Wilfred Sykes

 Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

Wilfred Sykes was built in 1949, is 678 feet long and flies a U.S. flag

William A. Irvin
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The Wilfred Sykes was built by Inland Steel in Lorain at 678 feet long and was, when launched, the longest boat on the Great Lakes, setting many cargo records in her first year of operation. Self unloading equipment was installed on the boat, in 1975, at Fraser Shipyards in Superior.  In 1953, she rescued crew members when the Henry Steinbrenner sank, and she was one of the boats that went out searching for the Edmund Fitzgerald when she sank in 1975.
Wilfred Sykes was president of Inland Steel; he retired in 1949 and they names this boat after him Wilfred Sykes was president of Inland Steel Company from 1941 to 1949. He was born in New Zealand and educated in Australia. After working on engineering projects in South Africa and Germany, he came to the US in 1909, working first at Westinghouse Electric Company. He joined Inland Steel in 1923 and supervised the electrification of their steel mills, getting many patents for the inventions he developed to complete that job. He became an authority on industrial electrification and specifically electric welding and wrote many books on the subject.
The Wilfred Sykes on a rare trip to Duluth
Picture above taken Monday, December 22, 1997


  1. Christian B. says:

    How come she doesn’t come to Duluth anymore?

    • Eric Treece says:

      Hey Christian…….as she is configured right now it is not cost effective to send her to Lake Superior ports unless there is nothing else to haul. Every year once or twice we get word there is a “chance” to go up to Duluth or Two Harbors, but her niche is carrying stone. She hauls stone to 3 mills on the south end of Lake Michigan and the demand is enough to keep her plenty busy keeping up with the supply demand. If she ever gets converted to a diesel it would help with the cost effective side of it, but she’s so firmly planted in the stone trade that even then I think it would be a long shot to get up there. And if anyone wants a trip to Duluth, it’s me. ?

      Best Regards,
      Capt Eric Treece

  2. Fellow sailor here. I race yachts across Huron and Lake Michigan. I am trying to get a lead as to how I can just serve one trip on a freighter such as this one. I am curious about the different ways to travel these wicked lakes. I have been inspired by ‘the living great lakes’ the book. My yacht is Gauntlet in chapter 4. Thanks for any help!

    • The reply is a bit late but your best bet would be to contact Central Marine Logistics out of Burns Harbor Indiana. They own and crew the Sykes and Block.

  3. dan, do you know what year we should be looking for?

  4. I found this site very interesting as I have been trying to find information about my Step Fathers different Boats.My Father worked for the company Inland Steel and I believe he served on the Wilfred Sykes as First Mate his name was George Bollum. Was wondering if you could help me out.Thanks very much.

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