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Bon voyage to the Algorail

By Sam Hankinson/Ships Log • Jul 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Grand Haven received two cargoes this past week.

On Friday afternoon, Interlake Steamship Co.’s self-unloading motor vessel Kaye E. Barker arrived in port with a load of stone for the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg. Then, early Tuesday morning, Central Marine Logistic’s self-unloader Wilfred Sykes came in with a cargo of slag for Verplank’s.

I won’t get into the details of the ships that visited this week, as they are our most frequent visitors to our port so far this season. The Sykes has made eight trips so far and the Barker six. For this article, I’ll be talking about a ship that used to visit Grand Haven.

Last week, Algoma Central Corp.’s Algorail was towed from Goderich, Ontario, on its way to a scrapyard in Port Colborne, Ontario, by McKeil Marine’s tug Tim McKeil. This trip would see the vessel transit the St. Clair and Detroit rivers.

I rendezvoused with the tug Cheyenne of the Open Lake Group late Tuesday night in Marysville, just north of Port Huron. The Cheyenne, owned by Wade P. Streeter, would be acting as the stern tug on the Algorail’s downbound trip through the rivers. As the ship was not under power, a tug on the stern would help the tow navigate through turns. Basically, we were acting as the rudder.

The Cheyenne would be on the stern from the bottom of Lake Huron all the way to the Detroit River light. The tug departed Marysville to go into Lake Huron at 2:15 a.m., and met the tow in the lake just before sunrise.

We began heading downbound and passed through Port Huron. After that, the tow traveled through the towns of Marysville, St. Clair and Algonac before reaching Lake St. Clair. Detroit’s Renaissance Center loomed in the distance as we traveled across Lake St. Clair. Once we reached Detroit, we went under the Ambassador Bridge and, shortly after that, we made it to Grosse Ile. Near the bottom of Grosse Ile, we made the turn for the Livingstone Channel. This was a narrow 12-mile channel that was the last place we had to bring the Algorail through.

As the tow made it into Lake Erie, we approached the Detroit River light, which is where we were letting go of our lines. This is when I started to get an odd feeling. When you see a ship, you don’t know when the next time is going to be when you see that ship again. Sometimes you don’t know if you will see it ever again. I knew this was the last time I would see the Algorail.

The Cheyenne let go of the stern line, and the Algorail faded into the Lake Erie haze, and faded into history.

The Algorail was built in 1968 and sailed its entire career under one name for the same company. It was a frequent visitor to Grand Haven and would call on our port to deliver loads of salt and stone. After nearly 50 years of service, it is being replaced by newer vessels in the Algoma fleet.

I am very grateful to have been onboard the Cheyenne for the tow, and I thank my friend, Wade, for the great experience.

In regards to future vessels visiting Grand Haven, the Calumet may have visited by the time this article is printed. They are due to deliver a load to the Verplank dock this afternoon.

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