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Sykes visits twice

Dick Fox • Dec 2, 2015 at 12:00 PM

We received two visits from the Central Marine Logistics-operated steamship Wilfred Sykes since our last article.

It came in the evening of Nov. 24 with a cargo for Verplank’s Dock in Ferrysburg. It was gone by the next morning.

It returned Sunday at about 9 a.m. with a load for Meekhof’s Dock in Ferrysburg. We saw it as it was crossing the pier heads outbound at about 2:15 p.m. The Sykes is notorious for blowing salutes and it did not disappoint — we heard at least four.

The Sykes is named for a former president of Inland Steel who retired in 1949 and died in 1964. Inland Steel was acquired by Arcelor Mittal, one of the world’s largest international steel makers, during the steel industry consolidations of the late 1990s.

This vessel is an oil-fired, steam turbine-powered vessel built as a bulk freighter (the first Laker build after World War II) in 1949 by American Ship Building Co. at Lorain, Ohio. It is powered by a 3,500-horsepower Skinner Uniflow Engine. When built, it was considered a prototype for future boats and set many cargo records in its early years. It was converted to a self-unloader in 1975 at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wis. This boat has a cargo capacity of 21,500 tons. It is 678 feet long, 70 feet side, and a depth of 37 feet. The boom is 250 feet long and it is equipped with a bow thruster.

Almost everyone is aware of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. However, there were two other modern shipwrecks seldom discussed.

On Nov. 18, 1958, the steamer Carl Bradley was returning light to its homeport in Calcite, broke in two in a storm on northern Lake Michigan and sank almost immediately with the loss of 33 crew members. Two crewmembers, Oscar Fleming and Frank Mays, survived after some 20 hours on a raft and were rescued by the Coast Guard cutter Sundew some 20 miles from the site of the sinking.

On Nov. 29, 1966, the 60-year-old Bethlehem Steel steamship Daniel J. Morrell broke in two during a major storm and sank in Lake Huron. Of the 29 crew members, there was with just one survivor, Dennis Hale. He has written a book about his experiences, which may still be in print.

It would be fitting to observe a moment of silence in memory of these sailors.

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