Average service life of a steel laker varied....I've heard of some that were around 10 years, and then were scrapped our sold overseas, others, well last a spell, some were converted into barges, others are in mothballs, mostly used for storage. I attached some text I found in a lake boat book about the Southdown Challenger
Currently holding the honors of being the oldest lake boat still trading on the Great Lakes, the self unloading cement carrier Southdown Challenger was built as a traditional Great Lakes bulk carrier as hull #17 by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse (Detroit), MI in 1906. This veteran of the lakes was launched as the William P. Snyder for Shenango Steamship & Transportation Co. (subsidiary of Shenango Furnace Co.), Cleveland, OH. Retaining her original overall dimensions, the Southdown Challenger is now powered by a Skinner “Uniflow” 4 cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil rated at 3,500 i.h.p. with 2 water tube boilers. The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller and the vessel is equipped with a bow thruster. The vessel is capable of carrying 10,250 tons in 8 holds at mid summer draft of 21’09”. Cargoes of bulk or powdered cement can be unloaded by a fully automated system including air slides, conveyor equipment and bucket elevators feeding a forward mounted 48’ discharge boom.
Of note, the Southdown Challenger is one of only two remaining vessels still active on the Great Lakes to be powered by the classic Skinner “Uniflow” engine. The other vessel is the car ferry Badger (2) which is powered by two of these engines and, in turn, remains as the only coal fueled vessel still in active service on the Great Lakes.
As the William P. Snyder, the vessel was built with 31 hatches feeding 3 holds capable of holding 10,900 tons. Original power came from a yard built triple expansion 1,665 s.h.p. steam engine with 2 Scotch boilers. The vessel sailed for her original owners until 1926. On July 16, 1916; the William P. Snyder’s starboard bow struck a concrete dock at Superior, WI causing the indenting of two plates, damaging three frames and some internal brackets. The cause was attributed to a strong river current. Then, on November 22, 1917; the vessel received “stress of weather” damage in heavy seas while down bound on Lake Huron with iron ore from Duluth, MN for Ashtabula, OH. Damage resulted in the recaulking and reriveting of various parts of the hull. After the Scotch boilers were replaced with water tube boilers in 1924, the vessel struck an underwater obstruction while departing Sandusky, OH with coal on September 5, 1925. The resulting damage required the repair of 6 bottom shell plates.
The William P. Snyder was renamed Elton Hoyt II (1) following her acquisition by Stewart Furnace Co., Cleveland, OH on June 26, 1926. Retaining her new name, the vessel was acquired by Youngstown Steamship Co. (Pickands, Mather & Co., managers), Cleveland, OH in 1929. Ownership was then passed to Interlake Steamship Co., Cleveland, OH (also managed by Pickands, Mather & Co.) in 1930. The vessel was repowered in 1950 with the Skinner “Uniflow” engine, also receiving two larger water tube boilers. In the fall of 1950, the Elton Hoyt II (1) was involved in a head-on collision with the Enders M. Voorhees during a snowstorm in the Straits of Mackinac causing major bow damage to both vessels.
The vessel was renamed Alex D. Chisholm in 1952 following the launch into the Interlake fleet of the new hull being christened Elton Hoyt II (2). The Alex D. Chisholm continued sailing for the Interlake fleet into the 1960’s before being laid up in Erie, PA. In 1966, the hull was purchased by Medusa Portland Cement for conversion to a cement carrier. This conversion was completed by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, WI. The conversion included a modern stack and the old coal bunkers being refitted as the owner’s quarters.
The Alex D. Chisholm was renamed Medusa Challenger in 1966. The newly christened vessel was operated by Cement Transit Co., Detroit, MI; a wholly owned subsidiary of Medusa Portland Cement Co. The vessel’s new trade routes involved the movement of powdered cement from Medusa’s Charlevoix, MI location to plants in Chicago, Milwaukee, Manitowoc, Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland, and Owen Sound. This vessel was Medusa’s first large Great Lakes vessel to be put into service.
On December 20, 1976; the Medusa Challenger was forced aground in Lake St. Clair by winds and shifting ice while at anchor due to heavy fog. She was bound for Detroit at the time of the incident. In 1977, the vessel rescued two people from their capsized boat in Lake Michigan. They had been in the water for over 15 hours; a third person being lost. On May 22, 1987; the vessel was the first to load at the new cement dock in Toledo. The Medusa Challenger, on November 20, 1990; was the first vessel to deliver a load to the new Miller Paving Silo in Owen Sound, ON. On October 5, 1997; the Medusa Challenger was hit by a water spout while passing White Shoal Light on the way to Charlevoix, MI. The spotlight on the wheelhouse was lifted from its supports and crew’s bikes stored on deck were vertically lifted.
In 1998, Medusa Portland Cement was acquired by Southdown Inc. resulting in the vessel being renamed Southdown Challenger; the name being painted on the bow April 26, 1999 by Midwest Maritime Corp., Milwaukee, WI. Following the acquisition of Southdown by Cemex, Mexico in 2000; the Southdown Challenger was sold to Wilmington Trust, Wilmington, DE on November 8, 2000 with the vessel being operated by HMC Ship Management Ltd., Lemont, IL (an affiliate company of Hannah Marine Corp.). This last ownership transaction was necessitated to remain in compliance with The Jones Act which requires any vessel carrying loads domestically (in other words, product shipped from a U.S. port bound for a U.S. port) be owned and crewed American. The Southdown Challenger’s crews are now employees of HMC and the vessel’s trade routes remaining as before the Cemex acquisition of Southdown.