Alder breaks ice & sweeps & shovels it too

fromAlderDec192016
All hands on deck aboard the Alder on December 14, 2016, breaking ice on their deck as they moved across Lake Superior. All of this while US Coast Guard Sector Soo began Operation Taconite, their annual push to clear shipping channels of ice so lakers can get another 2 or 3 weeks before the season ends. For now, the Alder was assigned the western end of Lake Superior for their ice breaking operations. That seems logical but in others years, they were breaking ice in Lake Michigan and cutters like the Biscayne Bay came here to break up our ice. All pictures here courtesy of the Alder.
fromAlderDec192016-3
Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016.
fromAlderDec192016-2
Alder breaks a path through the ice in the Keweenaw Waterway near Houghton, Michigan on Dec. 16, 2016.

Alder Opens 2016 season

Join the Alder and 25 members of LSMMA as they open the 2016 shipping season in Duluth Minnesota

First sign of Spring on Monday

The first sign of spring in Duluth is usually our Coast Guard cutter Alder’s first venture into the Duluth harbor in early March. I go over there to get ‘dramatic’ pictures as she gets the new season started breaking away from the ice that surrounded her since arriving at her dock in late January 2004-12-14-14h27m17after assisting all the vessel traffic to their winter berths. She has always made it out; some years with a little more work than others. This year, she marks the first sign of Spring on Monday, March 7, 2016. Actually, on February 22, she took a quick trip stern first to the middle of the harbor, turned around and backed her way back to her moorings at her dock on Park Point. 240207-2--077February is too early to see a sign of spring. That short trip was taken to position her bow for her eventual appearance as the first sign of spring a week or more away. Her pointed bow, as most bows, is curved to a point (ok, a rounded point) to ease the vessel through the water, and especially ice. Her stern was built to be and look like a stern, never the best face to put forward when breaking into ice.Above, left the Alder bow on December 14, 2004 while at her dock; right her stern just before she was launched in February, 2004.

Click here to see 58 other posts we have made about the Alder

The temperature today (Saturday, March 5, 2016) and tomorrow will be above freezing. That will make that trip on Monday, the 7th not as challenging as other years. The high temperature on Monday will be in the 40’s; she might be able to leave sideways with no trouble.

She will however have important cargo on board: 25 members of LSMMA (Lake Superior Marine Museum Association) will be guests of Commander Tschirgi as he heads out for his first first-sign-of-spring trip since he came on board last July 10th. As if to warn the new Commander about his coming task, Coast Guard dignitaries told the new Commander, his crew and invited guests at the ceremony last July that the last two winters were the toughest in Great Lakes history.

This is Commander Tschirgi’s first tour on the Great Lakes but lest you think he is a rookie, he also served tours in Antarctica and the Arctic. And, it has not been a bad winter, to say the least.

Below is a Coast Guard release from last Friday:

COAST GUARD ICE BREAKING ACTIVITIES

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER will commence spring break out operations in the Duluth-Superior area Monday March 07, 2016. These operations will continue periodically over the next few days and weeks to prepare regional waterways for the start of the Great Lakes commercial navigation season.

Initially, ice breaking operations will occur inside the Duluth and Superior Harbors. The ice breaking work will expand in coming weeks to prepare Two Harbors, MN, Taconite Harbor, MN, Silver Bay, MN, and Thunder Bay, Ontario for commercial ship movements.

Unlike the past two winters, this year was unseasonably warm. Regional ice cover is not as expansive nor did it reach traditional thicknesses. The forecast for the next seven to ten days calls for temperatures conducive to rapid deterioration of ice. All snowmobile, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) operators, ice fishermen, and other recreational users of the ice should recognize the instability of the ice, plan their activities carefully, and use caution near the ice, especially in proximity to charted navigation areas.

Alone for now, but not for long

2016-0222-5819
Our Coast Guard cutter Alder made a quick trip into the harbor this morning (February 22, 2016) to reposition the ship, bow pointing out, for her first ice breaking session this season, sometime in early March. In the pictures here, she is slowly backing into her mooring.
2016-0222-5817

