Sunday 16 April 2023

General Cargo Vessel EVANS SPIRIT

And then there were "two" jigsaw puzzle 🧩🧩 pieces left to be placed - the general cargo ship's name, EVANS SPIRIT which is a special name because it acknowledges the drive and determination of the hard-working McKeil Marine founder, Evans McKeil who with a 35' wooden boat named MICMAC which he and his father built in a barn in Ancaster, Ontario became a way and means to transport supplies and labourers to worksites during the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1956.  Over the next 40 years, Evans McKeil went on to create the largest tug and barge operation on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Following his father's entrepreneurial outlook when he became company president in 1992, Blair McKeil continued to pursue niche business opportunities by entering the dry bulk carrier market while growing the McKeil Marine fleet to 24 tugs and workboats, 31 barges, and 4 bulk carriers. Later 4 tankers and a cement carrier were added to the fleet. 
Actually the earlier namesake was the veteran tug EVANS MCKEIL which was built in 1936 at the Panama Canal Shipyards in Balboa, Panama and though recently dismantled in Port Maitland, she had worked hard for the Hamilton based McKeil Marine since 1989.

Designed by Conoship International of Groningen, The Netherlands, her name was SPAVALDA when built in 2007 at Royal Niestern Sander Shipyard in Delfzij, NL  and owned by Armamento Setramar of Ravennar Italy.
Her name was changed to EVANS SPIRIT when McKeil Marine purchased the modern shallow draft general cargo vessel in 2017. With a combined deadweight capacity of 15,000 MT in her two holds, the 459'2" EVANS SPIRIT can carry a wide variety of dry bulk cargoes into shallow draft ports with ease. 

Photo of fully loaded EVANS SPIRIT by Pat English
on April 13, 2022 at Loyalist Park near Morrisburg.
Though not needed while being loaded with soybeans at the Port of Johnstown on April 19, 2022, the  EVANS SPIRIT is also fitted with efficient pass-pass cranes (seen amidships on her left or port side in my photos and Pat English's to the left). They are used for loading and discharging of break-bulk cargoes like aluminum slabs, a product McKeil Marine has had a partnerships with Aluminaire Alouette of Sept-Iles, QC since 1992 to transport to multiple Great Lakes ports including Oswego, NY.  

As you can see in these Port of Oswego photos I found on Twitter, the pass-pass cranes are swung towards the dock and while one platform of slabs are lowered to the dock, the other platform is lowered into the ship's hold. According to Captain Dave Yager who has mastered the EVANS SPIRIT along with other McKeil Marine vessels, forklifts are lowered into the holds to position stacks of 700 kg aluminum slabs onto the lifting platforms while dockside forklifts remove the stacked slabs and transport them into the dock warehouse or awaiting flatbeds which take them to the local Novelis plant which makes them into aluminum sheets used in the automotive industry. Meanwhile, loaded and unloading platforms continue to be swung or passed over until the ship is empty. Quite an innovated process which enables McKeil Marine to provide enhanced service to Alluminaire Alouette and the stevedores at the Port of Oswego. And once unloaded, the hard work and spirit of Evans McKeil is underway to take on another dry bulk cargo like grain at the Port of Johnstown or more aluminum slabs at Sept-Iles. Who knows, but if there's a will, there's a way it seems for McKeil Marine.

Had a lot of fun with this puzzle. Piecing the old grain elevator was which was built almost 100 years ago was quite the challenge. More Carlz Boats Jigsaws 🧩 will be posted soon. Meanwhile, click here to complete this one if you haven't already done so: Stay Well c):-D

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Ice Strengthened Expedition Ship OCEAN EXPLORER

And then there was one piece left in my latest jigsaw puzzle to be placed. Not a logo or a flag this time around but instead this piece featured something most of us boatnerds probably had never seen before prior to this shipping season, a deckhand standing on a platform extended out of the bow of the uniquely designed passenger ship OCEAN EXPLORER just feet above Iroquois Lock's water level on September 6, 2022. 

The upbound 342.5' OCEAN EXPLORER was one of about seven foreign flagged passenger ships to cruise along the Seaway and Great Lakes for most of last summer. After two shipping seasons of seeing virtually no cruise ship passages due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was pretty amazing to see all of these huge liners and for me especially, this one again with its unique ULSTEIN CX130 reversed bow.

