Saturday 24 January 2015

Self Unloader ROGER BLOUGH

"There's a big laker called the ROGER BLOUGH
With a last name that actually rhymes with COW
Though she was built strong and tough,
To haul iron ore and other stuff, 
Her wide curvy stern makes her look like SOW."
A limerick of the ROGER BLOUGH. YES!! c):-) Well maybe not a great limerick, like the one about a man from Nantucket, whose daughter ran off with his money-laden bucket to Pawtucket, or something like that, but at least all the rhymes kind of work, and according to one of the clerks at the Poe Lock information centre, the BLOUGH is known to move very slow like a lazy over-grown pig when transiting the 1200' lock (not his exact words, BTW) 
Though not a 1000 footer per se, the 858'x105' BLOUGH appeared fully loaded and since she had only two and half feet to spare on either side of the lock wall, you can appreciate the "all ahead slow" directive because having the BLOUGH -  "PLOUGH" into a fender or gate is not something any skipper wants on a resume, eh. c):-o

All kidding and innuendos aside, the ROGER BLOUGH has been a unique ship since construction on this classic straighdecker began in 1968 at the American Shipbuilding Company yards in Lorain, Ohio for the USS Great Lakes fleet of Duluth, Minnesota. Built as two sections, the ROGER BLOUGH was christened in June 1972 and named after the retired Chairman of the Board of the United States Steel Corporation.
Though she gives the appearance of a gearless bulk carrier, the BLOUGH is actually a self unloader. Instead of the typical long boom rising high above her decks, the BLOUGH is equipped with a specially designed shuttle type transverse self unloading boom that you can see located below decks behind the engine room at her "sow-looking" curvy stern. SOOEY!! c):-o Meanwhile, when discharging her load of talconite pellets from the iron ranges along Lake Superior, the boom is extended 54 feet on either side of the BLOUGH into compatible hoppers at the US Steel docks in Gary, Indiana, South Chicago, Illinois and Conneaut, Ohio. The ROGER BLOUGH is capable of carrying almost 44 thousand tons of iron ore pellets, and when fully operational, her transverse boom can unload at a rate of 10,000 tons an hour. What a racket that must make, eh? c)8-() Note to Self: Hold off "Power Nap" until this big baby gets underway or when she lays up for winter which she just did this week at Erie, Pennsylvania.
However, though not as much a hassle as when "Polar Vortex" created Lake Superior ice put a hole in her hull at the beginning of this year's delayed shipping season, her journey home was also extremely slow going until US and Canadian icebreakers came to the rescue and helped the BLOUGH plough through the ice-jammed St. Clair River and then underway to her well deserved end of season rest. Ahhh c);-b

Sunday 18 January 2015

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger VEGA

It's not my fault. I'm a boatnerd and I got spoiled during our first winter vacation in Cuba where a day didn't go by without at least one saltie poke herself over the horizon and then motor past our resort just east of Havana at Playa del Esta. There were tankers, bulk and container ships, an albacore fish factory trawler and this "hippo-looking" monstrosity of a ship, the 656' car carrier MORNINGSTAR CONDUCTOR YES!!c):-b

Though I didn't see anything motoring along the horizon last year when we vacationed at Varadero, this year I lucked out real good from another Varadero resort which was located near the end of the 20 kilometre sand-spit peninsula. Though I wasn't able to capture her hull in the snap below as she disappeared over the horizon, it's easy to make out her tall stack and rising aft superstructure. Also, if you look a little further to the right, you can see her white bow mast popping up. My guess is she was a tanker and fairly long based on the distance from the bridge and the forward mast. Exciting stuff eh!! c):-()

