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St. Marys River, Sept. 4, 1971.

Roger LeLievre

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- John Sherwin (2)

By George Wharton

The Great Lakes gearless bulk carrier (“straight decker”) John Sherwin was built in 1958 by the American Ship Building Co., Toledo, OH as their hull # 192. This traditional styled laker was launched November 2, 1957 for owners Interlake Steamship Co., Richfield, OH and was formally christened as the John Sherwin (2) during ceremonies held at Cleveland, OH on May 1, 1958. The vessel’s namesake, Mr. John Sherwin, was the senior managing director of Pickands, Mather & Co. at the time of her launch. Shortly after, he became president of the firm. Mr. Mather died in 1993.

The John Sherwin’s overall dimensions as originally built were: 710’ 00” loa (216.41m) x 75’ 00” (22.86m) beam x 37’ 06” (11.43m) depth, with a carrying capacity of 25,000 tons (25,402 mt). She was powered by a De Laval 9,350 s.h.p. (6,959 kW) cross-compound steam turbine engine with 2 coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox water tube boilers. These boilers were converted to oil-firing during her winter lay up at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI in 1972/73. At the same time, she was lengthened to her current dimensions receiving a new 96’ (29.26m) mid-body. The power was fed to a single fixed pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated speed of 16.7 m.p.h. She was equipped with both bow and stern thrusters. Her bow thruster engine was removed in October of 1988 and installed in her fleet mate Herbert C. Jackson. After being repaired, the bow thruster engine from the Herbert C. Jackson was put back into the hold of the John Sherwin. With 24 hatches servicing 5 holds, the John Sherwin is capable of carrying 31,500 tons (32,006 mt) at her mid-summer draft of 28’02” (8.58m). Her holds have the cubic capacity to carry 24,500 net tons* of coal, 21,455 tons (21,800 mt) of wheat, 20,264 tons (20,590 mt) of corn or rye, 17.789 tons (18,075 mt) of barley, or 16,338 tons (16,600 mt) of oats.  Other capacities include 407 tons of heavy fuel oil and 616 tons of fresh water. Of note, in 1972, the John Sherwin was fitted with an experimental waste disposal system allowing her to burn all of her waste in her own boilers.

The John Sherwin’s tenure on the Great Lakes was not without incident. On October 30, 1960 the laker was noted to have struck a large rock in the upper St. Marys River ripping a 300-foot (91.44m) gash in her hull. She was refloated November 5. Later, on July 24, 1970 the vessel ran aground near Six Mile Point in the St. Marys River. She was able to free herself with little resulting damage. On November 28, 1976 the bulk carrier ran aground one mile out of Escanaba, MI while loaded with iron ore for Ashtabula, OH. She was freed from her stranding on December 1. The John Sherwin struck an ice boom anchor in the St. Marys River on November 13, 1978 sustaining bottom damage.

On November 16, 1981 the John Sherwin entered long-term lay up at Superior, WI. In the fall of 1986, 830,729 bushels of barley were loaded into the vessel for storage; the barley being unloaded in the spring of 1988. In 1998, there were thoughts and rumors of the John Sherwin being converted to a self unloader and returned to service for 1999. This conversion and reactivation did not take place. The laker was vandalized by two Duluth men looking for “souvenirs” in June of 2000. Both were caught and charged; the stolen property being recovered and returned.

The John Sherwin has been continuously owned by Interlake Steamship Company through their division Lakes Shipping Co., Inc., Richfield, OH. However, the possibilities of the John Sherwin returning to active service had been considered extremely remote. The year 2004 marked an interesting if not unique milestone in this laker’s career on the Great Lakes. The John Sherwin became 46 years old with the most recent 23 years (half of her time) being spent in a long term lay up status.  On April 11, 2006 however, the future for the straight deck bulk carrier took a turn to the positive.  The Interlake Steamship flag was once again raised and the vessel was moved into the drydock at Fraser Shipyards for a hull and thruster inspection.  With a projected shortage of hulls for the 2006 season and increased tonnages forecasted in the long term, the future for the John Sherwin became much brighter than it had been for many years.

