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Author Topic:   Detroit River - October 16, 2010
K Albus posted 10-23-2010 06:35 PM ET (US)   Profile for K Albus   Send Email to K Albus  
On Saturday, October 16, 2010, I took my Dauntless 180 for its last ride of the season. The weather forecast called for temperatures in the mid-50s, clear skies, and light winds. The fall colors were in full force, so I decided it would be a good day to take a cruise on the Detroit River and snap some pictures.

Warning for the hard core Whaler guys: Minimal (if any) Whaler Content.

I launched my boat just south of Detroit, at the Wyandotte Municipal Boat Launch. From the launch, Downtown Detroit is about 10 miles upriver: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/DetroitfromWyandotte.jpg . As you can see, the river was nice and calm, the sky was clear and blue, and there was a bit of smog surrounding the city.

Beginning just north of Wyandotte, the Detroit River is heavily industrialized for a stretch of about five miles. The first major sign of industry is this rusted out steel plant: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/RustedSteelPlant.jpg . Although its hard to tell if anything is going on in the rusted out buildings, the immediately-adjacent United States Steel Plant is thriving, and appears to have recently received a new coat of paint: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/UnitedStatesSteelPlant.jpg .

A short way further up the river, Zug Island is formed by a canal connecting the Detroit River to the Rouge River. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/ZugIsland.jpg . I had hoped to circumnavigate Zug Island to get some close-up pictures of the freighters on the Rouge River, but a signed at the north end of the island warned that the whole area was off-limits without the proper National Security papers. On the Detroit River side of the island, the American Spirit (1,004 feet) was unloading iron ore and taking on mail from the J.W. Westcott II. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/AmericanSpirit.jpg . The American Spirit is painted black, but in the pictures it is covered with iron ore dust from the unloading operation. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/AmericanSpirit2.jpg . The north end of Zug Island: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/ZugIsland-NorthEnd.jpg .

Continuing up the Detroit River, Downtown Detroit started to come into focus under the Ambassador Bridge. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/AmbassadorBridge.jpg . From this part of the river, you can also see the now famous Michigan Central Station. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/TrainStation.jpg . A current media phenomenon is the taking and publishing of pictures of abandoned and decrepit buildings around Detroit. Such pictures are often referred to as “Ruin Porn”, and Michigan Central Station is generally the star of the show. See, e.g., . Although Michigan Central Station and other parts of the city are certainly in decay, the whole Ruin Porn thing is a bit overblown. The city is alive and well, down but far from dead.

A little farther up the Detroit River, at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge, is the J.W. Westcott Company. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/JWWestcottCo.jpg . Among other things, the Westcott Company delivers mail to passing freighters. Back in the mid-90s, our esteemed moderator, Mr. James Hebert, took a ride on one of the mail boats and posted a few pictures of run (be sure to click on the “Next>” button to cycle through all of the pictures):

After passing under the Ambassador Bridge, the skylines of Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario come into view. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/DetroitandWindsor.jpg . On this part of the river, Canada is to the south of the United States. Although not exactly bustling on the weekend, Downtown Detroit is fairly clean and vibrant, a far cry from most of the pictures which dominate the media these days. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/DetroitSkyline.jpg .

A little ways east of downtown, Belle Isle sits in the middle of river. The entire island is a park. One of the attractions on the island is the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/DossinGreatLakesMuseum.jpg . As the picture shows, a portion of the Dossin Musuem building is the pilothouse from the William Clay Ford, a decommissioned freighter which was involved in the search after the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. A bow anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald is also on display at the museum.

There were very few pleasure boaters out on the river with me. One of the them, however, was this very impressive 61-foot Viking, “Classic Coke”, which was heading up the Canadian side of the river at about 35 mph. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/ClassicCoke.jpg .

After passing Belle Isle, I came to the head of the Detroit River, where the river meets Lake St. Clair, approximately 7 miles east of Downtown Detroit. Here’s a picture of city taken from Lake St. Clair, near the Peche Island range. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/PecheIslandRange.jpg

Out on Lake St. Clair, I could see a freighter approaching, so I headed out for a few photos. It turned out to be the Cason J. Calloway (767 feet). Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/CasonJCalloway.jpg Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/CasonJCalloway2.jpg Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/CasonJCalloway3.jpg
I post a lot of pictures of Great Lakes freighters, and I have to say that the pictures really don’t do them justice. These ships are enormous, and it is quite a thrill to boat within a couple dozen yards of them. I never tire of seeing them out on the water.

