Go out to meet Blacky

blacky20110419_2015The ship’s name might have been Blacky but my knuckles were white. Luckily all I had to do was keep out of the water (even when I was looking up at it) and take pictures. You will never see how bad it was. I had two choices, go out on the deck of the Sea Bear, take pictures and fall in the water, or sit inside and hold on. Guess which I took.
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All foreign flagged vessels that come to Duluth are required to have a pilot on board while the ship is in US or Canadian waters. One of Captain Ed Montgomery’s many jobs is transferring the pilot out to or in from the anchorage in his pilot boat, Sea Bear, the mainstay of his company, Sea Service, LLC. Today, the Cyprus flagged Blacky arrived off the Duluth piers. Often, a ship will drop anchor out there and Captain Montgomery would take the Sea Bear out to pick up the pilot so he could spend some time at home rather than staying on the ship until it came in (in this case at least a couple days from now).
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The first task all foreign flagged vessels have when they arrive in port is to meet, on the ship, with a variety of local officials including the ship’s agent, a local stevedore and customs officials. That meeting is usually held while the ship is at anchor but with Lake Superior kicking up a heavy current, the Blacky came into the inner harbor for that meeting, after which the boat went back out to the anchorage to await the next trip in when she will load grain.
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The pilot, in this case Captain Shawn McKenzie, got on at the Soo and brought the ship into the harbor today. Since a pilot has to be on board whenever the ship is under way, he stayed on when the ship went back out to the anchorage. I left my warm dry office and went out to take some pictures of the Blacky and found the Sea Bear lurking about waiting for the bigger ship to pass under the bridge on the way to the anchorage. Captain Montgomery asked if I wanted to go out to the Blacky with them, and of course, I said yes, totally forgetting that the Blacky came into the harbor because of the heavy seas. I don’t get sea sick, even in very heavy seas; I just get scared.
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I took the first picture from inside the cabin of the Sea Bear. That’s Captain Dann Edholm’s steady hand on the wheel. He did a great job handling the boat in very heavy seas. And he did a good job bringing Sea Bear next to the Blacky so McKenzie could climb down and ‘jump’ into the pilot boat. His luggage came first; I even helped with that job. Then he took the ‘elevator’ down from the Blacky to the Sea Bear.
blackyseabear20110419_2089We returned and they dropped me off just beyond the bridge. Montgomery helped me off the boat; that’s him standing on the bow of the Sea Bear (below) as the boat drove off into the sunset and I ran inside and back to my safe warm office.
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