Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archive

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* Report News

Ice delays continue on Great Lakes, Welland Canal

3/31 - There’s no new news across the lakes as traffic continues to be delayed and icebreakers slug it out trying to reach the Soo. The USCG Mackinaw and her ice convoy – reduced from three vessels to two – remain battling heavy ice on eastern Lake Superior.

Katmai Bay departed Duluth at 9 a.m. to break out Taconite Harbor. Presque Isle remained in Duluth with her boom swung over the American Spirit to offload her cargo. Presque Isle was part of the Lake Superior convoy and was damaged in the ice. Her offloading of cargo suggests repairs will be significant. Mesabi Miner returned to the Twin Ports at 10:30 p.m. She departed the Twin Ports last week with coal for Taconite Harbor and will remain docked until conditions improve.

At the Welland Canal, vessels remained tied up waiting for ice breaking assistance. Algoma Equinox remains on the wall above Lock 8 with the Baie Comeau. The Canadian heavy icebreaker Des Groseilliers was entering Lake Ontario westbound Sunday night, heading to work Lake Erie.

The heavy Canadian Coast Guard ship Pierre Radisson docked in Windsor for the night Sunday. She will continue upbound Monday to assist in the upper lakes break out.

Around the lakes, reports indicate a number of vessel fit-outs and sailings have been pushed back due to the ice conditions.


Port Reports -  March 31

Hamilton, Ont. - Eric Holmes The tug Sea Eagle II and barge St.Marys Cement II departed winter lay up and headed down the lake to Bowmanville. Algoma Discovery departed winter lay up at 5 a.m. She returned at 8 p.m. after spending the day out in the lake cleaning her holds.


Fednav pioneers drone use in polar shipping

3/31 - Montreal, QC – Fednav recently became the first shipping company to employ drones, or unmanned air vehicles (UAV), for ice reconnaissance on a commercial voyage. The Umiak I, one of Fednav’s most powerful icebreaking vessels, has used a variety of video-equipped drones to scout ahead of the vessel in the ice-covered waters of the Labrador Coast. The goal was to provide the captain and officers with detailed real-time visual information on the local ice conditions.

Enfotec, a Fednav subsidiary and industry leader, has for 20 years specialized in providing advanced ice imagery and analysis to vessels operating in difficult ice conditions. With advances in recent years in the quality of information derived from satellite and radar images and conventional ice charts, this new method of ice detection allows for the immediate capture of subtle ice features such as ridges, leads, and fractures. The UAVs deliver critical high-quality, short-range visual observations allowing navigators to see beyond the normal horizon for strategic navigation.

The backdrop for the application of this emerging technology was the Labrador Coast. The coast experiences the heavy winter conditions of the Canadian Arctic ¬ – thick first-year ice that is heavily deformed under wind-induced pressure and remnants of multi-year and glacial ice that are embedded in the ice cover – which pose great challenges for navigation.

“The use of UAVs is proving to be extremely beneficial to identify many ice features that should be avoided ahead of the vessel, as well as identifying open water leads to improve voyage efficiency,” says Thomas Paterson, Senior Vice-President, Ship Owning, Arctic, and Projects of Fednav Limited. “In addition, the deployment of drones fitted with top-quality cameras, gives the ice navigator another useful aid when making important decisions while transiting heavy ice regimes, and in turn, improved safe navigation."



Lookback #134 – Varadero sank following a collision on March 31, 1999

3/31 - The Cuban freighter Varadero was the first new saltwater vessel of the 1991 season to visit the Great Lakes. The 485-foot-long vessel was up bound on April 7 and headed to Toronto with a 10,596 ton cargo of sugar. After discharging, the ship continued up the lakes to Goderich and loaded grain for Cuba.

This freighter was built at Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in 1977 and first sailed as Lazaro Pena. It came through the Seaway under this name in 1984. Lazaro Pena was damaged by ice in Canadian waters off Eastern Canada and the tug Point Valiant had to tow the vessel to Halifax arriving for repairs on April 5, 1985. The rudder had been jammed hard to starboard and was inoperative.

The vessel was resold within Cuba in 1991 and renamed Varadero before it came through the Seaway.

The ship became Pearl Islands in 1996, Mayelin in 1998 and finally Manpok in 1999. It did not last long as such and sank about 500 miles off Colombo, Sri Lanka, 15 years ago today following a collision with the Hyundai Duke. Manpok, registered in North Korea, had a cargo of cement on board and was travelling from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Colombo when it went down.

The casualty list was high, with 37 sailors listed as missing while only two members of the crew were saved.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 31

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 31

On 31 March 1971, the American Steamship Company's RICHARD J. REISS grounded at Stoneport, Michigan, while moving away from the dock. She damaged her number nine tank.

Christening ceremonies took place at St. Catharines, Ontario, on March 31, 1979, for d.) CANADIAN PROSPECTOR, lengthened by Port Weller Drydocks Ltd.

ROGER M. KYES (Hull#200) was launched March 31, 1973, at Toledo, Ohio, by American Ship Building Co. Renamed b.) ADAM E. CORNELIUS in 1989.

WILLIAM R. ROESCH was renamed b) DAVID Z. NORTON in christening ceremonies at Cleveland, Ohio, on March 31, 1995. The PAUL THAYER was also renamed, EARL W. OGLEBAY, during the same ceremonies.

JOSEPH S. WOOD was sold to the Ford Motor Co. and towed from her winter lay-up berth at Ashtabula, Ohio, on March 31, 1966, to the American Ship Building's Toledo, Ohio, yard for her five-year inspection. A 900 h.p. bowthruster was installed at this time. She would be rechristened as c.) JOHN DYKSTRA two months later.

The steamer b.) J. CLARE MILLER was launched March 31, 1906, as a.) HARVEY D. GOULDER (Hull#342) at Lorain, Ohio, by American Ship Building Co., for W.A. & A.H. Hawgood of Cleveland, Ohio.

On March 31, 1927, the WILLIAM MC LAUGHLAN entered service for the Interlake Steamship Co. when she departed Sandusky, Ohio for Superior, Wisconsin, on her maiden trip. Later renamed b.) SAMUEL MATHER in 1966, sold Canadian in 1975, renamed c.) JOAN M. MC CULLOUGH, and finally d.) BIRCHGLEN in 1982. Scrapped at Point Edward, Nova Scotia, by Universal Metal Co. Ltd.

On 31 March 1874, E. H. MILLER (wooden propeller tug, 62 foot, 30 gross tons) was launched at Chesley A. Wheeler's yard in E. Saginaw, Michigan. The power plant from the 1865, tug JENNIE BELL was installed in her. She was renamed RALPH in 1883, and spent most of her career as a harbor tug in the Alpena area. She was abandoned in 1920.

1974: The nine-year old Liberian freighter CAPE PALMAS first came through the Seaway in 1969 after it had been purchased from Swedish interests. The vessel was at Bilbao, Spain, undergoing repairs, on March 31, 1974, when a blaze broke out aft and caused extensive damage. This was repaired and the ship resumed trading. It was converted to the cement carrier c) ASANO in 1978 and served until arriving at Shanghai, China, for scrapping on September 10, 1993.

1999: VARADERO was the first new ship of the 1991 season to use the Seaway. It was bound for Toronto with a cargo of sugar. This bulk carrier was sailing as e) MANPOK, and under North Korean registry, when it sank on this date in 1999 following a collision with HYUNDAI DUKE some 500 miles off Colombo, Sri Lanka, while inbound from Jakarta, Indonesia, with a cargo of cement. Two crew members were rescued while another 37 were posted as missing.

2011: BBC STEINHOEFT got stuck in the Seaway on this date in 2011. The Liberian registered freighter had just been renamed at Toronto, having entered the lakes as BELUGA FUSION. It lost power near the St. Lambert Lock and ended up sideways and blocking the channel until she was refloated and realigned.

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


Traffic at a standstill as ice grips Lake Superior shipping

3/30 - Traffic was at a standstill Saturday on Lake Superior after the USCG cutter Mackinaw had to leave its ice convoy on eastern Lake Superior and return to Thunder Bay to break out the port. The cutters Morro Bay and Katmai Bay had been expected to perform that mission, but Morro Bay suffered damage to her rudder and required a tow back to Duluth. Divers were expected to survey the 140-foot icebreaking tug and make repairs if possible Saturday.

Katmai Bay returned to work after towing the Morro Bay and was expected to break a track into Silver Bay. Mackinaw arrived in Thunder Bay about 7:30 a.m. and spent about 8 hours breaking a track to the docks on the west side of the harbor. Ice conditions were difficult and required the Mackinaw to back and ram through the heavy ice. She departed at 4:30 p.m. headed east to lead the ice escort heading for the Soo Locks. The convoy departed Duluth on Monday and has made little progress on the eastern end of the lake and one freighter, the Presque Isle, was damaged in the crossing and was forced to turn back for Duluth.

Meanwhile, Roger Blough has joined the Stewart J. Cort and Edwin H. Gott at anchor off DeTour, Mich., awaiting icebreaker escort to transit the St. Marys River upbound.


Port Reports -  March 30

Alpena, Mich. - Ben & Chanda McClain
The tug Samuel deChamplain and barge Innovation arrived in Alpena on Saturday afternoon to load cement. The tug Manitou continues keeping the ice track open into Lafarge and assisting vessels into port.

Bay of Quinte - Paul Papps
On Friday evening the CCGS Griffon left the Welland Canal and the Stephen B. Roman departed Toronto to break their way into the Bay of Quinte. Their destination was the Essroc Cement Plant at Picton, where the Roman will take on her first load of cement of the season. Griffon entered the Upper Gap and proceeded westwards up the Adolphus Reach, of the Bay of Quinte, before sunrise. The Roman followed the Griffon`s track awhile later. Both vessels reduced speed as they crossed the ferry track from Glenora to Adolphustown, in order to limit the number of large ice pieces that could give the ferry grief. The Griffon made numerous passes around the Essroc terminal to enable the Roman to make the dock.


Ice creates tough start for shipping season

3/30 - Duluth, Minn. – Towing the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Morro Bay into the Duluth harbor on Friday was an unusual experience for the crew of the fellow Coast Guard cutter Alder.

“That’s the first time that we had to do a side tow,” said Holly Burgarbe, petty officer on the Alder. “It’s not something that we do.”

The 140-foot Morro Bay sustained damage last week while helping with icebreaking operations on Lake Superior and needed assistance to get back to Duluth; the extent and cause of the damage are still unknown. And it’s not the only vessel forced to return to the Twin Ports; the freighter Presque Isle was back on Saturday, also suffering from damage sustained on its season-opening attempt to cross ice-choked Lake Superior.

“It has been an unusually tough start to the shipping season with the thickness of ice and the pressure of ice buildup across Lake Superior,” said Adele Yorde, Duluth Port Authority spokeswoman.

The Morro Bay, along with the icebreaking cutters Katmai Bay and Mackinaw, left the Twin Ports last week to escort the freighters Cason J. Callaway, John G. Munson and Presque Isle to the Soo Locks. The Morro Bay and Katmai Bay went to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to assist with icebreaking there while the Mackinaw continued to lead the convoy of freighters, Yorde said.

The damaged Morro Bay needed to be towed the 151 nautical miles to Duluth, Burgarbe said Saturday, because it has the closest and most easily accessible shipyard.

Katmai Bay towed Morro Bay most of the way, with the Alder picking up the final eight miles, Burgarbe said. But the Alder took over from the side because the Morro Bay’s rudder was free-moving and couldn’t be locked into position. That meant the Alder couldn’t tow it from the front through the Duluth ship canal, because the Morro Bay would have been swinging from side to side.

Morro Bay was docked next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center by about 6:30 p.m. Friday, Burgarbe said, awaiting divers who would assess the damage. The Presque Isle arrived Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, the other freighters in the season-opening eastbound convoy – the Callaway and the Munson – on Saturday were northwest of Michipicoten Island toward the eastern end of the lake in Canadian waters, said Ken Curry, vessel traffic management specialist for the Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. They were awaiting the return of the Mackinaw, which had been diverted to Thunder Bay to help with icebreaking there, he said.

Curry said he didn’t know what ice conditions were like northwest of Michipicoten, but closer to the St. Marys River ice was two feet thick with an additional foot of packed snow. Ridges of ice rise as high as 12 feet, he said.

Duluth News Tribune


Stock up now — Sugar Island residents should prepare for ferry interruption

3/30 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – Warning: There will be delays for those who rely on the Sugar Island Ferry, due to ice. Capt. Steve Teschendorf of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie wants island residents to begin preparing for the inevitable.

“I urge the residents to stock up on supplies this weekend and have their back-up plans in place,” said Teschendorf.

Banking on a decade of experience in Great Lakes ice breaking and Coast Guard records dating back 35 years, Teschendorf was confident in his prediction.

“I’m just trying to forecast bad news,” he said. “There’s going to be delays to the Sugar Island Ferry (as early as Monday) — those delays will be real and I understand the disruption this will cause to the folks on Sugar Island.”

Teschendorf explained the Coast Guard has developed various strategies and techniques that will work in clearing the ice in the Sault Harbor down past the Little Rapids Cut, but it will be an uphill struggle this season.

“What’s different this year is the massive amount of ice in the harbor,” he said.

With ice at somewhere between 24 and 36 inches buried in up to two feet of snow, the Coast Guard is anticipating difficulty as it tries to clear the 600-foot funnel where the Sugar Island Ferry connects to the mainland.

While currently stabilized, the pending arrival of a convoy including the 240-foot Mackinaw, accompanied by the fully-loaded freighters Cason J. Callaway and the John G. Munson, will certainly push some of that ice into the open water when they make their downbound journey.

“All of that ice is going to have to go by the Sugar Island Ferry,” said Teschendorf. “There will be delays until we can move all this ice out of the harbor past the ferry landing.”

