|In the old days, I was sometimes a good source for information about the port. Sometimes I even knew stuff I wasn’t supposed to talk about. Other times, I could and that was fun. Nowadays, I read the paper to find out about the exciting stuff; well not yet so exiting. The Duluth News Tribune had a picture of the Cornelia at anchor off the Duluth piers on their front page this morning (November 7, 2015). The above is the picture I took this morning. There was big news but the News Tribune didn’t know what the news was. I was happy to find out from them that there was news. I still don’t know why she is out there either. I refer you to the article for the list of people who will not tell them (us) what is going on. The US Attorney says the ship is being held there (by the Coast Guard, I assume) as a part of a federal probe. Hmmm.
Many years ago, when I was better connected (before 9-11), I found out a ship was coming to Duluth under armed guard. I got a ride out to the ship at anchor and was lucky enough to come in with her later in the day. She had many other names before she was decommissioned in 2011.
Read below to find out about that adventure.
|On July 5 the Grant Carrier and her crew of 27 left Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, on their way to Duluth. At the time, no ship with Yugoslavian officers was allowed in U.S. waters unless accompanied by armed guards, supplied by the Coast Guard and paid for by the shipowner. That was because our (NATO) planes were bombing their cities at the time.
So the Grant Carrier came to Duluth on August 17, 1999 with a contingent of five armed (but friendly) Coast Guard sailors. The officers and crew were indeed from Yugoslavia, many from Kotor, a city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro.
|The ship arrived and dropped anchor and waited for a party of local port officials to come out. I went out with them and took a gamble and asked the captain if I could stay aboard until the ship came in later that afternoon. (The gamble being the possibility that plans would change and the ship would stay at anchor, perhaps for days. There is no regularly scheduled transportation between the Duluth shore and a ship at anchor.|
|Above, Ship Captain Tomislav Radovic is at his desk talking with his guards; below, he is reading the latest issue of the Duluth Shipping News.|
|Above, and 2 below, Grant Carrier crew members.|
|The guards and the guarded lined up in a row. Below, later that afternoon, the ship, the guards and me come into Duluth|
|We came in under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge late that afternoon, as promised. Both the Coast Guard and Captain Radovic and crew were out waving to the crowd, none of whom had any idea the guys in blue outfits were wearing pistols and guarding the ship.|
|As soon as we docked, the Coast Guard left the ship for more private quarters in a local hotel, glad to be back on American soil. The officers and crew were just as interested in getting off the ship to see the sights in Duluth. The next evening, I was walking down Lake Avenue in Canal Park with Captain Radovic and First Mate Pajovic when we passed Grandma’s Sport’s Garden. Both men started to wave at someone playing pool inside. As we walked on, I asked whom they could possibly know in Duluth. Answer: their friendly Coast Guard ‘protectors’ were taking a break playing a few games of pool. I of course set aside the thought that they might be following us, although the captain did tell me that he had also run into them the night before.
On the evening the ship left Duluth, I went aboard with an armful of Port Authority coffee cups and passed them out to the crew. Some crewmembers left our deck party immediately but returned within minutes with gifts for me. They started with cigarettes and lighters, even though I insisted I didn’t smoke. I quickly realized that it was the thought that counts in these matters.
Others came back with beautiful maps of the area around Kotor. Kotor is a medieval city, and the pictures clearly showed the remains of the wall built centuries ago to protect the city from invaders. As we sat on the deck in Duluth, five of them pointed to houses in the pictures where they live, or once lived. They were so insistent on making sure I knew that they were nice, peace-loving people, as were the people of Montenegro, that I almost could not get off the ship. I was surely convinced, as I walked down the gangway to drive back to the ship canal.
|Above and below, my scans of the 2 posters the crew gave me.|
|Old salts tell me the Grant Carrier was the first ship ever to come into Duluth under armed guard, and I had the scoop. I went up and down the piers passing out the Duluth Shipping News and telling people that the ship with the armed guards was coming soon. The crew was hyped, and I had suggested to the captain that he do some serious work with the ship’s whistle when they came under the bridge.
I was still not prepared for what happened. As the ship came around the buoy and approached the bridge, the entire crew was out on the deck, and not just standing there. They were all jumping up and down and waving. The captain hit the horn just before the ship went under the bridge, and he didn’t take his hand off until the ship was leaving the canal.
Those of us on the ground returned the jumping and the noise to the ship; it was quite a moment. I felt we had all made a small contribution to a better world given that our two countries were at war.
|And, I almost forgot, the Grant Carrier was docked the Cargill Elevator to load grain.|