Alder getting port ready to close down

 2016-0113-5615
The Alder was out this morning (Wednesday, January 13, 2016), preparing a path for the last vessel traffic of the season. (see picture of harbor and the tracks the Alder laid  down at the bottom of this page)
Information from the Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Duluth-Superior shipping season winds to a close;
7 lakers to be in Port for winter layup
Duluth, Minn., U.S.A. (1/12/16) – The Port of Duluth-Superior is welcoming seven ships for winter layup this year. In fact, the Indiana Harbor laid up early (on Nov. 3) and a major repowering project is already underway at Fraser Shipyards on the Herbert C. Jackson, in dry dock since early December.
The Soo Locks (at Sault Ste. Marie) are set to close at midnight on Friday, Jan. 15. By then, four more wintering vessels are expected to have arrived in the Twin Ports beginning Thursday morning with the anticipated arrival of the Edwin H. Gott, followed Friday or later by the American Century, the Kaye E. Barker and the Philip R. Clarke. We say “expected” to arrive as transit times vary with wind and weather.
Boatwatchers will have to wait just a little longer for the arrival of the very last laker – the Paul R. Tregurtha – as the thousand-footer is making one or two late season, intra-lake deliveries of iron ore. Her arrival beneath the Aerial Bridge next week will officially mark the end of the 2015 Great Lakes shipping season here in the Twin Ports.  [Note: Last ‘saltie’ of the season, Federal Bering, departed Duluth on Dec. 18; the St. Lawrence Seaway closed on Dec. 31.]
In all, seven (7) Great Lakes freighters will be wintering in the Twin Ports this year:
Vessel Location ARRIVAL
Indiana Harbor Enbridge Dock 11/03/15
Herbert C. Jackson Fraser Shipyards 12/11/15
Kaye E. Barker Fraser Shipyards
Edwin H. Gott Port Terminal Berth 1
Philip R. Clarke Port Terminal Berth 4
American Century Port Terminal Berth 6/7
Paul R. Tregurtha Midwest Energy Resources Co.

While ships’ crews will take the next few, well-deserved weeks off, there is no real ‘down time’ on the waterfront. Hundreds of workers – engineers, welders, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians and others –will spend the next eight weeks doing heavy-duty maintenance and repair work so these vessels are ready to sail when the Soo Locks reopen on March 25 and the 2016 Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season gets underway.
The Jackson’s conversion is part of $110 million that U.S. vessel operators will spend on maintaining/modernizing ships during this offseason, according to Lake Carriers’ Association. Repairs and maintenance work will constitute $60 million of that total while the rest will be taken up by special project work, such as repowering or installing exhaust scrubbers.

2016-0113-5620

Mobile Bay follows Mackinaw into Duluth

2016-0109-5610
The US Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay arrived Duluth this afternoon (January 9, 2016) around 12:30 and is now docked at the DECC (above). I just added pictures of the Mobile Bay while she was providing assistance at the launch of our Coast Guard cutter Alder back on February 7, 2004.

Mackinaw leaves her mark in Duluth

2016-0109-5608
After a couple days relaxing in the warm Duluth weather, Saturday  morning, January 9, 2016, woke up cold and getting colder so the Mackinaw went back to work, moving slowly down the Duluth harbor, past the ice fishing shacks and then turning up the Superior channel.
2016-0109-5603

Mackinaw joins our Arctic gull to celebrate winter

 2016-0107-5551
The very rare-to-see in Duluth ivory gull has been here awhile instead of at her usual home on the ice in the Arctic Ocean. It is snowing and the temperature is about to take a nose dive. All that is left would be for the US Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw to make her arrival and that she did, this morning (Thursday, January 7, 2016) at 8:30. She is now docked behind the DECC.
2016-0107-5583
Shortly after arriving in Duluth, Commander Vasilios Tasikas gathered his crew to make sure they all knew what a nice place Duluth is. The ship and crew are here, in part, to familiarize new crew members with ports on Lake Superior. They will be here until Saturday morning, with at least one ski trip to Spirit Mountain planned. Note that Commander Tasikas is using a Duluth Shipping News calendar to make a point.
2016-0107-5585
2016-0107-5567
2016-0107-5577

Nothing new now, but I have a scoop from long ago

2015-1107-4835
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.

Radnik: 1984-1996
Grant Carrier: 1996-2001
Chios Sailor: 2001-2007
Elpida: 2007-2009
Chios Voyager: 2009-2011
Kai Shun: 2011 until decommissioned

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.
081799-116
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.
082099-101
081799-131
Above, and 2 below, Grant Carrier crew members.
081799-115
081799-132
081799-137
The guards and the guarded lined up in a row. Below, later that afternoon, the ship, the guards and me come into Duluth
081799-112
 
081799-145
081799-136
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.
081799-146
081799-151
081799-153
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.

kotor2-scancombine
Above and below, my scans of the 2 posters the crew gave me.
kotar-montenegro-baybokakotorsjka-merged1200
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.

082099-109
And, I almost forgot, the Grant Carrier was docked the Cargill Elevator to load grain.

Whitefish Bay ice stops shipping on Lake Superior

reutersapril082015iceslideshow
Check out this slideshow from Reuters

We’re off

alder03092014
The US Coast Guard cutter Alder departed her dock right on time, 9 am, March 9, 2015. As always, she was the first vessel movement in the port since January.