Go out to meet Blacky

20110419_2015The ship’s name might have been Blacky but my knuckles were white. Luckily all I had to do was keep out of the water (even when I was looking up at it) and take pictures. I had two choices, go out on the deck of the Sea Bear, take pictures and fall in the water, or sit inside and hold on. Guess which I took.
All foreign flagged vessels that come to Duluth are required to have a pilot on board while the ship is in US or Canadian waters. One of Captain Ed Montgomery’s many jobs is transferring the pilot out to or in from the anchorage in his pilot boat, Sea Bear, the mainstay of his company, Sea Service, LLC. Today (April 19, 2011), the Cyprus flagged Blacky arrived off the Duluth piers. Often, a ship will drop anchor out there and Captain Montgomery will take the Sea Bear out to pick up the pilot so he can spend some time at home rather than staying on the ship until it came in (in this case at least a couple days from now). I took the above picture from inside the cabin of the Sea Bear. That’s Captain Dann Edholm’s steady hand on the wheel. He did a great job handling the boat in very heavy seas.
The first task all foreign flagged vessels have when they arrive in port is to meet, on the ship, with a variety of local officials including the ship’s agent, a local stevedore and customs officials. That meeting is usually held while the ship is at anchor but with Lake Superior kicking up a heavy current, the Blacky came into the inner harbor for that meeting, after which the boat went back out to the anchorage to await the next trip in when she will load grain.
The pilot, in this case Captain Shawn McKenzie, got on at the Soo and brought the ship into the harbor today. Since a pilot has to be on board whenever the ship is under way, he stayed on when the ship went back out to the anchorage.
I left my warm dry office and went out to take some pictures of the Blacky and found the Sea Bear lurking about waiting for the bigger ship to pass under the bridge on the way to the anchorage. Captain Montgomery asked if I wanted to go out to the Blacky with them, and of course, I said yes, totally forgetting that the Blacky came into the harbor because of the heavy seas. I don’t get sea sick, even in very heavy seas; I just get scared.
Usually, the rope ladder (above) is used , but with heavy seas, the gangway was lowered.
And he did a good job bringing Sea Bear next to the Blacky so McKenzie could climb down and ‘jump’ into the pilot boat. His luggage came first; I even helped with that job. Then he took the ‘elevator’ down from the Blacky to the Sea Bear.
20110419_2089We returned and they dropped me off just beyond the bridge. Montgomery helped me off the boat; that’s him standing on the bow of the Sea Bear (below) as the boat drove off into the sunset and I ran inside and back to my safe warm office.


  1. Jeremy Kohler says:

    Why hasn’t anything been posted since April 19? No pics, no captions, etc. I am a faithful follower of this site, and you do a wonderful job! I’ve just been missing the pics and updates. Hope all is well.
    Jeremy Duluth

  2. Hey there, You’ve done a great job. I will certainly
    digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am sure
    they will be benefited from this website.

  3. Dennis Murphy says:

    Hi- I’ve been watching your (1962-1965) when I was a kid with my binoculars living on the Duluth hillside. I really wanted to be a tug captain when I grew up! It didn’t quite happen. I knew Great Lakes Towing Company tugs to the point of eventually following which model EMD diesels they were using. I longed to get aboard one for a tug tour. The closest I got was playing saxophone at jam sessions after gig’s at Darlene’s Bar in Superior (1964) on the Carl Julius (Bremen, Germany) with our band members and some of the boat’s musical crew members, until the sun came up and had to get home before mom got up to head to work. I was 17. The ship was out of Bremen Germany and came in for wheat a few times a year. Thanks for your dedicated hard work and the nice walks down memory lane.

  4. Been out to the ships many times in some very rough waters into December to do hold inspections prior to loading.

  5. Claude says:

    This is for Sally Wiese…Go to boatnerd.com and see more ships than you can imagine! Ken…you do a remarkable job. I log onto duluthshippingnews every day. Thanks

  6. Sally Wiese says:

    I am so in awe of these big ladies. I can sit and watch ships come in for days at a time. Sturgeon Bay is having an open house at the shipyards this May and I intend to be there. I am a 70 year old lady but when I watch the ships, I turn into a little kid. I found this site by mistake and check back often to see what ships are in. I don’t know how to watch them, though, except one live web cam is at the Duluth Harbor. Are there others? I can’t imagine actually working , or being the captain of this enormous boat. Have to have a strong heart to survive this. If there is somewhere else I should watch the ships come in, could you let me know please? Sally

  7. Thank you for sharing this experience. I enjoyed getting a peak at the inner workings of the ships and the harbor. Please share more!

  8. MN_Jack76 says:

    Also Ken,
    I was visiting from the metro area (staying at the South Pier Inn) and was going to stop by your office but you were out on your pleasure cruise enjoying the Duluth weather. Do you have a paypal account I could send a couple of bucks to just to say thanks for Duluth Shipping News?

  9. MN_Jack76 says:

    Hello Ken,
    You wrote “you will never see how bad it was” and I agree. I was watching this all happen from shore. I watched as waves were crashing over the bow of the Sea Bear as you followed Blacky out. Very early there was someone on the bow of the Sea Bear taking pictures before realizing it was too dangerous and fought along the railing to get back inside – was that you?

  10. Jill from Alabama says:

    Great story and pictures, Ken!


  11. SCOTTtheBADGER says:

    I think the look of nonchalance on the pilot’s face is great! ” Been here before, will be here again, another day at the office”. SEA BEAR is a great name for a boat, too.

    • I took some comfort in his look of ease until i figured that no captain worth his salt is going to admit he is scared. Only a passenger like me who has no ship handlers ability would be scared. I got bothered real fast when Shawn mentioned something about a white knuckle trip he had; I did not want to know about his white knuckle;then i found out he was talkikng about his drive to the Soo on icy roads; i was relieved. Since only one of the 3 captains i was with could handle the boat at a time, i did spend an idle second or two wondering what the other two captains swimming ability was like.

  12. Again Ken you are providing a lot of info that we don’t usually hear of. Thanks for helping us understand some of the inner workings of the shipping industry.

  13. Some people in our town think the 15-minute rush hour is a tough commute.
    Nothing like that trip out of the harbor and back on the Sea Bear!

  14. so cool that you get to experience so many things having to do with boats. what a job!

  15. Great posting!


  16. Paul Badovinac says:


    Excellant story and pictures. It gives us another inside look at the workings of the Duluth harbor, one that I wasn not aware of.
    When are you going out to meet another salty?


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