Wilfred Sykes – A Very Rare Sight in the Duluth Piers

3 weeks ago


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I waited a long time for this one! Here is the Wilfred Sykes arriving in Duluth-Superior on April 4, 2021 to pick up a load of iron ore from the Burlington Northern #5 dock in Superior, Wisconsin. I’ve used the word “rare” before on this channel, mostly for ships that we only see once or twice a year… or sometimes just once every two or three years. But this appearance by the Wilfred Sykes in the Duluth piers is truly rare as this was her first appearance in decades. I’ve heard one account say she last made the trip through the piers in December 1997. The funny thing is that she wasn’t really even supposed to enter through the Duluth side. As she waited for the Baie Comeau to depart the BN5 dock in Superior, however, she had a little extra time on her hands… so she treated Duluth to this extremely rare entry through the shipping canal. Perhaps Captain Eric Treece just wanted one trip through the piers before he left to become a pilot on saltwater ships. Note: Captain Treece has his own YouTube channel, covering both his shipping career and his passion for storm chasing. I highly recommend you check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/ColoradoStormChaser/videos

After entering through the piers and giving us a great master salute with her dual horns, the Sykes crossed over to the Superior side, by which time the Baie Comeau had vacated the BN5 dock. I followed her as she made her way across the harbor, stopping at Connor’s Point to get some views of her starboard side as it was nicely lit by the late afternoon sun. I then went to Wisconsin Point to watch her approach and dock at BN5. Note the two crew members riding the Bosun’s chair from the Sykes to the dock to help tie up the ship. Keen viewers will also notice several puffs of black smoke coming from the Sykes bow section, as her diesel-powered bow thruster is used to help her maneuver up to the dock. The use of these thrusters helps the Sykes dock without the need of tug assistance.

The 678-foot Wilfred Sykes was built in 1949 by the American Shipbuilding Company of Lorain, Ohio. She was the first American lake carrier built after World War II and was in many ways she signaled a new age in Great Lakes shipping. Her two steam turbine engines produce a combined 7,700 horsepower, burning “bunker C” heavy fuel oil instead of coal, making her the first laker to do so. (Several lakers would later be retrofitted to burn fuel oil, but the Sykes was the first laker designed to do so from her conception.) She has 18 hatch covers that access six cargo holds capable of holding 21,500 tons of cargo. The Sykes was converted to a self-unloader in 1975 and given a 250-foot self-unloading boom. She is one of five steam-powered lake carriers still in service, with the others being the Alpena, Arthur M. Anderson, Cason J. Callaway, and Philip R. Clarke. All five have now been documented on this channel.

The Sykes is normally involved in hauling stone between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, but on rare occasions she has made iron ore runs to Lake Superior at the beginning or end of the season when she isn’t needed for hauling stone. She made a couple of visits to Superior in 2018 and 2019, which I wasn’t able to capture… as most visits were at night or during poor weather. After having spent much of 2020 in layup due to the economy, she did make an earlier visit to Two Harbors in March 2021, but again I wasn’t able to capture her (other than a brief glimpse of her sitting at anchor). It was ultimately worth the wait to watch her come through the Duluth piers. It may be a long time before we ever see her in Duluth again, so hopefully my footage of this rare visitor does her justice!

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29 thoughts on “Wilfred Sykes – A Very Rare Sight in the Duluth Piers”

  1. Three long and two short….. an odd Salute? For a large ship, she just glides so smoothly through the water without a ripple other than the prop wash. As always, an excellent description and info along with your great views… and an excellent catch of them lowering two crewmen to the dock to help tie her up, that was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Is there any advantage for a Bow Bridge? Also wow 1949; I didn't know boats stayed on the great lakes that long. Doesn't the Frame suffer from metal fatigue or rust? If they rebuild or refurbish them how many years in between? Great info and amazing footage as always.

  3. The Sykes…a real lady..
    A beautiful and regal vessel…
    A class act no doubt . ..
    She cuts through the water..
    ..so smooth….
    Fantastic shots of her…
    Excellent video…thank you!

  4. I am guessing… Seeing a Bow Mounted Wheel House these days is akin to seeing a High Hood EMD Locomotive in the Railfan World! 馃憦馃徑馃憤馃徏鈽猴笍

  5. Did I see the old Cleveland Cliffs house flag flying from the foremast? If not, I have one, an original, I think from the NEGAUNEE, to donate to the SYKES. She looks great ! 3 L, 2 S…

  6. Dude I can't even tell you how excited I was to see this one come up in my feed! I've been waiting for you to upload yours hahahaha. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous!

    Edit: side thought – did you intend to have the splashes in front of the camera at the start, or did you just get lucky? I really loved them for some reason. Also loved the building it was going behind round 6:06/6:07

  7. Wonderful. Lakers should never be laid up or idle. They do best when out on the lakes. Glad to know she is appreciated AND busy. I love her paint! Pretty ship. BTW – your narrative about her and her captain are just great.

  8. I know Cliffs purchased all 3 boats. If you Google great lakes fleet flags, you'll see the original Cliffs flag, or look at any color pictures of past Cliffs boats…they always flew the fleet flags from the foremast.

  9. What a fantastic video! Appreciate your fine efforts to get so many vantage points. Also I greatly enjoy all the detail you put into the video descriptions. All in all, just awesome stuff. My sincere thanks.

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