Convoy Departs!

The St Clair departed Duluth around noon on April 15, 2014 (above) to join the convoy forming off the Duluth piers to cross Lake Superior. She arrived in Duluth for winter layup on January 2, 2014. She left port yesterday at 6:15 am and I think went to anchor. She came back in at 5pm.
The American Spirit also arrived for winter layup on January 2, 2014. When the Presque Isle returned to port with hull damage due to ice on April 3rd, at least some of her cargo of iron ore pellets was offloaded into the American Spirit. She left here on May 9th to load iron ore pellets in Two Harbors and then returned here later that day. Above, she is leaving Duluth early afternoon today to join the convoy.


  1. Some questions for anybody who cares to answer:

    1. Who and from where would be coordinating the USCG and CCG ice breaker activities? They just can’t be going willy nilly where ever they want to.

    2. Can somebody please post a link to where one can get the latest satellite images?

    3. On Superior, the wind direction would seem to have an impact on where the ice moves to. But do the winds historically really have to blow (i.e. NW @ 20) to have an effect on the ice movement?

    • Satellite images are here for all the Great Lakes:

      They usually post 2 images a day. Some days cloud cover prevents seeing the lake though.

    • The Great Lakes are District 9 for the US Coast Guard. The command center is in Cleveland Ohio. They get information from NOAA and local port services; and coordinate not only with the Canadian Coast Guard but the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the various freight companies.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Satellites are okay but they don’t tell the whole story. The Canadian Ice Service merges data from radarsat, air patrols and bar room chit chat into what looks like a kindergarten coloring project gone bad. Satellite images don’t always give the whole story, like thickness, age. All of which determines just how difficult a day that the ice breakers will have.

      Once you understand how to read the chart it makes it clear how and why the ships can move or not move the way they do.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Satellites are okay but they don’t tell the whole story. The Canadian Ice Service merges data from radarsat, air patrols and bar room chit chat into what looks like a kindergarten coloring project gone bad. Satellite images don’t always give the whole story, like thickness, age. All of which determines just how difficult a day that the ice breakers will have.

      Once you understand how to read the chart it makes it clear how and why the ships can move or not move the way they do.

      And number 3.

      The prevailing trade winds and storm tracks is West to East at this latitude. If you look at a map of North America above the Rio Grande you will see that Hudson Bay dominates the centre of the continent. Winter or summer there is a counter clockwise rotation around that feature.

      The Bay’s influence usually morphs the trade winds into a north westerly flowing trade wind until a four week period from mid June to the second week in July where the winds are calm and any breezes are Adiabatic and winds are onshore daytime and offshore, late night. (I used to be a Beachcomber on the North Shore)

      Even if the winter’s ice cover is minimal, ice gets jammed into Whitefish Bay causing problems every year.

  2. Gord Campbell says:

    – Adler, Jackman? beginning departure Thunder Bay. Alder breaking Thunder Bay Hbr.
    – 5 ship convoy led by Roger Blough steaming SW about 5nm east of the tip of Black Bay Peninsula 14knots.
    – Radisson, Mackinaw moving SE dead slow, 15nm west of Lake Superior Provincial Park (encountering fog?)
    – Katmai Bay, Moro, Grisely, in Lake Munuscong encountering brack ice.
    – Martha L Black sitting with 8 ship upbound convoy waiting for something to happen. Weather check.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Weather 3C Fog at CYAM. expecting to lift. Explains why all the ships in and around SSM are stopped.

      Weather at Wawa (CYXZ) 1C and Fog

      Conclusion – Ships stalled because of visibility impairment due to fog.

    • I think you are mistaken about Morro Bay; she seems to be almost to Sarnia at the mouth of the St Clair River, not in the St Marys River. I’m seeing the radio track again for the Neebish Island ferry. They are supposed to start breaking out the ice above the western channel tomorrow.

      It looks like Alder got Jackman free. It makes me wonder if the local tug, Point Valour, is working yet. A radio track would be nice but I haven’t seen one.

      Of the ships with Roger Blough, Algoma Enterprise and Radcliffe Latimer are supposed to load grain in Thunder Bay.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        It means that the Moro Bay has started to set out Navigation buoys. I was looking for the last twelve hours. The Katmai Bay will probably doing the same thing in Lake Michigan since traffic has really gotten heavy in the last three days and needs the nav aids up and running. All that ice in Lake Superior isn’t going anywhere soon.

  3. After watching Dorothy Ann slogging up and down the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, it’s good to see her out on a run. She is halfway up Lake Huron, heading north.

    Alder is working in Thunder Bay as the fleet approaches. Roger Blough is steaming hard at 14 knots and should pass the bay entrance in about 2 hours. Two of the ships from that convoy will stop there to load grain. The freighter, Capt Henry Jackman, is finally leaving port in Thunder Bay.

    From the first big convoy, St Clair has already unloaded at Burns Harbor in Indiana and Kaye Barker has already unloaded at Toledo Ohio.

    Assiniboine made it up through the locks yesterday and up to the line. So, there are now seven freighters waiting in Whitefish Bay. Gott and Speer who had both been waiting on the upstream side of the Locks also made it through yesterday and are now in NW Lake Huron. The three last ships from the second convoy all headed down the St Marys River. Sam Laud has gone through the locks while Cort and Discovery have replaced Gott and Speer waiting upstream of the locks. Meanwhile, Indiana Harbor needs to go up through the locks.

    When Martha Black came up the St Marys River yesterday she picked up the tanker, Jana Desgagnes, and escorted her all the way up to Sault Sainte Marie. That may have been fortunate because the tankers seem to have a very difficult time in the ice. I’m not sure what Martha’s intentions are at this point. Some suggested that she was badly needed in Thunder Bay to break ice. However, recall that Radisson broke ice when she was there and Alder has been there breaking ice since yesterday so I can’t imagine that the ice is too bad.

    Katmai Bay and Risley spent the night down in the lower St Marys River. I’m guessing they’ll bring up Burns Harbor next. Morro Bay has left the area. She is down in lower Lake Huron and steaming south.

    I’m not sure about the status of either Algoma Equinox or Presque Isle who are both docked near the locks and apparently in need of repairs.

    Radisson and Mackinaw are now visible SE of Michipicoten Island. They appear to be heading back south to Whitefish Bay. So, the big question is why Mackinaw and Radisson stayed near Michipicoten and why the fleet yesterday took 25 hours to travel just 40 miles. There are two satellite images from yesterday. They show open water from north of Michipicoten to Two Harbors. However, there is now no longer open water east of the Keweenaw peninsula and it looks like the ice has stacked up south of Michipicoten. I’m not an expert on ice dynamics but this is what it looks like to me. When the lake ice was made up of large plates these would move east but get stopped by the western edge of Michipicoten Island and Caribou Island which is about 30 miles south. However, now that the ice is breaking into smaller pieces, it is able to flow between Caribou and Michipicoten and pile up against the eastern shore of Lake Superior. So, that route has become difficult. I suppose that means that other routes might be tried and that we could see a three breaker escort with Martha joining.

