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Best site to see Sykes is GH

By Sam Hankinson/Ships Log • Nov 9, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Grand Haven only had one visitor this past week, and it was the Wilfred Sykes, which arrived after dark Nov. 4 with a load of slag for Verplank’s Dock in Ferrysburg.

It departed before sunrise the next day.

The Sykes mainly trades on Lake Michigan, hauling iron ore and stone products from the Upper Peninsula down to the steel mills of Indiana. Those loading and unloading ports don’t have docks that are accessible to the public. Grand Haven is arguably the best location to catch the Sykes, since it is a rarity everywhere else on the Great Lakes.

While Grand Haven’s season isn’t over yet, the Sykes has accounted for around 19 percent of all activity in the port as of now.

The Sykes is one of just a few ships still powered by steam that sail the Great Lakes. All of these ships are on the American side of the fleet. The last Canadian-flagged steamship was scrapped a few years ago. Two ships were repowered in the past year and the rest should follow suit in the near future.

The end of steam on the Great Lakes is very near, but conversions to diesel power will ensure that these vessels operate well into the future.

The Sykes has been rumored to be repowered multiple times in the past few seasons, but it continues to operate with its steam power plant.

The Sykes was the first ship built after World War II. The Inland Steel Co. took delivery of the ship in 1949 from the American Shipbuilding Co. of Lorain Ohio. When it entered service, it was much larger than other ships on the lakes at the time, setting many cargo records in the early stages of its career. It’s named for a former president of Inland Steel who retired in 1949 and died in 1964.

Fraser Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin, converted the Sykes to a self-unloader in 1975.

ArcelorMittal acquired Inland Steel in the 1990s. Mittal is one of the world’s largest international steel makers.

The Sykes is 678 feet long, 70 feet wide and 37 feet deep, with a cargo capacity of 21,500 tons. It is equipped with a 250-foot unloading boom, and driven by a 3,500-horsepower Skinner Uniflow Engine.

There are no ships currently scheduled for Grand Haven as of now, but that will likely change. Keep in mind that weather is a big factor at this time in the season.

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