Archives for March 2010

The beginning of the end …. ?

bridge20100329_1979 The sign above made Park Pointers happy today; it is the beginning of the end of the Aerial Bridge north tower paint job. Still one lane though. It is possible the work may complete later today; the bridge may go up for the first time in 2 months and it is even possible that a boat, the James R. Barker, might come under later today. As a friend of mine used to say, “Watch but don’t bet on it.” DSN-TV (Duluth Shipping News TV has the web camera video on the bridge now and probably for the rest of the day. (2:50 pm: Note: the bridge went up around 2:30 this afternoon and the Barker came in via the Superior entry about the same time. Stop by and take a look)

We are slowly getting back to work …

… except perhaps for the J.A.W. Iglehart at the upper left. She has been there for two years now, and is probably retired for good from her career carrying cement on the Great Lakes. The Canadian Navigator came into port this morning and will follow the John D. Leitch (she came in Tuesday morning) loading iron ore pellets at the CN Dock in West Duluth. She is just moving into Murphy Fuel to take on fuel while she waits for the CN Dock.  Behind her and to our right, the John G. Munson is also getting ready to load iron ore pellets at the CN. She will move there later today from her winter berth there at the Port Terminal.  Probably sometime tomorrow, she will depart with her cargo for Gary. Further to the right, you see the American Century at her winter berth at the Port Terminal. And in the foreground, a train of empty cars is moving into position at White Box Duluth Storage (formerly Cargill) to load barley for Shakopee. Eventually, the barley will find its way into bottles of beer from Anheuser-Busch.

The Mobile Bay stops by for some rest and relaxation

The Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay pulled up at the Decc in Duluth Minnesota on Sunday morning, March 21, 2010.

The Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay pulled up to the dock at the DECC early Sunday morning, March 21st. Earlier this season, they were part of a large effort to break up the ice in the St. Clair River, an operation that obviously succeeded in its task as commercial vessels are now moving easily. They were called to check out the ice conditions in the Keweenaw and the Apostle Islands but the ice was thick there and it was too early to send the ice fishermen back to shore. Those fishermen are lucky they don’t have to share their part of the lake with commercial traffic as much as Duluth Superior. The ice fishermen here were told to leave a week or more ago so the Alder could begin to clear the shipping channels for the approaching commercial traffic. So with too much ice at those destinations, the ice breaker Mobile Bay were sent to Duluth where they brought more ice in on their bow than they saw in the harbor. But Duluth is a good place to stop to take care of the necessities of life such as food, garbage and a little rest and relaxation. They will leave Tuesday morning for the Soo, although still ready for a change in plans as ice conditions change.

The Mobile Bay is 140 feet long and has a crew of 19 on board. When they aren’t breaking ice, they can usually be found pushing their 120 foot barge in front of them. The barge is back at their home port of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. When the ice is gone, they switch over to their other personality, a buoy tender. Since they don’t have a deck large enough hold the buoys they pick up and drop off, they bring the barge along for that. The barge also has a crane on board, something the Mobile Bay lacks since she is primarily an ice breaking cutter.

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge is slowly getting undressed for the new season

The 2010 shipping season got off to a dark start when the James R. Barker departed the Twin Ports between the Superior piers at 3:12 earlier this morning. Meanwhile, between the Duluth piers, seen here several hours later, the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was shedding her winter skin so she could show the world her new paint job and perhaps more importantly, lift herself up to welcome the first visitor to go underneath her in several months, probably before the end of this month.

Ice out, painting almost done

morning view of Duluth Aerial Lift BridgeThe first ship, probably the James R. Barker, should depart here in 6 days. As you can see, the ice is breaking up in the harbor;  most of Lake Superior is ice free. We just need to get the Aerial Lift Bridge painting job completed (note the north tower, still enveloped by scaffolding and tent that protect us from lead and other things that are being scraped off the bridge).

Changing the sheets in the museum

Beth Duncan at the Lake Superior Marine Museum in Duluth Minnesota If you have visited the Marine Museum in Canal Park, you have certainly walked by the three cabin berths on the second floor each with an original member of the crew still there, although the years have not been kind to the three of them; they are very white and seem barely alive. I have always assumed the staff at the museum Beth Duncan at the Lake Superior Marine Museum in Duluth Minnesotaallowed them to go to sleep at night; standing all day is not an easy job, but I have never been in the museum late enough to find out. Finally, our crack investigative unit discovered our first big clue. One of our photographers snuck up on Park Ranger Beth Duncan while she was changing the sheets in the middle cabin. And piles of sheets were noticed in other parts of the museum. Most of us know you don’t change the sheets in the bed unless someone is going to sleep in the bed. We will still try to get pictures of our very white and very quiet museum models, but we are all certainly glad that the museum is looking out for them; I understand they do not pay them a lot of money. The picture here shows Beth cleaning up the second cabin, much of which came from the wood sailing vessel Lucerne, a vessel than sank in the late 19th century. You see our white friend in the back, looking at himself in the mirror. He had moved out of the way so Beth could change his sheets. It is rumored that they only change his sheets once a year.

The Alder makes her first appearance of the season

The US Coast Guard cutter Alder, just before she departed her dock on March 8, 2010 to take a first look at ice conditions. They report ice up to 20 inches thick, better than last year, and the warm weather suggests it could end up being very much better than last year. They will go out again on Wednesday, as originally planned and may not be out again until just before the first boat moves in the harbor, probably the James R. Barker leaving with coal for a Lake Superior Port, maybe on the 19th.