Saturday 23 January 2016

Self Discharging Bulk Carrier RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER

"The Party's Over!!" Yes, so many of us liked "up here" being called the "Great Green North", enjoying December's "early fall-like mid teens weather" and saying, "Geez, I could really get use to these temperatures!", when out of the blue, Old Man Winter returned on December 28th with a vengeance first with a whack of freezing rain and then 20 centimetres snow that's been parked my back-deck SnoCam table ever since.
And just like that we're back to being called the "Great White North" again, at least in this neck of the woods, that is. True, there's been a few pleasant above freezing days since our first major dump (of SNOW), but it's been back to winter as usual with daily dusting of 3-5 cm of snow and/or ongoing frigid Russian blasts from over the top making the unexpected below normal temps of -7 to -12 actually feel like -28 in the wind. BRRRR!!! c)8-0
Got to admit it sure was nice there but let's face it, we're Canadians and we all knew it wasn't going to last forever. Which is just what forecasters are now predicting that even though the west will continue to experience above seasonal temperatures during the second half of winter, for us up here in the "Great White North" and the "Down-easters" in Atlantic Canada can expect an extended period of classic winter weather especially in February with below seasonal temperatures to dominate the pattern. Some are even mentioning that it may be like, "The Return of the POLAR VORTEX" YIKES!! c):-()

Meanwhile back at the boat blog, on April 28th, eight months to the day prior to our first major dump (of SNOW), my  brave and faithful dog, Tanner and I motored down to the Port of Johnstown dock along the St. Lawrence to snap the 740' self discharging bulk carrier RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER trying to hide herself behind a mound of road salt that she had just finished unloading.

Just like these snaps show, all that salt that had just been discharged from the LATIMER, would be scooped into a steady convoy of dump trucks and then hauled to the Rideau Bulk Terminals yard across the road. From there a conveyer is used to create huge salt mountains that are covered with massive sections of tarpaulin to protect the white gold until it is distributed to communities in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.
I still recall thinking that it seemed somewhat premature for Rideau Bulk Terminals to be already getting a load of winter road salt at the end of April when the Seaway's spring opening for shipping occurred less that a month earlier. However, since we just endured another brutally cold and snow plentiful winter, using the Boy Scouts motto of "Be Prepared" makes a lot more sense than putting it off until near the end of the shipping season and having to use the term "Better Late than Never".

Actually, Rideau Bulk Terminals provides waterside bulk storage, and truck services for road de-icing salt distribution for the salt companies serving eastern Canada and received over 566,000 metric tonnes of salt last year at the Port of Johnstown alone from several self unloaders throughout the shipping season. Apparently, de-icing salt has been used to provide safety and mobility for motorists, and pedestrians since the 1940s, and in excess of 4.5 million tonnes of rock salt is used yearly to keep roads safe in Canada alone. In fact the City of Ottawa which on average will receive 235 centimetres (or 92.5") of snow annually, uses approximately 175,000 tonnes of road salt to maintain their 5,500 kilometres of roads each winter. I did not know  c):-o

Again, back to the boat blog, I came across the upbound RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER again passing Johnstown on her way upbound to Sandusky on November 10th. When originally  launched in 1978 at the Collingwood Shipyards, her name was ALGOBAY. Built especially to haul extra loads of coal due to Algoma Central being awarded a 15 year contract with Ontario Hydro to move 1 million tonnes of coal per year, the 730' Nova Scotia-class ALGOBAY was to operated on the Great Lakes, Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the Atlantic's eastern seaboard. Along with her high powered diesel engines, the BAY was built with an advanced "V" shape bow and greater hull strengthening for working in the ice and with a beam of 75'10", she was the widest vessel built to date at Collingwood Shipyards.