Teschendorf pointed to the importance of restoring commercial shipping as soon as possible despite the difficulties associated with the task.

“We have to move this iron ore and coal down to the steel plants in Lake Erie and southern Lake Michigan because they’re critically low on product,” he said, citing statistics which show the steel industry is responsible for 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product in the United States. “I don’t think sometimes people realize how important that is on a national level.”

Expressing hope that the convoy will clear a good potion of the ice, Teschendorf said the Coast Guard is prepared to respond if there are ice jams as a result. Ice breakers will continue to work to essentially make the big chunks of ice into smaller ones and will follow up with attempts to clear waters on down below Baie de Wasai to give the ice a place to go once it clears the main choking point.

The timing of the breakout, Teschendorf explained, may be a blessing as it will coincide with spring break. “The kids won’t be missing school,” he said finding a small silver lining.

Teschendorf also referred to a variety of contingency plans already in place for emergency response, including the use of a helicopter at Coast Guard Station Traverse City, estimating the chopper’s response time at approximately two hours.

Finally, Teschendorf urged the public to be patient.

“We’re not going to give up on it,” he said. “But there’s going to come a point where we have done everything we can,” Teschendorf added, predicting this likely would occur during the peak disruption period.

He also added that the flushing ice would probably feature periods where ferry service was temporarily restored, only to have another wave come down and interrupt it again.

“It will take multiple flushings to get it all out,” he concluded.

Soo Evening News


Obituary - Louis Rochette

3/30 - Louis Rochette, former Treasurer of Davie Shipbuilding (1955-1965), General Manager and Executive Vice-President of Marine Industries Ltd. (1965-1976) and Chairman of the Board and CEO of Davie Shipbuilding (1976-1982) passed away on March 18.

Mr. Rochette was born in 1923 and spent most of his career in the shipbuilding industry. He was a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force having served in Europe during World War II. He was a graduate of Laval University and, in addition to his marine career, served on the boards of several companies. He was also very involved in public service work through different foundations.

The Great Lakes and Seaway tanker L. Rochette was named in his honor in 1985 after previous service, from 1977 to 1985, as Gulf Mackenzie. The ship spent a number of years in the Socanav fleet but left Canada for Panamanian registry as Tradewind Island in 1995. The 432-foot-long tanker ended Caribbean service in 2003 heading to Africa for work as Kemepade in the oil and bunker trades. On Sept. 11, 2011, the vessel went missing from the Apapa-Lagos Anchorage off Nigeria. The ship, with only a shipkeeper on board at the time, was later found to have been stolen and taken to a shipyard at Tema, Ghana. This left officials to sort out the details of the future of the tanker.


Lookback #133 – Thordoc on March 30, 1940

3/30 - The Paterson Steamships Ltd. canaller Thordoc stranded at Winging Point, about 10 miles southwest of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, on this date 74 years ago today. It was abandoned by the crew on April 1 and conceded to be a total loss.

The 259-foot-long vessel was traveling in ballast from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Louisbourg when it lost its way in heavy fog and grounded. All 21-members of the crew were rescued.

This ship had been in and out of the Great Lakes all of its life. It had been built at Newcastle, England, in 1908 for the Western Steamship Co. and crossed the Atlantic with a cargo of coal for St. John's, Newfoundland, as J.A. McKee. It then took on a load of rails at Sydney, Nova Scotia, for Fort William, Ontario, and then returned east with grain. This route was repeated often.

The ship joined the Algoma Steamship Co. in 1914 but was taken over by the Government of Canada in 1915 for East Coast service during World War One. It was in Halifax on December 6, 1917, when the ammunition-laden Mont Blanc exploded and leveled a large part of the surrounding area.

J.A. McKee combined coastal and inland service for several years and was chartered to and then sold to the N.M.Paterson fleet becoming the first steel-hulled carrier in what was then a new operation. When the company reorganized as Paterson Steamships Ltd. in 1926, this ship became the Thordoc.

It was often back on the East Coast and carried coal, flour & feed as well as other cargoes on demand. It was on the coal run to Halifax during the early stages of World War II and at the time of its demise.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 30

News Photo Gallery
Lay-up list updated
2014 BoatNerd Gatherings updated


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 30

The tanker CHEMICAL MAR arrived at Brownsville, Texas on March 30, 1983, in tow of the tug FORT LIBERTE to be scrapped. Built in 1966, as a.) BIRK. In 1979, she was renamed b.) COASTAL TRANSPORT by Hall Corp. of Canada, but never came to the lakes. She was sold by Hall and was renamed c.) CHEMICAL MAR in 1981.

March 30, 1985 - CITY OF MIDLAND's departure was delayed when her anchor snagged one that she had lost in Pere Marquette Lake the previous summer.

March 30, 1900, the carferry ANN ARBOR NO 2, grounded on the rocks east of the approach to the channel at Manistique, Michigan. She was pulled off quickly by the ANN ARBOR NO 3 and the tug GIFFORD. She was found to have bent a propeller shaft and broken rudder, resulting in a trip to the drydock at Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1917: GERMANIC was the last wooden passenger ship built in Collingwood. It was completed there in 1899 and burned there, at the dock, on this date in 1917. The ship was part of Canada Steamship Lines at the time of loss. The hull settled on the bottom but was raised, towed towards Wasaga Beach, and run aground. The remains were torn apart for firewood during the Depression.

1940: The first THORDOC, a) J.A. McKEE, stranded at Winging Point, 10 miles southwest of Louisbourg, N.S., due to heavy fog. The ship was abandoned on April 1 and declared a total loss. This member of the Paterson fleet had been travelling in ballast and had been involved in Great Lakes trading since 1908.

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


Lake Superior deals icy blow; damaged ships turn back to Duluth

3/29 - Duluth, Minn. – The heavy ice on eastern Lake Superior claimed its first victims of the season.

The 1,000-foot Presque Isle freighter and the cutter Morro Bay have sustained damage and have been forced to return to Duluth/Superior for repairs. Outside the Duluth piers Friday evening, the Morro Bay was lashed to the side of the USCG Alder for the trip through the ship canal. The USCG Katmai Bay led them in to port. Presque Isle was still en route late Friday night.

Morro Bay reportedly damaged its rudder. The nature of the damage to the Presque Isle is unknown.

Ships took off last week to try to make it to the Soo Locks, planning to hug the shore to take advantage of the open water. A flotilla of US Coast Guard cutters has been working overtime to break ice and clear a path for those outbound ships.

But ice four to five feet thick is still abundant on Lake Superior; in some places ridges of eight feet of ice have formed. And even though there is some open water, wind can blow the ice back into the channel. The Mackinaw along with the Katmai Bay and the Morro Bay were attempting to clear the way for the Presque Isle, which is carrying ore and headed for the Soo Locks, which opened this week.

"It's not just the thickness of the ice but the pressure that builds around the sides of vessels. All of that can result in issues like this. So, as I said, a slow start, a little stop, a little return and hopefully we'll get back on the water or through the ice." said Public Relations Manager for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Adele Yorde.

Presque Isle will need to unload some cargo to make it sit higher so that it can make its way back for repairs and should be back sometime Saturday. It is not known into what vessel the Presque Isle will lighter or where.

Northland’s News Center


Algoma Equinox latest Algoma fleet member to take Welland’s top hat

3/29 - St. Catharines, Ont. – Algoma Equinox, the newest addition to the Algoma Central Corporation fleet and also the first in a series of eight Equinox-class ships currently under construction in China, was awarded the Top Hat Friday morning as the first commercial vessel at the Welland Canal and Lock 3 for the 2014 Great Lakes/Seaway shipping season.

Algoma Equinox departed Toronto, where she spent winter lay-up, on Wednesday and arrived off the Port Weller, Ontario Piers early on Thursday. From there she slowly crept up the canal, arriving at Lock 3 later in the evening where she was secured awaiting the official ceremony to take place Friday at 10 a.m.

Although this may have been Algoma Equinox's first time receiving the Top Hat Award for first ship at Lock 3, it is not the first time an Algoma vessel has received the award. In fact, this marked the fifth time since 1999 that an Algoma vessel was given the Top Hat at Lock 3.

Peter R. Cresswell (ex-Algowest) was the last vessel to receive the Top Hat for Algoma in 2011. Prior to that time, the Capt. Henry Jackman in 2004, Algocape in 2003 and Algowest in 1999 all received the Top Hat.

Algoma Equinox is enroute to Thunder Bay, Ont., where she will load a cargo of wheat for delivery to a St. Lawrence River port. It will also be the first time that the ship has visited Thunder Bay.

In addition to Algoma Equinox, seven other vessels are being built at the Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry Shipyard in China are expected to enter service between 2014-2015. Two of the vessels however, will be owned by the Canadian Wheat Board or CWB Inc. and will be managed by Algoma. In total, there will be four self-unloaders and four bulk carries built for Algoma. The list of the new ships following Algoma Equinox include Algoma Harvester, CWB Marquis, CWB Strongfield, Algoma Conveyor, Algoma Niagara and Algoma Sault, along with a yet unnamed vessel.

Denny Dushane


Seaway opens 56th navigation season Friday

3/29 - St. Catharines, Ont. – The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation marked the opening of the Seaway’s 56th navigation season Friday with the transit of Algoma Central Corporation’s newly-built Algoma Equinox through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal. The vessel is the first of eight Equinox-class ships that are being purpose-built for trade in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Algoma Central Corporation’s fleet renewal is a leading example of the unprecedented level of investment that is happening throughout our navigation system,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the SLSMC. “The Seaway alone is spending almost $500 million on modernizing its infrastructure — the biggest transformation in five decades.”

“The Algoma Equinox carries more cargo, sails faster, consumes significantly less fuel and is the first Great Lakes vessel to be equipped with a scrubbing system that virtually eliminates sulphur oxide from its emissions. These advancements will benefit communities throughout the region and also ensure that our customers —North American industries and farmers — remain competitive on the global stage,” said Algoma Central Corporation’s President and CEO Greg Wight.

In concert with various domestic and ocean carriers investing $1 billion in new vessels, the SLSMC is investing $395 million between 2014 and 2018 to revitalize its locks and structures. Likewise, the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is mounting a $92 million effort over a comparable In terms of the outlook for cargo volume on the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2014, the SLSMC’s Bowles was upbeat. “Tonnage within the St. Lawrence Seaway is forecast to exceed a total of 38 million tonnes this year. The U.S. and European economies are improving, and this trend gives us reason to be optimistic,” said Bowles. “We also expect to play a significant role in exporting Canada’s bumper grain crop to overseas markets.”

Over 227,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity are supported by the movement of goods within the Great Lakes / Seaway System. For more information on the St. Lawrence Seaway, please consult the website.


Port Reports -  March 29

St. Marys River
While under escort through Lake Superior ice and headed for the Soo Locks, the Presque Isle received damage that required her to turn and head back to Duluth on Friday. The USCG Mackinaw escorted the Presque Isle north to open water near Isle Royale, then returned to continue the escort of the ice convoy – now consisting of Cason J. Callaway and John G. Munson – downbound to the locks. The locks opened three days ago and no vessel has been able to reach the Soo due to ice. The upbound Edwin H. Gott and Stewart J. Cort continue to wait on northern Lake Huron for escort up the St. Marys River.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
The USCG cutters Mobile Bay and Biscayne Bay were westbound from the bridge Friday morning. One mission was to assist the westbound Alpena, which had managed to make it nearly to Lansing Shoal on Thursday evening before becoming beset in the ice. The second mission was to escort the eastbound Arthur M. Anderson and Roger Blough, which had made it as far as the tee intersection of the Seul Choix Point line (326 degrees) and the southern limits of northbound course (56.5 degrees). It appeared to be a very rough day for all vessels, especially between the tee and Lansing Shoal. At 10:30 pm Friday, the Anderson and Blough were just 3 and 4 miles east of Lansing Shoal, respectively, and were moving along the track eastbound at 7-10 knots. That’s 15-16 nautical miles progress after 10 or so hours of icebreaking. Biscayne Bay hove to in the ice a couple of miles east of Lansing Shoal late Friday and was likely awaiting the eastbound Samuel deChamplain that is approaching Lansing Shoal at nine knots and appears to be benefiting from the track work done earlier in the day.

Western Lake Erie - Dave Souilliere
The downbound Joyce L. Van Enkevort, pushing the barge Great Lakes Trader, came to a stop just southeast of the Detroit River lighthouse in western Lake Erie Friday. After approximately 1 hour she turned around, heading upbound, back into the Detroit River. Apparently, the ice was too much with no icebreaker in sight.

Port Maitland Ont.
The Canadian Coast Guard reports that spring icebreaking operations will start on or around March 30, in the Port Maitland / Grand River area, located on Lake Erie. The CCGS Samuel Risley will make its way to Port Maitland on Lake Erie to conduct icebreaking operations related to flood control for the area, as requested by the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Kingston, Ont. - Ron Walsh
The shipping season has started on Lake Ontario. Stephen B. Roman has departed Toronto heading for Picton to load cement. Friday evening, she was eastbound making 7.6 knots. The CCGS Griffon was traveling eastbound from the Welland Canal area making 11.1 knots and she also has a destination of Picton to break out the channel.

Seaway - Rene Beauchamp
According to the Canadian Coast Guard website, one of the first ships to enter the Seaway on opening day or shortly thereafter will be the chemical tanker Charlotte Theresa, presently in Montreal with a destination of Clarkson. This will be her second transit, the first one happening in June 2012 when she also called at Clarkson on Lake Ontario. A partial list of the other salties to arrive at the entrance of the Seaway between March 31 and April 7 includes Redhead, Federal Nagasaki, Stella Polaris, SCL Bern and probably Heloise and Apollon.

