American Fortitude


American Fortitude was built in 1953, is 690 feet long and flies a U.S. flag

Previous names:
Ernest T. Weir (2): 1953-1978
Courtney Burton: 1978-2006
American Fortitude: 2006-2014
Click here for other pages featuring the American Fortitude
In Nov. 2008, the American Fortitude entered long-term layup in Toledo.
On November 26, 2014, the American Fortitude left Toledo under tow of the tug Evans McKeil, presumably destined for a scrapyard in Brownsville, Texas.
She laid up in Oswego, NY for the winter of 2014-2015. On May 14, 2015, she arrived (under tow) at IMS, Port Colborne, Ontario, to be scrapped.

The American Fortitude was built as the Ernest T. Weir in Lorain in 1953 as a vessel in the National Steel fleet. In 1978, Oglebay Norton bought the boat and renamed her the Courtney Burton. Three years later, a self unloading boom was added to her deck giving her a new and longer life on the Great Lakes. Without the addition, she would probably have seen the scrap pile sometime in the 1980’s.
The Courtney Burton was laid up for two years in Toledo in 2003 but was back out working the Great Lakes to open the 2005 season.  She took over the route run by both the Joseph H. Frantz and the Kinsman Independent, taking wheat from Duluth Superior to Buffalo. Above, she is  loading wheat at General Mills in Superior.
The Courtney Burton came into port in early June, 2006, with a load of limestone that she discharged. She was set to go over to load a grain cargo when she was diverted to Fraser Shipyards (above and below) in Superior to get refitted to become the American Fortitude, now sailing under the ownership of American Steamship Company. They had just finalized the purchase of 6 boats from the Oglebay Norton Company.
Above, departing Duluth on August 15, 2006, below, arriving on November 5
Above on September 22, 2005
Above and below, taken on July 6, 2002
Picture below taken August 11, 2002
Picture above taken August 18, 2001
Picture below taken while she departing Duluth in May, 1998


  1. David Nixon says:

    Just got back from Port Colborne Ontario. Bought builders plates and some passageway lights from the American Fortitude. She is now gone but not forgotten.

  2. Transportation Inspiration says:

    This ship was supposed to do be the Edmund Fitzgerald’s replacement

  3. Courtney Burton, the ship…the name she(not “it”) carried for decades…

    You would know this, if you actually did your homework on the subject. Now, If you have no love for ships(and it doesn’t sound like you do), you have no business here. Move along.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      Last I heard the American Fortitude is, or is about to be scrapped. It’s been at Port Colborne for several months

  4. Hey, Hey!
    Yeah I’m talking to you.

    Don’t talk about Courtney like she’s a piece of garbage, because she’s not. You owe those ships for helping create the standard of living you’re currently enjoying, So show some respect.

  5. I love these old ships alot of history in them. Go watch the Great Lakes American Fortitude Scrape tow with farewell salute.

  6. Daniel Harrington says:

    Well, it is now April 21,2015 and “she” is STILL sitting and rotting at the Port Authority. There are hundreds of US who CHOOSE to PAY to LIVE on the Oswego River. The ice has been gone for almost a month now. “She” is blocking dozens of apartments from ANY views of Fort Oswego OR the Port Authority itself. WHY is “she” tied up exactly where the larger pleasure boats tie up to fuel up??? I am personally so happy that the port is being paid $50,000.00 to “store her”. WE PAY MUCH MORE THAN THIS PER MONTH IN RENTS! WHY MUST WE BE DEPRIVED OF OUR BEAUTIFUL VIEWS????

    • some of us would be honored to be able to see her before she is scrapped…

      • Daniel Harrington says:

        Feel free to come and see “her” She DOES NOT look like these pictures! It is ALL painted like a sloppy red car primer and the rudder is out of the water. “She” is also BLOCKING THE SPACE where larger pleasure boats and small PAYING canal cruise line ships dock and/or fuel up. Blocking the fuel pumps for all but small crafts.

        • “she” has had a long and distinguished life working the lakes, and deserves respect, as do all the other hard working vessels, which have helped to make your community what it is today.

    • Lee Sanford says:

      I don’t understand why you believe your ‘rent costs’ guarantee you special views. There are no guarantees for ‘special views’ no matter how much your rent might be. A little respect would seem appropriate in place of what appears to be an extremely selfish rant.

    • Looks to be another case of “I’m entitled”……. Tough. The Waterways are Public Highways if you want an analogy….. Waterfronts are, first and foremost, WORKING Places, not stops on a scenic tour. Although now retired, I was engaged in a line of work that required an ability to do Budget Analysis, and I can say that Commercial Maritime use properties pay far more taxes than Yuppie condos…….

