Wednesday 30 November 2016

Self Unloader JOSEPH L. BLOCK

Photo by Nathan Attard 29.11.16
Photo by Nathan Attard 29.11.16
The Americans are Coming!!
The Americans are Coming!!
No it has nothing to do with the actions of many U.S. residents who on the Presidential election night, overwhelmed the Canadian immigrations website so much with requests to move to Canada that it crashed the system almost immediately. No, again, this post is not about a surge of our neighbours to the south "getting out of Dodge" but instead the use of the Welland Canal and the other Canadian and American St. Lawrence Seaway locks and channels to get U.S. iron ore from mines in Minnesota and Michigan, down the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City where it will be loaded on huge Panamax-size bulk carriers and exported to Japan and China.

Photo by Nathan Attard 29.11.16
Photo Nathan Attard 29.11.16
As mentioned in a recent article in's 'News Channels' by the Chamber of Marine Commerce, many American 1000 footers have been transporting the ore to Conneault, Ohio, where it would be loaded then shipped down the St. Lawrence on Canadian self unloaders. However in this case, the 728' American self unloader JOSEPH L. BLOCK will be delivering her cargo of ore pellets from Two Harbours, Minnesota, directing to the Port of Quebec herself, and in doing so, passing through waters that apparently she's never transited before. c):-D
In this first series of impressive photos by "my man in Port Colborne", Nathan Attard captured the JOSEPH L. BLOCK tied off at Wharf 16 near the old coal dock apparently banking rays in the late afternoon sun while Seaway inspectors gave her the once over, a routine activity for first-time transits of the 44 km (28 mi) Welland Canal, (a.k.a. "the ditch") and Seaway system below Lake Ontario. Once cleared to get underway on her unusual voyage, Nathan also snapped the BLOCK as she passed beneath Bridge 21 and while continuing to make her way towards Lock 8. Great reflections there, Nathan!! c):-o
Photo by Nathan Attard 29.11.16
Photo by Nathan Attard 29.11.16
Though currently owned by Central Marine Logistics of Griffith, Indiana, the JOSEPH L. BLOCK was built in 1976 at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon, Wisconsin for the Inland Steel Company of Chicago, Illinois and named after their former Chairman of the Board, Joseph Leopold Block. With a cargo capacity of 37,200 tons, the BLOCK was specifically built to trade iron ore from Escanaba, located along the south shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, to Inland's steel mills at the other end on Lake Michigan at Indiana Harbor (East Chicago), Indiana.

Once again, thanks my friend for the great pics. You da man, Nathan, You da MAN
Nathan with another American self unloader,  JOHN J. BOLAND in the background - 18.09.14

Sunday 20 November 2016


Hot diggety-dog, look at this big girl coming in from Lake Erie's Long Point Bay to unload her catch at Port Dover on September 20th. She's the 54' fish tug COSLEY BROS and instead of the usual white superstructure or house with a red, black or blue trim like one more often might see painted on  a Great Lakes fish tug, COSLEY BROS is almost completely ORANGE above her waterline. Don't get me wrong because orange works for so many things like pylons, and freefall lifeboats like you see at the back of all salties or tankers, or even the hard-shelled inflatable life-raft canister that's secured just beyond the COSLEY BROS's pilothouse amidships. Orange is a great colour because it stands out perfectly in daylight or in a light beam, in rough dark seas or even calm ones like when the proud fish tug gracefully made her way past Port Dover's harbour piers. Named for owner Frank Cosley's two sons, Pete and Paul, the then Port Dover based COSLEY BROS  was built in 1949 at Stephen G. Powell's shipyard near Royal Canadian Air Force Station Dunnville along the Grand River half way between the town of Dunnville and Port Maitland. No. 6 Service Flying Training School, as it was known during the Second World War British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was one of several air bases located along the Lake Erie shoreline and Southern Ontario which trained pilots advanced techniques to prepare them for wartime action overseas or for duty in RCAF Home Defence squadrons. Before the airfield was sold off in 1964, it had been used as a repair depot for RCAF base Trenton (on Lake Ontario). During Sunday drives to Dunnville or along the Grand River, I still recall seeing Lancaster bombers and other aircraft that had been stored or "mothballed" there near the runway. Now that was really cool!! c):-o

Meanwhile, back to the boat blog, soon after being built, the Cosley brothers took over the business from their dad and the fish tug which was then painted red to the top of the bulwarks and her house was silver. Kind of like an airstream trailer that floated, or NOT!! c):-)

Anyhow, in 1977 the Cosley brothers sold the COSLEY BROS to the Weaver brothers of Port Stanley. While the name was kept, her hull was painted black and her house remained silver. Then for a time she was grey and while being rebuilt in the early 2000's, she was coated with an orange primer. After a while, her owners got to like the new colour scheme which is why the COSLEY BROS remains orange to this day. Hey, here's another benefit of being painted orange, it hides the rust real good!! (Got that: Algoma Central).

