Nice night for a boat ride

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Above, the now privately owned and operated Sundew eases past the current US Coast Guard cutter Alder at her dock on Park Point on Monday evening, August 14, 2017.

Below, the tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort was pushing the barge Erie Trader through the Duluth harbor. Formerly the Lakes Contender, they are here to load iron ore pellets at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) dock in Superior.

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Below, the Cason J. Callaway arrived last night with limestone to discharge at the C. Reiss Terminal in West Duluth. After that, she stopped for fuel at the Calumet Fuel dock before departing for Two Harbors to load iron ore pellets.
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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.

 
 

Alder in and out

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2017-0126-1076I took the picture above and to the right this morning, January 26, 2017. I was curious why the Alder was going out since the season was over since the Lee A. Tregurtha came under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge on January 16. I do not remember the Alder ever moving after the end of the season, much less 10 days after. Shortly after I took the picture, she turned around and returned to her dock at Coast Guard Station Duluth. We are having a very mild winter. That is open water on the bottom of the picture, even if it looks gray. I think she made that short trip to reposition herself at the dock for her first trip out in the ice in early March. She will break up the ice in preparation for the new season. By then, it might be a very cold winter. Since she breaks ice, she is the first ship to move in the new season, often around March 8. That means she needs to break her own ice that has formed since January around the vessel before she can help other vessels.
2008Jan21_4130PRODJanuary, 2008 was a very cold winter. I took the picture of the Mesabi Miner (right) arriving Duluth on January 21, 2008. She was the last traffic for that season. I went back to the South Pier Inn to warm up when the night nurse there told me there was a ship outside the window that was not moving. I politely suggested that he was wrong since I  just took a picture of her going under the Lift Bridge. I looked anyway. Sure enough, she was sitting in the ice, not moving (below). This was big news; Duluth was about to wake up and see a 1,000 footer stopped in the ice just behind the DECC.
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The Alder was planning to leave her dock about this time so she would be out to open up the channel for the Miner and wait to make sure she had no problems. This was a problem! I had been invited to go out with the Alder but had decided to stay warm in my office. I immediately drove down to Coast Guard Duluth and boarded the Alder just as they were ready to leave the dock. They were monitoring the Miner’s problem. Captain Marty Lightner was ready to get his tug Kentucky away from her dock to help the Miner get to her winter layup dock at Midwest Energy. He reported trouble getting away because of ice. The Alder fired up her engines and found she could not break out of the ice that had formed around her hull. Three boats were stuck in the ice. Two of them were ice breakers that were supposed to help the other boats. After a few minutes trying to get away, the Alder decided to fire up her buoy crane so she could move it back and forth from one side of the boat to the other.
2008Jan21_4145In the top right portion of the picture below, you can see the crane was moved over the ice on one side of the ship. It was then moved to the other side as they tried to rock the boat out of the ice. It worked. As we moved out, Lightner reported he was also under way and was close by the Miner, helping her to break away. That worked too. Three vessels got stuck and unstuck before they created a scene to show the populace of Duluth as they were getting up for work.
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We have it pretty good this year (so far).

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.

2 Coast Guard cutters, the Cason J. Callaway and Pier B

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(The retired Coast Guard cutter Sundew sits at her current dock just to the right of the former cement silos; the Coast Guard cutter Alder is back at her dock after a quick trip out to Lake Superior this morning, top center.)

Alder Opens 2016 season

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

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.

3 Chiefs

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Dave Campbell, Chief operator on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, LCDR Anthony J. Maffia, Commanding officer Coast Guard cutter Alder and Vanta E. Coda II, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority are just outside the bridge on the Alder enjoying the almost warm weather this morning (March 12, 2015).
Listen as we salute the bridge while going out to the lake. You will first hear a warning they gave us just before blowing the whistle; I think it says, “Ears on deck,”  meaning hold your ears.
The Alder was the first vessel to go under the Lift Bridge this season.  That gave a chance for Campbell to go under the bridge.  He has gone up with the bridge thousands of times; this was only his 3rd time to go under the bridge.
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Below, we are just about to leave the ice and go for a short trip on the open water of Lake Superior, about 5 miles out.
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The temperature was pretty warm for March 12, but inside the pilot  house, where the smart people stay, it was nice and warm.
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We returned using the track we had opened up on the way out; notice the wind was already moving it around; we left a straight track behind us.
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Some of the bridge operators had to say hello to the boss as he passed under them.
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Great Lakes Towing Company tugs North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana and Minnesota are already in open water. Behind them, the American Integrity spent the winter at the Port Authority dock at Holcim Cement.
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The Mesabi Miner has been at Midwest Energy Resources for the winter. With no cargo, she is high in the water (ice) but will soon be loading coal and will likely be the first commercial boat to depart the port within the next week.
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We’re off

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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.

