The McKeil barge Huron Spirit arrived last week Friday morning, pushed by the tug Sharon M I. The tug departed shortly after dropping her barge off to continue winter operations. Paul R. Tregurtha also arrived on Friday, and was immediately placed in drydock. This year’s layup fleet at the shipyard includes American Courage, John G. Munson, Joseph L. Block, barge A-397, Roger Blough, James R. Barker, Burns Harbor, Cason J. Callaway, barge Huron Spirit, and Paul R. Tregurtha. Wilfred Sykes is still running cargo between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and will likely be the last arrival in Sturgeon Bay for the 2018 season when she lays up at the end of January. The new barge Commander, pushed by Bradshaw McKee, departed the shipyard last week, and headed for Charlevoix to load her first cargo of cement. The barge has spent the last two seasons at BayShip being converted from an open-topped cargo barge to an articulated, self-unloading powdered cement carrier. Work included the addition of an entirely new bow, cargo holds, and a bow thruster, and the barge was lengthened significantly to increase her cargo capacity.


For comparison’s sake, here’s a “before” shot of the barge before conversion work began. She was previously known as Cleveland Rocks, and primarily hauled bulk cargo on the lower lakes.


I took this shot back in November, showing the newly converted barge tied up at Bay Shipbuilding and awaiting pickup.

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This photo shows the Commander/tug Bradshaw McKee arriving at Chicago with her first payload of cement (courtesy of Christine Douglas, Facebook).

Lastly, Lower Lakes Towing has finally given a new name to their James L. Kuber. The barge just emerged from drydock at the DonJon Shipyard in Erie, and the name Maumee is now displayed on her freshly painted hull. This name was last carried by a 1929-built vessel that previously operated for U.S. Steel as the Calcite II. She was sold to Lower Lakes in 2001, and was scrapped at Port Colborne, Ontario, in 2011.

When K&K Integrated Logistics disbanded and sold their two barges (James L. Kuber and Lewis J. Kuber) to Lower Lakes in 2011, part of the contract was that the vessels would retain their names for a certain number of years, which is why they weren’t renamed when they began operating for Grand River Navigation. LLT renamed the Lewis J. to Menominee last year, and have now finally changed James L.‘s name. The dedicated tug that has been paired with Menominee, Olive L. Moore, will be sent for scrap next year, and the barge will be pushed by Invincible starting next season. The new Maumee will continue to be pushed by the tug Victory.

Winter Updates, Part II

As the closing date of the Soo Locks rapidly approaches on January 15th, the shipping season is finally winding down. Sturgeon Bay has already seen its first few arrivals for the winter, and the majority of Duluth’s layup fleet is expected within the next week.

American Courage, John G. Munson, Joseph L. Block, and the tug/barge combo A-397/tug Barbara Andrie are all tied up at Bay Shipbuilding for the winter. The shipyard has also released an updated schedule of arrivals:


One addition to this list is the Roger Blough, which was originally scheduled to lay up in Duluth but has switched to Sturgeon Bay. Her tentative arrival date is unknown. Also of note, the Port City Marine tug Bradshaw McKee is scheduled to arrive at Bay Shipbuilding on January 9th to pick up the barge Commander, which has spent the last two seasons at the yard being converted to a self-unloading cement carrier. Rumors are flying now in regard to how PCM will organize their fleet, however that likely won’t be determined until the 2019 shipping season begins in a few months.

A preliminary layup list for the Duluth/Superior harbor has also been released. As of now, Tim S. Dool, which arrived on January 1st and is in drydock at Fraser Shipyards, is the only ship tied up for the winter, however that will likely change later this week. Duluth is expecting a grand total of eight vessels to lay up in port this winter, which is a larger number than in previous years, in addition to the Arthur M. Anderson and Edward L. Ryerson that are in long-term layup. That list consists of the following vessels: American Spirit (Port Terminal), American Century (Lakehead Pipeline), Burns Harbor (Elevator M), Mesabi Miner (Midwest Energy), Tim S. Dool, Kaye E. Barker, Lee A. Tregurtha, and H. Lee White (Fraser Shipyards).

