Winter Fleet early arrivals in Sturgeon Bay

Burns Harbor Freighter in Sturgeon Bay is part of winter fleet, December 17, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

STURGEON BAY (WLUK) -- As winter approaches, shipping on the Great Lakes is starting to wind down.

Some freighters are already heading to port, for their seasonal lay-up.

At 1,000-feet long, the Burns Harbor is one of the biggest ships on the Great Lakes. It arrived at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding 10 days ago for some scheduled maintenance.

"Yeah, the first one of the year. I see they're changing its color. Used to be kind of a reddish color," said Don Gospodarek, Sturgeon Bay.

Gospodarek says he checks out the fleet a couple times a week.

Not far from the Burns Harbor, the 636-foot long American Courage has been laid up in Sturgeon Bay for two years. This weekend, it is scheduled to be dry-docked where it will undergo some major steel repairs.

The ships are part of 13 vessels scheduled to make up this year's winter fleet. Shipyard workers typically have 70-90 days to make repairs and get the big boats ready to sail in the spring.

"It makes a big boon to Sturgeon Bay, because there are again the workforce, and then there are the contractors that come in throughout the winter season as well. So we are happy to have them here in Sturgeon Bay," said Pam Seiler, Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center Executive Director.

Seiler says there are more than just workers in town. The winter fleet becomes quite a tourist attraction as well.

"It's one of the things that Sturgeon Bay has that isn't available anywhere else in Door County. So, it's absolutely unique. When those thousand-footers come through the canal, it's absolutely amazing," said Seiler.

In January, the thousand-foot long Stewart J. Cort made its way through two bridges downtown. The frosty conditions didn't stop the ship or people taking it all in.

"It's a great thing to see. If you've never seen it before, we encourage people to get up here and see it first-hand, for yourself," said Seiler.

The next ship is scheduled to arrive on December 31st. Here's the schedule for the rest of the ships through January:

Winter Fleet arrival schedule for 2018-19

  • Burns Harbor (1,000 feet)- Dec. 7
  • American Courage (636 feet)- drydock, Dec. 22
  • Joseph L. Block (728 feet)- Dec. 31
  • Barge- A397 (270 feet)- Jan. 1
  • Wilfred Sykes (678 feet)- Jan. 15
  • Paul R. Tregurtha (1013 feet)- Jan. 20
  • Barge-Huron Spirit (328 feet)- Jan. 20
  • Tug-Leonard M.- Jan20
  • John G. Munson (768 feet)- Jan. 25
  • Cason J. Callaway (767 feet)- Jan. 25
  • James R. Barker (1,000 feet)- Jan. 25
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