Alder and Tregurtha come into Duluth

Late in the afternoon of October 2, 2014, the Coast Guard cutter Alder came in under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. Half an hour later, the Paul R. Tregurtha arrived on her way to Midwest Energy Resources to load coal.

A season like no other

Click on any picture to see a larger version

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katmaibay20140409-080This is what I think, but don’t bet on it. The Presque Isle left here on March 22th with a partial load of pellets and I think loaded pellets at Two Harbors and then tried to get to the other end of Lake Superior but had ice trouble and came back here for repairs, arriving on March 29th still with her pellets. Some of those pellets were off loaded into the American Spirit, which had not yet left Duluth. She offloaded pellets to make repairs easier. The American Spirit left here on April 7th with pellets loaded from the Presque Isle. She went to Two Harbors to load pellets and then came back this morning (above) with both loads of pellets. To wait, I presume.
Back on March 24th the Mackinaw, Katmai Bay and Morro Bay arrived Duluth and left here on March 26th. Two days later, on March 28th, the Alder arrived Duluth with an ice-wounded Morro Bay lashed to her side with the Katmai Bay leading them under the Lift Bridge.
convoy Several days later, the Katmai Bay departed to return to ice breaking duties while the Morro Bay stayed here for repairs to her rudder. That happened early this week and she left but did not go very far away. The Katmai Bay returned to Duluth this morning, April 9th  (above), and the Morro Bay was back at the DECC with the Katmai Bay by late this afternoon.
Meanwhile at the other end of the Lake, late this afternoon, the Canadian ice breaker Pierre Radisson left the Soo leading a convoy of boats trying to get to Duluth (Click on the the map above). The Mackinaw was going to be with the convoy but as I write this, she was still at the Soo.
t1140981646LakeSuperior143250m-ps So here is my guess. When the convoy arrives here, perhaps on Thursday or Friday, we will have 5 ice breakers here, counting the Alder. All of a sudden, we will/may have a bunch of boats here to load cargo and then go back out to the lake, I would guess with the help of some of our flotilla of ice breakers. And presumably the American Spirit came back and is waiting to be a part of that convey. Or Not!
You can find the satellite images here: http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/index.html Just click on MODIS Imagery; Great Lakes MODIS True Color; and then select the lake you want, such as Superior

Ice is not nice to ships

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The US Coast Guard cutter Morro Bay left here a week ago and today (March 28, 2014), she was towed back to port by the Alder after sustaining damage to her rudder while breaking ice. Outside the Duluth piers, they lashed the Morro Bay to the side of the Alder for the trip through the ship canal. The Katmai Bay, also here a week ago, led them in to port. The Presque Isle is also coming back to Duluth to repair damage to her hull caused by the ice.
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LSMMA takes a ride on the Alder

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The LSMMA went ice breaking with the Alder today (March 20, 2014). After clearing ice in Howards Pocket, they came up the harbor and went under the Lift Bridge and out into Lake Superior. As  you can see, they took advantage of the occasion to get some nice shots from on high.
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NBC News comes to Duluth to see ice

