Going home

Dan Rau took this picture on Wednesday (March 5, 2014), as the Alder was returning from a long day breaking ice. While following the path she opened on the way out,  you can notice the ship has moved to the right so she can widen the original  path for the next trip. (click pic to enlarge)


  1. It looks like what I heard was correct. I see Alder breaking ice in Duluth. They are still in port but the radios are on for both Biscayne Bay north of the Mackinac Straits and Morro Bay in Cleveland. However, there is no sign of Mobile Bay at Sturgeon Bay. That might explain why the tug, John M. Selvick stopped at Milwaukee last night and is still there. Or maybe not. It is at Milwaukee next to the tug, Steven Selvick. However, the John still has Marinette listed as its destination. So, either the destination is a mistake or they are waiting for Mobile Bay to clear the Ship Canal. I’m assuming Mobile ran into some unexpected problems.

    But the big news is that Mackinaw is headed out of port at Cheboygan. Ice somewhere is due for a big Mac attack. Looks like the breakout has begun.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      awesome news,, brent…thanks!

      • This classic song by Swing Out Sister, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnivOKYyWLY seems appropriate to the occasion.

        Everlast still seems to be stuck short of the St. Clair River; it’s been there since yesterday. However, the track is two hours old so perhaps they have made progress. Algoeast moved out of the St. Clair River and is docked. There is still no sign of Algocanada. However, I can only see Katmai Bay so, most likely, Neah Bay is down below Neebish helping them.

        Mackinaw steamed counter-clockwise around Bois Blanc Island. They just passed between Round and Mackinac Islands and it looks like they are heading west to the Straits. They were steaming at 13 mph but slowed up to 7 mph and now are moving at 8 mph so the ice can’t be very thick yet. I’m pretty sure it’s thick west of the Straits though.

        Griffon and Algosea are making good time at 12 mph. They just passed Point Pelee. Griffon is also giving its destination as Sarnia. That could suggest that Griffon is planning to help until they have to get back to open the Welland Canal on the 28th. It is clear that there are a number of ships gathering at Sarnia.

        Alder moved about 10 miles away from Duluth Harbor on the northwest side. They were clearly breaking ice at 4mph and then they came back. It looks like they are breaking ice inside the Harbor basin now.

        The only unusual activity is that the 858′, 44,000 ton ore carrier, Roger Blough, is being guided out of Milwaukee by the tug, Steven Selvick. Someone suggested they were headed to Escanaba at the north end of Green Bay.

  2. Brent R says:

    Katmai Bay and Neah Bay were both working along the St. Marys earlier. Now, Algocanada is headed back down toward Huron. Griffon has been working near Nanticoke where Algosea is docked. Hollyhock and Algoeast have made it to the Detroit River and are heading up towards Lake St. Clair. I see that the Canadian vessel, Samuel Risley is working in the upper Detroit River. It looks like Algoeast is headed for Sarnia above Lake St. Clair where Algosar, Calumet, and Assiniboine are docked. Either Bristol Bay is in port for rest and refuel or their radio is in a dead spot. It could be either since they’ve been working pretty hard lately.

    One radio track that puzzles me is that Dorothy Ann Pathfinder seems to be heading up the Cuyahoga River at Cleveland. I would have thought that Morro Bay would have needed to be working to clear ice. But, I haven’t seen Morro Bay on the air. I see that Algosea is now heading out of port at Nanticoke, destination Sarnia. There’s been no movement from Alder today that I’ve seen. Presque Isle has her radio on but is also docked. I haven’t seen any activity at Sturgeon Bay. And, I still have not seen Biscayne Bay on the air. Dorothy Ann has made it past the railroad bridge and the Shoreway overpass. I wonder what they have in mind.

    • Brent R says:

      It looks like Algocanada made it down to Neebish Island pretty quickly. So, maybe the trip down won’t be as grueling as the trip up. The way Neah and Katmai have been working I would think that area would be cleared out. Of course, from the webcam by the locks, all you can see is solid ice. I have to say that the webcams at Duluth and Mackinac look pretty bad too. And, solid ice is all you see on the eastern side of Lake Michigan and lake Huron. The webcams in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers look pretty good; I hardly saw any ice. And, Samuel Risley was steaming down at 9 knots so that seems to match. Apparently Hollyhock and Bristol Bay are both docked. Griffon and Algosea have made good time coming out of Nanticoke. They are already past Long Point and coming up towards Erie which is where I’ll lose their radio track.

      I did figure out what Dorothy Ann is doing. They loaded up from the big pile next to the harbor. Then they made their way up the Cuyahoga past Kingsbury Run to Morgan Run where they are unloading. The freighters larger than Dorothy can’t make it up the twisty, windy Cuyahoga so they unload out by the harbor. It’s still pretty amazing that a 600′ freighter can navigate that waterway. You know that it is bad when the route has names like Oxbow Bend and Collision Bend. Where Dorothy is now, she’ll have to back up for half a mile to the Turning Basin where it is wider and she can swing around the other way.

      • I looked at the shipping news at boatnerd and they said the same thing I did, that Algocanada made it down the St. Marys pretty quickly (and they had some additional details). However, the last track on Algocanada put them at the upper end of Neebish Island at 9pm last night. They should have been able to reach the bottom of Neebish in a couple of hours. Yet, they are now stopped just below Neebish and have been for a long time. I assume they must have run into ice. But, that seems puzzling because with both Neah and Katmai at Sault Sainte Marie, you would think one would have been escorting. Neah is docked and Katmai is working the upper St. Marys near Sugar Island with Algocanada halted for perhaps 11 hours now.

