Happy River

By: Patty Mondore

Volume 15, Issue 11, November 2020

Never has a ship that frequents the St. Lawrence Seaway been more appropriately named. I would guess it is one of the most photographed ships on the River (it is definitely the most photographed ship at the Mondore house). If you have spent any time at the River, you've probably not only seen but have sat up and taken notice at the sight of the bright yellow Big Lift ship cruising by.  I remember hearing our neighbors on a hot summer evening, seeing it for the first time and exclaiming how they had never seen a yellow ship before.

The Happy River makes its way past Boldt Castle. [Photo by P. Mondore]

In addition to our ever-expanding collection of photos, we have seen the ship featured numerous times in the Thousand Islands Sun, including a couple of cover photos. The TI Sun even had a picture of it cruising down the River with a bright yellow mini-BigLift ship in the foreground (I'm pretty sure a mini-BigLift is an oxymoron). The mini ship was a birdhouse in TI Park, obviously modeled after the BigLift ship.

The ship has inspired more than just birdhouse builders to put their artistic talents to use on behalf of the yellow BigLift ship. The popular St. Lawrence Seaway Ship Watchers Facebook page had a post from one of its many followers, sharing the beautiful BigLift model ship he received from his friend Frederick Montrois. Several people replied to the post and asked how they could get their own model ship from the artist. A couple of other readers shared pictures of the bright yellow BigLift ship models that they had made.  Since that initial post, numerous other followers have shared photographs or stories about the beautiful BigLift model ships they too, have received from Mr. Montrois. ( Facebook link)  

The bright yellow BigLift ship is appropriately named "Happy River". [Photo by P. Mondore]

I was delighted, but not necessarily surprised, to learn that the actual name of the ship is Happy River. What a great name for a bright yellow ship!

I decided to write an article about the Happy River, which was published in the Thousand Islands Sun because I wanted to show off a few of my own Happy River photographs. One morning, I got up and checked marinetraffic.com to see what was in store for the day, ship-wise, and saw that the Happy River was less than a half-hour away. Just enough time to comb my hair, brush my teeth, and paddle out to meet it (one wouldn't want to encounter such a lovely ship with bad breath or morning hair). When I got out to the main channel, well ahead of its arrival, I realized I was perfectly located to see her go past Boldt Castle, Sister Island Lighthouse, and Singer Castle. And as if that wasn't exciting enough, the sky was blue, and the water was like glass. "Happy River, indeed," I thought to myself.

As I sat and watched the Happy River make its way from one horizon to the other, I pondered what makes this ship so universally popular (I don't know too many other ships that have their own matching birdhouse).  I realized, of course, that this wasn't super hard to figure out.  The ship is bright, cheery, and unique, and as a bonus, it has a really cool name!

After sharing my pictures with my husband Bob, to write a Happy River tweet, I decided to do a little Happy River research.  I learned that the vessel Happy River is a General Cargo Ship built in 1997, making it 23 years old, and sailing under the Netherlands flag for BigLift Shipping, whose main office is in Amsterdam. BigLift Shipping, a member of the Spliethoff Group, is one of the world's leading heavy lift shipping companies, specializing in worldwide ocean transportation of ro-ro (Roll-on/Roll-off), heavy lift, and project cargoes, with a history dating back to 1973.

Happy River cruising past Sister's Island with a full load of cargo. [Photo by P. Mondore]

Happy River is 450 feet (138 m) in length with a 75 foot (22 m) beam and has a crew of 17, who also assist during loading and unloading operations.  It was built for heavy lifts, but it can also be used to carry forest products, general cargoes, and containers, as well as heavy lift items.  I read that in order to carry water-sensitive material such as paper products and allow loading and unloading at optimum speed, the ship was built with watertight hatch covers. It uses high-stowing hatch cover sets for the weather deck area that incorporates four liftaway/rolling panels to allow a clear opening of 300 feet in length and almost 60 feet across, making it the first heavy-lift ship of its type with folding hatch covers over such a large area. It is also possible to close those covers in around five minutes. So, she's not just a pretty face. She earns her keep by making her owners, and those to whom she delivers products, happy too.

I was surprised to learn that the Happy River has a family.  She is one of four sister ships: Happy Rover, Happy Ranger and Sailer Jupiter.  The Happy R-types are known for carrying the heaviest loads safely around the world. Plus, being in the highest Finnish-Swedish ice class allows them to sail both northern routes and to operate in the harshest conditions. They are also fitted for the Great Lakes, which allows the Happy River and her family to experience our happy River.

Happy River coming from behind Ironsides Island with a glorious sunset backdrop [Photo by Robert Mondore]

In addition to the Happy-R ladies, BigLift has several other Happy series of ships, starting with the Happy Buccaneer in 1984. In 2011 the Happy D-type was created and was most recently joined by Happy Sky (2013) and Happy Star (2014). That's a whole lot of happy. (happiness?)

But for some of us River rats, the Happy River will always have first place in our hearts. One reason we smile when we see her come through is that we tend to think of our River as a very happy River or, to put it another way, our River makes us very happy.

The Happy River has even more meaning to those of us who are familiar with these words: "How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your River of delights" (Ps 36:7-8). As much as I have always loved those words, it was while thinking about them in relation to the big yellow ship that I decided to look up what others have written about the expression, "River of delights". This was my favorite: "Of the River - The abundance. Not a running fountain; not a gentle bubbling rivulet; not a stream that would soon dry up; but a 'River,' large; full; overflowing; inexhaustible. Of delights - Furnishing happiness or pleasure...of the same kind as that of God... The following things, therefore, are taught by this verse: "that God is happy...and that the friend of God partakes of His pleasure or happiness." One might call that the ultimate happy River.

A kayaker's view of Happy River going by Sister's Island [Photo by Patty-the-kayaker]

We will no doubt continue to add to our photo collection of the Happy River. I might even look into getting one of those Happy River models. It would be the perfect reminder that this really is a River of delights.


By Patricia Mondore

Patty Mondore and her husband, Bob, are summer residents of the Thousand Islands. Patty's most recent books include "River-Lations Revisited: More Inspirational Stories and Photos from the Thousand Islands", "River Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love the Water" and its two sequels, "Nature Reflections" and "A Bird Lover's Reflections." She and Bob co-authored "Singer Castle" and "Singer Castle Revisited", published by Arcadia Publishing, and co-produced "Dark Island's Castle of Mysteries" documentary DVD, in addition to a Thousand Islands Music DVD Trilogy. Patty is a contributing writer for the Thousand Islands Sun. Her column, "River-Lations", appears in the Vacationer throughout the summer months. The Mondores are online at www.gold-mountain.com. (Be sure to also visit Bob's singercastle.blogspot.com.)

Posted in: Volume 15, Issue 11, November 2020, Sports, Places

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