samira03122014222The long, cold, snowy, icy winter has attracted a lot of attention this ‘spring.’ We humans may have seen the worst of it but March brings out the next victims, the big ships that start every season in the Great Lakes battling ice. For better or worse, at this time every year, Duluth gets her fair share of attention, sitting as we do, at the western end of the lakes and just south of our border with Canada. It attracted the attention of NBC News, that is, NBC News with Brian Williams. nbcnewsNot long after, Samira Puska, NBC News producer working out of Chicago (above, right), found herself heading up a team to come to Duluth to ‘get the story.’ After days and days of below zero temperatures, she and her team arrived in Duluth on a bright sunny day with the temperature in the 50’s. Photographically speaking, this is not Duluth at her best; big piles of dirty snow, water water everywhere as the high temps started kicking down winter’s leftovers and sending the whole mess into the sewers.Samira and her team talked to some ice fishermen and they then found their way into my office. Of course, the ice fishermen filled them in with most of the story since they sit on a chair on the ice, and drop a line into the water. Water and ice and something to eat; what else did they need.
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The Alder took them out to see the ice on Wednesday morning, March 12, 2014. After a turn or two in front of the Lift Bridge (above), they went down the Superior channel and out into Lake Superior.
I told them anything else they needed to know about ice on Lake Superior, then suggested they go home write the story and send it to my old friend Brian in New York. Brian could introduce the story, move next to the fisherman for a minute or so and then maybe 5 or 10 minutes with me to finish it off. nbcnews03122014212
They had other plans. Turns out they were talking to a lot of other people around town. I talked to them on Tuesday afternoon, March 11, when the temperature was over 50 degrees. Happily for them, it dropped into the single digits when they boarded the Alder for their trip out into the lake the next morning. As you can see here, I went over to welcome Samira and her 3 team members just behind her, when they walked off the Alder.

Alder turns ice into water!

This  video was taken March 10, 2014, and is a little less polished than others but I wanted to get it posted quickly.

Ice? How about blue water!

I took the pictures in the post below this post with my phone on the Alder and then emailed them to Holly in Arizona. She posted them here. Just below are pictures I took aboard the Alder today (Monday, March 10. 2014. (Click a pic for a larger version)
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The Alder performed well making the first trip of the season under the Lift Bridge and into Lake Superior. Only once in the 7.5 mile trip into the lake was she stopped in the ice. Above, the V-shaped mark in the ice is where the bow of the ship was stopped. We are now backing and getting to ram the ice again. Called backing and ramming, after a couple of those, we were back on track.
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Above, we return from the land of sky blue waters to the cold cruel northland. The Alder returns from Lake Superior after finding blue water 7.5 miles out, as far as the eye could see.
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Going home

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Dan Rau took this picture on Wednesday (March 5, 2014), as the Alder was returning from a long day breaking ice. While following the path she opened on the way out,  you can notice the ship has moved to the right so she can widen the original  path for the next trip. (click pic to enlarge)

Spring is sprung

Note: The Alder did make it back to the dock early evening. They saw ice between 2 to 5 feet thick, with it getting thicker as they moved down the Superior channel. They should be back at it tomorrow (Wednesday).
Alder gets to work on breaking ice today, March 4, 2014.  She got away from the dock with little trouble, which was very surprising to me and others watching. She slowed down when she got to the middle of the harbor and turned up the harbor toward the Port Terminal. It has, I am told, been very very slow as she is backing and ramming her way down the Superior channel. Video at bottom shows Alder leaving the dock.
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Ice and cold with new and old

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Our current US Coast Guard cutter Alder (above) was out this morning opening up the shipping channels for boats returning to Duluth for the winter.  The Sundew,  our ‘old’, and now retired,  Coast Guard cutter (foreground), was sitting at her dock waiting for summer. And a good thing for those sailors on the Alder. The pilothouse is warm and comforting on the Alder,  while the Sundew had an open pilothouse, not the best place to spend a winter day in the Northland.

Back home again

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On March 11, 2013, the Alder broke away from the ice around her dock and began her task of clearing the shipping channels in the Duluth Superior harbor, as well as breaking ice and working buoys in other parts of the Great Lakes. Today, April 7, 2013, almost a month later, she came back home. She won’t have to break any ice in the port since the ice is pretty well beaten up first by the Alder, Biscayne Bay and Mackinaw and then by a steady stream of Great Lakes freighters that have been kicking the ice around since the Mesabi Miner departed here on March 20th.

Go along with the Alder

On March 13th, 2013, the US Coast Guard cutter Alder made her second ice breaking trip of the new season. She retraced some of the tracks she broke out on Monday and went under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge to open a track to the end of the ice pack, about 5 1/2 miles out.

