Snow has covered summer cottage roofs, boats have been shrink wrapped and placed in marina parking lots and ice is forming on the mighty St. Lawrence River. These are sure signs of winter along the Seaway and an ending to another busy shipping season.
The 2008 shipping season officially began on March 22. Vessels from all across the world would again travel to our neck of woods creating a wide array of colorful and interesting scenery on the water.
From yachts and naval ships to lakers and salties, the St. Lawrence Seaway would again prove to be a sightseeing paradise for many.
According to the Seaway Corporation, 2,629 commercial vessels passed through the Seaway in 2008. Of those, 372 were ocean-going vessels or better known as ‘salties.’
Over the course of the summer months, the Seaway was also visited by a number of large luxury yachts. Some of those to visit were Blue Moon (165’), Cracker Bay (129’), Gran Finale (147’) and Lady M (164’).
These massive personal vessels wowed those who lined up along the small town docksides or trailed in their wake just to get a glimpse or photo.
While many chased yachts up and down the River, others were hard at work.
The Port of Ogdensburg became one of the busiest ports on the Seaway in 2008 as numerous deliveries of windmills from ocean-going vessels arrived for a project on Wolfe Island. Nadro Marine and their fleet of tugs and barges were responsible for the transportation of each windmill – 86 in all, making the trek from Ogdensburg to Wolfe Island almost daily. The tug crews would go on to work non-stop from the end of July until mid-December to ensure that each unit made it to the island before bad weather struck or the close of the Seaway occurred. The windmills, which are part of a new energy initiative, are expected to be erected and functional by March 2009.
Windmills will stand tall in the sky come next spring on Wolfe Island, but the most famous structure in the Thousand Islands region would take the cake this year. The Thousand Islands Bridge celebrated its 70th anniversary in August. Known as one of the largest infrastructure pieces of its time, the Thousand Islands Bridge helped to create a pathway from the United States to Canada in northern New York. To celebrate this occasion, an open house was held and the day was capped off with fireworks over historic Boldt Castle during Alexandria Bay’s annual Pirates Weekend festivities.
As the pirates retreated, just like the long summer days, Labor Day would be escorted in with dense fog on the River. Ships acted as alarm clocks to those asleep on shore just before 6 a.m. on that Monday morning. Nearly the entire 1000 islands region was awakened to the bellowing sound of ship horns as they tried to navigate through the large white wall of fog and headed through the American and Brockville Narrows. At one point during that time a ship, Montrealais, stopped its upbound course near Deer Island to wait for the fog to lift. Neither a ship nor lighthouse nearby could be seen until almost the 11 o’clock hour that day.
One thing that could be seen was the threat of a Seaway strike, but that would be avoided when Seaway workers (members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union) ratified a new contract in October which prevented a shutdown of the Seaway and lock system. The new agreement, which is valid until March 2011, includes the necessary flexibility for the Corporation to move ahead with the development of new technology, which is expected to improve the system’s productivity and increase worker safety.
Seaway Corporation reports 2,629 commercial vessels passed through the Seaway in 2008
It was a contract between Lockheed Martin and the United States government that brought the newest addition of the United States Navy fleet passed through the 1000 Islands in mid-November. The USS Freedom made its way from Wisconsin, where it was commissioned on November 8, through the Seaway as it headed out to sea and on to its new home port. The USS Freedom is the first naval ship built on the Great Lakes since World War II.
Then, in early December the Seaway experienced a setback as the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Bridge in Valleyfield, Quebec suffered sixteen broken cables. The bridge, which was in its down position, was unable to be raised to allow passage below and for nearly five days many of the lakers and salties attempting to pass through the area were left stranded along their routes and forced to wait for repairs to be made. Ships could be seen anchored in the Seaway near Prescott, Ontario or along the Eisenhower and Snell Lock walls. In all, close to thirty vessels were required to wait for the repairs to be made and each vessel was estimated to have lost in upwards of $25,000 per day.
The Seaway officially closed for the season on December 29 and though an opening date for next season has yet to be announced, there are a number of big plans in the works to make it an exciting one. The Seaway will celebrate an anniversary of its own on the weekend of July 10-12 in Massena, NY at the Dwight Eisenhower Lock and Visitor Center. Festivities are expected to include live music, a parade and fireworks.
By Michael Folsom, theshipwatcher.blogspot.com
Michael Folsom, is an avid ship watcher who currently hosts a web site, theshipwatcher.blogspot.com, where he tracks ships and reports on various items while on the shores of the River. In addition, his work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on boatnerd.com and northcountrynow.com.