Sturgeon Bay Updates

Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay has seen quite a bit of traffic over the past week. Late last week, Walter J. McCarthy Jr. departed from winter layup and headed to Lake Superior to begin her 2017 season. On Monday evening, Interlake’s Mesabi Miner departed from Bay Shipbuilding and headed towards the Soo Locks to load her first cargo of the season at Duluth. Over the winter, the Miner was outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers, similar to those added to her fleetmates James R. Barker and Lee A. Tregurtha last winter. The Miner is Interlake’s fourth vessel to be fitted with the new system, which is designed to remove sulfur and other emissions from the ship’s exhaust. Also on Monday evening, Pathfinder/tug Dorothy Ann left the shipyard after spending the past two weeks there for some sort of unspecified repairs. She headed for Stoneport to load. Great Republic arrived soon after the Pathfinder’s departure, presumably also for repairs of some sort. John G. Munson remains docked, but is expected to begin her sea trials for her new engines within the next few days. Manitowoc, Calumet, and American Courage all remain in layup.

John B. Aird prepares for Scrap Tow, Lewis J. Kuber renamed

Algoma Central’s John B. Aird arrived in Montreal last week Wednesday under her own power after unloading her final cargo of salt at Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ontario. Although Algoma has made no official announcement, the vessel’s name has been shortened to John B. and her stack markings have been painted out in preparation for an overseas scrap tow. The Aird has had a rather short and uneventful career – she was constructed in 1983 for Algoma Central, and has operated for them since. Although she wouldn’t seem like a likely candidate for the scrapyard, keep in mind that Algoma is building seven new Equinox Class vessels, and is most likely trying to weed out their older vessels so they can be replaced.

In Toledo, Ohio, workers were removing the name from Lower Lakes Towing’s barge Lewis J. Kuber. She will be renamed Menominee. She and her fleetmate James L. Kuber, as well as their tugs Victory and Olive L. Moore, were purchased from the now-bankrupt K&K Integrated Logistics in early 2011. Part of the sale agreement was that the vessels would retain their K&K names for at least five years before Lower Lakes could rename them. With Lewis J. Kuber‘s renaming, new names are also expected for the barge James L. Kuber and their respective tugs. It is also rumored that Lower Lakes will retire the Olive L. Moore, and the Menominee will be pushed instead by the tug Invincible, currently laid up in Sturgeon Bay.

Algoma Strongfield begins her Delivery Trip

Algoma Central’s newest addition to their Great Lakes fleet, Algoma Strongfield, has departed from her builder’s yard in China and begun her delivery voyage to the Great Lakes. She is the fourth vessel constructed as part of Algoma’s newest class of ships, the Equinox Class. The vessel is currently on her way to the Philippines to refuel before making the voyage across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and up the U.S. East Coast before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. Algoma Strongfield is expected to arrive on the Lakes in June. The ship will join her sisters Algoma Equinox, Algoma Harvester, and G3 Marquis in the grain and iron ore trades.

Algoma Strongfield will be the first Equinox Class vessel to arrive on the Great Lakes since January of 2015. The Chinese shipyard that was to build all eight vessels had already delivered the first three and was constructing Algoma Strongfield when they filed for bankruptcy, which brought the entire project to a halt. However, Algoma was able to acquire the vessel and complete her construction. According to the company, there are another seven Equinox Class vessels that will still be delivered. Two of those vessels, which will be 650′ self-unloaders, are likely intended to replace the aging Algoway and Algorail. The other five vessels will all be sisters to the current Equinox gearless bulk carriers, and all five will be self-unloaders. Two of these ships are expected to arrive on the Lakes before the 2017 shipping season comes to a close.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

Manitowoc arrives Sturgeon Bay

Lower Lakes Towing’s river class self-unloaded Manitowoc arrived in Sturgeon Bay on Saturday, January 28, for winter layup. She joins her sister Calumet, as well as fleetmates James L. Kuber/tug Victory and Invincible, which are already in the shipyard. Manitowoc is the 14th and presumably final vessel to lay up for the winter in Sturgeon Bay.