Montreal, QC - Denny Dushane
Canfornav's saltie Brant is expected to arrive in Montreal April 4. The ship is coming from Sept Isles, Que., and will be heading to Goderich, Ont., after the Seaway opens next week. This will also be Goderich's first saltie for the 2014 shipping season. Brant will joining several other salties already expected in Montreal next week. Harbor Feature is expected to depart from Montreal on April 1 for Clarkson, Ont. Also due next week are two vessels from Polish Steamship: Lubie with sugar for Toronto and the Redpath Dock and Isolda with steel coils for Cleveland. Also due to arrive in Montreal is the tanker Stella Polaris of the Netherlands headed for Hamilton. Fednav’s Federal Rhine and Federal Saguenay are both expected to be in the Great Lakes/Seaway system in April, bringing in steel from Antwerp, Belgium.


Seaway salties renamed

3/29 - The following saltwater vessels have been renamed. Island Skipper, a regular caller which last visited in 2010, was renamed in March 2014 and sails now as the Skippers Y of Sierra Leone. Her sistership Island Gem has been renamed Linda Star of Panama. As Island Gem the ship was built in 1984 but did not come inland until 1985. In 2007 her name changed to Island Triangle and in 2009 to Alpha. Amalia, which last visited in 2009, is now Gomera of Antigua/Barbuda, while Annalisa, which also last visited in 2009, is now the Ara Amsterdam of Gibraltar. Carola, which last visited in 2008, is now the HC Nadja Maria of Antigua/Barbuda. Julia, which last came inland in 2007, is now the Ventura of Antigua/Barbuda, Katja, which last visited in 2010, is now the HC Svea Kim of Antigua/Barbuda. Lara, which came inland in 2007, is now the Amber Trader of Antigua/Barbuda. Nadja, which first came inland in 2011, is now Mar Misool of Antigua/Barbuda. Tatjana, which last came inland in 2010, is now the Hc Bea-luna also from Antigua/Barbuda. Thekla, which last visited in 2008 ,has been renamed Sara of the Netherlands.

Denny Dushane


Bucket drive launched to help paint S.S. Meteor Museum Ship

3/29 - Superior, Wis. – Plans have been made to paint the S.S. Meteor Ship Museum, docked at Superior, this summer. To that end, fans of the historic whaleback steamer can help by making a donation that will buy a bucket or more of paint for the hull.

Just $50 will buy one gallon of paint. In return, contributors' names will be displayed on their empty bucket(s), stacked along with all other donated gallons, in a Tower of Thanks exhibit on display at the S.S. Meteor through the 2014 tour season.

To donate, send a check in the amount of $50 for each gallon sponsored, to:
Superior Public Museums
906 East 2nd Street
Superior, WI 54880

Write Paint for the Meteor in the memo line of the check. Credit card donations are also being accepted at (715) 394-5712.

The S.S. Meteor is the last remaining whaleback freighter designed and built by Captain Alexander McDougall. The ships, innovative for their time, earned the name whalebacks for the cigar-shaped, steel hulls that rode low in the water when loaded with cargo.

In 1972, after sailing under three names and being refitted twice, the Meteor returned to Superior and is now permanently land-berthed on Barkers Island.

Superior Public Museum


Lookback #132 – Former Manchester Trader leaking and abandoned on March 29, 1973

3/29 - The second Manchester Trader to visit the Seaway was abandoned in heavy weather 41 years ago today. The 466 foot, 9 inch long freighter was carrying a cargo of sugar and sailing under its sixth name of Mariner when trouble developed. The crew was forced to take to the lifeboats during the voyage from Havana, Cuba, to Kobe, Japan. Their position was reported as 35.00 N / 152.45 E which put it well out into the Pacific Ocean and a long way from land.

This ship had been built for the Prince Line and completed at Glasgow, Scotland, on April 27, 1955, as Western Prince. It was renamed Zealandic in 1957, Western Prince again in 1960, Manchester Trader in 1963, back to Western Prince in 1969 and finally Mariner, under the flag of Cyprus, in 1971.

Manchester Trader first came to the Great Lakes in 1964 with a single trip and was back three times in 1966, once more in 1967 and again, as Western Prince, in 1969.

After being abandoned, the ship was not seen again and was listed as “presumed sunk”.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 29

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 29

N. M. Paterson & Sons, PRINDOC (Hull#657) of Davie Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., Lauzon, Quebec, was sold off-lakes during the week of March 29, 1982, to the Southern Steamship Co., Georgetown, Cayman Islands and was renamed b.) HANKEY. Later renamed c.) CLARET III in 1990, d.) S SARANTA in 1992, e.) PLATANA IN 1997, Scrapped at Alaiga, Turkey in 1997.

On 29 March 1888, D. D. JOHNSON (wooden propeller tug, 45 foot, 17 gross tons) was launched at E. Saginaw, Michigan. She was built for Carkin, Stickney & Cram and lasted until 1909.

1973: MANCHESTER TRADER, the second ship of this name to visit the Great Lakes, was owned by the Prince Line when it first came inland, on charter to Manchester Liners Ltd., in 1964. The ship was renamed e) WESTERN PRINCE in 1969 and also transited the Seaway that year. It became f) MARINER in 1971 and was abandoned in the Pacific on this date in 1973. The ship was leaking in heavy weather en route from Havana, Cuba, to Kobe, Japan, and was presumed to have sunk about 35.00 N / 152.47 E.

1973: DAVID MARQUESS OF MILFORD HAVEN, one of the longest named saltwater ships to visit the Great Lakes, was the first saltwater ship of the season upbound in the Seaway.

1990: The MAYA FARBER visited the Great Lakes in 1981. It arrived at Alang, India, under tow for scrapping on this date following an explosion and fire off Port Sudan as d) RAAD AL-BAKRY VIII on January 15, 1990.

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


Edwin H. Gott arrives at lower St. Marys River

3/28 - On Thursday, the 1,000-foot Edwin H. Gott of Great Lakes Fleet arrived at the lower St. Marys River off of DeTour, making her the first commercial vessel to arrive in the river for the 2014 shipping season. Anchored in the Straits of Mackinaw and just east of Mackinac Island was the 1,000-footer Stewart J. Cort of the Interlake Steamship Co. Both vessels will transit the lower part of the St. Marys River when conditions are favorable and after getting clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard to head upbound. The Gott departed her lay-up berth in Erie, Pa., on March 23 and arrived in Detroit on March 26 to take on fuel. After fueling, the Gott departed from the Mistersky Fuel Dock and headed up the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, eventually making it into an ice-filled Lake Huron on Wednesday before arriving at DeTour and the lower St. Marys River on Thursday. The downbound convoy of ships escorted from the Twin Ports – Presque Isle, Cason J. Callaway and John G. Munson – remains somewhere on eastern Lake Superior under escort by the USCG Mackinaw.

Denny Dushane


Straits of Mackinac

3/28 - Icebreaking began just after 7:30 a.m. Thursday near St. Helena Island, with the USCG cutter Mobile Bay assisting the Joyce L. Van Enkevort, fracturing ice on the starboard side of the barge to give it relief. Then the Mobile Bay passed the Van Enkevort and led the convoy eastbound to the bridge. Meanwhile, the Biscayne Bay ran down the port side of the Stewart J. Cort and freed it from the ice.

The icebreakers are now using a new visual warning system, likely in response to the Hollyhock collision early in the season. Amber lights are switched on if the icebreaker gets stuck in ice or needs to slow down quickly, followed by a radio warning for traffic behind the icebreaker to stop. Both Biscayne Bay and Mobile Bay tested these lights and got confirmation from the freighters that they saw them.

The passage from Lansing Shoal to Round Island Passage went smoothly without incident, and the vessels were spread out. The Biscayne Bay advised the Cort to stay north on the track, since there is a lot of relief to the south, and the freighter could get sucked to the south of the track.

During the approach to the bridge, the Cort announced its intention of staying in the ice for a couple of days, because Soo Traffic would likely not be ready to escort freighters up the St. Marys River until sometime Saturday. It was recommended that the Cort seek out firm ice to the north of the track east of Round Island, and she is stopped in the ice just north of the westbound 261 track line from DeTour.

The Van Enkevort proceeded downbound on Lake Huron, and after the traffic cleared, the Alpena headed west. Alpena made it nearly to Lansing Shoal by 7 pm Thursday, where she is stopped in the ice. The next eastbound freighters appear to be the Arthur M. Anderson (Two Harbors) and the Roger Blough (AIS destination: Lansing Shoal, which is likely where she’ll stop). Both ships were near Rock Island Passage at 7 pm Thursday.

Robert Bemben


Welland Canal opens today

3/28 - St. Catharines, Ont. – The Welland Canal will open today at 8 a.m. The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. still intends to celebrate the opening of the canal on Friday with its annual ceremony at Lock 3 in St. Catharines beginning at 10 a.m.

The captain of the Welland Canal's first downbound vessel of the season will have to wait a little longer to tip the coveted top hat. Port Colborne's traditional top hat ceremony was scheduled to take place Friday, but has since been postponed until next week.

The ice on Lake Erie has showed no signs of breaking up this week, which has delayed downbound ships. The first is not expected to pass through Port Colborne until sometime next week.

A date and updated time for the delayed ceremony at Lock 8 park has not yet been set.

The canal is generally open water with broken ice above lock 7 up to Port Colborne. Heavy ice conditions exist on Lake Erie. Thursday night the CCG Griffon and Pierre Radisson worked off Port Colborne preparing a track through the heavy ice for the departure of the Frontenac, Baie Comeau and Whitefish Bay.

Welland Tribune, BoatNerd.Com


More salties expected when Seaway opens

3/28 - The list of saltwater vessels continues to grow for next week's opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on March 31. Expected in Montreal on April 3 is the tanker Stella Polaris of the Netherlands. The tanker is coming from Finland and will be visiting Hamilton after the Seaway opens. In addition to the Stella Polaris, the tanker Harbor Feature of Portugal is expected to depart Montreal on April 1 for Clarkson, Ont. Other salties expected to arrive in Montreal are the Polsteam vessels Lubie and Isolda. Lubie will be heading to Toronto with sugar for Redpath, while Isolda will be heading to Cleveland with steel. Both the Federal Rhine and Federal Saguenay are expected to be in the Seaway sometime in April, bringing in steel from Antwerp, Belgium. Salty traffic may be slow going with heavy ice in the Seaway/Great Lakes region.

Denny Dushane


Freighter ships out, ushering in Great Lakes maritime season

3/28 - Erie, Pa. – Winter repair season is nearing its end at Erie's Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair. Wednesday afternoon, the CSL Laurentien, a 739-foot-long Canadian self-unloading bulk freighter, departed the Erie shipyard, where it had been dry-docked since mid-January for repairs.

The vessel sailed to Conneaut, Ohio, where it was scheduled to pick up a load of coal before continuing to Nanticoke, Ont.

"It's been a very successful winter season, especially under harsh conditions,'' said John Nekoloff, Donjon's subcontracts manager and director of safety and environmental compliance. "It was one of the harshest winters in the last 25 years and we maintained and got the ships out on time.''

The Great Lakes shipping season began on Tuesday with the opening of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit District.

The Edwin H. Gott, a 1,000-foot American freighter, left the Donjon shipyard on Monday.

The Canadian vessel Kaministiqua is the last freighter remaining at Donjon. The vessel is scheduled to depart Erie between April 6 and April 8, Nekoloff said.

Donjon currently employs about 225 workers. Spring projects at the Erie shipyard will keep that employment number the same, Nekoloff said. Employment will likely increase for Donjon's next major project, which is scheduled to begin in the summer, Nekoloff said.

Donjon officials in February finalized a contract with Seabulk Tankers Inc. to construct part of a 185,000-barrel coastal chemical and petroleum tug and barge unit.

The barge, which will be an estimated 550 to 600 feet in length, will be built at the Erie shipyard, and the tug will be constructed at the BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Erie project is expected to take 18 to 24 months, Nekoloff said.

Erie Times-News


Ice-breaking starts in Thunder Bay harbor

3/28 - Thunder Bay, Ont. – The Coast Guard is warning Thunder Bay residents to stay off the harbor ice, as two ice-breaking vessels from the United States are scheduled to start clearing shipping channels today.

Thunder Bay harbormaster Guy Jarvis said the 42-meter-long Katmai Bay and Morro Bay will open some "tracks" in the harbor.

“What we want to try to do is break some straight lines into the five main entrances into Thunder Bay — the north entrance and the south entrance and the Kam River entrance ... basically trying to make everything straight,” he said. “[We want to] break big ice into little ice and then into ice cubes, finally.”

But this weekend help will arrive in the form of the larger American ice-breaking cutter, the Alder, Jarvis said.

“She just works faster. She's got more horsepower so that, if we are coming into difficulty with these smaller vessels, we've got more horsepower to get things done.”

The minister of Fisheries and Oceans said on Wednesday that the Canadian Coast Guard will re-assign additional ice-breaking vessels to the region to get shipping started as soon as possible.

“This year's frigid temperatures have led to ice conditions that have not been seen in the Great Lakes or Eastern Canada in decades, which are having a direct adverse impact on Canadian products reaching domestic and international markets,” the department stated in a press release issued Wednesday.

“The Government and the Canadian Coast Guard have made an important decision to re-assign additional Coast Guard resources to the Great Lakes, to ensure that Canadian products, resources and agricultural goods get shipped to market.”

Jarvis estimated the first cargo vessel into Thunder Bay will get into port around April 4.

That's roughly a week behind the usual opening of navigation.

CBC News


Lookback #131 - Patrice McAllister caught fire on March 28, 2012

3/28 - The tug Patrice McAllister was on its delivery trip to the East Coast when fire broke out while crossing Lake Ontario two years ago today. The blaze quickly disabled the vessel and the crew had to abandon ship. The Chief Engineer later died from his injuries.

This vessel had been built at Bayou La Barre, Louisiana, in 1999 and came to the Great Lakes as James Palladino. It was up bound in the Welland Canal, on the delivery voyage, on August 7, 1999, and was paired with the barge Kellstone I in the Lake Erie stone trade for five years.