OCEAN EXPLORER has a beam of 59' which allows her slightly more the a 10' of play in the 80' wide lock. Her width would normally allow vessels her size the ability to stay dead centre in the chamber and slip through the guard lock quite quickly once the outer gates are opened.  However on that day the 162 passenger vessel was encountering strong winds and with gusts of approximately 30km/hr and since Iroquois Lock is not equipped with Hands-free Mooring equipment like the flight locks, tying her up was going to be needed. 

The "fo'c's'le" or "forecastle" which is pronounced "fok-sell" (easy for me to say 😬), is the forward deck of a ship. It derives its name from sailing ships days when the raised forward deck was known as the fore-castle, a typically raised, castle like platform for archers to shoot down on enemy ships, and as a defensive stronghold if the ship were boarded. Also as it was then and on most vessels we see on the Great Lakes these days, essential machinery used for anchoring and tying off a ship is located on that forward deck. Not the case as you can see for the OCEAN EXPLORER with its inverted X-Bow, as her "fo'c's'le" is located below deck beneath an attractive forward observation area. 
While it great that her anchor windlass and tie-off winches are well protected from harsh salty seas, getting a line ashore is another matter. Quite a delicate operation as seen in these pics of the deckhand feeding a line to the right of the wheelhouse so that a deckhand there can toss it below to the lock linesman.

With the lines secured, it's all stop as first the gate arrester is lowered...

...then the bascule bridge...the gates are almost closed in the background too.

Due to the winds forcing the levels downstream, the built in 2021 ice-strengthened expedition ship is raised about a foot that day to Lake Ontario levels.

The patented ULSTEIN X-bow design on OCEAN EXPLORER offers her the ability to navigate with improved stability in comparison to the traditional bow designs. X-bow vessels are less subject to vertical motions induced by waves continuing on course smoothly while maintaining her top speed of 16 knots.  Also her engines use less fuel resulting in reduced air emissions and fuel consumption.

Iroquois Lock's west end gates begin to open....

...the lock's linesman stands ready by the snubbing post to let go of the line...

...not a commander's salute like what Meg Meakin gets every time a ship passes by her neighbour's Thousand Island dock, but instead a single blast from the EXPLORER's horn signals it's time let go the lines...

...the linesman pulls up the loosened but still heavy mooring line...

...and then walks it towards lock wall...

...line is let go...

...then hauled into the"fo'c's'le" from the lowered platform...

...the platform raises and time to get underway...

I got myself a big wave from a ship's officers which moments earlier was spot the distance to lock wall as the American owned but flagged the Bahamas OCEAN EXPLORER makes another trip into the Great Lakes. 

Before returning this spring along with her sister OCEAN POLARIS, the Polar Class 6 ice breaking cruise ships built with the capability to cut through a metre or 3 feet of ice, will have been exploring the south seas around Antarctica during our winter months. Now that's a voyage I'll definitely be adding to my bucket list. 


Thanks again Alan Wooller for your technical assistance. Enjoy your upcoming shipping season on the veteran 730' gearless bulk carrier, TIM S.DOOL. I have photographed her many times including when named SENNEVILLE I got her at Ramey's Bend when then she was the first downbound laker to enter and transit the new 8 mile long Welland Bypass on March 28, 1973. 

It was a big day because previously ships would have to make a fairly sharp turn to the left at "Ramey's Bend" (when the location was actually a change in direction) and continue along a narrow and fairly straight channel for a time. After passing beneath Bridge 18, which my dad use to operate in Dain City and I rode a few times too, a downbound would pass under four more lift and by a swing bridge before cutting through the heart of Welland's busy downtown core. While I have many fun memories of those days, many others were frustrated with the delays and the car traffic gridlock that happened when especially the Main Street bridge, #13 went up for one or sometimes more vessels. It was as it was but the outcries resulted in the excavation of a bigger ditch, with two tunnels to keep the car and rail traffic moving and fairly straight and much wider channel between Port Colborne and Port Robinson. It was the definition of progress then and still today almost 50 years later.