Monday 7 December 2020

Former U.S. Army T-Boat PATHFINDER T-509

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
You'd be surprised what you can find when walking along a beach after a storm like what my sisters and I would do when visiting our grandparents farm which was located across the road from the Lake Erie shoreline in Wainfleet, west of Port Colborne. It was that kind of curiosity that returned when while standing on a dock below the main street of Clayton, New York in June 2015, when I saw this grand old tug, the BOWDITCH which the owner and skipper, Captain DeWitt Withington, would go on to say that when built in 1954, she was the U.S. Army "Small Tug", ST-1991. What an interesting story she's had and you can read about her whenever at ( 
Meanwhile it seems, my boat watching friend, Janey Anderson who lives in Toronto was equally intrigued when she came across a small black hulled boat at a Toronto harbour-front marina with the a crest and the words  "U.S. Army T-509" embossed on her bow.  Janey's photos and some of the descriptions she found online and posted on a Facebook group she moderates, The Prescott Anchor, appears in this post along with more information and pics that I found, but I'm hoping some of my friends who were in the marine services branch of  the U.S. Army, might be able to help me fill in the blanks and complete her story. Here's what we know:

The boat, now named PATHFINDER was privately bought in 2010 and is a modified 2001 series T-Boat built and placed in reserve in 1954 by Higgins Industries of New Orleans, Louisiana which built over 20,000 boats of all kinds during World War II and the post-war hull numbers appear to be another 7,000 until company closed in 1963.
The class of vessels known as T-Boats were originally built according to Higgins Industries as "Coastal Freighters" for the US Army during WWII. During the war, the Army built 170 wooden T-boats, known as design 259. Apparently there are very few of these boats still surviving today, however if you know of one, please send a pic or details my way and I'll add it to this story.

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
The post war steel boats were called design 2001 and were built in three shipyards from 1952-1954. At the time it was believed that there was going to be a second Korean War so they started building the boats and then were laid up most of their Army careers. The boat was specifically designed to cruise up the rivers of Korea with a load of troops, munitions or medical supplies. They were procured during a period when the Navy was handling the contracts for all the armed forces, and apparently it is possible that each of these boats also had a Navy number. They covered the numbering series T-424 through T-517, excepting the group T-466 through T-477. These numbers were assigned to existing vessels whose mission changed during this period.
Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
Some of the 82 T-Boats built to this design did go to Korea for the Army, and at least one made an appearance in the Vietnam War. Almost as soon as they were built, some were made available to other government agencies, and starting in 1980, they began being sold to commercial ventures. T-509 never saw any action in Korea or Vietnam and seemed to start her career in the Army on reserve status in New Orleans as mentioned earlier however at sometime and I'd appreciate any input that you may have, the vessel was assigned to duty on the Great Lakes while stationed with the Army's Buffalo District.
In this photo that I found on the Bowling Green State University's - Historical Collections of the Great Lakes website, T-509 is tied off in Cleveland, Ohio at or about April 4, 1965.
From 1970 to 1984,  T-509 was assigned as a research vessel to Great Lakes Laboratory and named C.A. DAMBACH. I found this photo at Location, date and photographer is unknown.

Another photo of the PATHFINDER being converted into a pleasure craft in Easport, Maine. Photographer and date unknown.

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020

In August 20, 1984, the C.A. DAMBACH T-509 was transferred to the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, ME, and sometime there after her name was changed to PATHFINDER. That name stuck with Josh Brierton of Toronto, who purchased her and after modifications were completed, motored the PATHFINDER in May of 2010 from Eastport, Maine down the eastern seaboard, up the Hudson River, crossed upstate New York via the Old Erie Canal and finally across Lake Ontario to Toronto which is where she has remained as a "live afloat" pleasure craft. After living on board for over 7 years, the PATHFINDER was sold in 2017 but remains in Toronto which is where Janey Anderson found her sitting pretty but proud last month. 

It's amazing what you might find while walking along a shoreline, through a marina or the many internet pages of Wikipedia. But there's still information that I'd like add to her story like when was T-509 assigned to the U.S. Army's Buffalo district, and what were her crew's responsibilities when she worked as a research vessel on the Great Lakes and along the New England shoreline? I'm also wondering what was she up to when the T-Boat was known as NOCOMIS and CLEAR WATER?  If there's anything more you call tell,  please leave a comment and I'll add it the T-509's story.  

Stay Safe everyone and especially thinking of those who lost their lives when Pearl Harbor was attacked 79 years ago today. All Gone But Not Forgotten.