The 110 foot long tug was renamed as Cleveland in 2004 while the barge was renamed Cleveland Rocks. They continued to work together through 2011. After being laid up late in 2011, the tug was sold to McAllister Towing and was leaving the Great Lakes for East Coast service when the fire erupted on March 28, 2012. Following the fire, Patrice McAllister was towed to Clayton, New York, and then cleared the Seaway under tow of the Rowan McAllister for repairs. It has returned to service.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 28

On 28 March 1997, the USS Great Lakes Fleet's PHILIP R. CLARKE set a record for a salt cargo on a U.S.-flag laker when she loaded 25,325 tons at Fairport, Ohio, for delivery to Toledo, Ohio. The previous record was 25,320 tons carried by American Steamship's AMERICAN REPUBLIC in 1987.

On 28 March 1848, COLUMBUS (wooden sidewheeler, 391 tons, built in 1835, at Huron, Ohio) struck a pier at Dunkirk, New York during a storm and sank. The sidewheeler FASHION struck the wreck in November of the same year and was seriously damaged.

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


First downbound convoy departs western Lake Superior for the Soo

3/27 - Two Harbors, Minn. – At about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the first ice convoy departed downbound after loading at Two Harbors, Minn. The icebreaker Mackinaw was leading the cutters Morro Bay and Katmai Bay, followed by the vessels Presque Isle, Cason J. Callaway. By 11 p.m., the convoy had taken the northerly route, passing close to Thunder Bay where the Morro Bay and Katmai Bay turned into break out that port while the Mackinaw continued to lead the loaded freighters downbound. They were expected to take advantage of what open water was available on the north shore of Lake Superior. Conditions will continue to become increasingly difficult as the convoy reaches the east end of the lake and the group must make its way through severe ice on Whitefish Bay.


Tough going in Straits ice Wednesday for the Cort

3/27 - For the Stewart J. Cort, Wednesday began in the ice field eight miles WSW of Lansing Shoal. The USCG icebreaker Mobile Bay broke out the Cort, and then it was stop-and-go most of the way to Lansing Shoal. The upbound Joyce L Van Enkevort, pushing the barge Great Lakes Trader (destination Cleveland), made a run through the ice to join the escort and, around 10:30 am, she was finally stopped by the ice just three miles behind the Cort. The Cort was still six miles from Lansing Shoal; that’s two miles of progress after three hours of icebreaking very tough going.

In radio traffic, the Mobile Bay noted that the ice was around 3 ½-feet thick. Initially the Mobile Bay planned to break out the Van Enkevort and have it pass the Cort to make it easier going, but the very thick ice made this impractical. Mobile Bay noted that the ice would be much better past Lansing Shoal, and then they could advance the Van Enkevort. Mobile Bay also said that Biscayne Bay would be coming from Sturgeon Bay to assist.

At 3 pm the Cort was moving better, but was still three miles southwest of Lansing Shoal with the Van Enkevort trailing her. After Lansing Shoal, the pace picked up, and by 6 pm the convoy was north of Hog Island. However, the Mobile Bay had to repeatedly give relief to the two commercial vessels and they had to follow the icebreaker more closely than usual to keep moving.

Around 7:30 pm the Cort ran out of the track and couldn’t move ahead or back. Mobile Bay turned back to assist while the Van Enkevort took the lead, but was stopped in the single track three miles west of White Shoal.

Finally, at 9 pm, the situation improved dramatically. The Van Enkevort and the Cort were moving at five knots as the Mobile Bay led out, passing White Shoal Light. And the Biscayne Bay was catching up with the convoy just a couple of miles back. The passage through the Straits will likely be smooth going.

At 9:40 pm, the Mobile Bay radioed that it would be shutting down for the evening near St. Helena Island, but that the others were welcome to continue eastbound. Mobile Bay said that there was an established track for 4-5 miles east of Round Island Passage and that the Alpena was waiting in the ice south of the track for westbound transit. Mobile Bay informed the Cort that if it proceeded to Detour, Soo Traffic was instructing all commercial traffic to not proceed up the St. Marys River but instead to anchor outside of the river. After considering its options, the Cort decided to overnight at St. Helena Island.

Icebreaking requires an incredible amount of patience, perseverance, positive thinking and cooperation and everyone in this convoy got to practice all of those for nearly 15 hours today.

Robert Bemben


Port Reports -  March 27

Thunder Bay
The annual spring break out is expected to begin on Thursday. The United States Coast Guard cutters Katmai Bay and Morro Bay will assist with harbor breakout in Thunder Bay Thursday and Friday. The USCG cutter Alder will arrive Saturday to provide additional icebreaking capacity in the area.

Escanaba, Mich. - Rod Burdick
Fleet mates Joseph L. Block and Wilfred Sykes were at the CN ore dock on Wednesday. Hon. James L. Oberstar was at anchor north of the dock, waiting to load.

Erie, Pa.
The CSL Laurentien left its winter berth in Erie harbor Wednesday about 1 p.m. She backed out of her slip, which was only a few feet away from the McKee Sons. The bay was open in spots with only thin ice, but the USCG Neah Bay was waiting for her on the lake since the ice is still thick in most places.

The CCGS Griffon is expected to work to work the lower seaway and the CCGC Desgroseillers is expected to head for the upper lakes. CCGS Pierre Radisson will break out the Welland Canal, where ice is reported to be piled as deep as 12-14 feet at the mouth of the canal.


Soo Locks experience historically slow opening day

3/27 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The Soo Locks are officially open for spring, but for the first time in 20 years no ships are passing through. The extreme ice coverage on the Great Lakes is making it difficult for ships to travel and for the locks to operate.

"Normally at midnight when we open up there's a boat on the end of the pier waiting and then there's several in the system," Tom Soeltner, Soo Locks Lockmaster said.

Soeltner has been keeping a close eye on the progress of ships traveling on Lake Superior and Lake Huron, many of them carrying valuable energy resources like iron ore and coal. "I'm just watching the internet, hoping they get here sometime," Soeltner said. "It's going to be a while."

Soeltner might not see the first ship until this weekend. A full fleet of Coast Guard ice cutters have been working around the clock, trying to get traffic moving. "The ice is so thick on the Great Lakes that it's so hard to get through without escort from the Coast Guard," Allen Frappier, Soo Locks Chief of Lock Operations, said.

The ice is also a big problem in the locks. Workers have brought in extra air compressors to pump steam through the system, so the gates don't freeze shut once the ships are ready to come through. Even if everything runs smoothly, it is still a slow start to the shipping season.

It's not clear how much it will effect the economy, but this delay will make for a busier summer at the locks. "Vessels will have to make up for lost loads throughout the season, so it will probably be busier once the weather is a little nicer," Frappier said.

Up North Live


Green Bay ice breaking operations announced

3/27 - Green Bay, Wis. – The U.S. Coast Guard will be conducting ice breaking operations in Green Bay between the Marinette/ Menominee harbor breakwall and Rock Island Passage to allow commercial vessels to access Marinette/Menominee harbor. These operations will likely occur on Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30.


Ice thick as season opens on St. Marys River

3/27 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – A United States Coast Guard spokesman predicted a “challenging” passage for the icebreaker Mackinaw and two accompanying Bay class vessels as they open the 2014-15 navigation season on the St. Marys River.

Their escort of three ore carriers began in Duluth, Minn. on Monday night. Ken Curry, vessel traffic management specialist with Sector Sault of the U.S.C.G., expected earlier this week the ships would arrive at Whitefish Bay by Friday. Satellite images indicated their likely route would follow the Canadian shoreline, where last weekend’s strong northwest winds opened a passage.

The heavy icebreaker Mackinaw, 240 feet, and the 140-foot icebreakers Katmai Bay and Morro Bay, must deal with plate ice at 20 to 24 inches, topped with two feet of hard-packed snow and windrows of up to 12 feet in Whitefish Bay, Curry said.

The passage of the icebreakers and the barge, Presque Isle, owned by Litton Great Lakes, and two USS freighters, Cason J. Callaway and John G. Munson, both about 770 feet, should go comparatively well in the open water along the north shore of Lake Superior. The vessels contain taconite for delivery in southern Lake Michigan.

Allan Frappier, chief of lock operations at the Soo Locks, said the system would open Monday night. He expected the vessels late on the weekend. “There’s lots of ice up and down the river,” Frappier said, but “The locks are open and ready to go.”

The icebreakers arrived in the lower river on Wednesday, March 19 to work below the locks, helping to clear the gates, then locked through for Duluth last Friday, March 21, he said.

Sault This Week


Winter fleet is shipping out

3/27 - Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – Stewart J. Cort left about 7:15 p.m. Monday and the Paul R. Tregurtha left at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday after their winter layup at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. The departure of the Great Lakes ships is another sign of spring, as the Soo Locks opened in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. for the shipping season Tuesday.

Ice conditions may delay some vessel travel, but several large ships already left Sturgeon Bay, including the Hon. James L. Oberstar, Wilfred Sykes, Joseph L. Block and Arthur M. Anderson. Those still in Sturgeon Bay include the Edgar B. Speer, set to leave Thursday; the James R. Barker, April 1; American Mariner on April 2; CSL Niagara on April 4 and the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin on April 23.

Door County Advocate


A piece of history rescued at South Haven

3/27 - South Haven, Mich. – The old saying "Don't give up the ship" certainly could apply to the crew that salvaged the historic Wilhelm Baum tugboat over the weekend.

"It took three days. We had a hard time bringing it up," said Barney Pero, owner of J&B Landing, which fished the submerged tug out of the Black River in South Haven.

The 91-year-old tug lay submerged for a month in icy water at the Michigan Maritime Museum dock before J&B workers could rescue it.

"It had taken in a lot of water," Pero said of the 25-ton tugboat, owned by Jim and Sheral Bradley of South Haven.

Workers began the arduous task Thursday, battling freezing temperature and wind gusts. "The weather was miserable," Bradley said. While bystanders watched, J&B employees tried unsuccessfully on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning to lift the vessel.

"You couldn't lift the whole tug out of the water, it was just too heavy," Pero said. Workers then devised a plan to lift the back part of the tug onto a barge, which allowed them to successfully pump out some of the water. They then were able to lift the front part of the tug onto another barge and drain the rest of the water from the craft.

Surprisingly, once the water was out of the Wilhelm Baum late Saturday afternoon, it floated on its own.

"It came up and wasn't leaking water at all," Bradley said. "I think Barney and his boys did a wonderful job. I was very pleased nobody got injured."

The reason the Wilhelm Baum sank Feb. 23 remains a mystery. "The Coast Guard didn't find anything obvious," Pero said. "We do not know why it sank," said Bradley, who has owned the Wilhelm Baum since the mid 1970s. "There's not many clues to the mystery."

Pero ventured one guess. "It's possible with all of the ice and snow we had, it weighed down the boat and it started to take on water, but that's just a guess."

Despite sinking, the tugboat shows few signs of damage, which pleases Bradley. However, its electronic components are ruined.

"It had sonar, a remote-operated vehicle for underwater videos, things like that," said Bradley, who used the tug for shipwreck searches and as a rescue boat when he volunteered with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"That's a major deal," he said, regarding the loss of the electronic devices. "Most of it was handmade by me and took a long time to make. It can't be readily replaced." At this point, Bradley said he is not sure whether the tug will return to service.

The Wilhelm Baum was built in 1923 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and used on the St. Marys River. At that time it was called the Captain Canfield. When Bradley bought the tug he renamed it to honor South Haven resident Wilhelm Baum, a lieutenant commander of the U.S.S. Swordfish submarine during World War II.

Bradley and his wife spent the next three decades using the tugboat for search and rescue operations for the Coast Guard Auxiliary in South Haven.

"I'd say 1,200 to 1,500 people were assisted in the 30 years the tug was used by the auxiliary," Bradley said. For the past nine years, Bradley used the boat for his diving expeditions.

The Herald-Palladium


Shipwreck show in Welland is on April 5

3/27 - The Shipwrecks! Show, put on annually since 1995 by the Niagara Divers Association and which focuses on the maritime history represented by the submerged cultural resources in our waters, will be held from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, April 5 at the Centennial High School auditorium, 240 Thorold Road, Welland, Ont.  Click here for details


Lookback #130 – Former Federal Palm blown aground during Cyclone Meli on March 27, 1979

3/27 - The Federal Palm was Hull 29 from the Port Weller Dry Docks shipyard in St. Catharines, Ont. The ship was built for the Canadian Department of Transport at a cost of $3,600,000. The 298 foot long passenger and freight vessel was floated on June 21, 1961, and christened on August 26, 1961.

After successful lake trials, the ship was presented as a gift to the newly developed Government of the West Indies. It was soon headed south for trading among the island nations of the Caribbean.

Federal Palm could carry 50 passengers in berths, another 200 on deck and had the ability to handle in the range of 1900 tons of freight. The ship covered most of the islands including St. Kitts, Jamaica, Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and Trinidad.

The vessel was sold to the Nauru Local Government Council in 1972 and began service on the South Pacific as Cenpac Rounder. It now operated between Nauru and New Zealand with way stops.

On March 27, 1979, 35 years ago today, the vessel was caught by Cyclone Meli and blown on Vothalailai Reef located at 18.30 S / 177.40 E. The storm caused considerable damage and lives lost on the islands of Fiji and Tuvalu. Cenpac Rounder remained stranded for a month and, when pulled free on April 27, 1979, it was considered too badly damaged to warrant repair. The vessel was sold to South Korean shipbreakers and arrived at Busan for dismantling on June 6, 1979.

Two countries have issued postage stamps that featured this ship. In one from Grenada, it is shown as Federal Palm, while in the other, from Tuvalu, it appears as Cenpac Rounder.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 27

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 27

The steamer b.) EDWARD S. KENDRICK was launched March 27, 1907, as a.) H.P. McINTOSH (Hull#622) at West Bay City, Michigan, by West Bay City Ship Building Co. for the Gilchrist Transportation Co., Cleveland, Ohio.