    On this satellite image, I pointed out the packed ice. You can also see how much open water there is on the north and western shores of Lake Superior.

  4. Gord Campbell says:

    Somebody or someone on the North Shore of Superior turned on their AIS receiver.
    As a result, five ships being tracked, westbound in line, 14 to 10 knots about 1nm south of Slate Islands off the town of Terrace Bay, Ontario.

  5. d_malnati says:

    Yea its been a strange year. I think also that all these posts are done under specific topics also may affect the comments. I almost wish all of Brent’s comments were together instead of under 3 or 4 posts. they are great reading.

  6. The radio track shows that the fleet was in that area at 8pm eastern time yesterday. Mackinaw was following the expected track at 9pm. However, at 2am, she had moved to a position about 6 miles SE and started northward. She is showing up again and has only moved about 20 miles NNW in 10 hours.

    The last satellite image clearly showed open water above Michipicoten Island. The expected route would be east of Caribou and then west Michipicoten. However, Mackinaw is SE of Michipicoten as though she is trying to break a track around the eastern side.

    Well, that answers that. Roger Blough, Algoma Olympic, and Algosteel just showed up near Mackinaw. So, the convoy has indeed gotten bogged down in the ice.

    • Looks like we just rolled the comments over. My last comment is now appearing on a new page.

    • Radisson is showing up now as well. I can’t quite imagine what kind of ice halted a breaker like Radisson that can plow through 40″ of ice at 6 knots.

      • holly jorgenson says:

        wasn’t the latimer in this group as well?

        • I’m sure that all seven ships are there. But, radios vary and they don’t all tend to show up when you are at the limits of reception. Apparently, Mackinaw’s radio signal was the strongest.

          Have you ever rolled the comments over to a new page before?

          • holly jorgenson says:

            it was bound to roll over sooner or later, but i don’t think it ever has in the midst of a ongoing conversation. it’s very unusual to have this many comments on the same topic. of course, it’s an unusual year!
            the mesabi miner should arrive duluth in a bit more than an hour.

  7. I’m a bit puzzled. Mackinaw is showing up south of Michipicoten Island.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      do you think it’s possible that ice was not bad enough for both breakers so mackinaw is coming back for the next convoy?

      • When I added a new comment, it rolled over to a new page. Has that happened here before?

        • holly jorgenson says:

          only so many comments per page…perhaps ken can change that so we have a continuous flow.

          • It looks like the limit is 50 root comments per page. Did you read my comment on the next page?

      • Gord Campbell says:

        The reason there is spotty tracking is because the AIS signals are being received at the furthest range by the nearest receiver. I noticed this morning a receiver near Marguette was active again.

        I don’t think the delay is ice directly. One must remember, that while shipping is having a tough time getting started so has the re-establishment of nav aids and warnings.

        This part of the coast, from Wawa right up to Marathon/Peninsula Harbor is very much prone to thick fog. The Nav aids aren’t there. And recall that two days ago the southbound fleet was held up by fog banks in Whitefish Bay.

        The three ships downbound north of the Soo have started. Again I believe progress has been delayed by visibility issues. On that coast part of the navigation system is operated by Pukaskwa National Park for its small fleet of patrol vessels and that isn’t operational yet.

  8. Sometimes common sense gets in the way of a good theory. I see that the ship Assiniboine is heading up the St Marys River and this ship would indeed fit through the MacArthur Lock. However, Presque Isle is blocking the downstream approach so, if they are allowing Presque to remain there, they obviously have no intention of opening the lock yet.

    We now see the fruits of the first big convoy. St Clair and American Spirit are more than halfway down Lake Michigan on their way to Indiana. Kaye Barker and Tadoussac have steamed down Huron and nearly reached the St Clair River. Walter McCarthy is out of the St Marys but I don’t know where it is headed yet.

    I see that Hollyhock is leading its own convoy of six ships eastward through the Straits. Martha Black is almost to the St Marys River. Morro Bay is heading down the St Marys River, probably to help Risley with the ice.

    I see that American Integrity is up-bound through the locks. This means that the Tecumseh convoy is going to have to move up or they will again be blocking the river. I don’t see Cort, Laud, or Discovery moving yet. These are the last three ships of the second convoy and will have to be scheduled through the locks along with the up-bound traffic which now includes Assiniboine and Indiana Harbor. Edwin Gott and Edgar Speer are also still on the upstream side of the locks.

    I see that Alder and Mesabi Miner are making good time at 13 knots westward in Lake Superior. Before Alder reaches Duluth, the main convoy should show up near the top of Isle Royale.

    I see the Pelee Island ferry running north to the marina so, again, Erie must be in pretty good shape.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      You might add that the weather in Whitefish Bay and SSM is snow, rain, fog patchs, and gusting east winds. And as the Soo people love to say, “and then the weather got bad.”

  9. It looks like the private tug, Missouri, has taken over ice clearing duties at the Soo Locks. This is a good sign because it means that the ice is no longer as heavy. I also noticed that Missouri was clearing the area upstream of the MacArthur Lock. Up to now, only the largest lock, Poe (1200′ x 110′), has been open. I’m wondering if they are now planning to open a second. MacArthur (800′ x 80′) is large enough to handle salties since it is larger than the locks in the Welland Canal. It could also handle the coast guard ships and any local tugs.

  10. I guess I could mention a few ports. Toronto had its beaver hat ceremony on April 8th when the first saltie, Lubie, came in.

    Burns Harbor in Indiana had its ceremony yesterday when Isolda and Federal Nakagawa came in from Holland. Their tradition is to give the captains steel beer steins. Apparently, it took a week to get from Cleveland instead of the 2 days it usually takes.

    Green Bay had its first ship yesterday when Michigan arrived. Marquette has had its first ship. Thunder Bay should have two ships in the next couple of days. I don’t know if other ports have ceremonies for salties.

  11. Radisson broke a second track out of the bay and the next convoy is heading out. This is Roger Blough, Algoma Enterprise, Algoma Olympic, Algosteel, and Radcliffe Latimer. Once they get up past Michipicoten, they can steam pretty fast.

    As I suspected, the line was able to move up and, now that James Barker is out of the way, the incoming convoy is moving toward the St Marys River. I see that Presque Isle is moving toward the locks, still being assisted by the tug, Missouri.

    The freighter St Clair from the first convoy has already made it down the St Marys and across the Straits. The second ship, Kaye Barker, is still next to Neebish Island.

    Looks like Mesabi made it away from the loading bunker about 1:50pm eastern. She’s moving pretty slowly so ice must be an issue. From the satellite, there is open water next to the Keweenaw peninsula though.

    Martha Black has reached the St Clair River.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      do you think martha will pick up the 4 salties sitting at anchor in the lake north of sarnia? all are bound for thunder bay.

