Saturday 5 January 2013

Self Unloader LEE A. TREGURTHA (Part 2)

When my friend, Jim Moyer of Salisbury, Maryland took these photos of the 826' LEE A. TREGURTHA in the summer of 2010, she was making her way downbound via the Poe Lock which is currently the longest lock in the Great Lakes measuring 1,200 feet. The Poe was expanded to its current length in 1968 and is one of four 'Soo' locks located at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The lock allows lakers greater than 800 to be raised or lowered 21 feet for passage into Lake Superior or Huron as Jim's photos show. 
The TREGURTHA was originally built as a 510' tanker in 1942 and distinguishly served in WWII as USS CHIWAWA (AO 68). After the war, the CHIWAWA continued to shuttle oil products along the eastern seaboard for Cities Service Oil Co. until Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co., purchased her in 1960, with plans to lengthen and convert her into a Great Lake ore carrier.
At American Shipbuilding in Lorain, OH, the bow and stern were removed from the tanker and attached to a new 510' mid-body that was built in Germany. When christened in 1961, her length was 730' and she was named WALTER A. STIRLING. When another 96' was added in 1976, she came the largest steam powered vessel on the Great Lakes. In 1978 the STIRLING was converted to a self unloader and in her name was changed to WILLIAM CLAY FORD when the ship was purchased by a Ford Motor Co. subsidiary in 1984. When sold to Interlakes 
Shipping in 1989 her name was changed to LEE A. TREGURTHA and she was converted from steam to diesel fuel powered on 2006. Tonight the TREGURTHA is making her way across Lake Superior to Poe Lock (which closes for the winter in January 15), and then motor further downbound to Cleveland. When and where the TREGURTHA finally lays up for winter, she will have sailed the high and inland seas for over 70 years. Unlike many of her sisters that have since been left for scrap, the TREGURTHA keeps on motoring because first, her owners have taken good care of her, and secondly she was built right and made to last by those dedicated American yard workers at Bethlehem Shipbuilders in 1942 and during her conversions and upgrades on the Great Lakes. 

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