After the inspection, a decision was made to use the vessel as a grain storage barge in Chicago, IL.  As a result, a contract was awarded to Great Lakes Towing Co. of Cleveland, OH to move the laker.  On September 1, 2006 the "G" tug Ohio departed Duluth, MN with the John Sherwin in tow bound for Chicago, almost 25 years from when the vessel first laid up at the twin-ports of Duluth/Superior.  The dead ship tow stopped off at Milwaukee, WI on September 6 to take on an approximate half load of yellow corn at the Nidera Elevator before proceeding on to Chicago.  After a delay waiting on weather the tow departed Milwaukee on September 13. The John Sherwin arrived in South Chicago and was docked between two elevators off the Bishop Ford north of 130th Street. The old C.T.C. No. 1 was docked near the same elevators.

The John Sherwin remained in South Chicago until August 22, 2008 when the straight decker left her lay-up berth under tow of Calumet River Fleeting's tug John M. Selvick arriving at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI on August 24, 2008.  Interlake Steamship Co. reported that work was to begin immediately on the long idled vessel to re-power the engine room to diesel (similar to that of the Charles M. Beeghly) and the installation of a self-unloading system, slopes and a forward mounted discharge boom.  The expected delivery and return to active service is set for the spring of 2010.

On November 10, 2008, Interlake Steamship announced that it was putting a hold on the John Sherwin repowering and conversion project pending what happens with the economy.  Mark Barker, President of Interlake Steamship Co. was quoted as saying "Right now, the demand for steel has dropped considerably globally and steel companies are shutting down capacity to deal with that.  That's got everyone pausing a little bit to see if this is a short-term realigning of inventory or if this is the global economy coming to a stop."  Mr. Barker further stated that "We're just taking time to evaluate this with the diligence it needs."  The installation of new engines in John Sherwin's fleet mate Charles M. Beeghly was expected to continue.  For the near future, the John Sherwin was expected to remain in the Sturgeon Bay vicinity.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  806' 00" (245.67m)
 Beam  75' 00" (22.86m)
 Depth  37' 06" (11.43m)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  31,500 tons (32,006 mt)
 at a draft of 28'02" (8.58m)
 Power (steam turbine)  9,350 s.h.p. (6,959 kW)

1-JSherwin-11-16-08-jm.jpg (69256 bytes)
Shortly after the hold announcement,
Nov. 16, 2008. John Monefeldt

Wintering at Sturgeon Bay along side the Buffalo,
Jan. 5, 2009. Dick Lund

Stern view. Dick Lund

Bow profile at Sturgeon Bay, WI, Aug. 29, 2008.
Russ Cihlar

Full length view. Russ Cihlar

Head on. Russ Cihlar

At Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI,
Aug. 24, 2008. Dick Lund

Port side view from across the bay.
Dick Lund

Starboard side view. Dick Lund

Click on the image for a special photo gallery of the John Sherwin tow in 2006.

Laid up at Superior, WI, Mar. 29, 2005.
Cathy Kohring

Stern close up. Cathy Kohring

Profile. Cathy Kohring

Onboard by Franz VonRiedel

Pilothouse close up. Rob Farrow.

Close up of name. Steve Haverty

Docking. Mark Hansen

St. Clair River, 1962. Skip Meier collection

St. Marys River, 1972. Roger LeLievre

Laid up during the 1977 steel strike.
George Thompson

Lay-up. Gene Onchulenko

Lay-up 2001

Hoyt along side, 2001.
Franz VonRiedel

John Sherwin towed from Duluth 2006 Franz VonRiedel

Sherwin loading corn in 2006 at Milwaukee  Paul Erspamer

Docked in South Chicago 2006 Tom Milton

Moved in port December, 2001. Franz VonRiedel


Bow view 2000. Steve Haverty

Superior Lay-up. Rod Burdick

Downbound Port Huron, MI 1976.
Dick Wicklund

Stern view 1976. Dick Wicklund

Port Huron, MI 1980.
Dick Wicklund

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* The shipping industry standard for shipments of coal is the net ton (2,000 lbs or 907.2 kg).  Other bulk commodities use the gross ton (2,240 lbs / 1,016 kg) or metric tonne (1,000 kg / 2,204.6 lbs).  All tonnage figures used here are the gross ton unless otherwise noted.