      • I know that the Port of Thunder Bay is expecting two ships. I assume that these are Algoma Enterprise and Radcliffe Latimer. I haven’t heard about expecting four ships in the near future. I believe Objibwa and Pineglen in Sarnia are also grain ships. I guess we’ll see what happens when Martha passes them.

  12. Alder broke a track to within 1/4 mile from the end of the loading bunker and is now working a track towards the north from Marquette. I can’t tell if Mesabi Miner needs assistance from a local tug to get out of port or if Alder just needs work the track some more. I assume if the ice is very bad near the bunker then Mesabi might need a tug that can work close up. Martha Black is still steaming hard and is just entering Lake St Clair.

    In Whitefish Bay, things have been somewhat interesting. I keep forgetting that Mackinaw has azipods. Mackinaw ran a complete circle around Roger Blough and it is amazing to see that she can turn around in 200 feet. In comparison, Radisson seems to take about 600 feet to turn around. It looks like Mackinaw broke a track immediately north of Blough and then Radisson broke the track farther north. My guess is that they intend to break a second route out so that inbound and outbound ships are in separate tracks. I can see the line of waiting ships moving up with Mackinaw assisting the line so I assume that James Barker will be able to move out of the way of the inbound ships. It looks like Radisson down to less than 1 knot so that must be the thick ice. I haven’t seen Radisson resort to ramming yet but I assume that there must be thick pressure ice to break through to get out of the bay. I also assume that after Radisson breaks a new track that the next convoy will head out.

    We finally got a clear satellite image yesterday. It looks like there is open water all the way from Michipicoten Island to Two Harbors. So, I assume the next convoy will use a northern route.

    I see that Hollyhock is back out in the Straits which makes sense with Neah and Biscayne working over in Green Bay. You can see on the satellite images that Green Bay is still solid ice even though Lake Michigan right next door is nearly clear of ice. Mobile Bay must be down right now to have two other Bays working there.

    I have to admit to being puzzled by Bristol Bay down in western Lake Erie. I haven’t seen any ice on the satellite images and I noticed today that the Pelee Island ferry is running. So, it doesn’t seem like there can be much ice but Bristol has been working there since she came out of port.

  13. It looks like Alder got into heavier ice and stopped about two hours after my last post last night. However, at first light around 7am eastern, she started moving again. My guess is that they are going to leave Marquette as soon as possible. Alder is moving at 8.5 knots and is about 30 minutes from port.

    I can’t claim to be an expert on ship movements but my guess would be that James R Barker is in the way. Barker is the tenth ship in the line of waiting ships stretching from Roger Blough next to Ile Parisienne. It looks to me like Barker is too far out into the channel, making it hazardous to try to get around her. I assume that the line of ships is either going to have to move north to make room or Barker is going to have to move to the side. These could require additional ice-breaking close to the line of ships and it was probably too hazardous to do in the dark. I don’t know if this operation can be done by Radisson and Mackinaw or if they’ll need the Bays to come up the river to help.

    Martha Black has been steaming all night and is near the Detroit River. That puts her about 300 miles from Sault Sainte Marie.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      the soo locks are completely socked in by fog.

      • Yes, that explains why they didn’t start moving at first light. There is no wind right now. But, in an hour, the wind will pick up and clear the fog.

        • Gord Campbell says:

          Talk about eight ball’s this year all over the place on the Great Lakes. Even where its warmer its been one little nagging disaster after another. Apparently at the sugar plant in Toronto a counterweight on a brand new unloading system broke off and smashed the offloading conveyor system. A counterweight is usually the one thing you make sure won’t fall off.

          Our friendly ship the Presque Isle breaks down twice in almost the same place already and the season has even really begun.

          The Blough holes itself in the ice and delays the entire convoy two days.

          The Moro Bay junks the top rudder hinge. The Jackman, the pride of the Algoma ship fleet gets pulled back in for maintenance.

          The Stephen B. Roman gets delayed and is not the first boat out of Toronto. The Algoma Equinox, the brand new vessel was the first out of that port. And ironically the Equinox has yet to reach its original port of destination, Thunder Bay.

          Now fog.

          Oh here’s a surprise. Another winter storm into Thunder Bay.

      • Another note: I’ve seen the radio signal for the ferry, Neebish Islander 2 for the first time this season this morning. That suggests to me that they are readying the ferry in anticipation of the ice being broken out above the western channel between Neebish Island and the mainland. I haven’t heard if the bottom of the channel is going to have to be dredged before it can open. I know that they just recently completed the survey with assistance from Risley.

  14. The down bound Gott group has already met with and is parallel and adjacent to the up-bound convoy. They are stopped.

  15. One big piece of news today was that the pusher-tug, Michigan, made it to Green Bay WI. This was the first ship in Green Bay this season. The first ship normally arrives between March 28 and April 3. So, it was about 2 weeks late this year.

    Alder was having difficulty. She was following the coast but had to detour about 15 miles north to get around heavy ice. It looks like she is around it now and is heading down toward Marquette at 10 knots. She will probably make it there in about 90 minutes. I assume they will wait until tomorrow to head back to Duluth. Radisson is now only about 5 miles from Whitefish Point. I assume that Radisson and Mackinaw will wait until tomorrow to lead another convoy out.

    With Mobile Bay in port, Biscayne Bay was working in Green Bay. With Hollyhock in port, Neah Bay is working in the Straits. Bristol Bay is finally back out of port after several weeks. She was working below the Detroit River in Erie today. Not surprisingly, Morro and Katmai are in port at Sault Sainte Marie.

    Martha Black is in Erie steaming west. If Martha is heading for the Soo locks, it will take about 40 hours. Let’s say that Radisson and Mackinaw take five ships out tomorrow. That leaves five lined up in Whitefish Bay. I’m wondering if maybe on the 20th or 21st Martha might lead a convoy. That could get us back on track.

    • holly jorgenson says:

      if martha is thunder bay bound, wouldn’t she take the boats which are likewise with her? i guess that destination could change between now and when she arrives soo.

      • Remember that both Mackinaw and Radisson are bigger than Martha L Black. If the current convoys need both big icebreakers, can Black cut the mustard (so to speak)? I expect that she will head to Thunder Bay to work that harbour, similar to Alder being based in Duluth,

        • Gord Campbell says:

          The Black has one advantage for ice breaking. She is carrying a helicopter. Also one must appreciate that the American icebreakers are seasonal. When “or in this case if” the ice leaves these vessels return to the very essential duties of seaway maintenance installing maintaining lights, buoys and such. The Canadian buoy tenders like the Griffon and Risley do the same in Canadian waters.

          Unlike the American Coast Guard, Canadians also have keep routes open on the St. Lawrence and its Gulf. Further in the summertime vessels like the Radisson, Des Groseilliers, St. Laurent, Terry Fox, they go into the Canadian Arctic going ice breaking so that supply ships can get to northern settlements in Nunavut.

