Saturday 14 May 2016

River Meet (3) Bulk Carrier TECUMSEH (Revisited)

So we meet again TECUMSEH. As a ship, she's a proud survivor and like the downbound she is about to meet, the 641' bulk carrier is named after a hero who was instrumental in keeping Canada "Strong and Free". In Shawnee, TECUMSEH means "Shooting Star" or "Panther Across The Sky" but when I snapped her early last month, she looked like a formidable gray lipazzan galloping all out towards an upcoming encounter upstream near "Galop" Island.
I first met this gray lady almost two years ago while she transited Iroquois Lock ( and though she looks like so many new-build lakers that we see today with her accommodation section and wheelhouse aft, the built in 1973 dry bulk carrier was named SUGAR ISLANDER and spent most of her early operating years as a saltie hauling sugar from Hawaii to California. She has primarily been operating on the fresh water seas of the Great Lakes since being purchased by Lower Lakes Towing of Port Dover in 2011 while named TECUMSEH after the First Nation's Chief who played a major role in Canada's successful repulsion of an American invasion in the War of 1812.
This visit along the river was turning out to look a lot like being in "Boat-watching Heaven"; first to snap a sail past by the new FEDERAL CARIBOU, then a meet of the CARIBOU and the Wagenborg multipurpose dry bulk carrier FRASERBORG across from Prescott, and now while parked near the Ingredion starch plant in Cardinal, I was about to capture my second ship meet in one day. COOL!! c):-D However it's not like it hasn't happened before, in fact during one river visit, I captured three meets in a matter of minutes. Now that was REALLY COOL, but at this meet something different was happening.... the older gray bulker continued to push water upbound at a good clip, the downbound FRASERBORG appeared to be crossing the TECUMSEH's bow. Oh NO!! Was a collision imminent??
Hey, I'm no expert and nor have I helmed any size of motorized  vessel in many years but everything I've read and witnessed while watching boats pass or meet along the narrow shipping channels of the Welland Canal, St. Lawrence River and Seaway, is when two ships are approaching head-on, both should alter their course to the starboard (or right) so that both ships will pass "Port-to-Port" or on each ship's left side.
I have to admit when first I saw the 730' Lower Lakes Towing's bulk carrier KAMINISTIQUA turn hard to port while we were picnicking at Loyalist Park near Mariatown on May 19, 2013,  I thought for certain she was going to ram the CSL self unloader RT. HON. PAUL E. MARTIN amidships. c):-o  But then soon after the 740' MARTIN also started to turn to the port as seen in this series of photos (here and below), so both big bulkers were simply preparing for a proper "Port-to-Port" sail past.

Both skippers and crews certainly had their work cut out for them when meeting at this location because even though the channel here is quite wide, meeting ships must navigate around the many shoals that were created when the river valley was flooded for the St. Lawrence Seaway opening in 1959, so each ship must follow the flow or channel of the original St. Lawrence River where it's deepest. A complicated process for mariners but a very exciting view for boat watchers and picnickers alike.
It was pretty "easy-peasy" a little later for the RT. HON. PAUL E. MARTIN when she met another Lower Lakes bulker, the 608' MANITOBA across from Ron Beaupre's boat dock in Mariatown.

Ditto that for the downboud 610' HELOISE (now named CAPE) when she met the 729' ALGOMA SPIRIT above Prescott on December 9, 2012...
...and the 481' tanker SHAMROCK JUPITER moment later...
...and another tanker, the 481' NORTH CONTENDER above Cardinal.
According to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (and narrow channels), no vessel ever has "Right of Way" over other vessels. Two power-driven vessels meeting each other head-on (meaning seeing the other vessels masthead and running lights in line with each other) both vessels are required to alter course to the starboard   so that they pass on their port side and avoid colliding with each other. As the saying goes:

"If you see three lights ahead, starboard wheel and show your red"

If one of the two power-driven vessels are crossing, the vessel which has the other on the starboard side must give way and avoid crossing ahead of her. The saying is

"If to starboard red appears, 'tis your duty to keep clear"...
"Act as judgement says is proper: port or starboard, back or stop her"

That can be easier said than done because if there's no room, time to turn or stop the heavy ship, a catastrophic collision could occur.

Such was the case on July 30th, 1962 when after leaving her berth in Detroit, the 450' British bulk carrier MONTROSE crossed in front of the downbound tug & barge, B.H. BECKER & ABL 502 while attempting to veer across the Detroit River to enter the upbound channel.
Photo from Ten More Tales of the Great Lakes by Skip Gillham.
The barge, hauling 1,600 tons of cement clinker out of Port Huron, tore a 48' hole the port side of the less than two years old MONTROSE. Taking on water immediately and caught in the Detroit River's strong current, the crippled MONTROSE was pushed downstream until she ran aground and rolled over onto her starboard side beneath the Ambassador Bridge. Fortunately no souls were lost, and though the MONTROSE was eventually raised and then repaired over that winter in Lorain, Ohio, when she got underway, her name was changed to CONCORDIA LAGO and she never sailed on the Great Lakes again.

As it turned out no collision occurred between the TECUMSEH and FRASERBORG during my river meet. As one might normally expect, there was no need to hastily drop anchors, blast their horns loudly or make evasive maneuvering to avoid each other, because according to a comment I received from local Marc Beach, it's a common practice at this location for the downbound vessel (or the FRASERBORG in this case) to cross over to the other side of the channel so that she can stay close to the Canadian shoreline and Toussaint Island (in the distance in the top photo) before turning into Iroquois Lock. Makes sense to me, and thanks for the input Marc!!

Meanwhile, the FRASERBORG has since discharged her load of grain in Greenore, Ireland and is currently underway in the Baltic on her way to Oxelosund, Sweden. As for the TECUMSEH, this versatile bulker made at least two transits along this section of the Seaway and continues to prove to her owner and boat-watchers everywhere that "this old grey mare remains exactly what she used to be and then some. What more can you ask for of a proud ship and her crew? c):-D  

UPDATE -May 14, 2020:

Yes, the former Hawaiian sugar carrier has continued being of value on the Great Lakes until an engine room fire crippled her in the middle of the Detroit River last December. Completely lost of power, the TECUMSEH dropped both anchors to avoid grounding and was eventually towed to Windsor where she wintered. Early last month McKeil Marine tugs LEONARD M. and JARRETT M. towed her to Ashtabula, Ohio where repairs to her engine continues. We all hope she returns to work soon.
The TECUMSEH also appeared to be having a challenging day with St. Lawrence River current when I caught her last, on May 7, 2017. No need to drop anchor that time, but an interesting story that will have to be told sometime soon.


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