Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archive

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* Report News

Port Reports -  February 28

St. Marys River - Bonnie Barnes
The tanker Algocanada, headed for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. carrying fuel oil, traveled from the St. Clair river to DeTour, Mich., (approximately 220 miles) on Feb. 25. On the 26th Algocanada and escort USCGC Katmai Bay reached Lime Island, where both vessels spent the night. On Feb. 26, the cutter worked the areas around the tanker, with both getting underway about 3 p.m. They reached Lake Munuscong by nightfall (around eight miles) and spent the night. With frigid temperatures continuing, they have another 25 miles to go to reach their destination.

Lake Erie -Dave Doane
The Algoma tanker Algosea, accompanied by the CCGS Griffon, passed Mentor Harbor, Ohio, in an easterly direction at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Kingston, Ont. - Brian Johnson
With more solid ice than has been seen in years, the ferries in the Kingston region have been working steady with some minor delays. The Glenora ferry serving Adolphustown to Prince Edward County, and the Frontenac II to Amherst Island, have good tracks, as does the Wolfe Islander III on the Kingston to Wolfe Island run. Slow going has plagued the Howe Island Ferry due to heavy snow and broken ice around the docks. The smaller township ferry at Bishop's Point has been operating steady when the larger Frontenac/Howe Islander was unable.


Deal with AreclorMittal keeps U.P’s Empire mine open at least two more years

2/28 - Marquette, Mich. – Cliffs Natural Resources announced today that it will keep its Empire taconite operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula open beyond the end of this year, when the pant had been scheduled to be closed.

Cliffs said it has signed an extended agreement to supply ArecleorMittal USA Inc. with iron ore pellets from the Empire operation through the end of January 2017, more than two years beyond the previously announced closing date. Cliffs also extended its joint operating agreement for Empire with ArcelorMittal, which also had been set to expire at year’s end.

“We are pleased to continue as a reliable supplier of high-quality iron ore pellets to one of ArcelorMittal USA's facilities which is also good news for our dedicated employees who have demonstrated that Empire remains a safe, viable producer of high-quality, cost-competitive pellets,” said P. Kelly Tompkins, Cliffs' executive vice president of external affairs.

Cliffs’ officials said the agreement won’t change its overall U.S. taconite production expectations for the current year.

The Empire mine is located on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about 15 miles southwest of Marquette. Cliffs has a 79 percent ownership of Empire and a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal USA owns the remaining 21 percent.

In addition to the Empire operations, Cleveland-based Cliffs also owns the Tilden operations in the U.P. and owns and operates United Taconite in Eveleth, NorthShore Mining in Silber Bay, and is co-owner and manager of Hibbing Taconite in Minnesota.

Duluth News Tribune


Shipwreck survivor Dennis Hale to share story Friday in Sheboygan

2/28 - Sheboygan, Wis. – It was November 1966 and 26-year-old Dennis Hale was asleep in his cabin on a Great Lakes steamer making its last run of the season, when his books began tumbling off a shelf. Minutes later, he was in 44-degree Lake Huron, wearing boxer shorts, a navy blue pea coat and life jacket.

Hale would eventually climb aboard a life raft with three other men. All but Hale froze to death, making him the lone survivor of a shipwreck that killed each of his 28 crew mates.

“There was nothing much you could do,” said Hale, during a phone interview from his home in northeast Ohio, where he recounted the experience.

Hale, who’s now 74, will share his survival story during an appearance at 7 p.m. Friday at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan. The program will also include a performance by maritime singer/songwriter, Dan Hall.

Hale said it’s a story that he hopes will help inspire others as they deal with difficulty in their own lives, though for the first 24 years following the shipwreck it was something he never shared with anyone, including his own family. “It was painful to talk about,” said Hale, who for decades suffered from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. “I lost 28 really good friends.”

Hale was working for Bethlehem Steel as a watchman aboard the Daniel J. Morrell when the wreck occurred. The ship was on its way to northern Minnesota, where it would pick up a load of taconite.The weather was mild when Hale finished his watch. He later had dinner with several crew mates, where they talked about the prospects of seeing their families over the holidays. It was to be their last run until the following spring.

Hale was awoken just before 2 a.m. by a loud bang. Then another. The ship’s alarm sounded, and Hale raced to the deck to find that the vessel was coming apart. “I could see what was happening,” Hale said. “The ship was breaking up.”

Hale was knocked into the water by a 35-foot wave. Once in the life raft, he and three crew mates watched as their ship was tossed about by 30-foot waves before splitting in two.

Hale said the ship was built using the same steel blamed for the Titanic’s sinking, which became brittle in cold weather and was a large factor in the 603-foot-long Morrell breaking in half from the bottom up as waves held up each of its ends.

Within 14 hours, his three raft companions were dead from exposure to the frigid water and 33-degree air. Hale would sit alone next to their bodies for another 24 hours before being rescued, during which he says he had an afterlife experience.

Hale said the first time he ever shared his story was when he gave a talk at a shipwreck museum, which left everyone in tears. The experience was cathartic and he’s continued to open up since.

He self-published an autobiography in 2010 and now travels the country giving motivational talks and has made numerous television experiences, including on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and NBC’s “The Today Show.”

Hale regularly gets letters from people who attend his talks, including children who think he’s a superhero. He believes there’s a message in his story for everyone. “It’s been very therapeutic for me,” Hale said. “I feel like a whole person again.”

Sheboygan Press


Lookback #103 – Barbara was launched at Emden, West Germany, on February 28, 1953

2/28 - Two saltwater ships named Barbara have visited the Great Lakes in the Seaway era. One traded inland under the flag of Sweden, the other was registered in West Germany. Today and tomorrow were important days for these two ships.

The West German-flag Barbara was launched 61 years ago today at the city of Emden. The 382-foot, 11-inch long general cargo carrier was ready to enter service in April 1953. This vessel first came to the Great Lakes in 1964 with two trips and returned twice more in each of 1965 and 1966.

On November 23, 1968, Barbara ran aground on Crab Island Shoal, at the entrance to the Detour Passage. It stranded on an underwater field of boulders while down bound with general cargo for Bermuda. The vessel had some of the cargo removed allowing it to float free on November 26. There was some hull damage including a slight leak in #1 cargo hold.

Barbara was sold and resold on several subsequent occasions. It was renamed Zeno, flag of Panama, in 1971, Duendes, similar registry in 1979, and became Cherry Molek for the same owner in 1981.

Following a sale to shipbreakers in India, the vessel arrived at Bombay on August 11, 1982, and was broken up by Ashok Steel at Jamnagar, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Kutch, beginning that November.

Three other Barbara named ships, the Barbara E., Barbara H. and Barbara Leonhardt, have also been Seaway traders.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 28

VENUS (steel propeller bulk freighter, 346 foot, 3,719 gross tons) was launched on 28 February 1901, by the American Ship Building Company (Hull #307) at Lorain, Ohio for the Gilchrist Transportation Company, converted to a crane-ship in 1927. She was renamed b.) STEEL PRODUCTS in 1958, and lasted until 1961, when she was scrapped at Point Abino, Ontario, the spot where she had run aground and partially sunk while being towed for scrap.

The lighthouse tender MARIGOLD (iron steamer, 150 foot, 454 gross tons, built in Wyandotte, Michigan) completed her sea trials on 28 February 1891. The contract price for building her was $77,000. After being fitted out, she was placed into service as the supply ship to the lighthouses in the Eleventh District, taking the place of the WARRINGTON. The MARIGOLD was sold in 1947, converted to a converted to dredge and renamed MISS MUDHEN II.

The rail ferry INCAN SUPERIOR (Hull#211) was launched February 28, 1974, at North Vancouver, British Columbia by Burrard Drydock Co. Ltd. She operated between Thunder Bay, Ontario and Superior, Wisconsin until 1992, when she left the Lakes for British Columbia, she was renamed b.) PRINCESS SUPERIOR in 1993.

OUTARDE was launched February 28, 1906, as a.) ABRAHAM STEARN (Hull#513) at Superior, Wisconsin by Superior Ship Building Co.

In 1929, the Grand Trunk carferry MADISON, inbound into Grand Haven in fog and ice, collided with the U.S. Army dredge General G.G. MEADE, berthed on the south bank of the river for the winter. Damage was minor.

1965: The bow section of the tanker STOLT DAGALI, broken in two due to a collision with the passenger liner SHALOM on November 26, 1964, departed New York for Gothenburg, Sweden, under tow to be rebuilt. The ship had been a Seaway trader as a) DAGALI in 1961, 1962 and 1963.

1974: The Dutch freighter AMPENAN visited the Great Lakes in 1960 and 1961. It arrived at Busan, South Korea, for scrapping as c) OCEAN REX.

1995: CHEM PEGASUS, a Seaway trader as far as Hamilton in 2012, was launched on this date as a) SPRING LEO.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Dave Swayze, Steve Haverty, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports -  February 27

Soo, Ont. – Bonnie Barnes
Algocanada was at DeTour Wednesday morning with the USCG cutter Katmai Bay. Even with all the work the cutter has done, it will be a struggle to get to the Soo, where Algocanada is scheduled to unload in the lower harbor. Lake effect snow is expected, along with more record cold temperatures. Wednesday the pair was stopped for the night just above Lime Island in the lower river.


Winter puts Great Lakes salt in demand

2/27 - Toledo, Ohio – Deep beneath the world’s largest supply of fresh water lays an abundance of one of its most essential minerals: salt. But while Great Lakes water is in demand year-round, the need for the rock salt mined at seven locations in New York, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario can vary from year to year, depending on winter weather.

Right now — with the Great Lakes region as a whole in the midst of its roughest winter in at least two decades, and Toledo pushing toward an all-time record snowfall — salt companies are selling every ton they can lift out of their mines to snow and ice-weary highway agencies desperate to replenish stockpiles.

“All of our assets in the United States are at maximum output, maximum capacity,” Jim Vincent, vice president of operations for Morton Salt, said Friday. Between October and January, he said, Morton shipped three times as much salt as it did during that part of the previous season.

“It’s been a very challenging situation for our mines and our stockpiles,” Vincent said, noting that besides salt from mines in Fairport, Ohio, and Ojibway, Ont., Morton has sent bargeloads of Louisiana salt up the Mississippi River to fill Midwestern orders.

A spokesman for Cargill Salt, which since 1997 has operated Ohio’s other major rock salt mine in Cleveland, painted a similar picture. “The unprecedented winter across the Snow Belt has led to huge demand for road salt,” Mark Klein said in an email interview. “We are working overtime in our mines to try to keep up with the demand.

“In addition to widespread demand, the weather is affecting transportation, slowing trucks, trains, and barges,” Klein added.

Both company representatives declined to discuss, however, whether their firms would respond to an Ohio Department of Transportation request for bids to provide emergency salt deliveries to any or all of seven state stockpiles that would be made available to local and county agencies whose supplies are dwindling.

“As with most winters, our priority has to be with customers who sought bids from us and gave us the contracts,” Klein wrote. “As any new solicitation would be under competitive bids, I’d prefer not to let our competitors know if we will or won’t.”

Steve Faulkner, a spokesman at ODOT headquarters in Columbus, said the department’s goal is to arrange for 10,000-ton deliveries to each of the seven stockpiles once during each of three 10-day periods between mid-February and mid-March. One stockpile will be at ODOT’s Wood County maintenance garage in Bowling Green.

That salt would be available to counties, townships, and municipalities on the verge of running out. Any agency taking the salt would have to pledge to deliver a matching quantity back to ODOT once supplies are more readily available, Mr. Faulkner said — essentially, an IOU for salt.

Among communities that could be interested is Ottawa Hills, where Village Administrator Marc Thompson said this week that trucks are loaded and the 120-ton capacity salt shed is full — but that’s it.

“We are like many places — we’re beginning to conserve salt,” Thompson said. “If we were in late March right now, I would not be worried, but it’s early February. I’ve been contacting supply companies, without any luck at this point.”

Other northwest Ohio communities with which ODOT has had salt discussions include Waterville, Bowling Green, Republic, Hicksville, Van Wert, and Lima, Faulkner said, along with the Lucas, Henry, and Williams county engineers and Bowling Green State University. But the extent to which ODOT will get bidders for its plan remains to be seen.

Faulkner said the department is optimistic that, by about two weeks from now, salt producers will have caught up on backlogged delivery contracts and be able to start filling new orders. “We’re hearing a lot of them could be caught up,” the ODOT spokesman said.

Besides Morton and Cargill, ODOT has solicited bids from Detroit Salt Co. and North American Salt Co., which operate or are affiliated with mines in Detroit and Goderich, Ont., respectively.

Together, those four firms account for six of the seven rock-salt mines in the Great Lakes region; the seventh, in Hampton Corners, N.Y., south of Rochester, is operated by American Rock Salt Co.

Toledo Blade


Lookback #102 – Mount Athos abandoned on February 27, 1966

2/27 - The Liberty ship Mount Athos was abandoned in leaking condition 48 years ago today. The 441- -foot, 6-inch-long cargo carrier was en route from Gocek, Turkey, to Baltimore, Maryland, with a load of iron ore.

Originally the J. Maurice Thompson, the vessel was built at Richmond, California, and launched on November 19, 1943. It was operated by the American President Lines during World War II.

The ship was sold to Greek interests in February 1947, renamed and sailed as Mount Athos until 1962. It lost its propeller while traveling form Marseilles, France, to Hampton Roads, Virginia, in June 1949 and had to be towed into Barcelona, Spain, for repairs.

Mount Athos made three trips through the Seaway in 1959 despite the fact that the year was interrupted by a collision three miles east of South Goodwin, England, due to fog, on July 11. The accident sank the small, year-old vessel Saint Rowan.

In 1962, Mount Athos was resold and renamed Euxeinos. It served well until the hull began leaking on February 27, 1966. After being abandoned in the Atlantic, about 360 miles southwest of the Azores, the ship is presumed to have sunk.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 27

GOLDEN SABLE was launched February 27, 1930, as a.) ACADIALITE (Hull#170) at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees, United Kingdom by Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.

In 1916 MOUNT STEPHEN, formerly of Canada Steamship Lines, struck a mine and sank off Dover, England, while carrying coal as part of a convoy but the crew was rescued.

The former Great Lakes trader GEORGETOWN, built at Buffalo in 1900, sank in 1917 as ETRETAT in a storm off the Bay of Biscay while carrying barreled oil although there was some suspicion of enemy action.

In 1966 the Greek Liberty ship EUXEINOS was abandoned in the Atlantic 360 miles southwest of the Azores after developing leaks the previous day. She had made three trips through the Seaway as MOUNT ATHOS in 1959. The crew as picked up by a passing tanker and delivered to Halifax.

1917: GEORGETOWN was built at Buffalo in 1900 and sank on this day enroute from New York to Le Havre in heavy weather while carrying barreled oil. The ship went down as b) ETRETAT off Ile D'Yeu, Bay of Biscay, and there was lingering suspicion of enemy action being involved.

1966: In 1966, the Greek Liberty ship EUXEINOS was abandoned in the Atlantic 360 miles southwest of the Azores after developing leaks the previous day. She had made three trips through the Seaway as MOUNT ATHOS in 1959. The crew was picked up by a passing tanker and delivered to Halifax.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Steve Haverty, “Ahoy & Farewell II” and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Reports -  February 26

St. Marys River – Bonnie Barnes
Tuesday the USCG cutter Katmai Bay was working the St. Marys River and was on the east side of Neebish Island Tuesday morning. The Algoma tanker Algocanada is enroute to the Soo with fuel oil. Tuesday it was north of the St. Clair River and scheduled to arrive in Soo, Ont., Wednesday evening. But with frigid weather continuing not only on the St. Marys but statewide, ice conditions may delay that arrival.

Amherstburg, Ont. - D Cozens
The Bob Lo Island ferry Ste. Claire V normally runs from Amherstburg to the island every 1/2 hour, 24 hours per day, year around for the island residents. Unfortunately, due to heavy ice flows Monday night, the Amherstburg Channel of the Detroit River is now jammed with ice. The last crossing took about 6 hour while the normal crossing time is 7 minutes. A large John Deere excavator is being used at the mainland dock to remove the ice from the dock slip.


Great Lakes ice declines in past week

2/26 - Despite a lot of media hype about the Great Lakes “freezing over’’ in recent weeks, the amount of ice on the five big lakes actually declined significantly in recent days.

The lakes, combined, are now only an estimated 62 percent ice-covered, and you’d get wet trying to walk across any of them. That’s down from a high of 88 percent estimated ice cover on Feb. 13.

Lake Superior dropped from a high of an estimated 94 percent ice cover at mid-month to just 77.5 percent on Monday, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Large gaps of open water are visible along many of its shorelines, both from shore and in satellite photographs.

There has been ample speculation that Superior would reach virtual freeze-over this year for the first time since 1996 and one of the few times in recent memory. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Lake Ontario was less than 10 percent ice-covered Monday, while Erie sat at 84 percent, Huron at 73 percent, and Michigan was about 30 percent frozen.

Ice experts say that current weather patterns are the most critical factor in determining Great Lakes ice cover. A few warm days and very windy conditions likely contributed to the recent decline in ice cover. An increasingly higher and more potent sun also makes it harder for ice to form as winter heads toward spring.

“Wind, warmer air temperatures and, at least for the lower lakes, rain’’ all combined to reduce ice, George Leskevich, longtime Great Lakes ice forecaster, told the News Tribune on Monday.

Still, the forecast of more below-zero temperatures in coming days could see the ice cover grow later this week but that “depends on how cold and for how long,’’ Leskevich noted.

Great Lakes ice cover generally peaks in late February and then declines in March, depending on weather conditions.

Duluth News Tribune


U.S. Navy debuts seal of sixth installment of the USS Detroit warship

2/26 - Detroit, Mich. – The seal of the sixth U.S. Navy ship to bear the USS Detroit name was unveiled at the Port of Detroit last Friday by local officials, members of the navy and ship sponsor Barbara Levin, the wife of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.

The seal of the Littoral-class ship, which is currently being built in Wisconsin by Lockheed Martin, includes a winged tire as a nod to Detroit’s automotive manufacturing heritage, as well as a partial depiction of the city flag.

On the crest, there are sixth stars, symbolizing this being the sixth Detroit-named ship. Here’s a brief history of the other five:

• The first USS Detroit dates back to 1813. It was 12-gun ship that was captured by the British during the Battle of Lake Erie. “So it fought on both sides of the conflict,” said John Peracchio, who is Vice Chairman of the USS Detroit Blue and Gold Committee for the Metropolitan Detroit Council of Navy League of the United States.

• The second USS Detroit served from just May to August 1869 and was then renamed after Canandaigua, a town in upstate New York.

• The third installment was a cruiser that had no active defense system. It served from 1893 to 1904. Despite not being armed, the ship served in spirited engagements in the Caribbean during the Spanish-American War, Peracchio said.

• The fourth USS Detroit was a light cruiser that served from 1923 to 1946. It was present at Pearl Harbor during World War II, and also fought in the Aleutian Islands, escorted numerous Allied convoys and was present in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender.

• And the fifth USS Detroit was a combat support replenishment ship that was commissioned in 1970 and served until 2005.

The ship is expected to be christened in Wisconsin later this year, and will likely be commissioned in July 2016 John Jamian, executive director of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, said he’d like to see the commissioning, a ceremony that officially puts the ship into active services, happen in the Detroit River.

“It’s a possibility and we’re certainly hoping and rooting for it,” he said.

M Live


Littoral Combat Ship cuts aren't a done deal, lawmakers say

2/26 - Marinette, Wis. – Wisconsin members of Congress say they will continue to push for the construction of 52 Littoral Combat Ships despite a Defense Department proposal to trim the program to 32 vessels.

Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette is one of two shipyards building the warship which is designed to operate in shallow coastal waters. About 2,000 people show up to work at the shipyard on a daily basis.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, said the ship is a key tool for the Navy and that Monday’s announcement of the planned cuts to the program aren’t a done deal.

“The future of the LCS, or its next iteration, is far from settled and there are numerous debates and discussions that will be occurring in the days and weeks ahead,” Ribble said in a press release.

“I have had dozens of discussions with the Navy, Marinette Marine, and the Department of Defense on the needs of the Navy and the future of the LCS and I will continue to work aggressively on preserving our national security during an era of limited defense budgets."

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said she also continues to back the full program.

“I have fought for and will continue to fight for this program because it employs thousands of hardworking Wisconsinites and positively impacts not only the local community but has a ripple effect across the state, boosting our made in Wisconsin economy,” she said in a e-mailed statement.

Lockheed Martin in the prime contractor on the ships being built in Marinette, which is in the middle of a 10-ship contract. Another version of the ship is being built by Austal USA in Alabama.

“We are currently reviewing the Pentagon’s spending plan as outlined today by Secretary Hagel, and we’ll continue to assess the budget once the President delivers it to Congress and they begin their appropriations process,” Lockheed Martin said in an e-mailed statement.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the program would be trimmed by 20 ships and the design given another look.

“Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS,” Hagel said during a press conference on Monday. “These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year’s budget submission.”

The proposed budget is expected to be given to Congress next week.

“The Navy fully supports the program, but the Navy is also supportive of the president’s budget,” Chris Johnson, a spokesman with Naval Sea Systems Command, said Tuesday.

Green Bay Press Gazette



2/26 - Help wanted: Marine officers and engineers Full-time employment opportunity for Deck Officers and Engineers for Canadian flag Great Lakes self-unloading tug/barge cement carriers.

Fettes Shipping Inc. is looking for candidates with some dry bulk or tug/barge experience. Fettes offers highest salaries and benefits in tug/barge operations including two months onboard with one month off, paid vacation, medical coverage and Family Security Plan all under a collective agreement.

Fettes expect strong communication skills and good work ethic from candidates. Candidates must be able to travel to the US portions of the Great Lakes area and must have valid Canadian passport, all applicable Transport Canada certificates and valid medical certificate issued by Transport Canada.

Transport Canada certificates required for following positions are:
Chief Mate - Watchkeeping Mate - NC or OOW-C, STCW II/2
Watchkeeping Mate - Watching Mate - NC or OOW-C,STCW II/1
Second/Third Engineer - 3rd / 4th Motor Ship, STCW III/1 or 3

Please send your resume to:
Human Resources
Fettes Shipping Inc.
3385 Harvester Rd, Suite 250
Burlington, ON L7N 3N2
Fax: 905 333-6588


Lookback #101 – Former tug Nipigon sank off Louisiana on February 26, 1998

2/26 - The tug Nipigon was a product of the Marine Industries Ltd., shipyard of Sorel, Quebec. It was built in 1938 for the Abitibi Power & Paper Co. and used to tow log rafts on Lake Superior.

The good-looking, 95-foot-long vessel operated into the 1960s and was then sold to the Stanley P. Goodfellow Construction Co. and based at Corunna, Ontario. It joined McNamara Marine Ltd. in 1975 and saw some service in towing and salvage work. Among its jobs was helping refloat the saltie Pearl Asia aground off Port Weller in 1976.

Nipigon was laid up at Whitby and then Toronto before leaving the Great Lakes, via the Seaway, on December 12, 1988. It was en route to Bahamas for use in a construction project and was re-registered in the Cayman Islands while in the south.

The tug was sold to A & J Towing Inc. and renamed Florida Seahorse in 1996. It was working off the coast of Louisiana when it sank in the Gulf of Mexico 16 years ago today. All five sailors on board were rescued.


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 26

The completed hull of the BELLE RIVER (Hull#716) was floated off the ways February 26, 1977, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp. Renamed b.) WALTER J. MC CARTHY JR in 1990.

JOSEPH L. BLOCK (Hull#715) was launched February 26, 1976, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp.

On 26 February 1874, the tug WILLIAM LIVINGSTONE JR. was launched at Port Huron Dry Dock. Her dimensions were 151 feet overall, 25 foot 6 inches beam, and 13 foot depth. Her machinery was built by Phillerick & Christy of Detroit and was shipped by rail to Port Huron. She cost $45,000. Her master builder was Alex Stewart.

On 26 February 1876, the MARY BELL (iron propeller, 58 foot, 34 gross tons, built in 1870, at Buffalo, New York) burned near Vicksburg, Michigan.

The Liberty ship BASIL II, a Seaway visitor in 1960, ran aground on a reef off the west coast of New Caledonia as EVER PROSPERITY in 1965 and was abandoned as a total loss.

ANGLEA SMITS, a Seaway trader in 1983, was abandoned and believed sunk in the Atlantic en route from Norway to Australia in 1986.

1947: The T-2 tanker ROYAL OAK came to the Great Lakes in 1966 as b) TRANSBAY and was rebuilt at Lorain. The vessel departed later in the year as c) TRANSHURON. But as a) ROYAL OAK, it caught fire on this day in the Pacific off Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and had to be abandoned by the crew. The vessel was later reboarded and the fires extinguished. The listing vessel almost sank but it was salvaged and rebuilt for Cities Service Oil.

1965: The Liberty ship BASIL II came through the Seaway in 1960. It ran aground on a reef off New Caledonia as d) EVER PROSPERITY. The vessel was traveling in ballast and had to be abandoned as a total loss.

1981: A spark from a welder's torch ignited a blaze aboard the MONTCLIFFE HALL, undergoing winter work at Sarnia. The fire did major damage to the pilothouse and accommodations area, but the repairs were completed in time for the ship to resume trading on May 27, 1981. It was still sailing in 2013 as d) CEDARGLEN (ii).

1986: ANGELA SMITS, a Seaway trader for the first time in 1983, developed a severe list and was abandoned by the crew on a voyage from Norway to Australia. The hull was sighted, semi-submerged, later in the day in position 47.38 N / 07.36 W and was believed to have sunk in the Atlantic.

1998: The Abitibi tug NIPIGON was active on Lake Superior and often towed log booms from the time it was built at Sorel in 1938 until perhaps the 1960s. The vessel also saw work on construction projects for different owners, and left the Seaway for the sea on December 12, 1988. It was operating as b) FLORIDA SEAHORSE when it sank in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. All 5 on board were rescued.

2011: Fire broke out on the bridge of DINTELBORG while enroute from the Netherlands to Virginia. The ship was taken in tow the next day by the ROWAN M. McALLISTER out of Providence, R.I. The repaired Dutch freighter was back through the Seaway later in 2011. The tug was also a Seaway caller in 2012, coming inland to tow the fire ravaged PATRICE McALLISTER back to Providence.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, “Ahoy & Farewell II” and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Historic tug Wilhelm Baum sinks in South Haven

2/25 - South Haven, Mich. – A docked tugboat sank Sunday behind the Michigan Maritime Museum. Authorities have not determined why the Wilhelm Baum tugboat sunk in the Black River. The tug was resting on the bottom with only the top of its pilothouse above water. The owner of the vessel, the Coast Guard and federal authorities have all been notified.

There was no one aboard the tugboat when it sank.

Wilhelm Baum was built in 1923 as an Army Corps of Engineers tugboat. In 2003, on the boat's 80th birthday, it was given a permanent spot at the museum docks, according to Kalamazoo Gazette archives.

Harbormaster Paul VandenBosch said the boat is still sunken at its dock, as of Monday morning. VandenBosch said he has been in contact with the owner of the boat and they are currently working out the logistics of lifting the vessel out of the water in conjunction with their insurance company and the United States Coast Guard. In the meantime, the Coast Guard will check the boat once a day for fuel or oil leaks.

Until the boat can be lifted, authorities said they cannot determine what caused it to sink at its permanent spot at the maritime museum’s dock.

“I think all parties involved would like to see it lifted,” John Crisler, Padnos Boat Shed director for the Maritime Museum said of the Wilhelm Baum. “Most things don’t do well underwater.”

VandenBosch, who is also the assistant city manager for the City of South Haven, said the boat’s owner has several options for lifting the steel-hulled tug out of the water. He said it is possible that the boat could be lifted by inflating bags underwater with air, pushing the boat above water. Another option would be to hoist the boat out via a crane that is either on land or a barge.

All of these options are problematic this time of year, VandenBosch said. Thick ice prevents a barge from reaching boat, built in 1923 as an Army Corps of Engineers tug, at its dock. The inflated bag option is also difficult, as the damage that caused boat to sink would need to be quickly repaired before it sinks again.

“We generally expect that there may be some problems due to ice,” VandenBosch said. “That boat may be there until the ice goes away.”



Black River Ice breaking tug stopped by freezing temperatures

2/25 - Port Huron, Mich. – High winds and cold weather have stopped officials from using a tug boat to break ice on the Black River in Port Huron. The operation is part of an attempt to reduce flooding for residents along the bank of the river, Port Huron Safety Director Michael Reaves said.

“Well the ice is still there,” Reaves said. “It’s the beginning of the process — it was never our intention to drive the tug to Sandusky.”

Reaves said that the Canadian tug boat the city hired Friday and Saturday was able to break ice just east of the 10th Street Bridge. Wind and weather concerns caused the process to be halted. “Now that the weather is turning extremely cold again we’ll decide on the ice break plan moving forward,” Reaves said.

After a relatively warm weekend, temperatures are expected to stay below freezing this week and could drop as low as four degrees below zero Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Reaves said the tug was able to break the ice around the mouth of the river, the hope being that more ice and water will be able to flow into the St. Clair River.

“As the weather continues to change we will look into other options,” Reeves said. “It’s a work in progress."

A meeting to inform residents who live along the river about the city’s plan to address flooding is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Howard D. Crull Elementary School. Reeves said he would have more information on plans to combat the ice at that time.

Port Huron Times Herald


Port Reports -  February 25

Amherstburg, Ont. - D. Cozens
The CCGC Griffon and USCGC Hollyhock, both ice breakers, docked at the Amherstburg Coast Guard base Sunday. Griffon departed at 7:15 a.m. Monday upbound, followed about half hour later by the Hollyhock.


2013 season saltwater vessel recap

2/25 - As the 2013 Seaway shipping season wrapped up on January 1, here is a recap of the 2013 season, which opened on March 22 with the upbound transit of the tanker Clipper Mari of the Bahamas. The season closed on January 1, 2014 with the last transit of the Marshall Islands-flagged salty Orsula.

The 2013 season saw 197 saltwater vessels make 356 transits through the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, N.Y. That number was down 32 from the 2012 season’s total of 229 vessels. It was also down 16 vessels from the 2008-12 five-year average as well. During that five-year period, the highest total of vessels that transited the Eisenhower Lock was in 2010, with 231 vessels. The lowest total in that time frame was in 2009, during the recession, which saw just 185 vessels.

A breakdown by the month of the 2013 transits show that there were 47 transits in March/April, followed by 44 in May, 32 in June, 24 in July, 35 in August, 36 in September, 47 in October, 67 in November and 24 in December.

The 2013 season also saw 51 first time visitors to the Great Lakes/Seaway system. This was down 38 vessels from the 2012 season’s total of 89 first time visitors to the system. The highest total of first-time visitors to the Great Lakes/Seaway system was 89 during the 2012 season, while the lowest number was 42 during the 2008 season.

There was also one saltwater vessel renamed in 2013. BBC Wisconsin, although it did not make an official Seaway transit in 2013, was renamed Jette (Antigua/Barbuda flag) in Montreal on November 6, 2013 and later transited the Seaway with that name.

The 2014 season is expected to begin on March 28 with the opening of the Montreal-Lake Ontario section along and the Welland Canal. The March 28 opening date is six days later than in the last three previous seasons, when the opening date for both waterways was March 22.

