Great Lakes: VanEnkevort Tug and Barge?

Anyone here have any experience with Van Enkevort? They run (I believe) two ATBs up on the lakes: Joyce VanEnkevort/Great Lakes Trader and Clyde VanEnkevort/Erie Trader (The old Lakes Contender, from what I understand).

I’ve got my 3M license (no pilotage) but looking into AB/Deckhand with them. I wouldn’t mind knowing a little more about them, there’s not much out there but most of what I’ve seen seems to be positive. The boats and barges themselves look nice and they’re pretty new, too.

Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!

They also operate an older tug/freighter Joe Thompson/Joe Thompson Jr. which have been converted to ATB configuration. The newer boats tend to run taconite out of head of lakes to the mills in lower Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, then backhaul stone. The Thompson is more of a journeyman, and does a fair mix of stone, ore and coal cargoes all over the place.

I’ve met the team there a few times and they are a good group of people who have a deep knowledge base of trading in the lakes. Can’t speak to the onboard environment, maybe somebody else can color in that section.

Never worked on those ATBs but I did work on the freighters for the same company when the lakes contender was owned by American steamship. Always heard good things about that particular unit but can’t speak it being owned by VanEnkevort.

Most guys work 30 on 20 off. Mid March to mid January is typical season. As an AB you’ll be working winches, working the unload down in the tunnel on the barge, rinsing cargo holds, general deck maintenance, and keeping the tug clean. It’s non union and a few of my classmates really like it over there. They keep all three tug/barges busy all season. Lots of iron ore and stone.

That’s not a bad schedule… Do you think there’s any chance of moving up there? I wouldn’t mind staying on as an observer to work towards pilotage.

Yes I think there will be room. Some of the Captains are nearing retirement age. One of my classmates who finished a year after me in 2015 is already sailing Captain on the Joe Thompson. It will probably take you at least a season to get all your trips in to sit for the Pilotage. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to get you some answers.

Do you have any recommendations or resources you know of for pilotage? It’s something I’ve been starting to look at. I have an old coast pilot here at home that I’ve been looking at and I’ve been using the NOAA catalog to do some small-scale sketches just to better familiarize myself with the lakes and rivers.

If you get on with a Lake company, do good work and keep a good attitude and after a few weeks ask the Captain if you can come up to the pilothouse when off watch to observe…have a notebook, take notes, ask questions, be involved. You’ll figure out pretty quickly when you can ask questions and when you should watch and let the guys make their turns.