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Chicago's Greatest Jinx Ship Heading To Drydock

"It's appearing more and more likely that the end is at hand for the Great Lakes' oldest freighter, a ship with a unique tie to Chicago," CBS2 Chicago notes.

"The Door County Advocate newspaper is reporting that Port Cities has awarded Bay a contract to transform the 107-year-old ship, now known as the St. Marys Challenger, into an un-engined barge. The Advocate said its future is as an articulated tug barge that would be pushed by a tug in the future."


"At 107 years old, the St. Marys Challenger is the oldest vessel actively transiting the Great Lakes and is a riveted hull," the Advocate notes.

Here she is:


Back to CBS2:

"At 552 feet, the Challenger is the largest ship ever to traverse the Chicago River, which it did on a regular basis between 1968 and 1979 en route from the Medusa (now St. Marys) Cement plant in Charlevoix, Mich., to Goose Island. Since 1979, its southern port of call has been Lake Calumet.

"When using the Chicago River, it left many bridge leafs frozen in the raised position, although it was always guided by tugboats on the river and never struck a bridge. The problems with bridges were so pervasive that in 1973, the Chicago Tribune once published an article that told readers that no bridges became stuck."

Says the Trib:

"The Tribune reported at least 20 instances of bridges malfunctioning while the vessel was nearby from 1968 through 1979, often stranding drivers and earning the freighter a nickname as Chicago's 'jinx ship.'

"The bad luck became a running joke. 'It's the Medusa Challenger again, and she's in the Chicago River again, and a bridge is stuck again, reads a Tribune caption from New Year's Day 1977. In the photo, the freighter is seen spewing steam as stabilizing locks on the Franklin Street Bridge were thawing."


Indeed. Let's take a look at some Trib headlines about the freighter from its golden age.

1968: Bridge Jams, Traffic, Too; Drivers Irate.

1969: Balky Bridge Bars Boat's Berthing Bid.

1969: Ship a Jinx? Bridge Jams for 3d Time.

1969: Ship Casts Its Spell On City Bridges Again.

1970: Bridge Left Up In Air In Ship's Wake.

1971: Medusa Challenges Bridges, Traffic Jam Results.

1972: 30-Minute Traffic Tieup: Jinx Ship Strikes Again.

1972: Medusa-Challenger Strikes Again.

1972: A Swift Kick To Bridge Snaps Medusa's Spell.

1973: Medusa, Friday The 13th: Here's Double Trouble.

1973: Hex Holds: Bridge Gets Whammy But Medusa Gets By.

1974: Jinx Ship Does It Again To Our River.

1975: Cold Spell, Medusa Jinx: Ship Ties Up Street Traffic - Again.

1976: Ship's Jinx Holds Even At A Benefit.

1977: Riding The Chicago River 'Jinx Ship.'

1978: Medusa Visit Scares A Bridge.

1978: Bridgetender Just Won't Blame Medusa.

1978: Medusa Strikes Again; Bridge Stuck For 2 Hours.


"The ship was in Chicago as recently as Tuesday," CBS2 notes. "As of Wednesday night, it was back in Michigan, but could have two trips left in its current configuration. It is due in drydock on or about Nov. 7."


Comments welcome.


Posted on October 31, 2013

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BOOKS - All About Poop.


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