      • Daniel Harrington says:

        Thank you for your response Sir. I know that instead of attacking me personally or concerning yourselves with my personal socio-economics. Why don’t WE look at the BIGGER picture. “Her”rent AND contract expired 15 April, 2015. Did ANY of you think about WHY this IS the situation??? FIRST as you most elegantly put it, “The Waterways are Public Highways if you want an analogy….. Waterfronts are, first and foremost, WORKING Places, not stops on a scenic tour.” Since you obviously DO NOT live in this are, I will try to enlighten YOU. FIRST. Novelis has spent $245 MILLION DOLLARS to revamp their aluminum recycling and make room for the new aluminum bodies for the Ford 150 pick up truck beds. SECOND, a foreign company chose to open their first USA new food product line plant due to the accessibility to our many interstates, rail systems AND SHIPPING. ALL of the aluminum for Novelis comes INTO THIS PORT. THIRD, THE PORT AUTHORITY received $40 MILLION dollars for railway expansion and ADD a THIRD rail siding. The rotting ship is THREE FOOTBALL FIELDS LONG. THAT IS ONE THIRD OF THE PORTS TOTAL SHIP RECEIVING AREA. FOURTH, Last year began the first of a 2 year dredging plan to deepen and widen the Oswego River basin into Lake Ontario.
        Alas, IF we leave it to you bleeding hearts, I guess WE just lay of THOUSANDS of EMPLOYEED, PAID, EMPLOYEES and just give them food stamps and medicaid. I wish I had ANY of the first 10 or 15 vehicles I USE TO OWN. THIS IS CALLED PROGRESS. THIS IS CALLED HISTORY.
        Yes sir, you said it most eliquintly, ” Waterfronts are, first and foremost, WORKING Places, not stops on a scenic tour.” ( Although we ALSO have SEVERAL PAID scenic canal boat tour groups that pay to sleep and eat in MY city). WE LOVE WHERE WE LIVE!!! Good day Sir.

      • Tom Hobart says:


        Does it sound like someone needs a nap?

    • Tom Hobart says:

      You say you are renting / living Sir? Which is telling me that you have no established taxable property to which you are entitled to or are paying into? Then that is exactly your issue. You rented / lived knowing that there was a shipping terminal there. And, unfortunately, and to your pittance, they did not contact you to get your permission to dock American Fortitude prior to your approval. Should you have such reservations as to the presence of this vessel, I suggest you confine your belongings, arrange for re-location and transfer to an area that you may be happy in. The vessel is not ROTTING as you have indicated. It is succumbing to a life in an environment that your fragile mind and body would never be able to sustain. Even one day, you will succumb to your worldly demise. “hundreds of US who CHOOSE to PAY to LIVE’…My word Sir, I had no idea that your commune was so vast. No, merely a rant including a number that is not valid as I am sure you have no accurate number of how many people are actually ‘choosing to pay to live” on the river. Hundreds? Within direct view of American Fortitude? If the ship is blocking your views of Fort Oswego, I suggest you stand on a box or purchase binoculars. The Fort is quite visible from across the river from the ship. Possibly a short neck issue? “OR the Port Authority itself”?? Last time we checked, the port was for ships….Take another look. American Fortitude is a…wait for it….ship. “WE PAY MUCH MORE THAN THIS PER MONTH IN RENTS! WHY MUST WE BE DEPRIVED OF OUR BEAUTIFUL VIEWS????”….Views of what?….A marina, the Port Authority and hotels. May I suggest Sir, that you enroll in the “Fresh Air Program”….And stop wasting the time of people that relish their maritime heritage. My salutes to all that remember, value, track and relish the heritage of Great Lakes Shipping that has affected this region so much. Brush off the naysayers and complainers and those of such narrow minded span.

      The Great Grandson of A Great Lakes Mariner,

      Daniel Harrington says:

      April 21, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Well, it is now April 21,2015 and “she” is STILL sitting and rotting at the Port Authority. There are hundreds of US who CHOOSE to PAY to LIVE on the Oswego River. The ice has been gone for almost a month now. “She” is blocking dozens of apartments from ANY views of Fort Oswego OR the Port Authority itself. WHY is “she” tied up exactly where the larger pleasure boats tie up to fuel up??? I am personally so happy that the port is being paid $50,000.00 to “store her”. WE PAY MUCH MORE THAN THIS PER MONTH IN RENTS! WHY MUST WE BE DEPRIVED OF OUR BEAUTIFUL VIEWS????