The ALGOBAY was upgraded to Caribbean-class at Port Weller Dry Dock during the winter or 1977/78 which allowed her further deep-sea trading on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. For a period of time she was even flagged Liberian and chartered out of Bridgetown, Barbados. In 1994-97 she was chartered by CSL and renamed ATLANTIC TRADER delivering coal from Ashtabula, Ohio to New Brunswick Power plant in Belledune, NB as well as   Hamilton and Nanticoke. Meanwhile iron ore was carried to Hamilton and grain to Halifax.
In 1997 she returned to the Algoma fleet and renamed ALGOBAY. However with a need for extensive steelwork and equipment upgrades, the ALGOBAY entered long term layup in 2002 in Toronto. She sat idle there until November 2007 when it was decided she and fleetmate ALOGOPORT would have new Seawaymax self unloading forebodys attached to the aft accommodations section at Chengxi Shipyards in Jiangyin, China. Soon after the announcement ALGOBAY was towed to Hamilton where overseas preparation activities were completed. Unlike the ALGOPORT which left Hamilton under her own power as mentioned in my post about her and the ALGOMA MARINER (, ALGOBAY made the whole journey under tow leaving Hamilton on May 13, 2008. After several tow transfers and passage through the Suez Canal via the Mediterranean Sea, ALGOBAY arrived in Jiangyin, China on September 10, 2008.
Just a little more that a year later, with her new forebody, power system, upgraded bridge and crew accommodation section, the new and improved 740' ALGOBAY left Jiangyin on October 21, 2009. Like getting with a new lease on life, ALGOBAY motored across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and on up to Portland, Maine arriving in early January 2010. After a short winter layup, ALGOBAY immediately went to work showing off her deep-sea heritage and expertise, by picking up a load of iron ore at Port Cartier, Quebec and transferring it to New Orleans, Louisiana. After unloading the ore into barges on on the Mississippi River (which believe me, is really fun to watch) off she went across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to Santa Marta, Columbia for a load of steam coal which she hauled up the eastern seaboard to Newburg, New York on the Hudson River.
Sized to the maximum Seaway allowable dimensions of 740'x77'11", the new look self discharging bulk carrier ALGOBAY returned to the Great Lakes with a load of iron ore from Port Cartier, destined for Toledo, Ohio on April 8th, 2010. On October 4, 2012, she was given a new name, RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER, in honour of Algoma Central's former Chairman. Just like during her days as a Nova Scotia-class self unloading bulker, the LATIMER continued to haul a variety of trades throughout the Great Lakes like Labrador iron ore, prairie wheat, and gypsum from Little Narrows on Cape Breton Island's Bras d'Or Lake and what she's doing today, transferring Goderich road salt to Lake Michigan's "Windy City", Chicago, Illinois.

While so many other lakers are laid up for winter, the RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER is currently motoring in open water on Lake Huron in a northwesterly direction making her way to the Straits of Mackinac. Though the Lakes are not jammed in ice like they were during our past two winters, it's still going to be a cold, bone chilling passage to the Calumet River where she was last week.
The girl's skipper is Captain Clarence Vautier and he has allowed me to include these two photos, first of the LATIMER as she delicately inched her way along the winding ice-covered Calumet and past South Chicago's East 95th draw bridges as the day was about to begin last Tuesday, January 19, and then later that day at about 9 PM while backing her way out of the port after discharging her load of Goderich road salt. Thanks again Clarence for allowing me to use these photos. To me, like so many others that Clarence has posted on Facebook's St. Lawrence Boat Watchers Group, they are breathtaking views of "a day in the life" of the ship and her crew sailing on the Great Lakes, Seaway and Gulf today, much like some of the things my dad told me about during his sailing days on his canaller, the BIRCHTON, almost 70 years ago.  Check out more of Clarence's photos by joining St. Lawrence Boat Watchers Group at:
Meanwhile, like so many others, the RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER and her crew are worth their weight in salt, grain, iron ore or whatever that's being carried to keep our country and peoples moving. You deserve a period rest and time with your families like so many other crews. Let's hope it's sooner than later, meanwhile, "keep up the good work, and safe sailing". c):-)

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