When we took the double-decker bus down to the Varadero marina at the end of the peninsula, I lucked out again. First because the new commercial mall there had free wifi whether you were a hotel guest or not, and most importantly parked beyond the catamaran sailboat docks was a boat, the 184' ferry and cargo ship PLUTON. c):-))  Built in Greece in 1966, the PLUTON loads vehicles, truck or whatever, by lowering her partially flattened bow much like a landing craft. COOL!! When we returned to the Marina later the week, the PLUTON had just left her dock and was motoring easterly out Bahia de Cardenas towards one of the nearby Cayos.
Meanwhile, as the landing craft/ferry sailed away, I couldn't help but notice a familiar looking vessel parked in about the same area where the PLUTON was parked earlier in the week. Though it appeared that a large hydraulic shovel was loading something into it, I was certain it was a trailing suction hopper dredger much like the OCEAN TRAVERSE NORD, which I saw near Prescott, Ontario in May 2013. Feel free to check out my post about her:
The name of my mystery red hulled boat was VEGA and after researching for info about her background, I found out that she in fact was a dredger and like the OCEAN TRAVERSE NORD, after sucking silt and sediment from the shallow bottom, the VEGA's contents can be blasted ashore from a huge nozzle you can see at her bow, or dropped freely in deeper water when the hull is opened at her keel. Built in Holland in 1969, the VEGA flies the flag of Cuba and like the PLUTON, is owned by Sermar of Havana.

Though tied off when I saw her last week in Varadero, the VEGA is actively being used to remove sediment due to harsh seas in the many "pocket bays" where current ports like Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos are located. Since most of Cuba's current imports and exports pass through these ports, deepening the bays are essential especially to allow American deep-draft container ship that may soon be transferring cargo as the US embargo with Cuba continues to be lifted. According to those who we talked to last week in Varadero, the Cuban people will be welcoming American commerce with open arms. So what's wrong with a little proactive planning to ensure all obstacles are removed when the business returns. After all, for the first time we were able to buy American made Coca-Cola and Pringles in Cuba. Junk or not, more is on its way. No doubt about it.

Thursday 1 January 2015


As 2014 came to an end at midnight yesterday, so did the shipping season for the St. Lawrence Seaway including the Welland Canal which meant all remaining salties had to scurry to get out of the system or face  a potentially gruesome Great White North winter at a Great Lakes port. Such was the case for the small British tanker, JACKSON PRINCESS which remained locked in the ice of Hamilton harbour during the winter of 1959-60. c):-o
It looked like a similar fate could happen this season as several salties remained anchored off Port Weller earlier this week waiting for a required pilot to become available to guide their way through the Seaway channels and locks to the lower river, and then eventually the Atlantic Ocean and home. The last ship through St. Lambert Lock at about midnight was the 473' Gibraltar flagged tanker STEN BERGEN. Unfortunately my day job prevented me this week from getting any snaps of the BERGEN or even the second to last downbound, that exited out of the waterway hours earlier, the 624' FEDERAL KUSHIRO. However I do have a few snaps here of the KUSHIRO that I took in May 2013.
On that day, I first snapped her passing the downbound self unloader CSL TADOUSSAC below Iroquois Lock....
....and then she continued to slowly position herself near the entrance of the original Iroquois lock beyond the current lock's lift bridge...

...there the almost motionless FEDERAL KUSHIRO patiently waited for another downbound bulker to exit the lock...
...which appeared to be the once former Fednav fleetmate, and now CSL owned,  BIRCHGLEN
So you thought FEDERAL KUSHIRO was sitting high out of the water. Check out these snaps taken in May 2009 by my fellow boatnerd, Ron Beaupre of another Fednav fleetmate and featured last week in Carlz Boats, the 607' FEDERAL MATTAWA BIG BOATS!! c);-b
BTW, to find out more about other salties that didn't quite make it out of the Great Lakes before the navigation season ended, be sure to check out a new series in the "News Channels" page of ( entitled "Frozen In" by veteran Great Lakes boat expert/writer, Skip Gilham. It'll give you something to read as we "Escape from old man Winter" for a week in the Hot Hot HOT climes of Varadero, Cuba. Hasta luego, BABY!! c):-))