After the Calloway passed, I caught up with the Classic Coke again, which had apparently stopped for a short break. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/ClassicCoke2.jpg . After I took this picture, the Classic Coke took off again, this time reaching about 40 mph, and headed for the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.

Getting back to river, I headed downriver on the opposite side of Belle Isle. About halfway down the north side of the island is the Detroit Yacht Club. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/DetroitYachtClub.jpg . Across the water, on the Detroit mainland, sits the Manoogian Mansion, the official residence of Detroit’s mayor, and the former home of Kwame Kilpatrick. Note the enormous boathouse: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/ManoogianMansion.jpg . A short way further down the river is this block of apartment buildings which I thought made for a nice photo: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/Apartments.jpg .

Another Detroit icon is the bridge leading to Belle Isle, appropriately named the Belle Isle Bridge: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/BelleIsleBridge.jpg . Just west of the bridge is a Coast Guard station which is the home of the 140-foot Ice Breaking Tug “Bristol Bay”. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/BristolBay.jpg . The tug was very busy last spring with several freighter trapped in the ice at the lower end of the St. Clair River.

Continuing downriver, back to the west of Downtown Detroit, I shot this picture of a couple of cranes at the Port of Detroit: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/Cranes.jpg .

Next came the old Boblo Island Detroit Dock: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/BobloDock.jpg . Boblo Island (which is officially known as Bois Blanc Island) was once the site of an amusement park on an island in the Canadian waters of the southern Detroit River. Passengers would board one of the Boblo Boats and ride it to the island for a day of fun. The amusement park has been gone for decades, and the old dock is now in ruins. A short way further down the river, I found two of the long-disused Boblo Boats: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/BobloBoats.jpg .

Leaving the old Boblo Boats behind, I continued down the Detroit River, passing my starting point of Wyandotte, and heading south for Lake Erie. After passing Fighting Island and heading to the east of Grosse Ile, I came across the heavy-lift ship Palau, a large ship equipped with a couple of very large cranes. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/Combi-LiftPalau.jpg Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/Combi-LiftPalau2.jpg .

Continuing south, I eventually reached Bois Blanc Island. The island has been redeveloped with condominiums and estate homes, and can only be reached by car ferry which serves the island from the Canadian mainland. Although the amusement park has been closed for decades, signs of it still linger, including the old Space Needle and the remnants of an old barge which is now overgrown with trees and weeds: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/BoisBlancIsland.jpg .

Heading down the east side of Bois Blanc Island, down the Amherstburg Channel, I spotted an Ontario Provincial Police boat which I believe could possibly be a Boston Whaler: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/OPPBoat.jpg . I couldn’t see any Boston Whaler markings, but the hull sure looked similar to that of the 30-foot, aluminum-hulled Defiance which joined us on our Isle Royale trip this past summer. Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do a great job of showing the details of the forward portion of the hull.

A few minutes after checking out the OPP boat, I reached the southern terminus of my trip, Lake Erie, where the Fermi nuclear plant in Monroe, Michigan could be seen in the distance. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/LakeErie.jpg .

For the trip back to Wyandotte, I chose to make a run up the Livingstone Channel. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/LivingstoneChannel.jpg . The Livingstone Channel is channel dredged for shipping traffic which is approximately 500 feet wide and 4.5 miles long. The channel is lined on both sides with the dredge spoils, and is very reminiscent of a drag strip. The channel was completely empty of traffic when I was there, so I took the opportunity to run a couple of speed trials. Going with the current, I was able to reach 44.2 mph, a new top speed record for my boat. Heading up river against the current, I was to reach 39.1 mph, for an average of 41.6 mph, which is also a new record for my boat. (I raised my motor another hole earlier this summer, and I was hitting 5,600 rpm and getting an over-rev alarm in both directions on my speed trials.) Some very minor Whaler content: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/LivingstoneChannel2.jpg .

After leaving the north end of the Livingstone Channel, I passed this NorthStar Yacht: Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/NorthStarYacht.jpg . This was a very nice looking boat with about a 15-foot beam, and it was really hauling, going well over 30 mph.

