Though currently looking like so many tugs that we see motoring along throughout the Great Lakes with an elevated wheelhouse, the nicely painted and well maintained McKeil Marine tug looked more like a common harbour tug for most of her 61 year career. Her name was ALHAJUELA when she was built in 1936 by the Panama Canal Company of Balboa, Panama, along with her sister, the ARRAIJAN (both named after cities in Panama). The riveted steel hulled ALHAJUELA was used for a variety of maintenance tasks while working for the Panama Canal Mechanical Division including assisting ships at Caribbean entrance to the canal while based at Cristobal Harbor. Tragedy struck the tug and crew in 1942 when while pushing a barge laden with aviation fuel, she collided with a U.S. Navy seaplane. Though I haven't been able to find out much about the crash, I can only image it had to be a horrific scene as several crew members were killed. Though damaged severely, the ALHAJUELA was rebuilt and continued to work on the Panama until she was purchased by Malcolm Marine of St. Clair, Michigan and brought up to the Great Lakes in the summer 1970.
Along with transporting the company barges needed for various marine construction, dredging and salvage operations, the newly named BARBARA ANN, (after the owner's wife), was used for towing and berthing huge lakers, and also icebreaking. For a boat that had worked so many years on the hot and humid climes of the Panama Canal zone, the BARBARA ANN performed extremely well when freeing the ore carriers MATHEW ANDREWS and HENRY FORD II from the lower Lake Huron ice on April 22, 1972 and six years later when she came to the aid of the Algoma self unloader ALGOWAY that had been stuck inside Goderich's break wall for 12 days in January 1979. That task continued for the BARBARA ANN throughout the 80's breaking up ice jams to prevent flooding along the St. Clair and the meandering Sydenham River near Wallaceburg. Quite often BARBARA ANN would teamed up with fleetmate tug, MALCOLM, like completing the scrap-tow of six lakers from Duluth to Quebec City for dismantling overseas during he summer of 1980 and for what had to be an engine failure or steering problem on the ALGOLAKE, the two tugs towed and sometimes hipped to the side of the 730' Algoma self unloader from Lake Superior to Nanticoke on Lake Erie to discharge her cargo and then to Port Colborne in late October 1983. When the GEORGE SLOAN (currently Lower Lakes Towing's MISSISSAGI) bottomed the St. Clair River at Port Huron in May 1988, the BARBARA ANN pushed her off and she was there to assist a month later when the Malcolm Marine crane barge RELIEF salvaged a fish tug sunk in lower Lake Huron. To read more about all various work activities complete the BARBARA ANN and other fleetmates, check this site (http://www.malcolmmarine.com/history.htm). Though it appears the Malcolm Marine story hasn't been updated for some time, the site still has some wonderful background information about the family-owned company.
|EVANS McKEIL near Mallorytown Landing Dec. 1, 2014 |
- Photo by Shaun Judge.
|Cement barge METIS in ballast in Toronto - Sept. 24, 2014|
The 23 tonne bollard pull of the EVANS McKEIL was taken to task when she lead the former Canadian Navy Oberon-class training submarine HMS OLYMPUS (S12) which was cradled on the also Hamilton-based Heddle Marine floating drydock, HM DOCK1 from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Port Maitland on Lake Erie for dismantling in July 2011.
|EVANS McKEIL leads the way for the AMERICAN FORTITUDE tow Dec. 1, 2014 - Photo by Shaun Judge.|
|JARRET M working the stern for the AMERICAN FORTITUDE tow Dec.1, 2014|
Photo by Shaun Judge.
|Taken from Lock 3. Only one fence there! c):-D|
Today the EVANS McKEIL is tied off at the Picton Terminal Dock in Prince Edward County which is where she's been all winter. I initially thought she may have been sent there to keep the narrow and winding Bay of Quinte channels clear of ice if the cement carrier STEPHEN B. ROMAN visited the nearby Essroc plant during the winter months if weather permitted. But that wasn't the case as the ROMAN remained in Toronto until recently and even then, there was no ice to be seen due to the mild winter that was experienced by everyone it seems other than "poor old us 😩" living here in the Ottawa Valley. NOT ⛄ FAIR!! c):-()
Meanwhile, the EVANS is not the only tugboat currently parked at the Picton dock. Also there now are McKeil's 82' JARRET M, which worked as the stern tug for the AMERICAN FORTITUDE tows, the 120' SALVOR which was the first downbound I snapped last year (http://carlzboats.blogspot.ca/2016/04/tug-barge-salvor-and-lambert-spirit.html) along with the LAMBERT SPIRIT, and the feisty Nadro Marine of Port Dover tug, the 57' SEAHOUND.
I sure hope it's not the end of the line for these veteran workhorses, but if it is, Picton and Prince Edward County is the ideal place for that to happen. By the way, they a lovely golf ⛳ course there that's situated along the bay. The first hole, a par 3, edges the shoreline and if you slice the ball to the right like I generally do, you'll need scuba gear to find it. No, you won't hit the EVANS McKEIL if she still there, but let's hope that she's back underway again, just to be safe, eh! 😁
With the barge refloated and her work completed, EVANS McKEIL has returned to service on the Great Lakes and is now paired with the 340' dry bulk cargo barge NIAGARA SPIRIT. According to MarineTraffic, the dynamic duel is currently making their way to Hamilton but since she's upbound and situated southeast of Pelee Island on Lake Erie, I don't believe that to be the case. However regardless of where she's going, it's simply great to see that the legendary tug EVANS McKEIL is working and not dead yet.
|Assisting AMERICAN VICTORY scrap tow at Lock #3 at Beauharnois - June 27, 2018|