        Out in Erie, Algosea was making great time with Griffon out past Long Point. However, it looks like they ran into ice near Erie and now they are moving much slower. Dorothy Ann is making continuous trips from the big iron ore pile next to the harbor and taking it up river to the plant. I don’t know how high the river is but if Dorothy can get a full load, that’s equal to about 500 train car loads. It takes them about 10 hours to make one circuit. I’m wondering how long that big pile can last before it’s gone. I don’t know if this activity is because the plants are low or because they want to clear the big pile out in anticipation of incoming ore. Maybe it’s both. I assume Dorothy will leave port as soon as it’s practical.

        Last night, Algoeast simply anchored in the Detroit River. They waited there while Hollyhock and Bristol Bay were docked. About 11am, Bristol Bay left port and steamed out into Lake St. Clair. About halfway across, I could see where they were having to back and ram the ice. About noon, Hollyhock left the dock and was joined by both Algoeast and Everlast. Using the track made by Bristol Bay, they caught up and now both Bristol Bay and Hollyhock are breaking ice and they’ve almost reached the St. Clair River which should be free of ice.

        Boatnerd said that Mobile Bay was going to start breaking ice at Sturgeon Bay tomorrow. This matches what I had heard that breakout would begin on the 10th. This gets back to what I was wondering about before. Presumably the ships at Milwaukee could steam north and join up with the ships at Sturgeon Bay, but why bother breaking them out unless they are going to get an escort across the Straits? And why is Algocanada stopped? If a bigger ship than the Bay Class is needed then there are only two possibilities. Either Hollyhock is going to continue up the St. Clair River, across Lake Huron, and work up to them; or, they would need help from Mackinaw.

        That still leaves other questions. Is Alder going to start up again tomorrow? What about Biscayne Bay, Morro Bay, and Mackinaw? I suppose if Mackinaw headed west tomorrow, they would have a week to reach Sturgeon Bay and return. I guess we’ll see.

        • Brent R says:

          The 111 ft. tug, John M. Selvick indicates that it is heading for Marinette. That port is on the Menominee River on the western side of Green Bay. Presumably, Selvick would go through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. I assume that canal is frozen solid right now. But, at 9 mph and with around 200 miles to travel, Selvick would arrive tomorrow morning and perhaps Mobile Bay would be clearing it by then. If that is indeed the Selvick’s destination then this should be a good indicator of how bad the ice is in between Milwaukee and Sturgeon Bay and also how bad the ice is inside Green Bay itself.

          • Brent R says:

            Algocanada is somewhere in the dead zone of Munuscong Lake so I can’t tell where they are until they get down by De Tour. Griffon and Algosea have made it halfway across Erie but they have slowed up to 4mph, apparently in thicker ice. In Lake St. Clair, Hollyhock and Bristol Bay have spent the last 7 hours trying to move Everlast the remaining 10 miles up to the St. Clair River. Algoeast made it up to Sarnia hours ago and is anchored in the river so I’m not sure why Everlast is having so much trouble. Dorothy Ann is headed back up the Cuyahoga River with another load. It seemed like it took much longer to load than it should have, so perhaps the pile is getting low and they are having to move the ore down to the loader. The tug, John M. Selvick is getting close to Milwaukee. They have been moving at 9-10 mph the whole time so apparently the ice is not thick enough on the western side of Michigan to slow them down much. I wonder how it is between Milwaukee and Sturgeon Bay. Tomorrow should be interesting.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      wow, brent…thanks for all your reports. awesome!

  3. Brent R says:

    I’ve been trying to count up all the ships and figure out how this is going to work and the word is that they don’t have enough ships. Canada has Martha L. Black in the lower St. Lawrence Seaway. I assume it will have to open up the locks on the St. Lawrence. I also assume that Griffon will have to open up the Welland Canal. The only other Canadian ship is Samuel Risley which can only handle 24″ of ice and is currently without one engine. It’s going stay at Lake St. Clair. So, that only leaves the US Coast Guard ships.

    I’m watching Hollyhock escorting Algosea in the western end of Erie right now and they are making less than 4 knots through the thick ice. So, presumably Hollyhock is going to have to keep escorting in this area. The only other ship is Morro Bay at Cleveland and I doubt they can get through that ice. Bristol Bay is working Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River. Katmai Bay is working up at Sault Sainte Marie. CG Mobile Bay is currently in port at Sturgeon Bay. I’m wondering if they are going to be able to break the ice next door at Green Bay. We know Alder is at Superior Harbor. That only leaves Mackinaw, Neah Bay, and Biscayne Bay. And there’s the problem. I don’t think these tugs can get through the ice in the Straits. It looks like Mackinaw will be needed both to escort through the Mackinac Straits and to open up Whitefish. This is when it would be nice to have a third Juniper Class, but there isn’t one.

    The shipping companies are behind because the locks closed two weeks early last winter. And, they are already bringing in crews to prep the ships. So, obviously they want to move. They are suggesting that Mackinaw will head up to the St. Marys River on the 17th and out into Whitefish on the 22nd. However, I know that two of the Lake Giants (Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor) are in port in Milwaukee. I think Arthur Anderson is there too. And I know there are more ships in port at Sturgeon Bay. So, I don’t know if Mackinaw is planning to do an escort from Lake Michigan before heading up to Sault Sainte Marie or coming back down and doing and escorting afterwards. An early escort would mean ships waiting for at least nine days before the locks opened but a late escort would mean probably a week after the locks opened. It also looks like they are taking the unusual step of not opening up the western side of Neebish Island as they do every year. They are only going to use the channel on the eastern side.

  4. netwerks1 says:

    Nice picture Dan, thanks!

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