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 St. Clair River on a windy day.

Dave Marcoux   

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - American Mariner

By George Wharton

The American Mariner is a self-unloading bulk freighter built by Bay Shipbuilding Co., Sturgeon Bay, WI for American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY. Although initially to have been named Chicago(3), she was launched Aug. 2, 1979 as the American Mariner. Her maiden voyage took place April 18, 1980 from Sturgeon Bay light for Escanaba, MI to load taconite pellets for Ashtabula, OH. Driving a single controllable pitch propeller are twin 3,600 horsepower V-20 GM diesel engines giving her a rated service speed of 15 m.p.h.. The American Mariner is equipped with both bow and stern thrusters. Her 7 holds are fed through 24 hatches. She is capable of carrying 37200 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 30 feet 11 inches. Her stern mounted self unloading system feeds a 250 foot boom that can swing 105 degrees to port or starboard and can discharge at a rate of up to 6000 tons per hour.

The American Mariner was the ninth of ten vessels built for American Steamship Co. under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. Under this program, U.S. shipping companies could modernize their fleets or build new vessels utilizing government guaranteed financing and tax deferred benefits.

On April 28, 2000 the vessel lost steering and struck Light number 7 in the Lake Huron Cut. The Mariner was loaded with taconite for Ashtabula, Ohio. A survey of damage from the accident revealed a 30-foot by 10-foot tear in the forepeak and another 6 inch wide tear on the starboard bow stretching nearly 25-feet. Flooding from this damage was so severe that the forward cargo hold and tunnels flooded. Temporary repairs were made to control the flooding and the crew lighten the vessel by offloading 3,100 tons of cargo from the number one hold into the Adam E. Cornelius.

She was refloated and underway on Saturday the 29th. Because the American Mariner was blocking the channel, the U. S. Coast Guard temporarily closed the area to commercial navigation. The river closure delayed more than twenty-three vessels.

The American Mariner has transited the Welland Canal; a feat that many U.S. flagged lake boats cannot accomplish due to the dimensional restrictions of the Welland Canal (740 feet maximum overall length, 78 feet width, and 26 feet draft).

The American Mariner's versatility should guarantee her of many more profitable navigation seasons for her owners.


Overall dimensions
Length 730'00"
Beam 78'00"
Depth 45'00"
Capacity (tons) 37,200


Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Winter lay-up at Bay Shipbuilding. Dick Lund

Lay-up July, 2001. Jim Hoffman

Aerial view. Don Coles

Another view. Don Coles

Steering failure sent the Mariner into Light 7, April, 2000. USCG

Another view. USCG

At Toledo Shiprepair.

Close up of damage

Repairs in the dry dock.

Close up.

Ashtabula, Ohio. TZ

Aerial view. Don Coles

Lake St. Clair. Capt. George Haynes

Rock Cut. Todd Davidson

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Thunder Bay. Gene Onchulenko

Unloading Marquette.  Rod Burdick

Rouge River. Mike Nicholls

Marquette ore dock, North side. Lee Rowe

Rouge River. Mike Nicholls

Another view.  Mike Nicholls

Marquette. Lee Rowe

Outbound Muskegon. Scott Golin

Close up after repairs. Al Miller

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