First movement of the season

Above, the John G. Munson is backing out from Howard’s Pocket and her winter berth, while the Heritage Marine tug Nels J. moves ahead of her. They are both headed for the Calumet Fuel Dock. The Munson to fuel before going to CN Duluth to load iron ore pellets for Gary  and the Nels J. to make sure the ice did not cause any problems (and it did not). Just below, the Munson eases by the winter berth of the American Integrity.


  1. We have interesting things happening this morning. When I went to sleep, Mackinaw was stopped about 2/3rds of the way up Whitefish Bay. They’ve been breaking ice this morning. Mackinaw just started backing and ramming at the bay entrance. Mackinaw can break up to 30 inches of ice without stopping. So, backing and ramming means thicker than 30″. From what I can tell, the thick part extends about 1/3rd of the way out to Caribou Island NW of the bay entrance.

    John G Munson had left Duluth last night as Casna mentioned. They were followed later by Alder which had caught up to them a bit south of Isle Royale. This morning, Alder is in the lead and they are heading east. They are now apparently where the ice begins and have reduced speed. I’m interested to see if they will veer south toward Marquette and open water once they clear the point. If they continue ESE past Caribou Island then the ice must not be very thick.

    Mesabi Miner has also left Duluth this morning.

    Edwin H Gott is now heading up the St Marys River, followed by Roger Blough. It looks like they are hitting ice and having to be escorted by Katmai Bay. Edgar B Speer is apparently heading that way too but they are struggling with the ice in the Straits. However, I haven’t seen any move to assist by either Erika which is west in Escanaba or Biscayne Bay which is east near the Mackinac Bridge.

    Joseph L Block is almost to Indiana with another load of iron ore. Wilfred Sykes is being loaded at Escanaba. Dorothy Ann has been taking loads of ore up the Cuyahoga River to the mill at Cleveland. I assume they’ve made a dent in the ore stockpile because it looks like Joyce L Van Enkevort is now heading there with another load.

    • I checked the satellite maps and Edgar Speer is in an area with no ice. The fact that they haven’t moved in three hours probably means that Speer is waiting before they attempt the ice in the Straits. I’m guessing that their AIS is giving a faulty reading that they are moving when they are actually stationary right now.

      It looks like Katmai is still trying to get Gott and Blough up the St Marys.

      Alder did not veer south toward Marquette so the broken ice field has not given them much trouble. They are moving at a good pace right now. However, in about an hour they are going to hit thicker ice and have to slow down again. Then they are going to struggle as they get closer to Caribou Island.

      Mesabi Miner is currently loading in Taconite Harbor. Judging by the movements of Alder and Munson, it is likely that Miner will head east without escort when the loading is done. They could possibly make it as far as where Alder is now, north of Marquette.

      Mackinaw has been backing and ramming so the pressure ice must be thicker than 30″. They’ve made it about 10 miles past the bay entrance. This means that they will still be 40 miles or so from Caribou Island when they have to stop for the night. We’ll have to see if Alder can reach Caribou before they stop. The thing to remember is that up to now, Alder has only been making a single track. However, Munson is a lot wider than Alder. When the ice gets thick enough to require a double or even triple track, things get a lot slower. It’s obvious that a triple wide track will be required in the pressure ice where Mackinaw is now. And, it is also clear that neither Alder nor the Bay class tugs can break that ice.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the Bays do some breaking in the upper St Marys and lower Whitefish area tomorrow. I guess we’ll have to see how far the ships get before dark. For example, are Gott and Blough going to reach Sault St Marie and is Alder going to reach Caribou?

  2. Really great pictures. Thanks for posting.

  3. Two AIS indicate Munson is heading out

  4. I’m uncertain why the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway has been delayed until April 2. Perhaps they were concerned about too much ice in Lake Erie. To be honest, I think they could open earlier but the indications are that the Canadian Coast Guard is stretched to its limits with current ice breaking tasks. So, pushing back to the 2nd gives time to get some slack in the system. I haven’t seen Morro Bay back out. But, if they need maintenance, I suppose it is good to get it now before the Welland Canal opens and ships need escort through the ice on Erie.

    It looks like we now have three ships hauling out of Escanaba: Joyce L Van Enkevort, Joseph L Block, and Wilfred Sykes.

    It appears that both Roger Blough and Edwin H Gott are headed for the Soo locks.

    Mackinaw is finally moving into the Poe lock. I’m not sure why they are starting this late in the day but I’m guessing that they are not planning to return to the dock tonight. From what I’ve seen, there is pressure ice at the head of Whitefish Bay and extending away west for perhaps 20 miles. We’ll have to see how tough the ice is inside the bay and just how far the pressure ice extends. I’m thinking Mackinaw has a tough couple of days of breaking ice.

  5. Jill from Alabama says:

    I sure am ready for this season to get started! Sending greetings from the sunny south!

  6. Rita from Georgia says:

    And so another shipping season begins!!!!! I will be watching for the Munson to depart tomorrow morning, early! Then later for Mesabi. It will be a GOOD day!

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