Nice snaps above of the COSLEY BROS approaching Port Dover's twin bascule hydraulic lift bridge eh? Well actually the big orange fish tug had already motored passed the up reaching spans that actually opened for the first time in 1971, but because she couldn't turn around in narrow Lynn River channel beyond, her skipper had no choice but to slowly run her astern beneath the bridge to get back to the outer harbour and the fish processing plants.
All that in your face fish tug action sure can make you hungry and boy were we surprised to see that Arbor's  Foot-Long Hot Dog stand was still in town. Back when my better half, Janny was growing up in Ancaster, Ontario, near Hamilton, her parents would drive down to Port Dover and stop into Arbor's, which has been in business for 85 years, for their foot long hot dogs, just like my parents did when we visited Port Dover when I was a kid. How neat is that, eh?
My Arbor's foot-longer was smothered in ketchup, mustard, relish and onions while Janny's was just mustard, jalapenos, and a sprinkling of hot peppers that were red, yellow and of course, ORANGE!! c);-b

Thanks again Shaun Vary for your input and a special thank you to Betty Powell, who's  late night Facebook comments were greatly appreciated. c):-D

Sunday 6 November 2016


Misener Transportation Postcard of SELKIRK SETTLER - Photographer Unknown
Whenever I have a moment I'm either reading or listening to a murder mystery book and whether it's Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, or J.A. Jance's J.P. Beaumont or Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gomache, the author at some point in the novel will have their homicide cop character say, "there's no such thing as a coincidence".
It may have appeared as a normal everyday sail past below Iroquois Locks on August 14, 2014 when I snapped the SPRUCEGLEN as she motored upbound in ballast on her way  to Thunder Bay to pick up a load of grain while the fully loaded straightdeck OJIBWAY  motored  downbound to discharge her cargo of grain in Sorel, Quebec. What's unusual though is when the current CSL owned sternender was launched at Govan Shipyards in Glasgow, Scotland in 1983, she was known as the SELKIRK SETTLER. If you're interested in Canadian history, as I am, you will know it was a very important name as it acknowledged the enduring efforts of a group Scottish immigrants that came to Canada in 1812 via Hudson's Bay to settle in the Red River Valley which is north of current day, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Their two month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson's Bay, and then paddling the swift rivers against the current was both long and strenuous for these future wheat farmers. To make matters worse, when arriving at their final destination in August 1812, their promised new settlements had not been completed and since the planting season had ended, the first group of European "SELKIRK SETTLERS" may not have survived their first winter had they not been taken in by the aboriginal Saulteaux band which were descendants of the "OJIBWAY" First Nations Peoples. Coincidence or WHAT c):-()
Whether considered a coincidence or NOT, the uniqueness here is the selection of names Misener Transportation of St. Catharines chose for their new class of gearless bulk carriers or "Saltie-Lakers" which were specifically designed to haul prairie grain to the lower St. Lawrence River grain elevators in such ports like Sorel, Quebec City and Baie Comeau while the Seaway was opened, and during the winter months, transport the grain and other products products to various overseas ports in Europe, Russia and along the Mediterranean.  After the SELKIRK SETTLER came the CANADA MARQUIS ( named after a specially designed grain that when it was introduced in 1911 it became known then and still today as "the best wheat variety in Canada". This high quality wheat that when baked gives the loafs more volume is grown throughout the country and continues to be exported all over the world.
The third sister which sailed under the Pioneer Shipping banner and red/orange coloured hull, was named SASKATCHEWAN PIONEER for the many different nationalities from around the world who immigrated to Canada and settled in what is now known as Saskatchewan from 1870 to 1930 and who transformed the "the last of the west" into the "world's granary". c):-o