Alder goes out in the lake

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The Coast Guard cutter Alder covered all the bases today (March 13, 2013), first going under the Lift Bridge and to the edge of the ice sheet, about 5 1/2 miles out. The ship made quick work of the ice, easily breaking open a track and then coming back in to break up more ice in the Superior channel to the BN dock and then up the St. Louis River just beyond the winter moorings of the Mesabi Miner at Midwest Energy. We then went into Howard’s Pocket, approaching the Roger Blough. Video probably tomorrow.
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To the edge and now back in, following the track laid on the way out.
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The American Spirit (above) is spending the winter at Elevator M in Superior. (Seen as we went out the Superior channel)
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Above, the Indiana Harbor was just a bit further down the channel. Below, we turned around after getting to the BNSF dock.
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We then moved up the St. Louis River, passing by the Mesabi Miner, wintering at Midwest Energy Resources.
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We then turned into Howard’s Pocket, the back door to Fraser Shipyards in Superior. Above, we will approach the Roger Blough, just to the left of center above. She is seen again as we get closer below.
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We left an Alder bow print in the ice, as we backed out. Distances are deceiving in these pictures, we were closer than the picture above seems to indicate. Below, we are backing away, about to go under the Blatnik Bridge.
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Alder opens 2013 season

Spring has sprung

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… and the Alder didn’t seem to have any trouble breaking the ice around her this morning (March 11, 2013) when she pulled away from her moorings, the first vessel to move in the port this new season.
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Winter in Duluth: Is it fun?

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Click to see new video looking back at the winter (spring?) of 2007

More ice breaking videos:
March 9, 2011; watch the Alder break ice in Duluth
January 9, 2008: Alder out breaking ice as last boats come in for layup
January 6, 2008: The ice breaker Biscayne Bay in DuluthNote: the Biscayne Bay will NOT be here to help the Alder break ice on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Alder will be breaking ice in the harbor and perhaps out in the Lake on Monday.

Getting ready for the Munson

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The Alder returned to the Twin Ports early Friday morning (January 25, 2013) and went right to work clearing the path for the John G. Munson to take when she comes in, later today, to move to Fraser Shipyards for winter layup. Below, at 12:15 in the afternoon, the Munson finally came in (below) and officially closed the shipping season, we assume.
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Mesabi Miner had ice in 2008

Go here for latest information: www.duluthboats.com

Edwin H. Gott, last to come in for the winter

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Nice for the boats; winter arrived here within minutes of the Heritage Marine tug Nels J making sure the last boat to come in, the Edwin H. Gott, was secure against the dock at the Port Terminal on Wednesday morning, January 18, 2012. The temperature plunged, down to -31 at my home, and a big snow storm, the largest we have had yet, at least ¾ of an inch, maybe even 1/8 more. The Alder was close by but was not needed, so she went back to her dock, probably not moving from there until March 7th or so.

One Tregurtha out, another in

leeatregurtha20111226_0125 The Paul R. Tregurtha departed Duluth on Monday morning, December 26, 2011 after loading 64,000 tons of coal for her usual destination, the Detroit Edison power plant at St. Clair Michigan. A little over an hour later, the Lee A. Tregurtha (right) came in to get fuel and then load iron ore pellets at the CN dock in West Duluth.  An hour before, the Alder was out in the harbor but there was not much ice to break.

(Click each image for larger version)

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Happy Birthday to Statue of Liberty

I have a live web cam pointed at the Lift Bridge so we can watch the ships that come and go under it, but there is probably only a ship in the picture 10 to 20 minutes a day. While you can see traffic going over the bridge statlibertytorchcamoct282011most all the time, we can already see traffic and don’t need a web cam to watch. The folks in New York City have done me one better, or worse. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, just 125 years ago today.
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In honor of her birthday, they have placed a live web cam up on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, looking down. At least our bridge, opened 20 years later, goes up and down; I have not heard of the Statue of Liberty moving at all in her alderstatenislandferry240207-2--035125 years of life. I captured this picture from the torch cam on Friday evening on her birthday. Besides the torch cam, they also have a crown cam and a live streaming view of New York harbor from the torch.
satenislandferryatmerinete240207-2--012But Ken, why are you writing this in the Duluth Shipping News? Glad you asked! The best way to see the Statue of Liberty live, if a statue is live at all, is by going on a trip on the Staten Island Ferry, perhaps on the one called the Guy V. Molinari.
I first guymolinarisaw her while she was being built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. She sat right next to our Coast Guard cutter Alder when she was launched at the same ship yard on Feb 7, 2004. In the picture here, (above left) the Alder is still on the rails, about 24 hours away from her launch. The cutter Mobile Bay is out breaking some ice and the cutter Sequoia Bay is next to her and next to her is the Staten Island ferry, specifically the Guy V. Molinari. Connection made.