A minutes later I was back in Wyandotte, and loaded my boat up on its trailer. Here's a picture of my boat and my new towing rig, a 2011 Ford Expedition. Detroit%20River%20-%20October%202010/NewTowRig.jpg .

My boat run was 71 miles long, and I burned 16 gallons of gas, for an average of 4.43 mpg. And thus ended my 2010 boating season.

contender posted 10-23-2010 08:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
Thanks lots of nice shots of Detroit area and the rivers, buildings. Its sad about all the buildings that are left standing to fen for themselves. Since parts of the city are in decay would the city work with someone if they want to say clean it up, or is it so bad no one cares anymore...
andygere posted 10-24-2010 01:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
I've always been fascinated with working waterways, and this trip really interests me. Great photos and bits of history, nice to see the water side view of another part of the country.
ledfoot posted 10-24-2010 10:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for ledfoot  Send Email to ledfoot     
Great pictures & descriptions, thank you!
Having lived & boated in the Detroit area for 4 yrs. with our 21' Whaler Walkaround, this really brought back the good memories of our time there.
Moose posted 10-24-2010 10:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
Very nice trip and photos. I've wanted to do a similar Detroit River trip for quite a while. Nothing like a real working waterway.

Great tow vehicle.

jimh posted 10-24-2010 05:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Another series of great photographs with excellent narrative from Kevin--Many thanks. Hey--if you had called me I would have gone with you! By the way, I have also been out on the USCGC BRISTOL BAY. I spent about eight hours underway with them a few years ago. See

A good friend of mine was a Reservist CWO4 and associated with the ship.

home Aside posted 10-24-2010 06:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for home Aside  Send Email to home Aside     
Very nice photos & narrative, I too would have volunteered to go along for the cruise if I had known. A few years ago a ride on the Wescott was part of the Field Trip portion of our GLBWCC Holiday rendezvous, it was quite a nice cruise


Jeff posted 10-24-2010 11:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     

It looks like a great trip and in the final shot I see a great new tow vehicle!

BTW the Ontario Police boat is, if I remember correctly, a Sea Ark Commander or Dauntless Series. Many of these Sea Ark's have similar lines to the Post Classic Commercial and Government Products Division Whalers.

prj posted 10-25-2010 11:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Excellent narrative and photos, Kevin, thanks for that.

If indeed that is a Sea Ark hull on that OPP vessel, I've confused that with the Defiance model myself. They are a similar shape with equally utilitarian detail.

Jeff posted 10-26-2010 09:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
Here are corrected links to spec sheets on the SeaArk vessels.

Commander Series:

Dauntless Series:

If I remember correctly C. Raymond Hunt and Associates are responsible for the designs of many of these SeaArk vessels that look like the Post Classic, Commercial and Government Products Division Whalers. Does anyone know who designed the actual Post Classic Commercial and Government Products Division Whaler Defiance Models?

C. Raymond Hunt and Associates site:

Waterwonderland posted 11-03-2010 08:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for Waterwonderland  Send Email to Waterwonderland     
Great tour and photos. I have spent years on Lake St. Clair but never went further than the mouth of the Detroit River. Interesting to see all those Detroit landmarks from a new perspective. Thanks ever so much for sharing!
SEGrin posted 11-04-2010 09:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for SEGrin  Send Email to SEGrin     
Wow - you have perfect timing. I winterized my Ventura this week and was having a little attack of cabin fever.

I grew up on Grosse Ile in the fifties and sixties. Back then, the pollution would have eaten a Whaler from the water line down. As a result I don't think of going back there to boat. From your photos I need to add that trip to next years' travels.

Thank you.

Mel Wallace posted 11-05-2010 11:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for Mel Wallace  Send Email to Mel Wallace     
The water is good around Grosse Ile - jump in! How many other site members in the GI area? We need to plan a rendezvous.
home Aside posted 11-09-2010 02:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for home Aside  Send Email to home Aside     
Lower Detroit River, Grosse Isle, Lake Erie is where I have done most of my local boating sice 1992, I occasionally go to Lake St. Clair but it is just too crazy with all the boats in such a small area. I like Erie much better.

SEGrin / Mel, the Great Lakes Boston Whaler Cruising Club group has done several impromptu gatherings in the Lake Erie area, keep an eye open for postings...

We also have a Holiday Rendezvous in the planning stages, a good chance to meet other local Whaler enthusiasts and here about trips, outings, etc...


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