Saturday 20 March 2021

Classic Self Unloader MICHIPICOTEN

The unique Lower Lakes Towing and Grand River Navigation logo and acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples throughout North America on the MICHIPICOTEN's stack was last piece to be placed in my latest Jigsaw Planet puzzle of leaving Iroquois Lock on July 18, 2020. Like so many others in the combined Rand Logistics fleet that are named after First Nation's leaders, rivers and lakes, MICHIPICOTEN is an Anglicization of the original Ojibwe word "Mishipikwadina" meaning "Big Bluff" which refers to the high hills near the mouth of Michipicoten River where the First Nation band has lived since before the the first arrival of European settlers at the north-east region along the shoreline of Lake Superior. Located16 kilometres at its closest point to the Ontario mainland, Michipicoten is also the name of the Lake's second largest island which is known for its rugged steep slopes and is plentiful of wildlife like beaver, woodland caribou and birds.

Her name was ELTON HOYT 2nd named for the then President of mining company Pickands Mather when launched in 1952 for Interlake Steamship Company and she was one of three lakers that were built along the Atlantic seaboard at the Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard at Sparrows Point, MD, because shipyards on the Great Lakes were backed up in orders. The other two lakers owned by Bethlehem Steel were the JOHNSTOWN, named for the community where one of their steel mills was located in Pennsylvania, and SPARROWS POINT, for the location of their shipbuilding operation.

Since the vessels were to be brought to the Great Lakes via the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, their size was limited. The ELTON HOYT 2nd measured 626 feet 6 inches long, 70 feet wide, and 37 feet deep, which gave her a capacity of approximately 20,000 tons. However to clear the lower bridges along the waterways north, her cabins and pilothouse were cut apart and carried on deck for the tow through the rivers. After being assembled in Chicagothe HOYT entered service on August 15, 1952, and like other Interlake vessels, she began hauling iron ore mainly from the docks in Duluth or Superior to steel mills in various of lower Lakes ports. The ELTON HOYT 2nd also visited the new loading dock at Talconite Harbor, taking on talconite pellets that were mined at the Hoyt Lake which was founded by her namesake in 1955.

Though lengthened by an additional 72' in 1957 to her current size of 689.5', the time spent unloading the straight-decker made the vessel less competitive. While the HOYT was slightly smaller than other vessels her age, she would still spend upwards of 12 hours unloading. So in 1980 the vessel was converted to a self-unloader at American Ship Building Company in Toledo, which added many years to her career.

However after a 3 year layup in Superior, WI due to a reduced demand in steel, the sailing days for this hardworking ore carriers that bore the same name and flew the Interlakes Steamships flag for 51 years ended when she was sold to the Canadian shipping company, Lower Lakes Towing of Port Dover, ON, on April 10, 2003. The renamed MICIPICOTEN entered service for here new owners primarily supplying taconite pellets to the Algoma Steel mill at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in May 24, 2003.

While her size and stern mounted self unloading boom has offered the MICHIPICOTEN the ability to discharge a variety of cargoes to ports seaway-max vessels couldn't visit, it was iron ore that the 68 year old veteran laker was hauling to Quebec City when I caught her slowly entering Iroquois Lock and positioned perfectly all the way in due to the cautious eye of her deckhands spotting her distance away from the rugged concrete lock walls.

Like the CSL TADOUSSAC had just completed and was returning up towards to the Lakes when I caught her a month earlier on June 15th at the Seaway lock, Minnesota mined iron ore that had been discharged by thousand footers like the EDGAR B. SPEERS at Conneaut, OH, was then loaded onto Canadian bulk carriers like the MICHIPICOTAN, because there are simply not enough American-flagged seaway-max self unloaders to do the job. 

Iroquois Lock is a great place to view boats and a family of osprey perched atop a former light standard seen to right of the MICHIPICOTEN's wheelhouse.

Seaway workers were on hand to secure or walk the MICHIPICOTEN through the lock that's normally lowered about foot for downbound vessels.

Though currently flagged Canadian, the U.S. flag flies from her forward mast as a courtesy of the several times the bulk carrier will enter American waters during her St. Lawrence Seaway transit.

Visible through the legs of one of the two control dam gantry cranes capable of lifting 350 tons, the 453' HAPPY ROVER waits on Lake St. Lawrence for her turn in lock.

Ore dust laying everywhere and clinging to her side gives the normally immaculate vessel an unfair rustic look.

Further down she moves but not wanting to touch the steel fluorescent-marked arrester which protects the lock's gates and bascule bridge...

As the west-end arrester is lowered...

...the opening of the gates and the raising of the bridge and arrester at the other end of the lock signals to the skipper it's time to get a move on.

At the end of her 2010 shipping season, MICHIPICOTEN's original steam turbine and boilers were removed during her winter layup in Sarnia and replaced with a new MaK 6M32C 6 cylinder 8,160 BHP diesel engine. Combined with a newly installed controllable pitch propeller, the new powerplant was capable of pushing her up to 14 knots when she returned to service in May 2011 while being more fuel efficient and reducing emission levels.

And with her big engines churning away, the classic MICHIPICOTEN makes her out of the lock allowing the bound for Monroe, MI, Big Lift general cargo vessel HAPPY ROVER to take her place and become the subject for my next Jigsaw Planet the link below to put it together. It can be a lot of fun, No bluffing, really c):-D

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