Nipigon Transport Ltd. (Carryore Ltd., mgr., Montreal, Quebec) operations came to an end when the fleet was sold on March 27, 1986, to Algoma Central's Marine Division at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

On 27 March 1841, BURLINGTON (wooden sidewheeler, 150 tons, built in 1837, at Oakville, Ontario) was destroyed by fire at Toronto, Ontario. Her hull was later recovered and the 98-foot, 3-mast schooner SCOTLAND was built on it in 1847, at Toronto.

On 27 March 1875, the steamer FLORA was launched at Wolf & Davidson's yard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her dimensions were 275-foot keel x 27 foot x 11 foot.

On 27 March 1871, the small wooden schooner EMMA was taken out in rough weather by the commercial fishermen Charles Ott, Peter Broderick, Jacob Kisinger and John Meicher to begin the fishing season. The vessel capsized at about 2:00 p.m., 10 miles southwest of St. Joseph, Michigan and all four men drowned.

C E REDFERN (wooden schooner, 181 foot, 680 gross tons) was launched at West Bay City, Michigan by F. W. Wheeler (Hull #65) on 27 March 1890. Dimensions: 190' x 35' x 14.2'; 680 g.t.; 646 n.t. Converted to a motorship in 1926. Foundered on September 19, 1937, four miles off Point Betsie Light, Lake Michigan. The loss was covered in an unsourced news clipping from Sept. 1937: Freighter Wrecked Eleven Are Saved. Ship Founders in Lake Michigan. Sault Ste. Marie, Sept. 20 - (Special) - Eleven members of the crew of the 181-foot wooden-hulled freighter C. E. Redfern, which foundered in Lake Michigan on Saturday night four miles northwest of Point Betsie Lighthouse, were rescued by coastguard cutter Escanaba. The men were landed safely at Frankfort, Michigan, and it is reported that considerable wreckage of the cargo of logs, decking and deckhouse of the ill-fated vessel were strewn about and floating towards shore.

1916: The steel bulk carrier EMPRESS OF MIDLAND came to the Great Lakes for the Midland Navigation Co. in 1907 and left in 1915 when requisitioned for war service in 1915. The vessel hit a mine laid by UC-1 nine miles south of the Kentish Knock Light on this date in 1916. The ship developed a starboard list and 18 took to the lifeboat. Five more sailors jumped into the English Channel and were picked up by the lifeboat. The vessel, en route from Newcastle, UK to Rouen, France, with a cargo of coal, subsequently sank.

1964: The Victory ship MORMACPINE came through the Seaway on 13 occasions between 1960-1967. Fire broke out in the cargo hold on this date in 1964 while en route to Bermuda and U.S.C.G. HALF MOON escorted the vessel to safety. The ship resumed trading until arriving at the scrapyard in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on July 18, 1970.

1965: The Norwegian tanker NORA began Great Lakes visits in 1960. It caught fire and burned in the English Channel after a collision with the large tanker OTTO N. MILLER 10 miles south of Beachy Head in dense fog at 0737 hours on March 27, 1965. The vessel was a total loss and arrived at Santander, Spain, under tow for scrapping in June 1965.

1979: FEDERAL PALM was built by Port Weller Dry Docks in 1961 and left the Great Lakes for Caribbean and later South Pacific service. The passenger and freight carrier was sailing as b) CENPAC ROUNDER when it was blown aground by Typhoon Meli on Vothalailai Reef in the late night hours of March 27, 1979. The hull was refloated on April 27 but was beyond economical repair and arrived at Busan, South Korea, for scrapping in June 1979. The image of this Great Lakes built ship has appeared on postage stamps issued for both Grenada and Tulavu.

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


Port Reports -  March 26

Twin Ports
The USCG Mackinaw, Kalmia Bay and Morro Bay enjoyed a day of rest Tuesday, with no traffic moving in the Twin Ports. The icebreakers will remain until a convoy is established for the downbound trek across Lake Superior. To reach Duluth, the trio took a northerly route, taking advantage of what open water was available. Strong northwest winds made the trip difficult, with windrows estimated at 8-12 feet and plate ice at two-feet thick. Commercial icebreaking was busy at Superior, with the tug Helen H working at the shipyard to move the John G. Munson from the dock at Fraser.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
About 2 a. m. Tuesday, Stewart J. Cort was met off Washington Island by the tug Erica Kobasic and stopped for some type of exchange before the Cort resumed its trip eastbound and the Kobasic returned to Escanaba. The Cort made it to the ice field at the western reach of the Straits of Mackinac about 8 a.m. before becoming stuck and having to wait for icebreaker escort near the end of the charted 326 degree line from Seul Choix Point. USCG Mobile Bay arrived from St. Ignace about 5:30 p.m. to assist. It was very tough going with heavy ice and windrows with no discernible track at times. After 3-1/2 hours of icebreaking, the Cort had moved around 3-1/2 nautical miles and was still 8 nm WSW of Lansing Shoal. Icebreaking will resume early Wednesday morning.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
Paul R. Tregurtha left layup at Bayship Tuesday and headed for Escanaba, where it took position in the lineup of vessels waiting to load taconite pellets. Great Lakes Trader and Wilfred Sykes were at the dock Tuesday, with Joseph L. Block anchored nearby and Hon James L. Oberstar also in line.

Detroit, Mich.
Edwin H. Gott spent Tuesday tied up at Zug Island.


Icebreaking begins at Massena locks

3/26 - Massena, N.Y. – The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Pierre Radisson departed St. Zotique anchorage before dawn Tuesday and arrived at Snell Lock in Massena to begin clearing ice in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Seaway officials say a "minor problem" with the Snell Lock gate is delaying the icebreaker from transiting.

The icebreaker cleared a small section of the waterway between the Seaway International Bridge and Snell Lock while waiting for repairs. The icebreaker temporarily anchored on the approach wall at the lock before being allowed on its journey.

The 322-foot-long arctic and gulf icebreaker has a crew of 12 officers and more than 20 sailors. With the Seaway scheduled to open for navigation March 31, the icebreaker has its work cut out in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, where ice is close to 36 inches thick.

Seaway officials say the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Martha L. Black was scheduled to assist with breaking up the dense ice cover, but has since been diverted to Valleyfield, Que.

The tug La Prairie spent Tuesday working just upstream of St. Lambert Lock, and the Seaway's tug Robinson Bay worked the channel between Snell and Eisenhower Locks.

Seaway officials say the Great Lakes-Seaway system has the most ice coverage this year than in more than two decades.

The Pierre Radisson continued upstream, docking Tuesday evening at the Port of Prescott. The Martha L. Black tied up in Valleyfield for the evening.

Fox 28 News, Ron Beaupre and Tom Hynes


Salties gearing up for 2014 Seaway opening

3/26 - With the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway originally scheduled to take place on March 28 and now, due to heavy ice, pushed back to March 31, saltwater vessels are starting to arrive in the Port of Montreal in anticipation of the opening. Already in Montreal is the tanker Harbor Feature from Portugal, which is expected to depart sometime on April 1. Harbour Feature could be the first saltwater vessel to use the system for 2014. After departing Montreal, Harbour Feature is scheduled for Clarkson. Two Polsteam vessels are also expected to arrive in Montreal, the Cypriot-flagged Isolda on April 1 and the Bahamas-flagged Lubie on April 2. Isolda is coming from Ijmuiden, Netherlands, and has a cargo of steel coils for Cleveland, Ohio. The Lubie has a load of sugar for Toronto, Ont., and the Redpath Dock from Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Two other salties, both Fednav fleetmates, Federal Saguenay and Federal Rhine, are also expected to be in the Seaway sometime in April. Both are loaded with steel from Antwerp, Belgium. Federal Saguenay will be visiting Hamilton, Cleveland and Detroit, while Federal Rhine will visit Sorel, Milwaukee and Burns Harbor.

Denny Dushane


Rowing Regatta cancelled

3/26 - Detroit, Mich. – The annual Dossin Invitational Rowing Regatta, scheduled for this Saturday, March 29 on Belle Isle, has been canceled due to poor racing conditions on the Detroit River. No rescheduled date has been announced.


Lookback #129 – Omar D. Conger blew up on March 26, 1922

3/26 - The Omar D. Conger was a wooden passenger ship that operated between Port Huron and Sarnia. The vessel had been built at Port Huron in 1882 and occasionally made excursion runs into Lake Huron or as far afield as Wallaceburg, Ont.

On June 22, 1901, the ship caught fire and the upper works were destroyed, but Omar D. Conger was rebuilt and returned to service for the Port Huron and Sarnia Ferry Co.

It was 92 years ago today that the Omar D. Conger's boiler exploded, rocking the surrounding area and destroying the ship. Debris was hurled in all directions, homes caught fire and a nearby ship, the Hiawatha, was also damaged. It was considered a miracle that the death toll was no higher than four, considering the immense destruction.

There were at least two suggestions for the cause of the blast. One theory is that it blew up when the cold water was turned on while another opinion is that there was too much pressure and the relief valve failed. Finding enough evidence to confirm either supposition proved too big a challenge.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 26

News Photo Gallery


News Reporters and Photographers wanted

3/26 - We would like to invite anyone interested in reporting from their area to send in reports and pictures for this news page when ever they see anything interesting. Reports can be sent by e-mail or by using a form if the sender does not want credit.

Click here to e-mail your reports or pictures


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 26

On 26 March 1922, OMAR D. CONGER (wooden passenger-package freight, 92 foot, 200 gross tons, built in 1887, at Port Huron, Michigan) exploded at her dock on the Black River in Port Huron with such violence that parts of her upper works and engine were thrown all over the city. Some said that her unattended boiler blew up, but others claimed that an unregistered cargo of explosives ignited. She had been a Port Huron-Sarnia ferry for a number of years.

The CITY OF MOUNT CLEMENS (wooden propeller "rabbit,” 106 foot, 132 gross tons) was launched at the Chabideaux yard in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, on 26 March 1884. She was towed to Detroit to be fit out. She was built for Chapaton & Lacroix. She lasted until dismantled in 1921.

1935: A fire destroyed the small wooden bulk carrier ALICE M. GILL that had been laid up at Sandusky since the end of the 1926 season. The ship had been built as a tug for the logging industry and later served as a lighthouse tender and then a small bulk carrier. The remains were scrapped.

1971: The former CLEMENS SARTORI stranded off the coast of Algeria in bad weather as b) PIRAEUS while en route from Antwerp, Belgium, to Mersin, Turkey, and was abandoned by the crew as a total loss. The vessel was a pre-Seaway visitor to the Great Lakes for the West German firm of Sartori and Berger and, in July 1958, was the first westbound salty to use the recently opened American locks at Massena, NY. It made 20 trips to the Great Lakes (1959-1965) mainly on charter to the Hamburg-Chicago Line.

1976: RAMON DE LARRINAGA is remembered as the first Seaway era saltwater vessel into the port of Duluth-Superior, arriving amid great fanfare on May 3, 1959. The ship was sailing as c) MARIAN when it sustained hull damage clearing the port of Lisbon on this date in 1976. Portuguese authorities ordered the vessel towed out to sea and it foundered off Cascais, Portugal, the following day.

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


Locks open, but ice keeps boats away

3/25 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – Even though the Soo Locks aren't expecting to see any boat traffic for several days, the Poe Lock was ready for business as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Despite the lack of traffic, the public is welcome to attend an open house at the Soo Locks Visitor Center hosted by the Soo Locks Vistors Center Association from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Ice conditions have delayed the arrival of vessels. Two lakers – Cason J. Callaway and Presque Isle – have been loading at Two Harbors, and are expected to be joined by John G. Munson when conditions permit. When all three are ready to go, they will be convoyed down the lake by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Stewart J. Cort departed winter layup Monday evening and headed for the Soo. However she is expected to encounter significant ice in the Straits and lower St. Mars River. Other vessels around the lakes are showing signs of life, and are expected to leave layup soon.

Robert S. Pierson and Michipicoten, laid up at Essar Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., are expected to resume the ore shuttle to Marquette once the harbor there has been broken out, but when that will be is unknown.


Port Reports -  March 25

Duluth, Minn. - Frank Frisk
The USCG icebreakers Morro Bay, Mackinaw and Katmai Bay traveled across Lake Superior Monday in convoy, arriving in Duluth about 7 p.m. and tying up for the night.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
The USCG cutter Biscayne Bay escorted the tug Samuel de Champlain pushing the barge Innovation westbound across northern Lake Michigan Monday. At 7 p.m. the Biscayne Bay was breaking out the de Champlain, which was stuck in ice around six nautical miles WSW of Lansing Shoal. This is also where the going got tough for the Joyce L. Van Enkevort, the last commercial vessel to transit this area. At 9 p.m. the Biscayne Bay reported that it as only about 1 mile from the edge of the ice field, but that the ice was very thick there. The Biscayne Bay will make a few runs between the ice edge and the Samuel de Champlain to try and free the tug and barge. There is now an extensive area of open water on the west side of Lake Michigan from Indiana to Sturgeon Bay, then an area of 80 percent ice coverage, mostly thin ice, from Sturgeon Bay to a point just south of Seul Choix Point.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. - Jim Conlon
Stewart J. Cort is the latest ship to leave winter layup at Bay Shipbuilding. She was escorted by Selvick tugs out to Sherwood Point, where she turned around and headed back to Sturgeon Bay and through the three bridges and on to Lake Michigan. She cleared the downtown bridges about 7:15 p.m. Monday.

Port Colborne - Nathan Attard
There was lots of activity in Port Colborne Sunday as vessels prepare to depart. Algoma Enterprise had her bow thruster removed for repair. Painting of Whitefish Bay continued. The crew of Baie Comeau had industrial heaters in the bow thruster, and were shoveling ice out most of the day. Welders were busy on John D. Leitch, finishing up plate work.