          I noticed that in the Canadian Ice Breaking Fleet data there is no “we can break through x amount inches of ice.” Even though the Black is likely under gunned compared with the MacKinaw. Now this is taken in the context that, all the crews of these ships are determined and committed especially considering the enormity of the tasks. The Martha Black and Radisson crews will have far more ice breaking experience because, that is what they do.

          It should be noted, that despite the classification of “light breaker” this was the ship and crew that opened up the season from Montreal to Beauharnois locks. No easy task given to a junior crew.

          Now that is said. Just watch it get stuck good.

  16. Radisson, Mackinaw, Edwin Gott, Edgar Speer, Stewart Cort, and Algoma Discovery now showing up east of Caribou Island. So, the second convoy will be in Whitefish soon.

  17. Yesterday was a day for heroic determination. We saw Morro and Katmai doggedly pushing through the ice hour after grinding hour, trying to find a way into port. And, when the ice proved too heavy for these tugs, it was still gratifying to see Radisson and Mackinaw use the same route already blazed by the Bays.

    Today is probably not a day for heroics, but it is a day for other things. It is a day for making do. American Spirit and St Clair are heading down the east side of Neebish Island. This means that as badly as the iron is needed, these ships were not fully loaded because they would risk grounding in the shallower east channel. It would be better if the deep channel were open just like it would be better if we had had more ice-breakers–but, we make do.

    It is a day for rescues. Yesterday, there were times when Presque Isle seemed to be lagging behind and I had wondered if something was wrong. Today, the tug, Missouri, approached PI and has been there since. So, clearly there is an issue. Radisson and Mackinaw are going up to escort the second convoy. They were east of Caribou Island and I lost their radio track as they continued north. Alder is steaming to the rescue of Mesabi Miner whose cavernous holds are currently empty in the harbor at Marquette. And, Neah Bay, up from Cleveland is back out working the Mackinac Straits as she did yesterday, making sure that freighters keep moving.

    It is a day for optimism. Paul Tregurtha has taken its place in line and James Barker is now also out of the locks and heading up the St Marys River. However, there were already eight freighters waiting in the bay ahead of them so there are now ten. And, presumably no one is leaving until Radisson and Mackinaw get back with the second convoy. These ships could be waiting in port but instead they wait in the bay. I’m reminded of people who camp out at ticket offices the night before to make sure they get good seats. The difference is that these seats are about jobs and getting thousands of tons of goods from one place to another. It’s the first step in a season that will see millions of tons moved by the time the ice returns.

    And, yet, perhaps the optimism is not entirely misplaced. We saw the heavy, Canadian ice-breaker Louis St. Laurent move up to Quebec. Some had wondered if she intended to steam all the way up to Lake Superior. It looks like that speculation might not have been far off. The Canadian ice-breaker, Martha L Black, which is about the size of Mackinaw was at Quebec. When Laurent showed up, apparently to take over ice-breaking below the locks, this freed Martha. She’s been steaming up-bound for the past 24 hours and is now in the Welland Canal. Since the heavier ice-breaker, Des Groseilliers, is already there, one would think that one of these ships is going to to be sent up farther. That would be good news indeed.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Martha L. Black has orders to Thunder Bay.

      Presque I. now underway 1500hrs. about 6knots Missouri close company. (Steerage?)

    • My understanding is that Louis S St. Laurent is in dry dock, not breaking ice.

  18. holly jorgenson says:

    what does anyone think about this…PRT gets to marquette and convoys back with mesabi miner?

  19. Brian indicated earlier that Alder would go to Marquette to escort Mesabi Miner back to Duluth with Morro Bay. Alder is currently west of the top of the Keweenaw peninsula and steaming east. She is making better than 13 knots so they’ll be near Manitou Island in about 2 1/2 hours. It looks like Alder is going to try escorting Mesabi Miner without assistance. Recall that Mesabi is a giant so that’s quite a job for Alder to do alone. Hopefully there is still a lot of open water.

    Radisson and Mackinaw have steamed out of Whitefish Bay along the same track they broke yesterday. That must be a tremendous relief to not have to spend hours busting ice just to get out of the bay. My assumption is that they are heading up north to retrieve the second convoy which should consist of Edwin Gott, Edgar Speer, Stewart Cort, Algoma Discovery, and Sam Laud.

    Of the first convoy, American Spirit and St Clair are heading down the St Marys River. We’ll find out if the rock cut is open on the west side of Neebish Island or if these ships are still being loaded shallow to get through the east side. McCarthy has already gone through the locks and Tadoussac has just left. Kaye Barker is still upstream of the locks and presumably will go through soon.

    The unusual one is Presque Isle. She is still in Whitefish Bay and has made no attempt to enter the river. Morro and Katmai Bay are near her and I see the private tug, Missouri, steaming that way. So, I’m wondering if Presque Isle is needing some assistance.

  20. Boatnerd News Photo Gallery for April 14 has a fantastic aerial view of the upbound convoy waiting on Whitefish Bay.

  21. CG alder was about 6 nm sw of 2 Harbors 58 min ago

  22. You can see the convoy heading down to the St Marys River.

    American Spirit is leading, then Mackinaw, St Clair, Walter McCarthy, Tadoussac, and Kaye Barker.

    Presque Isle, at the rear, began moving after this image was captured. North of Presque is Katmai Bay, Morro Bay, and then Radisson (which can’t be seen in the image). Although Radisson is at the back here, she actually steamed all the way down to the mouth of the St Marys River and then came back up. That is six freighters returning from Duluth and three of these are giants.

    I don’t know what the game plan is at this point. The second convoy will have to be retrieved. I’m wondering if they will escort a convoy up at the same time. I suppose they could do that if the north end of Superior still has open water and the western shore is good. Unfortunately, there was too much cloud cover today so we don’t have recent satellite images. Also, Mesabi is still in Marquette so something has to be done there as well. This was a nice amount of iron with six ships but the second convoy would really get things back on track.

    • Brent, where is the second convoy you speak of that has to be retrieved? Is it along the northeast shore somewhere but not showing up on radar? I thought too that there were more boats that left the western ports, but they are no where to be seen.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        (To Jay)
        Out of range of any AIS receivers.

        Probably anchored in open water or skinny ice near Michipicoten Island, likely to the east of it near the town of Wawa. Its a safe place because Wawa usually has a chopper stationed at the airport.

        One worthy note is that Alder is sailing on a course to the east lee of Isle Royale.

        A second worthy note: Just spotted the Martha L. Black, approaching Port Weller, 10.3 knots, listed destination Thunder Bay.

        • Thanks Gord. It appears the Mackinaw and Radisson are heading due north out into the Lake, do you suppose they’re going to pick up that other inbound convoy now before assisting the outbound convoy? Alder looks to be on it’s way as well.

          • holly jorgenson says:

            alder going to get mesabi miner? i would think.

