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Gatun Lake, slightly less than half the area of the Salton Sea, sees diverse traffic: ships, yachts, and small craft.  Below is a Canal security boat, of which we saw several in our transit.  That’s a range marker in the trees.

Twenty-something miles of the transit is across the Lake, named for a village on the lower Chagres River.  Given the amount of dredging in the Lake, crew boats are common.

Ecotourism boats are common in some areas  . . . these boats operating near Gamboa.

The Panama Canal Railway runs along the waterway in places, carrying mostly containers, a few passengers, and in this case repair equipment.

OK . . . this is a digression.

Given the traffic through this intersection of the oceans, pilot boats abound,

as do launch service boats.  The one above and below work on the Pacific side here.

This particular morning we saw a wave of SUPers.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who has many more photos in the hopper, including the expedition yacht above.  Any identification anyone?


The “enlargement” of the Panama Canal involved a lot of dredging in Panama, as well as in ports served by the Neopanamax ships:  deepening approaches, widening channels, and even eliminating islands in part or whole in Gatun Lake.  I put the ” ” there because it’s more accurate to say “creating a third set of locks,” two sets were built a century ago.  To illustrate click here;  in the fifth photo, Atlantic Polaris is in set 1, and Nord Snow Queen in set 2.   Try again, in the same post, the fourth photo from the end, Bow Summer is in the first set, and Ever Dynamic in the second.   The third set construction site was visible back in 2012 here in the fifth photo, on the hill beyond Water Phoenix.

To dredging then, on the Atlantic side, DEME is busy with a fleet

that includes D’Artagnan heading up the efforts, a cutterhead suction dredge that can work down to 114.’

A category I’d not seen before is a self-propelled hopper barge, such as Pagadder and

Sloeber, although the latter was behind a dock that obscured most of her.  On the photo above, see the split midships on the bow;  that’s how she bottom dumps, as a dump scow would.

Quibian I is Panama-flagged and working in Lake Gatun, which is really the dammed up Chagres River.


The tenders alongside include (far to near)  Diablo, Espada, and Diablo II.

Drill barge Barú, proudly christened in 2006,  is one of the dredge-related vessels operating near the Culebra Cut. Barú, named for a Panamanian volcano, seems an appropriate name for a vessel whose mission is to drill holes so that charges can be set.   Back in 2012, I got these photos of charges detonated after being set deep by Kraken, over in the Arthur Kill.

The tender above and below is Chame II.  She followed us toward Culebra Cut while she was on a run to load more explosives.

Over on the Pacific side, dredging is performed by Jan de Nul, a Luxembourgois dredging firm.   Filippo Brunelleschi ran day and night dredging the Pacific side approaches;  a trailing suction hopper dredge, she can operate down to 124 ‘!  To digress, I’m not sure which tugs were there off the stern and in front of Taboga.

Not surprisingly for a European firm, Jan de Nul (JDN)–like DEME–uses self-propelled split hopper scows.

The two here are Magellano 1800 above and Verrazzano 1800 below, both flagged Mauritius (Port Louis) like the JDN tug we saw here.

And finally, that’s Filippo B in the distance coming back in toward the Pacificside locks, passing Maggie M.  I’m not sure why Maggie M was anchored here.

All photos by Will Van Drop, who suggests these places to celebrate the green saint’s day.


My photos of ACP tugs are coming, just not yet because in the  unrivaled crossroads of the oceans that is the Panama Canal, a slow look-around brings unparalleled reward.  Take Pacific Hope with her classic lines in diminutive scale.   Any ideas on her mission?  I figured oceanographic research, but

built in 1983 and registered in Dominica, she provides medical and dental care.  According to Facebook, she’s currently underway and bound for Cartagena, now quite high on my gallivanting list.

It appears the MSC vessel has calved?

Hercules Pride, in spite of her 1/3 scale, makes bunker runs between the Balboa port and the terminal on the island of Melones.

