Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Cuyahoga
By George Wharton
This "L6-S-A1" type (more commonly known as "Maritimer" class) steel bulk freighter was built in
1943 at an approximate cost of $1.97 million by the American Ship Building Co., Lorain, OH
(hull # 828) as the Mesabi for the
United States Maritime Commission. She was the 10th of 16 such vessels
built in a 2-year period during World War II to carry much needed
iron ore to the steel mills who were mass producing tanks, artillery,
aircraft, and other supplies for the war effort. The "L6-S-A1" was a
plan designation of the Maritime Commission meaning a Great Lakes vessel
(L), 600-699 feet long (6), steam powered (S); the "A" being a specific
design and the "1", a sub-design.
Of the 16 "Maritimer" class bulkers built, 6 were
of the "A1" type built by the American Ship Building Co. in either Lorain or
Toledo, OH. The other 10 were type "L6-S-B1"'s and were built by Great
Lakes Engineering Works in either Ashtabula, OH or River Rouge, MI.
Although all 16 were of identical dimensions, there were more subtle
differences in the 2 types. The A1's were the first boats on the Great
Lakes to be built with a new cruiser stern design and the only lakers to be powered by a
2,500 i.h.p. four crank, double compound steam engine built by Lentz Standard
Marine Engine with 2 coal-fired water-tube boilers made by Combustion
Engineering Co. This power plant was a German-designed engine (ironic
during World War II) which was basically two separate engines placed
end-to-end sending power to a common shaft. The B1's, by contrast, had
different sterns, larger stacks and more traditional 2,500 i.h.p. triple
expansion engines. The other 5 A1's included the Thomas Wilson,
Sewell Avery, Champlain, John T. Hutchinson, and the E.G. Grace (listed in
order of entering service). The J. Burton Ayers was the 5th of the 6
A1's to enter service.
Under an arrangement with the U.S. Maritime
Commission whereby obsolete tonnage was traded for new hulls, the Mesabi was delivered to the Great Lakes
Steamship Co., Cleveland, OH and was immediately renamed J. Burton Ayers. The
vessel's namesake, Mr. Joseph Burton Ayers, was born at Dayton, OH October 8th,
1881. He began working for the Brown Fleet (Capt. W.W. Brown) in 1901.
This fleet merged with other fleets in 1911 becoming the Great Lakes Steamship
Co. Mr. Ayers rose to become general manager of the firm in 1934,
president in 1937; then chairman of the board in 1955, retiring in 1957.
He died February 22nd, 1962. The J. Burton Ayers sailed August 19th, 1943
on her maiden voyage for Great Lakes Steamship Co. in ballast to Duluth, MN to
load iron ore for the lower lakes.
The J. Burton Ayers was capable of carrying 16,300
tons (16,562 tonnes) in 4 holds serviced by 18 hatches at a mid-summer draft of
25' 01/2" (7.63m). The only notable incident while under Great Lakes
ownership occurred on August 10th, 1954 when the Ayers grounded while loading
iron ore at Superior, WI when fill from loose dock pilings lowered the water
levels at the dock. Indented bottom plates resulted with damage costs
being approximately $38,700.
On April 10th, 1957 the Cleveland Plain Dealer
announced the sale of the J. Burton Ayers with her fleet mates J.H. Hillman Jr.
and Richard M. Marshall to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.,
Milwaukee, WI to be chartered for 15 years to and operated by Wilson Marine
Transit Co., Cleveland, OH following the take over of Great Lakes Steamship Co.
by Wilson Transit Marine Co. The laker retained her name but only fit
out in late 1958 (Sept. 26th, 1958 to Dec. 4th, 1958) due to a drop in demand for iron ore and the Ayers being too large
to enter the many of the smaller port locations of Wilson's customers.
This size problem and their higher operating costs plagued the Ayers and her
fleet mates throughout their tenure with Wilson.
Kinsman Marine Transit Co., Cleveland, OH acquired
the J. Burton Ayers in 1973, selling the laker in 1974 to the Oglebay Norton
Co., Cleveland, OH managed by Oglebay Norton's Columbia Transportation Division.