Denny Dushane


Reservation line opens for S.S. Badger’s upcoming season

2/25 - Lake Michigan Carferry has announced that its reservation lines are now open. To celebrate, the company is offering a prize package that one winner can share with their friends. Just like Lake Michigan Carferry’s Feb. 24 Facebook post and share the post and you're entered. The winner will be notified by March 10. A new Badger blog has also been launched via


Lookback #100- Former Antonio wrecked by grounding on February 25, 1978

2/25 - The Italian freighter Antonio first came to the Great Lakes with one trip in 1964. It returned on two occasions in 1965 and was the last saltwater ship down bound in the Welland Canal that year heading to the sea on December 4.

The 487-foot-long freighter had been built at Malmo, Sweden, and was completed for Belships Co. Ltd. as Bellully in June 1957. It was sold to Messana Soc. di Nav. S.p.A. and registered in Italy as Antonio in 1959.

There were three more sales and renames ahead. It became Camingoy, Singapore flag, in 1973, Lendas under Cypriot registry a year later and finally Omalos, Greek flag, in 1978.

The ship had loaded cargo at Constanza, Romania, and was bound for Vietnam, thirty-six years ago today, when it ran aground in the Aegean Sea off Chios Island. Omalos was refloated on March 1, 1978, but due to the extent of the damage, was laid up at Piraeus, Greece.

It remained there until sold at auction and towed from the port on May 11, 1983. The destination was Megara, Greece, where the hull was broken up for scrap by Sideroscrap.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 25

CREEK TRANSPORT was launched this day in 1910, as a.) SASKATOON (Hull#256) at Sunderland, England, by Sunderland Shipbuilding Co.

1964: CISSOULA, a Greek freighter that visited the Seaway in 1961 and 1965, was abandoned after a collision in fog with the Swedish vessel SOLKLINT off Selsey Bill in the English Channel. The damaged freighter was taken in tow and repaired. It was delivered to shipbreakers at Hsinkang, China, on September 24, 1969.

1968: AZAR first came to the Great Lakes as c) CELESTE in 1960 and returned with one trip under this, her fifth name, in 1967. The Liberian-registered, but Canadian-built freighter went aground off Cuba enroute from Venezuela to Tampa, Florida. The ship suffered extensive damage when it caught fire on February 29 and was declared a constructive total loss. It is believed that the hull was dismantled locally.

1978: The Italian freighter ANTONIO was the last saltwater ship to transit the Welland Canal in 1965. It ran aground off Chios Island, Greece, enroute from Constanza, Romania, to Vietnam as e) OMALOS. The ship was refloated on March 1 but laid up at Piraeus, Greece, and subsequently sold, at auction, for scrap. The vessel was broken up at Megara, Greece, beginning on June 13, 1983.

1979: The Panamanian freighter d) FENI was damaged in a collision on the Black Sea at Sulina Roads, Romania, with ATLANTIS STAR and had to be beached. The ship was refloated on February 28 and repaired. It had been a Seaway trader as a) DEERWOOD in 1960 and returned as b) SEBASTIANO in 1969. The ship was scrapped as f) SIRLAD at Split, Yugoslavia, following an explosion off Algeria, on January 3, 1982.

1994: BANDERAS visited the Great Lakes from 1975 through the 1980s. It was abandoned by the crew off the coast of Brazil as b) AEGEAN TRADER due to a fire in the accommodation area. The vessel was towed to Valencia, Spain, to be unloaded and arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, for scrapping as c) EGE TRADE on August 11, 1994.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


St. Marys River ice breaking operations to begin Tuesday

2/24 - Beginning Tuesday morning and continuing through the remainder of the week, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Katmai Bay will be breaking ice in the St Marys River in preparation for a tank vessel transit. Ice breaking operations will extend from Sault Ste. Marie down to Detour Reef Light via the Middle Neebish Channel.



Ice breaking to continue in St. Clair River over next few days

2/24 - Port Huron, Mich. – The sound of ice being cleared from the Black River was audible Friday blocks away from where a Canadian fish tug crashed through it. The ice breaking efforts started about noon. City officials said they want to be proactive in addressing concerns about flooding in low-lying areas.

Public Safety Director Michael Reaves said it is too soon to tell if the efforts will help reduce the impact of flooding during the first big thaw of the season. But either way, he said it was worth trying something new. “It’s an attempt to be proactive — I’m very concerned with flooding,” Reaves said.

The tug began in the mouth of the Black River and work westward, reaching the Seventh Street Bridge in its first few hours. Reaves said work will hopefully continue in the river the next few days, but will depend on the weather. The tug also will push the ice out of the Black River and into the St. Clair River.

“My concern is for public safety and property damage, this was a small window that the opportunity was there to do this,” he said Friday.

Reaves said it was challenging to find a boat capable of ice breaking that could also fit in the river. He wouldn’t release the cost of the work, as it was ongoing.

“Ice formation on the river has historically caused significant issues for homeowners along the Black River banks,” according to the statement from the Public Safety Department. “Snow melt-off and spring rains (can) cause heavy water flows in the river which are restricted by ice dams caused by melting ice.

“The ice dams prevent water flow causing water/ice backups on the river which annually threatens waterfront residents and their property.”

In 2009, ice jammed in the Black River and resulted in $540,000 worth of damage to city homes and a business. Reaves said the ice breaking efforts will make it unsafe on the river for pedestrians and vehicle traffic and urges people to stay off of it. The Black River is often used by snowmobilers. The ice breaking could continue for the next few days dependent on progress and weather conditions.

A meeting about potential flooding is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Crull Elementary School for residents who live in the area. Reaves said all options of breaking the ice and what responsibility the city has to property owners will be discussed.

Port Huron Times Herald


Close to two months since Bluewater Ferry made a trip across St. Clair River

2/24 - Marine City, Mich. – The Bluewater Ferry service that runs between Sombra, Ont., and Marine City, Mich., has been shut down since Jan. 3 due to Great Lakes ice cover. The ferry has been stuck at the Canada Customs dock and there will be no passage any time soon for the commuter carrier.

"It's hurting us," says Bluewater Ferry owner Rob Dalgety. "There's deck hands and people aren't working. It definitely hurts us and we have a lot of workers that cross. They have to go up and cross the bridge now and it's just inconvenient, I guess."

According to Environment Canada, about 86 per cent of the Great Lakes are covered in ice and that’s well above the normal level of 35 per cent coverage for this time of year.

The ferry normally runs 30 trips per day and over the course of two months that's about 1,800 lost trips so far. Last winter there were no shutdowns due to ice. But it's not all the fault of Mother Nature. The nearby Lambton Generating Station, which closed last fall, used to pump warm water into the river, causing ice melt in some places.

On the other side of the river, you can see open water from a pair of Michigan power plants.

Ferry service is not expected to resume until at least next month, when winter starts to loosen its grip and the river starts to flow again. Last April, extremely low water caused the closure of the ferry service and for the first time ever, the owners of the service were forced to rebuild their docks so their vessels could cross the St. Clair River.

CTV London


Pet coke storage battle shifts to River Rouge

2/24 - River Rouge, Mich. – The battle over petroleum coke storage along the banks of the Detroit River has shifted several miles south to a new location on the River Rouge/Ecorse border.

Detroit Bulk Storage has a permit application before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that could clear the way for the material to be stored at its headquarters. The property, listed at 530 W. Great Lakes St., sits roughly eight miles from where the storage of petroleum coke in Detroit last year became an issue of contention between the company and residents in the United States and Canada.

After months of protests and back and forth between Detroit Bulk Storage and the city of Detroit in 2013, the company agreed to stop storing the material along the riverfront near the 2200 block of Fort Street. A company official said Wednesday the permit could allow Detroit Bulk Storage to potentially store petroleum coke at its headquarters site, where it has been doing business for 30 years.

Petroleum coke — or pet coke — is a byproduct of the coal refinery process that’s often sold as a fuel source. The mounds along the Detroit River last year were produced at the nearby Marathon Oil Refinery and purchased by Koch Minerals LLC.

For much of 2013, Detroit residents and elected officials raised concerns about dust from the material blowing into neighborhoods and washing into the river — which they argued could hurt public health. The DEQ has said testing of the material shows it poses no threat to human or animal health.

State officials will host a public information session March 5 in Wyandotte from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Grand Harbor Banquet Hall, 1 St. John St.

“If we’re permitted to do so in our permit to Install, we would certainly look at storing pet coke here,” said Noel Frye, vice president of Detroit Bulk Storage. “But there’s no guarantee that will happen. I can say that yes, we’d love to have it. But are we going to get a contract to do that, I don’t know because we don’t have it now.”

The permit allows a company to lay out how it will deal with on-site materials. Detroit Bulk Storage’s permit application addresses fugitive dust with steps that include:

• Use of truck-mounted water cannons and misting bars to control the material when being moved.

• Positioning of a marine barge between freighters and the shore to protect the Detroit River area from material that may follow during the loading process.

• Restricting handling and loading when sustained winds exceed 30 miles per hour or gusts reach 45 miles per hour.

• Treating with water piles stored for less than 45 days to suppress dust, while sealing with an epoxy piles stored longer than 45 days.

While those steps may represent more precaution that what was in place last year, they may not go far enough to satisfy some critics. State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, lobbied against the pet coke storage last year and wants the material banned unless it is in covered storage.

“We see it as a public health and nuisance issue,” she said Wednesday. “If they want to store this stuff with piles that are 40 feet high or more, they have not shown they can contain it.”

Detroit News


Lookback #99 – Former Ulysses Castle foundered with heavy loss of life on February 24, 1975

2/24 - Ulysses Castle was a refrigerated general cargo carrier dating from 1954. It had been built at Hamburg, West Germany, that year and completed as Perikles on September 7, 1954. The 393-foot, one-inch-long freighter operated for 13 years under the German flag.

Perikles was sold to Ulysses Shipping Enterprises and registered in Greece as Ulysses Castle in 1967. It made its first trip through the Seaway in 1969 and then became Ithaki Castle in 1972. The latter returned to the Great Lakes, still under the Greek flag, for two visits in 1973.

Then, in 1974, the ship was resold and registered in Saudi Arabia as Mohamedia by Globe International Ltd. This vessel foundered in the Red Sea 39 years ago today. Leaks developed in the 21-year old hull while on a voyage with livestock from Djibouti to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. One member of the crew perished when the ship sank on February 24, 1975. While I am not aware of the total casualties among the 1,300 cattle, 118 camels and 700 sheep that were on board , I suspect that a significant number, if not all of the animals, were lost.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  February 24

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 24

The Pittsburgh Steamship Co.’s RICHARD V. LINDABURY (Hull#783) was launched February 24, 1923, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. Purchased by S & E Shipping (Kinsman) in 1978, renamed b.) KINSMAN INDEPENDENT. She was scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey in 1988.

The founder of Arnold Transit Co., long-time ferry operators between Mackinac Island and the mainland, George T. Arnold filed the Articles of Association on Feb. 24, 1900.

On 24 February 1920, TALLAC (formerly SIMON J. MURPHY and MELVILLE DOLLAR, steel propeller, 235 foot, built in 1895, at W. Bay City, Michigan) was on a voyage from Colon, Panama to Baltimore, Maryland, when she stranded and was wrecked 18 miles south of Cape Henry, Virginia.

1975: The MOHAMEDIA foundered in the Red Sea enroute from Djibouti to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a cargo of livestock that included 1300 cattle, 700 sheep and 118 camels. One member of the crew was also lost. The vessel had been a Seaway trader as b) ULYSSES CASTLE in 1969 and c) ITHAKI CASTLE in 1973.

1976: FRAMPTONDYKE visited the Seaway in 1969. It sank following a collision with the ODIN in the English Channel enroute from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Cork, Ireland, as b) WITTERING. All on board were rescued.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, “Ahoy & Farewell II” and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Ice breaking efforts underway in Black River

2/23 - Port Huron, Mich. – Ice breaking efforts have begun in the Black River in Port Huron. Tugboats started in the mouth of the Black River and are working westward, according to a statement from the Port Huron Public Safety Department.

Public Safety Director Michael Reaves said the efforts are being made in an attempt to limit or minimize any flooding in the area.

"Ice formation on the river has historically caused significant issues for homeowners along the Black River banks," according to the statement. "Snow melt-off and spring rains (can) cause heavy water flows in the river which are restricted by ice dams caused by melting ice.

"The ice dams prevent water flow causing water/ice backups on the river which annually threatens waterfront residents and their property." Reaves said the ice breaking efforts will make it unsafe on the river for pedestrians and vehicle traffic.

The ice breaking could continue for the next few days dependent on progress and weather conditions.

Port Huron Times Herald


Lookback #98 – Lennox torpedoed and sunk on February 23, 1943

2/23 - For the second day in a row, the German submarine U-129 sank a Canadian ship engaged in the South American bauxite trade. The Lennox, also en route from Dutch Guiana to Port au Spain, Trinidad and Tobago with bauxite, was hit about 1 p.m. local time 71 years ago today. The difference this time is that the ship did not explode. There were 18 survivors and only two lives lost.

One member of the crew was killed by falling debris while the cook was never seen again. The U-boat came alongside the lifeboat and the commander provided them with a course to reach land. The 399 gross ton coastal tanker Athelrill found the survivors and took them to safety.

Lennox dated from 1923. It had been launched at Wallsend, England, as Glenlinnie on April 18, 1923. The vessel crossed the Atlantic for Great Lakes service for the Great Lakes Transportation Co. It joined the George Hall Coal Co. in March 1926 and then Canada Steamship Lines that October.

Renamed Lennox for the start of the 1927 season, the 261 foot long vessel operated through the old St. Lawrence Canals and Third Welland Canal of that era.

It was requisitioned for the Caribbean bauxite trade in 1940 and served effectively until lost. U-129 survived the war with a record of 29 ships sunk. It surrendered to the French in 1945.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 23

The e.) U.S.S. ROTARY (YO-148) was commissioned on February 23, 1943, at Sullivan's Dry Dock & Repair Co., Brooklyn, New York and assigned duty with the Service Force, Third Naval District, Atlantic Fleet. The tanker was built in 1915 at Chatham, England by Chatham Dock Yard Ltd. as a.) H.M.S. SERVITOR. Renamed b.) PULOE BRANI in 1922, brought to the Lakes and renamed c.) B.B. MC COLL in 1927, and d.) A.J. PATMORE in 1929. After her U.S. Naval Service ROTARY reverted to her previous name f.) A.J. PATMORE and then g.) PEGGY REINAUER in 1946. Renamed h.) DETROIT early in 1955, she traded on the lakes until 1975. Her partially dismantled hull was abandoned in 1985 in the backwaters of Lake Calumet.

On 23 February 1843, SANDUSKY (wooden side-wheeler, 148 foot, 377 tons, built in 1834, at Sandusky, Ohio) caught fire at her dock on Buffalo Creek in Buffalo, New York and burned to the hull. She was recovered, rebuilt as a 3-masted bark and lasted another two years.

1942: LENNOX was also a victim of the German submarine U-129. The Canada Steamship Lines bulk canaller was attacked southwest of Trinidad in P: 09.15 N / 58.30 W. This time there were two sailors lost but 18 survived as the ship did not explode. The torpedo struck on the starboard side and the U-boat Commander came alongside the lifeboat and gave course directions to reach land.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Seaway Notice No. 1: Opening of the 2014 navigation season

2/22 - The opening of the 2014 navigation season is scheduled to take place on March 28 at 8 a.m. This includes the Montreal / Lake Ontario section as well as the Welland Canal.

Vessel transits will be subject to weather and ice conditions. Restrictions may apply in some areas until lighted navigation aids have been installed.

The Soo Locks will open on March 25.

Allowable draft in the Montreal / Lake Ontario Section the draft will be 80.0 dm (26' 3") until the South Shore Canal is ice free or April 15th, whichever occurs first, at which time, if water levels are favorable, the draft will be increased to 80.8 dm (26' 6") for all vessels.

In addition, there will be zero tolerance for ship's draft in excess of 80.8 dm (26' 6"). Mariners are reminded that for ships loaded to a draft greater than 80.0 dm (26' 3"), speeds will be monitored carefully between St. Lambert Lock and St. Nicolas Island. In the Welland Canal, a maximum allowable draft of 80.8 dm (26' 6") will be in effect from the start of the navigation season for all vessels.

In addition, there will be zero tolerance for vessel drafts in excess of 80.8 dm (26' 6''). Please note that, for vessels loaded to a draft greater than 80.0 dm (26' 3"), speeds will be monitored carefully between the upper entrance to Lock 7 and former Bridge 12 in order to reduce bank erosion in this area.


Lookback #97 George L. Torian torpedoed in Caribbean on February 22, 1942

2/22 - While the canal-sized bulk carrier George L. Torian was built at the saltwater port of Hull, England, the ship was designed for Great Lakes trading through the old canals of that day. The small vessel came overseas for freshwater service in 1926 and was initially operated by the Eastern Steamship Co.

The 261-foot-long steamer usually carried grain and became part of the Upper Lakes & St. Lawrence Transportation Co. in 1936. It operated in their colors before being requisitioned in 1941 by the Federal Minister of Munition and Supply, on behalf of the British War Ministry, for a return to saltwater sailing.

George L. Torian headed to the Caribbean to load bauxite at inland river ports for delivery to the transshipment center at Trinidad and then north to the aluminum mills. The vessel had a full cargo and was en route from Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, when it was torpedoed and sunk by U-129 off the coast of British Guiana seventy-two years ago today. This was one of seven ships sent to the bottom by that infamous German submarine prowling in the area over a two-week period.

Reports on the number of lives lost varies, but there was at least one and possibly four sailors who survived the February 22, 1942, attack.

Skip Gillham


Boatnerd and hockey fan Mike Nicholls in finals, needs your vote again

2/22 - Detroit, Mich. – In addition to being a regular contributor to the Boatnerd Photo Gallery, Diamond Jack’s River Tours’ Capt. Mike Nicholls is a hockey fan and needs your vote as one of the contest finalist.

Nicholls has been a Michigan hockey fan for over 40 years and a season-ticket holder since the 1995-96 season missing only one game on Jan. 17, 2004. He is most well known for his streak of attending 420 consecutive home and away games that began in 2005 and ended in 2013.

Nicholls has logged over 130,000 travel miles watching the Wolverines play and his travels now include six trips to Alaska, four trips to Omaha, Neb., two trips to Manchester, N.H., along with numerous other destinations. He has been honored by the hockey program for his dedication and received awards following his 100th game and 250th game, which included an on-ice presentation and plaque from the team. At the end of last season, Mike was voted Michigan Hockey's "Super Fan" by the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) during the Celebrate the Legacy Super Fan contest.

Now he’s in the final running to be the Ultimate Hockey Fan. Cast your vote for a fellow Boatnerd here:


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 22

On 22 February 1920, the Goodrich Line’s ALABAMA (steel propeller passenger/package freight steamer, 272 foot, 2,626 gross tons, built in 1909, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin) ran aground on a concrete obstruction which was the foundation of the old water-intake crib in Lake Michigan off Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The SIDNEY O. NEFF (wooden package freighter, 149 foot, 346 gross tons, built in 1890, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin) took off the ALABAMA’s cargo and then harbor tugs pulled the ALABAMA free. Repairs to her hull took the rest of the winter and she didn’t return to service until May 1920.

February 22, 1925 - The ANN ARBOR NO 7 made her maiden voyage. On 22 February 1878, the 156 foot wooden freighter ROBERT HOLLAND was purchased by Beatty & Co. of Sarnia for $20,000.

1942: The Great Lakes canal-sized bulk carrier GEORGE L. TORIAN of the Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Co. had been requisitioned for saltwater service in the bauxite trade in 1941. The ship was torpedoed by U-129 off the coast of British Guiana in position 09.13 N / 59.04 W and sank quickly. Most of the crew were killed.

1945: H.M.C.S. TRENTONIAN was a Flower Class naval corvette that had been built by the Kingston Shipbuilding Company and completed at Kingston, Ontario, on December 1, 1943. It was torpedoed and sunk by U-1004 near Falmouth, England, and went down stern first. Six on board, one officer and 5 enlisted crew members, were lost.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports -  February 21

Ludington, Mich.
R/V Sikuliaq has been conducting sea trials out of Ludington this week, generally from early morning until late at night. They came in early Thursday due to storm warnings on the lake.


Coast Guard warns western Lake Erie communities of ice-breaking activity

2/21 - Detroit, Mich. – The Coast Guard is advising residents of southern Lake Erie islands including Catawba Island, Ohio, that the commercial tug Ohio is scheduled to break ice from South Bass Island to Catawba Island Tuesday morning.

This ice-breaking operation does not involve a Coast Guard icebreaker, nonetheless, the Coast Guard is advising residents and visitors that any ice in the area may be particularly unstable and dangerous.

The Ohio will depart Cleveland Monday at about 1 a.m. and head toward South Bass Island, transiting between Kelleys Island and Middle Island. The Ohio will later depart from Put-in-Bay in South Bass Island and head toward Catawba Island at about 10 a.m. with a barge in tow. The vessel will transit around the eastern portion of South Bass Island toward the Miller's Ferry Dock on Catawba Island following the Miller Boat Ferry Route. The vessels plan to remain in Catawba Island for 2 hours loading construction supplies. After loading, the vessels are expected to depart Catawba Island at about 1 p.m. In case of a delay loading at Catawba Island, the Ohio may depart Wednesday morning.

All transit times and locations are subject to change based on weather conditions.


Seaway Saltie News

2/21 - The following saltwater vessels have been renamed. Each made at least one visit to the Great Lakes-Seaway system in their careers. The list includes the one-time French registered passenger and cruise ship Le Levant. She last toured inland in the early 2000s and now sails as Tera Moana from the Bahamas. Alam Senang of Malaysia, which had many names in its career, has been renamed as Ismail Deeb of Belize registry. She first came inland in 1984 with the name Golden Alliance from 1984-88, and returned as Atlantic from 1988-93, and as Alam Senang from 1993-2012. Alam Sempurna, also of Malaysia, has had many names as well. She now sails as Uni Brothers of Panama. This vessel first came inland in 1984 with the name Saint Laurent from 1984-91 and as Alam Sempurna from 1991-2009. She was renamed Atlantic Cozumel from 2009-12, but never came inland with that name. Atlantic Steamer, which made only one visit under that name in 2012, has been renamed S Kuznetsov of Russia. She is better known as the BBC Spain, which first visited in 2003. Egbert Wagenborg, which last visited in 2011, has been renamed Kunahir of Russia.

Denny Dushane


Lookback #96 – Former Cleveland abandoned by crew on February 21, 1979

2/21 - The French freighter Cleveland, of Cie Generale Transatlantique, was especially designed for trading through the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway. The 450-foot-long general cargo carrier was equipped with some refrigerated cargo space and completed in July 1960.

It began visiting the Great Lakes in 1961 making four trips inland that year and a total of 16 transits to the end of 1965. Cleveland could carry 7,500 tons of cargo, was ice strengthened and equipped for transporting up to 12 passengers.

Cleveland loaded at French, German and Belgian ports for the Great Lakes and, during the winter months, traded to Caribbean destinations.

The ship was sold in 1977, becoming Despina H. under the flag of Greece that year and then Despina U. under Liberian registry in 1978. It resumed sailing as Despina H., Greek flag, again in 1979 but not for long. The ship was carrying sugar from Cuba to Syria when it began to leak 35 years ago today. The crew abandoned ship about 900 miles southeast of Bermuda and their vessel is reported to have sunk two days later on February 23.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 21

EDWIN H. GOTT arrived at Two Harbors, Minnesota, (her first trip) February 21, 1979, with the loss of one of her two rudders during her transit of Lake Superior. The other rudder post was also damaged. She was holed in her bow and some of her cargo hold plating ruptured as a result of frozen ballast tanks. Even the icebreaker MACKINAW suffered damage to her port propeller shaft on the trip across frozen Lake Superior.

At Port Weller Drydocks Ltd., the keel of the new bow section for HILDA MARJANNE was laid on February 21, 1961, while at the same time the tanker hull forward of her engine room bulkhead was being cut away.

On 21 February 1929, SAPPHO (wooden propeller passenger ferry, 107 foot, 224 gross tons, built in 1883, at Wyandotte, Michigan) burned at her winter lay-up dock in Ecorse, Michigan. She had provided 46 years of service ferrying passengers across the Detroit River. She was neither repaired nor replaced since the Ambassador Bridge was nearing completion.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports -  February 20

St. Clair River - Kevin Majewski
On Wednesday the USCGC Hollyhock (WLB 214) was escorting the Algosea upbound just below Marysville.


Great Lakes water levels: How much will snow raise Lake Michigan and Lake Huron?

2/20 - Ann Arbor, Mich. There is obviously a lot of snow on the ground in Michigan. How much will all the snow raise Lake Michigan and Lake Huron when it melts? We asked the geography department at Northern Illinois University to help with some math.

Wei Luo, Ph.D., Presidential Research Professor at NIU, imported data into a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program. Luo found that the drainage basin of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hold an average of 5.5 inches of water. So we took the area of Lake Michigan-Huron and put that amount of water on top of the lake surface. The 5.5 inches of water on the drainage basin equals 11.1 inches of water on the lake. In other words, if all of the snow melted and made it into Lake Michigan-Huron, the lake level would rise 11.1 inches.

Drew Gronewold, Ph.D., Physical Scientist at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, says the assumption that all of the snow will make it into the lakes is incorrect. He says that the snow cover could also evaporate, sublimate and even go into the deeper ground water. Gronewold says a rule of thumb would be that 30 percent of the snowmelt would make it into the lakes. He does say that there are a lot of reasons to believe in a significant rise in lake levels of lakes Michigan-Huron this spring and summer. Aside from the snow melting and running off into the lakes, the colder water now could mean lower evaporation this summer.

GLERL runs a computer model that attempts to predict lake levels. The research computer model currently predicts a rise of nearly 17 inches on Lake Michigan-Huron from the current level. This level would be reached in July or August.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, issues the official lake level forecast. Jim Lewis, hydraulic engineer at the Corps, says the most current forecast calls for Lake Michigan-Huron to rise 13.5 inches from its current level. Lewis says that means Lake Michigan-Huron will make gains on approaching its long-term average. When the lake level tops out this summer, Lake Michigan-Huron is projected to be only 11 inches below the long-term average. Last year the lakes topped out 14 inches below long-term average.

At the forecast peak level this coming summer, Lake Michigan-Huron will be eight inches higher than last summer.

Lewis also says Lake Michigan-Huron has risen 15 inches since the low water mark in January 2013. To put it in perspective, that is an additional 12 trillion gallons in lakes Michigan-Huron.

The current lake level forecast uses the Climate Prediction Center's summer forecast, and assumes near normal precipitation in the spring and summer. If we should get into heavy rainfall like last spring, the lake levels would be higher than currently predicted.

A new lake level forecast will be issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in March. But it is safe to assume there will be more water to swim in this year. It just may be that the water may be a little too cold to stay in long.

M Live


Great Lakes nearing 80 percent ice cover

2/20 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior are now almost totally covered with ice.

Monday marked the 22nd straight day of subzero temperatures recorded by the Duluth National Weather Service (NWS), tying a 50-year-old record. NWS representative Steve Gohde expected Tuesday morning would break that record. “We expect temperatures across the Northland to be in the teens below zero,” Gohde said.

In all, the Duluth-Superior area has had 55 days of subzero temperatures so far this winter, with packed ice over 78 percent of the Great Lakes, when the norm is 55 percent. Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory scientist George Leshkevich said that's an impressive amount, since there's still another month of ice-making weather ahead. The record is 95-percent cover in 1979.

“It's fluctuated pretty wildly... in the past few years,” Leshkevich said. “I wouldn't want to say we're going to have less ice cover or more ice cover. It's something that's hard to predict.”

All that adds up to thick ice around Sault St. Marie, Michigan: ice cutting territory where ships connect with Lakes Superior and Michigan. Coast Guard vessel traffic manager Mark Dobson says it will make for a tough break-out when shipping traffic resumes March 25.

“You know, you can only do so much with an icebreaker. They're not magic little ships that melt the ice and spread fairy dust everywhere and it all goes away, you know? Two feet is two feet, and it's two knots or five knots,” Dobson said. “It depends on the thickness and everything else. We don't have magic hairdryers that can make it soft and go away.”

Lake Michigan has 62 percent ice cover while Lake Ontario has 18 percent ice.

WPR Wisconsin


Hands-free mooring elbows into Niagara

2/20 - St. Catharines, Ont. – The Seaway sees hands-free mooring as key to its financial health. But a union representing workers affected by the technology, fears for dozens of potential lost jobs. One lock has been completed in Montreal, with preparations under way to bring three more into a modernization program.

Among those is Lock 3 in St. Catharines, Ont., with that hands-free system operational by the close of the navigation season. Andrew Bogora, spokesman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said the plan is to equip each high-lift lock in the Seaway with three double-pad mooring units.

That would mean fitting Locks 1 to 7 in the Welland Canal over the next five years.

Bogora said the Seaway is running an operating deficit and has been told by the federal government to cover its own costs. He said modernization, including hands-free mooring, will help it become "financially self-sufficient on a operating basis."

That hands-free system secures a vessel during a lock transit without lines tied to a bollard, by using vacuum pads mounted to a rail fixed within the lock wall. As the water level in the lock is raised or lowered, the pads move with the ship, up or down the track on the wall, and keep the ship secured.

Gerry Stull, chairperson of Unifor Local 4212 said his union "has concerns about how (hands-free mooring) could affect our members. Potentially, it could reduce the amount of workers on the Seaway." The local represents about 200 Seaway maintenance and clerical staff in Niagara and Cornwall.

Stull otherwise declined to comment on other hands-free mooring issues given the sensitivity of collective bargaining discussions with the Seaway.

Bogora confirmed that jobs will be phased out as the new system becomes operational. The Seaway has about 585 full-time positions, with 74 to be eliminated over the next four to five years due to modernizations that include hands-free mooring.

He said phase-outs will happen gradually, with "a significant potential for these positions to be dealt with through attrition." Bogora said that's especially true in Niagara, as many employees will become eligible for retirement over that time.

He adds the project will also improve access to the Seaway for ocean vessels that don't regularly come into the system, as they may have to be otherwise refitted. Bogora said with hands-free mooring, those vessels should not have to be refitted to the same extent.

Meanwhile, the Seaway's Jean Aubry-Morin said the new system will actually boost safety along its ship-handling waterways. Aubry-Morin, the SLSMC's vice-president of external relations said a thorough risk assessment has been done on the hands-free system. He said it actually reduces overall risks when compared to traditional mooring with cables.

"The steel cables used for mooring … are not present in the new process," he said. Aubry-Morin said it also eliminates the potential of cable breaks, "which are very dangerous for employees." Hands-free systems are also more reliable at securing vessels, he said.

St. Catharines Standard


Norgoma to survive another year?

2/20 - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. – The Norgoma may yet survive as a museum ship on the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront for another year. At its regular meeting Tuesday, City Council, in the first of two recorded votes, rejected by a count of 6-4 a City staff recommendation to end ongoing City financial support for the vessel and pursue an "exit strategy" whereby the Norgoma's surrounding marina docks would be temporarily removed, the basin surrounding its stern dredged, and the vessel itself taken to a ship breaking yard.

That exit strategy would have cost the City between $200,000 to $300,000.

Voting to reject City staff's recommendation were Acting Mayor Terry Sheehan and Councillors Lou Turco, Steve Butland, Susan Myers, Brian Watkins and Pat Mick. Voting to accept the recommendation were Councillors Marchy Bruni, Joe Krmpotich, Rick Niro and Frank Fata. Mayor Debbie Amaroso, along with Councillors Paul Christian and Frank Manzo, were absent.

In a second recorded vote, the same Council members voted 6-4 in favour of a new resolution that called for funding for the Norgoma for a further year to be included in 2014 City Budget deliberations.