Pana Venture . . . nice lines but too many years on the hook with too little TLC . . .  that’s all I can say.   Anyone help?

Don Chebo appears to be a small tanker.  While trying to find info on the ship, I learned the name comes from a comic character in Guatemala.

Whatever the provenance of the ship, her propulsion comes from two Thrustmaster units, as seen in these Erie Canal boats. 

Discoverer 2 is tied up in Balboa between seismic assignments.  That appears to be the Sinopec logo right behind the wheelhouse.

Andres Felipe IV  . . . a modified landing craft, with the controls moved forward and to starboard?

Lady Remington II (a great name) and Coiba Cargo . . .  await cargo in a marina out by the Causeway Islands.

A Point-class former USCG patrols the Pacific side of the canal.

And I’ll end on a surprise, although not really . . . it’s USCGC Vigorous, a 1967 product of Lorain OH!  It appears that a crew boat is just arriving alongside.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

A to P, being Atlantic to Pacific, beginning in Limón Bay–the Atlantic side of the isthmus:  it has a lot of ACP boats, and I’ll focus on those later, but for now, let’s sample the others I saw on the trip across the Bay to Cristobal.

This one on the hard in Shelter Bay . . . all I tell you about it is that it’s a Damen Stan Tug 1606 registered in Port Louis and likely operated by Jan de Nul Group, which has huge dredging interests in the Canal;  I’ll post photos of dredging soon.  Port Louis . . . would that be Grenada?

Choroy was built in Singapore in 1997.

The colors here in the port of Cristobal are perfect.

SST Portobello, built in Vietnam and the Netherlands and arrived here last year, bears the name of a Panamanian port recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

SST Yagui is a 2011 build, flagged Mexican, or was at one time.  The prefix SST could represent SaamSmit Towage.

Smit Aruba (2006) has been painted in Saam Smit colors.

I believe that says Choy Lee, which suggests the owners of this small tug want to be associated with builder of a class of  ACP tugs. 

Choy Lee‘s partner on the job is Thelma S. 

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Tugster robots have done most of the work around here the past week and a half as I’ve transited a continent, in the skinniest possible location, starting from old Fort Sherman . . . past the Toro Point Light

hightailing past some toothy denizens

and fuel boats and

avoiding treacherous reefs of Limon Bay

to rise up across the continental divide

past the signs and

cut through that divide and under the 100 years’ bridge

and down to Pacific level.  This shot shows the entrance to the Miraflores locks to the right and the the new Cocoli locks to the left.

Turning Pacificward, that’s the islands of (l to r) Tabogilla and Taboga, where Gauguin recuperated.

We anchored in a bay just off the Flamenco Island signal station.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who has hundreds more covering the transit and gallivants at either end.  By the way, the first ship I saw at Gatun was NYK Daedalus, a sixth boro regular.


See the ice?  The chunks are out there.

The Ashtabula Light had keepers until 1973, making it the last manned lighthouse on Lake Erie.  People staffing the light did not always have a comfortable existence:  in 1927 it was struck by a ship, and a year later, two keepers had to chip their way through five feet of ice after an intense ice storm passed.  Now, it appears to need some paint.

This sign caught my attention, but it’s possible the pub is open only in summer.  I followed the arrow and

located $onny II. She was built in 1959 and apparently as a bum boat, although her appearance is similar to fish tugs.  I don’t know how often she sails, but I suspect the days of bum boats

have passed, at least in the US though not elsewhere.  That is not to say bum boats can’t be converted to yachts, as is the case with a boat previously serving Twin Ports (Duluth-Superior) and now in the sixth boro  by the name Memory Motel.

If I decide that tugster needs a waterborne headquarters, I can call this number.  Anyone want to invest with me?

Before this house became $onny II‘s annex, I’m guessing it was the sturdy shelter of proud Great Lakes mariners. Anyone know the previous life before it became a prop for a mercury vapor lamp and a Pepsi sign?

