The towboat MV Cindy L. Erickson went to work for Marquette Transportation Co. in February 2018, but frustratingly adverse river conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic combined to delay the vessel’s official christening until just recently.
Named for the company’s first employee – the daughter of company founder Ray Eckstein – the towboat is the second boat the company named in her honor. The original Cindy L. Erickson was built in 1962 and sold in 2016.
The 160-foot, triple-screw vessel is the first of a five-boat group of 6,600 hp., z-drive towboats built between 2018 and early 2020 by Louisiana-based C&C Marine & Repair for Paducah, Ky.-based Marquette.
The other four boats in the series are the MVs Jerry Jarrett, Chris Reeves, Charles Reid Perry, and Randy Mauer.
“This looks like a brand-new boat that just came out of a shipyard, and it’s been out operating 5-1/2 years. We had planned on doing this earlier, but unfortunate circumstances in the world prevented us from doing that,” said Josh Esper, Marquette’s executive vice president-engineering/procurement.
Routinely navigating the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St. Louis, the powerful boat can push more than 42 barges – loaded with roughly 83,000 tons of grain – southbound in one tow.
“This boat has superior maneuverability and the ability to stop a lot of tonnage,” he said, adding that “it’s able to handle big tows, often the same amount of tonnage as a conventionally built boat with 9,000 to 10,000 horsepower. This boat can do a lot more than your typical 6,000,” Esper said. “It can take 20,000 to 25,000 more tons of grain.”
Since the vessel came out, he noted, it has just under 36,000 hours on the engines while traveling roughly 215,000 miles on the river. For main propulsion, the vessel is outfitted with three Cummins QSK-60, Tier 3 diesel-electric engines and an electrical system powered by two Cummins QSM-11, Tier 3 generators.
Designed by Maine-based CT Marine, the MV Cindy L. Erickson also features a trio of three z-drive units provided by Karl Senner. The triple azimuthing z-drive configuration is designed for backing and maneuverability, turning a full 360 degrees, and operating at lower engine loads to boost fuel efficiency.
Accommodating a crew of up to 13 people, the boat has a large lounge, as well as a Marine Interior Systems soft-core joiner system in the crew spaces that is non-combustible, reduces noise, and is made of modular, non-progressive panels of mineral wool sandwiched between galvanized steel sheets with a thin PVC veneer. Full-sized showers are installed, as well as a sanitation system supplied by Laborde Products.
The boat features an electronics package from Wheelhouse Electronics, engine alarms from Versatech, a fire suppression system from Herbert Hiller, and keel coolers from R.W. Fernstrum. On deck, the boat features a Wintech capstan and six 60-ton deck winches.
“I’ve been on a lot of boats on the river, but this is by far the most comfortable,” commented Capt. Doicus Langley, MV Cindy L. Erickson’s master. “It backs really well and handles its stern better than any vessel I’ve ever been on.”