Nice and warm; cold and ice coming

Coast Guard cutter Alder arrives Duluth on October 22, 2011
The Alder looked like they had a  lot of folks on board enjoying the sun when they came into port on Saturday, October 22, 2011. They may have some sunny days from now until the end of the shipping season in mid-January, 2012 but the days won’t be so warm and the blue water will be replaced by lots of white. Listen to her celebrate her arrival nonetheless.

Watch the CG cutter Alder break the ice in Duluth

Alder breaks the ice on a new season

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The US Coast Guard cutter Alder broke away from her dock and seemed to have an easy time moving around the harbor. Here she is passing by the American Century at her winter layup dock at the Port Terminal.
Note from the ship: We made it safely through the harbor finding different thicknesses anywhere from 6 inches plate ice to re-frozen brash up to about 30 inches in some spots. Alder made it all the way through the Superior Front Channel and out to Lake Superior today.

A sure sign of winter:

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When the Coast Guard starts Operation Taconite, their effort through out the Great Lakes to keep the shipping channels free of ice. The project started today (Monday, December 6, 2010). In an announcement made today, they said:
Initially, only one Coast Guard icebreaker will be assigned to Operation Taconite.  Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, homeported in Sault Sainte Marie, has been ordered to make its way west towards Duluth, Minn., to provide ice breaking services while Coast Guard Cutter Alder is underway working aids to navigation.  Additional Coast Guard ice breakers will join the operation in the coming days and weeks.
The Katmai Bay is a 140 foot Bay-class Icebreaking Tug. In the picture above, the Katmai Bay is seen entering the Duluth Ship Canal on October 21st, 2005.

Click here for more information about the Alder

Alder departs Duluth

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The Duluth Coast Guard cutter Alder left today (above, November 29, 2010) to finish up their year’s work on Aids to Navigation before coming back in December to battle the Duluth Superior ice.
Aids to Navigation are man-made objects used by mariners to determine their position on the water or to maintain a safe course. They include buoys, day beacons, lights (lighthouses), radio beacons, fog signals, marks and other devices used to provide "street" signs on the water. Aids To Navigation include all the visible, audible and electronic symbols that are established by government and private authorities for piloting purposes. You can go here for more information.
Commander Mary Ellen J. Durley and her crew will work the Eastern side of Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, and Northern Lake Michigan.

Alder welcomed home to Duluth from the Arctic

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Saturday morning, September 11, 2010

Alder almost home from the cold for more cold

Alder commander Mary Ellen Durley reports that the Alder should be coming under the Lift Bridge on Saturday morning, around 9:00, possibly later depending on weather. She sent along a picture of the Alder as they were passing by a Greenland glacier. The coming Duluth winter shouldn’t be much of a challenge now; no glaciers anymore! Just ice and some fog once in a while.

Our U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder is getting serious about ice and cold

LCDR Mary Ellen J. Durley sent a note down to Capt Tom Mackay, most of which is repeated here. I have included a picture she sent me also; not sure who took it:
ALDER has become a Blue-Nose and joined the Polar Bear club by sailing above the Arctic Circle. We are currently on our journey home, but I won’t be able to give an exact time or date. The crew is very excited to get home to see their loved ones after participating in a Joint International Mission with the Canadian and Danish Forces, called Operation NANOOK 2010. We increased the interoperability of conducting missions by all three countries in the high Arctic and the mission was a success and first of its kind. We saw ice bergs, whales, a glimpse of a polar bear, beautiful fiords, and lots of fog, rain, and heavy seas. Don’t worry, we’ll be back in Lake Superior to take care of the fall aids to navigation season and winter ice-breaking.
LCDR Mary Ellen J. Durley, Commanding Officer, Alder

The Alder makes her first appearance of the season

The US Coast Guard cutter Alder, just before she departed her dock on March 8, 2010 to take a first look at ice conditions. They report ice up to 20 inches thick, better than last year, and the warm weather suggests it could end up being very much better than last year. They will go out again on Wednesday, as originally planned and may not be out again until just before the first boat moves in the harbor, probably the James R. Barker leaving with coal for a Lake Superior Port, maybe on the 19th.

