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Sykes makes pair of visits

Dick Fox /Ship's Log • Dec 16, 2015 at 12:00 AM

We received two more visits from the Central Marine Logistics operated steam ship Wilfred Sykes since our last article. It came in the evening of Dec. 8 with a cargo for Meekhof’s D & M Dock just upriver from the power plant on Harbor Island. It returned late Saturday evening, Dec. 12, with a load for Verplank’s Dock in Ferrysburg. It was gone by morning.

Since we have discussed the Sykes details and history recently, we will answer some frequently asked questions in this article.

We have been asked why some boats come in bow first and some back in. That is determined by the position where the boat is to unload on the dock and the placement of the unloading boom on the boat. If the position for unloading doesn’t dictate the direction of entry into our port, it is captain’s choice.

We also recall, in some difficult weather situations, where a captain preferred to go out bow first and thus would choose to back in.

Another question asked is “Why can’t boats turn around.”

Long time readers may recall that there was a turning basin. It was located opposite and just up river from the St. Mary’s Cement Terminal. It was relatively small. We recall the St. Mary’s Conquest and the Pere Marquette 41, and their respective tugs using it early in our 14 years of writing this column.

The last time we remember it being used, the vessel required an additional tug to assist. That basin is now often used for storage of vessels for King Marine of Holland, MI.

Another frequently asked question over the years has to do with the type of cargo.

First of all, there is coal for the Board of Light & Power plant on Harbor Island. Secondly, when the sand mine was operating, sand was shipped out by boat. Next, the St. Mary’s Cement Terminal receives cement. Then there are what we refer to as our stone docks: Verplank’s in Ferrysburg and Meekhof’s dock on Harbor Island. There are many types of “stone.” In addition, both receive slag, which is a reusable by-product of steel making or ironmaking.

Finally, Verplank’s receives and stores salt for use on our roads. That is usually seen as the black tarp-covered pile near the railroad swing bridge.

Another question is “How do we get a ride on a boat?” The answer is that it is virtually impossible for the public. The companies favor their customers and/or suppliers with these trips. We worked for a major steel company and remember who rode on our boats. The best bet for the public is to participate in a raffle or an auction. There are usually two or three a year where a company will donate a trip for a fundraiser. Check www.boatnerd.com for announcements.

We may yet see the Sykes three more times between the two docks, and maybe a coal boat and a cement boat. Everything is now weather-dependent.

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