Photo © Ian Coristine/
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2008 Seaway Season Recap

Snow has covered summer cottage roofs, boats have been shrink wrapped and placed in marina parking lots and ice is forming on the mighty St. Lawrence River. These are sure signs of winter along the Seaway and an ending to another busy shipping season.

The 2008 shipping season officially began on March 22. Vessels from all across the world would again travel to our neck of woods creating a wide array of colorful and interesting scenery on the water.

Photo: Mike Folsom
The Emerald Star, one of 2,629 commercial vessels that passed through the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2008.

From yachts and naval ships to lakers and salties, the St. Lawrence Seaway would again prove to be a sightseeing paradise for many.

According to the Seaway Corporation, 2,629 commercial vessels passed through the Seaway in 2008. Of those, 372 were ocean-going vessels or better known as ‘salties.’

Over the course of the summer months, the Seaway was also visited by a number of large luxury yachts. Some of those to visit were Blue Moon (165’), Cracker Bay (129’), Gran Finale (147’) and Lady M (164’).

These massive personal vessels wowed those who lined up along the small town docksides or trailed in their wake just to get a glimpse or photo.

While many chased yachts up and down the River, others were hard at work.

The Port of Ogdensburg became one of the busiest ports on the Seaway in 2008 as numerous deliveries of windmills from ocean-going vessels arrived for a project on Wolfe Island. Nadro Marine and their fleet of tugs and barges were responsible for the transportation of each windmill – 86 in all, making the trek from Ogdensburg to Wolfe Island almost daily. The tug crews would go on to work non-stop from the end of July until mid-December to ensure that each unit made it to the island before bad weather struck or the close of the Seaway occurred. The windmills, which are part of a new energy initiative, are expected to be erected and functional by March 2009.

Windmills will stand tall in the sky come next spring on Wolfe Island, but the most famous structure in the Thousand Islands region would take the cake this year. The Thousand Islands Bridge celebrated its 70th anniversary in August. Known as one of the largest infrastructure pieces of its time, the Thousand Islands Bridge helped to create a pathway from the United States to Canada in northern New York. To celebrate this occasion, an open house was held and the day was capped off with fireworks over historic Boldt Castle during Alexandria Bay’s annual Pirates Weekend festivities.

As the pirates retreated, just like the long summer days, Labor Day would be escorted in with dense fog on the River. Ships acted as alarm clocks to those asleep on shore just before 6 a.m. on that Monday morning. Nearly the entire 1000 islands region was awakened to the bellowing sound of ship horns as they tried to navigate through the large white wall of fog and headed through the American and Brockville Narrows. At one point during that time a ship, Montrealais, stopped its upbound course near Deer Island to wait for the fog to lift. Neither a ship nor lighthouse nearby could be seen until almost the 11 o’clock hour that day.

One thing that could be seen was the threat of a Seaway strike, but that would be avoided when Seaway workers (members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union) ratified a new contract in October which prevented a shutdown of the Seaway and lock system. The new agreement, which is valid until March 2011, includes the necessary flexibility for the Corporation to move ahead with the development of new technology, which is expected to improve the system’s productivity and increase worker safety.

Photo by Ian Coristine ©
Seaway Corporation reports 2,629 commercial vessels passed through the Seaway in 2008

It was a contract between Lockheed Martin and the United States government that brought the newest addition of the United States Navy fleet passed through the 1000 Islands in mid-November. The USS Freedom made its way from Wisconsin, where it was commissioned on November 8, through the Seaway as it headed out to sea and on to its new home port. The USS Freedom is the first naval ship built on the Great Lakes since World War II.

Then, in early December the Seaway experienced a setback as the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Bridge in Valleyfield, Quebec suffered sixteen broken cables. The bridge, which was in its down position, was unable to be raised to allow passage below and for nearly five days many of the lakers and salties attempting to pass through the area were left stranded along their routes and forced to wait for repairs to be made. Ships could be seen anchored in the Seaway near Prescott, Ontario or along the Eisenhower and Snell Lock walls. In all, close to thirty vessels were required to wait for the repairs to be made and each vessel was estimated to have lost in upwards of $25,000 per day.

The Seaway officially closed for the season on December 29 and though an opening date for next season has yet to be announced, there are a number of big plans in the works to make it an exciting one. The Seaway will celebrate an anniversary of its own on the weekend of July 10-12 in Massena, NY at the Dwight Eisenhower Lock and Visitor Center. Festivities are expected to include live music, a parade and fireworks.

