Interview with Ann Loeding
Restoration Coordinator and Port Captain
How did you get involved with the SS Columbia and what is your role in the Project?
Having been involved with several vessel restoration projects, I knew Richard and had spoken to him over the years about his progress with Columbia. Although I had never been aboard the boat, I had seen her tied up in Detroit when I was passing by while working on tugboats. After Richard passed away, the SSCP trustees sought me out to ask my advice as to how best to continue the work he started. I was just finishing up another project so I enthusiastically affirmed that we should keep working towards getting Columbia steaming.
What are the key factors you consider when restoring Columbia?
What work needs to happen to prep Columbia for her epic tow to Kingston?
The goal for the tow prep work is to keep out the water and strengthen the deckhouse so as to withstand stresses from offshore wave action. Over the past two years we accomplished extensive repairs on the hull, and it is now watertight. The current prep work involves repairs to the steel deck and house structures (queen posts, tie rods, guard brackets and towing bitts), protection of the machinery from salt water, and construction of temporary barriers to keep the below-decks watertight. We will also be designing, fabricating and installing fendering specifically for transit of the Seaway. We already have much of the safety gear (pumps, hoses, extinguishers, etc.) aboard from the prior tows (Detroit to Toledo, Toledo to Buffalo.)
What is the biggest challenge of the restoration?
Obviously, this is a big project and it is quite a challenge to keep the work organized and in sync with the restoration plan. But, the biggest challenge so far has been coming up with a way to assure people that the restoration is achievable – when you look around the boat as she is now, everywhere you see things that need repair and it can seem overwhelming. However, we are starting out with more than they did when she was built in 1902. We have knowledgeable engineers and shipwrights experienced with traditional boat building AND the benefit of improved materials and technologies! It’s really just a matter of having a plan and advancing through the steps. We will most certainly have challenges as we get into the heart of the restoration – the boilers and machinery, the deckhouse rebuild and final fitting out, but if we stick to the plan (and have enough funding,) it can be done.