The resolution stated that 2013 saw an increase in visitor numbers to the Norgoma and that more time is needed to build and enhance a Cultural Corridor partnership (consisting of various historical tourist attractions) along the Sault's waterfront.

A request for continued funding was made to Council in a presentation by Norgoma Board member Jim Waycik (with added support from Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre Executive Director Mike Delfre).

Norgoma Board President Louis Muio, in a letter to Council dated February 18, stated that excellent progress in the development of the ship has been made over the past six years with City support, and that in 2013 there was a large increase in attendance, and much more use of the ship for public events.

The Norgoma originally served as a passenger ferry throughout the 1950s to the early 1970s along the north shore of Lake Huron, connecting various communities in the area with Sault Ste. Marie.

The St. Mary's River Marine Heritage Centre (SMRMHC), the group which now operates the Norgoma as a museum ship, has attempted throughout the years to make the vessel into a profitable tourist attraction, with the help of ongoing City funding.

Though historic in nature, the ship has been a financially challenged tourist attraction on the Sault Ste. Marie riverfront for decades. The City had a five-year agreement in place with the St. Marys River Marine Heritage Centre beginning in 2007 whereby the Norgoma would receive $15,000 in City funding annually for five years, with the understanding the Norgoma would not be subsidized by the City beyond 2012. However, in 2013, the City gave $15,000 in funding to the Norgoma for the 2013 season only, with the intention of deciding on any future City funding moving forward.

On Tuesday, Waycik said that in return for continued financial support from the City, the Norgoma provides summer employment for students, an historic link to Northern Ontario's past, a visible presence on the St. Marys River, and a component of the Cultural Corridor that runs from the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre to the Parks Canada site.

Ward Two City Councillor Susan Myers pleaded with Council not to "pull the plug" on the Norgoma. Ward Three City Councillor Pat Mick said the cost of City support for the Norgoma was preferable in comparison to the costly exit strategy recommended by City staff. Other Councillors, such as Ward Four's Rick Niro and Ward Five's Marchy Bruni, felt that ongoing use of City funds for supporting the Norgoma had to come to an end.

Soo Today


Lookback #95 – King caught fire during winter work at Buffalo on February 20, 1940

2/20 - The package freight carrier King was moored at Buffalo for the winter of 1939-1941 when a fire broke out during the installation of insulation to provide additional refrigerated cargo space. Several firemen were overcome by the smoky blaze, but damage to the ship was negligible.

King was built at Cleveland as Lake Faristell in 1919. The 261-foot-long freighter was constructed for war duty but peace had been won by the time that the ship had been completed. It departed for coastal service before returning inland for the Minnesota-Atlantic Transit Co.

Renamed King in 1925, the ship was part of the “Poker Fleet” that included the Ace, Queen, Jack, Ten, and Nine. Primary service was between Duluth and Port Huron but later this was expanded to Detroit and Buffalo.

After joining the Great Lakes Transit Co. in 1942, King was requisitioned by the United States Maritime Commission and returned to the Atlantic. It survived the war and became Milena, Panamanian flag, in 1947 and Evgenia, same registry, in 1948.

The vessel stranded off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on September 7, 1953, and became a total loss. The hull was salvaged, taken to Baltimore, Maryland, and dismantled in 1954.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 20

On February 20, 1959, Interlake Steamship Co.’s HERBERT C. JACKSON (Hull#302) was launched at Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan.

The Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker DES GROSEILLIERS (Hull#68) was launched February 20, 1982, at St. Catharines, Ontario by Port Weller Drydocks Ltd.

On 20 February 1903, the straight-deck steamer G. WATSON FRENCH (steel propeller, 376 foot, 3,785 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. (Hull#608). She lasted until 1964, when she was scrapped by Lakehead Scrap Metal Co. at Fort William, Ontario. The other names she had during her career were b.) HENRY P. WERNER in 1924, c.) JOHN J. BOLAND in 1937, and d.) ALGOWAY in 1947.

1940: A fire broke out in the cargo hold of the package freighter KING at Buffalo when insulation, being installed for refrigeration purposes, ignited. Several firemen were overcome by the smoke, but damage to the ship was negligible.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Jody Aho, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Reports -  February 19

Cleveland, Ohio - P. Gauche
Monday night Dorothy Ann and barge Pathfinder moved out of the Great Lakes Shipyard and docked at the Whiskey Island ore dock in Cleveland.


Coast Guard medevacs injured man aboard R/V Sikuliaq

2/19 - Marinette, Wis. – A man injured aboard a ship undergoing sea trials near Marinette was taken to shore on Monday by crews from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay.

The crew of the Mobile Bay was alerted to the injury around 8:45 a.m. on the Sikuliaq, a 254-foot U.S.-flagged research vessel. The cutter was escorting the vessel at the time of the incident.

The ship was about 200 yards from shore and the Mobile Bay broke ice around the Sikuliaq and launched a small boat to get the man and take him to shore. Sikuliaq, built at Marinette Marine Corp., is undergoing testing on Green Bay.

The patient was taken to Bay Area Medical Facility in Marinette with an ankle injury, the Coast Guard said. His name was not released.

Green Bay Press Gazette


Great Lakes become nearly covered with ice

2/19 - Cheboygan, Mich. – From the bridge of the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, northern Lake Huron looks like a vast, snow-covered field dotted with ice slabs as big as boulders, a battleground for the icebreaker's 58-member crew during one of the roughest winters in memory.

It's been so bitterly cold for so long in the Upper Midwest that the Great Lakes are almost completely covered with ice. The last time they came this close was in 1994, when 94 percent of the lakes' surface was frozen.

As of Friday, ice cover extended across 88 percent, according to the federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

Sections of the lakes, which hold nearly one-fifth of the freshwater on the world's surface, harden almost every winter. That freezing keeps the Coast Guard's fleet of nine icebreakers busy clearing paths for vessels hauling essential cargo such as heating oil, salt and coal. But over the past four decades, the average ice cover has receded 70 percent, scientists say, probably in part because of climate change.

Still, as this season shows, short-term weather patterns can trump multi-year trends. Winter arrived early and with a vengeance and refuses to loosen its grip.

"That arctic vortex came down, and the ice just kept going," said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the federal lab.

The deep freeze is more than a novelty. By limiting evaporation, it may help replenish lake water levels – a process that began last year after a record-breaking slump dating to the late 1990s. Also getting relief are cities along the lakes that have been pummeled with lake-effect snow, which happens when cold air masses suck up moisture from open waters and dump it over land.

Buffalo, N.Y., got nearly 43 inches of snow in January, but this month just 13 inches have fallen, a decline resulting largely from the freeze-over of Lake Erie even though Lake Ontario has remained largely open, said forecaster Jon Hitchcock of the National Weather Service. Heavy ice can also protect fish eggs from predators, and it has delighted photographers, ice anglers and daredevil snowmobilers.

At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, the rock-solid cover has allowed around 35,000 visitors to trudge miles over Lake Superior to explore caves featuring dazzling ice formations. It's the first time in five years the lake surface has been firm enough to allow passage.

With no letup in the cold, the ice hasn't experienced the usual thaw-and-freeze cycle, so nature's artistry is even more delicate and beautiful, with needle-like hoarfrost crystals sprinkled across sheets that dangle from cave ceilings like giant chandeliers.

"Seeing them like this is almost a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Superintendent Bob Krumenaker said.

There's even an (apparently) tongue-in-cheek Facebook page inviting people to join a convoy of snowmobiles, cars and other vehicles on a nearly 80-mile trek across Lake Michigan. Never mind that its waters remain partly open and experts warn the ice can be dangerously unstable.

For Coast Guard icebreaker teams, it's all business. They've logged four times more hours this season than the average for the same period in recent years, said Kyle Niemi, spokesman for the agency's Cleveland district headquarters.

The 240-foot Mackinaw began its duties Dec. 16 – several weeks earlier than usual – and worked nonstop until Feb. 8, when traffic slowed enough to allow a break.

"As you can imagine, the crew's tired," Cmdr. Michael Davanzo said this week during a tour of the ship in its homeport of Cheboygan.

A 35-year Coast Guard veteran who has spent 12 years on the lakes, Davanzo said this winter is the toughest he's experienced because the ice came so soon and is so thick and widespread, and the weather has been constantly bitter.

The Mackinaw, commissioned in 2006 to replace an older vessel with the same name, is designed specifically for duty on the Great Lakes. It's propelled by two Azipod thrusters that can spin 360 degrees and fire jets of water at adjacent ice, weakening it. Sometimes the crew will drive the ship's bow onto an ice sheet to crack it with sheer weight. Or they'll go backward, chopping up ice with the propeller blades.

When the going gets tough, there's the battering-ram option – hurling the reinforced hull directly against walls of ice that can be several feet thick.

The workload typically drops sharply after navigational locks on the St. Marys River, the link between lakes Superior and Huron, close in mid-January and most large cargo haulers dock for winter. But the ice was so thick this year that a number of freighters were still struggling to complete final deliveries days later. Even now, demand for road salt and heating oil in the Midwest is keeping some icebreakers busy.

One day last month, the Mackinaw spent 16 grueling hours helping a freighter squeeze through a narrow 3.5-mile section of the St. Marys. As the Mackinaw attacks the ice, the engines roar and the ship vibrates. The noise and motion are "like living in an earthquake 16 hours a day," Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Alderman said.

Davanzo hopes for rain and warmer temperatures that would melt some ice before the locks reopen in late March, when the Mackinaw will venture onto Lake Superior and clear paths for iron ore and coal haulers.

"But if the weather stays like this," he said, "we could be breaking ice all the way to the middle of May."

Despite the inconvenience, there's a silver lining for shippers. Since the low-water period began in late 1990s, they've been forced to carry lighter loads to avoid scraping bottom in shallow channels and harbors. Heavy snow and rain in 2013 finally raised water levels.

Ice cover blocks evaporation, the leading cause of low water. It also will keep the lakes cooler for a longer time this year, delaying the onset of heavy evaporation season, scientist John Lenters reported in a paper last month, although the benefit is partially offset by stepped-up evaporation shortly before the ice forms.

In Lake Superior, snowbound Isle Royale National Park is home to a dwindling and inbred wolf population that is usually trapped on the island. Biologists hope a newcomer or two will venture to the park now that the lake is almost entirely frozen over. The park's first wolves are believed to have crossed an ice bridge from Canada, 15 miles away, in the late 1940s.

There's also a chance that one or more of the island's wolves could grab the rare opportunity to escape.

"They are inveterate travelers," veteran wolf expert Rolf Peterson said. "And they don't need a reason that would make sense to us."



Cliffs is bullish on US iron ore, steel production

2/19 - Duluth, Minn. – Officials at Cliffs Natural Resources last week gave a recap of their 2013 business and a look-ahead to 2014, when the mining company expects increased demand for iron ore with a growing U.S. economy.

In its quarterly report and conference call with industry analysts, Cliffs officials said they expect “accelerating economic growth in the United States to support domestic steel production and thus demand for steelmaking raw materials” such as taconite.

For 2014, Cliffs is maintaining its full-year sales and production volume expectation of 22 million to 23 million tons from its U.S. iron ore business, up from about 21 million tons in 2013. Much of that increase will come from a return to full production at Northshore Mining in Silver Bay.

The company said it is producing taconite pellets for about $70 per ton at its U.S. operations and selling them for about $110 per ton. The company said it expects to see overseas sales of iron ore to average about $128 per ton and that it expects demand from China to remain strong.

Cliffs is one of Minnesota’s major taconite iron ore producers. It owns and operates Northshore Mining in Silver Bay and Babbitt and United Taconite in Eveleth and Forbes. It also is co-owner and operator of Hibbing Taconite and owns and operates the Tilden/Empire taconite operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

On Oct. 13, Cliffs reported fourth-quarter and full-year results for 2013, including a 3 percent decrease in revenue from 2012, although the company said the year ended with a solid fourth quarter. Cliffs reported full-year revenues of $5.7 billion, down $181 million, saying results were “driven by slightly lower global iron ore sales volumes and significantly lower market pricing for metallurgical coal products.”

For the full year, Cliffs recorded net income attributable to Cliffs’ shareholders of $414 million, or $2.37 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $899 million, or $6.32 per diluted share, in 2012.

The company also announced last week that Gary B. Halverson, 55, formerly president and chief operating officer, has been appointed as president and CEA, effective immediately. He also serves as a director on Cliffs’ board of directors. Halvorson said the company is working to cut costs and increase shareholder value.

Company officials, who have come under fire in recent months by a vocal investor group to cut costs and raise dividends, on Friday issued an open letter to its shareholders that they were working hard to accomplish those goals but would not react to all of the demands made by Casablanca, the New York-based hedge fund that now owns about 10 percent of Cliffs’ shares.

Company officials said they are working to become a “leaner and more efficient’’ company but that Casablanca is urging too many changes, such as selling off foreign assets, too fast.

Earlier this month the company announced it was closing its Wabush iron ore mine and processing operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s third largest iron ore operation, because of high operating costs. The company also said it was indefinitely suspending its efforts to develop a chromite mine in Canada and cutting in half new spending on expanding its Bloom Lake iron ore mine in Quebec.

Duluth News Tribune


Welland Canal's Inn at Lock 7 sold

2/19 - Thorold, Ont. – The Inn at Lock 7, familiar to boatwatchers and a favorite place to stay for many, has been sold. The sale was confirmed in an e-mail from owners Patty Szoldra and Ed Kuiper.

"Last July we decided to put the Inn up for sale thinking it would be a couple of years before we sold it, according to our real estate agent. Well we closed a deal in the first week of January and the new proprietors are eager to move in so we turn the land, building and business over to them February 19, 2014," they wrote.

The Inn overlooks Lock 7 of the Welland Canal. It provides a spectacular view of vessels as they climb the Welland Flight Locks.

Characterizing the new owners as boatnerd-friendly, the e-mail continued by saying "The new proprietors are wonderful people and they would like to carry on in the way we ran the business. We are in contact with them regularly and will help them get things ready for their opening on March 14.

"They will be keeping the same rates for 2014. Any reservations that were made for 2014 are in the reservation book and will be honored by them 100 percent."

Szoldra and Kuiper plan on moving to Stoney Creek, which is 25 minutes away from the Inn. "We have taken pride in our business over the past 16 years and we will miss seeing our guests, many which have become great friends," Szoldra and Kuiper added.

"Thank you all for making our business a successful one and please welcome the new proprietors in their endeavor."


Lookback #94 – The Bulgarian freighter Vihren driven on breakwall on February 19, 1992

2/19 - The Bulgarian built and Bulgarian owned bulk carrier Vihren was two years old when it entered the Seaway, bound for Thunder Bay, on October 9, 1983. The 605-foot, 8-inch-long freighter was diesel powered and able to carry 24,150 tons of cargo at deep sea draft.

Vihren returned to the Great Lakes on subsequent occasions until becoming a total loss twenty-two years ago today. The vessel got caught in a storm on the Black Sea and was driven into the breakwater at Tuapse, USSR. The storm continued and the helpless hull was broken in two becoming a total loss.

The two pieces were eventually salvaged and sold to Turkish shipbreakers. The stern section arrived at Aliaga, on August 20, 1992, and the bow was pulled into that port a few days later for dismantling.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  February 19

News Photo Gallery
Lay-up list updated


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 19

The b.) TROY H. BROWNING, c.) THOMAS F. PATTON was towed from the James River with two other C4s, LOUIS MC HENRY HOWE, b.) TOM M. GIRDLER and MOUNT MANSFIELD, b.) CHARLES M. WHITE, to the Maryland Dry Dock Co., Baltimore, Maryland, February 1951, to be converted to a Great Lakes bulk carrier according to plans designed by J.J. Henry & Co., New York, New York.

Wolf & Davidson of Milwaukee sold the JIM SHERIFFS (wooden propeller, 182 foot, 634 gross tons, built in 1883, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin) to Kelley Island Line on 19 February 1887.

1981: The Indian freighter JYOTI VINOD, a Seaway caller as a) JALAZAD beginning in 1969, departed Bombay with a cargo of jute, general freight and school buses. The nightmare voyage, which proved to be its last, did not reach Tema, Ghana, until December 23, 1981

1992: VIHREN, a Bulgarian built and flagged bulk carrier, was driven on the breakwall at Tuapse, USSR, in severe weather. The vessel later broke in two. The ship first came inland in 1983, headed for Thunder Bay. The two sections of the hull were refloated and each arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, for dismantling in August 1992.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Sikuliaq heads to Lake Michigan for Sea trials

2/18 - Marinette Marine Corp. has a vessel out on sea trials in Lake Michigan. The University of Alaska research vessel Sikuliaq is on acceptance trials in the lake between Traverse City and Ludington. They are docking in Ludington each evening.


Deep freeze pushes Great Lakes ice cover to 88 percent, close to 1979 record

2/18 - If this winter needed a theme song, it might be “Ice Ice Baby.” The Great Lakes are on the cusp of a record for ice cover.

“In the last one to two weeks, we’ve seen rapid accumulations on Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan,” said Jeff Andresen, an associate professor in Michigan State University’s geography department who also is the state climatologist.

The ice cover on the lakes increased from 79.7 percent to 88.4 percent just in the last week, putting the region close to the record of almost 95 percent set in February 1979, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

The extensive ice cover has had some interesting and positive effects, like shutting off lake-effect snow, making it sunnier in parts of northern and western Michigan and limiting evaporation, which could help boost lake levels. And the ice cover, Andresen said, could help delay the spring warm-up – good news for farmers as it helps keep certain crops, like fruit trees, dormant longer and less susceptible to freezing early in the growing season.

Andresen said that the winter of 2013-14 also is shaping up to be one of the five coldest in Michigan in recorded history, although its still early to say for certain.

“We haven’t seen many winters like this that are cold from beginning to end,” he said, “noting that this is the fourth consecutive month that is colder than normal. It has been an extraordinary winter, and the ice cover is a manifestation of that unusually cold winter.”

He cautioned that temperatures forecast in the 40s next week could hurt the chances to break a record for ice cover. “Given the warmer weather next week, it may not be in the cards, but it’s way, way above normal,” Andresen said.

Still, he cautioned not to put the snow blower away just yet because some forecasts predict that extremely cold weather could return later in the season.

George Lessens, chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV (Channel 13) in Grand Rapids, agreed that the ice cover on the Great Lakes is substantial, but he doubts the region will hit a record.

“We could see the lakes getting close to that record if we had another week to 10 days (of below-freezing temperatures), but were going to go into the 40s next week. That’s really going to put the brakes on it,” he said.

If the lakes fail to beat the record, we can blame Lake Ontario. “Lake Ontario is still quite a bit uncovered. They’re holding everyone back,” Lessens said.

Lake Ontario’s depth and the churning caused by Niagara Falls mean that it needs long stretches of exceptionally cold weather to freeze. It had ice cover of just over 40% Thursday. Other lakes are almost completely covered: Superior, 93.6 percent; Huron, 95 percent, and Erie, 95.7 percent. Michigan was at 81 percent.

The extensive lake ice provided a backdrop for U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, on Thursday as she traveled aboard the U.S. Coast Guard’s 225-foot icebreaker, the Hollyhock, from Port Huron.

“I was interested to see up close the vast amount of ice blanketing Lake Huron and extremely impressed with the skill, dedication and persistence demonstrated by the crew of the Hollyhock as they cut through the ice,” Miller said in a news release.

Detroit News


Seaway saltie news

2/18 - The following saltwater vessels have been renamed. Each made at least one visit to the Great Lakes/Seaway system in its career. Turid Knutsen, a Norwegian tanker and long-time visitor, is now the Princess Oge of Liberia. She last visited during the 2009 season. Ziemia Gornoslaska, a former Polsteam vessel and long-time visitor, is now the Kanuni from the Cook Islands. Ziemia Gornoslaska was her name from 1990-91, although it wasn't until 2003 that she first came inland with that name. Prior to that, she also visited as Lake Charles from 1991-2003. Two former Bahamas-flagged tankers have been renamed. Clipper Kristin, which first visited in 2006, is now the Harbour Kristin of Bahamas, while Clipper Karen, which last visited in 2007, is now the Fortune Kristin of South Korea. Sammi Aurora, which last visited in 1998 under the South Korean flag, has been scrapped. Her previous name was Maritime Alliance from 1978-83. Federal Power, a former Fednav vessel which last visited in 2012, is now the Atlantic Power of Cyprus. This was also her original name, carried from 2000-2001.

Denny Dushane


Port Huron getting downtown kayak, canoe launch

2/18 - Port Huron, Mich. – A new kayak and canoe launch ramp for use by paddlers on the Black River is planned for Port Huron as officials work to boost the city’s downtown. The Community Foundation of St. Clair County decided last week to give the city a $30,000 grant to build the ramp just east of the Seventh Street Bridge, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported. It’s expected to be ready by early May.

“I think kayaking is becoming more and more popular, and there’s really nowhere to get out in Port Huron,” said Port Huron Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Winzer. “Just having it right there, accessible by the downtown businesses, is just amazing.”

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation plans to supply about $30,000 to buy and install a floating dock for canoes and kayaks at the bottom of the ramp. The ramp is expected to meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city has approached a business to offer canoes and kayaks for rent. The ramp and dock will be the third ADA-accessible ones on the Black River.

Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the area’s Island Loop as a national water trail. The Island Loop is a 10-mile kayak and canoe route from the Black River to the Black River canal to Lake Huron to the St. Clair River, and then back into the Black River.

Detroit News


Lookback #93 – A fire aboard Richelieu killed three at Thunder Bay on February 18, 1983

2/18 - In the days of the wooden steamers, fire was a regular threat while navigating the lakes. While a blaze may still break out while in service, it appears that most of the recent ship fires have occurred during maintenance work while at the dock.

Thirty-one years ago today, three workers died in the bow section of the Canada Steamship Lines’ bulk carrier Richelieu at the Port Arthur shipyard in Thunder Bay. The men were trapped by the blaze during a welding operation and could not escape before they were overcome.

The vessel, once the flagship of C.S.L., was built at Lauzon, Quebec, in 1967. It was well-known around the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence and usually had a long season.

Richelieu was first ship of the year up bound in the Seaway on March 25, 1975, again on March 25, 1981, and the last up bound trader for the year on December 22, 1992. The vessel was idle the next year except for a single trip, under tow from Thunder Bay to Windsor with a part load of canola, in November 1993.

The 730-foot-long bulk carrier joined the Algoma Central Corp. as Algocape (ii) in 1994 and operated to the end of the 2011 season. Under this name, it managed one more Seaway opening on April 2, 1997, and another through the Welland Canal on March 31, 2003.

Following a sale to shipbreakers in Turkey, the name was shortened to Goc for the tow Aliaga for dismantling in 2012. The ship was beached there on August 22, and scrapping got underway in mid-September.

Skip Gillham


Port Reports -  February 18

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. - Andy Deegan
Philip R. Clarke arrived at Bay Ship Monday afternoon for winter layup.


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 18

IMPERIAL ST. CLAIR participated in an historic special convoy with DOAN TRANSPORT, which carried caustic soda, led by C.C.G.S. GRIFFON arriving at Thunder Bay, Ontario on February 18, 1977. The journey took one week from Sarnia, Ontario through Lake Superior ice as much as six feet thick, and at one point it took four days to travel 60 miles. The trip was initiated to supply residents of the Canadian lakehead with 86,000 barrels of heating oil the reserves of which were becoming depleted due to severe weather that winter.

The b.) JOSEPH S. YOUNG, a.) ARCHERS HOPE, was towed to the Great Lakes via the Mississippi River and arrived at the Manitowoc Ship Building Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin on February 18, 1957, where her self unloading equipment was installed. This was the last large vessel to enter the Lakes via the Mississippi. She was the first of seven T-2 tanker conversions for Great Lakes service. Renamed c.) H. LEE WHITE in 1969, and d.) SHARON in 1974. SHARON was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas in 1986.

The Murphy fleet was sold on 18 February 1886. The tugs GLADIATOR, KATE WILLIAMS and BALIZE went to Captain Maytham, the tug WILLIAM A. MOORE to Mr. Grummond, the schooner GERRIT SMITH to Captain John E. Winn, and the tug ANDREW J. SMITH to Mr. Preston Brady.

1980: PANAGIS K. arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, on this date and was soon placed under arrest. The ship was idle and in a collision there with NORTH WAVE on January 23, 1981. The hull was abandoned aground, vandalized and, on October 12, 1985, auctioned off for scrap. The ship first traded through the Seaway in 1960 as a) MANCHESTER FAME and returned as b) CAIRNGLEN in 1965, again as c) MANCHESTER FAME in 1967 and as d) ILKON NIKI in 1972.

1983: A fire in the bow area during winter work aboard the Canada Steamship Lines bulk carrier RICHELIEU (ii) at Thunder Bay resulted in the death of three shipyard workers.

2010: The sailing ship CONCORDIA visited the Great Lakes in 2001 and participated in the Tall Ships Festival at Bay City, MI. It sank in the Atlantic about 300 miles off Rio de Janeiro after being caught in a severe squall. All 64 on board were rescued from life rafts after a harrowing ordeal.

2010: The tug ADANAC (Canada spelled backwards) sank at the Essar Steel dock at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It was refloated the next day.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Jody Aho, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports – February 17

Buffalo, N.Y. – Brian Wroblewski
The fireboat Edward M. Cotter was out breaking ice above the bridges on the Buffalo River Sunday morning.  Heavy plate ice in this section was up to one foot thick at the time requiring a backing and ramming technique. The Cotter made it back to her dock at the Michigan Street slip around Noon Sunday and will be heading back up the river to break ice again on Tuesday around 9 a.m.

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
The 146-foot-long icebreaker Katmai Bay made it back to its home base in Sault Ste. Marie Sunday after thick ice in the St. Marys River caused them to take several days to make the trip from the south end of the river. Overnighting by Neebish Island Saturday, they got an early start and made it to the Sugar Island Ferry Dock around 10:30 a.m. There they took time to do some ice breaking, widening the area around the channel they had made in the river. This area is where the river narrows, and ice jams can form during the spring break out. The water is open where the ferry crosses from the main land to Sugar Island.  It is kept open with ice booms and regular ferry traffic.  The Katmai Bay continued on into the frozen Soo Harbor, where the ice seemed easier to break, finally docking at the U.S. Coast Guard base.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – Wendell Wilke
Early Sunday morning the tug Manitou, tied at the Selvick dock since Tuesday, departed late morning and was headed for Ludington. Late afternoon the final large ship for layup, the Philip R. Clarke arrived. She was to wait in the inner harbor and will be assisted into her slip in the morning.


Body of Sault Michigan woman found below International Bridge

2/17 – Sault St. Marie, Mich. - According to Northern Michigan news outlets, a Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, woman was found dead on the ice below the International Bridge Friday.

Officials reportedly discovered Theresa May Ranger's vehicle parked on the bridge shortly after 1:30 a.m. Footprints from the abandoned vehicle lead to the bridge railing, and Ranger's body was discovered on the ice in the second lock.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Police Department reports that foul play is not suspected.


Coast Guard rescues snowmobiler who fell through ice

2/17 – Cleveland, Ohio - The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a snowmobiler who fell through the ice Saturday night on the Saginaw River in the vicinity of the Channel Islands in the Saginaw Bay. The name of the rescued individual is not being released.

At 9:15 p.m., a watchstander at Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, in Essexville, Mich., was patched into a phone call between the Bay City emergency dispatch and a man reporting that his friend fell through the ice on his snowmobile.

The watchstander issued an urgent marine information broadcast and also directed the launch of an ice rescue team aboard a 20-foot airboat. The ice rescue team arrived on scene at 9:32 p.m., and immediately launched rescue efforts. The man was pulled from the water and loaded onto the airboat and treated for hypothermia. The man was conscious but was slurring his speech.

“It was an excellent response by our team in a dire situation,” said Chief Petty Officer Zachary Hamilton, coxswain of the airboat and leader of the ice rescue team. “The man was in a dangerous situation because he wasn’t wearing the proper clothing to be immersed in the water. We encourage anyone participating in ice recreation, especially those who are on the ice, to be properly clothed including at least a life jacket for an emergency entrance into the water.”

The man was transferred to emergency medical services personnel who were waiting at Station Saginaw River.

USCG news release


Updates -  February 17

News Photo Gallery


Lookback #92 – Pinemore beached after collision on February 17, 1964

The British owners of the general cargo freighter Pinemore took advantage of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in April 1959, to send this vessel into the Great Lakes.

The 372-foot-long ship had been built at Burntisland, UK in 1955 and sailed for Johnson-Warren Lines. It was managed by several well-known British shipping interests at various times including Shaw, Savill & Albion, the Prince Line and Furness Withy.

From 1959 through 1962, Pinemore made 11 trips to the Great Lakes. Fifty-two years ago today, on February 17, 1962, the ship was heavily damaged and beached in Delaware Bay following a collision with the freighter American Archer.  Pinemore, on a voyage from Philadelphia to New York, was refloated February 21 and repaired.  It made its final two Seaway visits later in the year. 

The vessel was renamed African Prince in 1965 and, following a sale to Maldives Investments (London) Ltd., in 1971, became the Maldive Mail.

Fire broke out in #1 hold off the coast of Veravel, India, on May 31, 1975. The blaze spread to the engine room and the ship was anchored off the port before the crew abandoned ship.

Maldive Mail was on a voyage from Karachi, Pakistan, to Singapore when the fire erupted. The anchors dragged in a subsequent storm and the hull went aground on June 8, 1975, where it broke in two.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History - February 17

In heavy weather on February 17, 1981, the WITSUPPLY, b.) TRANSTREAM foundered in the Caribbean Sea off Cabo de la Vela, Colombia. She was being towed to the scrap yard at Cartagena, Columbia when she sank.

February 17, 1977 - The CITY OF MIDLAND 41 shortly after departing Ludington encountered a heavy ridge of ice that snapped all the blades off her starboard propeller. One of the blades ripped a hole two feet long by three inches wide, which caused the 41 to take on water, but pumps were able to keep her afloat. SPARTAN came out to free her but also became mired in the ice. On February 18 the cutter MACKINAW freed them.

1962: PINEMORE began Seaway service when the waterway was new in 1959. The ship was heavily damaged from a collision on Delaware Bay with the AMERICAN ARCHER and had to be beached. It was refloated on February 21, 1962, repaired and made it back to the Great Lakes later in the year. The vessel was lost as c) MALDIVE MAIL off Veravel, India, on May 31, 1975, following a fire and subsequent grounding.

1966: A rogue wave smashed the British freighter RIALTO on the Atlantic enroute from Saint John, NB to Aberdeen, Scotland, damaging the bridge. The ship was a regular Seaway trader beginning with 5 trips in 1962. It was ultimately scrapped at Whampoa, China, as b) SANDRA in 1971.

2010: The crankshaft aboard the Turkish freighter YAZUV SULTAN SELIM broke, disabling the vessel in the Ionian Sea southwest of Zakynthos. The ship was towed to Sicily and declared a total loss. Following a sale to Turkish shipbreakers, it arrived at Aliaga March 10, 2010, for dismantling. The ship had been a Seaway trader as a) RIO EXPLORER beginning in 1976 and as c) TURKAY B. beginning in 1993.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report – February 16

St. Marys River
The USCGC Katmai Bay has been en route to Sault Ste. Marie for two days. Thicker-than-usual ice has made it slow going. So far, the cutter has made it from the southern end of the St. Marys River to Neebish Island.


Troubled Welland Canal bridge getting a boost

2/16 – St. Catharines Ont. - Of the nine bridges working over the Welland Canal, the Allanburg calls in sick the most. But St. Lawrence Seaway Management officials are working on a fix this winter that should keep it in better health.

