Tuesday 1 May 2018

Self Unloader ALGOSTEEL - Her Last Transit

It is what it is, this time of year. So what if my glasses and camera lenses were spattered in precipitation, after all I was standing in a cold steady rain with the odd nasty wind gusts blasting by to make matters worse. However I didn't have to worry about people thinking I looked goofy in my bright florescent pink rain coat for the longest time as I was the only brave soul ship-watcher at the Iroquois Lock viewing area on that damp and dreary day on April 27th.
No use complaining because it could have been a lot worse as any deckhand would attest to as the ALGOSTEEL laden with talconite pellets from Minnesota's Iron Range carefully made her way along the approach wall while on her way to her final destination, Quebec City.
When you lose someone, often you'll wish you had a chance to see them again for on last time, not necessarily to say much but just be there to show them you care and that their reason for being was very much appreciated.  So many of the dry bulk carriers that I have seen and photographed were built to do one or two things, like hauling iron ore or coal to a smelter or also return with a load of grain for an elevator down below or on the St. Lawrence River. The 730' ALGOSTEEL did all that but the product that so many of us saw her carrying more recently had been road salt.

After the nasty winter that we’ve all experienced here and throughout the central United States and Canada, you have to ask yourself how would we have gotten around had it not been for salt boats like the ALGOSTEEL, braving the cold polar-like blasts and ice packed channels to deliver their precious cargo.
While almost all other commercial ships were in winter layup, the ALGOSTEEL could still be seen passing Stoneport, Bois Blanc Island, and Mackinaw City along the northern Lake Huron shoreline and then as the STEEL continued her more often solo trek down the western shoreline of Lake Michigan, she could be seen passing Manitowoc, Sheboygan while routing to Milwaukee, and Racine and perhaps the pedestrian walk at the end of the Navy Pier in Chicago as the hardworking girl made her way to the many lift bridges and bends along the Calumet River. Ditto all that on her way back to Goderich or Windsor for another load of salt.

No matter what Mother Nature was offering weather-wise, I had to be at Iroquois to be there to see the ALGOSTEEL one more time. Hearing of her retirement and immediate plans for dismantling came as a surprise to me and obviously so many others as I have been reading since posting my video and a sampling of snaps in a variety of ship watching groups on Facebook last week.
So that you too will also have "time to say goodbye", the remainder of this post is mostly photos, some of my thoughts from that day and little tidbits I've learned since my last rendezvous with the ALGOSTEEL at Iroquois on Thursday morning. After all, if it's true that a picture can say a thousand words, then this post contains at least 43,000 of them. Enough said.
Even with a bird's eye view the osprey perched in the nest at west-end of the lock seemed to have lowered his head in disbelief as the ALGOSTEEL passed by. 
The yellow-helmutted spotter did a great job keeping her in line during the STEEL's slow approach.  

She was straight-deck "gearless" bulk carrier and named A.S. GLOSSBRENNER when launched in 1966 at Davie Shipyards in Lauzon, Quebec for Labrador Steamship Company of Montreal.
Labrador Steamships was a subsidiary of the same company that owned the American-flagged Interlake Steamship. Back then A.S. GLOSSBRENNER traded in Interlake colours like the previously posted, HERBERT C. JACKSON (http://carlzboats.blogspot.ca/2015/02/classic-self-unloader-herbert-c-jackson.html)
She continues to sail as A.S. GLOSSBRENNER when Labrador Steamships was sold to Algoma Central in 1971.
In 1987, her name was changed to ALGOGULF to commemorate Algoma Central's and the bulk carrier's ongoing cargo movement to and from Gulf of St. Lawrence ports along Quebec's north shore.
While it's all eyes forward in the wheelhouse, the lockmastaster and linesman looks on at the bow of the 75' wide ALGOSTEEL passes the lock's west-end arrestor. 
After being converted into self unloader at Port Weller Dry Docks in 1990 her name was changed to ALGOSTEEL.
Her refit consisted of a 2 belt gravity system with 2 loop belt elevators feeding her 250' discharge boom. 
Once completely in the 766' lock, the 730' ALGOSTEEL will be lowered about a foot.
Unlike when she was a gearless bulk barrier, her boom was designed to self discharge her cargo of 27,000 tons at a rate of up to 5440 tons her hour. 
The strong west wind keeps the Seaway flag flying full out and makes it difficult for the ALGOSTEEL to keep her cautious slow approach to the lower gate and arrestor. 

Though technically there's 2.5 feet to spare on either side of the 80' wide Seaway lock, the spotters on the starboard side now still doesn't want to damage the STEEL's hull even on her last trip.
While her powerful Sulzer 6RD76 diesel engine can give the ALGOSTEEL a top speed of over 14.5 knots, (almost 17 mph), it was "All Ahead dead slow" as she made her way past the lock's west-end arrestor.
Once the upper gates are closed, the lowering activities can commence but nothing will happen until the ALGOSTEEL is clear of the arrestor.
Getting there...
Keep her going, you can do it....
Ohhh, getting close....
Get her past the flagpole there....
A little more now...
That's getting there....
Raindrops keep falling on my lens 🎶. Where's B.J. Thomas with an umbrella ☔ when you need him.
Her slow going continues, but who's that upbpound in the distance?
Ah yes, it's fleetmate ALGOWOOD.
She was downbound and low in the water with a load of road salt for Becancour, Quebec when I saw her last week Monday morning at Loyalist Park.
Now sitting high in ballast the 740' stern-deck self unloader was making her way back to Goderich for another load of salt. 
As the ALGOWOOD waits in the channel for an old friend to pass and remain active for another day, all that remains of her days gone by for the old Galop Canal lock #25, is the tiny lockmaster's shack.   
While the ALGOSTEEL stayed out delivering salt longer this winter, fleetmates ALGOMA TRANSPORT and the ALGOWOOD were also frequent visitors to Milwaukee and South Chicago unloading salt until their winter layups in late February.
With Iroquois Lock behind her, ALGOSTEEL quickly picks up speed and motors by the lower approach wall and the control dam in the background.
Just as I hoped, the horn from waiting upbound ALGOWOOD blasted an echoing loud one long and then three short salute to the Captain of the retiring ALGOSTEEL. Within seconds an equally loud one long and two short "Thanks and All The Best to You and Yours" salute from the ALGOSTEEL was returned to the Captain of the ALGOWOOD

As the two self unloading fleetmates continued their passages, I could hear random shouts of joys and camaraderie from crew members on both ships. It was an amazing experience.

The ALGOSTEEL has since unloaded her last cargo of talconite pellets in Quebec City and on Sunday she could be seen motoring in ballast to Montreal. Within the next few days her name and company emblems will all be painted over in black, in preparation for her long journey to Turkey for dismantling along with fleetmates ALGOLAKE and ALGOMA OLYMPIC which have been waiting in Montreal for their scrap-tows with a new name and registry to begin. Soon the former straight-deck bulk carrier will also be gone but her years of hard work and the respect and good times shared by her former crew-mates will not be forgotten anytime soon. Still very useful but as the more-fuel-efficient newbuilds enter the lakes, simply said, it is what it is and "Time To Say Goodbye" (https://youtu.be/3ECwqVHqFq8) ALGOSTEEL.
From my first rendezvous with the ALGOSTEEL being saluted by the Empire Sandy-Brockville June 15, 2013



  1. Another amazing story Carl..Thank you so much

  2. another piece of our maritime history going along the way of razor blades and forks and spoons. Someone should buy it and turn it into a floating museam but that will never happen anymore. Money is more important. Good bye old lady may you sink during your crossing a better way to go.