First light, first boat

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The Roger Blough opened the shipping season in Duluth this morning (March 22, 2017) at 7:30. Above, at left, she starts down the Duluth harbor on her way to the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. Just to the right is the American Spirit, expected to break away from her winter layup berth on Saturday (March 25, 2017) to go over to CN Duluth to load iron ore pellets. The American Century is seen at the right. She is expected to depart on Thursday (March 23, 2017) for Silver Bay to load iron ore pellets.
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Above, the Blough goes under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge this morning; below, there were many folks out to get a picture of the ‘first ship.’ The only ice to be found was a couple spots on the pavement. The harbor, ship canal and the lake (at this end, at least) were ice free.
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Below, Jason Fyten  had his Boatwatcher flag out to celebrate the occasion. Duluth News Tribune Photo Editor Bob King stands next to Jason, waiting for the Blough.
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Season 2017 begins tomorrow

2017 Commercial Shipping Season gets underway Wednesday in Port of Duluth-Superior, from Duluth Seaway Port Authority

 

240802-1-096Duluth, Minn., USA (March 21, 2017)— The first U.S.-flag lakers are expected to depart the Port of Duluth-Superior tomorrow, Wednesday, March 22, signaling the start of the 2017 commercial shipping season at this, the farthest inland port on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system.

Exact times are difficult to pinpoint during start-up (i.e. ‘fit-out,’ in industry terms), but the first departure may very well take place while most folks are still asleep! The Roger Blough is expected to leave its berth at the Clure Public Marine Terminal at first light Wednesday and depart beneath Duluth’s famed Aerial 210827-113Bridge en route to the CN Docks in Two Harbors to load iron ore. After fueling late afternoon/early evening, another Great Lakes Fleet vessel, the Philip R. Clarke, will also head to Two Harbors to take on its first cargo of the season. Both vessels, with deliveries to make to steel mills on the Lower Lakes, will proceed across Lake Superior toward Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to await the opening of the Soo Locks at 12:01 a.m. on Sat., March 25. The Blough is expected to be the lead ship downbound as she was in 2016.
2007Sep16_2810PRODInterlake’s flagship, the 1013.5-ft Paul R. Tregurtha, wintered at the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal and is scheduled to load coal there Wednesday, then move to the Clure Terminal for final preparations before leaving for Silver Bay tomorrow night/early Thursday. After discharge, that vessel will return to Superior to load coal for its first inter-lake delivery to the St. Clair Power Plant in Michigan.

Two more Interlake Steamship Co. freighters that wintered in the Twin Ports – the Lee A. Tregurtha and the Herbert C. Jackson – are expected to depart late Wednesday, as well. The Lee A. is in position to leave Fraser Shipyards first, sometime midday. Both vessels will stop to fuel at the Calumet dock in Duluth before heading out to Two Harbors and Silver Bay, respectively, to load iron ore.

The Burns Harbor is due to move from its layup berth to the BNSF Railway Dock to load iron ore Wednesday before departing via the Superior Entry. American Century is set to leave Thursday to load in Silver Bay while fleet mate, the American Spirit, is expected to move to the CN Duluth Dock to load iron ore over the weekend before getting underway.

NOTE: All vessel departure/arrival times are estimates and are subject to change without notice.

With the Soo Locks opening Saturday and virtually ice-free conditions across the Lakes, Port of Duluth-Superior could see its first arrival from the Soo on Sunday, most likely the Stewart J. Cort, the James R. Barker or the Cason J. Callaway, but that’s still too close to call. For updates, www.duluthboats.com. Watch real-time transits at www.marinetraffic.com or http://ais.boatnerd.com or on mobile devices with Marine Traffic or Ship Finder apps.