          • That was my other thought, Miner has to be loaded by now.

          • Gord Campbell says:

            That’s exactly where they are going. What surprises me is that they didn’t bring the first div of the upbound convoys. They could have brought ships that far north and the ice is not thick for them.

            It could also be that the Coast guards want to keep Radisson in the neighborhood of Whitefish Point, the eastern part of Superior. The other vessels don’t seem to have a problem west of Marquette and north of the Montreal.

            I am also surprised that the tail end charlie of the 2nd div of the upbound convoy is headed for Marquette. But it could be that the ice ridges was too much for the other three boats. The American CGS boats are multipurpose but a big part of ice breaking is also experience. The Radisson’s prime job and only job is ice breaking.

            There isn’t enough praise to go around for all the crews of those four boats. Yesterday, would have been horrible conditions to work in.

            The Mary L. Black may be classed as a light Ice Breaker but she carries a helicopter on the poop. That gives an Ice Breaker a significant advantage when confronted with heavy ice. By the time the Radisson is coming back, with luck the Black should be nearing the St. Mary’s river.

            Note: Presque Isle definitely is in some sort of mechanical distress. Not surprising. Considering the heavy ice conditions having only one breakdown is actually pretty good.

  23. Gord Campbell says:

    0936hrs EDT
    Sending the Radisson first followed by Mackinaw. Downbound convoy still trying very hard to get to the Soo locks. It appears they busted through the wall(s) of ice. American Spirit seemed to encounter some difficulty and stopped at the moment (ice damage?)

    1000hrs American Spirit and convoy underway again around 6 knots.

  24. Radisson is moving at 16 knots and has veered east towards Ile Parisienne. Mackinaw is moving at 14 knots. You can see that American Spirit and St Clair are moving forward. So, it looks confirmed that they have broken through to Whitefish Bay.

  25. Radisson’s farthest track south is 46 degrees 77 minutes. The northern tip of Ile Parisienne is 46 degrees, 71 minutes. That’s a difference of only 6 nautical miles. Radisson made it south of Whitefish Point and it appears that she is turning around rather than just backing. So, it appears that Radisson has cleared the pressure ice and is now just widening the track with Mackinaw. We’ll get confirmation of this if American Spirit pulls forward.

  26. I watched most of them go under the bridge. They look like they have had a hard time crossing. As of this time, they are battling ice just north of Whitefish point. There are four icebreakers in the area. Eight ships are lined up to sail west in Whitefish Bay.

  27. Gord Campbell says:

    Weather, Its all about the weather.

    There has been no ice report for today. Not surprised. Very likely no aircraft can fly into this nonsense.

    I think they would have better luck if they could actually see more than a statute mile. Its hard to imagine but they are working off radar which explains a lot. The breakers cannot see the tail end of the convoy and the ice closes into their path very quickly. They likely have no access to any aircraft to scout out the right path.

    I got to hand it to the efforts these crews are doing under such adverse circumstances, three of the breakers have managed to move one ship no more 17nm after almost all day. After this event all the crews deserve a commendation for all their monumental efforts.

    I thought the Risley should come out of the St. Mary river.

    Today and forecast

    Wind southeast 25 knots diminishing to southeast 15 early this evening and to south 10 late this evening. Wind increasing to west 15 late overnight then veering to northwest 15 near noon Friday. Wind diminishing to light Friday evening.

    Periods of snow changing to chance of rain or snow this evening. Visibility 1 mile or less in snow.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Update: [the understatement of the month]

      From Environment Canada (equivalent to NOAA).
      re: Whitefish Bay

      Ice Forecasts
      Issued 12:00 PM EDT 17 April 2014

      Today Tonight and Friday

      Ice Coverage
      Consolidated very thick lake ice.

      [can’t fool them Canucks]

  28. Does anyone know if the convoy will get to the Soo locks by April 20-21?
    thanks——Bill B

    • I assume you are joking. Mackinaw is only about 7 nautical miles north of the top of the island of Ile Parisienne where freighters are waiting to be escorted to Duluth. Once they get past the pressure ridge at the mouth of the bay things will speed up a lot.

      They’ll have to go back up and get the second convoy but even that one should be in later today or possibly tomorrow if they are above Michipicoten Island.

      • In this wider image you can see where everyone is. In the lower right is Sault Sainte Marie where, of course, the Soo Locks are located. You can see the freighters (green diamonds) waiting in Whitefish Bay next to the island of Ile Parisienne. Roger Blough is the farthest north.

        In the upper left, you can see the Mackinaw convoy coming down merged with the Bay convoy which came from Marquette. Mackinaw is east of Whitefish Point (which looks like a bird’s beak) and only about 10 miles from Roger Blough. The US Coast Guard ships are blue; Radisson is gray.

  29. You can see that Mackinaw led the convoy down past Morro Bay. Mackinaw had to slow a lot in the heavy ice so Radisson came forward.

    Here you can see that Radisson is back up which is a clear sign of ramming. You can see Mackinaw moving to the side to begin breaking a wider track. And you can see American Spirit following Mackinaw. Morro is idle here. Presumably she and Katmai will assist the tail end of the convoy (including Barker) as needed.

    • I should probably proofread these better. Radisson is backing up or reversing. This is typical when ramming. It’s also common to steam over a track multiple times to widen it but those movements are much longer. Ramming requires a short change in direction.

      Watching the movements, American Spirit had to slow and then halt to keep from catching up. Mackinaw has been ramming the west side of the track to widen it, presumably at the same pressure ridge. Here you can see where Radisson slowed while ramming ice and was then passed by Mackinaw. Radisson is 65 feet (20 meters) wide but American Spirit is 98 feet (30 meters). So, whenever they hit a pressure ridge, it must widened.

      Here you can see that American Spirit and St Clair are moving forward at about 1 knot. Morro and Katmai have started moving again.

  30. That’s a surprise. Radisson went over to assist Tadoussac and has taken the second position in the convoy. Mackinaw is breaking ice at about 4 1/2 knots. At this rate, Mackinaw would be near the Barker in about an hour.

    Mackinaw has swung to the west. You can see in the image that they will soon pick up the track left by the Bay convoy. I assume that will be much easier going.

    We can see if that is Mackinaw’s intention if they continue to follow the track.

  31. I echo was Holly said….thanks and this is fun to read and follow!

  32. I just got through calculating that Radisson had to travel 110 miles to show up on radio tracking. That was 11 hours ago. Apparently they made about 10 mph because Radisson just appeared east of Caribou Island.

    • Okay, here’s the image. You can see Radisson coming down to lead Mackinaw’s convoy. Notice that Mackinaw’s direction of travel is reversing, showing that she is ramming. It looks like the Bay convoy is taking a break. I guess they are having trouble getting through the pressure ice at the bay entrance and now plenty of help is coming their way.