By Michael Folsom,

Michael Folsom, is an avid ship watcher who currently hosts a web site,, where he tracks ships and reports on various items while on the shores of the River. In addition, his work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on and

Posted in: News Article
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Mark Wentling
Comment by: Mark Wentling ( )
Left at: 9:39 AM Thursday, January 15, 2009
Great article, Mike! Though a native, I don't live locally anymore so it's hard to get news of happenings on the river. I wasn't aware of the windmill project, the bridge anniversary, nor the Seaway workers' negotiations this year, but reading your article was like having a front row seat to it all. Thanks!
Lona Carr Breitkopf
Comment by: Lona Carr Breitkopf ( )
Left at: 9:40 AM Thursday, January 15, 2009
A nice read during our current "cold snap". ("Cold" here in Palmyra, Western NY, is no where near the cold I grew up with in Theresa!) The visuals will help me to weather the long winter.
 Michael Laprade
Comment by: Michael Laprade ( )
Left at: 10:05 AM Thursday, January 15, 2009
Hi Mike

I was wondering if you had access to a list of "interesting" ships that come through the Islands ahead of time so that we could be sure to boat out and see them?
Mark Bond
Comment by: Mark Bond ( )
Left at: 5:29 PM Saturday, January 17, 2009
We spent the weekend in the Thousand Islands over New Years at the Gananaque Inn and man was it cold. Usually we take an afternoon & walk in to inspect our cottage on the east end of Hill Island, but between the fridged cold, about 9 degrees, & the blowing snow, we wisely decided that was not the best of ideas! Its hard to believe that such a beautiful area in the summer can be so brutal this time of year. See you in May!
John Post
Comment by: John Post ( )
Left at: 6:06 PM Saturday, January 17, 2009
Being an old 'River Rat' I love to read your articles and your blog. Fortunately my 4 year old son loves the Great Lakes freighters so we look for every bit of info we can find on the River and the ships. Keep up your great work!
Michael Folsom - Author
Comment by: Michael Folsom - Author ( )
Left at: 10:18 AM Sunday, January 18, 2009
In response to Michael Laprade's post about interesting ships -

There are a few ways to check on ships, interesting or not. One way to see what is coming your would be via the Seaway Tracker at The other is by picking up a great book called Know Your Ships, which outlines nearly every ship to travel the Great Lakes. I think this year the most interesting ship I saw might have been Dutch Runner, a cargo/container style ship that is not common on the Seaway. Check my site through the summer months as well and I will try to keep you up to speed on whats coming and going!

To all of the other readers, thanks for your comments and for stopping by!
Deane Parkhurst
Comment by: Deane Parkhurst ( )
Left at: 12:34 PM Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Interesting to see the yacht with the name Itasca. As a teen I worked at the Rochester Hotel on Thousand Island Park. The, then, owner Dave Quimby had an old inboard with the same name. Can't recall if the boat came with the hotel when he acquired it or if he found it someplace else. That was a very long time ago. The hotel guests would be given boat rides, for a price, which was a nice add-on for the property. The craft was not the most reliable boat on The River and Dave would have us follow in a "chase" boat in case the old engine gave out and he needed a tow. Sadly Dave was injured in an accident some years later and would pass away at too early an age.
Michael Folsom - Author
Comment by: Michael Folsom - Author ( )
Left at: 4:27 PM Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Itasca... Great photo by Ian I must say!

A little info on the yacht for you Deane...

Originally built in Holland in 1961 as a worldwide ocean-going salvage tug, the 175' vessel was one of four sister ships. Her original name was Thames. She was in service until 1979 before being converted into a mega yacht later that year. In 2005 she was refit to take on the look she has today and is valued at over $18 million. The vessel has traveled the world over the years and has had just a handful of owners.
Dick Lund
Comment by: Dick Lund ( )
Left at: 12:17 AM Thursday, August 27, 2009
Loved the page, but I would like to correct one thing ... the USS Freedom (LCS-1) was not "the first naval ship built on the Great Lakes since WWII". The minesweeper, USS Defender, was built at Marinette Marine Corp., as was the USS Freedom. The USS Defender was launched on April 4, 1987 and was commissioned on Sept. 30, 1989, and is currently on duty as a member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Here is a photo of the Defender at Sault Ste. Marie, MI in May 2000:

Marinette Marine has been kept busy by the U.S. Navy over the past couple years with the building of numerous Integrated Navy Lighterage System (INLS) craft. Also, Marinette Marine, now owned by Italian Shipbuilder, Fincantieri, (with Lockheed Martin retaining partial ownership) is getting ready to build a second LCS for the U.S. Navy.

Once again, I enjoyed the site. Keep up the good work!! - Dick
Michael Folsom
Comment by: Michael Folsom ( )
Left at: 9:20 AM Thursday, August 27, 2009
Dick -

Thanks for reading! I appreciate the info as well.

In my research, I took the information direct from the United States Navy in a press release dated November 8, 2008.

Quote - "Freedom was built at the Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisc., and is the first Navy ship to be built on the Great Lakes since World War II. Freedom is the first Navy ship to be commissioned in the City of Milwaukee."

Looks like you may have caught a mistake!!!

Thanks again for the kind words.

- Mike
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 1:26 PM Tuesday, September 20, 2011