Luc Boisclair, general manager of engineering in Niagara for St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said electrical cables and motors are being replaced this winter. The cables bring electricity from the towers, or fixed parts of the bridge on each end, to the movable span that goes up and down.

The Allanburg has been closed so often and unexpectedly in the past because of outages caused by those aging electrical cables. The brand new cables should be good for 20 years.

Boisclair cautions that doesn’t mean the bridge won’t ever be shut down. “There will still be planned maintenance every year,” he said. “It should be less impact to the public with new cables and motors.”

The Allanburg recently underwent repairs and will be closed again March 10-14. Boisclair said the closures are lasting longer than expected due to weather. A few days of work were lost because of snowstorms and high winds, which made it unsafe to get to the top of the structure. As well, deck replacement work, which began last year, was carried over to this year’s to-do list.

As for other Welland Canal bridges, closures happen from time to time for two reasons — emergency repairs or regular maintenance and improvements.

Planned closures happen in the winter when the canal is shut to ship traffic. They include safety improvements or upgrades on handrails, guardrails, traffic barriers and traffic lights. Cable and motor improvements will also happen at the bridges, just not to the extent of the Allanburg. And in the next three to five years,  the Allanburg, Glendale and Clarence St. bridges in Port Colborne, will be painted.

“We have some jobs that are planned 20 years in advance,” Boisclair said. “We have to keep it safe.”

Boisclair said the seaway is sensitive to pedestrians and vehicular traffic and tries to reduce the amount of time the bridges are closed by having longer workdays.

Welland Tribune


Updates -  February 16

News Photo Gallery


Lookback #91 – Former Port Arthur-built War Osiris mined and sunk February 16, 1943

It was 51 years ago today that the small cargo ship Listo struck a mine and sank near Spodsbjerg, Denmark. The vessel had left Narvik, Norway, and was bound for Emden, Germany, with a cargo of iron ore when it went down on February 16, 1943.

The 261-foot-long vessel was built as Hull 20 of the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.. It was launched as War Osiris in May 1918 and constructed for The Shipping Controller of Great Britain. Following completion in July 1918, it left the Great Lakes for saltwater service.

With the war over, the freighter joined Les Armateurs Francais as Colmar in 1920 and moved to Herlof Andersens Rederi A.S. of Norway in 1929 as Listo. When Norway was overrun in the early stages of World War Two, this was one of the vessels that fell under German control. As a result, it was operating to assist their interests and considered an enemy ship by the Allies when it hit the mine.

Today the wreck of the Listo rests in about 90 feet of water.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History – February 16

EDWIN H. GOTT sailed on her maiden voyage February 16, 1979, in ballast from Milwaukee, bound for Two Harbors, Minnesota. This was the first maiden voyage of a laker ever in mid-winter. She was in convoy with three of her fleet mates; CASON J. CALLAWAY, PHILIP R. CLARKE and JOHN G. MUNSON each needing assistance from the U.S.C.G.C. MACKINAW to break through heavy ice 12 to 14 inches thick the length of Lake Superior. The GOTT took part in a test project, primarily by U.S. Steel, to determine the feasibility of year around navigation.

JAMES E. FERRIS was launched February 16, 1910, as the ONTARIO (Hull#71) at Ecorse, Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works.

On February 16, 1977, a four-hour fire caused major damage to the crews' forward quarters aboard the W.W. HOLLOWAY while at American Ship Building's South Chicago yard.

February 16, 1939 - The state ferry CHIEF WAWATAM was fast in the ice in the Straits of Mackinac. She freed herself the next day and proceeded to St. Ignace.

The little tug JAMES ANDERSON burned on Long Lake near Alpena, Michigan, on the morning of 16 February 1883. Arson was suspected.

1943: WAR OSIRIS was built at Port Arthur, Ontario, now part of Thunder Bay, in 1918. It was mined and sunk as c) LISTO near Spodsbjerg, Denmark, while enroute from Larvik, Norway, to Emden, Germany, with iron ore.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report – February 15

Buffalo – Brian Wroblewski
fireboat Edward M. Cotter was out breaking ice on the upper navigation section of the Buffalo River Friday morning.


Coast Guard warns of upcoming vessel transit on Pere Marquette Lake

2/15 – Sault Ste. Marie – The Coast Guard is alerting residents, particularly ice fishermen, snowmobilers and other recreational users of Pere Marquette Lake, of ice-breaking activities scheduled to begin Tuesday and last into the weekend. The nearest towns to Pere Marquette Lake are Ludington and Scottville, Mich.

The research vessel Sikuliaq is scheduled to transit through Pere Marquette Lake multiple times in order to gain access to Ludington's Occidental Chemical Facility, Feb. 18-22. The vessel has ice-breaking capabilities.

All ice fishermen should remove their ice shacks and equipment from these areas. Snowmobilers, all-terrain vehicle operators and other recreational users of the ice should plan their activities carefully, avoid shipping channels, and use caution near these areas of operation.

The Sikuliaq (pronounced "see-KOO-lee-auk") is a new research vessel built by Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis., for the National Science Foundation.

USCG news release


Tugs, icebreakers to assist vessel movements at Cleveland Saturday

2/15 – Cleveland - The Great Lakes Towing Company, Great Lakes Shipyard, and the United States Coast Guard are working together to coordinate the departure and arrival of two Great Lakes freighters on Saturday. 

The Interlake Steamship Company’s articulated tug barge Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder has completed its winter work and layup and will be departing Great Lakes Shipyard. Lower Lake’s Manitowoc will be relocating to its berth to commence its winter work. 

Multiple tugs from The Great Lakes Towing Company will be breaking ice in the Cuyahoga River prior to the Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder’s departure as well as assisting them out of the shipyard and to mouth of the river.  The United States Coast Guard icebreaker Neah Bay will also be breaking ice and assisting with the Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder’s departure and the Manitowoc’s relocation. The Great Lakes Towing Company tugs are expected to begin breaking ice around 4 a.m. The freighters will begin moving around 6:30 a.m.

Great Lakes Shipyard has acquired multiple contracts for winter work projects on Great Lakes’ lakers. Commencement and completion of various projects require maneuvering vessels for arrivals and departures. These maneuvers tend to be interesting, particularly in the river’s icy conditions and with the collaboration between companies, their vessels, and their captains and crews.

 The Great Lakes Towing Company and Great Lakes Shipyard


Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival celebrates region's marine heritage

2/15 – Ann Arbor - The 33rd annual Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival, a celebration of the rich heritage of marine travel on local waterways, will take place on Feb. 22 at Washtenaw Community College. But don’t let the name fool you. The festival is about much more than simply vessels lost at sea.

“For the non-diver, there is plenty of Great Lakes history presented, and for someone who is looking to just get away, there are some great exotic travel destinations described,” said Brian Carson, one of the GLSF organizers. “There are also a number of presentations that will appeal to those who have an interest in science and biology.”

From 9 a.m.-5 p.m., the festival will play host to three hourly presentations running concurrently in the Morris J. Lawrence Building on the campus of WCC.  A variety of speakers and experts are divided into three presentation rooms: Great Lakes, Exotic Saltwater, and Educational/Technical Diving/Equipment. The seminars are designed to entertain and inform.

Highlights from the Great Lakes room include shipwreck hunter David Trotter recounting his discovery of the Keystone State shipwreck in Lake Huron last July; The Mystery of Northwest Flight 2501, a flight that disappeared over Lake Michigan in 1950; and exploration of the water surrounding Isle Royale.

Topics from the Exotic Saltwater room include exploration to Indonesia, the Philippines, North Sulawesi, a discussion of sharks, and symbiotic relationships in the ocean. And from the Educational/Technical Diving/Equipment room topics include ancient landscapes beneath Lake Huron, exploration of the St. Clair River, fossilized shark teeth, and the use of Go Pro camera.

“The presenters are all very experienced and are accessible after their presentation, so if there was a question that was not answered, you can have that one-on-one discussion just outside the presentation room,” Carter said.

In addition to the daylong series of presentations, two-dozen exhibits will be on display throughout the festival groups, including scuba diving-related businesses, travel operations and other related organizations.

“The festival covers a wide range of dive topics, from the Michigan shores, to exotic travel locations, to educational and technical subjects,” Carson added. “There are also a wide range of interests covered in the display and booth area, and the exhibitors are very knowledgeable and eager to share what they have to offer.”

The festival is offered by The Ford Seahorse Scuba Dive Club, in conjunctions with the Detroit Historical Society’s Dossin Maritime Group and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. Tickets for the festival are $20 in advance, plus $1 for shipping and handling, $25 at the door. For more information, go to the festival’s newly designed website

Macomb Daily


Updates -  February 14

News Photo Gallery


Lookback # 90 – Tug Lois T. swamped at Hamilton on February 15, 1990

The tug Lois T. was caught by a severe winter storm at Hamilton 24 years ago today. The wind and waves proved to be too much for the small vessel. The hull received a gash, the ship flooded and sank at the dock. The damage was temporarily repaired and the Lois T. was refloated the next day and eventually received permanent work.

Originally a Lake Erie fish tug, the 63-foot-long vessel was built at Port Dover, Ontario, as Kolbe in 1944. It was rebuilt as a diving tender in 1984 for work on Lake Erie as Lois T.

The vessel was sold to Nadro Marine in 1994 and then to International Marine Salvage in 2002. The latter renamed the tug Charlie E. and it is usually stationed at Port Colborne along the West St. Wharf to help move vessels at the company's IMS scrap yard on the east side of the outer harbor.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History - February 15

In 1961, HARRY R JONES, a.) D.G. KERR arrived at her final port of Troon, Scotland, where she was cut up for scrap the same year.

1990: The tug LOIS T. was swamped while docked at Hamilton and sank in a storm. The vessel was pumped out, refloated and repaired. It now serves as the Port Colborne based tug CHARLIE E.

1993: BELLE ISLE, an SD-14 cargo carrier, visited the Seaway when new in 1971. It was sailing as g) VAST OCEAN when it reported in on this day as sailing on the Sea of Japan. It was never heard from again and disappeared with all hands on a voyage from Vanimo, Russia, to Shanghai, China.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report – February 14

Burns Harbor
Great Lakes Trader unloaded ore pellets on Thursday at Burns Harbor. The cargo will be loaded into train cars for shipment to AK Steel in Ohio.

Port Colborne, Ont.
the Maumee scrapping complete, workers have begun cutting in to the stern of the former canaller D.C. Everest.


 Coast Guard icebreakers slicing ice to keep economy moving

2/14 - Toledo, Ohio – Record cold has allowed ice to swallow up the Great Lakes, but the coast guard is slicing through the ice to save the local economy. "Sometimes you are out here for 10 to 14 hours and sometimes you only move five miles because it is that thick,” said Lt. Commander John Henry on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bristol Bay.

Eighty-seven percent of the Great Lakes are ice covered. From western Lake Erie north to southern Lake Huron the only open water you will find is behind the Bristol Bay ice breaker. This has been the toughest year for the ice breaking crew in at least 20 years, and the general consensus is that this winter is the top two worst years since 1979. "Everything came about one month ahead of time,” Henry said.

Nearly 7,000 jobs and 1.1 billion dollars a year comes into Toledo by boat.  The area depends on winter deliveries of heating oil, coal and road salt. If the shipments stop, the local economy will come to a halt. "It is a never- ending struggle, but that is why we sign up for the job, that is why we are out here, and this is what we are built to do,” Henry said.

“When we were on the Bristol Bay ice cutter, the mission was to clear a path for two freighters. One was the Joyce L. VanEnkevort, which was on route to Toledo, but the cold weather and dense ice kept delaying those plans. Henry said, "We have the throttle all the way down right now and we are barely making about four knots.

“The quartermasters of the watch operate on the bridge, or top deck. They are the ones that are working all of the navigational equipment, working the radio, communicating with vessel traffic, and making sure we are navigating safely. The cook stays busy cooking for 20 to 30 men. It isn't uncommon for the cook to fire up the outside grill on the boat even when temperatures drop below 0 degrees.”

"Actually we did have it the other day,” Lieutenant Executive Officer Steven Kingsley said. “You can always tell when we are having something on the grill. You will see the cook come in and he is bright red and he is freezing."

On the forward most part of the ship you can really feel where the ice is hitting the haul. The crew describes life on an icebreaker as living in an earthquake 10 to 14 hours a day. There are two seven-man berthing areas with racks three high. It is a very tight squeeze for the crew. There is also a room on the boat devoted to emergencies that may come up while on the open water. Kingsley said. "Obviously we can't call 911…we have to be self sustaining at all times and ready to fight whatever comes at us."

The mission named Operation Coal Shovel will keep going for weeks to come thanks to the harshest winter in decades. "That is some tough ice right snow, so unless we get some significantly warm weather day after day after day, this stuff isn't going anywhere. I am saying for at least a couple months,” said Henry.

Eventually temperatures will warm up and when they do ice jams could happen, but if they do occur the Coast Guard will be there, unclogging the jam.



Research vessel will be in Ludington harbor next week

2/14 – Ludington, Mich. – The oceanographic research vessel R/V Sikuliaq will be in Ludington harbor next week performing sea trials. During that time, the vessel will be breaking ice through the Ludington channel to its destination at the OxyChem dock. The vessel is expected to arrive from Marinette, Wis. on Feb. 17 and will be in and out of port until Feb. 23. Fishermen are urged to use caution during that time.

The 260-foot $200 million vessel was built by Marinette Marine Corporation in northern Wisconsin with funds from the American Reinvestment Research Act. The vessel is owned by the National Science Foundation and will be operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. It is scheduled to be sent to Alaska on March 1.

A company spokesman said the vessel will be in Ludington to test its deep water research capabilities. Lake Michigan is over 800 feet deep in an area north of Ludington. Pronounced “see-KOO-lee-ack,” the ship was designed by Seattle-based Glosten Associates.It will have a 20-person crew and carry 26 scientists.

“R/V Sikuliaq is one of the most advanced research vessels in the world,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh. “Its capabilities to operate in extreme ecosystems will serve the science and engineering research communities for decades to come, while providing opportunities for educators and students to learn first-hand about the arctic environment.”

The Sikuliaq is the first research vessel built for the NSF since 1981 and will be the only ship in the national academic fleet rated for year-round operations in first-year ice. The vessel’s name, Sikuliaq, is an Inupiaq word meaning “young sea ice.” The name was chosen to reflect both the university’s focus on arctic research and Alaska heritage.

The Sikuliaq is uniquely equipped for operating in ice-choked waters. A reinforced double hull, two rotating thrusters and scalloped propeller blades will enable it to break through ice up to 2.5 feet thick. The ship is also outfitted with the latest technology for oceanographic research, including advanced navigation systems, acoustic mapping systems and sensors, and systems for deploying a wide array of science equipment into and out of the water.

Sikuliaq will primarily support oceanographic research in polar and sub-polar regions of the world.


Premier announces third transmission line to Labrador West

2/14 - Premier Tom Marshall announced Thursday that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has been given the green light to proceed with the construction of a third transmission line between Churchill Falls and Labrador West.

"We will be moving forward with the construction of a third line to supply power from Churchill Falls to western Labrador,” said Marshall. The construction of an additional transmission line will help to supply power for new developments, such as the Kami Iron Ore Project.

This week, Alderon Iron Ore Corp. said if its Kami mine goes ahead, it could hire every single worker facing a layoff at the idled Wabush Mines site.

Nearly 400 workers at Wabush Mines lost their jobs this week when U.S.-based parent company Cliffs Natural Resources said it could no longer afford to cover the operating costs at the aging mine on Tuesday.

According to a government news release, all of the planning, design and construction activities pertaining to the transmission line will be exempt from review by the PUB.


Pet coke is moved from Detroit River, but more stuff may pile up

2/14 - Detroit, Mich. – Detroit Bulk Storage vice president Noel Frye says the company has abandoned any ideas of storing petroleum coke or coal along the Detroit River. But company officials now want to store other products, such as limestone and salt, on their property on Rosa Parks Boulevard in piles up to 100 feet high.

Company officials appeared before the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday to ask for a height variance. City zoning allows pile storage only as tall as a property’s fence line, Frye said. “If they said, ‘We’ll grant you a height variance as long as you don’t store coal or petroleum coke there?’ Perfect; no problem. That’s all we’ve been asking for,” Frye said.

Pet coke, a byproduct of tar sands oil refinery used as a cheap but dirty-burning fuel, was stored in piles along the Detroit River that at one point were about four stories high. That caused controversy for months last year as concerns were raised about the potential for runoff into the Detroit River and neighbors in nearby apartments complained about dust entering their homes. A YouTube video of a swirling black cloud of pet coke dust blowing across the Detroit River into Canada in July went viral and galvanized opposition to the piles.

In August, then-Detroit Mayor Dave Bing ordered the piles removed, and Detroit Bulk Storage complied by the end of the month. City officials cited four violations of city regulations, including failing to get permission for open bulk storage of pet coke at the site.

“We can live with not putting petroleum coke or coal there, but we still need a height variance to store limestone, sand, rail ballast (rocks or other materials placed around railroad tracks to give them stability) or salt there,” Frye said.

Mark Kincannon lives in a Riverfront Towers condominium on Riverfront Drive, less than a block from where the pet coke was piled. “You’d get a fine dust,” he said. “In the summertime you have your windows open, and you’re coughing and gagging.” That problem stopped when the pet coke piles were removed, he said.

Kincannon noted the extension of the RiverWalk and other recent recreational improvements in the area.

“I’m just a retiree who loves walking on the riverfront, jogging, riding my bike,” he said. “The city just put two new parks there” off West Jefferson Avenue nearby. “People are going to be coming out there with their children; they don’t need to be breathing that stuff.”

A change in the products piled there likely won’t be enough to satisfy him, Kincannon said. “I don’t want the company to go out of business; I just want them to move to an industrial area,” he said. But, decades ago, the city moved cement companies from north of the Renaissance Center downriver, limiting where limestone can be stored, Frye said.

“There’s only so many properties that are on the Detroit River or Rouge River that can accommodate deep-water freighters,” he said, adding the property also has helpful rail access and is near to where the city stores salt for de-icing roads.

“I understand people moving into the lofts and that’s great,” Frye said. “But you are still in an industrial building that you converted into lofts.”

The products Detroit Bulk Storage seeks to store are denser than pet coke and shouldn’t have issues with dust blowing off-site, Frye said, but the company will adhere to any directives from the city or Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to prevent outside environmental issues.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, an outspoken critic of the pet coke piles, said she wants “to hear the specifics” of Detroit Bulk Storage’s no-pet-coke offer.

“One hundred feet is huge,” she said, referring to the height variance the company seeks for storing other aggregate products. “For them to be able to put that right behind the studio apartments — and only feet from the development on the river — it’s got to not create a nuisance for the residents nearby.”

Detroit Free Press


Winter weather carves out ‘ice shoves’ near Lake Erie

2/14 - Crystal Beach, Ont. – Looking at the caves, it’s hard to believe they are at the southern-most tip of Ontario’s Great Lakes.  The shallow shores of Lake Erie, at Crystal Beach appear to have been pushed into itself creating a shelf of icy ridges.

The so-called “ice shoves” stretch for over a kilometre on the coast of Lake Erie.  The phenomenon is rare southern Ontario, says Ontario Science Centre scientist, Donna Francis and are the result of water and ice being pushed together.

Francis explained it happens when water under the frozen lake gets “shoved into the shore.” “It forms these interesting angulations that we see that are ice caves,” she said. The caves are attracting explorers in the Niagara area.

“This has been a long winter,” Niagara resident Linda McKellar said. “This makes it a bit worthwhile.”

And Nikki Passero is amazed that she is even standing on the lake. “It’s the weirdest thing ever – its so cool, it’s so beautiful,” she said. Passero and her friend Ashley McLaren spent time Wednesday climbing some of ridges. “I can’t even believe its ice,” she said. “It’s smooth, like plastic.”

Some of the “ice shoves” on the Lake Erie coast might actually be two of the ridges, pushed together, Francis said. “It might be two separate sheets of ice that got pushed up onto the shore at different times, but are meeting at that little bridge at the top,” she said while looking at a photo of the shoves.

In some areas, the caves stand almost 20 feet high, with only small pockets of light peaking through the ice. “[It is] hard to say exactly how they formed, unless you get the chance to see it at that moment but its definitely something really amazing to see,” Francis said.


Lakes coal trade well below long-term average in January

2/14 – Cleveland, Ohio – Coal shipments on the Great Lakes totaled 373,000 tons in January. While the total represents an increase of 62 percent compared to a year ago, January 2013 was well below previous years, and even this January’s total is 25 percent below the month’s long-term average.

The harsh weather did limit coal shipments in January.  Vessels experienced significant delays due to heavy ice on the Lakes and slower loads at some docks. 

Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes and carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain.  Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year.  Those cargos support more than 103,000 jobs with an average wage of $47,000.  More information is available at

Lake Carriers’ Association


Updates -  February 14

News Photo Gallery

Ride along with USCGC Mackinaw courtesy WISN. Milwaukee


Lookback #89 – Forward cabins of Leadale burned on February 14, 1973

Over the years, two self-unloaders sailed as Leadale in the Dale fleets. The first caught fire at Hamilton 41 years ago today. The stubborn blaze gutted the forward cabins and local firefighters poured tons of water on board in their effort to quell the flames. While they were successful, the stability of the ship was impacted and there were fears it might roll over.

Fortunately, Leadale remained up right, the winter storage cargo was not damaged and, despite its 63 years of age, the ship was repaired. The vessel sailed another five seasons before being retired.

This 524-foot-long bulk carrier was built at St. Clair, Michigan and entered service on May 17, 1910, as the Harry Yates of the American Steamship Co. It was rebuilt as a self-unloader for this company in 1934 and resumed trading that year as Consumers Power. It became Fred A. Manske in 1958 and was sold to Dale in January 1962 to become Leadale for Leadale Shipping.

After being laid up at Toronto the previous fall, the ship was towed to Hamilton on August 24, 1978, and loaded scrap steel. It departed under tow on November 11, and was idle at Sorel, Quebec, until heading south on May 30, 1979, for dismantling at Cartagena, Colombia.

Skip Gillham


 Today in Great Lakes History - February 14

MESABI MINER (Hull#906) was launched on this day in 1977, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. becoming the fourth 1,000-foot bulk carrier on the Great Lakes and Interlake's second. She had been built under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970 at a cost of $45.1 million.

Ford Motor Co., looking to expand its fleet, purchased the JOSEPH S. WOOD, a.) RICHARD M. MARSHALL on February 14, 1966, for $4.3 million and renamed her c.) JOHN DYKSTRA. In 1983, she was renamed d.) BENSON FORD. Renamed e.) US.265808, in 1985, she was scrapped at Recife, Brazil in 1987.

On February 14, 1973, the LEADALE’s forward cabins burned during winter lay-up at Hamilton, Ontario and were later repaired. Built in 1910, at Great Lakes Engineering Works (Hull#77) as a,) HARRY YATES, for the American Steamship Co. renamed b.) CONSUMERS POWER in 1934, c.) FRED A. MANSKE in 1958 and d.) LEADALE in 1962. Scrapped at Cartagena, Columbia in 1979.

1997: The SD 14 cargo ship PATRICIA M. was a Seaway trader in 1974 and returned as c) SELATAN in 1991. It was sailing as d) NIKA II when it stranded on a breakwall near Veracruz, Mexico, while inbound, in ballast, to load sugar. The hull was refloated on March 8, towed to an anchorage and declared a total loss. It was broken up for scrap at Tuxpan, Mexico, beginning on April 27, 1997.

2000: ZAFIRO, a Seaway trader in 1984, sank as d) ZAFIR off Calabria, Italy, after a collision with the ESPRESSO CATANIA while carrying 6000 tons of cement clinker. Thirteen sailors were lost or missing.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report – February 13

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – Jim Conlon
The tug Manitou arrived at the Selvick dock Wednesday morning. The word is they will help the Selvick tugs break ice and move the James R. Barker out of the BayShip graving dock Saturday, then place another 1,000-footer in the dock. The ice in Sturgeon Bay is thick and has not been broken since the Arthur M. Anderson arrived on January 29.


Michigan Street Bridge to close for repairs next week

2/13 – Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – A freighter damaged a structure that protects the Michigan Street Bridge in Sturgeon Bay last month, and the bridge will be temporarily closed next week for repairs, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation office in Green Bay. The bridge itself was not damaged and is safe for use, the announcement said.

Just after noon Jan. 11, a freighter passing under the bridge struck one of the four cylindrical dolphins that line the entry through the bridge on either side.

The bridge is scheduled to close from 8 a.m. to noon Monday and again from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 19. Motorists will need to find alternate routes. The closures will not affect marine traffic. Repair crews will use the first closure to stage their equipment for repair of the southwest dolphin. The bridge will be closed a second time so crews can remove the equipment. Estimated cost for the work is $30,000.

Door County Advocate


Cliffs will idle Canadian iron ore operation

2/13 – Duluth, MN - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. on Tuesday announced it will close its Wabush Scully Mine operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, because the mine’s operating costs are too high. Cliffs said the operations will be closed by the end of March.

“With costs unsustainably high, including fourth-quarter 2013 cash costs of $143 per ton, it is not economically viable to continue running this operation,” Cliffs said in a statement Tuesday. Cliffs had already idled Wabush Mine’s Pointe Noire pellet plant in June 2013.

About 500 employees at both the Wabush Scully Mine and the Pointe Noire rail and port operation in Quebec are affected by the closures. The Wabush mine and concentrator have been open since 1965.

Cleveland-based Cliffs, which has been under pressure by some investors to increase its dividends and cut costs, also said it will spend far less money this year building out its Bloom Lake mine project in Quebec.

Cliffs is among Minnesota’s largest taconite iron ore operators, owning and operating North Shore Taconite in Silver Bay/Babbitt and United Taconite in Eveleth/Forbes. It also is a co-owner and operator of Hibbing Taconite and owns the Empire/Tilden operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“Over the past three years we have seen (iron ore) pricing drop and Wabush Mine’s costs escalate all while we have made significant capital investments into the operation. This is a regrettable but necessary decision. We simply cannot continue operating a high-cost mine while pricing and freight markets are so volatile,” said Gary Halvorson, Cliffs president and chief operating officer.

The company did not say if closing the Canadian operation would have any impact on its U.S. operations. But in past statements the company has praised its Minnesota operations for their relatively low cost-per-ton for taconite production. The company announced in October it would reopen two idled lines at Northshore.

In addition to its Canadian operations, Cliffs also has iron ore mines in Australia and coal mines in the U.S. The company will release their fourth-quarter financials at the end of the business day Thursday and field questions from industry analysts on Friday.

The company said it plans to scale back capital expenditures in 2014 by more than 50 percent, from a planned $862 million to about $400 million, mostly by scaling back at Bloom Lake. While the company said it still has plans for expanding Bloom Lake, officials said global demand and pricing for iron ore doesn’t justify that expenditure at this time.

Duluth News-Tribune


Falling through ice expensive

2/13 – Catawba, OH — Ice fishing on the Western Basin has been heating up in recent weeks and as ice continues to build, more and more anglers are making their way onto the ice — many on sleds and ATVs. While the rides make for easy access to distant honey holes, they can be bad news and cost big bucks if they break through ice.

On Jan. 31, two men in a Land Rover broke through about a quarter-mile north of the Miller Ferry docks on Catawba. Both men made it out of the SUV before it plunged into about 20 feet of water.

And in other areas around Lake Erie, plenty of snowmobiles and ATVs have taken plunges. While ATVs often float and are often able to be pulled out by other ATVs, snowmobiles sink.

“The Land Rover that went through, we’re working on that right now with the Coast Guard,” said Gino Barna, Lake Erie law enforcement supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

He said generally a person whose vehicle goes into a body of water could be in line for a stream littering citation. “It’s a third-degree misdemeanor and could result in up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail,” Barna said.

According to Petty Officer Levi Read, with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District Public Affairs Office in Cleveland, the USCG’s dealings with vehicles breaking through would first involve safety. “Our first concern would be the people,” he said.

After ensuring the safety of involved parties, Read said, USCG marine safety inspectors would be called to investigate and evaluate. They would look into any contamination issues, he said, and evaluate a salvage plan submitted by the owner.

“We would evaluate the plan to make sure it has the least impact on the environment,” Read said. “It’s quite a process to bring something up off the lake bottom.”

Jeff Nehls, supervisor with the Ohio Division of Watercraft, said his office would look into incidents only if they involved open water sinkings. “If there was an airboat and they were going across open water jumping from ice to ice,” he said.

Matt Montowski, of Montowski Insurance Agency, said he has heard that auto insurance companies won’t pay a claim on a vehicle that’s gone down, but he hasn’t seen it. In fact, he said, several years ago he knows at least one such claim was paid.

Snowmobiles and ATVs are a different story, Montowski said. “It definitely needs separate coverage,” he said. “It’s not covered on your homeowners policy, but a lot of people think it is.” A homeowners policy would cover ATVs that were used at home for property maintenance or chores, he said.

Jake Dumfee, who owns Rescue Marine, said he and another company on South Bass Island have already pulled about six ATVs from the ice. For that, it could be as cheap as $800, he said. “For a vehicle on the bottom, it could be in the $15,000 to $20,000 range,” Dumfee said. And he said, crews usually try to get started immediately.

The main cause of equipment going through the ice, he said, is people riding in areas where the ice is never good. “Definitely be a follower,” he said.

Port Clinton News-Herald


Coast Guard cutter strives to maintain proficiency in other mission areas

2/13 – Cleveland, Ohio — An early and intense winter season has meant an increased demand for ice-breaking operations for the Coast Guard 9th District's ice-breaking fleet, but that didn't stop the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., from conducting important training earlier this week.

Across the district, ice-breaking crews logged nearly four times the five-year average of operational ice-breaking hours during the 1st Quarter 2014.

Earlier, the crew of Katmai Bay was operating in the Straits of Mackinac in ice ranging from 24-30 inches thick, not including pressure ridges. Despite a record season for ice-breaking hours by cutter crews, the Coast Guard must maintain proficiency in all mission areas.

The crew of the Katmai Bay, homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., along with the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay, homeported in Detroit, have spent the past few days trying to keep the Straits open to shipping traffic.



Lookback # 88 – Fire struck the former Mitera Maria on February 13, 1973.

The Greek salty Mitera Maria came through the Seaway in 1967. The 511-foot, 7-inch long vessel was 18 years old and carried an interesting cargo when it left the lakes in August. On board was a deck cargo of former Toronto Transportation Commission street cars for use overseas.

The ship had been built for the Strick Line in 1949 and operated as Armanistan under the British flag. It was sold and renamed Conway in 1965, Liberian registry, and became Mitera Maria in 1967.

It began sailing as Marbella in 1971 and, as such, was registered in the Somali Republic and then Jordan. The vessel had stopped at Karachi, Pakistan, to load cargo for Yokohama, Japan, when a fire broke out in the engine room 41 years ago today. The blaze did sufficient damage that the ship could not complete its voyage.

Instead, the former Seaway trader was sold to local shipbreakers, taken to Gadani Beach, and dismantled by Dada Steel Mills beginning on January 6, 1974.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  February 13

News Photo Gallery
Lay-up list updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 13

POINTE NOIRE was launched February 13, 1926, as a.) SAMUEL MATHER (Hull#792) at Lorain, Ohio by the American Ship Building Co.

February 13, 1897 - PERE MARQUETTE (later named PERE MARQUETTE 15) arrived in Ludington on her maiden voyage, with Captain Joseph "Joe" Russell in command.

1941: The first WESTCLIFFE HALL, overseas to assist in the war effort, was damaged when hit by a bomb while two miles off Whitby High Light. The ship was repaired and returned to the Great Lakes after the war. It last sailed as b) WHEATON in the Misener fleet before scrapping at Hamilton in 1965-1966.