      I guess there are two possibilities at this point. If Radisson’s track is working then Mackinaw might go back for the second convoy. However, if the track is not staying open well then Mackinaw will probably lead the last two ships like they did leading the first convoy over. Probably in the next couple of hours, we’ll have a lot of freighters arriving. I can’t see the second convoy though so I don’t know how far back they are.

  33. On Wed. 4-15 we watched the convoy pass Two Harbors and then we headed for Split Rock, where we were surprised to count eight ore carriers plus the ice breaker threading along the ice edge, before turning more east into the ice pack.

  34. Morro started ramming the ice about 9:33am eastern. In an hour, they’ve moved about 1 mile. They’ve apparently decided that this is the route. They can break ice as much as 36 inches thick. They can’t go thicker than that because the bow is not designed to ride up on top of the ice like Mackinaw’s.

    Mackinaw is at the head of her convoy but moving slowly. It looks like she has encountered heavier ice and is having to ram. Mackinaw can break 30″ of ice without stopping so probably it’s a pressure ridge. She can break a pressure ridge as much as 12′ thick if it isn’t too wide.

    Neah Bay is east of Bois Blanc Island and steaming west. Perhaps one of the freighters on the east end of the Straits needs assistance. Or maybe they decided that Neah wasn’t needed right away since Katmai and Morro are nearly back in port.

  35. Mackinaw has been working for about the past hour. She is now moving NW to the tail end of the convoy to get them moving. You can see Presque Isle and American Spirit at the front and McCarthy now moving at the back. An hour and a half ago, I saw St Clair moving in between them so presumably Mackinaw is heading back for Tadoussac.

    Here you can see the pretzel track that Morro Bay has been making as they try to find a route into Whitefish Bay. They’ve been at it for five hours now.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Yes, been tracking it too. Valiant effort. That’s why the Radisson should’ve gone this way first. Its crew works year round as an ice breaker. Ice breaking is really the only thing it does. I thought the east wind would break up the floes a bit.

      Somebody on the American Coast Guard should give the Canadian Coast Guard a talking too. Maybe the St. Laurent is too big but the Amundsen and the Fox can fit. And they’ve been in the Gulf largely doing little but looking good.

  36. Mackinaw has been halted since 9:30pm eastern, Wednesday. Here you can see that she has drifted in the wind about 3/4 of a mile since stopping. This is in 12 mph wind. By 2pm, the wind will be 23 mph out of the east.

    I don’t have a radio track on Radisson but I figure that convoy has to be past the Slate Islands. This puts them 100-150 miles from Mackinaw. I don’t have a track on Neah Bay either but she is probably east of Alpena.

    The Bay convoy kept going, averaging about 5.5 knots. A wide image will show you just how close they are. Morro Bay is only about 25 miles from Roger Blough and perhaps 20 miles from Mackinaw.

    This, to me, is an interesting image. You can see where Morro Bay has been searching for a route around the heavy ice north of Whitefish Point. They had to detour about 6 miles to the north and this cost them about 2 1/2 hours.

    When it gets light in a couple of hours, Mackinaw will start convoying again. But, it looks like Morro is determined to find a route into Whitefish Bay before then. The windchill is 19 F with light snow falling.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      I didn’t see the Neah Bay go north of Sarnia. They shut down their AIS. It could be a crew change. That is also the reason why the Radisson seemed in no hurry until the last minute.

      Winter storm Warning for Thunder Bay 15cm or about 6 inches. Jackman won’t need an icebreaker. Its gonna need a snow blower.

  37. holly jorgenson says:

    these updates are awesome…thanks to all who are providing them!

  38. Well, to me, this is absolutely wonderful.
    It looks like the Mackinaw convoy could reach the mouth of Whitefish in about 2 hours. And, it looks like the Bay convoy could reach Whitefish Point in about 3 hours.

    Apparently it is back to holding comments with more than one image link so I’ll have to split this one.

    • And, over in western Superior, Radisson is apparently heading out of the Thunder Bay to take up the escort of the second group. Splitting up Mackinaw and Radisson is exactly what I thought they should have done. Of course, I had not actually expected Mackinaw and Radisson to escort alone. In the picture, Gott has already left radio range so it won’t be long before this group disappears.

      I know there are some steel mills that are desperate for these loads of iron.

      • I suspect you will see the Radisson leave her group in open water and travel through the ice alone to help the Mac. It is not safe to move a large group through heavy ice. If the ice pack starts shifting or comes under heavy pressure the breakers need to be able to keep each vessel in the convoy safe.

    • And, over in western Superior, Radisson is apparently heading out of the Thunder Bay to take up the escort of the second group. Splitting up Mackinaw and Radisson is exactly what I thought they should have done. Of course, I had not actually expected Mackinaw and Radisson to escort alone. In the picture, Gott has already left radio range so it won’t be long before this group disappears.

      I know there are some steel mills that are desperate for these loads of iron.

      • No, it wasn’t the number of links. It was something else but I’m not sure what. It wouldn’t take the second image at all so I changed to another one. I’m not sure what the difference was. Well, let’s try another image link.

        Morro is about 10 miles ahead finding the route. This image shows Morro’s track as it meanders, avoiding the thicker ice. And, you can see that Katmai and Barker are following in the same track. Katmai is probably slightly to one side, widening the track a little for Barker.

  39. Well, to me, this is absolutely wonderful.
    It looks like the Mackinaw convoy could reach the mouth of Whitefish in about 2 hours. And, it looks like the Bay convoy could reach Whitefish Point in about 3 hours.

    And, over in western Superior, Radisson is apparently heading out of the Thunder Bay to take up the escort of the second group. Splitting up Mackinaw and Radisson is exactly what I thought they should have done. Of course, I had not actually expected Mackinaw and Radisson to escort alone. In the picture, Gott has already left radio range so it won’t be long before this group disappears.

    I know there are some steel mills that are desperate for these loads of iron.

  40. Yes, I saw Mackinaw east of Caribou Island about an hour ago. Their movement over time seems to be about 2 knots. That would suggest ice close to 30″ thick. This is like it was with the first convoy except Radisson isn’t there to open up a track and there are five freighters instead of just two.

    In Thunder Bay, Henry Jackman has moved about 200 feet out of the slip. The heavy local tug is Point Valour. She may be assisting but perhaps her radio signal isn’t showing up. I haven’t seen any movement from Alder or Radisson. Surprisingly, the second convoy seems to be heading up to northern Superior without an escort with Gott leading. They are moving at 7 knots which is a conservative speed. Maybe after Jackman leaves port, Radisson will take them in escort. If they can get that second group over to Whitefish, those 10 freighters will relieve the pent-up demand for iron ore.

    I don’t know where Morro, Katmai, and Barker went because I don’t have a radio track. However, if they headed east, that is the area where I lost the Radisson/Mackinaw convoy so that is possible.