    • That’s a beautiful boat.
      You are one lucky guy to have such a view.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The “American Fortitude” will be gone shortly enroute to the scrappers in Brownsville, Texas.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The “American Fortitude” is now at Port Colborne ready to be scrapped. It left Oswego in two May 11 and arrived at its final destination May 14.

  7. Walt Jaap says:

    Nostalgia! I was deckwatch in 1965 on the ET Weir. Many fond memories of the good ship Weir. We were told she was the last steam ship built on the lakes? At the time, MA Hanna coal was a part of National steel. Wish the best and hope for a miracle to keep her afloat.


    • Mike Hobart says:

      Dear Walt: An honor to meet you Sir. I had the privilege of being a guest of the Oswego Port Authority this past Saturday, April 3, 2015. I was allowed access to American Fortitude for photos and videos while the Port Authority crew was inside shooting internal photos to add to my presentation. Needless to say, she has some degradation inside, but her quarters and wheelhouse are largely intact, as are her engines. I am an avid follower of the freighters of days gone by as my great grandfather was a crewman on the Great Lakes. My hat is off to you Sir….You come from a time that is near and dear to me thru my parents who have brought me to the Seaway since I was born. I am 16 now. My father and I chases the freighters, via boat, and we speak to them, many offering salutes to us, via two way radio. It is a passion that I aim to keep alive as long as I am able. Look forward to hearing from you Sir.

    • Mike Hobart says:

      PS: Per my visit on April 3, 2015, I have been told where she is going…

      • mike, are you allowed to be forthcoming with that information, in this forum?

        • Mike Hobart says:

          She will not leave the lakes….She is to be towed to a Canadian port for further layup. Scrapping date remains to be announced. Stay tuned….More to come.

        • Mike Hobart says:

          She is still beautiful. I was amazed at how majestic she looked. I stayed at the Best Western just down from her. My Dad and I went back at night to photograph and video her at night as well. They had her lit up…..Awesome.

  8. Matt;

    There is no payback, and the newer ships carry much more cargo for the same amount of crewing; which is cut drastically on the ‘modern’ versions.
    It would take deep deep pockets.
    Automated engine rooms, and more efficient power… etc..

    • Ron, Matt, Others, I ran into a guy this week, and he said there is a strong possibility that the Fortitude will not be scraped. Is there any validity to this? Thanks, SamW

      • Ron Baker says:


        anything is possible, If a foreign shipper wanted to buy her maybe, but the operation and maint. costs are high, on the other hand , if a Flag has lower “requirements” …

        Dies this ‘guy’ have any real info sources….

        I believe her berthing contract at Oswego Port authority expires about April 15, she has not had a payload since about 2008, (I understand).

        • this from
          Future still uncertain for American Fortitude
          3/11 – Oswego, N.Y. – American Fortitude, a 690-foot vessel docked at the Port of Oswego Authority, is wintering well. The future of the ship, though, once one of the largest and fastest on the Great Lakes and more than two football fields in length, remains uncertain.
          “There’s no problems,” said Zelko Kirincich, executive director of the Oswego Port Authority. “It’s all iced in, but that should change soon. There’s not a drop of water inside and we check the lines every day and they’re in great shape.”
          The boat’s time on the Great Lakes is quickly coming to a close. A Texas holding company owns it but is still up in the air about whether to scrap it or sell it for use overseas. The contract for docking it at Oswego expires April 15, Zelko said, and arrangements are starting to be made to move it from Oswego.
          Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast guard and local emergency management officials are working with Zelko to set up emergency boarding exercises during the next few weeks.
          “It’s a perfect ship for it. We’re just trying to coordinate things and set a date,” he said. “It’s a wonderful ship,” Zelko said of American Fortitude. “The new ones should be as well-maintained.”

        • He said ASC might have had second thoughts of letting go of a ship that was in quite good condition. It sounds like per the fore and aft postings here, that after April 15th we’ll know for sure what is next. If that’s the case, then the Victory and the Valor must be in even better shape.

  9. Very sad to see it in the midst of a scrap tow… Long shot, but any efforts to prevent it from completing the trip in the spring? Would there be any support (or opposition) if an attempt was made to prevent it from being scrapped, etc?

    • Ron Baker says:

      While the Port of Oswego is care taking Scrapping is her destiny, after years of layup, age; she not efficient enough, let alone update and maintenance and operation cost.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      Any new clues as to why the boat was taken to Oswego for the winter?

