By Rod Burdick

1996 was a busy, significant year on the Great Lakes. Most American and Canadian Lakers saw service during a season which started with heavy ice on the upper lakes. Delays were encountered into May on Lake Superior. American Steamship Company's (ASC), BUFFALO, left lay-up on March 4 to start the season in Lorain to Cleveland taconite shuttles. Shipping on the upper lakes began on March 6 when Upper Lakes Towing's, JOSEPH H. THOMPSON, loaded taconite in Escanaba. USS Great Lakes Fleet's (USSGLF), ROGER BLOUGH, opened the Soo Locks on March 25 while Seaway Bulk Carriers', ALGOGULF, officially opened the Welland Canal on April 2. On the American side, (USSGLF), EDWIN H. GOTT, carried her first cargoes with a standard self-unloading boom. At 280 feet, her boom is the longest in lakes history (see photo).

Tug/Barge, INTEGRITY, emerged from Sturgeon Bay's Bay Shipyard in August as the first new U.S. capacity since 1982. INTEGRITY is paired with the tug JACKLYN M. in cement service for Lafarge and owned by Andrie Towing. Andrie took over Inland Lakes fleet of cement carriers -- JAW IGLEHART, ALPENA, PAUL H. TOWNSEND, ST CRAPO, and EM FORD -- after the INTEGRITY entered service.

Inland Lakes/Lafarge cement storage barge, LEWIS G. HARRIMAN, was sold to St. Mary's Cement and is now in Green Bay after service in Milwaukee (see photo). Lafarge built a new cement storage silo in Milwaukee prompting the sale.

ASC's AMERICAN REPUBLIC participated in the Atlanta '96 Olympic torch run by carrying the flame from Detroit to Cleveland on a special cauldron secured to her deck. She also had a special paint job for the event with the words "ASC-GATX" on her side (see photo).

One American laker went for scrap. In late August, ASC's, NICOLET, left Toledo in tow for Port Maitland, Ontario. She last sailed in 1990 (see photo). Her boom was removed before towing for possible future use. American lakers, EDWARD L. RYERSON, JOHN SHERWIN, KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, EM FORD, and JL MAUTHE did not see service in 1996.

Interlake's MAUTHE, however, was towed from Superior to Bay Shipyards in late December for conversion to a self-unloading barge. MAUTHE's new appearance should resemble the tug/barge, JOSEPH H. THOMPSON, when she enters service in summer or early fall, 1997.

On the Canadian side, two vessels left Port Weller Dry Docks with new looks. CAPT. HENRY JACKMAN began service in June as a self-unloader, and straight-decker, ALGOVILLE, was widened and carried late-season grain cargoes.

Port Weller Dry Docks will now convert CANADIAN NAVIGATOR to a self-unloader during lay-up.

Former Parrish & Heimbecker steamer, ELMGLEN (2), is slated for conversion to a tug/barge by Ocean Group Inc. of Quebec.

Canada Steamship Lines' (CSL) chartered, SEA BARGE ONE, was renamed SARAH SPENCER. She is the former ADAM E. CORNELIUS (3) of ASC and is teamed with the tug, ATLANTIC HICKORY.

Canadian lakers that did not sail in 1996 included SAGUENAY, VANDOC, and QUEDOC. Many straight-deckers were at the wall during the summer months due to a lack of grain cargoes.

WALTER J. McCARTHY JR. aided in the exciting Lake Superior rescue of the 110' Duluth based tour boat GRAMPA WOO. The propellerless WOO broke free from its moorings during a storm in Grand Portage, Minn. The McCARTHY's crew, in an amazing show of seamanship, managed to get a line aboard and tow the vessel towards Thunder Bay. McCARTHY towed the tour boat for four hours until reaching the entrance to Thunder Bay where winds to 70 mph and waves of 15 feet and higher caused the tow line to part. The two crewmen on board the GRAMPA WOO were later rescued by the tug GLENADA, with the WOO running aground and sinking at Passage Island.

The U.S. fleet had no major mishaps in 1996, just minor groundings and early-season ice damage.

Two Canadian vessels faced more serious mishaps. First, CSL's, HM GRIFFITH, had a fire in her coal-filled holds while downbound on Lake Superior in July. The problem was resolved by using her self-unloading boom to discharge 3,000 tons of hot cargo into the lake.

Another CSL laker, LOUIS R. DESMARAIS, had her boom snap while unloading in Detroit. She will be repaired in Erie, PA., by newly-formed Metro Machine which took over the former Erie Marine, Litton Shipyard in the fall.

Shipping on the upper lakes concluded on January 15 with the downbound passage of Interlake's, PAUL R. TREGURTHA through the Soo Locks. Inland Steel vessels, JOSEPH L. BLOCK, ADAM E. CORNELIUS (still on charter from ASC), and WILFRED SYKES continued to load taconite in Escanaba for lower Lake Michigan steel mills through January (see photo). Also staying in service were Seaway Self-Unloaders, JOHN B. AIRD and CANADIAN OLYMPIC, moving salt from Goderich, Ontario.


completed on January 27, 1997.

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Copyright © 1997 By N. Schultheiss. All Rights Reserved.