Archives for April 2013

We are getting ready for you

The S.S. William A. Irvin was launched in November 21, 1937. She hauled bulk materials from Lake Superior to US Steel’s mills in Gary, Conneaut and Lorain. She went into extended layup in 1978 until she was rescued, 8 years later, to become a major tourist attraction in Duluth. Operated by the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center), she received a new paint job this spring. I saw John Clark, from the DECC, finishing off the job when he was adding the name of the boat over the new paint job on April 26, 2013.

Great Lakes Trader here for iron ore pellets

The Great Lakes Trader came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge early this afternoon, April 23, 2013. She is here to load iron ore pellets at the CN dock in West Duluth

As I saw the port on April 13, 2013

20130411_8226For 18 years, I have been watching the East wind blow ice into the funnel at the western end of Lake Superior known as Duluth. My office is next to the Lift Bridge. So I know. Or rather, even now, I still don’t know. A week ago, I thought I knew Lake Superior was clear of ice and I did know there was only a small amount of ice left in the harbor.
20130412_8264The Paul R. Tregurtha came into port Thursday morning, April 11th at 37 minutes after midnight and stopped for fuel at Calumet Fuel dock before moving over to Midwest Energy Resources in Superior to load coal. The Mesabi Miner came in about 2 hours later and stopped at the Fuel dock. She was scheduled to load iron ore at the CN dock and was waiting on the Arthur M. Anderson. She came in on Wednesday afternoon. The Kaye E. Barker came in on May 10 with coal to discharge before loading iron ore pellets.
mesabiminor20130411_8206The Mesabi Miner was the 60th vessel to use the Duluth ship canal since she opened the season on March 20th. By April 12, the season was well underway.On Thursday, the Tregurtha arrived, along with an east wind gusting up to 54 mph. On Friday when the Tregurtha would have been departing the port with coal, the East wind continued her attack, gusting up to 47 mph. Had you asked me, I would have told you that Lake Superior was clear of ice, and most others would have agreed. How wrong I was. I still have no idea where all the ice came from, but we do know where it ended up; going through our ice intake system at the Duluth ship canal and ice storage containment utility in the Duluth Superior Harbor.
While the Tregurtha was at the Midwest Energy Resources coal dock Friday night (April 12, 2013), they wanted a reading on the ice conditions especially in the Duluth ship canal, but elsewhere in the harbor as well. They called for tug assistance from the Great Lakes Towing Company on Friday and their tug North Carolina was out for many hours. She made it to the end of the piers but it was not easy. The Tregurtha called them off Friday evening, deciding to wait for first light on Saturday.For some time on Friday, it was unclear whether or when the Alder would be available. They were on standby duty; crewmembers had to be called back for duty. There was some feeling Friday evening they could be underway at 6 am but they did not get away from their moorings until 10 am.
Inside the harbor on Saturday morning, the Anderson, Tregurtha, Kaye E. Barker and Mesabi Miner were still waiting for good information about ice conditions in the Duluth ship canal. Meanwhile, 3 vessels, headed for Midwest Energy, had arrived off the Duluth piers: the American Integrity, CSL Laurentien and the American Century. The ice was not an immediate problem for them since the Tregurtha was at their dock; they would be waiting somewhere.
aisap1320132(As with all images on this page, click on AIS map at right for enlarged version) The CSL Assiniboine and CSL Tadoussac arrived off the Duluth piers and dropped anchor to wait for ice conditions to clear, but more importantly, for the Anderson to clear at CN. They too would have to wait somewhere. The Federal Welland was at anchor, but would not begin loading grain at CHS in Superior until Monday morning.
The Great Republic was on the way and entered into the conversation around 9 am Saturday morning. They had a unique situation. They were headed for Hallett #5 in West Duluth which was, I think, open for business if they could only get there.
The Stewart J. Cort and the Burns Harbor were waiting off the Superior piers.The problem in the ship canal, and with the harbor to a lesser extent, was the compression of the ice in an enclosed space such as the ship canal. When the Tregurtha moves through the ship canal, she takes up a lot of space that was previously used by water and/or on this day ice. If there is nowhere for the ice to go, the Tregurtha would not move. Lake Superior, it might be added, does not have this problem. She can blow her ice anywhere she wants since she has a lot of extra space, and convenient storage areas in places like the Duluth ship canal and harbor. In the time between 9 am and 10 am Saturday morning, the Great Republic arrived off the Duluth piers and sounded like she would be coming in (under the Lift Bridge). Around the same time, the Arthur M. Anderson was moving away from the dock at CN and seemed ready to depart under the bridge.
nelsj20130413_8312Earlier, around 8:30, the Heritage tug Nels J. had made it under the Lift Bridge and out to the Lake with some difficulty. They were called out to the Federal Welland, one of the boats at anchor off the Duluth piers. That allowed some reading of the ice in the ship canal; it was not packed solid but was still troublesome. The North Carolina on Friday night and the Nels J on Saturday morning helped to loosen the ice in the ship canal. It seemed to me that the two tugs might have eased conditions enough for traffic to finally resume on Saturday morning. But 12 hours is a long, long time when you are dealing with ice and wind on Lake Superior, and in this case more the wind. The Lake was probably not creating more ice, but no one had control of the wind.
Communication was a big challenge between 9 boats out in the Lake representing at least 4 shipping companies, 4 boats at docks inside, 2 tug companies and the US Coast Guard. As far as I could tell, it was pretty much a series of one to one discussions although others could listen in (that is what I was doing). Captains want to know about the ice conditions in the ship canal and the route they would take inside the harbor. Underneath that conversation was interest in what others might be doing. Who would go first?The working assumption was there would be no problem once you got to the Lake. I do not think any of the boats at anchor were stuck; they were in short term parking. We do not have a harbormaster to make decisions regarding vessel traffic. The Paul R. Tregurtha and the Arthur M. Anderson carried the biggest burden. They were sitting at docks waiting to leave with their cargo. If they didn’t leave, there was no reason for any of the other boats to try to come in since their dock would not be available. That is one reason why the Tregurtha hired the tug. They were at the Midwest Energy coal dock, loaded and ready to leave.
alder20130413_8323 Since the whole icy adventure came as a sudden surprise to everyone, no one had a good hold on how severe the problem was. No captain wanted to get their boat stuck, especially under the Lift Bridge. Among other things, that would have cut off the connection between Canal Park and Park Point.
And so, around 9 am on Saturday morning, it started to get interesting. A half hour earlier, the tug Nels J made it through the Duluth ship canal. The Great Republic was just off the Duluth piers and thinking about coming right in. The Arthur M. Anderson began to move. As it got close to 10, with the Anderson just about to make the turn into the harbor, the Alder finally began to move away from her dock. I was looking out my window and to my amazement, saw open water. It was almost as if the ice sensed pressure from all sides and decided to give up the fight. The Alder wanted to make a couple circles in the harbor to break up more ice, but with the Anderson on the way, she turned toward the bridge, and the open water under it. She did not have any problem; in fact, the problem itself seem to literally float away.
The Alder went under the Lift Bridge at 10:17 on Saturday morning, April 13, 2013.
And then … Arthur M. Anderson departed at 10:31
Kaye E. Barker left at 11:36
Paul R. Tregurtha left at 11:49
Stewart J. Cort came in Superior 11:53
Great Republic came in Duluth at 12:21
American Integrity in at 12:44
CLS Laurentien in at 1:07
Federal Welland at 3:53 American Century in at 7:43
With the Mesabi Miner departure at 9:57, the CSL Assiniboine came in Saturday night at 11:19 to take her place at the CN dock. For a while at least, we were back to normal.