      • Ron Baker says:

        It could not pass thru the upper Seaway due to danger. It failed inspection, one reason for the Bunker C fuel it still holds. Could be others.

        It was moored at Oswego NY as it is the first deep water port. It is to be scrapped in Port Colborne CN this spring.

        • Richard Palmer says:

          Who told you it was going to be scrapped at Port Colborne in the spring?

          • Ron Baker says:

            Richard read thru all the threads here, I think you will understand more; She is a “dead ship floating” coal burner converted to steam. Updating will not return investment,
            and has been laid up for many a season.

            I took interest in her as the Ernst T Weir, due to climbing up her side while she was underway in the usual channel in Lake Ontario about 1970 or 71. US Coast Guard

  10. Mike Hobart says:

    Does anyone know who is managing the caretaking or layup status as she is docked in Oswego, New York? My best guess would be the tow company or International Marine Salvage but I would like to be sure.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      If it was a coal burner why was there 2,300 gallon of Bunker C fuel oil aboard for? For the kitchen stove? Also you did not answer the basic question…who said the ship will be scrapped at Port Colborne? A spokesman for IMS denied it.

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The problem with so-called “boatnerds” is they do too much guessing and assuming.

  11. Mike Hobart says:

    Can somebody tell me exactly where in Oswego she is docked right now? I understand that she is on the Oswego River but she can’t be kept very far into it due to locks. I looked on Google Earth and there are numerous spots she could be and I would just like to make sure.

    • She is docked at the Port Authority East. I would assume that’s were she will stay for the winter. As for the locks, they are closed for the winter.

      • Mike Hobart says:

        Thank you very much Scott! I’ve been trying to keep tabs on her as she makes her final voyage to Port Colbourne. You helped me a lot!

    • Richard Palmer says:

      Here’s an official statement from Transport Canada, for what it’s worth:
      “Transport Canada’s role is to ensure that the regulatory provisions of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Navigable Waters Protection Act are strictly enforced. The American Fortitude was issued a detaining order by Transport Canada when it docked at Côte Ste-Catherine, since the regulatory requirements for towing were not met and winter conditions did not permit it to be moved safely.
      “After the last inspection on December 14, 2014, Transport Canada lifted the detaining order because the American Fortitude could now be towed safely, without harm to the environment, in accordance with marine safety regulations.”

  12. Dave Hannig says:

    She is now resting ( moored) on the Oswego River @ Oswego , ny all names and numbers painted over ,,,,,so sad…..

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The Oswego Port Authority is being paid $50,000 (probably the broker) to winter the vessel.

      • Ron Baker says:

        No one on this site wants to engage in an inflammatory argument, of which you are beginning to engage.

        It was converted from coal to steam, check out it’s age. maybe that provides a clue as to why it had Bunker C on board.

        One cannot expect any port to baby sit and protect it’s interests when a vessel ties up in it’s port, in case overwinter layup

        My best guess for you is do a little more true research perhaps with the current & previous owners. Also the preservation of these vessels either as a static exhibit or active marine worthy is very expensive. Many ships are towed to Turkey for shoring and “dismemberment”, Port Colborne also has salvage operations.

        You might also explain to us why the order was lifted on Dec 14, but the vessel was turned away approx Dec 23, 2014…

        If you have to take things personal… don’t do it here.

        • Richard Palmer says:

          How do you convert a ship from coal to steam? Coal is used to generate steam. Steam itself is not a fuel. You must mean from coal to oil. The Canadian authorities lifted the order when it was decided to return back up river. Also, I did not say the “American Fortitude” should be preserved as a static exhibit. There are already a few Great Lakes ships preserved as museums. I am not taking anything personal…just trying to get to the bottom of the story.

          • yes; should have said coal to oil, but indeed steam power
            the port of Oswego shud verify to you who officially owns her?
            and from there you can tell us the Specific Plans for salvage.

          • Whoa! Everyone’s personal feelings aside!!!
            Perhaps tensions are just high because another great piece of history maybe near a scrapyard soon?? Has it been towed yet? Would be so awesome to see something like this preserved instead of cut up… I say shame on ASC for purchasing a number of ships to take many of them out of service and send them for scrap– Apparently after decades around the lakes they still don’t “get it” when it comes to the history many of these ships provide

  13. She is tied up at OSWEGO NY as of Christmas, Look like (to me) an overwinter berthing.

    • That is true. She is here for the winter

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The bottom line is it’s none of our business in the first place as the ship is not public property. Steamship companies and port authorities are not accountable to boat nerds.