Seaway - Tom Hynes
Two Canadian icebreakers continue to make their way up the Seaway. As of Monday evening, the Martha L. Black was tied up at the downstream approach to the Snell Lock, while the Pierre Radisson was stopped just above Valleyfield. The Ocean Group tug La Prairie spent Monday breaking ice between the St. Lambert and Ste. Catherine Locks.


Slow start expected to Great Lakes shipping season because of weather

3/25 - Detroit, Mich. – The Great Lakes’ shipping season starts Tuesday, but you likely won’t see freighters moving across their waters for a while. Blame it on the same thing responsible for this year’s bumper crop of potholes and longer school year— the weather.

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula will open Tuesday, marking the official start of the shipping season.

“It may be a little more difficult to get the ice off of the gates this year, but they’ll open on time,” said Lynn Rose, a Detroit-based spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that enables ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. “And then we’ll see if a ship can make it through them.”

Not likely. As of Thursday, ice covered 77 percent of the Great Lakes, according to the National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration. And some shipping companies aren’t rushing their boats to get underway.

“It appears to be rather challenging out there right now,” said Chuck Leonard, operations manager for the Pere Marquette Shipping Company in Ludington, which specializes in transporting bulk materials, such as stone, pig iron and lumber.

“We’re looking going out in early April,” Leonard said. “We’re going to wait for a little bit more of the ice to dissipate before we go into the fray.”

He said the company is starting later than it normally does, but not much later. The company’s expense for the delay will be nominal, he also said.

“We would much prefer there wasn’t any ice out there and then we could get out there and work,” Leonard said. “You have good winters and you have bad winters and we got a hard one this year.”

Steve Stanek, port captain for Muskegon-based marine shipping and transportation company Andrie Inc., said cargo may not get picked up and delivered for at least a month because there’s still so much ice in the lakes. “There’s so much ice, there’s a lot of potential for damage to boats,” he said.

More than 200 million tons of cargo are shipped on the Great Lakes ever year, according to the National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

The three main things freighters carry are iron ore, coal and grain. More than 10,000 ships pass through the Soo Locks annually. Passage is free for freighters.

Also every year, the Army Corps of Engineers closes the locks for the winter on Jan. 15 and opens them at 12:01 a.m. on March 25. During the shutdown, crews make repairs and conduct inspections and maintenance work that can’t be done when the locks are in operation.

Detroit News


Alpena makes way to Lafarge for first time this season

3/25 - Alpena, Mich. – In keeping with a tradition dating back to the 1830s, Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora, members of the local International Shipmasters Association lodge and others met the captain of the freighter Alpena during its first stop in Alpena for 2014.

On Lafarge's loading dock, Waligora presented Capt. Rob Moore with a key to the city and a certificate wishing the crew a safe and successful season, and ISMA Lodge 19 President Lee Barnhill gave him the traditional bottle of liquor. Alpena Downtown DDA Lesslee Dort gave him a welcome bag from downtown merchants and chamber members, and Stephanie Gandulla, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary outreach coordinator, gave him a shipwreck documentary and a jacket from the sanctuary store.

"We definitely appreciate that maritime commerce is still a big part of our lives," she said.

ISMA member Pat Labadie said these kinds of greetings were once common in Great Lakes ports. A few years back, the local Shipmasters lodge decided to revive the tradition.

The Alpena arrived at the Lafarge docks Friday morning after the tug Manitou broke a path through the ice on Thunder Bay. Moore said the freighter, built in 1942 and originally named the Leon Fraser, was built to run year-round. There are extra frames in her bow, making her strong enough to break ice.

"We only have 4,000 horsepower so we can only push so much, so we rely on smaller boats," he said.

Moore's captained the freighter for six season and has worked with Inland Lakes Transportation for 12 years. He said this year's ice is like nothing he's ever experienced. It took almost a week to reach Alpena from Cleveland, where the freighter was laid up for the winter. The freighter's crew of 21 had to wait in Detroit for ice breakers to make a path, and sailing through Lake Huron was a challenge.

"The wind is shifting the ice around, so we weaved back and forth to find open water," he said. "Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't."

When the freighter arrived at Thunder Bay, Moore and his crew waited for the better part of a day for the Manitou to cut through two-foot-thick ice, he said.

Dan Leski, Lafarge shipping coordinator, said the U.S. Coast Guard has been an invaluable partner by breaking ice and making the lakes safe to sail. Their cutters helped the Samuel de Champlain, due to arrive later in the day, get through the Straits of Mackinac.

Lafarge Operations Manager Giulio Fantasia said the arrival of the boats gets business in Northeast Michigan moving. At the same time, ice anglers need to beware of the change in ice conditions on Thunder Bay, Fantasia said.

Jordan Travis, The Alpena News


Lookback #128 – Former Montreal City a victim of fire on March 25, 1973

3/25 - The freighter Montreal City, the second to carry this name in the Seaway era, was built at Burntisland, Scotland, and completed on January 21, 1963. The 440-foot-long vessel joined the Bristol City Line and arrived at Halifax on its maiden voyage on February 23, 1963.

The ship became a regular caller to the Great Lakes making four Seaway transits later in 1963 and a total of eighteen to the end of 1967. The splendid, orange-hulled vessel earned a good living before its transatlantic niche was lost to container vessels.

Montreal City was sold to the Thai Maritime Navigation Co. Ltd. and renamed Ratchaburi for Far East service in 1973. It did not last long. On March 24, 1973, the ship caught fire while loading rubber and jute at Bangkok, Thailand, for Japan in what was to be the first voyage for the new owner.

The badly-damaged ship was taken from the dock and scuttled in Pattani Bay, South Thailand, 41 years ago today. It was a total loss.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 25

HENRY G. DALTON (Hull#713) was launched March 25, 1916, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co., for the Interlake Steamship Co., Cleveland, Ohio – the company's first 600 footer.

FRANK R. DENTON was launched March 25, 1911, as a.) THOMAS WALTERS (Hull#390) at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. for the Interstate Steamship Co., Cleveland, Ohio.

On March 25, 1927, heavy ice caused the MAITLAND NO 1, to run off course and she grounded on Tecumseh Shoal on her way to Port Maitland, Ontario. Eighteen hull plates were damaged which required repairs at Ashtabula, Ohio.

The steamer ENDERS M. VOORHEES participated in U.S. Steel's winter-long navigation feasibility study during the 1974-75 season, allowing only one month to lay up from March 25th to April 24th.

March 25, 1933 - Captain Wallace Henry "Andy" Van Dyke, master of the Steamer PERE MARQUETTE 22, suffered a heart attack and died peacefully in his cabin while en route to Ludington, Michigan.

1966: The French freighter ROCROI made one trip through the Seaway in 1959. The ship arrived at Halifax on this date in 1966 with interior damage after the 'tween decks, loaded with steel, collapsed crushing tractors and cars beneath. The vessel was repaired and survived until 1984 when, as e) THEOUPOLIS, it hit a mine en route to Berbera, Somalia, on August 14, 1984. The vessel was badly damaged and subsequently broken up in India.

1973: The former MONTREAL CITY caught fire as b) RATCHABURI at Bangkok, Thailand, on March 24, 1973. It was loading a cargo of jute and rubber for Japan on its first voyage for new Thai owners. The vessel was scuttled and sank on March 25 in Pattani Bay, South Thailand. The ship began coming through the Seaway for the Bristol City Line when new in 1963.

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


Port Reports -  March 24

Duluth, Minn. - Denny Dushane and Philip Nash
Presque Isle departed winter lay-up in Duluth on Saturday heading for Two Harbors, Minn., to load iron ore pellets. This should make her the first downbound vessel for the opening of the locks on Tuesday, depending on ice crossing the lake. Cason J. Callaway is also at Two Harbors.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. - Denny Dushane and Philip Nash
Arthur M. Anderson departed her lay-up berth at the shipyard Sunday, heading downbound for South Chicago to load coal.

Escanaba, Mich.
Great Lakes Trader, Roger Blough and Wilfred Sykes were either loading or waiting to load Sunday. Joseph L. Block was stopped in Green Bay Sunday night, likely waiting for room at the dock.

Erie, Pa. - Gene Polaski
Edwin H. Gott slipped her lines in Erie harbor at 10:20 a.m. Sunday amid some snow flurries and 20 F temperatures. While the harbor had 14 inches of ice only two weeks ago, it is now mostly open. The USCG Hollyhock spent the night in Lake Erie near Long Point, Ont., and was making her way towards Erie as the Gott left. The lake at this end is heavily covered with ice and no doubt it will take some effort to move through it. The CSL Laurentien and the Kaministiqua remain in port.

Montreal - Tom Hynes
As of Sunday evening, the Canadian icebreaker Martha L. Black was tied up in Saint Catherine, having transited the St. Lambert and St. Catherine locks. The Pierre Radisson was docked at King Edward Quay in Montreal. Both are scheduled to transit the Seaway before it opens to commercial traffic. The Ocean Group tug La Prairie was also in the Seaway, tied up above St. Lambert Lock. It spent most of Sunday just above the lock, likely helping to flush ice out of the navigation channel.


Ice latest obstacle to clearing Canada grain backlog

3/24 - Thunder Bay, Ont. – Thick ice on Eastern Canada waterways will hamper efforts to clear a massive crop backlog, with Port of Thunder Bay, Ontario, likely to open at least a week later than usual this spring, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Ice in the port's harbor on Lake Superior is about four feet (1.2 meters) thick, one foot thicker than usual, and it also covers key stretches of shipping routes to the Atlantic Ocean, Port of Thunder Bay CEO Tim Heney said.

Heney said he was optimistic that the port will open during the first week of April after a brutally cold Canadian winter, about a week behind the usual March 25 opening. That's "quite late for us," Heney said from his office in Thunder Bay, a city in northwestern Ontario of more than 100,000 people. "It's going to be a challenge."

The port had its latest opening ever, April 12, in 1994 and 1982.

Thunder Bay, where companies like Richardson International Limited, Viterra, Cargill Ltd and Parrish & Heimbecker store grain for export, connects western crops with the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, destined for Europe, north Africa and Latin America.

Frigid weather and snow have slowed Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. trains, leaving country elevators and farm bins stuffed with grain after a record-large wheat and canola harvest. The Canadian government ordered the railways March 7 to more than double weekly grain shipments to 1 million tonnes or face penalties of up to C$100,000 ($89,000) per day.

Opening the Great Lakes to grain shipping in the coming weeks will be a much-needed outlet for Canadian grain, but even so, CN Chief Executive Claude Mongeau sees the grain backlog stretching into 2015.

"I think you're going to see a lot more attention on Thunder Bay than normal in terms of its capacity and role in solving the problem," Heney said. "It will be busier this spring certainly than last year."

But first ice-breaking equipment and warmer temperatures have to go to work. Lake Superior froze over completely this winter, something that doesn't usually happen, and there is also thick ice on the other Great Lakes, Heney said.

The Welland Canal, a ship canal that connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, is scheduled to open on March 28, while the opening of the Seaway between Lake Ontario and Montreal was pushed back to March 31 due to heavy ice, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

After those openings, ships that spent the winter in Montreal can begin the trip to Thunder Bay to load grain, Heney said.

The Canadian Shipowners Association, which represents companies like Algoma Central Corp and Canada Steamship Lines, said this week that it was "extremely concerned" that Canadian Coast Guard ice-breakers would not be able to create and maintain the routes needed to move cargo to Canadian and American industries.

It may not help to ease the grain backlog that Thunder Bay terminals are mostly empty, after the railways focused their winter grain shipments on the British Columbia coast, a gateway to Asian buyers.

Thunder Bay has 1.2 million tonnes of storage capacity for grain, the most in North America, tracing back to busier times shipping to the former Soviet Union. But only 230,000 tonnes of grain is currently in storage, well below average, and just one-fifth of capacity.

"There's lots of room," Heney said.

Port of Thunder Bay is also a conduit for coal, potash, forest products and manufactured goods.

Ag Professional


2014 edition of “Know Your Ships” guide greets new shipping season

3/24 - Even though spring may seem a long way away in some parts of the Great Lakes, the release of "Know Your Ships 2014," the popular annual field guide to boats and boatwatching, means warmer weather must be just around the corner.

Included in the 184-page, lavishly illustrated booklet is information on U.S., Canadian and international-flag cargo vessels, tugs, excursion boats and barges in regular Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Seaway service, including owner and port of registry, year and shipyard where built, length, beam, depth, cargo capacity and former names, plus type of engine, horsepower and more.

Standard binding, spiral binding and a digital version for the iPhone or iPad are all available.

"Know Your Ships," now in its 55th year, is meant not only for those with a casual interest in the parade of nautical commerce that passes our shores, but also for more serious-minded individuals who have a passion for all the details about the ships that ply the inland seas. This year’s cover image shows the Baie Comeau arriving for the first time at her namesake port.

Editor / publisher Roger LeLievre, as well as members of the Know Your Ships crew, will also be on hand to autograph copies Saturday, April 19 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Great Lakes Maritime Center in Port Huron. Books will be available for purchase at the signing.

Preview at


Lookback #127 – Himing launched on March 24, 1956

3/24 - Himing, a small Norwegian freighter of the pre-Seaway era, visited the Great Lakes from 1956 through 1958. Then, beginning in 1959, it returned inland for nine more voyages through the completed Seaway. The ship was launched 58 years ago today.

The 257 foot, 11 inch long by 41 foot, 1 inch wide vessel was constructed by P. Lindenau at Kiel, West Germany, and was ready for service in June 1956. It began Great Lakes trading that year and returned on a regular basis until the final three trips to our shores in 1962.

Himing went aground, on the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence near Iroquois, on November 13, 1958. It was refloated on November 16 after being lightered and pulled free by the Pyke Salvage Co.