As Skip Gillham said in his 1989 publication of "Canadian Fleets Along The Seaway" - "These ships have carried grain to Cyprus, USSR, Morocco, and England. They have taken potash to France and Belgium and returned from Europe with steel for the Great Lakes...they handled winter navigation on the Baltic moving European grain from Hamburg, West Germany to Leningrad. They were now able to get a year round return on their investment instead of the ice shortened nine months on the lakes."  While it appeared things were looking up for Misener's saltie-lakers, Canada's grain exports via the Great Lakes and Seaway continued to decline during the late 80's. To cut costs, the country of registry for SELKIRK SETTLER was changed to Isle of Man in 1987. The same occurred soon after for her other saltie-laker sisters and instead of a proud Canadian flag flying from their sterns, they all flew the flag of the Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea. Then in 1991 both the SELKIRK SETTLER and CANADA MARQUIS were sold to Federal Navigations of Montreal and while being owner or under charter with Fednav, their names were changed several times and flew a variety of other flags of convenience.
The once proud bulker named for Canada's first prairie wheat farmers was named FEDERAL ST. LOUIS and flew the flag of the Bahamas when owned by Fednav's Detroit, Antwerp and London divisions in 1991. In the following year, she was changed to FEDERAL FRASER and flew the flag of the Philippines, Hong Kong and Panama as the ocean trader which still visited the Great Lakes regularly, continued to be sold off from one southeast Asian owner to another while still operating under a long term charter with Fednav. In 2001 her name was changed again to simply FRASER, a name she continued to bear when purchased by Canada Steamship Lines in October of 2002.
Reflagged Canadian, the FRASER arrived at Quebec City in December 10th and not before leaving the next day with a load of sugar for Redpath's in Toronto, the bulk carrier was re-registered Canadian and named SPRUCEGLEN.
Two months later, her former  saltie-laker sister CANADA MARQUIS which then sailed as the MACKENZIE, was purchased from Fednav and renamed BIRCHGLEN ( Both vessels followed CSL's naming pattern for their gearless bulk carriers like the PINEGLEN and CEDARGLEN with tree motif prefix reflecting back to CSL's 1937 acquisition of Tree Line Navigation Company and their 1926 purchase of the Great Lakes Shipping Company which included the suffix "GLEN" in their name.
Like when she arrived for her first winter layup in Toronto in December 2002, SPRUCEGLEN was probably laden with sugar when I snapped her sitting low in the water at Toronto harbour's berth 514 first last February and then again in April (both snaps above). However when I captured her again in June (below), she was sitting high in ballast and tied off to the Algoma self unloader ALGOSOO at the Section 35 dock. It's a mystery? c);-b

Though SPRUCEGLEN initially continued to operate deepsea during the winter months like she had done as the Misener saltie-laker, SELKIRK SETTLER, more recently her winter layups have extended well beyond the opening of the shipping season and the St. Lawrence Seaway in the spring. Actually such was the case again this year for all of CSL's other dry bulk carrying "GLEN's". Each laying in wait for work to come along in Thunder Bay and Montreal which is a far cry better than motoring to Turkey for dismantling which was the case for fleetmates  MAPLEGLEN and BIRCHGLEN (the former CANADA MARQUIS) in September 2015. c):-((
Being cut apart by a breaker's touch will just have to wait little longer as the SPRUCEGLEN and her remaining saltie-laker fleetmates (CEDARGLEN, PINEGLEN, and OAKGLEN) all got underway in later August to haul another bumper crop of prairie grain to lower St. Lawrence River elevators just like they were designed to do many years earlier. c):-D
As for the ALGOSOO? Well, that's another story and it will to be told soon in an upcoming Carlz Boats. c):-((

KAMINISTIQUA at Port of Johnstown - April 23, 2016. Her story:
UPDATE: January 3, 2020: The BIRCHGLEN or former CANADA MARQUIS continued to move grain from the Lakehead to the Lover St. Lawrence River terminals until 2015 when she was towed to Turkey for dismantling, however the third Misener "Saltie-laker" SASKATCHEWAN PIONEER is currently operating for Lower Lakes Towing as the KAMINISTIQUA and is wintering at Port Weller Dry Dock while having her bottom repaired from a grounding near Beauharnois by Hamilton's Heddle Marine.
Downbound at Iroquois Lock - May 19, 2013. About my first rendezvous with the BIRCHGLEN check out:

Here's a couple nice pics taken by Jeff Cameron of St. Catharines in 1991 of the upbound former SELKIRK SETTLER, and then named FEDERAL ST. LOUIS passing beneath the Garden City Skyway while approaching Lock 3. Proudly displaying the large red "F" and partial maple leaf  πŸemblem on her stack that hull colour was still Misener Transportation "Blue" instead of "red" like all other FedNav bulk carriers that we see along the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes. Thank You Jeff. Great photos as always. πŸ‘πŸ“·πŸ‘