Invincible & McKee Sons - U.S.A.

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The barge McKee Sons is seen in this photograph while underway with her tug Invincible on October 22, 2000. They were inbound in Toledo's Maumee Bay and this photograph was taken by Jim Hoffman

Great Lakes Classics - McKee Sons & Invincible
By contributing Editor 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 as approximately 155.45m (510 feet) with her power coming from a 9,900 horsepower 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 37.49m (123 feet), new fuller bow, replacing the midship pilothouse with a new bow pilothouse, and an overhaul of her engine. This work 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 honour of the eleven sons of the three McKee brothers who were the principals of Sand Products Corp., Detroit, MI.

The McKee Sons sailed as a steamer until 1979. From 1980 through 1990, she lay idle in Toledo, OH. Laid Up. Upper Lakes Towing Co., Escanaba, MI acquired the idle steamer in late 1990 converting her to a self-unloading barge and shortening her hull by 16.4m (53'10") in 1991. The conversion included removing her aft accommodations and propulsion machinery as well as the installation of a notch in her stern. The vessel's new dimensions became as follows: 176.63m (579'06") loa x 21.79m (71'06") beam x 11.73m (38'06") depth. Her 6 compartments are fed by 28 hatches where she can carry 18,400 tons at maximum Seaway draft of 7.92m (26 feet) and is capable of carrying 19.900 tons at her maximum mid-summer draft of 8.38m (27'06"). She is equipped with a bow thruster. The McKee Sons has a 76.2m (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 b.h.p. diesel powered Olive L. Moore was built in 1928, rebuilt in 1980; her dimensions being 38.1m (125'00") loa x 10.77m (27'01") beam x 4.19m (13'09") depth.

The McKee Sons and the Olive L. Moore sailed as a pair for the first time in 1992. They sailed for Lakes Services Shipping 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 Lower Lakes Transportation Co., Cleveland, OH; a subsidiary of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., Port Dover, ON. After McKee Sons was refurbished and painted Lower Lakes colours 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 30.18m (99'00") loa x 10.67m (35'00") beam, is equipped with an upper pilothouse with an 18.29m (60 foot) height of eye, and has a Budworth linkage. Her twin screws are powered by GM Electro Motive Division diesel engines rated at 5,750 b.h.p. 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 via the St. Lawrence Seaway system on June 20. The McKee Sons and Invincible left Sarnia on the maiden voyage together September 1, 2000, unloading stone in Chicago, IL, the destination of their first cargo on September 6. Although the tug is owned by Lower Lakes, the barge remains under the ownership of Lake Services Shipping Co., whose principals are the three McKee brothers. The pair are expected to be engaged primarily in the stone, aggregates, coal, and salt trades on the lower lakes.

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Posted: May 24, 2001       Last Revised: May 24, 2001
Photo by: Jim Hoffman - Copyright © - 2000

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