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  Maumee Bay

Jim Hoffman 

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - McKee Sons

By George Wharton

The self-unloading barge McKee Sons was built in 1945 initially as a type "C4-S-B2" fast troop transport by Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Chester, PA christened as the Marine Angel. Her overall length at construction was approximately 510 feet with her power coming from a 9,900 shp steam turbine engine. The Marine Angel was acquired by Amerisand Steamship Co. in 1952 with partial ownership shared with Boland & Cornelius (American Steamship Co.) whose fleet would operate the converted vessel on the Great Lakes. The retrofit of the Marine Angel included lengthening of 123 feet, new fuller bow, replacing the midship pilothouse with a new bow pilothouse, and an overhaul of her engine. This was completed at Maryland Drydock Co., Baltimore, MD. After being towed up the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes, her conversion to a self-unloader was finished at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Inc., Manitowoc, WI in 1953. She was christened McKee Sons and entered service that same year. As such, she became the first salt water vessel to sail as a self-unloader on the Great Lakes. The vessel was named in honor of the 11 sons of the 3 McKee brothers who were the principals of Sand Products Corporation, Detroit, MI.

The McKee Sons sailed as a steamer until 1979. From 1980 through 1990, she lay idle in Toledo, OH. Upper Lakes Towing Co., Escanaba, MI acquired the idle steamer in late 1990 converting her to a barge and shortening her hull by 53 feet 10 inches in 1991. The conversion included removing her aft accommodations and propulsion system as well as the installation of a notch in her stern. Her 6 holds are fed by 28 hatches where she can carry 18,400 tons at maximum Seaway draft of 26 feet and is capable of carrying 19,900 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 27 feet 6 inches. She is equipped with a bow thruster. The McKee Sons has a 250-foot bow-mounted self-unloading boom that can be swung 120 degrees to port or starboard. The barge was paired up with the 297 GRT Upper Lakes Towing tug Olive L. Moore. The 6,000 bhp diesel powered Olive L. Moore was built in 1928, rebuilt in 1980; her dimensions being 125' (loa) x 27'01" x 13'9".

The McKee Sons and the Olive L. Moore sailed as a pair for the first time in 1992. They sailed for Lakes Shipping Service Co. (managed by Upper Lakes Towing) in 1996; then for Upper Lakes Barge Line Inc., Bark River, MI from 1997 into the 2000 navigation season.

After the McKee Sons charter was terminated in early 2000, she was long-term bareboat chartered to Grand River Navigation Co., Cleveland, OH; and affiliate of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., Port Dover, ON. After being refurbished and painted Lower Lakes colors at Sarnia, ON, she was paired with the ocean articulated notch tug Invincible. This tug was built in 1979 at Jacksonville, FL as the R.W. Sesler; a name she retained until 1991 when she was renamed Invincible. This tug is 99' (loa) x 35', is equipped with an upper pilothouse with a 60 foot height of eye, and has a Budworth linkage. Her twin screws are powered by E.M.D. diesel engines rated at 5,750 bhp. The tug was purchased from Dixie Fuels Ltd., Houston, TX where she had been engaged in pushing the 18,816 dwt hopper barge Mary Cecilia. Leaving Texas on June 6, 2000; the Invincible arrived in Sarnia, ON via the St. Lawrence Seaway system on June 20. The McKee Sons and Invincible left Sarnia on their first voyage together Sept. 4, 2000.

Their first month of sailing was not without incident. The pair encountered difficulty in the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland, OH including running soft aground while attempting to navigate up the river with a load of stone.

Overall dimensions
Length 579'06"
Beam 71'06"
Depth 38'06"
Capacity (tons) 19,900
Self-unloading boom 250'

Deck view. TZ

Looking down at the notch. TZ

Close up of tug. TZ.

Fit out in Sarnia. May, 2001. T. Parker

Saginaw River. Todd Shorkey

Stern view. Todd Shorkey

McKee Sons underway in 1962. Photo by Keith Gale. From Stuart Evans collection.

On the Detroit River. Rudi Rabe

Barge with Olive L. Moore. Rob Burdick

Stern view. Don Coles

Inbound Cleveland. TZ

Close up of name. TZ


More pictures
from our archives

Before conversion to barge.
Jim Hoffman

Lay-up at Toledo March 1973 with Ben W. Calvin. Rudi Rabe

Aerial view. Don Coles

St. Clair River. John Meyland

Outbound Saginaw. Stephen Hause

Detroit River.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view.
Mike Nicholls

Tug Invincible out of the notch. Todd Shorkey

Another view. Todd Shorkey

Wintering at Sarnia, ON, Mar. 22, 2008.
BoatNerd Staff

Bow view. TZ

Stern view Cuyahoga River. TZ.

Barge in Sarnia. Don Coles

Lake Huron. Don Coles

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