Sunday 8 February 2015

Articulated Tug & Barge EVERLAST & NORMAN McLEOD (Revisited)

Me at Port Colborne's West Street winter lay-up in 1955 (:-)
As long as I can remember while growing up in Port Colborne in the 1950's and 60's, when the Welland Canal closed for the season just before Christmas, a different way of life began. First it was clear passage for walkers and motorists as the bridges did not move for close to 3 month. Almost instantly, lakers took their positions along the outer harbour's east side and West Street walls or above and below Lock 8 almost to Ramey's Bend. Crews could be seen securing lines, anchors, and shore ladders to the wall below along with other "hunkering-down" for winter activities. Soon after, the bulk of the crew were on their way home to reacquaint with their families while a skeleton crew remained onboard to keep watch of the ship and assist marine contractors and handlers responsible for upgrades and other odd jobs to prepare for the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, like the crew member's kids, I got to see more of my dad who during the regular shipping season worked all kinds of crazy shifts as a canal bridge operator and then lockmaster at Lock 8. Once the canal closed though, he worked mostly days doing maintenance jobs along the canal or waterwatch at Lock 8, which like in the snap below, was a job that required him to monitor the pumps that continually emptied water from the bottom of the lock so that annual maintenance checks and repairs could be competed. Winter lay-up was like an extended holiday or an opportunity for many to re-energize or continue life at a slower pace. It may also have been an opportunity to fire up old relationships. I wonder what the birthrate was in the autumn that followed a "winter lay-up". Two of my younger sisters were born in late September. Hmmm!! c):-o

That's the RT HON PAUL J. MARTIN in the background in this March 2005 snap along with Port Colborne's third bridge which means at least one was down at all time for vehicles or pedestrians to cross to the other side.
While laying-up for winter continues to occur, it just seems to be starting later every year for many fleets including two of the three CSL self unloaders that are laying up at Port Colborne (WHITEFISH BAY and RT HON PAUL J. MARTIN) but didn't arrive until the last few days of January.
Meanwhile it business as usual for many other self unloading lakers the CAPT. HENRY JACKMAN which continues to haul salt to lake port cities like Chicago, or Algoma oil tankers like the ALGOSEA shuttling product between oil refineries located in Sarnia and Nanticoke and McAsphalt's articulated tug & barge vessels like the EVERLAST/NORMAN MCLEOD ( transfering liquid asphalt between Sarnia and their storage tanks in Windsor.
Though the term "Polar Vortex" has yet to be mentioned, weather conditions throughout the Great Lakes region has been bitterly cold since early January which has created massive ice jams along the Straits of Mackinac, St. Mary's River and especially the southern channel of the St. Clair River where few ships has been able to pass without being assisted by a US or Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, or both. I really enjoyed viewing the many photos and videos posted on Facebook by my "Know Your Ships" friends living along the St. Clair River of ships going nowhere fast without the constant effort of our coast guard icebreakers. One video that I tried to share with you but won't open was posted by a US Coast Guardsman of his cutter, the BRISTOL BAY, working the CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY as they escorted the Windsor bound articulated tug & Barge  EVERLAST/NORMAN MCLEOD through river brash ice. It's a great video and to view it, go to Facebook's US Coast Guard's page and scroll down to the heading "Keeping Lanes Open". Love the Music too!! ENJOY!!
Instead of ice, the treacherous current leading to the nearby Seaway power dam was the issue of the day for the articulated tug & barge, EVERLAST and NORMAN MCLEOD as they slowly approached the western entrance to Iroquois Lock in May 2013. Their passage was not only observed by myself but also a family of osprey seen viewing the EVERLAST's wheelhouse from a special perch that was built and erected at the top of a light standard by lock workers. There was good reason to be concerned because the barge NORMAN MCLEOD was built to carry a special cargo of liquid asphalt which is typically heated to temperatures as his as 350 degrees celsius. Named in honor of the person who developed asphalt technology and facilitated modern highway surfacing methods in Canada and abroad, the NORMAN MCLEOD was built in 2001 in Nanjing, China then towed to Port Colborne, where all machinery and cargo systems were installed by Fraser Marine and Industrial Ltd. Double-skinned with a spoon-shaped bow, the 379' MCLEOD is owned by McAsphalt Marine Transportation of Hamilton, Ontario and is used to haul up to 11,000 tons of heated liquid asphalt and heavy bunker oil in segregated tanks from oil refineries to their storage facilities on the Great Lakes and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  

Meanwhile, joined at the hip or rather by an articulating coupler system, is the 143' and 6,000 hp tug EVERLAST. When launched in Hakodate, Japan in 1976 for Russian company FESCO, her name was BILIBINO and she mostly pushed ocean barges in Russia's far east. Her name was changed to EVERLAST in 1997 when she became a salvage tug for Greek company, Portolos. In 2001 the EVERLAST was purchased by McAsphalt Marine, a joint venture with ULS group, and she's been pushing the barge MCLEOD around in all kinds of seas and ice conditions everyday since though her coupler system allows her to linked at anytime to the fleet's other asphalt carrying barge, JOHN J. CARRACK.
As the osprey family and I looked on at the EVERLAST's unusual looking bridge which appears to be raised high above her superstructure on 'stilts', you can't help but notice the many familiarities of former Upper Lakes Steamship Company lakers which all were painted with black hulls, white superstructures, and red & black funnels that were adorned with a unique looking 'white diamond'. While the 'white diamond' marking was replaced with a 'black bear' when Upper Lakes Steamships was sold to Algoma Central Railway in 2011, it's certainly nice to see the EVERLAST and her sister VICTORIOUS  motoring along in the original ULS markings on their stack. It has a certain 'everlasting' effect, don't you think? c):-))

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