Himing was sold in 1964 and spent the rest of its career registered in India. It became Jameela in 1964 for the Kerela Lines Ltd. and then sailed as Uma for Lalkar Ship Management Pvt. Ltd. beginning in 1983.

In total, the vessel survived for almost 30 years, until it was scrapped by S.K. Steel. Demolition was completed at Bombay, India, in March 1986.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 24

ALPENA (Hull#177) was launched on March 24, 1909, at Wyandotte, Michigan, by Detroit Ship Building Co. for the Wyandotte Transportation Co.

IRVIN L. CLYMER was launched March 24, 1917, as a.) CARL D. BRADLEY (Hull#718) at Lorain, Ohio, by American Ship Building Co. the third self-unloader in the Bradley Transportation Co. fleet.

The SAMUEL MATHER was transferred on March 24, 1965, to the newly-formed Pickands Mather subsidiary Labrador Steamship Co. Ltd. (Sutcliffe Shipping Co. Ltd., operating agents), Montreal, Quebec, to carry iron ore from their recently opened Wabush Mines ore dock at Pointe Noire, Quebec to U.S. blast furnaces on Lakes Erie and Michigan. She was renamed b.) POINTE NOIRE.

PETER ROBERTSON was launched March 24, 1906, as a) HARRY COULBY (Hull#163) at Wyandotte, Michigan, by Detroit Ship Building Co. for the L. C. Smith Transit Co., Syracuse, New York.

On 24 March 1874, the 181-foot, 3-mast wooden schooner MORNING STAR was launched at E. Saginaw, Michigan, by Crosthwaite.

On 24 March 1876, CITY OF SANDUSKY (wooden side-wheel passenger/package freight vessel, 171 foot, 608 gross tons, built in 1866, at Sandusky, Ohio) burned and sank in the harbor at Port Stanley, Ontario.

On 24 March 1876, MINNIE CORLETT (wooden scow-schooner, 107 gross tons, built before 1866) was sailing light from Chicago, Illinois, to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan when she stranded and then sank. No lives were lost.

1905: The wooden passenger and freight carrier LAKESIDE was built in Windsor in 1888. It spent most of its life operating between Niagara and Toronto. During fit out on this date in 1905, the ship sank at the dock in Port Dalhousie when water was sucked in through the seacock after the engine filling the boiler shut down. The hull was refloated and returned to service until the DALHOUSIE CITY was built in 1911.

1981: The West German freighter ANNA REHDER first came through the Seaway in 1967 when it was two years old. It was sold and renamed LESLIE in 1973. The captain last reported his position on this date in 1981 and that they were encountering heavy weather while en route from Boulogne, France, to Umm Said, Qatar. There was no further word and it is believed that the ship went down with all hands in the Atlantic off the coast of Spain. A ring buoy was later found north of Cape Finnestere.

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


Port Reports -  March 23

Duluth, Minn.
Cason J. Callaway and Presque Isle departed winter layup Saturday and headed for Two Harbors to load.

Escanaba, Mich. - Rod Burdick
Hon. James L. Oberstar and Great Lakes Trader waited to load Saturday evening at the CN ore dock. Roger Blough was at anchor north of the dock, partially loaded.


Deep freeze means rare rise in Great Lakes water levels

3/23 - It looks as if there will be at least one positive from the deep freeze the Midwest endured this winter, and sportsmen, farmers, fish and the shipping industry all stand to benefit.

Water levels in the Great Lakes are expected to rise, and it isn't just because of all the melting snow. The ice that nearly covered all five lakes for the first time since 1978 has also trapped water below, preventing the evaporation that has seen the enormous bodies of water slowly shrinking for decades. But even with the estimated rise of 13-15 inches, the levels are still well below historic levels.

“The levels have risen significantly, but the caveat is that they are still a foot below the all-time average high,” Keith Kompoltowicz, watershed hydrology chief for the Detroit district of the Army Corps of Engineers told

Higher levels are good for the region that depends on the lakes for drinking water, good for fish and also for the shipping industry. The blustery winter season and the fact that there is still ice cover will likely keep lake temperatures cool throughout the summer, which in turn would stall evaporation rates.

Lakes Michigan and Huron could benefit the most as both have been at their lowest levels since 1918, when lake data was first collected. The past two years saw Lake Michigan, in particular, reach record lows which caused economic problems for the shipping industry as they were forced to lighten cargo loads. Both are now seeing the most significant level rise in the region.

Ecologists have ice to thank for the rebound.

“The 40-year average of ice cover for the month of Feburary is 32 percent,” George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab told “This is the second greatest ice cover on record since 1979.”

According to Leshkevich, ice cover levels broke 92 percent as of March 6, and remains well above 80 percent. “Since the first polar vortex, the ice as just been building and building,” he said.

Leshkevich added that the ice was one, but not the only, factor in evaporation. “There was also a lot of snow in the northern basins, so that combined with the ice cover reduced evaporation as well as reduced lake effect snows.”

Higher lake levels could also benefit marinas, since it would mean improved docking areas for boats and tourism could see a boost, as sandy beaches would be replenished. Farmers in the region even stand to benefit from the deep freeze as it could stall crops from premature growth that could leave them susceptible to freezing during the earliest stages of the growing season.

However, some in the commercial industry are skeptical about how great the benefit for shipping may be this year.

“It’s possible that it could help [improve shipping], but it’s not guaranteed,” Glen Nekvasil, Vice President of the Lake Carriers’ Association told “There have been many times when NOAA, and whomever else, have said the levels would have been higher and it turned out not to be the case.”



City seeks grant for Lake Michigan weather buoy

3/23 - South Haven, Mich. – South Haven officials are seeking a $50,000 federal grant to buy a data-collecting weather buoy in Lake Michigan. The City Council Monday night voted to authorize city staff to apply for the grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The buoy would be placed 2-4 miles off the shores of South Haven and would collect and transmit a wide variety of data to NOAA, including weather conditions and lake conditions.

The annual maintenance costs are estimated at up to $27,550 per year, and the city and Van Buren County are among the entities and organizations pledging support to maintain the buoy, City Manager Brian Dissette said. The city and county are each committed to $5,000 per year in maintenance costs.

Additional sensors and equipment will have to be purchased, including a $20,000 current data sensor and a $5,000 camera to transmit video.

Other donors lined up to help with initial purchases and maintenance include the South Haven Yacht Club, River Bend Boat Club, South Haven Steelheaders, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co., Covert Generating and the convention and visitors bureau.

Official are optimistic the grant will be approved, because NOAA encouraged submission of the grant application after receiving a proposal earlier, Dissette said. An announcement is expected in May.

The grant includes $10,000 to be used for educational purposes related to the buoy and use of the data. If all goes well, the buoy could be in operation this summer, said city Assistant Manager Paul VandenBosch.

The Herald Palladium


Lookback #126 – Dorothea opened Seaway on March 23, 2001

3/23 - On March 23, 2001, 13 years ago today, the Cypriot bulk carrier Dorothea set a record for the earliest opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to that date. The ship had arrived at Montreal on March 19 and had to go to anchor to await the opportunity to become the first overseas trader to slide into the St. Lambert Lock four days later.

This was the first trip to the Great Lakes for the 17-year-old Cypriot-flag freighter. It had been built at Shiogama, Japan, and completed for Garnet Maritime Inc. as Garnet Star in March 1984. Initially flagged in Liberia, the ship spent 10 years in saltwater trading without coming to the Great Lakes, although it did come as far as Montreal in 1991.

Sold and renamed in 1994, Dorothea was carrying sugar for Toronto when it came inland in 2001. After unloading, it was the first saltwater trader of the year to pass up bound in the Welland Canal on March 28 heading for Burns Harbor to load corn.

The 509 foot, 2 inch long vessel brought another load of sugar to Toronto in 2002 and returned for the final time in 2003 bringing steel to Valleyfield, Detroit and Windsor. It was sold to Swiss owners in 2008 and renamed Thea K. for service under the flag of Panama. At last report it was operating in and around the Mediterranean and was due at Bizerta, Tunisia, in mid-February.

On a later occasion, Beluga Emotion, equaled the earliest Seaway opening for an overseas ship when it passed up bound at St. Lambert on March 23, 2006. Then, Avonborg, Harbour Legend and Clipper Mari, in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, opened the Seaway on March 22 setting a new standard.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 23

The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously voted on March 23,1978, to reject the U. S. Coast Guard's official report supporting the theory of faulty hatches in their EDMUND FITZGERALD investigation. Later the N.T.S.B. revised its verdict and reached a majority vote to agree that the sinking was caused by taking on water through one or more hatch covers damaged by the impact of heavy seas over her deck. This is contrary to the Lake Carriers Association's contention that her foundering was caused by flooding through bottom and ballast tank damage resulting from bottoming on the Six Fathom Shoal between Caribou and Michipicoten Islands.

On 23 March 1850, TROY (wooden side-wheel passenger/package freighter, 182 foot, 546 tons, built in 1845, at Maumee, Ohio) exploded and burned at Black Rock, New York. Up to 22 lives were lost. She was recovered and rebuilt the next year and lasted until 1860.

On 23 March 1886, Mr. D. N. Runnels purchased the tug KITTIE HAIGHT.

The 3,280 ton motor vessel YANKCANUCK commanded by Captain W. E. Dexter, docked at the Canadian Soo on 23 March 1964, to officially open the 1964 navigation season for that port. Captain Dexter received the traditional silk hat from Harbormaster Frank Parr in a brief ceremony aboard the vessel. The ship arrived in the Sault from Windsor, Ontario. Captain Dexter said the trip from Windsor was uneventful and he had no trouble with ice. This was the first time a ship from the Yankcanuck line had won the honor of opening the Sault Harbor.

1986: EBN MAGID visited the Seaway in 1970 as a) ADEL WEERT WIARDS and was on the cover of Know Your Ships for 1971. Following 2 explosions and a fire at sea at the end of January, the vessel docked this day at Milford Haven, U.K. to be unloaded. It was then sold to Belgian shipbreakers.

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


Coast Guard locks through for icebreaking

3/22 - USCG Sector Sault Saint Marie officials are coordinating ice breaking operations on Lake Superior in preparation for the 2014 shipping season. The Coast Guard cutters Mackinaw, Katmai Bay and Morro Bay transited up bound through the Sault Locks Friday morning. These icebreakers are initially scheduled to work in the Upper St. Marys River, Whitefish Bay and Eastern Lake Superior. They will also conduct icebreaking operations in vicinity of the Presque Isle Harbor iron ore dock in Marquette as they transit to western Lake Superior. Although not limited to a specific area, the icebreakers will focus their activities to the charted Lake Carriers Association (LCA) track lines. These icebreaking efforts will expand and increase in frequency as the ice and demands of shipping require. This will include all navigable waters in and around the ports of Duluth and Superior, as well as the waters of Silver Bay, Taconite Harbor and Two Harbors in Minnesota.

The 240-foot USCGC Mackinaw is the only U.S. heavy ice breaking resource assigned to the Great Lakes and is homeported in Cheboygan, Michigan. Katmai Bay, home-ported in Sault Ste. Marie, and Morro Bay, homeported in Cleveland, are 140-foot icebreaking tugs.


Port Reports -  March 22

Straits of Mackinac – Robert Benben
The Joyce L. Van Enkevort pushing the barge Great Lakes Trader made an impressive run through the ice field on N Lake Michigan late Thursday night. After escorting the Van Enkevort from the eastern edge east of Round Island Passage, the Biscayne Bay radioed at 11:30 pm Thursday that it was hove to just north of the track near St. Helena Island for the night. The Van Enkevort replied that it would make a run westbound as far as it could go before stopping. This turned out to be a very long run – 33 nautical miles beyond the Biscayne Bay. Her position at 6 am was around 6 nm WSW of Lansing Shoal and she was stuck. Biscayne Bay headed west to assist the Van Enkevort, and the next 7 or 8 miles were likely the toughest of the whole transit from Round Island Passage. The track essentially runs a couple of miles WSW down the Rock Island Passage track line from Lansing Shoal then turns more westerly (260 heading) to the point where the charted line from Seul Choix Point tees into the Southerly Limits of Northbound Course line. By 2 pm, the downbound Van Enkevort was making good speed on her own, and the Biscayne Bay was heading back east towards the Straits.

Alpena, Mich. - Ben & Chanda McClain
The tugboat Manitou tied up at Lafarge Thursday night and resumed icebreaking on Friday morning. A track in the ice was made and with the help of the Manitou, the Alpena headed into port Friday morning arriving at Lafarge around 9:30 a.m. to load cement. By early evening the Alpena was outbound in the bay with the Manitou leading. The tug Samuel de Champlain and barge Innovation were waiting nearby and arrived at Lafarge before nightfall on Friday.

Erie, Pa. - Jeffrey Benson
Friday the crew of the Edwin H. Gott was performing lifeboat drills under the supervision of the US Coast Guard in preparation for departure on Saturday, March 22, for the upper lakes. She has pulled up her anchors, and most of the winter mooring lines have been taken in.


First lakers of 2014 shipping season to depart Duluth-Superior this weekend

3/22 - Duluth, Minn. – Near record-setting thick and fast ice across the Great Lakes has slowed the start of the 2014 navigation season. However traffic is set to start moving at Duluth-Superior as early as midday Saturday with the anticipated departure of two Great Lakes Fleet carriers, Cason J. Callaway and Presque Isle.

Both will head to Two Harbors, where they will load iron ore pellets bound for steel mills on the lower lakes. Plans are to have a third fleetmate that wintered in the Twin Ports, John G. Munson, join them in Two Harbors to load Sunday or Monday. All three are operated by Key Lakes, Inc.

