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Spring’s Seaway News

It is early in the shipping season, however there is a lot happening in the region related to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Shipping on the Rise

As the shipping season came to a close this past December there was concern about the industry bouncing back. The Seaway’s cargo totals would nearly hit rock bottom, as if a large steel ship colliding with a jagged shoal, resulting in roughly 25% less than the previous season. However, bouncing back is exactly what the 2010 season has started off by doing. Through April 30 of the new season, cargo loads are up 18% over the same time frame last season. That includes a 127% boost in iron ore shipments destined for Great Lakes steel manufacturers.

“The marine shipping industry is an important part of the economies along the Great Lakes and is responsible for supporting thousands of jobs throughout the region," said Collister Johnson Jr., Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “As manufacturers increase production, we take great pride ensuring that these materials are transported economically and safely to industry so that more people can get back to work.”

Ocean-going vessels seem to be on the rise as cargo, such as windmill units and rum, make their way to the lakes.

Petition Denied

In February, Save The River, a river watch group, sent a petition to the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) in Washington calling for transparency in the date selection process relating to the opening of the Seaway each season. The group’s biggest concern is with possible winter navigation as the SLSDC and their Canadian counterparts keep setting the Seaway opening date earlier and earlier each winter. After hearing no response from the government agency for weeks, news finally came in the form of a letter on April 20.

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) President and CEO Richard Corfe explained that “There is already a process in place to determine the opening date which involves coordination between SLSDC and SLSMC. Among the significant factors considered in establishing an opening date for the navigation season are weather and water (i.e., ice) conditions, completion of lock infrastructure maintenance, and the anticipated demand for Seaway services. Water and air temperatures are closely tracked for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and there is a long historical record to draw upon.”

“Obviously we are disappointed” stated Save The River Executive Director Jennifer Caddick. Save The River will continue working on the issue to determin options for moving forward.

Pilots New Ride

The St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association is on the verge of accepting the delivery of a new ride.

The flashy, heavy duty hulled boat will act as the pilot boat, which delivers pilots to and from the large ships. Pilots are required to be on board some ships when traveling either along the river or while crossing Lake Ontario. Pilots can usually be seen riding alongside the big vessels in the vicinity of Cape Vincent, New York.

Final touches on the boat are being made in Clayton, New York at RJ Marine.

Rare Sight

On Sunday, May 2, a very unique and rare sight took place just outside of Clayton.

Ships can be seen on a regular basis passing one another on the river, but usually going in opposite directions. On this day, Spruceglen and Jo Spirit could be seen neck-and-neck on the River with Spruceglen acting as the leader. That’s right… a river game of chase. As the two made their way through Clayton, Jo Spirit (352') turned up the heat and began its attempt to pass the 730' Spruceglen. It wouldn't take long as the two headed upbound passing the village nearly "bumper-to-bumper." As they made their way to the wider portion of the channel, Jo made its move and quickly took the lead before reaching Linda Island.

Piece of History Still For Sale

Ragged half-tied tarps covering a local antique flap vigorously in the breeze. The Morrisania currently sits on wooden blocks in the parking lot of Bonnie Castle Yacht Basin with nowhere to go.

Built in 1923, this 48-foot wooden tour boat has become a victim of the economy. The boat that once cruised through the Islands has managed to survive through the Great Depression and two World Wars, only to flop like a fish out of water in the last few years and now it awaits a new owner.

Back in November, Kim Lunman told us about the storied tour boat Floating History for Sale.

Its owners are saddened to see it still sitting on the shoreline, knowing that it’s meant to grace the islands. “I’d like to see it in the water, sure, but I can’t do it” explained boat operator Ron Wright. Someone out there is sure to have $65,000 in spare pocket change and the interest in operating a local tour boat. Until then unfortunately, a piece of islands history will remain up on blocks with its tarps flapping in the summer breeze.

By Michael Folsom/

Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life.  He regularly covers the Seaway News on his popular web site,, as well as a twitter site: His work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on and  When not watching ships or writing about them, Michael works for the Syracuse Crunch, a professional hockey team.  He season ended in April, so he has already been to the River and captured these photographs and their respective stories.

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Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 1:00 PM Monday, May 17, 2010
A great shot of Spruce Glen and Jo Spirit 2. That afternoon I was on the shore at Prescott with my children watching the two ships with binoculars and recall commenting to my kids that it looks as if the "red one" is going to catch the "big black boat", and sure enough, and it only took the distance from Prescott to Clayton to do it. We were disappointed that Griffon was not moored at the base in Prescott that afternoon and for a split second as Jo Spirit approached, I thought the Coast Guard ship was returning to port...from a distance, the two seemed to be roughly the same size.

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