1973: MITERA MARIA loaded street cars on deck during a Great Lakes visit to Toronto in August 1967. The ship sustained fire damage in the engineroom at Karachi, Pakistan, as d) MARBELLA and sold for scrap. The 25-year old vessel was broken up at Gadani Beach in 1974.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series


Winter puts lakes ore trade in the deep freeze in January

2/12 - Cleveland, Ohio – Shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 2 million tons in January, a decrease of 37 percent compared to a year ago.  The decrease was entirely the result of the early and harsh winter.  Voyages that should have taken a few days often stretched more than a week.  There were also significant delays at loading docks.

Shipments from U.S. ports totaled 1.8 million tons, a decrease of 39 percent compared to a year ago.  Only one port, Escanaba, Michigan, increased its shipments compared to a year ago.  Escanaba is located below the Soo Locks, so it can keep shipping after the locks close on January 15.

Shipments on the Seaway totaled 237,000 tons, a decrease of 16 percent.

Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes and carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain.  Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year. 

Lake Carriers Association


Great Lakes senators push for harbor funding

2/12 - Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Mich. – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators from the Great Lakes states have asked for direct additional funding for dredging and other harbor maintenance to reduce a severe backlog of projects.

The 13 senators want Great Lakes projects to receive at least $30 million of the $200 million in additional navigation funding included in an appropriations bill Congress approved in January.

The senators, including Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Democrats from Michigan, are members of the Great Lakes Task Force. The task force made the request in a letter sent last week to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick.

While the system of Great Lakes harbors is vital for the movement or raw materials to manufacturers, building materials and other goods, inadequate maintenance is taking a toll, the task force said.

That has created a backlog of need for critical dredging, repair and modernization of aging locks and repair of deteriorating navigation structures such as breakwaters and piers.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers' Association, an organization that represents U.S.-flag vessels operating on the Great Lakes, welcomed the senators' effort to end the dredging crisis. "The Great Lakes Navigation System is choking on the 17 million cubic yards of sediment that have collected in ports and waterways because of chronic underfunding of dredging," he said.

At times the largest vessels must forego carrying more than 10,000 tons of cargo per ship in order to be able to enter and leave harbors.

Congress approved an appropriations measure on Jan. 16 that provides funding for the Army Corps of Engineers for various water resource projects, including Great Lakes navigation projects.

In a joint statement explaining the funding, Congress said that maintaining navigation channels at a fraction of authorized depth "results in economic inefficiencies and risks infrastructure failure, which can cause substantial economic losses."

Great Lakes navigation projects are eligible for about $200 million of the additional funds, which includes money for navigation maintenance, deep-draft harbors and channels and other harbor work.

The task force asked the Army Corps "to direct at a minimum $30 million from these additional funds to Great Lakes navigation projects."

The long list of backlogged projects, coupled with low lake levels in recent years, results in ships running aground and being forced to carry partial loads, which drives up costs. The infrequency of dredging has created difficult navigation conditions, threatening some harbors with closing.

The Herald-Palladium


Lake Superior almost iced over; may affect summer weather

2/12 - Duluth, Minn. – It's been a season full of winter blues. Duluth had the third snowiest December on record, the third coldest winter on record and now this could be the first time since 1996 that Lake Superior freezes over.

"If you're going to be this cold, you might as well get something out of it like a record," visitor Sandy Friedland, who is originally from Duluth, said. The last time Lake Superior became a full-blown ice rink was 1996, according to the National Weather Service.

It was reported that the lake was 93.5 percent frozen last Friday, but Monday the National Weather Service said it was 88.3 percent covered. They blamed weekend winds for the change. "I haven't seen that much ice on it in a long time," visitor Gregg Whitney, who is originally from Duluth, said.

While it hasn't been declared frozen over yet, Great Lakes experts said it will happen this year. "Oh, absolutely," Professor Jay Austin, with the Large Lakes Observatory, said. Austin said all it will take is a few nights with no wind and he said the effects will stick around long after the ice melts.

"These high ice years tend to lead to relatively cool summers," Austin said. "So, the lake will stay cool. Duluth will stay cool through most of the summer which I guess is a good thing, but it is going to be tough swimming."

If you're a fan of the polar plunge, that's some good news. You can take the jump this weekend and all summer long, but the possible problems don't stop at swimming.

"What this means is that we're going to have much shorter period when the lake is very productive and lots of photosynthesis goes on," Austin said.

While Austin said the potential outcome is unclear, that photosynthesis helps make up the bottom of the food chain. As of Monday, the National Weather Service said the Great Lakes combined are 78.2 percent covered in ice.



Breakwater lighthouse may be transferred to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

2/12 - Ashland, Wis. ­– The biggest collection of lighthouses in the National Park Service could get bigger. Congress might transfer the Ashland Breakwater Light from the Coast Guard to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Right now, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has eight lighthouses on six islands. The Ashland light station would bring the total to nine if bills sponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Sean Duffy pass. Duffy said the 1915 vintage lighthouse is a good fit.

“It’s important that the great history of our community and the lakes are preserved,” he said. “And to include that lighthouse into the National Park is really important. I’m honored that Senator Baldwin wants to work with me.”

The Apostle Islands lighthouses date back to the Civil War into the early 20th Century. Lakeshore Superintendent Bob Krumanaker said Ashland’s light would complete the set.

“The ones already in the park have been recognized as the most significant collection at the historic lighthouses of any National Park in the country, and yet a lot of people don’t realize how much the Ashland harbor breakwater light is really related to the set,” he said. “It’s also on the National Registry of Historic Places.”

Krumanaker said Ashlanders are proud of their lighthouse.

“If you look at the symbols that are used in the newspaper and the Ford dealer, the hotel, the Chamber of Commerce, the lighthouse is everywhere in that city and yet very few people have been there and very few people know anything about it,” he said.

Wisconsin Public Radio


Obama nominates backer of Marinette Marine shipbuilding program

2/12 - Milwaukee, Wis. – The U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship program, which has created thousands of shipbuilding jobs in Wisconsin, may soon have a powerful ally in Washington with the nomination of Robert Work as Deputy Defense Secretary. As Navy undersecretary, Work was a top advocate for the $34 billion program, which has been widely criticized for everything from cost overruns to performance and reliability of the ships.

President Barack Obama nominated Work to replace Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox, who recently directed the Navy to curtail its acquisition of littoral combat ships from 52 to 32 vessels. Currently, Work is chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday for Work's nomination, where he may be asked about his position on the littoral combat ship program.

Tuesday, officials from the Navy and defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. were in Milwaukee to prepare for Thursday's keel-laying ceremony of the USS Sioux City at the Marinette Marine shipyard, and the commissioning of USS Milwaukee in the spring of 2015.

Work's nomination is encouraging, said Joe North, vice president of the littoral combat ship program at Lockheed Martin. "He has been a great advocate for the program and did a lot of digging deep into understanding the whole concept and need for it," North said.

Two of the warships already have been built in Marinette and four more are under construction. A radically different version of the ships is being built in equal numbers by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

The Navy envisions a fleet of fast vessels that can operate in waters as shallow as 20 feet and reach speeds topping 46 mph. The 377-foot ships could be used to hunt submarines, search for underwater mines and launch unmanned drones.

Navy officials say they're committed to acquiring the 52-ship fleet, even as Fox has directed them to limit the acquisition to 32 ships.

The Navy has fended off critics of the littoral combat ship program, which could provide work at the Marinette shipyard for many years.Questions have been raised about the ships' mission and defenses. The reliability of the first three vessels, including USS Freedom, has also been questioned.

Lockheed Martin and the Navy say it's common for any new system to have glitches and they're confident many of the technical issues have been resolved.

"We found out what worked and didn't work. The good news is we have taken the lessons learned and rolled them into (the next ships). It's not like the Navy is having to deal with the same problems hull after hull," North said.

The ships are adaptable to new tactics and technologies, and they're affordable, said retired Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, Navy Reserve and commissioning committee chairman for USS Milwaukee.

"You can put four of these ships out there for the price of one Burke-class destroyer. At some point, quantity does become necessary...if we are to provide the kind of forward presence we need, literally, all around the globe," Debbink said.

If Work is named deputy defense secretary and continues to support the littoral combat ship program, it would mean a reversal of Fox's position. If he changes his stance, it could undermine the program. When he was Navy undersecretary, Work wrote a paper for the Navy War College entitled "The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got There And Why."

In that paper, he dished out praise and addressed criticisms.

"Perhaps no ship in recent memory has been subject to more criticism than the littoral combat ship. Many think LCS is the 'wrong ship at the wrong time,'" Work wrote.

"The Department of the Navy is well aware of the mistakes it made in the early stages of the LCS program. While getting LCS into service quickly may have been a worthy goal, the mistakes made and problems encountered in building the ships, and the department's resulting inability to restrain program costs, tell a cautionary tale...Simply put, the department should never again repeat the short cuts or questionable shipbuilding approaches taken in the LCS program," he wrote.

Despite a rocky start, the littoral combat ships could soon be in use in large numbers.

"After a decade of twists and turns, the Navy is getting very nearly exactly the ship it asked for," Work wrote, adding that it's affordable and reconfigurable for different missions. Several hundred design changes have been made to the ships since they were introduced.

Other shipbuilding programs haven't been able to accomplish as much in only a few years, according to the Navy, that also says foreign governments are interested in the littoral combat ships in their fleets.

"There were a lot of things done quickly and a bit on-the-fly because we needed to get the ship in production. But we should stop beating ourselves up...This ship has done very well," Debbink said.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Low ice coverage on Lake Ontario encourages lake-effect snowstorms

2/10 - Watertown, N.Y. – As of Feb. 9 more than 78 percent of all the Great Lakes’ surface was frozen over, one of the highest numbers in 20 years. Yet, the unseasonably early cold and polar vortex had little effect on Lake Ontario, and lake-effect snowstorms continue to bring more snow to the Watertown area.

On Lake Ontario, a small concentration of ice has formed near Cape Vincent, but the lake remains the most open of the lakes.

“Lake-effect snowstorms are caused by the warm surface temperatures of the lake. When that meets the cold air temperature, the air condenses and rises and that causes the clouds to form,” meteorologist Jim A. Mitchell with the National Weather Service said.

In January, Watertown received over 72 inches of snow, more than the 43 inches in Fulton, where Mr. Mitchell said has historically seen more snowfall.

“This year we have a persistent flow of cold air out of northern Canada that is directing the bands right to Watertown. Wherever the wind’s going, that’s where the band will go,” Mr. Mitchell said.

The combination of the lower air temperatures and Lake Ontario’s current, which keeps lake water constantly moving from the bottom to the surface and keeps the temperature relatively warm, makes it harder for Lake Ontario to freeze, according to Mr. Mitchell.

According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, as of Feb. 9, more than 78.4 percent of the Great Lakes were covered in ice. Though lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie have mostly frozen over, the early winter polar vortex didn’t have the same freezing effect on Lake Ontario.

Dan P. Kelly, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the water flow in Lake Ontario known as up-welling also circulates warmer water from the lake’s bottom to the surface. Mr. Kelly said this keeps the water at a warmer temperature and in constant fluctuation.
“If the water temperature was lower, the lake could freeze,” Mr. Mitchell said.

According to the GLERL website, ice coverage for Lake Ontario is historically low. In 2010 the lake had a high coverage of less than 10 percent preceded by a high of 30 percent in 2011. Since 1973, lakes Erie, Huron and Superior have recorded average ice coverage above the average 38.4 percent for 2013.

Mr. Mitchell said over the next 10 days the low temperatures and snowfall trend should continue.

“Overall, the air temperature has been a lot colder in the last few months but it is about where it should be,” Mr. Mitchell said. “In the last five years, it’s been much warmer than average, so the weather now feels abnormal.”

Since lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior are farther north than Ontario, he said, the temperatures are lower and they therefore more easily freeze. Lake Erie, which is relatively shallow, is also easier to freeze than Lake Ontario. “We’ve been so entrenched with cold weather this month there hasn’t been a break,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Over the next 10 days it doesn’t look like there is going to be any let-up.”

Mr. Kelly said for the month of January, the Watertown area received 76.3 inches of snow, and Fulton received 43.1 inches. “The wind direction steers the band of the lake-effect snow; the bands follow the wind,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It’s just the pattern we’ve been in.”

Mr. Mitchell said the famous lake-effect snowstorms the region has been increasingly experiencing this winter are due to the warm surface temperature of the lake and the colder air.

The highest amount of ice formation usually occurs in March, so there is still time for more ice to form. 

Watertown (NY) Daily Times


Lookback # 87 – Engine room fire aboard E.B. Barber on February 12, 1975

Fire broke out in the engine room of the self-unloader E.B. Barber at Port Colborne 39 years ago today. Fortunately, the blaze was confined to that area and local firefighters responded to quell the flames.

E.B. Barber, part of the Algoma Central fleet, was undergoing winter maintenance work when the trouble erupted. The 574-foot-long vessel was quickly repaired and returned to service for the upcoming shipping season.

This vessel was built by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co. and launched at Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) on April 11, 1953. Originally a straight deck bulk carrier, the ship had a unique and attractive color scheme of a blue hull, white cabins, gray forecastle and white stripe the length of the hull. In the first three trips, the vessel carried grain, then loaded coal and finished off with a cargo of iron ore.

E.B. Barber was converted to a self-unloader at Collingwood in 1964 and deepened with the addition of a trunk deck. It was a busy ship until it laid up at Toronto on November 29, 1984. Following a sale for scrap and resale to Spanish shipbreakers, E.B. Barber arrived at Vigo, Spain, under tow, on August 8, 1985, and work on dismantling the hull began the next day.

Skip Gillham


Update -  February 12

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 12

RED WING was launched February 12, 1944, as a.) BOUNDBROOK (Hull#335) at Chester, Pennsylvania by Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., a T2-SE-A1 Ocean Tanker. She was renamed b.) IMPERIAL EDMONTON in 1947. In 1959, she was brought to Port Weller Drydocks for conversion to a bulk freighter for Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., renamed c.) RED WING. Scrapped at Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 1987.

1965: MARGIT, a Danish vessel, came inland in 1964 for one trip. It suffered an explosion and fire in the engine room about 1,000 miles southwest of Honolulu on a voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Calcutta, India, and had to be abandoned. Three members of the crew were killed and the ship was burning fiercely when last seen. The drifting hull later grounded at Wotje Atoll, Marshall Islands, and was found, still burning, on March 11, 1965. The ship was a total loss.

1975: E.B. BARBER was in winter quarters at Port Colborne when a fire broke out in the engine room. Local fire fighters contained and extinguished the blaze.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report - February 11

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben

Icebreaking started around 7:30 am on Monday when the CG Katmai Bay started breaking track for the Joyce L Van Enkevort, which was beset just west of Round Island Passage, and then escorted her westbound.

17 hours and 50 nautical miles later – at around 11:30 pm – the Joyce L Van Enkevort is cruising at 10 knots without assistance west of High Island.

Earlier in the evening the Van Enkevort was stopped in ice a couple of miles southwest of Lansing Shoal, and the Katmai Bay made numerous passes to free her.


First federal report on Bounty sinking blames captain

2/10 - For the first time since two people died in the sinking of the Bounty in Hurricane Sandy, federal officials Monday pointed fingers at what likely caused the disaster.

Bounty Capt. Robin Walbridge's "reckless decision to sail ... into the well-forecast path of Hurricane Sandy" was the probable cause of the tall ship's October 2012 sinking off the coast of North Carolina, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Monday.

The ship, carrying 16 crew members, flipped sideways in heavy seas and high winds, spilling everyone into the Atlantic. The Bounty had visited the Great Lakes in 2010.

Walbridge, 63, was never found and is presumed dead; deckhand Claudene Christian -- a 42-year-old rookie -- died after Coast Guard rescuers were unable to revive her.

The NTSB report -- and a similar investigation report expected to be released by the Coast Guard -- could lead to changes in rules governing how attraction vessels like the Bounty are inspected for safety.

Before the ship left port in New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida, the captain indicated he knew the hurricane was moving up the Eastern Seaboard, according to crew testimony at Coast Guard hearings in 2013.

Heading into the storm's path "subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover," Monday's NTSB report said. Ten of Bounty's crew members had been aboard for less than a year -- including two who had joined less than a month before the sinking.

"The Bounty's crew was put into an extraordinarily hazardous situation through decisions that by any measure didn't prioritize safety," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement.

The report said it's "possible that the captain may have focused too narrowly on the position of the storm's eye instead of on Sandy's total expanse." The storm was huge, spanning more than 1,000 miles in diameter. The "area into which the Bounty was heading was already under tropical storm warnings, with conditions forecasted to worsen," the report said. "Still the captain seemed to believe that he could outrace the storm."

By the time the captain and crew realized the ship was sinking, the Bounty was tossing in 30-foot seas and being battered by 103 mph winds about 100 miles off Cape Hatteras.

During the Coast Guard hearings 14 surviving crew members testified. Not one leveled any blame for the disaster at their shipmates or at Walbridge. On Monday, Bounty survivor Jessica Hewitt told CNN on the phone that some of the report's nuances rubbed her the wrong way.

She said the report mistakenly paints the captain as disregarding the crew's well being. "Robin thought a lot about safety," Hewitt said. "But I agree that he also during his career had been walking this line of going out in big storms and making it." They made it through the storms, despite Bounty's less-than-perfect condition, Hewitt said, because Walbridge "was good -- and the crew was good. That boat lasted so long because he was so good."

The Bounty was arguably the world's most famous traditionally rigged replica ship. The three-masted square rigger appeared in several Hollywood films, including the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.

At Coast Guard hearings, crew members testified that the Bounty suffered from a reputation in the tall-ship community for shoddy maintenance and spotty training.

"Contributing to the sinking was the lack of effective safety oversight by the vessel organization," Monday's report said.

The report stated that, although the Bounty took on water even in good conditions and wood rot had been discovered, the captain gave no order to ensure all onboard pumps were fully operational before departing. This, despite his knowledge that the ship was sure to encounter rough seas as it sailed closer to Sandy, according to the report.

Robert Hansen, a representative of the ship owner HMS Bounty Organization, LLC, e-mailed CNN: "I am unable to comment on the report (which we have not seen) or the pending litigation."

For decades before the sinking, the Bounty sailed as an attraction vessel — moving from port to port and charging tourists admission to board it while it was docked.

To charge admission for shipboard tours at dockside, the Bounty required only a simple, brief Coast Guard inspection that checked for obvious safety issues such as major leaks or malfunctioning emergency equipment. The Bounty passed one of these about two months before the disaster.

Christian's family has filed a civil lawsuit against the ship's owner. The case is currently in settlement talks. Christian's parents are "not doing well at all," the family's attorney Ralph Mellusi told CNN. "We now have one report — and when the next one comes down, that will help put some closure on this for them."



Lake Superior Marine Museum Association seeks spring cleanup volunteers

2/11 - Duluth, Minn. – The Lake Superior Marine Museum Association (LSMMA), in conjunction with the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, will host its annual Spring Cleaning Day on Wednesday, March 12 at the Visitor Center, 600 South Lake Ave., Canal Park in Duluth, Minn.  

Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to dust, update various displays and exhibits, polish brass, make sure electronic equipment is in working order and assist Park Rangers with any special projects. Complimentary lunch will be provided by Grandma’s Sportsgarden. If you can volunteer to help, please contact LSMMA at 218-727-2497 or email


Update -  February 11

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Lay-up list updated


Lookback # 86 – Former Uniluck ran out of luck on February 11, 1987

Uniluck, a Fortune-class bulk carrier, first came to the Great Lakes in 1977. The 539-foot, 3-inch-long vessel had been built at Tokyo, Japan, and completed in October 1974. It was sailing for Venture Carriers (Liberia) Ltd.

The ship was in a minor collision with the Imperial Bedford, at Montreal, on May 14, 1978, and both vessels were damaged.  Uniluck was sold to the Tina Navigation Co. Ltd., in 1984 and registered in Cyprus as Tina.

Twenty-seven years ago today, on February 11, 1987, the captain reported he and the crew were abandoning the ship due to water entering the holds and engine room. The position was noted as 08.45 N / 122./05 E which would put the ship in the Sula Sea off the Philippine Islands. No trace was ever found of the Tina or any of her crew.

Skip Gillham Today in Great Lakes History -  February 11

On 11 February 1994, the tug MARY E. HANNAH and an empty fuel barge became trapped in the ice in the Pelee Passage on Lake Erie. The vessels were freed by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter NEAH BAY and the Canadian Coast Guard ship SAMUEL RISLEY.

E. B. BARBER (Hull#111) was launched in 1953, at Port Arthur, Ontario by Port Arthur Ship Building Co. Ltd.

NIXON BERRY was sold to Marine Salvage for scrap on in 1970, she was the former a.) MERTON E. FARR.

BEN W. CALVIN (Hull#388) was launched in 1911, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

The keel was laid for ROY A. JODREY (Hull#186) on February 11, 1965, at Collingwood, Ontario by Canadian Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. The tanker IMPERIAL CORNWALL was retired on February 11, 1971.

Albert Edgar Goodrich, the founder of the Goodrich Steamboat Line, was born in Hamburg, New York, near Buffalo on 11 February 1826.

February 11, 1918 - Amid blasts of whistles from nearby ships and factories and the cheers of several hundreds of people, the cargo steamer Asp was launched at the Polson Iron Works. Fears that the launching could not be carried out because of the thickness of the ice proved unfounded. Gangs of men cut away the ice barrier and at 3:20 the vessel slipped easily into the water without any mishap. Curiosity was aroused when one of the ice cutters found a three-foot alligator frozen just under the surface of the ice. Whether or not it escaped from some sailor or from the local zoo is not known.

1987: UNILUCK first came through the Seaway in 1977. The vessel was sailing as b) TINA when it reported water entering the engine room and cargo holds in the Sula Sea off the Philippines. The crew said they were abandoning the ship but no trace of them or their vessel was ever found.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Report - February 10

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
Sunday was another quiet day on the Straits. The USCG icebreaker Katmai Bay was moored at St. Ignace and the icebreaker Mackinaw is at her homeport in Cheboygan. The next ice escort will likely be for the Joyce L Van Enkevort, upbound on northern Lake Huron with a destination of Escanaba.


Deep freeze concerns Great Lakes shipping firms

2/10 -Minneapolis, Minn. – Great Lakes shipping companies are anticipating rough conditions this spring due to extensive icing over this year, a trade group executive said.

"Lake Superior is likely going to ice over completely. In all probability, that means it's going to be a very tough breakout in March," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association.

Lake Superior was estimated to be 93.5 percent ice bound as of Friday. If it freezes over completely, it would be the first time that has happened since 1996, the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune reported Saturday.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, which monitors lake conditions, said 79.6 percent of the five Great Lakes were iced over. A record 94.7 percent of the lakes were frozen over in 1979.

The Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. are scheduled to open March 25, signaling the start of the Great Lakes shipping season.

"But right now we're not getting any relief ... it's a good, old-fashioned winter," said Mark Barker, president of the Interlake Steamship Co., which ships raw materials such as coal and limestone.

At some point, the Coast Guard will try to plow a path with icebreakers, but a prolonged deep freeze means that, come spring thaw, the Coast Guard will be challenged to keep up.

"In this case, we have heavy ice over multiple locations. That takes those [Coast Guard] assets and spreads them thin," Barker said.



Great Lakes ice cover largest seen this century

2/10 - One effect of the persistently cold winter of 2013-2014 is showing up on the world's largest group of freshwater lakes. According to an analysis by NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, ice covered 78.7 percent of the Great Lakes on February 6. Not since early 1996 has ice been so widespread on the Great Lakes.

This is an abrupt turnaround from the past four winters, during which the peak ice coverage remained around 40 percent or less. The 40-year average is just over 51 percent. Dating to 1973, the two years with the largest ice coverage were 1979 (94.7 percent peak) and 1994 (90.7 percent).

When looking at individual lakes, just over 92 percent of Lake Superior, just under 88 percent of Lake Huron, almost 95 percent of Lake Erie, and around 53 percent of Lake Michigan is ice covered. Much deeper Lake Ontario is only about 29 percent of ice covered.

 Let's compare the current ice cover to the early February ice cover in the two standard-bearing years mentioned above:

  • Feb. 5, 1979: 66.8%
  • Feb. 7, 1994: 83.6%

So, we're pacing ahead of 1979 but behind 1994.

 Through most of the upcoming week, temperatures will remain generally much colder than average over the Midwest and Northeast. Beyond that, there are some preliminary indications the cold may finally ease up the following week, but that outlook remains too uncertain at this time.

Weather Channel


Great Lakes water woes evaporate

2/10 - Lake Michigan has resembled the Arctic Circle in recent weeks, a trend that has been similar in all of the Great Lakes this winter.

Jia Wang, a climatologist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said the Great Lakes currently have about 79 percent ice coverage. That number could rise, depending on how long the cold continues.

“The ice will continue to grow,” Wang said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to reach 90 percent coverage next week because of the continued cooler weather.” According to the National Weather Service forecast, temperatures in the next week are expected to remain cool for much of the region.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Area Engineer Tom O’Bryan said the rising and falling water levels in the lakes are influenced by evaporation, rain and snowfall.

“As Lake Michigan continues to freeze over, there’s less evaporation and less water (leaving),” he said. “As Lake Michigan does freeze, we get a little less lake-effect snow.”

This winter's cold weather has formed ice on areas of the lakes that will reduce evaporation by blocking water vapor escaping into the atmosphere. This could keep water temperatures cool into summer.

All of this ice cover is something that’s making those with an eye on lake levels giddy. “I think that it is going to make a good impact for lake levels,” O’Bryan said. “We’re looking at about a foot above this time last year.”

This ice coverage is already making a difference, according to data from the Corps of Engineers. That data shows lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are 12 and 15 inches, respectively, above their levels of a year ago. Lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario are 8, 5 and 10 inches, respectively, above what they were at this time last year.

“For water levels, I think we’ve had a fantastic year,” O’Bryan said.

For the record, Lake Michigan was recorded at 577.26 feet. The long-term average of the lake is 578.35 feet. This is a far cry from past years when coverage was minimal and the lakes flirted with record low levels.

“We had a pretty low precipitation winter last year,” O’Bryan said. “As we know, looking out of our window, that’s not the case this year.”

The Great Lakes tend to change with the seasons. During the spring, they rise; in the fall, they tend to drop. O’Bryan noted that with the heavy snowpack all around the region, this should also help with lake levels once the spring thaw occurs.

Grand Haven Tribune


Dofasco's coke ovens getting an $87m overhaul

 2/10 - Hamilton, Ont. – ArcelorMittal Dofasco workers are getting the highest bonuses they've seen in a decade and neighbors are getting some welcome relief with an $87-million upgrade to the steelmaker's coke ovens.

 The good news follows last Friday's release of the parent company's 2013 financial results.

The coke oven upgrade, to be carried out over next five years, will be a major help in the struggle to solve polluting emissions from the steelmaker.

 "This is part of our continual investment effort," said company spokesperson Tony Valeri. "It will improve the efficiency of our production and improve our environmental performance as well."

 Valeri said the project will involve repairs and improvements to the flues and linings of the company's No. 2 and 3 batteries, helping to sharply reduce sooty emissions that have angered neighbours and landed the company in court on 13 environmental charges.

 The steelmaker was charged last March with repeatedly spewing black smoke into the air, exceeding pollution standards more than 200 times. The next court appearance on those charges is set for March 27.

 While the investment won't result in new jobs, Valeri said it adds to the security of the company's 5,200 current employees.

 The oldest of the coke batteries is to be shut down in March 2015. ArcelorMittal Dofasco has already spent $175 million since 2010 updating its coke operations, including monitoring systems, emissions cameras, and repairs and rebuilds to ovens. Coke is produced by heating coal in a series of ovens until it becomes a carbon mass used in blast furnaces to make iron.

 Employees were also told Friday they'll be getting the largest payouts they've seen since 2004 under the company's profit-sharing and variable compensation plans — averaging almost $20,000 each.

 In addition to the coke oven upgrades, employees were also told Friday two other major investments in the plant will be completed this year — the $153-million Number 6 galvanizing line and the $33-million temper mill. Combined, that's an investment of $273 million.

 The temper mill sets the mechanical properties, thickness and surface texture of steel.

The galvanizing line produces the high-strength grades of steel demanded by the auto industry and other customers.

 Friday's announcements for Hamilton followed the release of fourth quarter and year-end financial results by ArcelorMittal SA in Europe.

 While the company does not release site-specific financial information, the Flat Carbon Americas division, which includes the Hamilton plant, reported an operating profit of $1 billion US, up from $852 million in 2012. Production was up to 23.9 million tonnes compared to 22.3 million last year and average selling prices rose to $854 per tonne compared to $818.

 Operating income per tonne also rose to $45 per tonne compared to $38 last year.

Overall, the company reported a net loss of $3.3 billion for the year, but chairperson Lakshmi Mittal expressed confidence for 2014.

 "The measures we have implemented to strengthen the business continue to yield positive results. In 2013, we delivered an 11 per cent underlying increase in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization), positive free cash flow and ended the year with net debt at the lowest level since the creation of ArcelorMittal in 2006," he said in a news release.

He said EBITDA for 2014 is expected to improve to about $8 billion.

 Valeri echoed that positive outlook, saying while there are still challenges for the company, such as Canadian manufacturers moving offshore, there's also a new sense of optimism in the air.  "We are certainly seeing stronger automotive performance in North America and we are benefiting from that," he said.  "I think people are a little more confident today."  

Hamilton Spectator


Lookback #85 – Texaco Brave pushed into bridge at Quebec City on February 10, 1982

It was 32 years ago today, that heavy ice and a a strong current guided the Canadian tanker Texaco Brave off course and into the bridge across the St. Lawrence at Quebec City. A mast and the radar antenna made contact with the structure but there was no damage to the bridge.
Texaco Brave was five years old at the time of the February 10, 1982, accident. The 430-foot, 6-inch-long tanker had been built at Shimonoseki, Japan, and sailed for Canada on January 7, 1977.

Over the years, this vessel has been active throughout the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, around Maritime Canada and north to the Arctic for the different owners. It was originally part of the Texaco Canada fleet but was sold to Esso Canada Ltd., in 1986 and renamed Le Brave for trading under Socanav management, then became Imperial St. Lawrence in 1997 and finally Algoeast on joining Algoma Tankers Ltd. in 1998.

Algoeast was rebuilt by Port Weller Dry Docks of St. Catharines in 1999-2000 to meet the new environmental standards for petroleum carriers. It was given a double hull and this has allowed the ship to continue service in Canadian waters. Algoeast remains an active member of the Algoma fleet and was the first down bound transit of the 2010 season in the Welland Canal.
Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 10

UHLMANN BROTHERS was launched February 10, 1906, as a.) LOFTUS CUDDY (Hull#341) at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. The MARKHAM (Twin Screw Hopper Suction Dredge) was delivered February 10, 1960, to the Army Corps of Engineers at Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1998, The Ludington Daily News reported that a private investment group (later identified as Hydrolink) was planning to start cross-lake ferry service from Muskegon, Michigan to Milwaukee running two high-speed ferries.

On 10 February 1890, NYANZA (wooden propeller freighter, 280 foot, 1,888 gross tons) was launched at F. W. Wheeler's yard (Hull #63) in W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. In 1916, she was renamed LANDBO and she lasted until abandoned in 1920.

In 1975, a fire onboard CRISPIN OGLEBAY a.) J.H. HILLMAN JR of 1943, caused $100,000 damage to the conveyor and tunnel while she was laid up at Toledo. The forward end of CRISPIN OGLEBAY is now ALGOMA TRANSFER (C.323003).

