As you probably read in yesterday’s post, the first thing I did in Detroit yesterday was catch the Calumet at Belanger Park before following her up to Riverside Park and barely making it in time to get much of her. You also might have seen that I returned to Belanger, but for now let’s stay at Riverside.
Only minutes after the Calumet had moved on, the much larger and older Lee A. Tregurtha sails by on a downbound course.
After only seeing Lee twice from February 2010 to November 2012, I’ve now seen her twice over the last few weeks. I caught her on December 30th returning from an ore run to Cleveland in this post.
Currently mighty Lee is on an ore run to Severstal Steel in Dearborn.
This stylish but unorthodox ship was built in 1942 as the war tanker USS Chiwawa, and was turned into a laker in the 1950s, whereupon she entered service for Cleveland-Cliffs Iron as Walter A. Sterling.
In the mid 1980s Cliffs sold off their fleet, and the Sterling was acquired by Rouge Steel, aka the Ford Motor Company. She was renamed William Clay Ford and was pressed into service hauling taconite from Marquette to Rouge Steel in Dearborn.
In 1990 Ford sold out their marine operations, and the last three vessels, including William Clay, went to the Interlake Steamship Company. One, the Samuel Mather, never saw service for Interlake and was scrapped. The other two still sail as Kaye E. Barker and Lee A. Tregurtha. The pair is operated under the “Lakes Shipping Company” banner, a division of Interlake.
At this point Lee was slowed down to about 5 knots as she made her way downriver, and I decided to get myself back to Belanger.
When I arrive, all 826 feet of the Tregurtha are turning to head into the Rouge River.
She begins to head in bow-first and her tanker stern follows suit.
Gulls and terns flock the vessel as she quickly disappears into the Rouge.
And it’s bye-bye Lee, although I’ve one more stop to make!
And it’s hello Lee as she proceeds up the Rouge towards the Jefferson Avenue drawbridge.
The old girl cautiously lines up for the bridge.
It is true that Lee is the longest vessel to ever transit the Rouge, and I’m not sure how much clearance room she has here but I am sure she has to be more careful than most boats do here.
She gets closer and this angle becomes harder to get, so I focus on the stern before heading across the road.
But even before I do that, here’s her cabins and note her battle emblems mounted proudly on them.
Alrighty, now there’s the stern and I’d best get across the street.
Tanker-to-laker conversions were quite popular during the 1950s and 60s when Great Lakes Shipyards were very busy. However, they never lasted as long as those built purely as lakers. In fact, of all the tankers ever converted, Lee is the only one still operating.
This stack of hers is unusual even for a converted tanker. If you look closely you can see part of the outline of her Cleveland-Cliffs “C” from her days as the Walter A. Sterling.
Well, the classy old laker moves on to the Conrail Bridge and there are only a few shots I still need.
I get a tail-on shot of her aging 1942 stern as she gulls continue to follow her.
And with that, I think that will be all for me and the LAT (her nickname and calling card within the fleet, note the title). Time for me to go home.
In fact, this is very likely the end of the 2012-13 shipping season for me. The Soo Locks shut down for the winter this week, and when the Soo closes, shipping closes. So besides occasional tanker and salt traffic, I bid shipping adieu until Spring. And I’m glad to have a vessel like Lee close it out for me.
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