Friday 19 January 2018

Self Unloader JOHN B. AIRD (Final Voyage)

Joanne Crack had it right. If you don't know Joanne, she manages the Facebook boat watching group, The Prescott ⚓️ Anchor and everyday it seems Joanne gets up way before the sun ๐ŸŒ„ rises and inputs a complete list of vessels that will pass by Prescott that day in the group's "pinned ๐Ÿ“Œpost" feature along with the boat's destination, country of origin, cargo (when it's known) and ETA at Prescott.
What a wonderful resource Joanne is for local and especially out-of-town boat watchers like myself to be able to plan the arrival to the river to capture their prize photo op subjects each and every day instead of by hit and miss as it was for me not that many years ago.
April 3, 2017 was a pleasant day in Ottawa and I was working an early straight which is transit ๐Ÿš bus operator jargon for an 8 hour run that usually starts and ends early. However on that day I wasn't going to be done until after 15:00 and with the time it was going to take me to get home to pick my camera, and then do the 1 hour drive down to the St. Lawrence, it was going to be real tight for me to snap the final voyage of the Algoma self unloader JOHN B. AIRD in transit to which according The Anchor's pin point, was due to arrive at Ogdensburg at about 17:00. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ YIKES!!  Regardless it is what it is but before leaving Kanata, I checked the Prescott Anchor again and saw a comment that Joanne had posted suggesting the AIRD's arrival maybe delayed because she'd be checking down ⏳ her speed in preparation of her slower approach to the Port of Ogdensburg dock which would require a hard to starboard ๐Ÿ‘‰turn. Budda-bing, Buddha-bang ๐Ÿ’ฅ Joanne Crack was right on the mark  because when I got to Windmill Point at 17:18 there was the JOHN B. AIRD slowing approaching from the west and to her stern was the virtually brand new CSL ST-LAURENT making good time on her downbound passage to Sorel, Quebec. Being unable to venture down to the river as often or even sit in front of my computer due to an ongoing lower back issue, it was certainly nice to snap two birds with one stone even though the photo quality wasn't exactly the best due to the dull overcast skies. Regardless, thanks for the heads up Joanne ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป⚓️๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป.
Last of the Canada Steamships Lines Trillium-class newbuilds, CSL ST-LAURENT sporting a beautiful abstract mural to commemorate Canada's 150th and Montreal's 375th Birthday!! Nice ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽจ๐Ÿ‘
Once the 740' modern day straight-decker CSL ST-LAURENT completed her downbound overtake, the JOHN B. AIRD continued to cautionly make her way towards the Upstate New York port with her valuable cargo of road salt. 
You can't be too careful. Though the St. Lawrence appears to be so wide from Brockville on down to the International Bridge, there are many shoals and shallow  sections along the way. 

As the AIRD continued to make slow turn approach I couldn't help but recall that the only other time I saw a vessel make her way to the Ogdensburg dock, it had been upbound and a tug was there to assist. No tug present on that day last April, just pure skill from her master and experienced crew.

A steady wake is churned up from time to time to keep her forward movement under control. You don't want the river's strong current to be too overpowering especially while swinging your stern over in line with the dock wall.   
A Border Patrol launch sped past her stern and then drifted by a harbour marker buoy to check her out and make me not the only one who came to see the still fairly young AIRD make her last downbound passage to Montreal.

Hauling road salt was a common trade during her last year of work. While most of her Algoma Central fleetmates were laid up for winter throughout the Great Lakes, the JOHN B. AIRD continued delivering the ice dissolving product to American ports until she finally commenced her belated winter layup and well deserved rest for her crew on February 18th at the port where she so often loaded her cargoes, Goderich, Ontario. 

Winter lay up above Lock 8 in Port Colborne - February 10, 2013
Whether wintering or passing through Port Colborne, or motoring up and down the St. Lawrence River, I've snapped this beautiful blue lady many times over the years.  Named after the former Chairman of the Board of Algoma Central Railway and the then Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the JOHN B. AIRD, began service in 1983 after her 120' unique bulbous bow section  which was built at Port Arthur Shipyards, was attached the 610' stern section that had earlier been built at Collingwood Shipyard on Georgian Bay and then towed to Thunder Bay.
Hard aground near Morrisburg - September 14, 2014
Underway near Prescott with the Ogdensburg wharf visible off her starboard bow - June 21, 2015
Upbound passing beneath the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge - May 20, 2016
Downbound passing beneath Bridge 21 in Port Colborne - July 1, 2016
Slowly entering the Welland Canal's Lock 8 in Port Colborne - July 1, 2016 

Leaving Lock 8 and approach the north end "jack-knife" Bridge, #19 - Port Colborne July 1, 2016
My last snap of the JOHN B. AIRD at Windmill Point near Prescott - April 3, 2017

Photo by Renรฉ Beauchamp
Photo by Renรฉ Beauchamp
After discharging most the salt at Ogdensburg, the JOHN B. AIRD motored across the river to Johnstown on the Canadian and in the wee-hours of April 4th, the   remainder of her last cargo was unload.

My good friend Renรฉ Beauchamp was along the shores of the St. Lawrence River near Montreal on May 11, 2017 to capture the beginning of the then JOHN B.'s long journey at the end of a towline to Aliaga, Turkey for dismantling. As you can see in his photos, all company markings that the JOHN B. AIRD had so proudly displayed on her hull for over 33 years including the big black bear on her stack, a symbol and native to Northern Ontario's beautiful and natural Algoma region, had all been painted over. It's actually a common practice for overseas scrap-tows, however whether it was planned or done so by mistake, a bit of her dignity remained until her end as just below her accommodations section you can see her name, JOHN B. AIRD and homeport "SAULT STE. MARIE" still there. Great capture Renรฉ ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿปand what a great way to go for this hard working lady.

Photo by Renรฉ Beauchamp       


  1. What an excellent article. Thank you taking your time after work to get down to the river and capturing a piece of history and then to share it. Joanne is up in time to wake the birds in the morning, She is proud of her group and receives a lot of praise for what she does, We are very fortunate to have Joanne's talents in this area and it is contributors like yourself that helps draw people to the group. Thank You.

  2. Thanks for sharing this great article with us.I can learn lot of things in your posting article.