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 Lower St. Clair River, Mar. 28, 2011.

Violet M. Bostwick

-- American Spirit --
(George A. Stinson 1978 - 2004)

by George Wharton

The seventh of thirteen self unloading 1,000-footers built; launched as the George A. Stinson, she was the only one to enter service for the National Steel Corp., Cleveland, OH. The bow and stern sections were completed at American Ship Building Co., Lorain, OH as hull #907 with the mid-body being built at American Ship Building's Toledo, OH yard and towed to Lorain on November 15, 1977. The new self unloader was launched July 15, 1978 with formal christening ceremonies being held August 21, 1978 at Detroit, MI. Named in honor of National Steel Company's Chairman of the Board at the time, Mr. Stinson dedicated the vessel to the city of Detroit and to the people and industry supporting National Steel's Great Lakes Steel Division on Zug Island. Sailing under the management of Hanna Mining Co., the George A. Stinson departed on her maiden voyage October 14, 1978 in ballast to Superior, WI to load iron ore pellets for Zug Island, Detroit, MI. Not only was the George A. Stinson the only "1,000-footer" in the National Steel fleet, it was the fleet's first self unloader. The other members of the fleet in 1978 were all straight deck bulk carriers, namely the George M. Humphrey (2), Leon Falk Jr., and the Paul H. Carnahan.

The George A. Stinson is powered by 2 Pielstick model 16PC2-2V-400 four stoke cycle, single acting 8,000 b.h.p. (5,968 kW) V-16 cylinder diesel engines burning intermediate grade 280 fuel; the engines being built by Fairbanks Morse Engine Division of Colt Industries International, Beloit, WI. The engines drive 2 controllable pitch propellers giving the vessel a rated service speed of 17.3 m.p.h. She is equipped with a 1,000 h.p. (746 kW) bow thruster. The vessel is capable of carrying 62,400 tons (63,402 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28' 11" (8.81m); the cargo being fed into 7 compartments through 36 hatches. The vessel's self unloading system feed's a stern mounted loop belt elevator to a 260' (79.25m) discharge boom that can unload the vessel at a rate of up to 10,000 tons (10,161 mt) per hour. Other capacities include 580 tons (589.4 mt) of fuel oil and 45,069 tons (45,793.4 mt) of ballast water. The self-unloader displaces 15,936 tons (16,192 mt) lightship.

Only three months into her career on the Great Lakes, the American Spirit struck a wall of the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, MI causing an estimated $200,000 in damages. While operating late into her first season, on January 23, 1979; the vessel became stuck in ice north of Port Huron, MI on Lake Huron. Later, on April 17, 1983; the self unloading boom collapsed due to a mechanical failure while unloading at Detroit. She continued operating as a "straight decker" until the boom was replaced on September 20, 1983 at Sturgeon Bay, WI. April 20, 1984 saw the Stinson aground in the St. Clair River near Marine City, MI due to an ice jam. Part of her cargo of iron ore pellets was lightered into the Paul H. Carnahan before she could be freed 4 days later. The vessel was also noted to have run aground while anchoring in heavy fog on September 5, 1996 off Gros Cap.

Skar-Ore Corp., Cleveland, OH assumed ownership of the vessel in 1986; then Stinson, Inc. in 1989 with M. A. Hanna Co. as agents for both owners. With Stinson, Inc. retaining ownership, the vessel was leased to Interlake Steamship Co. in March of 1992. Upon expiration of the lease in 1996, American Steamship Co., Williamsville, NY leased the George A. Stinson. The large self unloader, painted American Steamship colors displaying the National Steel red "N" just in front of her name on either side of her bow, operated on a dedicated basis for National Steel Co. carrying iron ore pellets from various upper lakes ports to its steel mill in Ecorse, MI until May, 2003. Even though the vessel was managed by American Steamship Co., the recently announced pooling of American Steamship and Oglebay Norton fleets (United Shipping Alliance, LLC) exempted the George A. Stinson due to the dedicated National Steel operation.

The George A. Stinson laid up in mid-May, 2003 following the purchase of National Steel by U.S. Steel thus leaving the large self unloader without a cargo contract. The vessel re-entered service on November 10, 2003 (with a freshly repainted bow after the removal of the red "N") upon being chartered by Great Lakes Transportation, Duluth, MN for the remainder of the 2003 navigation season.