I intend to make a trip to both Sturgeon Bay and Duluth during the off-season to photograph the layup fleet, so stay tuned for those photos!

Disappointment in Duluth (Sort Of)

This past weekend, I traveled to both Sturgeon Bay and Duluth, however the results of the latter trip were not as good as I had expected.


I visited Sturgeon Bay on Saturday, where the only vessel tied up in the shipyard was the John G. Munson, which had just arrived the previous day for winter layup.


The Munson is technically the second ship to lay up at Sturgeon Bay, after American Courage, which has been in long-term layup at the shipyard for the past few seasons. This will be John G.‘s second year in a row wintering at Bay Shipbuilding.


After Burns Harbor departed on December 21, American Courage was placed in the drydock, where she will receive extensive hull work and possibly her five-year survey in preparation for her re-entry into service in the spring. She was sharing the dock with Commander, which you can see on the left. Recently converted to a self-unloading cement carrier, rumors indicate that the barge will be picked up sometime in January.


The ice-coated shrubbery along the shore made for a unique shot with the shipyard in the background.


I didn’t stay in Sturgeon Bay for long, as our next destination was Duluth. We arrived there on Sunday night, and I went out late that night to catch the arrival of Walter J. McCarthy Jr.


Of course my camera’s flash was on when I attempted to take bow shots, completely washing them out, so these stern views will have to do. The McCarthy was coming in to load coal at Midwest Energy on this particular visit.


And now here’s where we get to the disappointing part. On New Year’s Eve, the stormy weather prevented any ship traffic from arriving or departing, but of course the weather calmed enough while I was at dinner to allow the McCarthy to depart and the Mesabi Miner to arrive for a load of coal. Although I missed those two, I was able to catch the departure of CSL Tadoussac a few minutes before 2019 began.


The Tadoussac had spent a few days at anchor outside the harbor waiting to load in Two Harbors, but had ultimately changed orders and arrived Duluth on Sunday to load iron ore pellets at Canadian National.


She quietly headed into the night, and her lights made some great reflections on the water.


Then comes more disappointment: Tim S. Dool, which had dropped anchor on Monday night, made her surprise arrival on the morning of New Year’s Day, so I missed that as well. Mesabi Miner left port later in the morning, and I stepped outside the hotel to grab this shot. Temperatures were hovering right around zero, and the Miner was headed straight for a cloud of sea smoke blanketing Lake Superior.


On our way out of town, we made one last stop at Fraser Shipyards in the hopes of making up for the boats lost throughout the weekend. Nearly buried in ice, the historic museum ship William A. Irvin was quietly sitting at the dock.


The US Steel ore carrier, launched in 1937, was pulled from the Minnesota Slip near the lift bridge a few months back to allow for her dock to be rebuilt. She will spend the winter at Fraser Shipyards, where she will be drydocked for hull work and a new coat of paint, before being returned to her slip in the spring to resume her role as a floating museum.


I finally caught up to Tim S. Dool, just putting her mooring lines ashore at the shipyard behind the Irvin. Two G-tugs, visible here on the right near her stern, assisted the ship to her dock.


The Dool is the first vessel to arrive for winter layup at Duluth, and is the second Canadian vessel to winter in the Twin Ports ever. In a very surprising move by Algoma, the 1967-built vessel will be drydocked, painted, and receive her five-year survey at Fraser this winter.


Many boatwatchers, including myself, speculated that she would be retired at the end of this season, however Algoma obviously sees at least a few years’ worth of service left in her hull, and are scrapping her fleetmates Capt. Henry Jackman and Algowood instead.


I’ll end this post with one last view of the Dool, which (for now) has been saved from the scrapper’s torch.

Lastly, I’d like to wish all of my readers a very happy New Year, and extend my thanks to you for sticking with me. This blog has grown immensely over the last few months especially, and I’m hopeful that it will see similar growth in 2019. The upcoming year will bring some new adventures for me as well, as I’ll be graduating high school and beginning the four-year Bachelor’s degree program at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in the fall. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and wish you a happy and successful 2019!