Sunday 16 April 2023

General Cargo Vessel EVANS SPIRIT

And then there were "two" jigsaw puzzle 🧩🧩 pieces left to be placed - the general cargo ship's name, EVANS SPIRIT which is a special name because it acknowledges the drive and determination of the hard-working McKeil Marine founder, Evans McKeil who with a 35' wooden boat named MICMAC which he and his father built in a barn in Ancaster, Ontario became a way and means to transport supplies and labourers to worksites during the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1956.  Over the next 40 years, Evans McKeil went on to create the largest tug and barge operation on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Following his father's entrepreneurial outlook when he became company president in 1992, Blair McKeil continued to pursue niche business opportunities by entering the dry bulk carrier market while growing the McKeil Marine fleet to 24 tugs and workboats, 31 barges, and 4 bulk carriers. Later 4 tankers and a cement carrier were added to the fleet. 
Actually the earlier namesake was the veteran tug EVANS MCKEIL which was built in 1936 at the Panama Canal Shipyards in Balboa, Panama and though recently dismantled in Port Maitland, she had worked hard for the Hamilton based McKeil Marine since 1989.

Designed by Conoship International of Groningen, The Netherlands, her name was SPAVALDA when built in 2007 at Royal Niestern Sander Shipyard in Delfzij, NL  and owned by Armamento Setramar of Ravennar Italy.
Her name was changed to EVANS SPIRIT when McKeil Marine purchased the modern shallow draft general cargo vessel in 2017. With a combined deadweight capacity of 15,000 MT in her two holds, the 459'2" EVANS SPIRIT can carry a wide variety of dry bulk cargoes into shallow draft ports with ease. 

Photo of fully loaded EVANS SPIRIT by Pat English
on April 13, 2022 at Loyalist Park near Morrisburg.
Though not needed while being loaded with soybeans at the Port of Johnstown on April 19, 2022, the  EVANS SPIRIT is also fitted with efficient pass-pass cranes (seen amidships on her left or port side in my photos and Pat English's to the left). They are used for loading and discharging of break-bulk cargoes like aluminum slabs, a product McKeil Marine has had a partnerships with Aluminaire Alouette of Sept-Iles, QC since 1992 to transport to multiple Great Lakes ports including Oswego, NY.  

As you can see in these Port of Oswego photos I found on Twitter, the pass-pass cranes are swung towards the dock and while one platform of slabs are lowered to the dock, the other platform is lowered into the ship's hold. According to Captain Dave Yager who has mastered the EVANS SPIRIT along with other McKeil Marine vessels, forklifts are lowered into the holds to position stacks of 700 kg aluminum slabs onto the lifting platforms while dockside forklifts remove the stacked slabs and transport them into the dock warehouse or awaiting flatbeds which take them to the local Novelis plant which makes them into aluminum sheets used in the automotive industry. Meanwhile, loaded and unloading platforms continue to be swung or passed over until the ship is empty. Quite an innovated process which enables McKeil Marine to provide enhanced service to Alluminaire Alouette and the stevedores at the Port of Oswego. And once unloaded, the hard work and spirit of Evans McKeil is underway to take on another dry bulk cargo like grain at the Port of Johnstown or more aluminum slabs at Sept-Iles. Who knows, but if there's a will, there's a way it seems for McKeil Marine.

Had a lot of fun with this puzzle. Piecing the old grain elevator was which was built almost 100 years ago was quite the challenge. More Carlz Boats Jigsaws 🧩 will be posted soon. Meanwhile, click here to complete this one if you haven't already done so: Stay Well c):-D

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Ice Strengthened Expedition Ship OCEAN EXPLORER

And then there was one piece left in my latest jigsaw puzzle to be placed. Not a logo or a flag this time around but instead this piece featured something most of us boatnerds probably had never seen before prior to this shipping season, a deckhand standing on a platform extended out of the bow of the uniquely designed passenger ship OCEAN EXPLORER just feet above Iroquois Lock's water level on September 6, 2022. 

The upbound 342.5' OCEAN EXPLORER was one of about seven foreign flagged passenger ships to cruise along the Seaway and Great Lakes for most of last summer. After two shipping seasons of seeing virtually no cruise ship passages due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was pretty amazing to see all of these huge liners and for me especially, this one again with its unique ULSTEIN CX130 reversed bow.

OCEAN EXPLORER has a beam of 59' which allows her slightly more the a 10' of play in the 80' wide lock. Her width would normally allow vessels her size the ability to stay dead centre in the chamber and slip through the guard lock quite quickly once the outer gates are opened.  However on that day the 162 passenger vessel was encountering strong winds and with gusts of approximately 30km/hr and since Iroquois Lock is not equipped with Hands-free Mooring equipment like the flight locks, tying her up was going to be needed. 