Back in August, I saw the lighthouse from the opposite side.

And not knowing much about the town, I wondered why this Wagenborg vessel was there behind the piles of earth.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, in either February or August.   Now if you find yourself in Ashtabula and the Bum Boat Pub is closed, make your way to the Harbor Perk.  It has truly good coffee and friendly atmosphere, and I’m not paid to say that.

Unrelated:  Does anyone know what became of the Ohio River’s music barge called Point Counterpoint?


“one of the toughest ports in the world, sharing that distinction with Shanghai and Calcutta . . .”  I believe that’s “tough” as quantified in black eyes, missing teeth, and blood spat out onto the gravel.  I wonder who had the breadth of experience to render this judgement.  Why would such ports as Rio, Murmansk, and Oswego not be included . . . or others?

Besides that, those few sentences render a great description of mechanization.

Mississagi is wintering over here in Ashtabula. She’s appeared on this blog a half dozen times . . . working.   I’m coming home is Norfolk Southern’s mantra.

I believe this archway is a coal conveyor belt.

That’s all you get of GL tug Rhode Island.  Mississagi (1943) is only a year younger than Alpena.  But Rhode Island dates from 1930.   The white tug in front of it is Nancy Anne. based in Cheboygan, MI.

A bit farther east in Ashtabula, Calumet winters over.  Previous posts including Calumet can be found here.

and off its stern, it’s the upper portion of tug Olive L. Moore (hull launched in 1928) and barge Menominee.  I caught them on Lake Huron in August 2017.

If you wanted to start reading that historical marker from side one, here it is, then if you want, you can go back to the beginning and read that in proper context.  If you want the short history of Ashtabula, click here for a review of a good book.  If you want the juicy details or at least the gritty ones, buy Carl E. Feather’s Ashtabula Harbor:  A History of the world’s Greatest Iron Ore Receiving Port.  My copy is on order.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.


Maybe you saw this in yesterday’s post and wondered why I hadn’t commented.  Dorothy Ann and Pathfinder have appeared on this blog before.

Soon after I got these photos, they departed to Cleveland to discharge a load–as I understand it– that

had been in the hold since last year.  Ice had moved in so quickly that the unit was prevented from offloading.  I don’t know how much ore (?) was in the barge;  her capacity is 21,260 tons.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Not to belabor the point, but I wanted to see this scene with ice, and expected to, given this was taken in late February and the fishermen have already put away their ice drills.

Ahead of the former fixture in the sixth boro, then called Bear and now Elizabeth Anna, it’s the huge Joyce L. Van Enkevort, launched 21 years ago.

Joyce L. is a 10,000 hp tug with dimensions of 135′ x 50.’


Joyce L. is mated to Great Lakes Trader, launched in Louisiana in 2001.  The barge has capacity of 39,600 tons, 66% greater than that of Edmund Fitzgerald.


The Old Rite Russian Orthodox church in the background is Church of the Nativity. 

I can’t wait to see these two units mated and  . . . great lakes’ trading.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

The port of Erie is protected behind an “almost island” called Presque Isle, pronounced in French to rhyme with “wheel.”  Click on the map to interact with it.

So guess which “laker” was behind Presque Isle the other day?  Presque Isle, of course, and that’s the name of both the tug and barge.  Both parts date from the early 1970s but were built in different locations . . . Louisiana and Michigan.  Does that mean the tug made the saltwater journey to Michigan solo?  I caught her here in Port Weller last summer.


Over in the distance, the land is inner side of the peninsula of Presque Isle.

St Clair was also in port, tied up here to the DonJon pier.

I finally got a closeup of one of the more interesting “second lives” vessels” I’ve ever seen:  a 1945 YO-178 tanker, sold out of government service in 1953,  converted to a trailing suction hopper dredge!  J. S. St. John started life in Pensacola.

To see her underway, check out this video.  for lots of news and photos from Erie, check out Erie Shipping News.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp, last week.


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