DULUTH — Just a few more days should be required to complete work on the William A. Irvin, said Chelly Townsend, executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which owns and operates the museum ship.
Townsend said workers at Fraser Shipyards in Superior have about three days of painting left to go on the retired laker, with the work contingent upon fair weather as the vessel sits in dry dock.
Workers also are individually marking between 250 and 275 of the most corroded rivets in the ship's hull for frenching and welding. This involves reforming rivet heads to ensure they remain watertight and then building them up with additional weld material, explained Chase Dewhirst, manager of marine engineering for AMI Consulting Engineers.
Townsend expects the ship will return to the water and its berth in Minnesota Slip, behind the DECC, by mid-month and said if weather conditions permit, it could make the trip across the harbor as soon as next week. Brook Benes of Wren Works LLC is expected to oversee the movement of the ship, as he did the Irvin's voyage from Duluth to Fraser in September 2018.
A crack in the 81-year-old ship's rudder remains to be mended, but the Irvin will not make the trip under its own power.
The transit will require meticulous planning, particularly when the ship reaches the Minnesota Slip pedestrian lift bridge, where it faces a tight squeeze with a mere 7 inches of clearance on either side. A pair of winches attached to the Irvin's bow and stern will be used to maneuver the 611-foot-long laker into place at the slow-crawl pace of 1 foot for every four seconds.
The Irvin is expected to reopen to the public next year. The floating museum has been sidelined for two consecutive seasons now, as crews worked to shore up Minnesota Slip's failing seawalls and to cap off contaminated underwater sediments that have accumulated there over years of marine traffic.
With the Irvin temporarily displaced, the DECC took advantage of the opportunity to repair the ship and give it a new coat of paint. That work at Fraser was funded with the help of a $504,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.