Thursday, April 14, 2016

Great Lakes Freighters

Living on the south shore of Lake Ontario comes with many benefits. 'Cool lake breezes in the summer, ever changing ice formations in the winter, water fowl year round, and beautiful views every single day. And then there are the sunsets and the view of the Toronto skyline. For those who enjoy water sports such as sailing and water skiing there are many great days available despite the short season, and of course the fishing is world class.

Our house is far enough away from the lake that we can only see it from our upstairs foyer window, but when you live so close you see the lake everyday as you drive around or visit friends with cottages or houses on the lake, and when you eat and drink at the local restaurants that boast lake views. I am also fortunate enough to walk my dogs by the lake. My seven minute drive to school is along the lake shore, and each morning I am treated to a different view complete with different sky and water colors, and birds and waves, sometimes with the moon, sometimes with cool cloud formations, sometimes with dense fog or blowing snow. Now that it is spring, a special lake view treat is noticing the various boats on the water. Some days the fishing boats are far out, some days they are closer to shore, some days a research vessel is in sight, and most days there are freighters to see.

Great Lakes freighters are cool. They travel through the the Great Lakes system from all over the world, carrying all sorts of things. From TEACH, a great resource on all things about the Great Lakes:

The largest ships that visit Great Lakes ports are designed to carry such bulk cargoes as iron ore, coal, stone and grain. Other ships are designed for general cargoes such as machinery, steel and bagged food products. Still others are more specialized as tug and work boats, commercial fishing vessels, tankers, day excursion boats, and railroad car ferries, among others. has lots of cool info, including a photo gallery and an interactive map that shows you exactly what boat is where.

One of our goals is to purchase this adorable little red cottage that is within eye sight of our house. It's still a real cottage: little and crooked and with tons of personality. We would like it for the occasional renter, but also for our own use. 'Parties, quiet sunsets, art lesson location, bird watching and freighter watching. It isn't for sale - yet, anyway - but we are ready.

Here's the freighter that is just north of the Wilson harbor as I write this:

Info from BoatNerd:
Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- English RiverBy George Wharton

Overall Dimensions (metric)
Length 404’03” (123.22m)
Beam 60’00” (18.29m)
Depth 36’06” (11.13m)
Capacity 7,450 tons (7.570 tonnes)
Power (diesel) 1,850 bh.p.

Initially constructed as a Seaway shuttle package freighter; this smaller sized motor vessel was built by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., Collingwood, ON as hull #171. With the keel being laid March 20th, 1961; the vessel was launched September 8th, 1961 as the English River for owners Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd., Montreal, QC and immediately bareboat chartered to Canada Steamship Lines, Montreal who also acted as the vessel’s managers. The package freighter was named after a small community and river in northern Ontario. The English River entered service on October 19th, 1961 and had a designed capacity of 5,200 tons (5,284 tonnes) in a port and starboard hold. The vessel is powered by a single Dutch-built Werkspoor model TMAB-390 8 cylinder 1,850 b.h.p. diesel engine burning marine diesel oil driving a single controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated service speed of 13.8 m.p.h.

The English River spent her early years in the freight trading business she was designed for. Primary routes were between Lake Ontario ports and company terminals along the St. Lawrence River. Cargoes included palletized freight and the odd deck load of vehicles. Canada Steamship Lines assumed direct ownership of the motor vessel in 1963. With better highways and increased competition from the trucking industry; demand for package freighters such as the English River decreased.

Canada Steamship Lines sent the English River to the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co., Port Arthur, ON (now Thunder Bay) for conversion to a self unloading bulk cement carrier in 1973. The conversion took place over the summer. The conversion included the installation of sloping cargo hold slides with drag line scrappers to move the cement to stern mounted bucket elevators to lift the cargo to a hopper for discharging to shore by air slide equipment. With this conversion, the English River could now carry 7,450 tons (7,570 tonnes) of cement and her mid summer draft of 22’07” (6.88m). The newly converted cement carrier returned to service late in 1973 under charter to Canada Cement Lafarge. At this time, title of the vessel was passed to Laurentide Financial Corp. Ltd., Vancouver, BC with CSL acting as managers.

In 1992, Canada Cement Lafarge took ownership of the vessel. The English River’s current registry shows Lafarge Canada Inc., Montreal, QC as the official owners with Canada Steamship Lines remaining as managers. The vessel’s trade routes are predominately focused on the lower lakes; loading at Bath, ON for ports such as Toronto, Whitefish, and Hamilton, ON; Oswego and Buffalo, NY. Other ports of call could include Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; and Port Stanley, ON.

A safe vessel; the only recent recorded incident occurred in Cleveland in the spring of 1996. The English River got caught crosswise in the current of the Cuyahoga River and backed down into a cement/steel dock causing some damage to both the vessel and dock. The vessel has often been honored in spring by being the first vessel of the season into several lower lake ports and maintains a busy schedule throughout the shipping season.

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