The "fo'c's'le" or "forecastle" which is pronounced "fok-sell" (easy for me to say 😬), is the forward deck of a ship. It derives its name from sailing ships days when the raised forward deck was known as the fore-castle, a typically raised, castle like platform for archers to shoot down on enemy ships, and as a defensive stronghold if the ship were boarded. Also as it was then and on most vessels we see on the Great Lakes these days, essential machinery used for anchoring and tying off a ship is located on that forward deck. Not the case as you can see for the OCEAN EXPLORER with its inverted X-Bow, as her "fo'c's'le" is located below deck beneath an attractive forward observation area. 
While it great that her anchor windlass and tie-off winches are well protected from harsh salty seas, getting a line ashore is another matter. Quite a delicate operation as seen in these pics of the deckhand feeding a line to the right of the wheelhouse so that a deckhand there can toss it below to the lock linesman.

With the lines secured, it's all stop as first the gate arrester is lowered...

...then the bascule bridge...the gates are almost closed in the background too.

Due to the winds forcing the levels downstream, the built in 2021 ice-strengthened expedition ship is raised about a foot that day to Lake Ontario levels.

The patented ULSTEIN X-bow design on OCEAN EXPLORER offers her the ability to navigate with improved stability in comparison to the traditional bow designs. X-bow vessels are less subject to vertical motions induced by waves continuing on course smoothly while maintaining her top speed of 16 knots.  Also her engines use less fuel resulting in reduced air emissions and fuel consumption.

Iroquois Lock's west end gates begin to open....

...the lock's linesman stands ready by the snubbing post to let go of the line...

...not a commander's salute like what Meg Meakin gets every time a ship passes by her neighbour's Thousand Island dock, but instead a single blast from the EXPLORER's horn signals it's time let go the lines...

...the linesman pulls up the loosened but still heavy mooring line...

...and then walks it towards lock wall...

...line is let go...

...then hauled into the"fo'c's'le" from the lowered platform...

...the platform raises and time to get underway...

I got myself a big wave from a ship's officers which moments earlier was spot the distance to lock wall as the American owned but flagged the Bahamas OCEAN EXPLORER makes another trip into the Great Lakes. 

Before returning this spring along with her sister OCEAN POLARIS, the Polar Class 6 ice breaking cruise ships built with the capability to cut through a metre or 3 feet of ice, will have been exploring the south seas around Antarctica during our winter months. Now that's a voyage I'll definitely be adding to my bucket list. 


Thanks again Alan Wooller for your technical assistance. Enjoy your upcoming shipping season on the veteran 730' gearless bulk carrier, TIM S.DOOL. I have photographed her many times including when named SENNEVILLE I got her at Ramey's Bend when then she was the first downbound laker to enter and transit the new 8 mile long Welland Bypass on March 28, 1973. 

It was a big day because previously ships would have to make a fairly sharp turn to the left at "Ramey's Bend" (when the location was actually a change in direction) and continue along a narrow and fairly straight channel for a time. After passing beneath Bridge 18, which my dad use to operate in Dain City and I rode a few times too, a downbound would pass under four more lift and by a swing bridge before cutting through the heart of Welland's busy downtown core. While I have many fun memories of those days, many others were frustrated with the delays and the car traffic gridlock that happened when especially the Main Street bridge, #13 went up for one or sometimes more vessels. It was as it was but the outcries resulted in the excavation of a bigger ditch, with two tunnels to keep the car and rail traffic moving and fairly straight and much wider channel between Port Colborne and Port Robinson. It was the definition of progress then and still today almost 50 years later.

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Port of Oshawa Regulars: Tugboats SANDRA MARY and LA PRAIRIE

655'10" bulk carrier HELENA G unloading steel at the port on August 21, 2019

Thank goodness for the Port of Oshawa. I cannot tell you how many times it has been my release. My breath of fresh air. An eyes wide open relax app. Wherever it is that you jump on Ontario's multi-lane super highway 401, from that moment forward it's go-go NOW, or get the HECK out of my way.  It's nuts and just as you start motoring along at a comfortable speed it's suddenly dead stop and crawl for the next 60 kilometres east until you are at Harmony, the road exit off the 401 rat-race, that is. Harmony actually becomes Farewell Street which you continue for a bit until you turn right on Harbour Road, and then left on Simcoe Street South to the parking lot at Lakeview Park. Kill the engine and after maybe a two minute walk past more often crashing waves onto the park's long Lake Ontario beach, you're there, a boat watchers heaven with few limitation to catch saltie bulk carriers, tankers and Great Lakes self unloader offering in-your-face action on the other side of the pier, or sometimes both. Oh YAAA 👍🚢👍   