December 8, 2020:

To prepare for new coat of paint, PATHFINDER is being sandblasted in St. Catharines. Taken by Brayden Gavanac in 2014.

January 3, 2021:

Hey I came across another photo of T-Boat taken by Will Van Dorp who writes an interesting blog called tugster: a waterblog,  which as Will says, "helps landfolk see his home waters - the Port of New York. The photo of the KNOCK NA SHEE here was taken about five ago during one of his road trips along the eastern seaboard. There's also another neat article I found about retired T-Boats in the Chesapeake Bay area an online magazine called SOUNDINGS. Here's the links to it:  Happy New Year and Stay Safe!!

Tuesday 10 November 2020

A River Meet and Then Some.

No, it wasn't exactly a "Teddy Bear's Picnic" and though I shot many of my photos through branches and beneath trees, it wasn't the woods I was going to on Wednesday, October 28th, but the river, the St. Lawrence and my photo possibilities surely were a "big surprise"

With an inch of wet snow blanketing the neighbourhood, motoring anywhere through that slop hadn't entered my mind for a second that day even though it was a day off and I truly didn't know when I'd be able to get back down to the river after my upcoming hernia surgery. That was until I saw photos taken by fellow boat watching friend, Pat English of the 740' CSL NIAGARA unloading road salt at the Rideaubulk dock near Mariatown, a location I had not been able to catch a ship at since by chance, I came across the former Algoma Central self unloader PETER R. CRESSWELL discharging the hot commodity of the day then too, on October 8, 2012 (

Making that 90 minute drive to that wee dock on Lake St. Lawrence, a body of water that was created during the building of the Seaway was not going to happen but catching the Canada Steamship Lines self unloader underway along with the recently built Polsteam bulk carrier NARIE which was also upbound, was very doable regardless of the early-winter conditions. Actually I almost didn't make it to the river in time to even catch the 656' NARIE, I had barely parked at the foot of Centre Street in cute town of Prescott when the sitting high in ballast Polish-owned bulker effortlessly motored by.

Those unpredictable autumn skies along the river makes it look like the passage of the flagged Bahamas general cargo vessel took place late in the afternoon though it was just after lunch hour.

Even before I had time to check the whereabouts of the now upbound CSL NIAGARA,  I suddenly noticed a downbound in the distance....

...loaded and bound for Port Cartier, the 740' ALGOMA STRONGFIELD was approaching the NARIE which was bound for Toledo...

...and soon realized that not only was I going to get an unexpected rendezvous but also a mid-river meet. Oh YAAA!! 

From east of Prescott at Windmill Point, you can see the NARIE continuing to motor away towards Brockville in the distance, while another downbound, the cement carrier NACC ARGONAUT appears to the stern of the advancing ALGOMA STRONFIELD.

The Seaway-max size STRONGFIELD turns again to avoid another one of many shoals and shallow points along the seemingly vast upper St. Lawrence River.

After turns completed, shipping by the old windmill lighthouse runs very close to the Canadian side of the river.

While the NARIE had cranes topside to assist in unloading her cargoes, the oncoming ALGOMA STRONGFIELD has none requiring unloading to be done by dock equipment making her known as gearless bulk carrier.

One of my favourite vantage points, Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site. 

Even though we're experiencing late summer temps today in the 20's celcius, it definitely looks like winter was near in this clouded over view from the end of Old Windmill Road. 

The last of four Equinox-class gearless bulk carriers in Algoma Central's fleet renewal program, her original name was  CWB STRONGFIELD when built in 2015 at Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry, in Nantong City, China...

...however before the then Canada Wheat Board owned vessel was completed, the shipbuilder went into bankruptcy. Algoma Central purchased the hull, had the construction completed and when she entered service in 2017 the vessel was renamed her ALGOMA STRONGFIELD .

As the STRONGFIELD, which is the name of a Canadian prairie wheat continues passed the Port Of Johnstown's riverfront docks  the upbound CSL NIAGARA approaches beyond the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.

Trying to get a better view of my next ship-meet, I was able to find some high ground above the port's dock, but then had to contend with shooting through swaying branches in wind gusts of 28km and dead ones from a partially submerged tree along the shoreline. Meanwhile you can see the two 740's position themselves to complete their meet beneath the 1.5 mile suspension bridge in this sequence of photos...

 ....ALGOMA STRONGFIELD starts to turn to starboard as the rounded bow of CSL NIAGARA makes a wide wake as she pushes against the steady river current...

...while CSL NIAGARA maintains her course, ALGOMA STRONGFIELD continues to swing right...