The ice is bad now; check out the fun in 2003

March, 2003 seemed like the beginning of a normal Duluth spring, just like this past spring also seemed pretty normal. Above, the Sundew broke away from her winter moorings on March 12th, 2003. Below, the Mackinaw arrived on the 20th.
Above, the Frontenac arrived on March 29, the first boat to transit the entire Seaway on her way to Duluth. There was ice but it was pretty loose.The shipping season was well under way with 8 boats going under the bridge in March, an average number.  On April 1, 2003, the Walter J. McCarthy Jr. departed.The next day, we had an east wind of 33 mph with gusts to 40 mph. The next day, the wind was up to 40 mph with gusts to 52, all still from the east.
On April 3, the Indiana Harbor started to depart the port, but could not get her bow to the end of the piers. She made several attempts but eventually backed away.
Later that day, you could still see where the bow of the Indiana Harbor was stopped (above).
A full scale assault was planned for Saturday, April 5th. The best ice breaker on the Great Lakes, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Samuel Risley arrived. The goal was to get the Indiana Harbor (below left center) and the Arthur M. Anderson (center right) on their way. The Risley would attack the Duluth ice field while the Sundew would work on the Superior entry.
We (I was on the Sundew) went over to do our part and open up the Superior channel. We arrived (below) and went out into the lake to meet up with the Risley. Earlier, the Risley had reported that they took one charge at the ice pack in front of the Duluth ship canal and could not budge it a bit. They announced to us that we would have to wait for either the wind or spring to move or melt the ice. Meanwhile, as the Risley was coming over to our side, the Sundew became stopped in the ice; she couldn’t move. I still can’t get over our good fortune; to get stopped in the ice just as the Great Lakes best ice breaker was arriving. The Risley did a couple circles around the Sundew and we were good to go.
Sundew Commander, Beverly Havlik then called the Captains of the Anderson and the Indiana Harbor and invited them to come with us and check out the Superior entry before they decided to use it.
They pronounced the Superior entry ready to go and we returned them to their boats and waited for them to depart. It was decided that the Anderson, because of her more angled bow, would go first and the Indiana Harbor would follow her out. (This past weekend, the Anderson was also discussed as a better candidate to break open the Duluth ship channel; the Tregurtha’s bow is noticeably rounded, making her not a great icebreaker.)
Above, the Anderson departs, and below we see the Indiana Harbor, with an assist form the tug North Dakota, departing.
The next day (April 6th), the Risley and the Sundew met in the Duluth Harbor and exchanged crews so each could learn a little bit about the other ship.
Three days later, the Duluth ship canal was still blocked up and the imprint of the Indiana Harbor bow from 6 days earlier was still there. Below, life still went on, with all traffic using the Superior entry. Below, the Menominee arrived with wood pulp to discharge at the Port Terminal.
No one can really predict what ice and wind can do together. The Duluth ship channel opened for the Morro Bay on April 14th but closed back up shortly after her arrival.
We had two ice breakers docked at the DECC on April 21st, waiting for the biggest ice breaker of them all, Spring, to arrive.
And behold, later that day, the Walter J. McCarthy Jr. the last boat to depart Duluth before the big wind closed us up, became the first boat to depart once spring, or who knows what, opened up the canal, and for good. (I am writing this on April 15, 2013. On that day in 2003, we were still 6 days away from the 21st.

Still moving, very slowly

Note: this post is in chronological order, earliest pictures first
With help from the Great Lakes tug North Carolina, the CSL Tadoussac departed Duluth this morning (April 15, 2013) around 8:25.
Next, the North Carolina was off to help the Indiana Harbor.
A little later, the Birchglen arrived and slowly made her way under the Lift Bridge on her way to load coal at Midwest Energy Resources in Superior.


Click picture above to see boat names better