Our insanity break at the Port of Oshawa during our homebound run on Sunday, December 4th was extra special, catching two salties along the east side wharf. The backed-in  656' FEDERAL CLYDE appeared ready to unload but strong winds off Lake Ontario perhaps delayed that activity. Just arrived earlier in the day from the Port of Johnstown where I caught her Friday afternoon unloading behind a high pile of road salt was the 474'9" heavy lift general cargo vessel BBC SONG.   
Both fine looking ships but what caught my eye along the Port's inner wharf were two little toots, the McNally Construction tug SANDRA MARY and Groupe Océan's LA PRAIRIE.
McNally fleetmate WHITBY working at Oshawa harbour entrance on July 20.
The twin screw 80' SANDRA MARY was built in 1962 at Russel Brothers Ltd. of Owen Sound for C.A. Pitts Construction of Toronto and named FLO COOPER after the owner's wife. According to the Russel Bros. Archive website, for many years FLO was involved in many marine projects including the Nanticoke coal unloading dock, Montreal's Bickerdale Pier, Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station, the Confederation Bridge to PEI and Hibernia. In 2000, the powerful tug was sold to McNally Construction of Hamilton and renamed SANDRA MARY. Since then the largest tug in the McNally fleet has been involved in the dredging and construction trade along the Atlantic coastline and Great Lakes.  

SANDRA MARY below Welland Canal Lock 1 on April 12, 2006 by Capt. Paul Beesley of St. Catharines
Photo courtesy: 

The other compact and very versatile tug tied off along that wall was the 73'9" LA PRAIRIE. The also twin screw harbour tug was built in 1975 for the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority at East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PEI.

In 2002, LA PRAIRIE was sold to Quebec City based Groupe Océan which operates a fleet of 35 tugs and workboats and they all look immaculate whenever you see them. All very impressive looking tugs. 

From early spring until late autumn, LA PRAIRIE works on Lake Ontario  conducting harbour tug duties such as towing or berthing vessels when needed in Hamilton, Toronto and Oshawa. 

However just like this past weekend LA PRAIRIE makes her annual passage to Montreal and becomes available to conduct icebreaking operations along the South Shore Canal between St. Lambert and Côte Ste-Catherines Locks. That's where LA PRAIRIE was going when I caught her pushing water by the Port of Johnstown in these two photos on December 11, 2020. Eric Vice, who is a member of my Facebook ship watching group mentioned to me about LA PRAIRIE's amazing maneuverability which allows her to complete a 180 degree turn in a seaway lock which is useful when flushing ice flows out or scraping chunks of ice off the walls to keep the lock at its maximum 80' width. 

Once the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed for the shipping season, LA PRAIRIE then makes her way to her homeport of Sorel where she's used to transfer river pilots on a frozen St. Lawrence. 

On my first rendezvous with LA PRAIRIE she was entering Iroquois Lock while bound for Oshawa on April 28, 2015. For more information about this cute little toot and her owners, check out my original blogpost

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Downbound Bulk Carrier FEDERAL DELTA at Windmill Point - August 16, 2021

09:44 - Her red hull and khaki coloured cranes and superstructure offers quite the contrast as the far distant 656' FEDERAL DELTA approaches on another hot and hazy summer day.
09:46 - Built in 2018 at Oshima, Japan, the FEDERAL DELTA is one of 48 laker-type bulk carriers in Montreal-based Fednav's 120 vessel fleet.
09:48 - Having unloaded in Hamilton, the Marshall Island-flagged DELTA is bound for Sorel, below Montreal.
09:48 - Other than the white-cap at her bow, the frequent visitor to the Great Lakes makes virtually no wake on this flat wide section of the St. Lawrence.
09:50 - Whether laden or in ballast like on Monday, her top speed is 14 knots (16 mph) though motoring here at about 10 knots or 18.5 kph.
09:51 - No cause for alarm as a few local anglers keep their distance while FEDERAL DELTA passes a  port hand buoy.

09:53 - FEDERAL DELTA  has 4 cranes to unload 35 metric tonnes of cargo in each grab from her 6 holds which can carry 41, 651 cubic metres of grain.
09:55 - Her folding hydraulic hatch covers are partially opened to air-out her holds during this downbound passage.
09:55 - She has a lesser obtrusive bulbous bow than most salties that we see trading on the Great Lakes.
09:56 - FEDERAL DELTA gracefully glides by the former windmill/lighthouse at the Battle of the Windmill National Historical Site while bound for the Port of Sorel where she is currently loading cargo.
Interesting meet beneath the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.
Next up: 
Classic straight-deck bulk carrier OJIBWAY upbound at the Port of Johnstown.