2017-10-19 / News

Launch of La Nina II Barge Becomes Proud Moment for Les Cheneaux Community

By Erich T. Doerr


The new Breezeswept barge La Niña II is christened as company assistant Erin Currie (left) smashes a bottle of sparkling wine in a bag against its side. Breezeswept owner Bob Dunn looks on. The new Breezeswept barge La Niña II is christened as company assistant Erin Currie (left) smashes a bottle of sparkling wine in a bag against its side. Breezeswept owner Bob Dunn looks on. Few communities embrace their nautical heritage as proudly as Cedarville and that trait was on display Wednesday, October 11, as the launching of the Breezeswept dock building company’s new 64-foot barge La Niña II became a large community event that drew more than 35 spectators.

Just after 12:30 p.m., a large truck and custom trailer were used to pull the barge out of the workshop where it was built and move it one-fifthmile north on South Meridian Street, where the vessel was christened and launched in the waters of Cedarville Bay at the Cedarville Harbor public boat launch. A team from J&R Building Movers of Petoskey carried out the move and it went off without a hitch.


The new Breezeswept dock building company barge La Niña II is paired with its matching new push boat Vamuse as it is backed into the waters of its homeport in Cedarville Bay for the first time Wednesday, October 11. The barge, built in Cedarville is 64 feet long and 26 feet high. The new Breezeswept dock building company barge La Niña II is paired with its matching new push boat Vamuse as it is backed into the waters of its homeport in Cedarville Bay for the first time Wednesday, October 11. The barge, built in Cedarville is 64 feet long and 26 feet high. “This was a busy day,” Breezeswept owner Bob Dunn said, noting he was pleased with the safe and successful launch. “The whole crew and the moving people did a fine job getting it from the building to Lake Huron and into the waters of our homeport here on Cedarville Bay.”

The construction of the 64-foot by 26-foot La Niña II began in the Breezeswept workshop in January, after almost three years of advance planning. Its construction required 30 tons of aluminum.

The process of moving La Niña II began with the removal of a utility pole from in front of the Breezeswept workshop, something that required cutting off electrical power to the building, so there would be enough room to maneuver as the truck pulled the barge out and made the turn onto South Meridian. Holes were poles had stood were filled with gravel and covered with strips of rubber belt to protect the ground from the weight of the truck.

Inside the workshop, Mr. Dunn and his team jacked up the barge on Wednesday, before the movers arrived, allowing the J&R crew to roll a pair of 52-foot steel I-beams under the vessel. The I-beams formed the basis of a trailer the crew built onsite by attaching a set of wheels to each beam before the barge was lowered onto it. A third section of I-beam then was attached to the back of the mover’s semi-trailer truck, a blue Ford Aeromax adorned with a flashing orange light, before it was backed up and hooked to the trailer.

The move began just after 12:30 p.m. with the barge slowing inching out into daylight for the first time. There were just inches to spare on either side of the door at the front of the workshop as it passed. Guides were posted on either side of the truck to assure no issues arose. The left turn onto South Meridian was cautious and slow.

J&R foreman Nick McGuiness oversaw the move and drove the truck during it. He said Breezeswept has a good relationship with J&R, noting the company previously moved one of Mr. Dunn’s barges out of the water, and then back into it, in relation to maintenance work. He was pleased with Wednesday’s move.

“This went really well,” Mr. McGuiness said. “We had no troubles.”

South Meridian was closed to all vehicle traffic during the move because of the size of the barge. Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chase Arnold held up traffic at the southern end of the route, while a Clark Township Volunteer Fire Department fire truck blocked the road off downtown at the northern end.

Spectators began to arrive more than an hour before the move began, with more than a dozen present to watch as the trailer was assembled. The crowd grew larger as the move began, cheering as the truck successfully made its left turn and started driving down the road, pulling the barge. The spectators walked behind the barge to reach the launch ramp so they could watch the festivities that followed.

Darrel Sanderson, owner of a cottage in the Cedarville area, was one of the spectators. He and his wife, Jean Sanderson, got a sneak peak at La Niña II before the launching when they were shown the barge by Breezeswept’s Ted Bowlby during the construction process. Both attended the launching.

