Monday 15 April 2019


My plan last Wednesday afternoon was to catch the Pierre Radisson-class icebreaker DES GROSELLIERS as she made her upbound trek to the Great Lakes just like her sisters, the PIERRE RADISSON and AMUNDSEN had done before her. With the massive DES GROSELLIERS just entering Eisenhower Lock at about 5 pm, it looked like I was also going to be able snap for the first time, the 656' Laker-class bulk carrier FEDERAL OSHIMA near Iroquois Lock, and the classic hard working Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation tug, ROBINSON BAY which according to the Marine Traffic app, appeared to be tied off for the evening across from the old Windmill Lighthouse at the Port of Ogdensburg, New York.
Though the ROBINSON BAY has worked the waters of the Upper St. Lawrence River for over 60 years, she’s seldom seen by most of us Canadian ship and tug enthusiasts because she’s more often working closer to the American Seaway locks, Eisenhower and Snell or tied off at her dock on the Wiley Dondero Canal, the "pond" or body of water between the locks just north of Massena Center, New York. At spring or fall though you may luck out and see this unique looking tug laying idle in a Seaway channel as crews busily place or remove navigation aids or as she's briskly underway pushing the Seaway’s buoy laden barge to her next drop site.

The 103' ROBBY BAY, as she's also known as, was designed by the naval architect, Merritt Demarest of Jersey City, New Jersey and built in 1958 at the Christy Corp. shipyard at Sturgeon Bay, Wiscousin as a Class 1A icebreaking tug. Cutting ice was an activity I recall seeing her completing daily on my MarineTraffic app a few weeks back, making tracks and flushing ice away from the entrances of the two American locks and the canal that was froze over solid due to the harsh winter, in preparation for the new shipping season. The upper wheelhouse which offered increased visibility and safety when operational was added when the ROBINSON BAY was re-powered in 1991 in Cleveland, Ohio with a Caterpillar 3606 diesel-electric engine.
 Waisting no time downbound towards Eisenhower Lock from Loyalist Park near Mariatown - April 19, 2014
TundRA 3600 tug OCEAN TUNDRA at Copeland's Cut pushing it to assist
the grounded tanker CHEM NORMA at Morrisburg. Nice pic, Chuck!!
Seeing the little toot last Wednesday was especially timely since soon the ROBINSON BAY's career on the Seaway will be ending. Though she's completed her multi-tasks admirable over the years, cost to maintain her has continued to increase over recent years. It is what it is and next fall, a new tug, a 118' TundRA 3600-class similar to Quebec City based,  OCEAN TUNDRA, (seen in Chuck Larrabee of Massena's photo to the right on June 3, 2018), will be taking over the Seaway's navigation aids replacing and icebreaking duties.
Days are also numbered for smaller tug PERFORMANCE 
Designed by Vancouver-based Robert Allan Ltd., the new Ice Class 1A tug which will be named SEAWAY GUARDIAN is currently being built by Gulf Island Fabrication at their shipyard in Houma, Louisiana and will be powered by a pair of EPA Tier compliant engines that will deliver a bollard pull of approximately 65 long tons via controllable pitch Z-drive propulsion units. The vessel will also be equipped with a heavy duty deck crane, a stern roller, shark jaws tug-pins and a tugger winch for ease of handling navigation aids on the aft working deck. She'll be equipped with barge winches and push knees on her forward deck along with a towing winch within an enclosed house aft to allow the tug to handle barges off the bow or stern.
Homebound ROBINSON BAY after some TLC at Heddle Marine in Hamilton
- November 18, 2015. See the former CCGS SIMCOE in background. 
While the raised bridge on the ROBBY BAY was a great improvement, the SEAWAY GUARDIAN's high glassed-in wheelhouse will provide a commanding view while pushing the buoy barge ahead or observing activities below on the work deck. The complement will be 4-6 crew, however comfortable accommodations will be provided for up to 14 persons for extended buoy run missions.

Those "extended buoy run missions" or better known as overnight port stop at Ogdensburg and Clayton, has been a twice a year activity since 1963 when the ROBINSON BAY took over the responsibility of managing the navigational aids to Lake Ontario from the U.S. Coast Guard 56 years ago. While ending those visits will in itself will be a significant savings for the SLSDC, it will be missed by those two communities economically and by local ship watchers looking for that easy close up pic. Fortunately for me, I captured a few the classic's last for you. Timing is everything.

Hey, I've been chatting with the ROBINSON BAY's Chief Engineer, Nathan Jarvis on Facebook and he's informed me that the new tug, SEAWAY GUARDIAN will continue to do overnight port stops in Odgensburg and Clayton. Great News and looking forward to those continued photo ops at both of those pretty communities of the new American Seaway tug for many years to come. Thanks again for the update Nathan and I wish you and everyone on board your fine vessel "All the Best" on the ROBBY BAY's final spring commissioning of navigation aids. 👍⚓👍

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME story Carl. Its an honor to be a part of this blog. so many amazing stories.