...while the gap between the two passing ships widens below, an 18 wheeler crosses over to the Canadian side on the completed in 1969 suspension bridge that remains closed to non essential travel due to the pandemic.

With the STRONGFIELD out of her way, the NIAGARA straightens out as she approaches the Port of Johnstown...

She was known as J.W. McGIFFIN when christened by her namesake, the then CSL chairman of the board at Collingwood Shipyards on April 11, 1972. At 730' in length and 75' wide, the 34,380 ton cargo capacity McGIFFIN was the first in a new class of domestic self unloading bulk carriers with a rounded bow, flat stern, and all cabins and wheelhouse aft.

When seaway-maximum sizes were revised, she was also the first in her class to receive a new and larger forebody at Port Weller Dry Dock. Renamed CSL NIAGARA, she re-entered service in 1999,  10' longer, 3' wider and deepened by 1.5' which increased her cargo capacity to just under 38,000 tons.

While built primary to haul coal from Lake Erie ports of Conneault and Toledo to steel mills in Hamilton, Nanticoke and Sault Ste, Marie and the Ontario Hydro coal burning plants at Courtright, Nanticoke and Port Credit., these days her cargoes also includes iron ore, salt, grain and stone.

As CSL NIAGARA continues her upbound passage to Toledo, another meet was about to begin, with the  cement carrier NACC ARGONAUT skirting the American side of the river while bound for Trois-Rivieres.

While the sleek and bulbous of the NACC ARGONAUT appears, tossed wave spray and furiously flapping flags make for an interesting effect as the big CSL NIAGARA pushes on into the strong and constant wind gusts that day in these next two photos.

Her name was ARKLOW WAVE when built at Kyokuyo Shipyard, in Shimonoseki, Japan in 2003. She was a general cargo vessel then like fleetmate ARKLOW WILLOW which is now named FLORENCE SPIRIT.

She was converted into a cement carrier in 2017 and initially named NACC TORONTO, but changed to NACC ARGONAUT before taking over the cement trade for Lafarge on the lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River in 2018.

NovaAlgoma Cement Carriers (NACC) was founded in 2016 as a 50/50 joint venture company between Algoma Central Corporation and Nova Marine Holdings SA of Luxemborg dedicated to building a global fleet of cement Carriers to support infrastructure projects worldwide.

The 447.5' NACC ARGONAUT is just over 40' longer than her predecessor, ENGLISH RIVER seen entering Toronto harbour on August 27, 2011 in the background of this all of my Carlz Boats blogposts. At 14, 650 tonnes, she can also carry almost double the cement capacity of the former CSL package goods freighter which is still being dismantled in Port Colborne.

Well I certainly got more than I bargained for during this last rendezvous at the river. While today at home "relaxing" with another cold pack on my groin to sooth the pain from my hernia surgery last week, you might say it's exactly what the doctor ordered. Anyhow my recovery is one day at a time and hopefully before I know it I'll out and about photographing boats. The sooner the better.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Asphalt & Bitumen Tanker IVER BRIGHT

Almost a century old Bridge 19 was built for the 4th Welland Canal in the 1920's

Regretfully because of COVID -19, I haven't been able to journey up to my hometown, Port Colborne to visit my mother, whose been getting wonderful care at the Portal Village retirement community there, and while in town, get to snap a boat or five passing through Lock 8 which my dad was in charge of as a lockmaster before he retired in 1991, or the bridges he earlier operated, like #21, the first lift bridge at the harbour entrance from Lake Erie and the one to the right,  #19, the single leaf bascule or "jacknife" bridge at the north end of the lock taken by my co-worker and good friend, David Cole of Nepean, Ontario on September 20th.

"That darn bridge is up again", - Yeah, if my dad heard it once, he heard it a hundred times, week after week throughout most of his career working on the Welland Canal. It was a common complaint back then and actually quite understandable because there were only two vehicle and pedestrian bridges crossing the often busy Welland Canal in Port Colborne at the time. If you were a student walking to Port High (only rural kids got to go by school bus 🚌, wusses) you were going to be late, πŸ˜€YES!! Meanwhile, more often than not, motorists would simply pull a "U-ee"and hightail it to the other bridge about a mile away hoping it was down. If it too was up, they'd simply have no choice but to shut the car off, have a smoke 🚬 (in the car πŸš™ then of course) and listen to Danny Neaverth spin some real Rock 'n' Roll 🎢 (now Classic Rock) on WKBW-1520 radio in Buffalo, New York, or some wonderful music to fall asleep by 😴 on our local station πŸ“», C-HOW-1470 (btw, I spun discs and read the news a couple of times on C-HOW while studying radio at the Columbia School of Broadcasting in Buffalo). 