1973: The CUNARD CAVALIER was launched at Seville, Spain. It first appeared on the lakes in 1978.

1981: A pair of former Seaway traders collided in the Mediterranean off Algiers and one sank. The FEDDY had been inland as b) SUNSEA in 1969, c) SAGA SAILOR in 1971 and as d) ELLY in 1976. It went to the bottom with the loss of 32 lives. This ship had been enroute from Boston to Volos, Italy, with a cargo of scrap steel. The second vessel, SOUNION, survived. It had been to the Great Lakes as a) SUGAR CRYSTAL in 1968 and was back as b) SOUNION in 1979. It sailed until scrapping at Gadani Beach, Pakistan, following arrival as c) MED VITORIA on April 17, 1993.

1982: TEXACO BRAVE (ii) was pushed off course by the ice and current and struck the bridge crossing the St. Lawrence at Quebec City damaging a mast and the radar. The vessel still sails as d) ALGOEAST.

1984: Scrapping of the Italian freighter b) VIOCA got underway at La Spezia, Italy. The ship made 8 trips through the Seaway as a) BAMBI from 1959 to 1964.

1984: The AEGIS FURY arrived at Shanghai, China, for scrapping as e) WELL RUNNER. The ship first came to the Great Lakes in 1972.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Dave Swayze, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Lookback #84 – Pugwash broke loose on February 9, 1964

 The tug Pugwash was Hull 85 from the Collingwood shipyard. The 94-foot-long vessel, and a sistership Bersimis, were ordered by the Government of Canada for service under the Ministry of Public Works.

 The two tugs were launched into Georgian Bay on April 12, 1930. They both departed for the coast on May 5 with the latter bound for Quebec City and the former headed to Saint John, New Brunswick.

 These ships served well until they were sold to private interests in 1963. Bersimis worked for Verreault Navigation until it was scrapped in November 1975.

 Pugwash was sold to The Earle Freighting Service of Newfoundland. It was docked at the island community of Harbour Grace when a wild winter storm fifty years ago today tore the vessel from its moorings. The hull was blown out to sea to sea where it sank. Reports indicate that 18 months later debris from Pugwash was located washed ashore on an island north of Scotland. Gillham


Update -  February 9

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Today in Great Lakes History -  February 9

EAGLESCLIFFE, loaded with 3,500 tons of grain, sank two miles east of Galveston, Texas on February 9, 1983, after the hull had fractured from a grounding the previous day. She began taking on water in her forward end en route to Galveston. To save her the captain ran her into shallow water where she settled on the bottom in 20 feet of water with her bridge and boat deck above water. All 16 crewmembers and one dog were rescued. She was built for the Hall Corp. of Canada in 1957 at Grangemouth, Scotland as a.) EAGLESCLIFFE HALL, renamed b.) EAGLESCLIFFE in 1973.

The ALEXANDER LESLIE was launched February 9, 1901, as a.) J T HUTCHINSON (Hull # 405) at Cleveland, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

The HOMER D. WILLIAMS suffered extensive fire damage to her side plating and forward lower cabins during her lay-up at Toledo, Ohio on February 9, 1971. The fire was started by a spark from welding that caused the tarpaulins stored in the hold to catch fire.

February 9, 1995 - The founder of Lake Michigan Carferry, Charles Conrad, died at the age of 77.

In 1899, JOHN V. MORAN (wooden propeller package freighter, 214 foot, 1,350 gross tons, built in 1888, at W. Bay City, Michigan by F. W. Wheeler & Co. (Hull#44) was cut by the ice and developed a severe leak during a mid-winter run on Lake Michigan. The iron passenger/package freight steamer NAOMI rescued the crew from the sinking vessel. The MORAN was last seen on the afternoon of 12 February 1899, drifting with the ice about 20 miles off Muskegon, Michigan. She was a combination bulk and package freighter with hatches in her flanks as well as on her deck.

1964: The Collingwood built tug PUGWASH (Hull 85 - 1930) was torn from its moorings at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. The vessel drifted out to sea and sank.

2009: The SONATA suffered engine failure in the Gulf of Finland and had to be towed to Talinn, Estonia, for repairs. It was arrested there, sold at auction and broken up for scrap locally. The ship had been a Great Lakes visitor first as c) RENTALA in 1988 and was back as d) MARY W. in 1990 and f) LANGESUND in 2000.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Report – February 8

Straits - Robert Bemben

The icebreaker Katmai Bay spent much of Friday morning cutting a track for the beset Algosteel. Icebreaking was more difficult due to strong ice pressure from southwest gale-force winds on N Lake Michigan.

Friday afternoon, the icebreaker Mackinaw was on the scene, breaking ice around the beset Algosteel, while the CG Katmai Bay worked on the track to the northeast towards Lansing Shoal. The Algosteel was moving again around 1pm, and the Mackinaw escorted it to Round Island Passage.

Meanwhile, the CG Katmai Bay assisted the Algowood (destination Goderich) which was also stopped southwest of Lansing Shoal. It was slow going for the Algowood, which repeatedly slowed to a stop. Around 9pm, the Algowood and Katmai Bay agreed that they would both overnight east of White Shoal, where the ice pressure was significantly less, and that the Katmai Bay would break track for the Algowood Saturday morning then pass escort duty off to the CG Mackinaw which is anchored in the ice just east of the bridge and will escort the Algowood to Round Island Passage.


U.S. Coast Guard to break ice for Sea Trials of Sikuliaq

2/8 – Marinette, WI - U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay will commence ice breaking operations in northern Green Bay.  The cutter will establish a track in the ice starting at Rock Island Passage extending west to the entrance of Menominee, MI.  The track will not disturb the ice south of the Michigan-Wisconsin state line. 

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay and Basic Marine’s Tug Erika Kobasic will join the ice breaking operations later in the week.  The ice breaking work will enable the Research Vessel (R/V) Sikuliaq to conduct sea trials the following week.

R/V Sikuliaq is an American research vessel constructed by Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin, for the National Science Foundation.  The vessel is scheduled to conduct engine trials and ship board systems testing 17-23 February 2014 in northern Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 

The $200 million vessel will replace the 1966-built research vessel Alpha Helix retired in 2007.  Sikuliaq, named after the Iñupiaq word for "young sea ice" and pronounced "see-KOO-lee-auk", will be operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.  It will eventually make its home in Seward, Alaska.

USCG news release


Lake Superior nearing rare ice-over

2/8 - Duluth, MN - A frigid winter is pushing Lake Superior toward a complete ice-over for the first time since 1996, though there's still a ways to go before you can skate from Duluth to the Soo Locks.

Lake Superior had at least some ice across an estimated 91 percent of its surface as of Thursday, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. That compares with the 40-year average annual Lake Superior ice coverage for February of just 30 percent.

George Leshkevich has been tracking Great Lakes ice for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory since 1973. He's seen all kinds of winters over those 41 years, and all sorts of ice cover.

Winter has had among the most rapid ice buildups of his tenure. That matches air temperatures that show this is the coldest winter since 1979. The widespread ice in January and early February this year "wouldn't have been anomalous back in the '70s or with some of the winters in the mid-'90s. But it certainly has been a while since we've seen this much ice this early," Leshkevich said.

Areas of open water were visible Thursday from Duluth, which is normal as the lake ice builds and shifts. Even in 1996, pockets of open water lingered after "virtual ice-over" was officially declared.

If this winter's cold trend continues, Leshkevich said the lake will virtually freeze over, as it last did in 1996. But he's not willing to go out on a limb and predict a total freeze-over. "If it warms up later in February, or we get a lot of wind, then things can change pretty fast," Leshkevich said. "It's all dependent on the weather, and I don't predict that."

While the percentage of the lake that's frozen continues to climb, satellite photos have revealed pockets of open water along the North Shore and the large, deep eastern basin of the lake. "There's a lot of deep water that serves as a heat pump in those areas. They are usually the last to freeze," Leshkevich noted.

In making his daily ice estimates, in addition to satellite photos and eyewitness reports, Leshkevich also uses radar imagery from space that often gives a more accurate depiction of ice cover, including ice thickness.

The building ice has made for some interesting sightseeing along the lake, including ice jams near shore and the sea caves at Apostle Islands National Scenic Lakeshore, now accessible by ice for the first time in five years. And it's going to make ice fishing more accessible to more people in more areas.

But the vast amount of ice on Lake Superior has ramifications beyond simple curiosity, Leshkevich notes:

-- More and thicker ice now makes it more difficult to break up the ice after March 25, when shipping on the upper lakes will reopen. That could make the Coast Guard's job of opening spring shipping lanes much harder.

-- An ice-covered Lake Superior will immediately stop producing lake effect snowfall. Those snows need the warmth and moisture from the lake, pushed by cold winds, to work their magic on shore.

-- A frozen lake means evaporation will slow to a stop. It's been the increasingly open, mostly un-iced Great Lakes that scientists say have been contributing to lower water levels in recent years. Open water allows evaporation, which, across the lake's huge surface areas, can add up. Ice will keep the water locked in place, and should help bolster a trend of rising water levels over the past year.

-- Some fish that spawn in shallow water in fall need ice cover to protect their spawning beds from winter storms.

The least ice on Lake Superior since accurate records have been kept occurred in 2012, with just 8 percent of the lake covered by ice at the peak of that almost nonexistent winter.

The lake came close to freezing over in 2003 and 2009 but hasn't hit a high enough ice concentration to be considered officially frozen since 1996. According to the Great Lakes Aquarium, 1979 and 1962 saw nearly complete freeze-overs of Lake Superior, with the lake about 95 percent ice covered in 1972.

On average, about 40 percent of the Great Lakes surface area freezes each winter at its peak. Already this year that number has hit 70 percent and continues to climb. Michigan has hit about 55 percent ice cover; Huron 83 percent; Erie 93 percent and Ontario 27 percent this week.

On average, ice coverage peaks in early March and then rapidly diminishes. This winter's vast ice on the Great Lakes is bucking a long-term trend of less and less ice as winters have, on average, become warmer.

The average amount of ice covering the Great Lakes declined by 71 percent between 1973 and 2011, with Lake Superior ice coverage down 79 percent, according to a report published in 2012 by the American Meteorological Society.

Researchers used Coast Guard reports and satellite photographs taken from 1973 to 2010 to determine the ice coverage of all the lakes, with Lake Ontario ice dropping 88 percent while ice in Lake St. Clair (between Lake Huron and Lake Erie) diminished by 37 percent.

Forum News Service


PML Barge remains stuck in ice

2/8 - Sault Ste. Marie, MI - Freeing up the PML Barge Ironmaster is, out of necessity, a low priority for the Coast Guard.  The Purvis Marine barge has been stuck in the ice of the St Marys River for almost 2 weeks. 

Returning from taking a load of steel coils to Detroit, the 338' long, 75' wide barge and tugs Anglican Lady and Wilford M Cohen had difficulties traveling the river due to rapid ice formation and unusually frigid weather.  A mile south of Six Mile Point, the tugs could not widen the track in the ice, and were forced to leave the barge in place as they struggled to make it back to Sault Ste. Marie Ontario. 

The barge is in no danger, and even though anchored, the ice has moved it some.  The Coast Guard Ice Breakers have been busy in the Great Lakes, and sources say working on the barge will have to wait until a USCGC is available, and the tugs from Purvis Marine can return to the area to tow it back.  Not sure of when this will happen, they did say it may have to wait until the regularly scheduled ice break out on the river is done, starting 10 days before the SOO Locks open March 25th.

There is traffic on the river.  February 14th a freighter/tanker is scheduled to arrive at Sault Ste Marie Ontario with fuel oil. The Ironmaster barge is being monitored and has moved to the side of the previous track, and should not interfere with the tanker vessel and escort ice breaker.  It is unlikely they will free the barge at this time.

The barge can be seen from Scenic Drive, just south of Six Mile Road (Six Mile Point is one mile upriver).

Bonnie Barnes


Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor has best year since 2006

2/8 - Portage, Ind. – An estimated 2.5 million tons of steel and other cargo passed through the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor last year, the most since 2006.

The deep-water port on Lake Michigan's southern shore had its second best year since 1998 because of increases in shipments of steel, fertilizer, road salt, coal and limestone. Overall shipments were up by 17 percent over 2012 and 23 percent over an average of the past five years.

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor was the second busiest in the state system, which saw a 20 percent increase in shipments last year. The port in Portage and the two ports on the Ohio River in Southern Indiana handled 8.3 million tons, the most since eight years and the third highest amount in the public-private organization's 52-year history. <P>

All three Indiana ports saw double-digit increases in tonnage last year, largely because of increases of shipments in steel, coal and crops.

"Our ports finished the year on a record pace, which does create some optimism for 2014," CEO Rich Cooper said. "In 2013, our ports handled more steel fertilizer and minerals than any year in recent history. Steel, ag products and coal make up over 80 percent of the shipments at our three ports, so when those cargoes are up, it bodes well for shipping in Indiana. It was good to see ag cargoes rebound in 2013 after the previous year's drought, and the positive trend in manufacturing creates a brighter outlook for future steel shipments."

Shipments have grown significantly at the ports for five of the past six years. Last year, tonnage increased by 10 percent at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.

"Maritime shipments are heavily influenced by manufacturing trends and agricultural markets, so it's gratifying to see steady growth in shipments over multiple years," Cooper said. "This speaks to the success of the world-class companies located at our ports and their efforts to leverage the ports' multimodal connections to create sustainable competitive advantages that allow them to grow their businesses. Indiana's ports are built on a truly unique public-private partnership that has produced tremendous results for over 50 years."

The ports had a record fourth quarter, handling about 3 million tons of cargo despite icy conditions hampered steel mill-bound iron ore freighters on the Great Lakes. It was the most in a single quarter since the statewide port system was established in 1961.

Shipments rose by 21 percent at the Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon near Evansville and by 19 percent at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville near Louisville, Ky.

Northwest Indiana Times


Detroit River’s contaminated sentiment targeted in EPA cleanup plan

2/8 - Wyandotte, Mich. ­ Most of the industries that lined the Detroit River are long gone, but the pollution they left behind remains to this day. It took decades to contaminate the river to a point where wildlife and human health have been affected, but it could take just as long to clean it all up.

A larger-than-expected crowd packed the Wyandotte Boat Club Jan. 15 to hear a presentation from the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental activists concerning a plan to remove contaminated sediment in the upper Trenton Channel.

Overall, audience members appeared pleased that a major cleanup is in the works, but some expressed frustration over how long it is taking to bring the river back to health and the fact that polluters aren’t being held fully accountable for the costs.

The Friends of the Detroit River’s Robert Burns began the meeting with an overview of the affected area, including hot spots up and down the upper Trenton Channel, as well as a discussion of previous cleanups.

Some recent water quality and sediment remediation projects include one in the northern portion of the Detroit River, at the Connor Creek Retention Basin near the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel.

Four other projects all took place Downriver, including contaminated sediment removal in Riverview in 2007, contaminated sediment removal at Monguagon Creek in 1997, removal of contaminated sediment at the Black Lagoon in 2005, and farthest south was the removal of marine sediment at Elizabeth Park in 1993. The latter three projects all were in Trenton.

Burns said that the United States and Canada agreed to work together on a mutual pollution policy back in 1987 for areas that affected both countries, which led to the development of Areas of Concern, many of which are in Michigan. These contaminated sites have been targeted for cleanup since the early 1990s, Burns said.

The area being studied for the current cleanup plan is above the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge.

According to information published in a government pamphlet on the subject, contaminated sediment in the 30 Areas of Concern, together with degraded former industrial sites, or brownfields, are major impediments to communities struggling to revitalize their waterfronts with new commercial enterprises, real estate and recreational amenities that can boost tourism.

Amy Mucha, project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said cleaning up the various contaminated sediments in the area is made more difficult because of the variety of sources they came from, over a lengthy period of time.

A map of sites of suspected contamination in the Detroit River Area of Concern based on samples collected from various investigations conducted from 1982 through 2010 show a multitude of sites, one directly next to the other, starting with Connor Creek in the north and going south all the way below the Gibraltar Canal, to the Celeron Island and Metro Park areas.

“PCBs are the top priority for us,” Mucha told the audience. “We are really concerned about PCBs and mercury.”

PCBs are Polychlorinated Biphenyls, a group of manufactured organic chemicals that contain 209 individual chlorinated chemicals known as congeners. The manufacture of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that they build up in the environment and cause harmful health effects, according to a PCB fact sheet. Products containing PCBs are old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical appliances containing PCB capacitors, old microscope oil and hydraulic fluids.

Mucha said that although the cleanup is still in the planning stages, it will involve mostly dredging of the contaminated sediment. In some cases the contaminated substances will be capped, which is a system engineered to hold the contamination in place.

In response to a question from an audience member, many of whom were from Grosse Ile Township, the remediation work will concentrate on the “thick ribbons” on the west side of the channel, not anything on the Grosse Ile side.

“We don’t know where the material will be disposed of as of yet,” Mucha said. “That could be a big-ticket item.” More than one audience member asked why the industries that caused the pollution aren’t being held accountable for paying the cost of cleaning it up, with one person saying that it appears they are getting off “scot-free.”

Mucha said this is a legacy issue, that some of these polluters don’t even exist anymore as companies that the government could go after to pay for cleanup costs, or seek reimbursement. However those who caused some of the contamination, or that purchased companies known to have caused the river contamination, including BASF Corp. and Arkema, have formed a voluntary partnership with the EPA to address the problem.

Although EPA contractors have done the dredging work in previous cleanup projects, Mucha said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to do the dredging for the upper Trenton Channel project.

Tentatively, the project is expected to begin in 2015 under the Great Lakes Legacy Act and should take a couple years to complete.

The News-Herald


Hornblower Niagara Cruises forges ahead

2/8 - Niagara Falls – On a day where it was hard to imagine anything navigating its way along a frozen Niagara River, officials from Hornblower Niagara Cruises were already thinking spring. That's when the company expects a new fleet of boats to be ferrying passengers to the foot of the Horseshoe falls.

The company, which was awarded the contract to run the boat tour formerly run by Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company, was anxious to show off progress being made in preparation for the company's inaugural season. "People are excited about the product we are offering," said Hornblower Cruises and Events chairman and chief executive officer Terry MacRae.

Hornblower Cruises and Events is the Niagara operator's parent company that also operates boat tours to Alcatraz in San Francisco and in New York City among others. Some of the products the company plans to offer include, fireworks and illumination cruises, group tours and private events.

One of the three boats the company will operate ­ two catamarans capable of carrying 700 passengers each along with a smaller craft, the Guardian of the Gorge, to be available for rescue situations and for private tours ­ is currently in dry dock on the site awaiting its final fittings. The keel for the second catamaran was to be brought down to the site on Monday but frigid temperatures made the roadway down into the gorge too slick, MacRae said.

"The boats weigh 120 tonnes fully assembled," he said. "The catamaran's keels are 35 tonnes each." The boats, MacRae added, cost about $5 million each, and combined with other improvements being made at the site, including the Hornblower Plaza at street level, the company is spending between $20 and $25 million.

The boats are unique to the Niagara operation, MacRae said. "They're custom designed for the site. They're designed for ease of assembly in the gorge. There are a lot of welded modules."

If all goes well, the company hopes to be up and operating no later than May 1. Group and individual date/time tickets will be able to be purchased online after Feb.1 at

The company will be facing other boat traffic in the river, however, as the Maid of the Mist company will still be operating tours of the U.S. side of the river. No problems are anticipated, MacRae said, as when the Maid of the Mist company operated the tours, boats were launched from both sides of the river.

Meanwhile, Hornblower Niagara Cruises general manager Mory DiMaurizio said the goal is to make the experience for visitors a "seamless" one.

With online ticket purchases, lineups can be avoided and subsequently passengers can be loaded and disembarked quicker. The trips are longer, regular excursions to last up to 30 minutes while special private group bookings will be up to 60 minutes in duration between land and water activities.

"It's about creating an experience that's wonderful," DiMaurizio said. "We're carrying on the tradition. It's (the boat trip to the base of the falls) a fantastic experience unto itself but we're adding another element."

MacRae, meanwhile, said the company is still in the process of hiring captains for the boats, while some who have joined the company are in the midst of training on the smaller Guardian of the Gorge boat on the Welland Canal.

Niagara This Week


Updates -  February 8

News Photo Gallery
Lay-up list updated


Lookback #83 – Former Eaglescliffe Hall sank in Galveston Bay on February 8, 1983

The second Eaglescliffe Hall was built at Grangemouth, England, and launched on November 20, 1956. The 259-foot-long bulk carrier was towed across the Atlantic by the tug Merchantman and arrived at Montreal, after a stormy passage, on June 5, 1957.

The vessel often carried coal, grain or pulpwood and served in the Hall Corporation fleet. It tied up at Kingston, Ontario, on September 17, 1971, ending Halco service.

The ship remained idle in the inner harbor until sold to the Cayman Shipping Corp. and departed Kingston for the south on November 17, 1973.

Renamed Eaglescliffe, the ship worked around the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico under Panamanian registry. It had a variety of incidents in this service including a grounding, minor collision, engine and steering problems until the beginning of the end struck 31 years ago today.

Eaglescliffe was loaded with cattle feed when it sank in Galveston Bay on February 8, 1983. Hull cracks had developed while bound for Progresso, Mexico, and the ship settled on the bottom in shallow water. In August 1983, the hull broke in two during Hurricane Alicia leaving the former lakes trader a total loss.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History - February 8

While in lay-up on February 8, 1984, a fire broke out in WILLIAM G. MATHER's after accommodations killing a vagrant from Salt Lake City, Utah, who started the fire that caused considerable damage to the galley.

On 8 February 1902, ETRURIA (steel propeller freighter, 414 foot, 4,653 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. (Hull#604). She was built for the Hawgood Transit Company of Cleveland but only lasted three years. She sank in 1905, after colliding with the steamer AMASA STONE in the fog off Presque Isle Light in Lake Huron.

1983: EAGLESCLIFFE sank in shallow water at Galveston, Texas, while carrying a cargo of cattle freed for Tampico, Mexico. The ship developed hull cracks and subsequently broke in two during an August 1983 hurricane. The canal sized bulk carrier operated on the Great Lakes as a) EAGLESCLIFFE HALL (ii) from 1956 through 1971 and went south in 1974.

1990: LE SAULE NO. 1 received a hole in the bow after striking the Yamachiche Beacon in the Lake St. Peter area of the St. Lawrence and went to Sorel for lay-up. The damage was later repaired at Les Mechins.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Reports -  February 7

Straits of Mackinac– Robert Bemben
After escorting the Joyce L. Van Enkevort eastbound Thursday, the USCG icebreaker Katmai Bay returned to the Algosteel near Lansing Shoal, where the two vessels spent the night in the ice. The cutter Mackinaw was also breaking ice west of the bridge on Thursday and is now moored in St. Ignace.


Lake Superior freezes over a month early

2/7 - Duluth, Minn. – You know it’s been a real winter when the big lake they call Gitche Gumee freezes over in early February.

Canadian data shows the highest ice coverage at this point in winter (more than 70 percent) on the Great Lakes in 18 years, since the winter of 1995-96.

The early and extensive Great Lakes ice cover is yet another vivid sign of the vigorous winter of 2013-’14 in the northern U.S.

MPR News


Lake Superior matches usual drop for January

2/7 - Duluth, Minn. – Lake Superior’s level declined by 3 inches in January — the usual drop for the month. The International Lake Superior Board of Control reports the lake sits 1 inch below its long-term average for Feb. 1 but is a foot above the level at this time last year.

The level of Lakes Michigan-Huron rose about 0.4 inches in January, a month the lakes usually drop an inch. That puts the lakes on a continued trend toward normal — now 12 inches below their long-term average and 15 inches higher than the Feb. 1, 2013, level, which was a seasonal record-low point.

The upper Great Lakes have been trending more toward normal water levels for about the past 10 months after a long period below normal. The lakes generally rise from April to September and then drop during the fall and winter.

Duluth News Tribune


Seaway salties scrapped

2/7 - The following saltwater vessels have been scrapped. Each of them made at least one visit into the Great Lakes/Seaway system in their career. The list includes Tim Buck, which last visited in 2009; Malyovitza, which last visited in 2007; Khudozhnik Kraynev, which last visited in 2007. In addition, Mikhail Strekalovskiy, Russian flagged and also a longtime trader, has been scrapped. Bright Royal, which had five previous names, has been scrapped. She last visited during 2007 as the Spar Ruby, a name she carried from 2000-09. Bright Royal was also Astral Neptune 1985-90, Liberty Sky 1990-96 and Solveig from 1998-00. She was the Manila Bellona from 1996-98 but never visited with that name. The Liberian registered Sur has been scrapped. This vessel also had five previous names and last visited during 2007 as Yosemite, a name she carried from 2006-09. Sur was also known as Astral Mariner 1985-90, Lake Challenger 1990-97, Manila Angus 1997-98 and Darya Devi from 1998-06. She visited with all five of her previous names. Spring Breeze I has also been scrapped. She last visited in 2007 and also visited under the names Nand Rati from 1984-01 and also as Spring Breeze from 2001-06.

Denny Dushane


New cruise ships for 2014: Pearl Mist

2/7 - It isn't often that a new cruise line makes its debut, but that's what's happening this summer with the arrival of Pearl Seas Cruises, a new small ship luxury operator. Pearl Mist, the company's single vessel, will be just 335 feet long — small enough to get into off-the-beaten-path scenic areas that are inaccessible to large ships. Her maiden voyage will be June 25.

Initially, the Pearl Mist will travel in the Canadian Maritimes, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, as well as the Caribbean, offering intimate, upscale adventures that the company says will be like nothing else available. All 108 of the Pearl Mist's cabins will have balconies, and the ship will have several lounges, a main dining room and deck-top areas.

While the line is new, the people behind it are old hands in the small ship cruise world. Pearl Seas Cruises is a sister company to Conn.-based American Cruise Lines, which already operates six vessels along U.S. coastal areas and rivers.

Ten, 11 and 14-night sailings in New England, the Canadian Maritimes and Great Lakes will be available starting at $5,605 per person; seven- to 11-night Caribbean sailings starting at $3,955 per person. Information:

Pearl Seas Cruises


Tall Ships will return in 2016 as Bay City wins 'Port of the Year' award

2/7 - Bay City, Mich. — Bay City can once again stake its claim atop the tall ship world. For the third time since 2001, Bay City has been named Port of the Year by Tall Ships America, the Newport, R.I.-based organization that organizes the annual Tall Ships Challenge, a race of tall ships across major bodies of water that includes stops at several port cities.

In 2013, the race once again brought a fleet of majestic and historic vessels to the Great Lakes and Bay City served as an official host port from July 11-14. The city's fifth-ever Tall Ship Celebration attracted 75,000 visitors and had an economic impact of more than $8 million.

The Port of the Year Award was presented on Wednesday, Feb. 5, during the 41st annual Conference on Sail Training and Tall Ships at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside Hotel in California.

Shirley Roberts, event coordinator of Bay City's Tall Ship Celebration and executive director of Baysail — which owns and operates the Appledore tall ships — is in San Diego and accepted the award. She said Bay City also took home the coveted Ship and Crew Award, given to the port city voted best by captains and crews from the participating vessels.

"It essentially reflects the ships and crews and their selection of their most favorite port," Roberts said. "It is at least as important as winning Port of the Year because it demonstrates that the ships' crews appreciate the hospitality and effort our community put forth."

Winning Port of the Year also ensures that Bay City will once again serve as an official host port in 2016 when the Tall Ships Challenge returns to the Great Lakes. Bay City was the only official host port in Michigan last summer.

Roberts said initial planning for the 2016 event — to take place the third weekend in July — already has begun. Since the tall ships began racing in the Great Lakes in 2001, Bay City has hosted its Tall Ship Celebration five times, taking home Port of the Year honors in 2001 and 2006. Chicago won the award in 2003 and 2010.

"They've given this award five times to ports in the Great Lakes and Bay City has won it three times and Chicago has won it twice," noted Roberts. "It says we do a good job and the experience in our community, even though it is so much smaller than all of the other ports — is top notch and high quality.”

The tall ships visited more than 20 ports as part of the 2013 Tall Ships Challenge, including official port stops in Toronto, Erie, Pa.; Cleveland, Green Bay, Wis.; Duluth, Minn.; and Chicago.

The Bay City Times


Lookback #82 – Nerva stranded and sank on February 7, 1943

2/7 - The Norwegian freighter Nerva was under German control when it was lost 71 years ago today. The ship had been on the Great Lakes as such in 1935 as well as the two previous seasons, 1933 and 1934, as Gwentgate.

The vessel had been built by Barclay, Curle & Co. and launched at Glasgow, Scotland, on July 30, 1924. It was laid down for Belgian flag service in 1920 as Castilier but was completed in September 1924 as Forestgate for the Forest Shipping Co. Ltd. It became Gwentgate in 1926 and operated under British registry for Mordey, Son & Co. Ltd.

Sold to Norwegian interests and renamed Nerva in 1935, the 250-foot, 6-inch-long ship returned to the lakes that year. In the early part of the war, the vessel operated for the Allies but since it was lost carrying a cargo of pyrites to Germany, one has to conclude it was taken over at some point during the conflict by the Nazis.

Nerva stranded in a blizzard north of Rorvik, Norway, on February 7, 1943, while en route from Fineidet, Finland, to Germany and was a total loss.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 7

HURON (Hull#132) was launched February 7, 1914, at Ecorse, Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works for Wyandotte Transportation Co. She was scrapped at Santander, Spain in 1973.

In 1973, ENDERS M. VOORHEES closed the Soo Locks downbound.

In 1974, ROGER BLOUGH closed the Poe Lock after locking down bound for Gary, Indiana.

1965: The Liberty ship GRAMMATIKI visited the Seaway for one trip in 1960. The vessel began leaking in heavy weather on the Pacific enroute from Tacoma, Washington, to Keelung, Taiwan, with a cargo of scrap. The vessel, also slated to be scrapped, was abandoned by the crew the next day and slowly sank.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Heavy ice delays shipments of raw material to Essar Steel Algoma

2/6 - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. – Trucks will soon be working around the clock to deliver massive amounts of metallurgical coal from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to Essar Steel Algoma after heavy ice prevented the raw material from being shipped directly to the Sault, Ont. steelmaker.

Essar Steel Algoma said that the plan was put into action after several critical end of season coal shipments were delayed beyond the January 15 closure of the Soo Locks.

Brenda Stenta, spokesperson of Essar Steel Algoma, said that each winter Essar stockpiles enough of the material to keep operating until the Soo Locks open in the spring. The plant is not equipped to receive coal by rail, making Sault, Michigan, its only option. Four ships loaded with coal were delayed by this season's quicker than usual ice formation on the seaway. It would have impacted production absolutely.”

She said that the contingency plan will mean some extra cost. All of the product has now been offloaded at what is known as the Carbide Dock on the Sault, Michigan, side of the St. Marys River, the only spot down river of the locks capable of accommodating the material.

Sault Star


Port Reports -  February 6

St. Marys River - Bonnie Barns
The PML barge Ironmaster remains in the ice off Six Mile Point.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
The USCG icebreaker Katmai Bay was on station all day Wednesday in the ice field north of Beaver Island. Around 9 p.m. Wednesday evening it was underway, breaking ice west of Whiskey Island, as the Joyce L Van Enkevort, with an AIS destination of Cleveland, was upbound northeast of Washington Island after loading in Escanaba.

