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Winter Fleet departure underway in Sturgeon Bay

Ship Cason J. Callaway leaving Sturgeon Bay, March 23, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
Ship Cason J. Callaway leaving Sturgeon Bay, March 23, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
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STURGEON BAY (WLUK) -- It was moving day on the waters of Door County. The first of the Great Lakes Freighters set sail Friday in Sturgeon Bay.

Workers at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding say the departure of the Winter Fleet is somewhat bittersweet.

With guidance from the local tug boats, the Winter Fleet was on its way.

"It's a very big day for us. It marks the end of a lot of hard work and effort by all our people, our vendors, to get the work ready and for ths ships to depart here from Sturgeon Bay," said Julie Koch, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Contract Services Manager.

The 767-foot long Cason J. Callaway was the first to go.

"The Callaway comes in for routine winter work, some miscellaneous piping jobs. They had several steel jobs, bulkhead work, and that type of thing. And a few minor machinery jobs," said Koch.

The 858-foot long Roger Blough was next.

"The Blough had a main engine rebuild, and they also dry docked. So before they were dockside they were in the dry dock for the full survey. We had a paint job, and lots of steel work on that boat as well," said Koch.

In all, 14 freighters laid up for winter repairs. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding hired about 45 percent more employees to get the job done.

"The work that we do, involves a lot of skilled labor. We have electricians, pipe fitters, steel workers, machinists, painters," said Stew Fett, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Production Manager.

Fett says, many of those seasonal workers return year after year, just like many of the ships.

"We like the excitement, and then for about two weeks, we enjoy just downsizing, and relaxing a little bit. Then we start right back up again and plan for next year," said Koch.

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More ships are scheduled to leave in the coming weeks, including two thousand-footers which are expected to set sail Saturday.

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