Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -
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.
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.