    I see that Neah Bay is now in the St Clair River. But from the mouth of the St Clair to lower St Marys is over 150 miles, I think. That’s at least 10 hours of steaming plus the trip up the St Marys.

    I guess at this point, I’m eager for Morro, Katmai, and Barker to reappear.

    • And there they are. Morro and Katmai are about halfway between Marquette and Whitefish Point. Now we have two groups heading for Whitefish.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        Three groups. The last group is being escorted by the Radisson. Last I saw they were headed to hug the north shore. That group seems to be intentionally 12 hours behind so it allows the Mackinaw group to clear the Soo locks downbound. It allows them to quick stop for supplies and fuel. Once the breakers are bunkered and supplies to the galley, any crew change then I expect them to turn around at the Sault and pick up that upbound convoy waiting in Whitefish Bay.

        It is not nice weather out there. I grew up on the north shore and am quite familiar with the weather down to the Soo. No way is this a pleasure cruise. Any one who thinks hell can’t freeze over has never been around that part of Lake Superior in March and April and November, December.

  41. I sure would love to be able to hear the radio traffic between these groups of boats!

  42. Andejack says:

    Just noticed on the “Live Ships Map” site that the downbound convoy and the upbound convoy, on Superior right now, both appear to be tracking exactly on the U.S./Canadian border. Is there an explanation for this?

    • Gord Campbell says:

      The border in that section is split midway between the east and south coast so that also happens to be the best course through Whitefish Bay. Mighty convenient. Thank you David Thompson.

  43. Gord your info on AIS was very helpful. Thanks.

  44. Cort, Discovery,Gott, Laud, Speer are in the channel on the N side of Isle Royale, but I can’t find Mackinaw (signal).

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Its already in another fleet. That fleets in a LOS zone. Its not on the AIS live last I looked. They should be emerging into range near Caribou Island in another couple of hours, if everything went well.

      According to Environment Canada analyses and the recent GOES east data, that fleet will begin to encounter some pretty nasty weather after midnight tonight. The winds will switch to the SE and strong which should open up ice leads for the 8 vessels waiting in Whitefish Bay tomorrow morning.

      I don’t know what the thinking of the convoy just off Thunder Bay is thinking. They should swing right now and try to catch the ice floes loosening up tomorrow morning along the border line. If they swing too far north they might get pinned against the north shore., note this weather chart is changed every 24hours.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        Update. The Mackinaw has just emerged back into AIS range at 18:33EDT to the west of the Montreal River. Heading south at only 1.6 knots though.

  45. Guys…Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Louis S. St Laurent. The CCGC lists her draft as 9.91m (32.51ft). That’s almost 2m (6 feet) over Seaway max. Her beam is listed as 24.38m (79.99ft). Seaway max is 23.8m (78ft).

    She just isn’t going to fit through the locks.


    • Gord Campbell says:

      I agree Steve. The length is not a problem. Neither is the draught. For a ship that size its pretty easy finding another fathom of clearance. For instance the max range is 23000nm, it only needs enough gas to go 3000nm then bunker up going into Superior. It can get through the Soo Lock (Poe).

      So that just leaves the Beam. The narrowest lock is listed at 24.4M. The official beam like you said is 24.38… Crazier things have happened and I never believe what I read. It could be why they took so long getting underway. The CCGS would have to survey each and every lock for the Beam.

      Lets put it this way… Its going to be damned interesting because its still moving up the river getting to Quebec Narrows. Right on my time estimate.

      If I were the Captain. And it was that close on the beam… I’d grease her up and give it shot. More likely its coming up to relieve a vessel on the St. Lawrence which in turn after turn will allow the CCGS Desgrossieller to sail north. The CCGS Griffon can handle the East end of Lake Erie at the moment.

      And the Jackman in Thunder Bay just got turned on. It hasn’t moved but there is crew aboard.

    • What you are most likely to see is the Louis move in to relieve another breaker. The Griffon and Martha L Black are working the Seaway right now. Either one of those breakers could visit the Upper Lakes.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      Yes. The St. Laurent is sitting just down stream from Quebec like you surmised. I guess they are replacing the need for a breaker from the legs of the seaway above Montreal.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        What kind of government pays hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs and operational costs to build an ice breaker of reasonable size that is just 3 feet too wide to fit up the Seaway. Oh, no real need to answer that.

  46. Let’s see what is going on. There are already 7 ships in a line in Whitefish Bay next to and below Ile Parisienne. However, Herbert Jackson is going through the locks right now.

    There is no sign of movement from Alder in Duluth or Radisson in Thunder Bay. However, Neah Bay has left Cleveland and is heading for the Detroit River. Louis St Laurent was 100 miles from Quebec about 5 hours ago. So, she could be near Quebec now. If she were going to help with ice-breaking, it would take about 3 days of steaming to reach Lake Superior. The biggest USCG breakers, Polar Star and Healy wouldn’t do much good since they are on the west coast. And, I’m not aware of any USCG breaker in between those two and Mackinaw in size.

    I lost the Mackinaw signal east of Isle Royale. They should be near the east coast above Michipicoten Island by now. However, I couldn’t see a radio signal before until they got east of Caribou Island.

    The only interesting thing happening at the moment is Marquette. Morro ran a track straight north. Barker is out of port and Katmai is working around her. Mesabi is still next to the loading bunker. It looks like the two Bays are going to do something with Barker. But, as far as I know, Barker is loaded with iron ore so presumably they would have to take her east to Whitefish. I guess we’ll see.

    • Gord Campbell says:

      If you are using tracking software from Marinetraffic what happens is that not all areas of AIS tracking is active. Especially along the northshore of Lake Superior.

      The way to find out is to zoom back out with the mouse wheel until the continent size then you can see the actual coverage of the zones. The convoy entered an AIS deadzone to the west of the Pukaskwa. It should emerge sometime this evening north of Whitefish Bay.

      The last I saw the St. Laurent it changed course and was heading for the mouth of the Saguenay River. If so that could be where it is heading. That River is prone to serious flooding, its a navigable river and that is the furthest extent of the CCGS Atlantic Zone. Again there is no AIS pick up.

      In many places the AIS signals are acquired through local Amateur Radio operators. If the person shuts down the tracking radio and goes to work, or dies or something. Then there are gaping holes. There is one very aggravating hole on the St Lawrence down to the Eisenhower Locks. Nothing at all in Brockville.

      Also some ships don’t automate their tracking. Up until recently the AIS tracking was nonexistent on a couple of watches. According to the seaway rules, in the Seaway all ships are supposed to have their AIS on. Some people haven’t got the Memo. The afternoon watch on the Radisson was especially absent and didn’t get relit until after the next watch change.

      Regarding the Radisson. It could be that there is something mechanically wrong. It was breaking ice in the Thunder Bay and it headed for shore and hasn’t moved. The Moro probably travelled north disappeared north into the AIS abyss. Most likely it was heading on an intercept course for the Mackinaw.