I can still recall the front page photo and article in the Port Colborne section of the Welland Evening Tribune in the late 60's showing how a proposed tunnel like those built in Thorold and eventually Welland would join together Killaly Street East and West which were divided since the digging the fourth Welland Canal in the1920's. Like many things in Port Colborne, the tunnel didn't happen but the second best solution to silence the "raised-bridge-whiners" was the building of another jacknife bridge at the south-end of Lock 8 in the early 80's. Since then, motorists have had a choice to either make their way to closest open bridge, or simply turn off the car and have a smoke 🚬 - in the roadway and away from anyone these day, listen to a music app in the car or 🎧 ear-buds, or simply get out of the car πŸš™ to take a pic πŸ“² or five of the passing vessel like what my friend Dave did for me of a very popular ship on the Great Lakes these days, the 367.5' smart looking tanker IVER BRIGHT.

Built in 2012 at Hyundai Mipo Shipyards at Ulsan, South Korea, the IVER BRIGHT is known as a high-heat asphalt and bitumen tanker which can carry over 6,000 tons of asphalt in her cargo tanks that are heated and capable of maintaining a temperature of 230C (446F) to keep the asphalt in a liquid form. πŸ†’, actually Hot πŸ˜“ Stuff for sure.

The IVER BRIGHT is one of 14 high-heat tankers owned by Iver Ships BV which is a subsidary of Breda, the Netherlands based Vroon BV which which operates and manages approximately 140 deep-sea vessels capable carrying livestock, dry bulk cargo, containers, automobiles, product tankers, high-heat tankers and off-shore support vessels.  Each Iver Ships high-heat tanker is red hulled with a huge white "V" near the bow on both side, to acknowledge parent-company 'Vroon" which made the IVER BRIGHT look a lot like a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, according to Dave's wife. Good eye πŸ‘€ Anne Cole. 

While all other salties rush to get out of the Great Lakes before the St. Lawrence Seaway system closes for winter at the end of December, the Dutch-flagged Arctic Ice Class rated IVER BRIGHT has remained working the upper lakes and rivers for the last two winters while leased by Calgary based Suncor Energy.  At their Sarnia refinery, Suncor converts crude oil into many petroleum products including asphalt which is blended to produce material for road building and pothole patching by paving companies throughout the Great Lakes region. However the only way to get the oil by-product to them is by marine transportation which can be a challenge during winter months, first due to the lack of this type of specialized vessel in Canadian fleets, and potential delays if one of the shared Canadian-owned articulated tugs and barges (ATB's) is unable to transit the ice covers lakes and channels even with icebreaker assistance. To prevent reduced production due to these potential delays, Suncor sought to lease a vessel that could solely transport asphalt from their refinery. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of Ice Classed high-heat tankers out there, (only 65 of 263 worldwide) but Iver Ships had 2, and since entering the Great Lakes trade year round, though foreign flagged and crewed, the IVER BRIGHT has done the job and has offered a bright and different look when seen anywhere.

Though still plenty of room to manoeuvre the 60' wide tanker, the ship's pilot uses the fenders along the west wall to guide to the IVER BRIGHT into the 80' wide Lock 8, and not touch the bridge on the other wall (which has happened).  

Whether it's liquid or dry bulk in their holds, cargo transportation is a year round operation from Sault Ste. Marie on the St. Mary's River to Chicago and Indiana Harbor on Lake Michigan, through to various ports on the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, and all the way down Lake Erie to Nanticoke near the eastern end. Though last year was quite mild, most Great Lakes winters can be brutal due to excessive snowfalls and bitter Siberia-like polar vortexes blasting down from over the top causing several lakes and channels to freeze over completely. Fortunately American and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers have worked very hard as one joined effort to ensure that ship transits are completed and goods are delivered. Freeing up those overworked vessels, the IVER BRIGHT with her ice strengthen bow can safely transport asphalt on her own and lead the way breaking up ice for other cargo vessels. What better way to "BRIGHT"-EN a mariner's day in late February, don't you think. Thanks again David for the pics. πŸ‘πŸ“²πŸ‘  Stay Safe πŸ˜‰ Everyone!! 
 Upbound IVER BRIGHT pushes water over her bulbous above Cardinal on April 4, 2019

 PS: In case you were wondering too, BV stands for "Besloten Vennootschap" which is Dutch for "Private Company". Also a lot of good information about the IVER BRIGHT on the Vroon and Suncor websites.