During the winter of 1973/74, the Ayers was converted to a self-unloader by the
American Ship Building Co., Toledo, OH. The self-unloading equipment
consisted of a 2-belt gravity fed system with hydraulic gates and a forward
mounted 250' (76.2m) discharge boom that can swing 100 degrees to port or
starboard. This conversion lowered her capacity to 15,675 tons (15,927
tonnes) at a revised mid-summer draft of 25' 05.5" (7.80m). Her coal
capacity is 12,900 net tons. During the next winter's lay-up, the Ayers'
boilers were converted to oil by G&W Welding Co., Cleveland, OH
There were several notable incidents while sailing
under the Columbia Transportation of which 2 follow. On September 10th,
1980, the J. Burton Ayers grounded at Stoneport, MI resulting in $737,000 of
extensive bottom damage. Following a 3-year lay-up, on September 23rd,
1989, the Ayers grounded off Bois Blanc Island resulting in extensive
bottom damage to 2 starboard ballast tanks. Repairs were made at Toledo,
OH. During December of 1990, the J. Burton Ayers entered lay-up at
Toledo's "Frog Pond" and was formally deactivated on August 5th, 1991 entering
into a long-term lay-up status at Toledo.
On August 1st, 1995; the J. Burton Ayers was sold
Canadian to Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. (Black Creek Shipping Co.), Port Dover, ON
who had her towed from Toledo to Sarnia, ON
for repainting and refit. The self-unloader was the first laker of the newly
formed company. She was renamed Cuyahoga (her first
renaming in 52 years) in November of 1995 and was formally registered Canadian
on November 7th, 1995. The proud laker's new name honors Ohio's
Cuyahoga River, an Indian word meaning "crooked river"; a winding river where
some of her new owner's customers are located. The Cuyahoga left Sarnia in
mid-November on her maiden voyage light to Meldrum Bay, ON for a load of limestone
which was delivered to Cleveland on November 16th.
While at winter lay-up in Sarnia in 1999/00, the
Cuyahoga had her original Lentz steam engine replaced with a new Caterpillar
3608 4-stroke cycle in-line 8 cylinder 3,084 b.h.p. diesel engine burning marine
diesel oil. This new engine has the basic overall dimensions of 18' 03"
(5.56m) long x 5' 08" (1.72m) wide x 8' 08" (2.64m) high with a dry weight of
41,800 lbs. (19,000 kg). During the winter lay-up of 2001/02 at Sarnia, a
KaMeWa controllable pitch propeller was installed. This combination gives
the Cuyahoga a service speed of 12.4 m.p.h. The self-unloader displaces
approximately 6,130 tons (6,228 tonnes) lightweight.
On August 30th, 2002, the Cuyahoga delivered the
first cargo of wheat by a self-unloader to the General Mills Frontier Elevator
in Buffalo, NY. The successful handling of these cargoes by self-unloaders spelled the
end of the services provided by the Kinsman Independent, the last U.S. straight deck bulk carrier in active service
on the Great Lakes. The venerable
self-unloader Joseph H. Frantz was chartered by Great Lakes Associates
(Kinsman) to handle the trade replacing the Kinsman Independent..
The Cuyahoga is the second oldest Canadian
registered lake boat still in active service on the Great Lakes; preceded only by her fleet mate Mississagi. The Mississagi, also a
"Maritimer" class vessel but a "B1" type, entered service only about a month
ahead of the Cuyahoga. The Cuyahoga however, is the sole survivor of the
"A1" class of "Maritimers".
|| 620 '00" (188.98m)||Beam
|| 60' 00" (18.29m)
|| 35' 00" (10.67m)
|| 15,675 tons (19,927 tonnes)
|| 3,084 b.h.p.|
Passing fleetmate Saginaw. C. Parker
In Toledo Ship repair Drydock, April 2001
Arriving Cleveland. TZ
Arriving in Cleveland. TZ
Close up of bow. TZ
Close up of stern. TZ
Stern view. TZ.
Close up. TZ
Bow profile in Cleveland departing salt dock. TZ
1st trip into Windsor. N. Schultheiss
Sarnia lay-up. N. Schultheiss
Backing down the Rouge River. N. Schultheiss
Welland Canal, St. Catharines 8/01.
Under Glendale Ave. bridge, St. Catharines 8/01. G. Wharton
Approaching Lock 4W, Thorold 8/01.
Gaelic tug Shannon towing J. Burton Ayers
outbound Maumee Bay, Aug. 1995 for Sarnia, ON. Jim Hoffman
Close up. Jim Hoffman
Tug Patricia Hoey on the stern.
Click here for pictures of her fitout