DULUTH - The William A. Irvin museum ship is ready to come home.
Officials hope the 610-foot iron ore ship that has welcomed tourists while moored in Duluth’s Minnesota Slip for 30 years could make the delicate journey back through the harbor as soon as Wednesday, weather permitting.
Tugboats will do the delicate work of towing the ship back through the slip’s blue pedestrian bridge, with only a 15-inch clearance between the width of the ship and drawbridge’s opening.
The Irvin has been out of place for the past two seasons while workers performed environmental remediation work in the slip and the ship’s hull was repainted in dry dock.
After floating in one spot for so long, damage below the water line was more extensive than leaders expected. Metal-eating bacteria had gorged on the rivets holding it together, with 256 rivets requiring repair.
A $504,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for the hull work will be enough to cover the extra costs, said Chelly Townsend executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which owns the popular vessel.
Officials at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wis., were filling up the dry dock around the Irvin on Tuesday and awaiting word on when it would be moved out, said Fraser spokesman Rob Karwath.
Townsend said they hope to bring the ship back on Wednesday, most likely in the evening.
“It’s got to be calm to bring it across the bay and get it in the slip,” she said.
The ship will see a bit more work before it opens again next season, though, Townsend added. A hatch crane — used to open hatches so iron ore could be loaded — still needs to be blasted and repainted, she said. But that can be done while the vessel is floating and could still be done this fall or next spring.