S. Chicago, Ill. – Dan McNeil
The tug Samuel de Champlain and cement barge Innovation were do to depart Lafarge Cement dock in South Chicago around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Their next destination is back to Milwaukee with an estimated time of arrival just before sunrise around 4 a.m. on Thursday. It is not yet known at this time if they will unload the cement barge Integrity into her and make another trip or if the Innovation is going back into winter layup at the Lafarge Cement dock Milwaukee. All times and dates are weather and ice conditions permitting. While in South Chicago the Innovation had to have some sort of repair work done while unloading.


Ships bring eagerly awaited salt to Wisconsin

2/6 - Milwaukee, Wis. – About 50,000 tons of salt have arrived in Wisconsin, where some communities have started mixing sand with salt to stretch their supplies.

The city of Milwaukee had used 62,000 tons of salt before two storms that hit Saturday and Wednesday. That's already 5,000 tons more than it uses in a typical winter.

Cities nationwide have been running low on salt with snowstorms hitting early and often this winter.

The salt being delivered Wednesday at the Port of Milwaukee by the Algosteel was loaded in Goderich, Ont. from the largest salt mine in the world.

Hart says the salt will be stored in Milwaukee until it is distributed to customers in Wisconsin and Illinois

Associated Press


Shipping on hold as ice locks up Great Lakes

2/6 - Green Bay, Wis. – The amount of the ice on the Great Lakes so far this season exceeds the long-term average for maximum coverage. And there’s still plenty of winter left.

About 70.7 percent of the lakes were covered in ice this week, up from 60.1 percent last week and a maximum ice of 38.4 percent at the same period in 2013 and 12.9 percent in 2012.

This year’s total is closer to the amount last seen in 2009. The extensive amount of ice could mean a slow start to the 2014 shipping season in March.

“Because we have so much ice ... we’re going to have to have some ice-breaking work just to move some ships around before we get the winds and weather to move the ice and get it away from the system,” said Mark Gill, director of vessel traffic services with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. “Everybody wants to go, and everybody is laid up in different places.”

Large chunks of the Great Lakes fleet spend the winter in shipyards, like Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, undergoing repair and renovation for the upcoming season.

“We’re going to have to go from port to port and form convoy lines to get everyone from these satellite locations into the main shipping lanes,” Gill said. “That takes time, and time is money.”

The Coast Guard is meeting with American and Canadian shipping officials to talk about plans for spring, Gill said.

“It’s going to be a slow, deliberate, move,” he said about the start of the season. “We still have eight weeks of cold weather ... if we continue on the track we are, we’re going to continue to make ice and we’re going to have more ice than we have ice breakers to deal with it.”

The Coast Guard has nine ships on the lakes to combat the ice. Canada operates a pair of ice breaking vessels.

The shipping season usually gets into full swing with the opening of the Soo Locks, which is scheduled for March 25.

While this year’s ice coverage exceeds recent years, it’s still a long way off the 94.7 percent in the winter of 1979, according to figures from Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. The lab is operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The long-term average for maximum ice coverage is about 51 percent. Maximum ice coverage usually occurs in February and into early March.

“We had the first polar vortex ... and the ice cover on the lakes just took off,” said George Leshkevich, scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “Lake Erie is about 96 percent ice covered now.”

Last week, Lake Michigan was about 46 percent ice covered; Lake Superior 69 percent covered; Lake Huron 71 percent covered; and Lake Ontario about 26 percent covered.

“Compared to winters in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it’s not terribly anomalous,” Leshkevich said. “It’s just that we haven’t seen this much ice in the past two to three years, so when we get it, it seems like a lot. It depends on which years you are comparing it to.”

It’s still too early to tell what, if any, impact the amount of ice currently on the lakes will on next month’s shipping season start.

“It depends on if we continue with the cold temperatures. The winds can have a great effect on the ice cover as well, breaking it up and moving it around,” Leshkevich said. “If it continues like this, it could pose some serious problems at the start of the season. But it’s very much dependent on the weather conditions. It’s really hard to say right now.”

Cold temperatures in the fall and early winter lead to some early formation of ice on the lakes which cut into the amount of cargo moving by ships. The Port of Green Bay ended operations a little earlier than normal.

“The ice and the weather really took a chunk out of iron ore and western coal” shipments during late season shipping, said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Ohio-based Lake Carriers’ Association.

“Cargo that was booked to move in December and January didn’t get loaded. If people can get going early, they will want to.”

There’s not much the industry can do about the ice. Nekvasil said this winter points to the importance of the fleet of nine ice breaking-capable vessels operated by the U.S. Coast Guard around the lakes.

“Without good ice breaking resources, cargo does not move,” he said.

A number of the ships, including the cutter Mobile Bay in Sturgeon Bay, are expected to undergo upgrades to extend the life of the vessels another 30 years. All of the ships are expected to be upgraded by 2020.

Green Bay Press Gazette


Province moving ahead with removal of Miner wreck from Scatarie Island

2/6 - Sydney, N.S. – The finishing touches are being put on a request for proposals for the long-awaited removal of the wreck of the former Great Lakes vessel Canadian Miner from Scatarie Island, the province’s transportation minister says.

Geoff MacLellan, also the MLA for Glace Bay, provided an update on the process for reporters following a cabinet meeting in Membertou on Wednesday. MacLellan had said work was underway to ensure a request for proposals will be issued early this year, adding things have proceeded according to schedule.

“Obviously, with the nature of this (request for proposals), there’s a lot of environmental concerns with the Scatarie, with exactly how we remove this wreck from the shore,” MacLellan said.

Much care has gone into properly crafting the request for proposals, he said, noting the province has worked with its federal counterparts as part of the process. It's hoped a successful bidder will be selected soon and that the cleanup will proceed as soon as weather permits.

MacLellan noted Scaterie Island is a delicate environment, a provincially protected wilderness area and also important to the commercial fishing industry, so they want to make sure all issues are carefully considered. He added he's optimistic the work will be concluded prior to the start of lobster fishing in May.

The province will take the lead removing the Miner but it is hoping there is a tie-in with federal jurisdiction so the cost could be shared. MacLellan stressed the province has committed to the cleanup.

“How we figure out how the bill is paid is part of those ongoing discussions,” he said. “For us, we have to make sure this is done right, it’s done in a timely fashion and then after that point we will talk to the federal government with respect to some of the ways the feds can help out.”

The province isn’t a fiscal position to shoulder that cost, MacLellan said, noting it wasn’t a provincial responsibility. He added he has reached out to federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to set up a meeting for later this month.

MacLellan has also said he wants to see federal shipping laws that protect Nova Scotia against a repeat of the Miner situation where a derelict ship lands off the coastline with no apparent protection for the nearby communities or the province. He didn't know how long it will take to get rid of the Miner but said it should be as soon as possible.

Estimates of the cost of removing the vessel are difficult to judge, given that they have ranged from between $3 million and $5 million on the low end, to $25 million on the high end.

Fishermen and other local residents living in Cape Breton coastal communities near Scaterie Island appealed to both the former NDP provincial government and the federal government without success for the removal of the derelict vessel, which has been breaking apart while being battered by the ocean.

A New York-based company attempted to salvage the Miner before walking away from the job, blaming government bureaucratic hurdles.

Cape Breton Post


Maritime Academy to get $1 million training grant

2/6 - Traverse City, Mich. – The Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Northwest Michigan College just received word that it will receive a $1 million grant for cadet training and education.

The money came from the sale of obsolete vessels from the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve Fleet and was equally divided among the nation’s seven maritime academies, said Rear Admiral Jerry Achenbach.

“It’s a tremendous thing. The last distribution of this fund (in 2011) was used to build a new ship simulator,” said Achenbach, the maritime academy’s superintendent. “We just received word Wednesday, and we’ll have a meeting next week to decide what to do with the money.”

More than likely, the academy will set aside half the money to hold as a hedge against a spike in fuel costs for its training ship.

“That way the cadets won’t get hit,” he said. “The other thing is upgrades of our engineering laboratory equipment, in particular, the welding simulator, and an upgrade to the electronics lab. Those are things we are just considering.”

The Great Lakes Maritime Academy trains deck and engineering officers to work in the commercial shipping industry. It’s the only academy in the United States that offers graduates the opportunity to be licensed to work on the Great Lakes and on the sea.

The scrap metal of the Defense Reserve’s obsolete vessels were purchased for recycling. The National Maritime Heritage Act requires 25 percent of the sales be distributed to maritime academies for facility and training ship maintenance, repair, and modernization, and for the purchase of simulators and fuel.

Traverse City Record Eagle


Where dredged dirt will be placed near Holland, Grand Haven beaches

2/6 - Ottawa County, Mich. – About 64,000 cubic-yards of sediment will be dredged from the bottom of the Grand Haven channel and pumped out into Lake Michigan this spring, and the same process will move about 38,000 cubic-yards out of the Holland channel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay King Co. Inc. of Holland $657,500 to do the annual dredging, scheduled from early April through late May. Plans call for sandy material to be removed from the harbors and put near the shoreline.

“Every winter dirt moves downstream and deposits and becomes sediment in the navigation channel and we clear it out to our authorized depth,” said Jon Imbrunone, project manager. “We do what’s called near-shore placement. We place it in the 8-foot to 12-foot contour. It’s just pumped out (in the littoral drift north of the channel in Grand Haven and south of the channel in Holland) and kind of replenishes the beaches.”



Marine News Casualties & Demolitions 2014

2/6 - Marine News, the monthly journal of the World Ship Society, has resumed listing Casualties and Demolitions. The following, from the February 2014 issue, have ties to the Great Lakes.

ABM Pioneer was a former Seaway trader as Eggarlock, beginning in 1981 and returned as Holck-Larsen in 1983. This ship was a regular inland visitor through 1998 and included some charter work to Misener-Unitramp. It became Millenium Condor in 1998 and last visited the Seaway in 2001. It had three more subsequent names and, following a sale to shipbreakers in India, scrapping began at an unnamed port on November 2, 1913.

Baran Bey dated from 1986 and first visited the Great Lakes in 1991 under her second name of Centa Dan. The vessel returned as Tropic Confidence in 1998 and as John G. Lemos in 2005. The vessel was sailing under a seventh name of Baran Bey when sold to shipbreakers in Turkey in September 2013.

Da Jia was reported to have been broken up in China in 2013. This ship was a Seaway traveler under her sixth name of Atlantis Sky in 1991 heading to Thunder Bay late in May. The vessel was reported sold to Chinese shipbreakers in 1993 and arrived at a Chinese port from Kagoshima, Japan, on June 10 only to be resold for further service as g) Bao Zhong 118, h) Royal Pioneer in 2004 and finally i) Da Jia in 2005. The vessel has been around since being built at Osaka, Japan, in 1969.

H. Pioneer had a long history of Seaway trading under earlier names. It was built at Sunderland, England, in 1982 and came to the Great Lakes in 1983 as Nosira Madeleine. It was renamed b) Bella Dan in 1989 but did not resume inland service until another sale and rename of Hope I in 1993. This ship was a regular and will be remembered for losing power and grounding above Morrisburg on June 3, 1999. It had to be lightered to D.C. Everest before being released on June 5. It last operated on the lakes, with two trips in 2002 before returning as d) Hope in 2004. The ship was under her seventh name when it was broken up at an unnamed Pakistani port beginning on October 24, 2013.

Intercrown came through the Seaway under two of her her eight names. The vessel was built as Chimo in 1981 and visited the Great Lakes that year. The bulk carrier was back as d) Sylvia in 2000 and made news the next year running over a buoy below the Eisenhower Lock and wrapping the chain around her propeller. The vessel was released and visited Port Weller Dry Docks for repairs from October 19 to October 27, 2001. Another four names followed before the ship was sold to Chinese shipbreakers and arrived for dismantling on October 16, 2013.

Navigator M. made news at Chicago on May 6, 1988, while under tow as a) Pontokratis and got tangled with the CSX railway bascule bridge. Part of the structure was draped over the pilothouse. The ship was not released until May 16 and still had a piece of the bridge on deck. There were no injuries but, as expected, the accident ended up in litigation. The ship was a regular caller through the Seaway with a final voyage in 2006. It has sailed as Navigator M since 2010 and scrapping got underway at Alang, India, on October 10, 2013.

Yang Yuan was sold to Chinese shipbreakers in 2013 and broken up during October. The ship dated from 1980 and was a Seaway trader as Tachibana I, while under the flag of Panama, in 1986. It had been sailing under the fifth name of Yang Yuan since 2006.

In addition, the Canadian dredge Port Mechins, a Seaway visitor as b) Lockeport, was reported sold to Mexican shipbreakers.

Compiled by Skip Gillham, Barry Andersen & Rene Beauchamp


Saltwater vessel renames

2/6 - The following saltwater vessels have been renamed. Each has visited the Great Lakes/Seaway system at least once. Julia, which last visited in 2007, is now Ventura of Antigua/Barbuda flag. The Kroonborg, a former Wagenborg vessel, is now the Azburg of Panama. The tanker MCT Alioth, which also visited as Alioth her original name from 1999-2003, has been renamed. She is now Alexander J of Liberian flag. The tankers Soley-1 and Soley-2 have both been renamed. Soley-1 is now the Solando, while Soley-2 is now Solero, each now flying the flag of Sweden. Oriental Kerria, which last visited during 2008, is now the Everrich 2 of Panama. BBC Naples which last visited in 2011, is now the Thorco Avantgarde of Antigua/Barbuda. BBC Alaska, which last visited in 2010, is now the HHL Elbe of Liberian registry. She was also renamed Elbe in 2013 and held that name until just recently receiving her current name in January 2014.

Denny Dushane


U.S. Coast Guard spills diesel fuel into Detroit River

2/6 - Windsor, Ont. – The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating after 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Detroit River as one of its vessels was taking on fuel. The cutter Mackinaw was fuelling up when the spill occurred around 1 p.m. at the Mistersky fuelling station in Detroit, about one kilometre west of the Ambassador Bridge.

The ship is the only U.S. heavy ice breaking vessel assigned to the Great Lakes. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Detroit station estimated 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel entered the river. The coast guard said the ship’s crew deployed a boom around the fuel to prevent it from spreading.

“It was reported to us right away,” said Windsor Port Authority Harbour Master Peter Berry. “It was contained very quickly — that’s what they do.”

A number of agencies were alerted on the Canadian side — including the Ministry of Environment, the port authority, the City of Windsor and the Canadian Coast Guard, he said.

Berry said that the oil was “keeping to the Detroit shoreline” Wednesday. “We will continue to monitor over the next few days to see if any materials make it to our shoreline.

“The good thing was the ice in the river was keeping it away from our shoreline. This type of fuel also dissipates quickly. The heavier oils (within the fuel) seemed to be trapped by a barge immediately adjacent to the facility.”

A private oil spill removal company was called in by the U.S. Coast Guard to suction the fuel out of the water with a vacuum truck.

The cause of the discharge remains under investigation, said Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District incident management branch.

“We take our role as environmental stewards seriously and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable,” he said.

“We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts and have begun our investigation of the actions that led to the discharge so we can identify ways to prevent it from reoccurring.”

Part of the emergency response action plan was for the U.S. Coast Guard to get a helicopter in the air to see the extent of the spill by eyeing the sheen on the river and whether water intakes were in jeopardy.

On the Canadian side, the closest downriver intake is in Amherstburg.

“We confirmed the water intakes and industrial intakes were not affected by this,” Berry said. “We also looked at wildlife impact — ducks geese, swans — but there were none in the area.

Berry described the incident as the largest fuel spill in the river since 2012, when a lake freighter had problems with its bilge pump and oil went into the river.

Windsor Star


Lookback #81 – Liquilassie hit the Gandy Bridge at Tampa on February 6, 1981

2/6 - The former tanker Liquilassie worked on the Great Lakes under power and as a barge. It left the Seaway late in the 1980 season, pushed by the tug Tusker, to carry liquid asphalt on the Gulf of Mexico during the winter. The pair were inbound at Tampa, Florida, thirty-three years ago today, when the barge hit the Gandy Bridge that linked Tampa and St. Petersburg, and damaged a support column.

The collision required repairs to both the Liquilassie and the structure. It took about three months to fix the busy bridge.

Liquilassie had been built at Duluth in 1943 and left the lakes, via the Mississippi River system, as Temblador. It was owned by the Creole Petroleum Corp. and registered in Panama for service in and around Venezuela and Aruba. The 366 foot long tanker had a shallow draft that was particularly useful for its work.

The vessel was sold to the Canada Import Co. in 1960 and came back to the Great Lakes for service under the banner of Porter Shipping. The name was changed to Liquilassie in 1961 and there were several transfers in ownership over the years.

Liquilassie was converted to a barge at Hamilton in the fall of 1977 and resumed service on the lakes often pushed by the tugs Barbara Ann or Malcolm. Following the accident at Tampa, the vessel was idle there for several months. It eventually resumed service and, in the spring of 1982, loaded fertilizer apparently for Tahiti. It was noted at Papeete, French Polynesia, in May 1982 after arriving from Whangarig, New Zealand. Canadian registry was finally closed on January 27, 1983.

The last report came in 1987 when the tanks were cleaned and the ship was sunk as an artificial reef off Tonga.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 6

On 06 February 1952, the LIMESTONE (steel propeller tug, 87 foot 10 inches) was launched at Bay City, Michigan, by the Defoe Shipyard (Hull #423) for the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company. Later she was sold to U.S. Steel and in 1983, to Gaelic Tug Company who renamed her b.) WICKLOW. She is currently owned by the Great Lakes Towing Company and is named c.) NORTH CAROLINA.

LORNA P, a.) CACOUNA was damaged by fire at Sorel, Quebec, which was ignited by a welder's torch on February 6, 1974.

ALVA C. DINKEY (Hull #365) was launched February 6, 1909, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

HALLFAX (Hull#526) was launched February 6, 1962, at Port Glasgow, Scotland by William Hamilton & Co. Ltd.

On February 6, 1904, the PERE MARQUETTE 19 went aground on Fox Point, Wisconsin approaching Milwaukee in fog. Engulfed in ice and fog, she quickly filled with water.

On 06 February 1885, Capt. William Bridges of Bay City and A. C. Mc Lean of East Saginaw purchased the steamer D.W. POWERS (wooden propeller freighter, 140 foot, 303 gross tons, built in 1871, at Marine City, Michigan) for the lumber trade. This vessel had an interesting rebuild history. In 1895, she was rebuilt as a schooner-barge in Detroit, then in 1898, she was again rebuilt as a propeller driven steamer. She lasted until 1910, when she was abandoned.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Ice cover, snowfall expected to help Great Lakes levels make small gains

2/5 - Detroit, Mich. – Subzero temperatures plus record snowfall in parts of Michigan and above-average amounts in Great Lakes states are expected to solidify last year’s gains in lake levels and, in some cases, help them rise closer to normal levels.

Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron will be a few inches higher by late July compared with the same time in 2013, according to projections the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released Monday.

By contrast, Lake St. Clair will be at or just below last year’s levels at the start of summer, and lakes Erie and Ontario will be below last year’s levels, the federal agency estimates.

The forecast represents a mixed bag for the lakes since last year, but still puts them in a far better position than they were in 2012. Each lake is expected to be well above the level of two years ago — and, in many cases, within two to three inches of the historical mean or average for July.

The news is particularly good for lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron, which prior to 2012 had experienced 14 straight years of below-average levels. That stretch culminated in Michigan and Huron setting all-time monthly lows.

The below-average lake levels in recent years have frustrated those who live near the lakes, play in them and ship goods on them. Lakefront property owners watched for years as beaches widened as waters receded, while shipping companies were forced to reduce the amount of cargo on their freighters to ensure passage in shallow ports.

Seasonal rises in the lakes would be welcomed by the shipping industry after weather problems and ice buildup on the lakes late in 2013 resulted in delays and canceled cargo shipments, which in turn helped drive a downturn in business. In 2013, iron ore shipments dropped 21 percent from the previous year, according to one industry group.

“We really took it on the chin,” said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Ohio-based Lake Carriers’ Association.

January statistics compiled by the Army Corps indicate how severe this winter has been to date:

■ Lake Superior’s mean was 601.35 feet, up from 600.33 feet the year before.
■ Lakes Michigan and Huron posted a mean of 577.3 feet, up from 576.02 feet the year before.
■ Lake St. Clair reached 573.13 feet last month, compared with 572.57 feet last year.
■ Lake Erie’s 570.87 feet last month was up from 570.28 feet in 2013.
■ Lake Ontario posted a mean of 244.88 feet compared with 244.08 feet the year before.

The improvement in lake levels could change in the coming months depending on the weather, an Army Corps official said. “The difference between the 2012 and 2013 seasonal rises was like night and day,” said Jim Lewis, a hydraulic engineer with the Army Corps.

“A lot could happen between now and then (July) in 2014 depending on how much more precipitation we see or if snow keeps piling up over the next month or two.”

Detroit News


U.S. Coast Guard responds to diesel fuel spill

2/5 - Cleveland, Ohio – The U.S. Coast Guard reported a diesel fuel discharge Tuesday afternoon from the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw while the ship was taking on fuel in the Detroit River in the vicinity of the Ambassador Bridge.

The crew immediately secured the source of fuel and conducted initial clean-up operations onboard. Crewmembers also deployed boom around the fuel to prevent further spread. Coast Guard Sector Detroit pollution responders currently on scene estimate that 200-300 gallons entered the water.

The Coast Guard has contracted an oil spill removal organization to complete the clean up and has ordered various equipment, to include a vacuum truck and additional boom. The cause of the discharge is under investigation. The Mackinaw was cleared to depart the location of the incident due to a necessary ice-breaking operation.

"We take our role as environmental stewards seriously, and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable," said Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Incident Management Branch. "We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts and have begun our investigation of the actions that lead to the discharge so we can identify ways to prevent it from reoccurring."


Cargo dips, yet Toledo has best year since 2007

2/5 - Toledo, Ohio – Cargo shipments through Toledo’s Great Lakes port dipped 2.7 percent on a weight basis during the 2013 shipping season, but port officials are celebrating a doubling of the high-value general-and-miscellaneous traffic sector during the year.

Overall cargo dropped to 9,748,078 tons — the second straight year of decline, and only the second time in Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority history that it dipped below 10 million tons.

But the drop was almost entirely attributable to a 549,000-ton reduction in iron-ore shipments, which fluctuate with the fortunes and raw-materials purchasing practices of one company, AK Steel, whose steel mills in Middletown, Ohio, and Ashland, Ky., are the primary — if not exclusive — receiver of Toledo-shipped ore.

Toledo’s port terminals also recorded a 50,000-ton decline in dry-bulk cargoes despite the arrival, and later outbound shipment, of an unspecified amount of petroleum coke that had been the target of controversy in Detroit.

All other cargo sectors were up for the year, including coal, which rebounded 6.73 percent after several years of decline; grain, petroleum, and liquid bulk, and the general-cargo category, which includes such cargoes as steel, aluminum, and heavy equipment.

Those cargoes are especially important because of the labor involved in their loading and unloading, compared to the heavy mechanization of the port’s bulk-products terminals.

“This is the stuff that produces the most economic impact for us,” said Joe Cappel, the port authority’s director of cargo development. “A ton of steel is not the same as a ton of cargo. This was our best year since 2007 — we had a lot of aluminum, and we also started to receive some inbound coiled steel again.

“We also had some project cargoes [heavy machinery] for several refineries,” he added.

Other significant commodities handled at the general-cargo dock included coal, limestone, titanium ore, pig iron, bulk sugar, and petroleum coke.

The oil-refining by-product also known as petcoke long has been handled at the port authority’s general- cargo docks for export as a fuel.

Historically, it has come from local refining, but last year, petcoke from Detroit was transferred to Toledo, then later shipped out on several vessels, after complaints arose about oily petcoke dust blowing from the Detroit waterfront into nearby neighborhoods.

Terry Leach, operations director for Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, said dust-control measures were in place throughout the Toledo port, just as is done with local petcoke, and air monitoring is required by Midwest’s Ohio Environmental Protection Agency permit.

“We have to have misters on our conveyor systems when we’re loading vessels, and we use a sealant on the piles,” Mr. Leach said. “... We want to be a good neighbor. We don’t want to contaminate anything.”

The bulk sugar delivered by Toledo’s first overseas ship of the 2013 shipping season marked the first sugar cargo to arrive here since 2008.

Mr. Cappel said port officials continue their efforts to diversify the cargoes shipped through Toledo so the port isn’t dependent on the fortunes of a small number of industries or shippers.

“Some of the more traditional staple cargoes, like coal and iron ore, may be pretty flat” during the 2014 shipping season, he said — especially if AK Steel shifts raw-steel production to a plant it is building in western Indiana.

The port authority’s new Ironville Dock facility, on part of the former Gulf Oil refinery site along Front Street, provides “more terminal capacity for bulk products” and may be especially suited for transloading oil or other liquids, Mr. Cappel said.

The new dock also provides competitive railroad access for port shippers, who previously only had access to CSX Transportation service.

“Ironville gives us direct access to Norfolk Southern, and we’re going to try to target some customers that may benefit from that,” Mr. Cappel said. “We’re also going to continue our capital improvements on our docks and at the [Toledo] Shipyard.”

Toledo Blade


Corps awards Lake Michigan harbor dredging contract

2/5 - Detroit, Mich. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit district has awarded a contract to a company to dredge shoal material from two Lake Michigan harbors.

Holland-based King Company Inc. will use $657,500 to complete maintenance dredging at Grand Haven and Holland harbors in southwestern Michigan. District engineer Lt. Col. Robert Ellis says both are essential to marine commerce. The work is expected to begin in early April and be completed by late May.

The company will dredge mostly sandy material from the harbors and place it along the shoreline in Holland and near the shore in Grand Haven.



Duluth program Thursday features Alder commander

2/5 - This Thursday, the Lake Superior Maritime Museum’s free speakers program topic is “The Alder and the Ice,” with LCDR Tony Maffia, Commanding Officer CGC Alder. He will discuss the Coast Guard’s role in this ever-changing and challenging ice season.


Lookback #80 – Christiane Schulte abandoned on February 5, 1972

2/5 - Ships with the last name of Schulte have been coming to the Great Lakes since before the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, and they were still sailing inland in 2013. One of the early visitors met an unfortunate end 42 years ago today.

Christiane Schulte had been built by P. Lindenau, at Kiel, West Germany. The 275-foot, 10-inch-long general cargo carrier was launched on May 16, 1959, and completed in August.

It began Great Lakes trading in 1960 with two trips inland for owner B. Schulte. The vessel spent some time on charter to Canadian Pacific Steamships and had made a total of nine trips through the Seaway to the end of the 1967 season.

This freighter was sold to the Wolf Shipping Co. in 1971 and renamed Citta Di Alessandria. On February 5, 1972, the vessel went aground off the Klidhes Islands of northern Cyprus, while battling a fire on board. The ship was on a voyage from Lattakia, Syria, to Mersin, Turkey, when the Liberian flag freighter had to be abandoned in position 35.43 N / 34.35 E. It was a total loss.

Skip Gillahm


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 5

ASHLAND, in a critically leaking condition, barely made Mamonel, Colombia, on February 5, 1988, where she was scrapped.

February 5, 1870 - Captain William H. Le Fleur of the Pere Marquette carferry fleet, known as "the Bear" was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On February 5, 1976, the carferry WOLFE ISLANDER III was inaugurated into service between Kingston and Wolfe Island Ontario. Later that night, two blocks over, a Kingston resident noticed the captain turning off the running lights of the 'ol WOLFE ISLANDER as she joined her already winterized sister, the UPPER CANADA.

1972: CHRISTIANE SCHULTE, a West German Seaway trader, went aground at Khidhes Island, Cyprus, while on fire and was abandoned by the crew. The ship was traveling from Lattakia, Syria, to Mersin, Turkey, as b) CITTA DI ALESSANDRIA and was a total loss.

1977: The Israeli freighter TAMAR, a Seaway caller in 1959 and 1961, was gutted by a fire in the Aegean Sea south of Thira Island as c) ATHENA. The vessel, enroute from Mersin, Turkey, to Albania, was towed into Piraeus, Greece, on February 12, 1977. It was a total loss and scrapping began at Eleusis in January 1978.

1982: The Canadian tanker JAMES TRANSPORT spent 10 hours aground in the St. Lawrence near Batiscan, Quebec.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Brian Johnson, Ahoy & Farewell II and the “Great Lakes Ships We Remember” series.


Port Reports -  February 4

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
Monday evening the USCG cutter Biscayne Bay led a small convoy westbound on the Straits of Mackinac, cutting track for the Joyce L Van Enkevort, Algowood and Philip R Clarke. Around 7:30 p.m. the Biscayne Bay radioed the Van Enkevort that it was about a mile ahead and would be doubling back eastbound to break up refrozen ice then head back westbound. Biscayne Bay noted that the relief track was holding up well after it had escorted the Calumet eastbound earlier in the day and that they had started the day around 5 miles west of White Shoal Light. At 9 p.m., Biscayne Bay reported to the Algowood that the really rough going was in the rubble field southwest of Lansing Shoal, and that this was the section that the Calumet had such a difficult time transiting over the past couple of days.

Milwaukee, Wis. - Dan McNeil
The tug Samuel de Champlain with cement barge Innovation departed winter layup at the Lafarge cement dock early Monday morning just after sunrise and were headed for South Chicago to unload the winter storage cargo they had aboard. They were due to arrive around 6 p.m., weather and ice permitting.

Sarnia, Ont. - Denny Dushane
Algoway laid up at the Sidney E. Smith Dock Feb. 3.


Lake Erie Ship Repair heats up during freeze

2/4 - Cleveland, Ohio – Winter is the ideal season for ship repair and maintenance on the Great Lakes, because it's pretty hard for ships to carry cargo or passengers when the water is frozen.

That's precisely why on Jan. 29, one of the coldest days yet in this very cold winter, Brian Burns, the dive supervisor for Lake Erie Ship Repair & Fabrication LLC, donned a dry suit and dove under the ice of the Cuyahoga River with a camera. The Nautica Queen cruise ship in Cleveland was due for a routine hull checkup, and the crew and the U.S. Coast Guard needed a set of eyes under the water.

Commercial dives are just one of the many services Lake Erie Ship Repair, based in Lenox Township in Ashtabula County, offers to its customers across the country. The small father-and-son company has grown and expanded its services since launching in September 2012.

President Joseph J. Craine said he's working to get a lease signed to move the company off the family's property and into a 10,000-square-foot shop in Ashtabula, and he expects to double last year's income in 2014. “Our focus is to get the marine industry back in Ashtabula,” Craine said.

Craine and his son, company vice president Justin Gee, had been working for the Great Lakes Group when they decided to break off and start their own business in fall 2012. Craine, a Navy veteran with years in the ship repair business, said he always wanted his own business and it was time to do it.

Gee, who had studied corporate finance at the University of Akron, handles most of the financial and engineering work, while Craine, the full owner, is in the field and working on sales. The company has been marketing through its website and social media sites, as well as by word of mouth.

Lake Erie Ship Repair by the end of 2013 had broken $1 million in total revenue since its inception, Craine said, and it has been adding employees. There are 11 full-time employees now, with another six or so that Craine can bring on as needed based on the workload at any particular time.

The company has evolved since its founding. When Craine started Lake Erie Ship Repair, he intended for the company to serve commercial ships that haul cargo on the Great Lakes, but Gee said the company has had to branch out because that work is hard to secure. Today, Craine said, the company takes on work ranging from inspection diving to fabrication to barge construction. It even offers industrial maintenance for non-marine companies.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association in Rocky River, which represents U.S.-flagged vessel operators on the Great Lakes, said ship repair companies are vital to the industry. The association's members are spending about $70 million in updates and repairs this winter, he said.

There are 57 vessels on the U.S. side of the lakes in the group, Nekvasil said, plus another 70 to 80 in Canada that may get some work done in the United States. Most of these routine repairs take place in the winter, because downtime in the summer is money lost.

