Saturday 30 May 2015

Scrap Tow AMERICAN FORTITUDE (Final Chapter)

In Nathan Attard's snap above, the high in the water and newest of new Great Lakes bulk carriers, CWB MARQUIS motors out of Port Colborne harbour and making her way that much closer to her next destination, Thunder Bay, Ontario. After picking up a load of Canadian prairie wheat there, she'll be motoring downbound all the way to a grain elevator near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. When the grain that's destined to a European port by a deep sea bulker is fully discharged, the 740' MARQUIS will take on a load of iron ore which will be discharged at a Hamilton steel mill before making her way back up to Thunder Bay to start another downbound/upbound cycle that will only end when the shipping season ends for winter in late December. Then the whole process gets repeated time and time again during each Seaway and Great Lakes shipping season for many years to come for the fuel-effiecient and state-of-the-art CWB MARQUIS. Meanwhile, parked abeam of the upbound Algoma Central gearless bulk carrier, sits also high in the water Great Lakes classic, the 690' "straightdeck" self unloader AMERICAN FORTITUDE going nowhere fast at the International Marine Salvage dock. Though much smaller than current American ore carriers, the FORTITUDE may have continued to be useful hauling salt, stone or grain like the SAGINAW in Lower Lakes Towing's fleet of veteran boats (, had one of her former owners re-powered the AMERICAN FORTITUDE from steam to diesel. Instead she waits to be broken apart by the welder's torch for everyone to see. It wasn't supposed to end this way. 

With her 8 year long-term layup in Toledo behind her, the AMERICAN FORTITUDE patiently sits along Port Colborne's downbound east wall in Nathan's snap to the right. Here, she was waiting for a Seaway inspection to be completed, and a pilot to be boarded on the lead tug, EVANS McKEIL so that the long passage could get underway to Quebec City where  the tow would be transferred to another tug to complete her journey along the Eastern Seaboard, the Straits of Florida and Gulf of Mexico to Brownsville, Texas. While every boat watcher east of Duluth presumed the worst, that the once gallant Great Lakes classic was doomed to the cutter's torch, rumours started floating around (no pun intended, really c);-b) suggesting that once arriving at Brownsville, only a few sections of the FORTITUDE and her discharging boom would be remove, leaving her massive holds be used for scrap storage. That could work!! Her life or usefulness could be extended for another 10, 15 or 20 years. Who knows? c):-) If the FORTITUDE could speak, she probably would have said, "ALRIGHT!!, so let's get this tow on the road or as the St. Lawrence Seaway people like to call it, "Highway H2O". c):-D  
As mentioned in my December 7th post about AMERICAN FORTITUDE's last Great Lakes "Not So Excellent Adventure", things weren't looking so good. Just mile away from completing the delicate and slow going passage through the Seaway (as shown in my friend Shaun Judge's snap near Mallorytown on December 1st) and then on down to the deeper and open waters of the St. Lawrence River, the scrap tow came to a dead stop that lasted several days just above Côte Ste. Catherine Lock on December 4. Though initially reported that the extended delay was due to high winds further down below on the St. Lawrence River, the actual reason was because during another inspection, this time done by Transport Canada, a large quantity of bunker fuel remained in her tanks and it would need to be removed before the tow down to the lower river and Gulf of St. Lawrence could proceed. A worthy concern because when another classic straightdecker, the CANADIAN MINER which was being towed to Turkey for scrap, broke free of her tug during a storm in the Cabot Strait in September 2011, the MINER ran aground on Nova Scotia's Scatarie Island with over 3,000 litres of diesel fuel on board. Not GOOD c):-(   

With only a few weeks left before the Seaway would be closed for the winter, the FORTITUDE's tow to Texas looked even more hopeless when on the next day, first her lead tug EVANS MCKEIL left the tow and got underway "upbound" back to her home port on Hamilton which is located on the far end of Lake Ontario, and then the EILEEN MCALLISTER, the tug that was supposed to takeover the tow and deliver her Brownsville, Texas, departed her berth in Quebec City and appeared to be heading at full speed to her home port of New York City. However things started to look up again though when on December 18th, AMERICAN FORTITUDE got hooked up to another lead tug, this time Groupe Ocean's ROSS GAUDREAULT but instead of continuing east through the two remaining Seaway lock that would bring her closer to her new life and usefulness along  Texas' Gulf of Mexico coastline, the scrap tow started heading in the opposite direction upbound, presumably to the IMS scrapyard in Port Colborne. It wasn't supposed to end this way.      