In January, 2004 the Stinson entered lay-up at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Among winter projects was the renaming of the vessel. In late February the George A. Stinson name was sandblasted off and the new name American Spirit was painted on. The new name honors "the spirit of the company's workers and the spirit of America" as stated by American Steamship Company's President and CEO Mr. Jerome K. Welsch during the naming ceremony at Sturgeon Bay. The self-unloader's new name was officially registered with the American Bureau of Shipping on March 15, 2004. The American Spirit is now owned, operated and managed by the American Steamship Co. of Williamsville, NY; a wholly owned subsidiary of GATX Corporation of Chicago, IL.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  1,004' 00" (306.0m)
 Beam  105' 00" (32.0m)
 Depth  50' 00" (15.24m)
 Displacement (lightweight)  15,936 tons (16,192 mt)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  62,400 tons (63,402 mt)
 at a draft of 28'10 3/4" (8.81m)
 Power (diesel)  16,000 b.h.p. (11,936 kW)


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Lower S. Clair River, Mar. 28, 2011.
Violet M> Bostwick
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Lower Lake Huron turning at buoys 1 & 2,
Apr. 18, 2011. Marc Dease
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Rock Cut, St. Marys River, May 21, 2011.
Roger LeLievre
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Below Six-Mile Point on the St. Marys River,
Mar. 27, 2011. Roger LeLievre
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St. Clair River, Mar. 28, 2011.
Violet M. Bostwick
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Stern view. Violet M. Bostwick

Downbound lower Lake Huron at Point Edward, ON followed by the Algosteel, Sept. 6, 2008.
Marc Dease

Lower Lake Huron at Point Edward, ON,
Nov. 28, 2008. Marc Dease
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Loading taconite at Superior, WI, May 26, 2009.
Travis Chadwick

Entering the St. Clair River at Point Edward, ON,
June 11, 2008. Wayne Brown

Detroit River, June 11, 2008.
Chuck Wagner

St. Marys River approaching the Rock Cut with the Frontenac in the background, Aug. 30, 2008,
Roger LeLievre

Downbound lower Lake Huron at Point Edward, ON,
Mar. 28, 2008. Marc Dease
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Lake St. Clair, Aug. 4, 2008.
Alex & Max Mager
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Stern silhouette. Alex & Max Mager

West Pier, upbound at the Soo, June 27, 2007.
Lee Rowe

Lake St. Clair, Aug. 26, 2007.
Alex & Max Mager

Stern view. Alex & Max Mager

Passing Kaye Barker. Don Coles

Stern view Lake St. Clair. Wade Streeter

Close up above the Soo Locks. Roger LeLievre

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Lake St. Clair. Wade Streeter

Soo in American Steamship Colors Mark Peabody

In Duluth. Glenn Blaszkiewicz 

Close up. Wade Streeter.

Zug Island. Mike Nicholls

Unloading at Zug Island, Detroit. Todd Davidson

Mission Point. John Belliveau

Stern view Detroit River. N.S.

Delivery by mail boat. N.S.

Supplies loaded. N.S.

Under charter to Interlake passing saltie Marka L. N.S.

St. Clair, Mi 1991. Dave Marcoux

Ambassador Bridge. N.S.

Gaelic tugs assisting. Bill Hoey

Detroit River, Sept. 2004. Mike Nicholls

Downbound, Grassy Island. June 2005.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view, June 2005. Mike Nicholls

Downbound the Detroit River Sept. 11, 2005.
Neil Schultheiss

Starboard view. Neil Schultheiss

Wheelhouse close up.
Neil Schultheiss

Downbound the Detroit River, Aug. 20, 2005.
Mike Nicholls

Being assisted by "G" tugs at Nicholson's on the Detroit River, Aug. 20, 2005. Mike Nicholls

Loading at Two Harbors, MN, May 19, 2006.
Kent Rengo

Under the Bluewater Bridges, Nov. 2006.
Boatnerd Staff

Winter lay-up at Duluth, MN, Mar. 2007.
Andrea Asleson

Close up of wheelhouse. Andrea Asleson


On charter to Interlake. Bill Hoey

Below Mission Point. Roger LeLievre

Downbound approaching the Neebish Island ferry crossing. Jim Lindholm

Loading in Escanaba. Lee Rowe

Another view. Lee Rowe

At the dock. Dick Lund

Lake St. Clair. N. Schultheiss

Another view. N. Schultheiss

Newly renamed in Sturgeon Bay. Dick Lund

Open lake. Don Coles

Unloading Zug Island Don Coles

Close-up of the freshly painted bow in November, 2003. It no longer bears the stylized N representing National Steel Corp. Al Miller

Zug Island. Mike Nicholls

Icy St. Marys River. Paul Beesley

Summer view. St. Marys River. Jim Hoffman

Another aerial views. Don Coles

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

The Soo, March 2005. Lee Rowe

Zug Island, May 2004. Mike Nicholls

Winter lay-up at Toledo, ON, Jan., 2006.
Steve Dains

Lake St. Clair, Oct. 26, 2006.
Alex & Max Mager

Zug Island with the Edwin H. Gott astern,
May 22, 2005. Mike Nicholls

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