Saturday 23 March 2013

Self Unloader JOHN B. AIRD (Revisited)

Since the end of December, lakers of all sizes, dimensions and appearance berth for the winter at a variety of ports along Great Lakes and Montreal. During this approximate 3 month lay-up period a revitalization occurs for the ship and her crew as any repairs or servicing that maybe needed without actually being put in dry dock, gets completed by an army of contractors and company maintenance experts, while most crew members receive a well earned rest and relaxation time with their families. This appeared to be the case for the 730' Algoma Central self unloader JOHN B. AIRD which I snapped above Lock 8 in Port Colborne, Ontario last February.      

 Also during this period when the system is shut down due to severe winter weather and ice conditions, the canal's equipment gets re-energized too. Any greasing or lubrication that's needed on bridges, arresters and gates are completed by canal workers all along the seaway from the Soo to St. Lambert Lock. Many locks are emptied so that valves and sections of gates that are normally submerged throughout the season, gets a thorough inspection and repaired if required.  Hey look, there's the RT HON PAUL J. MARTIN ( also laid up above Lock 8 during the winter of 2005.
One winter after church my dad allowed me a lock inspection of my own. That's me dressed to the nines while standing in a puddle at the bottom of the emptied Lock 8. Does life get any better? That was one of the cool things about having a dad who worked on the canal. However, that was then and this is now as another winter lay-up has ended and a new shipping season began on March 22.

Yesterday at 1403, the JOHN B. AIRD, which is named after a former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, let go her lines and got under way for Thunder Bay located along the north shore of Lake Superior. For whatever reason the AIRD was built in two sections. The 610' stern section was constructed at Collingwood Shipyards on Georgian Bay and then towed to Port Arthur Shipyard in Thunder Bay where her 120' forward section which included an ice-strengthened bulbous bow was welded on. I'm certain her unique bow will be taken to task more than once as the JOHN B. AIRD makes her way through several ice fields and jams during her long journey to the Lakehead and her partial birthplace. I'm sure her crew is looking forward to that. 

Update - January 18, 2018:

She's now gone but not forgotten.....

My last opportunity to photograph the JOHN B. AIRD was on April 3, 2017 as the hardworking lady entered the Port of Ogdensburg while on her last downbound passage. As others like her rested in ports throughout the Great Lakes, the AIRD continued to work the ice fields off Goderich and the Strait of Mackinac to deliver road salt to U.S. ports until mid-February. After a short winter layup in Sarnia, it was also road salt that needed to be discharged at Ogdensburg and then Johnstown across the St. Lawrence River before making her way to Montreal and the end of her sailing days. To read more about her final transit, check out:       

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