|M/V Lee A. Tregurtha
||29,360 Gross Tons
|The Story of the Lee A. Tregurtha
M/V Lee A. Tregurtha has a long and distinguished history since her construction as a World War II tanker. One of the most altered vessels on the Great Lakes, she also boasts two battle stars for WWII service.
Although her bow and stern were built as Mobiloil, she was launched as the T-3 type tanker Samoset as Bethlehem Steel Company's Sparrows Point (MD) shipyard on June 25, 1942. Before completion, however, she was designated for WWII service and renamed Chiwawa (AO-68). Her original dimensions were 501'8" x 68' x 30'8" and her speed was 15 knots. Acquired by the US Navy on December 24, 1942, Chiwawa was commissioned the same day and joined the Atlantic Fleet as the first of five "Chiwawa class" oilers. She cleared Norfolk on February 13, 1943, to load her first cargo. She left New York for Casablanca on March 4 as part of a convoy. While underway, the convoy was attacked by U-boats and four ships were lost. The remainder, including Chiwawa, arrived in Casablanca on March 21.
Chiwawa served on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during the war and was present in Tokyo Bay during the September 2, 1945, surrender ceremony. The vessel was decommissioned on May 6, 1946, and transferred to the Maritime Commission shortly thereafter.
During the 1959-60 winter, Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company purchased the idle ship for conversion to Great Lakes use. Work on her bow and stern began at the Toledo yard of American Ship Building Company in May 1960. The original midship pilot house and living quarters were moved forward to the bow by cutting the midship cabin loose and sliding the structure to the bow on heavy, greased tracks laid down on the ship's deck. At the bow, the cabin structure was welded in place and remodeled along Great Lakes lines.
At the aft end, most of the ship's machinery including the 7000-horsepower Bethlehem steam turbine engine and oil-fired boilers remained. However, oil pumping equipment was removed and water ballasting pumps added.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic at the Willy H. Schlieker Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, a 510-foot midbody cargo section was under construction. In October 1960, the midbody made the transatlantic journey — never before had a piece of a ship over 500 feet long been towed the 4000 miles across the Atlantic. Once across, the section moved through the St. Lawrence Seaway and on to Lorain, Ohio.
The newly refurbished bow and stern — still attached to the old cargo section, yet looking less and less like the tanker it use to be — was towed to American Ship Building's Lorain yard. There the "surgery" took several months as the tanker mid-section was cut away and removed, and the new section floated into position and connected to bow and stern. Not only was the ship lengthened with the midbody insertion, but the hull was widened by 7 feet and deepened by 2 feet.
In 1961, the new ship — largest and longest in the Cliffs fleet (22,500 ton capacity, 730' x 75') — was christened Walter A. Sterling in honor of Cliffs' chairman.
Fifteen years later in 1976, the Sterling returned to the Lorain yard of American Ship Building, where she was again lengthened by addition of a 96-foot midbody, giving her an overall length of 826 feet. Her capacity increased by 7000 gross tons. Then two years later, she came back again for conversion to a self-unloader, with finishing work completed by Merce Boiler and Welding Co., Toledo, in September 1978. She also received a bow thruster in 1966 and stern thruster in 1982.
When Cleveland-Cliffs sold what remained of its fleet in 1985, the ship joined the Ford Motor (later Rouge Steel) fleet and was renamed William Clay Ford(2).
In 1989, Rouge Steel disposed of its fleet, and the ship joined the Interlake Steamship family as part of Lakes Shipping Company, Inc. She was renamed Lee A. Tregurtha in honor of the wife of Interlake's vice chairman. Through the 2005 navigation season, the Lee Tregurtha held the distinction of being the largest steam-powered ship on the Great Lakes.
Upon the Lee Tregurtha's arrival at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in January 2006, work began to replace her vintage steam plant with a modern 8040-horsepower diesel plant and associated machinery, including a controllable pitch propeller system.
Read more about the Lee A. Tregurtha repowering project...