1997 was another busy season on the lakes. Tug/barge, JOSEPH H. THOMPSON, started and opened the season early with her March 9 loading of taconite in Escanaba. The Soo Locks opened on March 25 with the downbound passage of LEE A. TREGURTHA.
A week later, on April 2, ALGOCAPE opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, and LOUIS R. DESMARAIS was first at the Welland Canal sporting a new red hull and stack markings.
CSL's self-unloader fleet historically had black hulls while their bulk-carriers were in red. Now, with the sale of CSL's bulk-carriers to other fleets, the self-unloaders are slowly taking red hulls but all carried new stack designs.
On the American side, one highlight was the return to service of Inland Steel's classic straight-deck, EDWARD L. RYERSON. She had been inactive in Sturgeon Bay since the end of the 1993 season. She spent most of the season travelling between Marquette's ore dock and Indiana Harbor with taconite.
Interlake's, J.L. MAUTHE, continued her conversion to a self-unloading tug/barge at Bay Shipyards in Sturgeon Bay. She will sail as PATHFINDER with a custom built tug in 1998.
American Steamship Company (ASC) took over the operation of the 1000-foot GEORGE A. STINSON from Interlake.
Interlake's veteran steamer, ELTON HOYT 2ND, was involved in one historic and one new trip. First, at 698 feet, she became the longest laker to sail up the curvy Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. Next, HOYT 2ND carried the first ever cargo of sugar beets on the lakes.
Inland Lakes', S. T. CRAPO, was towed from Cleveland to Green Bay in September. She will store cement in the Packer city.
Former carferry, CITY OF MIDLAND 41, was towed from Ludington to Muskegon to begin conversion to a barge.
ASC's, BUFFALO, suffered a mishap in December when she struck the Detroit River lighthouse. The collision left a 25-foot gash in her bow. Repairs will be made in Toledo.
American lakers not to see service in 1997 included KINSMAN ENTERPRISE, S. T. CRAPO, E. M. FORD, and long-time idle, JOHN SHERWIN.
On the Canadian side, CANADIAN NAVIGATOR emerged from Port Weller Drydocks as a self-unloader. Her first season was unlucky. While docking in Calcite, she hit and damaged a loader, and later, ran aground in the St. Clair River.
Former CSL self-unloader, SAGUENAY, idle since late in 1992, was towed from Toronto to Thunder Bay. She will serve as a holding unit for contaminated soils being dredged in Thunder Bay harbor.
Seaway Self-Unloaders announced that they will convert ALGOWEST to a self-unloader and refit ALGORAIL during the winter months at Port Weller. Canadian lakers that did not sail in 1997 included COMEAUDOC and long-time lay-ups, QUEDOC and VANDOC. A few straight-deckers did not sail until the fall grain rush.
Seaway Bulk Carriers, CANADIAN MARINER, had a major mishap in June on her first trip of the season. She grounded in the St. Lawrence River after a steering failure. She received extensive bottom repairs at Port Weller and returned to service in September.
Away from commercial shipping, newly-built german cruise liner, C. COLUMBUS, visited the lakes for three fall cruises. These trips were the first on the lakes in over 20 years.
Historic Lake Michigan passenger ship, MILWAUKEE CLIPPER, was towed from Chicago to Muskegon in December. Plans are to convert her to a museum/entertainment complex/bed-breakfast.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced that icebreaker, MACKINAW, will be fully operational until 2006. After that, Congress is working to have a replacment cutter in service on the lakes.
The Soo Locks were closed on January 15, 1998. Inland Steel's, JOSEPH L. BLOCK, was the last vessel to lock through. A few Canadian lakers and one American tug/barge continued to operate. CAPT. HENRY JACKMAN and CANADIAN OLYMPIC moved salt from Goderich, and CANADIAN ENTERPRISE shuttled coal across Lake Erie. MEDUSA CONQUEST carried cement out of Charlevoix.
THREE LONG AND TWO SHORT, 1997!
completed on January 21, 1998.