Great Lakes Engineering built four ore carriers during World War II, but its business declined steadily after the war as vessels got longer and their maintenance work required more spacious and specialized facilities. The former shipyard was sold in the 1960s and now hosts a recreational marina.
Further, every five years, U.S.-flagged vessel owners are required to put their vessel into dry dock. U.S. Coast Guard inspectors scour the hull for any signs of unusual wear; if any is found, the steel is replaced. Ashtabula does not have those kind of facilities for that work, which involves pumping the water out of the slip while the vessel settles on huge concrete blocks positioned at key locations.
The human factor plays a role in where this work goes, as well.
Ashtabula was once was home to many Great Lakes captains and engineers, and Beagle said their residency would sway the decision to winter a vessel in Ashtabula. The men could conveniently walk to their freighter and oversee the progress while still enjoying the comforts of home and family in the evening. To his knowledge, however, no Great Lakes captains reside in the city.
Craine said he’s very interested in working with the city and county officials to bring this industry to the harbor. All he needs is the dock space a little enthusiasm for the concept.
“I have everything I need to do the work; I just need to lease dock space,” he said.
A list of vessels and the ports where they are spending winter lay-up is available online at www.boatnerd.com/layup/layup12-13.htm.