Nels J. (old)

Nels J. (current)

Nels J. was built in 1958, is 103 feet long and flies a U.S. flag

Previous names:
Ares: 1958-2009
Nels J: 2009-

Click here for other pages featuring the Nels J

This tug was sold by Heritage Marine in 2017. She is now the Madison R. Heritage Marine replaced her that same year by a new Nels J., previously Taurus. (Click Previous Ship above)
Picture above taken January 14, 2014; below, taken Tuesday, December 14, 2010.
20101214_7681In 2009, the Nels J. was purchased by Mike Ojard, the owner, along with his two sons, Pat and Vince, of Heritage Marine of Knife River. They brought her to Duluth in October, of that year. Built as the Ares in 1958, she is a 103-foot, 1,950-horsepower boat with a 16-cylinder diesel engine that once supplied oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. (Previously, Ojard had purchased the tug Forney, bringing her to Duluth in October, 2007 and renaming her the Edward H.) Ojard had the tug’s hull reinforced in New Orleans to increase her ice breaking capability up here and a bow thruster was also added to the vessel. She was then convoyed up the Mississippi River and into the Illinois River and up to Lemont, Illinois as a part of a tug barge combination. Ojard and a crew of eight took her from there, bringing her up Lake Michigan and across Lake Superior to Duluth. She joins the Edward H. in doing ice breaking in the harbor beginning in about December of each year and working until the last boat has arrived for winter layup. She is back at it in March when the new season opens and ice has to be broken up. Both tugs are used in ship assist work during the other part of the year.
Picture above and below taken April 13, 2013
Above taken on December 9, 2013; below October 14, 2011.
Above, the Nels J. moves behind the salt water vessel Medemborg to get into position to assist her when she nears her dock. Picture above taken Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Above and below, on October 27, 2009, the tug Ares, soon to be renamed Nels J., arrives in the under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.


  1. Hans Klaassen says:

    Hi There,

    I found these pictures on the internet and find this tuf a beauty.
    I am building tugs in model and have a question.

    Are there any pictures or drawings of the boat itself and is it possible to send these issues to my mail-adres?

    Best regards and yours Hans Klaassen in The Netherlands.

  2. Patricia Skinner says:

    Hello, I have a question. My GG Grandfather was Nels Johnson from Norway came to live in Biloxi MS. He and his son William Nels Johnson were Boat Builders. I see you have names the Boat Nels J. Would that be after my family by any chance. Thank you for your time.

    Patricia Skinner, from Sumter,SC

    • Funny, for whatever reason I thought to look up who was Nels J today and came across your post. I noticed that little fishing boat food stand on the boardwalk is also called the Nels J.

  3. Tristin (loves ships) says:

    I have fell in love with “Great Lakes Warriors”

  4. If you could please forward this to Captain Ojard;
    Dear Captain Ojard,
    I see your boats in the harbor as my wife and I spend leisurely days touring the harbor and Lake Superior in our pleasure craft. I have enjoyed your part in “Great Lake Warriors” and understand the battle you are up against to keep your business viable. I am cheering for you but more than that I am praying for you. I am a pastor by calling, a second career if you will, and am 65 years old. Though I assist at a small church out in the county, much of what I do is in Duluth/Superior and my heart is always close to your work venue. Please understand that on your best days and your toughest days, I am doing the only thing I can do for you and you business…I am praying for your safety and success. See you around the harbor and God Bless!
    Pastor Wes

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