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Touring the Saginaw

Samuel Hankinson • Aug 15, 2018 at 12:00 PM

When my weekly articles are published, I expect them to be read by locals in the West Michigan area. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the Canadian-flagged Saginaw’s most recent visit to our port.

Well, the internet works in amazing ways, and the online article somehow found its way to the Saginaw, and the freighter’s captain, Colin Lozon, reached out to me and invited me on for a tour the next time his vessel returned to Grand Haven.

The Saginaw arrived in Grand Haven this past Saturday afternoon and traveled up to the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg, laden with a cargo of trap rock from Bruce Mines, Ontario. Trap rock is a specific type of stone that is used in road construction.

I hopped aboard a little before sunset and was met by a crew member who acted as my tour guide. After visiting the mess halls at the stern, we ventured into the engine room. I thought it was rather noisy, but since the vessel wasn’t underway, it was operating on generator power.

I couldn’t fathom how loud the diesel engine was when the ship was going full speed.

After seeing the stern of the ship, we headed to the front and up into the spacious pilothouse. For a ship that was built in the 1950s, the bridge was incredibly modern. I went out on one of the bridge wings and watched the sun set behind the stern.

In my time aboard the vessel, I learned a few new vocabulary terms.

The first: punt job. This is a term used to describe a dock that requires a ship to launch a workboat to help secure lines. Usually how it works is the workboat is launched and the lines are delivered ashore to a dock worker who uses his car to tow the lines to the pylon. Once the line is secure, the ship winches into position.

The Verplank dock is considered a punt job because the dock is too shallow to ease right up next to it.

The second term was leaf hatches. The Saginaw has a different hatch configuration than other self-unloaders that visit our port. Most freighters on the Great Lakes have covers that conceal the entire hatch. These covers can be lifted off with a crane and stored on the deck when the hatches need to be opened.

The Saginaw has 30 hatches on its deck. There are two covers in each hatch that meet at the middle. When the deck crew pulls them apart, they open and close similar to a telescope assembly, with smaller parts that combine to collapse or expand.

The Saginaw has been a very busy vessel this summer. I could see remnants of cargo from trips the vessel has taken earlier in the week. On its deck were leftover iron ore pellets from a pair of trips to Marquette, as well as stone from a run to Holland.

It being a nice summer evening, there were plenty of pleasure craft going up and down the Grand River, marveling at the Saginaw as it unloaded. It would be funny if the Saginaw traveled around with a “like us on Facebook” sign. The crew runs a page for the vessel, full of content about the people who reside onboard and photos of places the ship goes. Just look up “MV Saginaw” on Facebook.

I was very grateful to have the opportunity to come aboard for a visit, and I would like to thank Lozon and his crew for being welcoming to me and for the folks at Verplank’s for helping me coordinate my visit.

It ended up being a fairly busy week in the port. In addition to the Saginaw’s visit, the Pere Marquette 41/Undaunted delivered a load of stone on Aug. 9 and the Kaye E. Barker delivered a stone cargo on Aug. 11. The Pere Marquette 41/Undaunted returned Sunday afternoon with a slag load. All three of these cargoes went to the Verplank dock.

The D&M dock and Verplank’s are both expecting the Wilfred Sykes at their docks this week.

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