      This evening as the club Amateur Radio guys get active after 1900hrs, that could help.

  47. Gord Campbell says:

    For what its worth, the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent, the heaviest Ice Breaker, an Arctic Icebreaker and the flag ship of the CCGS has moved into the lower St Lawrence at 15 knots. Since the Lower St. Lawrence is being handled by the present icebreakers, there is only one very costly problem on the entire system which not even the Radisson can deal with. That is the ice ridges and ice pressure on Whitefish Bay and East Superior.

  48. Thanks Kathy. That brings up a ? Why do some of the ships have the port they departed from as their destination. Is that just a matter of not updating the data input?

  49. I just went to to look at the group being led by the Mackinaw.

    When I clicked on the vessel icon for the American Spirit, under the Destination information heading it stated:


    Glad to see the crew is in good humor!

  50. The Mackinaw will escort the Presque Isle, American Spirit, St. Clair, Walter J. McCarthy Jr. and CSL Tadoussac to Whitefish Bay. The Pierre Radisson is in Thunder Bay and will join this group. The Edwin H. Gott, Edgar B. Speer, Stewart J. Cort, and Sam Laud left Duluth with the Mackinaw but will wait near Isle Royale to be escorted to the Whitefish Bay at a later date.

    Lake Superior saw strong northerly winds recently. These winds created open water along the north shore of Lake Superior. The group will follow the open water as far east as they can. There has been aerial reconnaissance over Lake Superior recently determine the best path across the lake.

    These north winds have also put tremendous pressure on the ice along the south shore. This pressure has prevented the Mesabi Miner, Kaye E. Barker, Katmai Bay and Morro Bay from departing Marquette. The Alder will go to Marquette. Together, the Alder and Morro Bay will escort the Mesabi Miner back to Duluth. The Katmai Bay will escort the Kaye E. Barker to Whitefish Bay when conditions permit.

    The Samuel Risley will stay in the St. Mary’s River and stage all upbound ships in Whitefish Bay. The Neah Bay will be transferred from Detroit to the St. Mary’s River to assist the Samuel Risley due to deteriorating ice conditions on the lower lakes.

    • I’ve seen the satellite images. It seems like with so much open water in northern Superior that all ten ships could make a dash to Michipicoten Island. Then it would be a shorter trip to escort down five and come back and get the other five. But, maybe that is too risky.

      I could understand pressure ice on the southern shore. This is not listed in the NOAA estimate.
      This shows a maximum of 14″ which the Bays can handle. On the other hand, I recall Radisson slamming one ridge for hours west of Whitefish Point and that wasn’t on the NOAA estimate.

      I guess it isn’t obvious to me why Mesabi couldn’t have loaded iron ore in Marquette, but there is no doubt that the giant delivered a big load of coal. Having Alder and Morro take Mesabi back seems reasonable since the eastern side of Keweenaw Peninsula still has open water. Bristol and Hollyhock are assigned to Detroit. But, I guess Bristol is down and Hollyhock is working the Straits with Biscayne. Neah Bay is still in Cleveland. The last I saw Mobile, she was in Green Bay so perhaps she is back in port in Sturgeon. Neah does look like the most spare ice-breaker until either Katmai gets back or Bristol is back up.

      There are so many ships stacked up needing escort. You have the five with Mackinaw, the five following, two in Marquette, six in Whitefish Bay, and at least eight more in the St Marys. And, unless they split up Mackinaw and Radisson (or Des Groseilliers comes up) that is only one group each way which means no ability to catch up.

      I’m showing a forecast for wind in Marquette of 12mph out of the SE at noon. Then you have 18mph out of the ESE at midnight. I hope Alder and Morro are back up by then because this could cause the open water east of Keweena peninsula to close. Of course, it could possibly open up water on the southern shore. I guess we’ll see.

      • Gord Campbell says:

        The winds are switching to the SE tonight. But a blizzard is approaching. When the small convoy headed for Marquette there had been two to three days of a SW wind which allowed leads along the lee of the Keweenaw. I followed the Radisson and Mackinaw out of Sault Ste. Marie. It took them around four days to get to a point north of Marquette Bay.

        It takes about three days of steady wind to relieve the ice pressure. I did note that the Radisson and Mackinaw changed their strategy. The trailing vessels were spaced about .5 nm to .75 nm. There were five ships. There is so much lateral pressure on the floes that while the breakers would break a lead, that would close up and impair the passage of the trailers. The Blough was the tail end Charlie and as they were starting out it sustained ice damage.

        This upbound convoy started to have success when the seven vessels were split into two divisions of 4 and 3. This counteracted the closing of the leads. The Radisson led the first Div. Since the Radisson was taking lead anyway the Mackinac was more effective leading the tailing division.

        For what its worth the Canadian weather service has ice charts through this link. You might find it handier and easier to understand. Its updated daily around 1400EDT.

  51. dmalnati says:

    If I am reading it right, the boats in Marquette are actually listed to come back to Duluth this week, not head east.

    • I believe Barker and Miner took loads of coal to Marquette and then filled up with iron ore. They are both docked at the loading bunker and there has been a report that Barker took on iron ore. This ore will presumably be unloaded in either Indiana or Ohio. So, I can’t think they would be heading back to Duluth until they unload the iron.

  52. With American Century out of port, all thirteen giants are active.

    I’m trying to figure out what is going on. I see that Samuel Risley went out at 10am eastern and ran tracks all the way up to Ile Parisienne. I see that Roger Blough went up through the Soo locks and Latimer is entering now. Algoma Enterprise is also moving away from the lock area. Perhaps the activity is just in anticipation of the return of the Mackinaw convoy. However, I would tend to think that if Risley can make it to Ile Parisienne then Morro and Katmai could get the two freighters at Marquette down Whitefish Bay. Risley can only break ice 24″ thick while the Bay Class tugs can go up to 32″. But, there is no sign of activity at Marquette.

    Radisson and Mackinaw brought over five ships: three giants and two smaller freighters. However, right now there are eight ships around Mackinaw. There are six giants: Gott, Speer, Presque Isle, McCarthy, Spirit, and Cort along with the two smaller freighters, Tadoussac and St Clair. I might have guessed that Alder would help escort them part of the way but Alder is still at the dock in Duluth.

    There is no indication that Radisson is preparing to leave port in Thunder Bay nor that it has broken out the Henry Jackman. I see that jackman’s schedule has been pushed back to the 20th so perhaps Radisson is done working in the bay for now. I assume if Mackinaw is escorting these ships back, they’ll swing east of Isle Royale. And, perhaps they intend to pick up the fleet now at Marquette on the way across. I would have expected to see more ships working the ice in Whitefish Bay. But maybe with Bristol down and Katmai and Morro in Marquette, there just aren’t any extra breakers available.

  53. And the Presque Isle…

  54. Looks like the Speer will be joining them from 2 Harbors?

  55. Yes, it appears Mackinaw is forming a convoy.

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