On the other side of the Beauharnois Locks, another McKeil tug, the 120' SALVOR took over the lead tug roll and then further upriver, EVANS MCKNEIL regained the top spot. For the FORTITUDE it didn't matter which one was the lead tug, as she had no choice but to follow along wherever they were taking her with fortitude. 
Wintering at Oswego - January 31, 2015. Photo by Mike Kaminski
Soon after noon on Christmas Day, EVANS MCKEIL and JARRET M were on there way at full speed to Hamilton and hoping their crews made it home in time to enjoy many yuletide festivities. Meanwhile, tied off for winter, the AMERICAN FORTITUDE was parked facing the lake at Oswego, New York, and positioned perfectly to be towed out of the Lake Ontario port in the spring to where: Brownsville, Texas or the IMS scrapyard in Port Colborne?
At Oswego, AMERICAN FORTITUDE is positioned lake-ward for her to go somewhere in the spring. The warm climes of the Gulf of Mexico or a burning end at IMS in Port Colborne? - January 31, 2015.  Photo by Mike Kaminski

With the contract to dock the FORTITUDE in Oswego ending on April 15, 2015, her new Texas owners had to find a way over the winter to get the bunker fuel removed so the tow to Brownsville could be resumed. Due to ice conditions in Oswego harbour, the owner had almost an extra month to sort things out but once everyone who was tracking her departure on May 12th via MarineTraffic's AIS, it didn't take long for us to figure out that she was not going to end her career along the shoreline of the "Lone Star" state, when AMERICAN FORTITUDE's lead tug, now the 98' MOLLY M1 turned hard to port and upbound towards Port Weller, the northern entrance to the Welland Canal. MOLLY M1 was very capable to take the lead position. When launched in 1962 at the Davie Shipyard in Levi, Quebec, for Foundation Maritime of Halifax her name was FOUNDATION VIGOUR. She became POINT VIGOUR in 1973 and after 47 years of operating mostly alongs Canada's east coast, the harbour tug began working on the Great Lakes in 2009 when purchased by McKeil Marine of Hamilton. Ever since, her name has been MOLLY M1 and she currently wears the Nadro Marine of Port Dover colours, as subsidary of McKeil.
Just like she did to and from Côte Ste. Catherine Lock last winter as shown in another snap by Shaun, the 98' JARRET M continued to maintain the stern position when the AMERICAN FORTITUDE was delivered to IMS scrap dock in Port Colborne on May 14th.

For 56 years this huge boat made of strong and lasting American steel sailed under three different names of honour, while plying the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River resupplying the steel mills with raw iron ore or coal to keep the furnaces burning. When launched in 1952 her name was ERNEST T. WEIR. She became the flagship of the fleet replacing the famous ore carrier EDMUND FITZGERALD which sank on November 10, 1975, when the WEIR was sold to Columbia Transportation in 1978. She continued to steam on with prestige even after her name was changed to COURTNEY BURTON soon after the purchase and became substantially more useful when the BURTON was converted into a self unloader in 1981. Over the next 25 years, when the self unloader wasn't busy hauling many different trades throughout the Great Lakes, she was laid up due to lack of cargoes. To make matters worse, two years after being sold to American Steamship Company, the newly named AMERICAN FORTITUDE commenced long-term layup in Toledo, Ohio.
I know no ship can last forever and recycling the scrapped steel of a ship and her fluids in an environmentally safe manner makes a lot of sense, but in AMERICAN FORTITUDE's case, It simply wasn't supposed to end this way.      

While International Marine Salvage workers continued to cut up the former Captain John's Toronto waterfront restaurant boat JADRAN, in their main slip, dismantling had already begun with the removal  of AMERICAN FORTITUDE's self unloading boom when I snapped these photos of her during my visit to Port Colborne on November 19, 2015.
Not much  was left of the classic AMERICAN FORTITUDE when the former Algoma tanker ALGOSAR arrived to take her place for dismantling in late May 2016.
HEY, Wake UP!! What a yawner, eh c):-O but if you haven't had your fill in tugboats and scrap tows, may I suggest you read the Farley Mowat's non-fiction book, 'The Grey Seas Under' about the "Hero" Atlantic salvage tug, FOUNDATION FRANKLIN, and it's many daring rescues during the Great Depression and World War II while based out of Halifax, NS. Launched as HMS FRISKY, you can appreciate why her name was so appropriate throughout the books by clicking on to this Wikipedia link or NOT:
My dad passed on his copy of the book many years ago before he died. I read it, so has my son, and he will pass it on to his young son at the right time. c):-D
Thanks again for your excellent photos Nathan and Shaun. I really appreciate it c);-b