“This is so cool,” Mr. Sanderson said. “I think this is really exciting.”

Julie Maher of Portage was another spectator watching as the barge was launched. She was in Cedarville Wednesday on vacation and stumbled into the action, but was eager to watch after she did.

“This is impressive,” Mrs. Maher said.

Once the La Niña II reached the launch ramp, the truck reversed and with a final turn it was lined up to back the barge into the water. A pair of large forklifts were brought in and attached to the trailer to help provide additional braking power as the move began to launch the vessel.

A pause at the launch ramp at about 1:30 p.m. offered the perfect opportunity for the christening of the new barge. Mr. Dunn gave Breezeswept assistant Erin Currie the honor of carrying it out. He presented her with a bottle of sparkling Italian wine in the style of champagne, then placed it inside a bag before Ms. Currie smashed into the side of the barge, the bottle instantly shattering in a spray of bubbly white wine that splashed the sides of the bag. Ms. Currie has a family connection to the company, as her father, Greg Currie, worked for Mr. Dunn for three decades.

“This is a real honor,” Ms. Currie said. “I’m excited to see what this will do for our company.”

Once the vessel was christened, additional bottles of sparking wine were brought out and small cups of it were poured for members of the assembled crowd. The christening ceremony also featured a branch covered in green leaves that was placed on the deck of the barge as a good luck charm to symbolize safe returns from each voyage it will make, per maritime traditions.

“This is a huge event for our town,” Cedarville resident Chris Soderman said as he watched the launching. “This is probably the largest vessel launched here in about 100 years, maybe the largest ever.”

After the christening, Breezeswept’s new purpose-built push boat Vamuse arrived under the control of her skipper, Jonas Carpenter. Straps were used to hook the boat and the barge together and allow the push boat to be used to pull the barge back into the water. The Vamuse fits into a notch built into the back of the La Niña II.

As the barge started to come free from its trailer, Mr. Carpenter used the Vamuse to rock it from side to side and complete the task, As the La Niña II floated free from the trailer and the linked vessels backed into Lake Huron for the first time, a hearty cheer erupted from the crowd. Once the barge was in the water, the J&R crew pulled its trailer out and began the process of dismantling it. A short trip in Cedarville Bay showed the barge has no leaks and was floating level.

The La Niña II required some final fitting out once it was in the water, and the spectators dispersed. After its short shakedown run, it was tied up at Breezeswept’s Cedarville dock for the installation of its hydraulic front ramp and the anchoring spuds that will hold it in place when on the job. It would not have fit through the workshop door if either had been installed before the move.

The work was to take place later in the day Wednesday. The barge is capable of holding two cement or dump trucks. The center of its deck is lined with a layer of rubber underneath its metal top level to act as a cushion when loading heavy cargos.

“I’m most excited it’s floating level without its payload,” Mr. Dunn said. “It’s not bow-heavy.”

Mr. Dunn said he hoped to the have the barge enter service at the end of next week. It will be used for moving dock construction supplies. La Niña II joins the 50-foot La Niña, built in Panama City, Florida, in the Breezeswept fleet.

Professional fabricator Keith Kozma of Kozema Welding carried out a lot of the construction work for the barge. He even looked up the traditions that need to be followed during the christening. The project will be one of the last for him in Michigan before he moves to Florida.

The goal is for the La Niña II to last 50 to 80 years. When its working days are over, the vessel has a hidden Easter egg in store for its scrappers. Mr. Dunn and his crew installed a waterproof chamber containing a time capsule inside one of the vessel’s bollards. Its contents include eight sealed bottles containing photos of the La Niña II’s construction, plus clips of newspaper stories about the work and about the Les Cheneaux area’s recent Ensign National Championship sailboat races in August, in which Mr. Carpenter was a participant.

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Great day for Breezeswept !!!

Great day for Breezeswept !!! Launching went smoothly. We wish to thank all our supporters, spectators, assistants and helpers who made this event both memorable & enjoyable. Special thanks to our welders & work crew, the township, Cloverland Electric, J&R Building Movers, Mackinac County Sheriff's Department , Deputy Chase Arnold, and the Clark Township Volunteer Fire Departmen ..... Bob Dunn

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