By Jody L. Aho
Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Calcite II
The oldest vessel in the USS Great Lakes Fleet was built as Hull 804 for the American Ship Building Company of Lorain, Ohio, in 1929. The bulk freighter entered service for Pittsburgh Steamship Company (the iron ore carrying subsidiary of U.S. Steel, as it was called in 1929) as the William G. Clyde on August 15, 1929.
The Clyde found itself in the regular trade pattern of Pittsburgh Steamship Company's bulk freighters--loading iron ore either in Duluth or Two Harbors, and unloading in South Chicago, Gary, Lorain, or Conneaut. At times, an occasional stone, coal, or slag cargo would be thrown in as a backhaul.
After the 1960 season, the vessel was converted to a self-unloader at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The vessel was transferred to the limestone-carrying division of U.S. Steel, the Michigan Limestone Division, or more popularly known as the Bradley Fleet. The Clyde was renamed Calcite II at this time to honor the company's limestone quarry and loading docks at Calcite (Rogers City), Michigan, and to carry on the name used by a small self-unloader which served in the fleet from 1912 through the 1960 season. The vessel also traded the red hull and Pittsburgh Steamship Company stack markings for a gray hull and Bradley fleet markings. Also in 1961, the Calcite II became one of the first vessels to be fitted with a bow thruster. In addition, the vessel's trade route changed dramatically, as Rogers City and, secondarily, Cedarville, Michigan became the common loading ports and limestone became the major cargo.
Three years later, the vessel's original triple expansion steam engine and boilers were removed in favor of a 3200 horsepower Diesel engine. The Calcite II has seen steady service in the years since, and even when the industry as a whole was suffering in the early 1980s, the Calcite II remained busy, making a variety of trips around the Great Lakes. Since the mid-1980s, trips to Lake Superior have become fewer and farther between for this vessel, although Fraser Shipyards in Superior remains a favorite lay-up spot.
The Calcite II's length of 604'9" and width of 60' have become advantageous as most other vessels her size have been sent for scrap. The Calcite II now visits a wider variety of ports than ever before, including many ports inaccessible by larger vessels. The Calcite II sailed for just over 6 months in 1996, and it did not fit out until June 13 for the 1997 season.
Overall dimensions Length 604'09" Beam 60'00" Depth 32'00" Capacity (tons) 12,650 Diesel engine 3,200