Alder breaks ice & sweeps & shovels it too

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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.
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Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016.
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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

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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.
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Alder getting port ready to close down

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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.

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Mobile Bay follows Mackinaw into Duluth

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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

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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.
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