Mesabi Miner back in Duluth

After the Mesabi Miner lost the race to be the first to depart the port, she settled for 2nd place, taking coal to Taconite Harbor. She turned around and headed back to Duluth, arriving at 8:51 (above) this morning (March 26, 2015) and easily winning the first to arrive trophy. But all was not so good; she will undergo a couple days of maintenance at the Port Terminal (below) before returning to Midwest Energy for more coal. She sits in loose ice here, but that is better than the John G. Munson. She is having lots of trouble with ice just this side of the Soo Locks. Both the Mackinaw and the Alder are working to clear a path through the ice for her to continue down bound to Gary and for the Edwin H. Gott and the Roger Blough to continue up bound.


  1. Is the big blow coming tomorrow chasing the small ships off the ice rink??

  2. What happened to the Mesabi miner? Was it damaged from the ice?

  3. Edwin Gott and Roger Blough are still struggling in the heavy ice. Yesterday, Blough only moved west about 10 miles. This morning, Mackinaw is working hard trying to open up a track west of the ships. It does appear that Alder is steaming back up the St Marys River so she is probably on her way to assist. However, it will take about three hours for Alder to reach them. Yesterday, they were moving less than 2 mph so they may not have gotten very far by then. If the freighters can make it another 20 miles west then the ice will be much thinner. Mackinaw and Alder will have no trouble making tracks.

    Alder’s destination still reads “Eastbound and down”, obviously a reference to the theme song from “Smokey and the Bandit”. They may have to think up another clever destination though now that they are headed west.

  4. I don’t know how many might have followed the description yesterday but basically Mackinaw spent the entire day getting Edwin Gott and Roger Blough past the heavy, pressure ice beyond the entrance to Whitefish Bay. As it stands now, all five ships are just north of Whitefish Point. In fact, Roger Blough is only about 3 miles NNE of the White Point lighthouse. However, they are much closer than yesterday. Gott is only about 2 miles from John Munson with Blough about 1 mile behind Gott. Alder worked her way down past Munson is is now about 1 mile SW. Mackinaw is currently back near Blough and working on the track.

    Now Mackinaw is moving NW towards Gott. Neither Blough nor Gott is moving which suggests that they are stuck in the ice. When Mackinaw gets the two freighters past Muson, Alder will be able to escort Munson into Whitefish Bay and it should be fairly easy from there.

    Undoubtedly, the difficulty of breaking through ice at the entrance to Whitefish Bay is going to cause the Great Lakes Shipping Association to ask for another ice breaking ship. I’m sure they will point out that Mackinaw has no backup. A ship like Pierre Radisson or the previous Mackinaw would have helped a lot right now. The problem though is that these ships are not very good at buoy tending. I can only see two solutions. The most obvious would be to build a sister ship for Mackinaw. This would give you a backup as well as doubling your ice-breaking capacity. The only other option I can see would be a super-Bay ship. A Bay class tug weighs about 700 tons and has 2,500 HP. These ships are not suitable for buoy tending so two of them have service barges with cranes. Now, what if we did the same thing for an ice-breaker?

    Pierre Radisson weighs 6,500 tons and has 13,600 HP. We know that she worked well last year.

    However, to get a tug in this class we need something like Presque Isle which has almost 15,000 HP. So, you build something like PI but with reinforcement and stronger attachments. We only need a barge about 1/10th the size that PI uses, something around 6,000 tons (or a bit more with ballast). The barge would have a reinforced hull and spoon shaped bow. It would have extra thrusters to blow ice away from the sides. It would have ballast tanks and could transfer water port and starboard/fore and aft to rock free if it got stuck. In other words, the barge would be perfect for breaking ice and the tug would have plenty of power to move it. The advantage though is that after ice season, you detach that barge and put on a lighter one with buoy tending cranes. Repair would be easier since you could work on the tug and barges separately. I know it would make ship purists scream but I think it would be a cost effective solution.

    In the time it has taken me to compose this, I see that Mackinaw has worked Edwin Gott past Alder and that Roger Blough is also moving. It shouldn’t be long now before Munson is heading down into Whitefish and the two freighters are steaming west.

    • It looks like Alder and Munson are starting to round the Point- both at about 11kts

    • And Algoma Olympic is upbound toward the locks

    • Algoma Olympic is hitting some tough ice in the river. Both Katmai Bay and Mobile Bay are assisting but it’s slow going. Still not as bad as last year though.

      Alder and Munson are more than halfway down Whitefish Bay and should be heading down the St Marys in another hour. Mackinaw is still struggling to get Gott and Blough moving west. As far as I can tell, Blough has only moved about 10 miles today.

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