Icebreaker returns to Duluth in July

alder20090802_0103 It wasn’t quite so bad that July was a record cold month in Duluth, and it wasn’t so bad that the temperature today on August 2nd is 55 degrees F. But the ICEBREAKING Coast Guard cutter Alder came home from her annual summer ‘vacation’ on Lake Erie this morning a little early. Do they know something we don’t about how cold it really will be? Soon??

Change of command

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On July 8th, 2009, Commander Kevin Wirth handed over command of the Alder to Commander Mary Ellen Durley.

Lots of ice, lots of boats

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Thursday April 2: The Walter J. McCarthy Jr., the Edwin H. Gott and the Edward L. Ryerson were set to depart on Wednesday evening. If they did not make it, they will probably try today.  The Lee A. Tregurtha made it to Two Harbors last night, the Gott should be there some time today. Both are there to load iron ore pellets.Very cold temperatures in December suggested we could have a tough spring fighting thick ice to get the season moving. The ice never seemed to be as bad as those cold temperatures suggested. Turns out the other end of the deal, when the ice starts to break up in the spring, might cause more problems. The severe east winds on Tuesday pushed a lot of ice, much of it broken up, right to the Duluth shore line, although not into the ship canal. The Lee A. Tregurtha was the first to find out about the problem, departing Duluth around 9:15 am and getting stopped in the ice not long after that. The Alder went out to help. Around 11 am, the Alpena was approaching the bridge and pulled up, deciding to wait. The picture shows the Alpena waiting in the water. It is not very often one sees a boat at that spot and not moving. The boat should have stayed. It decided to go out around 2:30 in the afternoon and not much beyond the piers; it too was stopped in the ice. Late in the afternoon, a west wind eased the ice jam. The Lee A. Tregurtha did get to Two Harbors, the Alpena was on the way home, and there was open water in front of the Duluth piers at 7 pm last night. The Alder left for Lake Michigan and an expected trip to Duluth by the Mackinaw was canceled. However, the Biscayne Bay left for Duluth last night from Thunder Bay. It will be here later today after a stop in Two Harbors to break a little ice.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 04-02-2009

Lee A. Tregurtha stopped in the ice off the Duluth piers; Alder out to help

20090402_4283April 1st, 2009 •
Coast Guard, US Boats
7:05 Thursday morning. The Alder is on her way to Lake Michigan to tend buoys and the Alpena is probably getting close to the Soo. Instead of the Mackinaw making her first visit to Duluth the west wind arrived and moved the ice away. The McCarthy left this morning at 6:06 and as you will note just below, the Biscayne Bay arrived Duluth at 7:05 this morning. We are back in business with our usual number of Coast Guard cutters. But we are watching the flags fly and hoping we will not see a return of a stiff east wind. The winter is not over yet.
7:15 Wednesday evening. The Mackinaw will not be coming to Duluth today and the Alder was planning on leaving later tonight for Lake Michigan to tend buoys. The Biscayne Bay is on her way to Duluth at present but will stop in Two Harbors first for a little ice breaking.
6:45 Wednesday evening. Never mind. It appears that the Lee A. Tregurtha is at Two Harbors, the Alpena is headed home; the Alder is still breaking some ice before turning into the Lake and going down to Lake Michigan for some buoy tending. I assume,
but don’ t know yet, that the Mac and the Biscayne Bay may not be coming. We go from 3 ice breakers here on Thursday to perhaps one. Oh, one more thing; as you will notice in the picture below, taken a few minutes ago, the ice seems to be leaving too. That’s a lot of open water.
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4:15 Wednesday afternoon. The Alder has moved away from the Tregurtha and is operating on the edge of the ice pack, estimated by the Coast Guard to be 6 miles out from Duluth. It appears to me that the Tregurtha has moved closer to the Alpena. The picture below was taken around
4:05 pm. The Alder was visible with the naked eye but not my camera’s eye. The Coast Guard reports the ice is about 26 inches thick. If still coming, the Biscayne Bay will be coming from Thunder Bay, the Mackinaw from the Soo.
2:45 Wednesday afternoon. The Alpena tried to depart, going under the Lift Bridge. It appears to be stopped in the ice just beyond the ship canal. The Coast Guard cutters Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay have been dispatched to Duluth. Biscayne to arrive around first light on Thursday morning; the Mackinaw later, perhaps early afternoon. More pictures coming.
The Alpena joins the party
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The Alpena is still moving here but very slowly and now it appears she is also stopped in the ice
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Above, the Lee A. Tregurtha stopped in the ice off the Duluth piers; at right the Alder is out to help; more info soon
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The Alpena is waiting just behind the Lift Bridge on the harbor side for the ’situation’ just off the piers to resolve.