  14. She has been denied passage thru the St. Lawrence seaway and is now headed for scrapping in Port Colborne.

  15. Thomas Gonzales says:

    Where is the American Fortitude now? I work for CSX railroad, and it had been docked here at our shipping facility sense 2008 I believe. I was very fond of seeing that every day and just wondered where she is at now? Any information would be greatly appreciated.


    • Mike Hobart says:

      Sadly, she was towed out almost a month ago. She is headed to Texas to be scrapped. As I type this, she is sitting in Montreal. The tug that was supposed to tow her down to Texas left before she arrived in Montreal. I don’t know what will happen now. I’m sorry to say this Thomas but she won’t be back.

    • Ron Baker says:


      At Oswego NY, may be destined for breaking at Port Colborne, come spring

    • Richard Palmer says:

      The Oswego Port Authority is receiving $50,000 for “babysitting” the ship for the winter. Exactly why it’s here is somewhat of a mystery. It was on its way to Brownsville, Texas when it was turned back by Canadian authorities in Montreal. It may have been something to do with all the problems encountered with the “Canadian Miner” which grounded off Cape Breton in 2011. McKeil, which does a lot of business with Oswego, did the towing.

  16. Mike Hobart says:

    This is a depressing time for ship watchers and boatnerds. All of our favorite lakers are being scrapped. I love the new ones being built such as the Trillium Class and the Equinox Class but I love the classic lakers even more. It makes you wonder “who’s next”. I was devastated when I learned that Canadian Leader was headed for the scrapyard. That was my favorite ship ever since I knew what a ship was. Now I’m chasing Algoma Montrealais and Frontenac trying to get what I can of them. I only get to watch lakers on the St. Lawrence River so its hard to catch everyone.

    • mike, have you seen the american fortitude pass by?

      • Mike Hobart says:

        I only vacation on the St. Lawrence but I use webcams to watch the ships go by Clayton, NY. I was going to watch the scrap tow go by yesterday but they tied up just down the river for the night. I was really upset.

  17. The American Fortitude is moored as of Nov 29th 6:00 p.m. along with the tugs Evans McKeil and Jarrett M at the Port Weller Terminal likely awaiting daylight before venturing onto Lake Ontario

  18. further, they are already parting out the valor. im sure she will be next. id rather see them used as ugly tug/barge combos then be scrapped.

  19. As of this day 11-26-14. she is gone . unknown when they came for her. she was there last night. on my way to work this a.m i noticed that she was gone.

    • brian, this was posted early this morning on the “boatnerds of facebook” page:
      The tug Evans Mckeil with the American Fortitude has now left Toledo and is bound for the Welland Canal. The tow left sometime after 230am and has already left the Maumee Bay Ship Channel and has made her turn and is headed eastbound on Lake Erie. According to Marine Traffic AIS site the speed of the tow is 4.7 knots at the present time.

  20. Appreciate the response to my last post and would like to add- zero response from the company that sold her (*cough* way to go American Steamship). Anything anyone can do to save the other two historic vessels they purchased (American Valor and American Victory) should they go on the chopping block in the near future? Perhaps even online fundraisers to outbid scrapyards…? Please provide input

  21. Mike Hobart says:

    word from American Steamship Company is that she has been sold to a texas scrapper. it is unclear when she will be towed off lakes. an era of lakers is dying.

  22. Austin loves ships says:

    One of my favorite ships

  23. I understand the Courney will be towed to Montreal, early this spring to be sent overseas for scrapping.

  24. Jim Gaffney says:

    Where in Buffalo is she located? My family got to take a trip from Detroit to Deluth wis. back in the late 60s-70s

  25. Valerie Downs says:

    If anyone knows where she is now let me know. I’ve been trying to follow her. My Dad was Cheif on her when she was the Weir.

  26. Jill from Alabama says:

    She is still listed as being in Toledo.

  27. I’ve been hoping to visit her, as she was named originally for a relative and is almost my age. Nick, how did you find she was at Buffalo? The last info I found had her in Toledo. Her owners have not responded to my request for latest location.

  28. She is in Buffalo, New York just sitting there, just like the American Victory and Edward L. Ryerson.

  29. Tristin (loves ships) says:

    Is she retired?

    • Tristin,
      I would doubt that she is retired, but chances are, it will be a few years until she runs again. Even then, though, American Steamship has many a hull on the lakes, and doesn’t need this one. She will probably be sold to another corporation in due time, and may sail for a few more years.

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