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Detroit, Michigan
June 9, 1996

American Republic
Carries Olympic Flame

by Jim Hebert,

Ship at seawall

American Steamship Company's 635-foot motor vessel American Republic lay alongside the seawall at Hart Plaza in the predawn darkness, awaiting the arrival of the Olympic Flame and the crowds that would follow it.

Ship's Deck

Bolted to the No. 4 Hatch cover was a special dual-burner propane Olympic Cauldron, which would be ignited by runner Kenneth Whippel, who would carry the flame up the gangplank from the Hart Plaza Ceremony.

The American Republic was in ballast and had been waiting for several days to participate in her leg of the Torch Relay. Vessel, bow quarter view She was loaded to a draft of about 16 feet forward, 18 feet aft, leaving just a few feet under her keel in the unusual mooring at the park. The shallow draft created additional freeboard, adding to the bulk of the ship as she towered over the railing of the seawall. For many shoreside, it would be their first close look at the huge dimensions of a lake freighter.

Deck of ship The self-unloader was built in 1981 for her regular duties of carrying iron ore to Cleveland's Cuyahoga River. Navigation in the Cuyahoga is impossible for the larger, 1000-foot ore carriers. Instead, they bring their cargo of taconite pellets to Lorain, Ohio, where it is loaded on to the American Republic. During the navigation season, she makes an almost continuous run, back and forth between Lorain and Cleveland. Because of her constant schedule and the tricky handling in the twisting river, American Republic is commanded by two Captains, who split their duties into two 12-hour watches, changing at noon and midnight.

The American Republic was uniquely designed for negotiating all the sharp turns and corners of the Cuyahoga. She has twin 3500 horsepower diesels, which turn two variable-pitch 18-ft-diameter propellors. To minimize the tendency of the vessel to "walk" along the bottom in shallow waters, the propellors are shrouded so that their thrust is only directed fore-and-aft.

To further enhance control, the ship has a total of eight rudders! Four are aft, and four "flanking" rudders are located forward. In addition, the ship also has bow and stern thrusters. With all that manuverability, the American Republic had no trouble leaving the seawall unassisted.

The weather on Sunday was less than optimum, as an early morning drizzle turned into a downpour around 10:30 a.m. As the ceremony concluded in Hart Plaza, the single runner brought the torch aboard the American Republic . The heavy rain put the special Olympic Cauldron to the test, but as the ship sailed downbound for Cleveland, the flame burned on.

The United States Coast Guard icebreaker-tug Bristol Bay accompanied the American Republic on her trip to Lake Erie.

More pictures available at the Great Lakes Vessel Passages website.

Copyright © 1996 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: June 19, 1996;