Saturday, March 28, 2009

Evolution of a barge

A sunny Saturday certainly brought the masses out in Toronto today. It sent me down to the portlands to see what was going on in the city's often-overlooked harbour.

There have been many efforts to rehabilitate this part of Toronto's waterfront over the years. None have truly caught fire, and as a result this part of the city, from Cherry Street east almost to the Beach neighbourhood, is still struggling to emerge from its past as one of the city's manufacturing hubs. Exactly where the area is going is anyone's guess. But the harbour is always worth a visit. You never know what you'll find there.

Today, among other things, it was literally awash in lake freighters, including this intriguing specimen:

The Metis used to be a fully formed lake freighter, hauling cement to a number of Great Lakes ports (you can see a picture of her in her heyday, back in 1983, by clicking here).

From what I can tell, she spent a long time languishing in port at Windsor until, at some point, her wheelhouse and other superstructure were severed off and she became a "cement barge," basically used to haul cement while being pulled by a tugboat. Exactly what advantage a cement barge holds over a full-fledged cement-hauling laker is unclear, but a quick Google search reveals the Metis has been towed into many ports, on both the Canadian and U.S. shores of the Great Lakes, since at least the early 1990s.

Now she rests near the base of Cherry Street, silently awaiting her next load. She made fascinating viewing as we stopped for a snack on our way back downtown.

More on some of the other lakers currently in port in a bit. Meantime, you can find a few facts and figures on the Metis, and some interesting photos other freighter enthusiasts have taken of her, by clicking here.

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