The Algoma Montrealais

I rarely do same day posts, mainly because most of my images are from somewhere in the past – be that days or decades.

Today is different, because as a result of some dumb luck, I potentially saw and photographed history and the end of an era all at the same time.

Driving south on M-29 between Port Huron and St. Clair, Michigan, I looked to my left and saw a downbound Algoma boat on the St. Clair River.  Anticipation and curiosity kicked in at the same time.

Translation: what most of us would call a “ship” is called a “boat” when it serves only in the Great Lakes.  Everything moving in the Great Lakes is either “downbound” (moving towards the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean) or “upbound” (moving generally west into the Great Lakes System).

Having read on Boatnerd last night that the Algoma Montrealais, the last Canadian steamship on the Great Lakes, was soon to be downbound on her last voyage – I realized that I had to get into position to shoot the boat, as it could be the Montrealais…  This would have been easy if I’d spent more time in St. Clair lately – it had been 30 years since I photographed a Lake Boat from the park there.  So, after a small stressful moment, I found a place to turn around, and parked by the park (no pun intended, but I’m going to leave that as it is…).

It was all of 29 degrees while I waited the few minutes for the boat to come around the corner.  I should have taken my jacket – after all, it was on the floor… but no…

And… I wasn’t alone.  Just like people photograph trains, people photograph boats.  I met Ronald Bialecki of Shipseekers Photography (Facebook page) there waiting for her.  He was smart – he had a tripod.  I had to control my breathing and shivering so I didn’t screw up my images!  Yes, I had my IS lens, but I was still worried!

As the boat came into view, and I focused on her bow – I saw that it was in fact the Algoma Montrealis downbound with wheat from Thunder Bay, ON.  Did I mention it was a rather bleak gray day?  It was, and I shot away as she curved along with the channel and met the CSL Tadoussac  upbound.  It was nothing more than dumb luck, as I had no scanner and I hadn’t checked in at the World Headquarters of Boatnerd in Port Huron to see what was moving.  But I’ll take it!

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I had missed her in Port Huron by a few minutes.  I shot the John J. Boland upbound, and I could see a boat downriver – but I thought it was upbound based on the position of the wheelhouse.  As it was a grungy day, I decided to head down to St. Clair for my original purposes (separate post to come).

The images were edited on my laptop, which is not color-profiled, so I hope they’re OK.  As this looks like instant history, I felt it’s more than appropriate to post them as-is today, and decide if I need to clean them up later.  You can find them here on Laughing Frog Images.

You’ll note that the Algoma Montrealais is a steamship, but she doesn’t look any different than other diesel-powered Great Lakes boats.  She’s relatively modern – having been built in 1961.  You can read more about here in the Winter 2014 Bearfacts Algoma Central company newsletter.

Enjoy this look at a piece of history and a moment in time that will largely go unnoticed in the grand scheme of things…

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