Rapid deterioration of ice

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On March 13, the US Coast Guard sent out the following information (see below) regarding the Coast Guard cutter Alder (above) and her upcoming ice breaking activity. It contains the following description of the current situation: “temperatures conducive to rapid deterioration of ice.” I took these 3 pictures today (March 15, 2017). The Alder is sitting at the Coast Guard station on Park Point. Below is the Duluth harbor. In the last couple of weeks, it has seen high winds coming from both the east and west. There are 3 outlets for the water and ice to move. In or out of the Duluth ship canal, below; in or out of the Superior Entry, just below, in the upper left and the St. Louis River, the mouth of it seen at the top right. The ice has been moving in and out and around but certainly not increasing in over all size. Daylight like today, much longer than the days in December, insures the ice is in a loosing battle with Mother Nature. That is mostly because the ice missed its usual opportunity to dig in so it would be hard to kick out; the cold temperatures of January and February. They were not there, leaving the ice without is armor. We are still 16 days before April 1, the date the Indiana Harbor tried to depart using the Duluth ship canal on that day in 2003. She tried 9 times to break thru the ice but finally had to give up the fight and wait, presumably for Coast Guard support. But several days later, they quit trying; there was only one thing left to do; wait for Mother Nature to do her work. Which of course she did. But until she did, no traffic departed or arrived using the Duluth ship canal for 20 days, when the Walter J. McCarthy finally made it out on April 21st. Read all about it here.
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View of Duluth harbor, half filled with ice

At the moment, the Paul R. Tregurtha will be the first scheduled traffic to move this season when she departs her winter berth at Midwest Energy Resources on March 22. Check our schedule at DuluthBoats.com

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Looking through the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge to Lake Superior

March 13, 2017: United States Coast Guard: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER will commence spring break out operations in the Duluth-Superior area Thursday March 16, 2017. 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 the following days to prepare Two Harbors, MN, Taconite Harbor, MN, Silver Bay, MN, and Thunder Bay, Ontario for commercial ship movements.
Unlike some previous 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.

 
 

Lake Superior ice blown around by wind

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Two days ago, an East wind drove a lot of Lake Superior ice to our end of the Lake (above). Yesterday and today, we have had very high winds out of the west. Above, on March 6 we see the result of the East Wind, with a lot of ice in front of Duluth. After two days of West wind, a lot of that ice went back to the Lake. The Duluth harbor, connected to Lake Superior by the Duluth ship canal, followed the pattern, as you would expect. Two days ago, the harbor was full of ice, now it is full of blue water.
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Images from the NOAA – Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, with a nice animation of the events.

More ice from the East Wind

ice from Lake Superior was blown into the Duluth harbor
Ice from Lake Superior was blown in last night into the Duluth harbor through that convenient opening we have called the Duluth Ship Canal. It looks like most of the harbor, ship canal and out into the lake a ways is filled with this loose ice. Even though the next 7 days are going to be significantly colder than today (44 degrees on March 6 2017), there is too much daylight for the ice to have a chance to survive and cause problems for ship traffic, which may begin on March 22 when the Paul R. Tregurtha departs her winter berth to take a cargo of coal to Silver Bay. At the moment, that is the only coal shipment scheduled  this year within Lake Superior. Her next trip would be her usual route to St. Clair, Michigan at Detroit Edison.
Loose ice fills Duluth ship canal


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The East wind works her magic on Lake Superior

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The day (March 5, 2017) started cloudy and cold with a predicted high of 52; late afternoon the sun appeared but the temperature never got above 42. An east wind made my walk a little brisk but that was nothing compared to what it did to the ice on Lake Superior. After weeks of blue water, Lake Superior ice, not our ice for sure, arrived to slow our hopes for an early spring. I copied the images below from the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory web page; specifically the images from the set on the right side called Ice Thickness.
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If you click on the picture I took at the top, you can see ice in the ship canal under the Lift Bridge brought in by the east wind but the ice seems to hug the shore as it creeps along to the larger sheet of ice in the back of the Duluth harbor, as seen in the second picture.It would not surprise me to see the front of the harbor filled with ice by the morning. (Caution: if the ice does not fill the front of the harbor in the morning, I will probably delete the above prediction)

We will have lower than normal temperatures for the next week but by this time in March, the ice doesn’t have much of a chance with the days getting longer. Ice is nice during the dark days of December but it has a losing fight against the longer daylight hours.I doubt this ice will have much effect on the start of the shipping season in a couple weeks but what do I know.

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Pathfinder in Cleveland

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According to AIS, the Pathfinder (see post below) made it to the Cleveland Bulk Terminal last night (February 28, 2017) (top, left). If things go the way I at least think they will, after loading iron ore pellets there, she will move over to the Cuyahoga River and slowly move up to the ArcelorMittal steel mill, lower right. That curly thing between the two is the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, her route to the steel plant, about a 6 mile trip. That shows why the 1,000 footers drop their pellets at the Terminal and let the smaller vessels navigate the river. Click the above for a larger look. Go here for some spectacular pictures of the area.