Sunday 7 December 2014


As the upbound CCGS GRIFFON motors beyond Bridge 21 in Port Colborne on Thursday, Nov. 27, the usually working tug JARRETT M rests a spell along the West Street wall waiting for her fleetmate, EVANS MCKEIL to arrive from Toledo, Ohio with her scrap tow, the classic American self unloader AMERICAN FORTITUDE. Just like any job, you take your break when you can because you don't know when the next one will come along. Such was case for the EVANS who had the sole responsibility to deliver the once mighty 690' FORTITUDE almost the full length of Lake Erie down to the Welland Canal entrance at Port Colborne, a slow pace 40 hour plus journey that would normal take less than 16 hours at full speed. Later that evening, JARRET M's siesta came to an end, as she took on a line and positioned herself beyond AMERICAN FORTITUDE's stern. There, the JARRETT took up the task of acting as the tow's rudder and reversed engine when needed while EVANS MCKEIL continued to lead the way into Port Colborne harbour. As Nathan Attard's snap below shows, the FORTITUDE looked no worse that most active lakers as she sits tied off to the east wall. While parked there, the old self unloader was inspected by Seaway officials before her passage through the system could commence. Nice couple of snaps there Nathan!! c):-))
When launched at American Shipbuilding of Lorain, Ohio in November 1952 for National Steel of Cleveland, she was a traditional "straightdecker" and her name was ERNEST T. WEIR. Though coal was a known cargo, she primarily hauled iron ore from north Superior to the steel mills in Cleveland. In one transit across Lake Superior, the WEIR was not far from where another famous ore carrier sank on November 10, 1975, the EDMUND FITZGERALD. In 1978 ERNEST T. WEIR was sold to the Oglebay Norton subsiary, Columbia Transportation and the ship ironically became the flagship for their fleet, replacing the ill-fated FITZGERALD. Soon after, her name was changed to COURTNEY BURTON and then the straightdecker was converted to a self unloader in 1981 at Bay Shipbuilding of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. In 2006, the BURTON and her six fleetmates were sold to the American Steamship Company of Williamsville, New York. To commemorated America's proud and brave heritage, each of the sisters were given a new name. They were AMERICAN VALOR, AMERICAN COURAGE, AMERICAN VICTORY, AMERICAN INTEGRITY, AMERICAN CENTURY, and the COURTNEY BURTON became known as AMERICAN FORTITUDE. With a new name and owner, the FORTITUDE kept herself busy throughout the Great Lakes hauling iron ore, coal, stone, sand, salt and bulk agriculture products like grain and oats until she went into longterm layup at Toledo, Ohio in 2008. No longer of use and with her proud name painted over, the FORTITUDE left her Great Lakes berth in the wee hours of November 26th bound for Brownsville, Texas to be cut up for scrap.
Inspection completed and a pilot aboard the EVANS MCKEIL, the slow going downbound scrap tow got underway early Saturday morning, on November 29th. Regardless of her name, the tow was no stranger to the Welland Canal. In 2005 COURTNEY BURTON transited the canal on her way to Hamilton where she took on a load of grain destined for Buffalo, New York via the Welland Canal.
After clearing Port Weller at about 8 PM Saturday evening, the lumbering threesome skirted along the north shore of New York state while transiting Lake Ontario to the Thousand Island and St Lawrence River. My friend Shaun Judge snapped these shots of the FORTITUDE and her escorts motoring along near Mallorytown on December 1st.
She probably would have been motoring along at a pretty good clip the last time she passed by this section of the seaway in 1959.
Then her name was ERNEST T. WEIR, carrying ore destined for Cleveland from Sept Isle, Quebec which became a new source of the raw mineral due to the then recent opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In lead position, the 110' and 23 tonne bollard pull EVANS MCKEIL continues to provide the thrust needed to get her tow moving closer to a transfer point at Quebec City where an ocean-going tug was to takeover the line and complete the tow to Brownsville. By the way, EVANS MCKEIL was built in 1936 at the Panama Canal Shipyards in Balboa, Panama and has worked hard for the Hamilton based McKeil Marine since 1989.
Nice thru & thru shot of the bow thruster there Shaun. c):-o

Though she appears to be tagging along for the ride, the 82' JARRETT M must always be at the ready to crank on her twin screws and powerful 2000 horse power engine to keep her tow on line and away from the low-water shoals that has been an annoyance for many seaway transits this year.
When built for McQueen Marine in 1945 at Russell Brothers in Owen Sound, Ontario, her name was ATOMIC, a name she kept until 2006 when it was changed to JARRETT M.

Just mile away from completing the delicate passage through the Seaway and then on down to the deeper and open waters of the St. Lawrence River, the scrap tow came to a dead stop just below Cote Ste. Catherine lock last Wednesday. Initially it was said the unscheduled mooring was simply a precaution due to strong winds blowing through further down on the river beyond Montreal. Then yesterday the lead tug EVANS MCKEIL left the tow and got underway "upbound" and is currently positioned on Lake Ontario beyond Prince Edward County, and motoring at full speed westward for reasons unknown. Meanwhile, the EILEEN MCALLISTER, the tug that was supposed to takeover the tow and deliver her Brownsville, Texas, departed her berth in Quebec City yesterday too and appears to be heading at full speed to her homeport of New York City. As for the JARRETT M and her crew, it appears another extended break is in order and whether sitting idle in Toledo for eight years or doing the same along a seaway pier in Quebec, the inevitable of being cut up as scrap simply gets delayed another day, or week or several months if the AMERICAN FORTITUDE has been moved beyond St. Lambert Lock when the Seaway closes for the season on December 31st. This scrap tow ain't going to be over until it's over. c);-b To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. The AMERICAN FORTITUDE is now tied off in the harbor in Oswego, NY.