Chief takes ship in for repairs on a Greek island

Spruceglen Chief Engineer Christian Pelletier was sharing some pictures on his computer screen Sunday morning that he has taken during the ship’s travels around the world. They were at the Hallett Dock in West Duluth loading taconite and were expected to depart late last night. That’s the chief at his computer on the ship. We are looking at a picture of the Chief standing beside his ship while they were in dry dock on the Greek island of Syros. While discharging cargo in Italy in February, 2007, he determined the ship’s prop was in need of repair. Since the prop is underwater, they needed a dry dock so workers could make the repair. Syros was in the neighborhood so they stopped there, not a bad place to get repairs. Once it was started, the Chief picked up his camera and took pictures of the island.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 07-21-2008

Spruceglen loading taconite at Hallett

The Canadian flagged Spruceglen is in port loading taconite fines at the Hallett Dock in West Duluth. Above, it is seen on August 29th last year departing the port with grain. It was built in 1983, in Scotland, as the Selkirk Settler to work double duty; the Great Lakes during the open season of April through December and the rest of the world while we are enjoying winter. The name, flag and ownership has changed several times but it is still working that same combination. Although loading taconite here, it often loads grain at Thunder Bay and occasionally here to take to ports near Montreal for shipment overseas and then comes back for iron ore. Last winter, it visited Italy among many countries and was in dry dock in Greece for some repairs. The year before that, it took a cargo of phosphate from Florida to China and then, while in China, went into dry dock for its 5 year checkup.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 07-20-2008

Spruceglen as Spruceglen in a pickle

On August 29, 2002, the salt water ship Fraser failed to make the turn toward the Lift Bridge and went aground in front of the Paulucci Pavilion at Bayfront Park. Yesterday, exactly 5 years later, the same boat, now called the Spruceglen and flying a Canadian flag, had finished loading grain at the Cargill elevator in Duluth and was about to depart when they realized the boat, at midships, was sitting on the bottom of the slip. Happily, this year, local tugs were able to pull the boat off the bottom (above) fairly easily and after a short wait at the inner anchorage, it left Duluth early last night. Five years ago, local tugs pulled the boat off the bottom, but it took at least 4 tugs and all of the next day to do it. Photo taken on August 29, 2007.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 08-30-2007

Spruceglen as Fraser in a pickle

The Spruceglen has two local claims to fame. At one time, it was named the Federal St. Louis, in honor of the river running between Duluth and Superior. Then there was the day, exactly 5 years ago tonight, when the ship, then called the Fraser, failed to make the turn to the Lift Bridge while trying to depart Duluth. It went aground just beyond Bayfront Park and the Paulucci Pavilion (above). The ship, now called the Spruceglen, should have arrived earlier this morning and is loading grain at the Cargill grain elevator in Duluth. Since Cargill is straight behind the Lift Bridge, the ship should be able depart without having to make the turn. Photo taken on August 29, 2002.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 08-28-2007

Spruceglen is saltie/laker

The Spruceglen came into port as a saltie, crossing the Atlantic Ocean with steel coils loaded in Antwerp, Belgium and discharged in Cleveland and Duluth. It should leave the port today with grain. The Canadian owned and crewed boat will be a laker over the next two months, with several cargos planned between US and Canadian ports. It may take a load of taconite pellets to China at the end of the season and then go into dry dock in China for a five year checkup. That would give the Canadian crew about a 3-week stay in China.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 10-28-2004


The Spruceglen has two local claims to fame. At one time, she was named the Federal St. Louis, in honor of the river running between Duluth and Superior. More recently, as the Fraser, in August, 2002, she failed to make a turn from the harbor to the Lift Bridge and ended up in the mud in front of Bayfront Park. Tugs freed her the next day and she departed Duluth. She has since been sold and renamed.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 10-17-2004

Three ships built in Scotland

In 1983, three ships were built in Govan, Scotland by Misener Transportation, a Canadian shipping company. One was the Selkirk Settler, later to be the Federal St. Louis, Federal Fraser, Fraser and in 2007, the Spruceglen. The second ship was built as the Canada Marquis, then the Federal Richelieu, Federal Mackenzie, Mackenzie, and in 2002, the Birchglen. The third, the Saskatchewan Pioneer, became the Lady Hamilton, then the Voyageur Pioneer, and in 2008, the Kaministiqua.

Misener wanted ships that could work all year round and not sit out the long, cold winters in Canada when Great Lakes shipping closes down. These would be heartier vessels made to navigate the many locks, rivers and ports within the Great Lakes, but could also venture out onto the world’s oceans where they would need to operate as salt water ships on the oceans of the world, enduring storms often fiercer than ever seen in the exciting, but still calmer waters of the Great Lakes.

At one time, Canadian companies were not allowed to buy a ship built in a country that is not a commonwealth country. Most salties that come to Duluth have been built in countries that were not part of the English Commonwealth. Many are built in Japan, China, Argentina, Holland, and Poland, meaning none of them could be purchased by Canadian companies. These three sisters were built in Govan, Scotland, in 1983, and thus were legal.

That is why they were built in Scotland; how they were named is even more interesting. Parts of Western Canada were settled by immigrants from Scotland who were brought over with the help of Lord Selkirk. He founded a settlement that eventually became Winnipeg. His followers were called Selkirk Settlers. By the time they got to western Canada, they had become Saskatchewan Pioneers. The pioneers endured many hardships, and had repeated failures trying to grow crops, particularly wheat. They needed faster-maturing wheat because of the shorter growing season. After many futile attempts, a variety of wheat was developed that worked great. That wheat was called Canada Marquis.

I was not around when these ships visited Duluth under their original names. By 1996, when I arrived, they had all been purchased by FedNav, a Canadian shipping company in Montreal.

Around 2001, Fednav was looking to part ways with these ships. To begin with, the name ‘Federal’ was removed. In 2001, the Federal Fraser became the Fraser and the Federal MacKenzie became the MacKenzie. That was the first step to getting FedNav entirely out of 2/3rd’s of the family. In 2002, FedNav sold the Fraser and Mackenzie to the Canada Steamship Company of Toronto. The Fraser became the Spruceglen and the MacKenzie became the Birchglen.