“Idle time is something you avoid,” Nekvasil said.

That's true for non-cargo ships, too. Jim Dale, port captain for the Nautica Queen, said the dining ship is busy from about Easter to New Year's, which means any maintenance must take place in the winter between seasons. He said it is critical to have a comfort level with a company when it comes to this kind of repair and maintenance work. The Nautica Queen carries about 50,000 passengers a year, and it needs to be safe.

Dale said he heard only positive recommendations for Lake Erie Ship Repair and called Craine “someone you want to do business with.”

For last week's project — Lake Erie Ship Repair's first with the Nautica Queen — the crew made some modifications to the ship's cooling systems and conducted the underwater dive for a hull inspection with the Coast Guard, Craine said. Dale said the Coast Guard gave the ship a clean bill of health after the dive.

Gee said Lake Erie Ship Repair has completed 40 to 50 projects since it was founded. The company is booked into May and has been awarded $1 million of contracts this year, he added.

Those jobs have taken Lake Erie Ship Repair's crew from Michigan to Rhode Island to Pennsylvania, but Craine's intention is to get several commercial ships docked in Ashtabula next year for winter work. He thinks he could put up to 70 people to work if that happens.

Gee said the company would need about 25 people for each boat, and it's looking to get two to three boats booked for work. “There's a lot of people that could use that work there,” Craine said.

Crain’s Cleveland


Fort Gratiot lighthouse offers a beacon of love

2/4 - Port Huron, Mich. – Officials want to increase the romance of the Fort Gratiot Light Station. Susan Bennett, executive director for Port Huron Museum, said a proposal to lower costs for events at the light station — including weddings — will go before the St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Commission Feb. 12 for final approval.

Bennett said the museum wants to attract more events to the site. The museum opened the light station property to weddings last year. Bennett said officials want to increase the number of events and ceremonies on the property this year by providing more space and lower costs.

Anita Varty, director of business operations for the Port Huron Museum, said the museum has charged by the number of people attending an event. New rates that charge by event type and duration still need to be approved.

The museum also is freeing up the fog signal building on the north end of the property as an education center that could be used for meetings, receptions or dinners. The fog signal building, formerly used as the light station gift shop, can fit up to 60 people.

The gift shop will be moved to the newly renovated equipment building, a larger facility just inside the gates, with four large bay doors.

County parks and recreation finished renovating the inside of the building in the fall, Bennett said. Crews added an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible bathroom and door, replaced cement approaches, fixed the heating system and painted, Varty said.

“It is beautiful,” Bennett said. “It was like it was in the ’30s.”

Besides the gift shop, the former equipment building will be an information center and serve as the starting point for tours of the property. Varty said the lighthouse, the oldest in Michigan, provides a historic background for ceremonies.

“The view is probably the best thing,” Varty said. “It’s such a beautiful venue to have it at, and it should be open to the public in order to enjoy it.”

Varty said the museum has preferred contractors for tents, chairs, tables, linens and caterers for any event. She said people can have anniversary parties, graduation open houses, family reunions or birthday parties.

“If they have family in town, they can also rent the duplex for the night,” Varty said. “We sleep up to 40.”

Varty said the site is available for rent through the summer, except for a few dates that already have been reserved.

Port Huron Times Herald


German ferry magazine looking for carferry pictures

2/4 - The German-language ferry hobby magazine Ferries (published four times a year since 1992, with a total of just 800 copies of each edition) is seeking photos of the Arthur K. Atkinson and Viking 1 showing them at various stages/names in their careers. Many of the pictures have appeared in Boatnerd galleries. The article will be about 25 pages long and will be published in two parts in March and June of this year. If you would like to share your images, contact the publisher at


Lookback # 79 – Arrow grounding turned into pollution nightmare on February 4, 1970

2/4 - The Greek-owned, Liberian-registered tanker Arrow stranded on Cerberus Rock in a storm on Chedebucto Bay, off the coast of Nova Scotia, 44 years ago today. The vessel, loaded with 3,800,000 gallons of bunker fuel, was on a voyage from Amuay Bay, Venezuela, to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. The cargo was slated for delivery to the Nova Scotia Pulp & Paper Mill, and the 551-foot, 2-inch-long vessel was a total loss.

Arrow broke in two on Feb. 8. Some of the fuel was pumped from both sections or things would have been worse. The stern section was later towed away but sank. The accident resulted in an environmental disaster due to the size of the oil spill. Clean up efforts took about two years and cost a reported $3.8 million. The impact, both locally and nationally, was significant.

The ship had been built as Olympic Games and launched at Sparrows Point, Maryland, on August 27, 1948. This tanker had several owners over the years and was renamed Sea Robin in 1960 and Arrow in 1962. It had been a regular trader through the Seaway first appearing inland in 1962 with five trips, and had made a total of 26 voyages to the Great Lakes to the end of 1967.

On one of these visits, on April 30, 1967, Arrow struck the pier at the Snell Lock and sustained a gash in the hull, above the waterline, but was allowed to proceed to Iroquois for temporary repairs. The memory of the loss of the Arrow is still significant in Canadian Maritime history.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  February 4

Lay-up list updated  


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 4

The two sections of the a.) WILLIAM J. DE LANCEY, b.) PAUL R. TREGURTHA) were joined at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. and float-launched on February 4, 1981, (Hull #909).

In 1977, ROGER BLOUGH arrived at the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio for winter lay up and a 5-year hull inspection. She had departed South Chicago after unloading on Jan 25th and the trip took 10 days due to weather and heavy ice.

February 4, 1904 - Captain Russell of the PERE MARQUETTE 17 reported that Lake Michigan was frozen all the way to Manitowoc.

In 1870, The Port Huron Weekly Times reported that “a Montreal company has purchased all the standing timber on Walpole Island Indian Reservation [on the St. Clair River…] A large force of men are employed in hewing, cutting and delivering the same on the banks of the river in readiness for shipment… The proceeds of the sale of timber on Walpole Island will probably amount to $18,000 to $20,000, to be distributed among the Indians of the island to improve their farms.

1964: OCEAN REGINA, which would become a Seaway visitor in 1971, ran aground in the Makassar Strait, Indonesia, while enroute from Geraldton, Australia, to China. The ship was refloated February 11.

1965: The Liberty ship IRINI STEFANOU visited the Great Lakes in 1959 and 1960. It struck a reef, 1 mile west of the San Benita Islands, Baja Peninsula and had to be beached. The vessel was enroute from Vancouver, British Columbia, to London, England, with timber. While abandoned, the hull was refloated on February 25 and taken to Los Angeles for examination. They discovered a serious distortion of the hull and it was broken up at Terminal Island.

1970: ARROW, a Liberian tanker quite familiar with Great Lakes trading, stranded in Chedebucto Bay, while inbound from Venezuela to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. The ship broke in two as a total loss on February 8 spilling millions of gallons of oil. This resulted in a major environmental problem and clean up took two years and $3.8 million.

1976: A fire aboard the freighter KERKIS broke out in #3 hold off the northern coast of Sicily. The vessel was brought into Milazzo, Italy, the next day and when the hold was opened on February 12, the blaze flared up again. The hull was beached as a total loss. It had begun Seaway trading as a) BYSANZ in 1959 and was back as b) ALSATIA beginning in 1967.

1984: The former MANCHESTER RENOWN was idle at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, as c) EDESSA. The ship was being reactivated when a fire broke out and destroyed the upper works. The vessel was sold to Taiwan shipbreakers and arrived at Kaohsiung on April 6, 1984. It had begun Seaway trading as a new ship, in 1964.

1992: PATRICIA was wrecked at Crotone, Italy, and abandoned. The hull was visible years later, partially submerged. The ship began Seaway service as a) RUMBA in 1971 and was back as b) JANJA in 1975, c) JANJE in 1979 and e) FIGARO in 1988.

1999: The former BAUNTON caught fire in #1 hold 350 miles west of Dakar, Senegal, as c) MERSINIA and was abandoned by the crew. The ship, enroute from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, with cocoa beans in bulk, was a total loss and was delivered to Spanish shipbreakers at Santander for dismantling on January 21, 2000. It first came through the Seaway in 1981 when it was a year old.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports -  February 3

St. Marys River - Bonnie Barnes
Sunday the barge PML Ironmaster remained beset in ice near Six Mile, and had moved about 50 feet down river.

Goderich, Ont. – Phil Nash
An ice plug at the entrance to Goderich, Ont., harbor prevented the Algosteel from docking at Sifto Salt on Thursday, January 30. USCG icebreaker Mackinaw was assisting the Algosteel when strong southerly winds and heavy ice stopped their progress about 1.5 miles from the breakwall and a decision was made to proceed back out and anchor on Lake Huron until conditions improved. Mackinaw worked on the ice plug at the entrance to the breakwall assisted by tug Pride, which broke up and cleared any large plate ice from the breaker. Algowood was beset in ice approximately four miles west of Goderich and was waiting for the Mackinaw to assist to find an anchorage spot for the night.

Straits of Mackinac
The Calumet’s crew has listed on its AIS a destination of "Hoth." Hoth was the Rebel Base in "The Empire Strikes Back.” Calumet was headed eastbound in the Straits.


Mystery of Ottawa River shipwreck revealed

2/3 - Gatineau, Ont. – A satellite has looked deep into the Ottawa River’s nautical past, sending two amateur historians on a search that identified a nearly forgotten shipwreck. Andrew King spotted the piece of our history, a ghostly outline in a satellite image of the Ottawa River that looked like a large boat.

Intrigued, he hiked through the bush and found it. The wreck is the former Jean-Richard, a sturdy wooden cargo boat 98 feet long that became in turns a cruise boat, an illegal casino, a floating cottage, a platform where kids fished, and now a wreck.

King thinks it’s worth preserving. The boat, built with hand tools beside the St. Lawrence River in 1959, is possibly the last of its kind produced.

“I love maps. Each morning I love just studying satellite images like Google Earth,” said King, an artist and cartoonist.

After seeing the picture last fall he trekked across National Capital Commission land in Gatineau to an inlet roughly across from 24 Sussex Drive. The wooden hull is still partly above the water in an area of bush used for outdoor parties.

“My goal was to find out: What is this ship? Is it worth preserving?” he said.

He and Glen Gower, who runs the website, started detective work. He found the connection while doing research into some old stone buildings, which led to a map of shipwrecks. Through this they traced the sad-looking wreck to a proud working past.

“They called them goélettes,” King said. “These were the workhorse boats for fisherman and freight along the St. Lawrence.

“This boat is significant because it was the last wooden goélette to be built by shipbuilders in that region,” and perhaps the last anywhere. In the past couple of centuries, small shipyards in Quebec’s Charlevoix region built more than 550 such boats.

The website goélettesduqué says this type evolved steadily, and was an important freight carrier along the St. Lawrence, known for its steady handling and ability to enter shallow waters.

Motors replaced sails, and there was a “golden age” from 1935 to 1960 as hydroelectric development, iron mining and other industrialization swept through the North Shore. But modern trucks and highways displaced shipping. A few boats survive at the Charlevoix Maritime Museum and Quebec City.

The National Film Board commemorated the building of the Jean-Richard with a documentary released in 1963. The retired cargo boat came to Ottawa in 1976 to serve as a river-cruise-and-nightclub boat, renamed Ville de Vanier.

Notoriety followed. In 1980 John Turmel, a gambler who was in and out of court many times on charges of running illegal gaming houses, tried his luck with floating crap games. The Sûreté du Québec shut him down. “It stopped being a cruise ship and became a floating cottage,” King said.

“The story is when they were taking it to be stored for the winter, it caught fire and they just dragged it to where it sits now.” That was about 25 years ago. The hull has slowly fallen apart, which hurts King.

“It’s such an important part of our Canadian heritage, being a country that is surrounded by water and we use water all the time,” he said. “This is something that should be preserved and not just sitting there rotting away, being vandalized.”

Ottawa Citzen


Presque Isle Power Plant up for sale

2/3 - Marquette, Mich. – Wisconsin Electric Power Co. officials are looking for buyers for the Presque Isle Power Plant and in the meantime, the utility will receive subsidy payments to keep the plant operating.

"For the long-term, we will need to rebalance our power supply. To that end, we recently issued a request for proposals to solicit interest from potential purchasers of the plant," said Brian Manthey, senior communications specialist with We Energies in Milwaukee, Wis. "We have asked interested buyers to respond by the beginning of March."

Interested parties are being asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, after which participants will receive a confidential memorandum to review. After reviewing the memo and completing discussions with We Energies, the parties will be invited to submit a bid for purchasing the plant.

We Energies expects successful bids to include purchase of 100 percent of We Energies ownership in the power plant, retention of the current workforce for at least 18 months, continued operation of the plant, assuming of any long-term contracts in effect at closing and all historic and future liabilities.

A timeline for the sale includes responses due to We Energies by March 3, notification to a short list of bidders by March 17 with final proposals due by May 9. The utility wants final offer negotiations completed by Aug. 1, with required regulatory approvals gained by March 13, 2015, and the sale closed a week later.

In July, largest Presque Isle Power Plant customer Cliffs Natural Resources told Wisconsin Electric that as of Sept. 1 the mining company was switching its electric provider service to Integrys Energy Services Inc. of Chicago.

State officials estimated the switch would save Cliffs roughly $25 million annually, assuming a 3-year deal. Cliffs spent about $120 million with We Energies in 2012.

Michigan's utility choice law allows customers to choose their energy provider, but the amount of departing customers is capped at 10 percent of a company's state retail sales. In 2008, Cliffs' mines were exempt from that cap.

Michigan Public Service Commission officials said that when Cliffs switched, We Energies' cap was filled up and Cliffs was 75 percent of the company's Michigan load. Cliffs consumed 270 to 280 megawatts of power from the Presque Isle plant each day.

In September, in response to the Cliffs decision, We Energies filed a request with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator,Inc., which oversees the electrical grid in the Upper Midwest and part of Canada, to suspend operations at the Presque Isle plant beginning this month.

In October, the MISO concluded the Presque Isle Power Plant should remain operating, at least through 2014, and denied We Energies' to suspend operations at the plant.

"The regional grid operator determined that all five units at the Presque Isle Power Plant are needed to maintain a reliable electric system for customers in the Upper Peninsula," Manthey said. "For running the plant in the short-term, we will receive payments from MISO. The payments will be detailed by MISO in a filing with (the) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission."

Judy Palnau of the Michigan Public Service Commission said that filing on the "system support resource payments" was expected by Friday. She said the FERC will then allow two weeks for responses, which will include the commission. After that, the MISO will respond.

The FERC will then make a decision on approval or amendment of the filing, with any payments made retroactive to a Feb. 1 effective date.

Late last year, We Energies and Cadillac-based Wolverine Power Cooperative could not come to terms on a deal to install $140 million of pollution controls at the plant. Wolverine had also considered buying the plant, but decided not to.

The Presque Isle plant employs 170 workers and gets coal shipped in by boat. The facility was built from 1955 to 1979, originally with nine operating units, five of which remain, producing a combined 431 megawatts of power.

The Mining Journal


What heavy ice coverage means for Great Lakes shipping and water levels

2/3 - Ice formed on the Great Lakes early this year, thanks to the arctic temperatures we’ve been experiencing. And that should be good for lake levels, which have plummeted in recent years. Right?

Well, it turns out the answer to that question is a bit complicated. Lake levels are affected by a number of factors, including temperature, precipitation, evaporation and ice cover.

Heavy ice cover in the winter months acts like a cap on the lakes, preventing water from evaporating. But a study released this week takes a look at some of the mitigating factors. Its author, John Lenters, says it’s true that ice cover cuts down on evaporation, which means more water stays in the lakes.

“The only problem with that argument is that to get to where we are already this year, with all this high ice cover, you need a lot of evaporation prior to that,” he explains.

The lakes sweat, just like you. Here’s what Lenters means. In order for there to be lots of ice on the lakes, the lake has to cool off. And when it cools off a lot, that means there’s a lot of evaporation. Kind of like when you sweat in the summertime.

“The sweat, when it evaporates, it cools your skin quite rapidly. That’s actually one of the most effective ways your body loses heat. And the lakes are really no different. They’re a giant body of water. And so when they evaporate a lot, that’s actually when they’re most effective at cooling the lakes,” Lenters says.

So the fact that there is all that ice on the lakes suggests the lakes lost a lot of water to evaporation. And Lenters says there’s evidence that did, in fact, happen.

“We actually know this from measurements we have out on an island in Lake Superior,” he says. “This past year we’ve actually had really high evaporation rates through today.”

Lenters says that evaporation should be offset by reduced evaporation because of the ice cover. So lake levels should continue to rebound. Lenters says the wild card is precipitation. And there aren’t great models for predicting that.

So what else has this icy winter meant for the Great Lakes? For the shipping industry, it’s meant some major headaches. Great Lakes freighters carry cargo like coal, grain, aggregate (think stone and road salt – kind of important right now), and taconite, which is used to make steel.

It’s the job of the U.S. Coast Guard to keep shipping lanes open in those waterways. And this has been a very busy season for the eight cutters that work the Great Lakes.

“We’ve helped more than 27 vessels stuck in the ice,” said Lt. Kenny Pepper, captain of the USCGC Morro Bay. “It’s been about 150 hours dedicated to those assists, not to mention all the others spent just doing preventative ice breaking.”

Pepper and his crew have been breaking ice since Dec. 16, with only one stop back in home port since.

“A lot of captains say they haven’t seen an ice season like this for at least for 25 years,” said Operations Spec. 1st Class Galen Witham. “With the jet stream that dropped down bringing arctic air, it really became what we call a fast-making ice season.”

Michigan Radio


Looback #78 – Fire aboard Jean Parisien at Port Colborne on February 3, 1996

2/3 - Winter work was proceeding smoothly aboard the Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader Jean Parisien until a fire broke out in the engine room 18 years ago today.

The vessel was spending the off-season at Port Colborne when the fire erupted bringing city firefighters to the scene to battle the smoky blaze. It left a reported $250,000 in damage, mainly to wiring, but the ship was quickly repaired and ready when navigation resumed.

Jean Parisien had been built at the Davie shipyard in Lauzon, Quebec. It was launched on July 7, 1977, and soon entered service. The 730-foot-long laker set a record, taking 1,195,770 bushels of barley from Thunder Bay to Port Cartier in September 1981. The following month the vessel grounded in the Brockville Narrows, while downbound with coal on October 10, 1981, blocking the shipping lanes. Tugs pulled the big freighter free the next day and the big laker required repairs.

In 1993, Jean Parisien had the unusual honor of opening the Seaway up bound, on March 30 and then became the first downbound transit of the year at the Iroquois Lock on April 5.

On September 27, 2004, the ship arrived at Port Weller Dry Docks for reconstruction. The original forebody was cut off, floated away and broken up for scrap at Port Colborne. A new mid-body and bow were built on the existing stern and this resulted in an almost new ship, the CSL Assiniboine, being ready for christening on June 29, 2005.

This self-unloading bulk carrier remains an active member of the C.S.L. fleet trading from the Head of the Lakes to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  February 3

News Photo Gallery
Lay-up list updated


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 3

In 1960, The Ludington Daily News reported that the S.S. AVALON, formerly the S.S. VIRGINIA, had been sold to Everett J. Stotts of Artesia, California.

On 03 February 1899, the steamer GEORGE FARWELL (wooden propeller freighter, 182 foot, 977 gross tons, built in 1895, at Marine City, Michigan) burned while laid up near Montreal, Quebec. She had just been taken from the Great Lakes by her new owners, the Manhattan Transportation Company, for the Atlantic coastal coal trade, The loss was valued at $50,000 and was fully covered by insurance. The vessel was repaired and lasted until 1906 when she was lost near Cape Henry, Virginia.

1939: LUTZEN came ashore in dense fog at Nauset Beach, Chatham, Mass., off Cape Cod. The vessel rolled over on its side with its cargo of frozen fish and fruit. The small ship had been built at Fort William, (now Thunder Bay) in 1918.

1970: The tanker GEZINA BROVIG sank 300 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. An explosion in the main engine on January 31 blew a piston through the side of the ship and it gradually sank. The vessel had been a Great Lakes trader beginning in 1965.

1993: The former Spanish freighter MARTA, a Seaway trader in 1981, was sailing as b) PROSPERITY when it began leaking in a storm. The ship subsequently broke in two and sank with the loss of 5 lives. The vessel went down 120 miles west of Sri Lanka while enroute from Jordan to Madras, India.

1996: An engine room fire aboard the C.S.L. self-unloader JEAN PARISIEN at Port Colborne resulted in about $250,000 in damage.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection and the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.


Port Reports -  February 2

St. Marys River - Bonnie Barnes
Saturday afternoon the barge PML Ironmaster was still in place on the St. Marys River near Six Mile, fast in the ice. The docks at the U.S. Coast Guard Base were empty with no sign of the Mackinaw and no sign of traffic in the river.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
Friday morning, Calumet was upbound on Lake Michigan off of Washington Island as the CG cutter Biscayne Bay was headed westbound west of the Mackinac Bridge. Late in the afternoon, the two vessels were stopped in the ice field southwest of Lansing Shoal, then the CG cutter Katmai Bay appeared on AIS headed towards Lansing Shoal where it overnighted with the Calumet in the ice. It seems that it was relieving the Biscayne Bay, which was scheduled to commence icebreaking operations at Pere Marquette Lake. Saturday night late, Calumet and Katmai Bay were in the ice just east of Seul Choix Bay.


Updates -  February 2

Lay-up list updated


Lookback #77 – Manitou caught fire and sank on February 2, 1913

2/2 - The wooden passenger and freight steamer Manitou caught fire and sank at the dock in Owen Sound, 101 years ago today. The ship was laid up for the winter when the blaze broke out. It was salvaged, repaired and returned to service.

Manitou was built at Goderich by William Marlton in 1903. It joined the Dominion Fish Co. and operated from Goderich to the Canadian Lakehead communities of Fort William and Port Arthur with fish, general freight and passengers.

The 140-foot-long vessel joined the Dominion-Owen Sound Transportation Co. in 1936 and provided summer ferry service between Tobermory and South Baymouth.

Manitou was retired at the end of the 1939 season and sold to the Sincennes-McNaughton Line about 1942 for conversion to a tug. The ship left the Great Lakes but the rebuild never materialized and the hull was scrapped at Sorel, Quebec, about 1944.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 2

SAMUEL MATHER, a.) PILOT KNOB (Hull #522) had her keel laid February 2, 1942, at Ashtabula, Ohio, by Great Lakes Engineering Works.

February 2, 1939 - CHIEF WAWATAM went to the shipyard to have a new forward shaft and propeller placed.

1913: The wooden passenger and freight carrier MANITOU sustained fire damage at Owen Sound and sank at the dock. The vessel was refloated, repaired and operated to the end of the 1939 season.

1972: IRISH SPRUCE first appeared in the Seaway in 1960. The ship was enroute from Callao, Peru, to New Orleans with zinc and copper concentrates as well as coffee, when it ran aground on Quinta Suero Bank (14,25 N / 81.00 W) off the coast of Nicaragua. The ship had its back broken and became a total loss.

1981: EDOUARD SIMARD and JAMES TRANSPORT collided in the St. Lawrence River east of Port Neuf, Quebec. Both received bow damage.

1981: ARTHUR SIMARD received extensive bottom damage after going aground in the St. Lawrence. It was enroute from Montreal to Sept-Iles, but returned to Trois Rivieres to unload and then to Montreal for repairs.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.



Port Reports -  February 1

Straits of Mackinac
The Calumet was eastbound through the Straits Friday night fighting through the ice. Evidently her crew hasn’t lost its sense of humor while battling the late season ice, and listed their AIS destination as “Shackleton,” referring to the leader of the 1914–17 Endurance Expedition which was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. The expedition failed when the ship became stuck in ice and was subsequently crushed by the ice and sunk. The expedition became recognized as an epic feat of endurance.

Detroit River
Wednesday the Bob-Lo Island car ferry The Ste. Claire V sustained ice damage to its propeller while crossing the Detroit River off Amherstburg, Ont. The vessel was later secured to the dock in Amherstburg for inspection and repairs.


Great Lakes under the largest cover of ice in decades

2/1 - The Great Lakes are under the largest cover of ice in 20 years. The early winter polar vortex that brought in freezing temperatures throughout eastern North America has put an ice cover over about 52 per cent of the Great Lakes.

And that ice cover is expected to continue to expand say scientists, as frigid temperatures keep their grip on the region.

The last time the lakes had this much ice cover this early in the year was during the 1993 - 1994 winter season. Lake Erie, while the southernmost lake, is also shallowest of the lakes. It is virtually locked in ice, with 97 per cent coverage.

“Right now, we exceed by a good margin what we normally have at this time of the year and we’re also exceeding the average peak for the winter season,” says Denis Dubé, a senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Services.

Ice formation on the Great Lakes typically peaks by mid-March. At this point last year, there was only about 12 per cent ice coverage on the lakes. The average for this time of the year is between 20 and 25 per cent. And at its peak, the total ice formation on the Great Lakes for 2013 was about 40 per cent.

In fact, the average ice cover for the whole winter for the past 30 years has ranged between 50 and 55 per cent, according to George Leshkevitch, physical scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

New data from Canadian Ice Services as of January 29 shows Lake Ontario currently has the least ice coverage at 23 per cent. Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, is well over half (65 per cent) covered in ice. Lake Michigan is about 38 percent covered and Lake Huron is almost 67 per cent covered in ice.

The thickness of the ice cover varies from lake to lake but reports show as much as 30 to 40cm of ice spread across most of the lakes, says Dubé.

The amount of ice coverage is significant this year due to how early in the season it formed and the cold snap brought the ice in really fast. “Ice was reported on parts of the Great Lakes in the latter part of November, while usually it starts in mid-December,” Leshkevitch said.

Dubé says if the freezing temperatures continue, it is possible that we could challenge the absolute maximum ice coverage experienced since 1973.

In 1978, almost the entire Great Lakes were covered in ice at 94 per cent. This record is followed by about 91 per cent in 1977 and 90 per cent for 1993 to 1994 winter season.

Meteorological conditions including wind speeds impact ice conditions on the Great Lakes, says Leshkevitch. Powerful winds can break up the ice and push them onto bays and small enclosures causing an ice pile up of up to 10 feet high.

Dubé says the Canadian coast guards have already had to deal with brash ice and continue to collaborate with the US coast guards to break up ice on the upper lakes. Ships beset in ice will need to be rescued by coast guards and this is costly for shipping companies, says Leshkevitch.

But, it is not all bad news. According to Leshkevitch, the thick ice covering will be great for ice fishing. A stable ice cover is also good for Whitefish spawning beds.

Leshkevitch says there are forecasts for up to 62 per cent ice cover by the end of February.

“It’s still only January, so we’ll see. It’s very dependent on the weather and the meteorological condition,” he said.

CBC Hamilton


Help Wanted: Marine officers and engineers

2/1 - Fettes Shipping Ltd. is offering full-time employment opportunity for Deck Officers and Engineers for Canadian flag Great Lakes self-unloading tug/barge cement carriers. We are looking for candidates with some dry bulk or tug/barge experiance. We offer highest salaries and benefits in tug/barge operations including 2 months onboard with one month off paid vacation, medical coverage and Family Security Plan all under collective agreement. We expect from candidates strong communication skills and good work ethic. Candidates must be able to travel to US portions of the Great Lakes area and must have valid Canadian passport, all applicable Transport Canada certificates and valid medical certificate issued by Transport Canada.

Transport Canada Certificates required for the following positions are:
Chief Mate Watchkeeping Mate NC or OOW-C, STCW 11/2
Watchkeeping Mate Watchkeeping Mate NC or OOW-C, STCW 11/1
Second/Third Engineer 3rd/4th Motor Ship, STCW 111/i or 3

Please send your resume to Human Resources, Fettes Shipping Inc., 3385 Harvester Rd - Suite 250, Burlington, ON L7N 3N2. Fax: 905 333-6588 or email:


Lookback #76 – Ioannis Daskalelis abandoned as Rockport on February 1, 1966

2/1 - I remember seeing three newspaper photos of the Liberty ship Rockport slowly sinking in the Pacific Ocean. The vessel was abandoned by the crew 48 years ago today as it encountered heavy weather while on a voyage from Vancouver, British Colombia, to Japan with a cargo of iron ore.

The vessel was taken in tow and the source of the photos may have come from a member of the second ship's crew. Each successive picture showed the Rockport lower in the water until it finally sank on February 5, 1966, about 600 miles from Midway Island.

Earlier, in 1962 as Ioannis Daskalelis, the 441-foot, 6-inch-long freighter had been a Seaway trader with a single trip inland. The ship had been built at Portland, Maine, and completed in March 1945 as Wilfred R. Bellevue. It served the United States Maritime Commission in wartime and was sold to private interests in May 1947. Renamed Edison Mariner, it retained American registry until resold to Geotas Cia de Vapores and became Ioannis Daskalelis in 1961. It moved to Altema Cia Maritima SA and was registered in Liberia as Rockport in 1964 for its final two years of service.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  February 1

On 01 February 1871, the SKYLARK (wooden propeller steamer, 90 tons, built in 1857) was purchased by the Goodrich Transportation Company from Thomas L. Parker for $6,000.

On February 1, 1990, the U.S.C.G.C. MESQUITE was officially decommissioned.

The steamer R. J. GORDON was sold to M. K. Muir of Detroit on 1 February 1883.

In 1904, ANN ARBOR NO. 1 found the rest of the ferry fleet stuck in the ice outside Manitowoc. She made several attempts to break them loose, she became stuck there herself with the others for 29 days.

In 1917, ANN ARBOR NO 6 (later ARTHUR K. ATKINSON) arrived Frankfort, Michigan, on her maiden voyage.

On 1 February 1886, Captain Henry Hackett died in Amherstburg, Ontario, at the age of 65. He and his brother, J. H. Hackett, organized the Northwestern Transportation Company in 1869.

In 1972, ENDERS M. VOORHEES locked through the Poe Lock downbound, closing the Soo Locks for the season.

1966: The Liberty ship IOANNIS DASKALELIS came through the Seaway for one trip in 1962. It was abandoned in heavy weather as d) ROCKPORT on the Pacific and taken in tow. The vessel slowly sank about 600 miles from Midway Island on February 5. ROCKPORT was enroute from Vancouver to Japan and three dramatic photos of the ship sliding beneath the surface appeared in a number of newspapers.

1969: The third LUKSEFJELL to visit the Great Lakes was anchored at Constanza, Romania, as b) AKROTIRI when there was an explosion in the engine room. A roaring fire spread throughout the midships accommodation area and the blaze claimed the lives of 21 of the 25 crewmembers on board. The hull was sold to Romanian shipbreakers and broken up in 1970.

1974: AMETHYST ran aground off River Douro, on the northeast coast of Portugal, while inbound for Leixos with maize from New Orleans. The vessel had been anchored waiting to enter the river when heavy weather swept the area. The vessel dragged anchor, stranded and, on February 6, broke in two as a total loss. It first came through the Seaway in 1971.

1981: The former ANDERS ROGENAES and MEDICINE HAT came inland in 1964. It ran aground as h) YANMAR at Guayaquil, Ecuador, while outbound for Port Limon, Costa Rica. An onboard crankcase explosion followed on February 23. The vessel was a total loss and sold for scrapping at Brownsville, Texas. Work began on dismantling the ship at that location on June 12, 1981.

1988: L'ORME NO. 1, the former LEON SIMARD, struck a pipe while docking at St. Romauld, Quebec, in fog. A fire and explosion followed that damaged the ship and wharf. Repairs were made and the ship was last noted sailing as d) GENESIS ADVENTURER under the flag of Nigeria.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


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