Walter J. McCarthy Jr. helped by Alder

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Monday was the day the shipping season started; Tuesday was a day when it didn’t move much further along. High winds from the east effected boat traffic as much as it did the rest of us. The Walter J. McCarthy Jr. was expected to move over to Midwest Energy Resources last night to load coal. That would put it under the Lift Bridge on the way to Detroit sometime this morning. Last season, it didn’t start the season until April 6th, when repairs were completed after it collided with the dock while coming in for winter layup on January 14, 2008. The McCarthy spent the winter layup this year at the Port Terminal. On Monday, the Alder was out breaking ice in the harbor when it passed behind the McCarthy at the Port Terminal (above).
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 04-01-2009

Alder out breaking ice

I had a chance to take a ride of the Alder this morning, but I had to tell them I was too busy taking pictures of them. Here, she is coming right at me with the Walter J. McCarthy, Jr. on her right and the Edwin H. Gott on her left. The McCarthy is due to depart with coal on Tuesday; the Gott may leave with iron ore pellets on Thursday.
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Coast Guard vessels Alder and Mackinaw out breaking ice

The Alder went out for a quick trip through the harbor and out into the Lake on Monday, March 16th. With no traffic set until the 29th, there was not a lot that could be done. Tuesday afternoon, she left for Thunder Bay. They will see traffic before we will. In the picture, we were headed out into Lake Superior on Monday after just going under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. We returned about 20 minutes later.
The Alder goes into Lake Superior for a quick check on ice conditions. We found a lot of water.
Elsewhere in the Great Lakes: I received the picture below from the Mackinaw on Tuesday afternoon. It is their picture and caption. Click picture below for more pictures of the Mackinaw breaking ice.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw breaks ice in Whitefish Bay, Mich., In support of Operation Spring Breakout, March 16, 2009. Spring Breakout encompasses northern Lake Michigan, northern Lake Huron, the St. Marys River and helps facilitate the spring shipping season in the Great lakes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener)

Going out on the Alder to check on ice conditions in the Duluth harbor.

I will be going out on the Alder on Monday morning (March 16th). They will be checking the ice thickness in the shipping channels in the harbor; I will try to get some good pictures and video. Keeping the shipping lanes open in the harbor is the direct responsibility of the Alder. Local tugs handle the work closer to the docks; the Alder only goes in there on request, when needed.
This is the last ice breaking season here for LCDR Kevin Wirth, commanding officer on the Alder for the last 3-years. He has been a great leader, on his ship and within the community. He will be missed by many. Wirth and many of the officers and crew will be replaced in June, rotating off the usual 3-year tour of duty with our local cutter. That’s him at the right on the bridge of the Alder as she went under the Lift Bridge this past January 16th. This will not be a major ice-breaking trip since the first ship movement in the port is not expected to get under way until March 29th when the James R. Barker should be leaving with coal and the American Mariner is expected in to load iron ore pellets.

New shipping season problems in Duluth, Great Lakes

The Alder left her dock at 8:30 on Tuesday morning (see picture). That was the  first ship movement of the new season. An expected blizzard later today will bring the Alder back to the dock this afternoon rather than making a one-day training run to Lake Superior, as originally planned.
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The beginning of the shipping season has been delayed from an expected departure of the James R. Barker on March 17th to her departure date now set for March 29th. That delay was caused in large part by the bad economy that is seeing steel mills closing on the Lower Great Lakes and because of that, taconite mines on the Iron Range laying off workers on what seems like a regular basis for the past several weeks.

The dramatic drop in automobile sales has a great deal to do with the downturn, although the recession is so widespread that it is hard any more to pinpoint any given cause. However, the Barker was and will load coal, much of which is taken to Detroit Edison, the home of the declining automobile marker in the US. Steel plants are heavy users of electricity, two good reasons for a ship owner to hurry getting their boats out of winter layup only to wait around for cargos. As mentioned below, most do not expect all 12 boats that spent the winter here to leave, even by early April, if at all this season.