Those three lakers will await the arrival of three U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers Mackinaw, Morro Bay and Katmai Bay, currently cutting tracks across Lake Superior from the Soo Locks to Duluth. After a respite to restock/refuel, the USCG units will depart, slowing down just long enough near Two Harbors to pick up and escort the GLF vessels in a convoy across the Lake and through the St. Marys River and locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

Local icebreaking assets USCG cutter Alder and commercial tugs from Heritage Marine and Great Lakes Towing will continue working to open up tracks in Duluth-Superior Harbor, as the Mesabi Miner is scheduled to load coal at the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal early next week for delivery to Taconite Harbor, then return to reload for a trip to Marquette. Additional vessels that wintered over in the Twin Ports (including Kaye E. Barker, Great Republic, American Spirit, St. Clair, Walter J. McCarthy) are fitting out and plan to get underway within the next couple of weeks.

With ever-changing ice conditions and weather patterns, plans are to have Coast Guard assists for upbound vessel traffic as well, so terminals in the Twin Ports can expect to see the first inbound lakers arrive to load around April 1. Oceangoing (i.e. saltie) traffic will be later, as locks in the far eastern end of the Seaway system aren’t set to open until March 31.

For updated times, please consult the Boatwatchers Hotline: (218) 722-6489 or


Coast Guard cutter breaks ice to reduce flooding risk near Lorain, Ohio

3/22 - Cleveland, Ohio – The Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay broke ice Friday afternoon in the port of Lorain, Ohio, in an attempt to prevent ice jams from forming and causing flooding of the surrounding areas.

The cutter responded to a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lead federal agency for flood mitigation and response, who determined that the area would benefit from ice-breaking operations.

The cutter arrived in Lorain Friday morning after transiting from Monroe, Mich., where the crew battled ice in the River Raisin to relieve flooding there.

The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard have been working together for a number of years to ensure the success of joint operations aimed at mitigating the impacts associated with ice jam flooding on navigable rivers of the Great Lakes, said Gary Shoffstall, chief of emergency operations for the Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District.

The Neah Bay is a 140-foot ice-breaking tug homeported in Cleveland.

The Coast Guard conducts domestic ice-breaking operations in order to perform search and rescue and other emergency operations, to mitigate flooding at the request of the Corps of Engineers, and to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.


Lookback #125 – Norse Variant broke in two and sank on March 22, 1973

3/22 - The Norwegian bulk carrier Norse Variant got caught by an early spring storm on the Atlantic 41 years ago today. An early source stated that the eight-year old ship had loaded coal at Norfolk, Virginia, and was bound for Hamburg, West Germany, while the Miramar Ship Index says that the cargo came aboard at Hampton Roads for Glasgow, Scotland.

Battered by 40-foot waves, Norse Variant broke in two on March 22, 1973, and all but one member of the crew perished. Twenty-nine sailors were lost while only one survivor was found.

Norse Variant was built at Uddevalla, Sweden, and completed in March 1965. It made one trip to the Great Lakes that year and was back for single visits in 1966, 1967 and in subsequent years. The 540 foot long freighter could carry 20,750 tons of cargo.

The ship went down 135 miles southeast of Cape May, NJ in a position listed as 38.00 N / 72.24 W.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 22

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 22

On 22 March 1922, the Goodrich Transit Company purchased the assets and properties of the Chicago, Racine and Milwaukee Steamship Company. This sale included two steamers: ILLINOIS (steel propeller passenger/package freight steamer, 240 foot, 2,427 gross tons, built in 1899, at S. Chicago, Illinois) and PILGRIM (iron propeller passenger/package freight steamer, 209 foot, 1,921 gross tons, built in 1881, at Wyandotte, Michigan).

The GULF MACKENZIE sailed light March 22, 1977, on her maiden voyage from Sorel to Montreal, Quebec.

The tanker COMET (Hull#705) was launched March 22, 1913, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. for the Standard Transportation Co. of New York.

THOMAS W. LAMONT (Hull#184) was launched March 22, 1930, at Toledo, Ohio by Toledo Shipbuilding Co. for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co.

March 22, 1885 - The Goodrich steamer MICHIGAN was crushed in heavy ice off Grand Haven, Michigan and sank. Captain Redmond Prindiville was in command, Joseph Russell was the first mate.

On 22 March 1873, TYPO, a wooden schooner/canaller, was launched at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She cost $25,000 and was commanded by Captain William Callaway.

On 22 March 1871, Engineer George Smith and two firemen were badly scalded on the propeller LAKE BREEZE when a steam pipe they were working on blew away from the side of the boiler. They were getting the engines ready for the new shipping season.

On 22 March 1938, CITY OF BUFFALO (steel side-wheeler passenger/package freight vessel, 340 foot, 2,940 gross tons, built in 1896, at Wyandotte, Michigan) caught fire during preparations for the spring season while at her winter moorings at the East Ninth Street dock in Cleveland, Ohio. She was totally gutted. The hulk was towed to Detroit for conversion to a freighter, but this failed to materialize. She was cut up for scrap there in 1940.

On 22 March 1987, the pilothouse of the 1901, steamer ALTADOC, which was used as a gift shop and 2-room hotel near Copper Harbor, Michigan, was destroyed by fire.

1973: The Swedish built NORSE VARIANT first came to the Great Lakes in 1965 just after completion. On March 22, 1973, the vessel was en route from Norfolk, VA, to Hamburg, Germany, with a cargo of coal when it ran into an early spring storm with 40 foot waves southeast of Cape May, N.J. The vessel was overwhelmed and sank with the loss of 29 lives. Only one man survived.

2006: The Collingwood-built Canadian Coast Guard ship SIR WILFRID LAURIER came to the rescue of those aboard the passenger ship QUEEN OF THE NORTH when the latter sank with the loss of two lives off the coast of British Columbia.

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


Icebreaking to begin along the Seaway; Canadian cutter headed to lakes

3/21 - Montreal, Que. – The Canadian Coast Guard is advising residents and visitors near the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway that annual spring icebreaking operations will begin on or around March 21 on the following schedule:

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Martha L. Black, icebreaker, will enter the Seaway via the St. Lambert Locks (Quebec) on March 21 and make its way up the St. Lawrence River.

The CCGS Martha L. Black will be icebreaking in the Brockville (Ontario) area on or about March 22-23 and will proceed to Lake Ontario, where it will then assist with harbor breakouts in Picton (Ontario) and Bath (Ontario). Once these harbors have been opened, the Martha L. Black will return downriver to assist with shipping in anticipation of the official opening of the Seaway, currently scheduled for March 31.

The CCGS Pierre Radisson will enter the Seaway on March 24, making its way to the Great Lakes to provide additional icebreaking capacity to the area.

The Canadian Coast Guard strongly recommends that fishermen and snowmobilers and other recreational users leave the ice immediately if they see an icebreaker in the vicinity. The ice may move or break apart even at a significant distance, creating a hazard for anyone in the area of an icebreaker. All personal property, temporary structures and recreational equipment, should also be moved to shore well before these dates.

All dates and routes are subject to change with little or no notice due to operational requirements or sudden and significant changes to weather and ice conditions.


Port Reports -  March 21

St. Marys River
The USCG Mackinaw and Katmai Bay continued to work ice below the locks Thursday.

Escanaba, Mich.
Hon. James L. Oberstar and Roger Blough were loading taconite Thursday night. Wilfred Sykes left earlier in the day and by late evening was downbound off Sturgeon Bay.

Alpena, Mich. - Ben & Chanda McClain
The steamer Alpena made it into Thunder Bay (off Alpena) before being stopped by ice Thursday morning. The tug Manitou arrived on the scene before noon and started breaking ice and making a track for the Alpena throughout the day. Progress was made slowly with the heavy ice conditions. Alpena will hopefully tie up at Lafarge sometime on Friday.

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
Thursday morning the USCG cutters Biscayne Bay and Mobile Bay began an eastbound escort of the Samuel deChamplain, pushing the barge Innovation, southwest of Lansing Shoal. By 10 p.m. Thursday, Biscayne Bay had led the deChamplain through Round Island Passage to the eastern edge. Earlier, Mobile Bay had returned to St. Ignace, where it moored. The escort’s upbound approach into the western edge of the thick ice field on Lake Michigan was at a compass bearing of around 080 degrees towards Lansing Shoal, and this is where the 140-foot-long icebreakers have been focusing their icebreaking activities in recent days. The toughest stretch still appears to be from this western edge to several miles east of White Shoal Light along the new track located north of the LCA track line. Thick pressure ridges and snow on brash ice can bind up a ships hull. In tight spots, the Biscayne Bay chose to break a relief track on the south side of the new track. At 10 p.m. Thursday, Biscayne Bay was escorting the westbound Joyce L. Van Enkevort pushing the barge Great Lakes Trader, which had been waiting in ice on the eastbound LCA track line about six miles east of Round Island Passage.


Lookback #124 – Former Wilhelm Nubel sank on March 21, 1970

3/21 - The Wilhelm Nubel was built at Emden, West Germany, and completed in November 1950. The 316 foot, 5 inch long West German owned freighter was equipped with a 4-cylinder turbine engine and could carry 4,100 tons of cargo.

Wilhelm Nubel arrived at Halifax, NS on July 28, 1951, with 3800 tons of potash and was noted as the first German ship to enter that port in the postwar era.

While company running mates Erin Nubel and Otto Nubel were pre-Seaway traders through the old St. Lawrence Canals, Wilhelm Nubel was too large and had to wait until the Seaway opened in 1959 to make its one and only appearance on the Great Lakes.

The vessel was sold to Cia Naviera Vlanasty S.A. in 1961 and registered in Lebanon, first as Aghios Gerassimos and, later in the year as San Gerasimos.

A fire in the engine room resulted in machinery failure during heavy weather on the Ionian Sea in March 1970. An attempt by the 21-year-old Greek tanker Stavros E. to tow the ship to safety failed and San Gerasimos sank 44 years ago today on March 21, 1970. The vessel was carrying a cargo of maize from Galatz, Romania, to Lisbon, Portugal, when it was lost, and there are no reports of any casualties.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 21

The c.) CHEMICAL MAR of 1966 sustained severe damage when sulfuric acid leaked into the pump room while she was discharging her cargo at the island of Curacao on March 21, 1982. Flooding occurred later and the vessel was declared a constructive total loss. She was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas in 1983. From 1979 until 1981, CHEMICAL MAR was named b.) COASTAL TRANSPORT for the Hall Corp. of Canada. She never entered the lakes under that name.

NOTRE DAME VICTORY was floated from the drydock on March 21, 1951, three months and two days after she entered the dock, and was rechristened b.) CLIFFS VICTORY.

MARLHILL was launched on March 21, 1908, as a.) HARRY A. BERWIND (Hull#40) at Ecorse, Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works for G. A. Tomlinson of Duluth, Minnesota.

Pittsburgh Steamship Co.'s GEORGE F. BAKER was sold to the Kinsman Marine Transit Co., Cleveland, Ohio on March 21, 1965, and renamed b) HENRY STEINBRENNER.

On 21 March 1874, the two schooners NORTH STAR and EVENING STAR were launched at Crosthwaite's shipyard in East Saginaw, Michigan. They were both owned by John Kelderhouse of Buffalo, New York.

On 21 March 1853, GENERAL SCOTT (wooden side-wheeler, 105 foot, 64 tons, built in 1852, at Saginaw, Michigan) was tied up to her dock on the Saginaw River when she was crushed beyond repair by ice that flowed down the river during the spring breakup. One newspaper report said that while the vessel was being cleaned up for the new navigation season, a seacock was left open and she sank before the spring breakup.

1959: The retired sidewheel steamer WESTERN STATES, known as S.S. OVERNIGHTER, caught fire while waiting to be scrapped in 1959. The vessel had last sailed in 1950 and had briefly served as a flotel at Tawas, MI, before being sold for scrap. Final demolition of the hull was completed at Bay City later in the year.

1970: The West German freighter WILHELM NUBEL made one trip through the Seaway in 1959. It sustained machinery failure as c) SAN GERASSIMOS following an engine room fire on this date in 1970. The vessel was traveling from Galatz, Romania, to Lisbon, Portugal, with a cargo of maize and had to be abandoned by the crew. While taken in tow by the tanker STAVROS E., the ship sank in heavy weather in the Ionian Sea.

1998: Three crewmembers were killed by phosphine gas when they went to assess flooding damage in #1 hold after the MARIA A. encountered heavy weather on the South Atlantic. The ship, en route from Argentina to Jordan with wheat, put into Paranagua, Brazilfor repairs. The ship had been a Seaway caller as RIGHTEOUS beginning in 1979 and as AFSAR in 1986. While renamed ARIA later in 1998, the British built bulk carrier was never repaired and was either scuttled or scrapped.

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


Icebreaking to begin along the Seaway; Canadian cutter headed to lakes

3/20 - Montreal, Que. - The Canadian Coast Guard is advising residents and visitors near the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway that annual spring icebreaking operations will begin on or around March 21 on the following schedule:

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Martha L. Black, icebreaker, will enter the Seaway via the St. Lambert Locks (Quebec) on March 21 and make its way up the St. Lawrence River.
The CCGS Martha L. Black will be icebreaking in the Brockville (Ontario) area on or about March 22-23 and will proceed to Lake Ontario, where it will then assist with harbor breakouts in Picton (Ontario) and Bath (Ontario). Once these harbors have been opened, the Martha L. Black will return downriver to assist with shipping in anticipation of the official opening of the Seaway, currently scheduled for March 31.
The CCGS Pierre Radisson will enter the Seaway on March 24, making its way to the Great Lakes to provide additional icebreaking capacity to the area.

All dates and routes are subject to change with little or no notice due to operational requirements or sudden and significant changes to weather and ice conditions.


Port Reports -  March 20

Soo Locks
The USCG icebreakers Mackinaw and Katmai Bay were breaking ice in the lower locks approaches Wednesday in preparation for the new shipping season.

Northern Lake Michigan
The tug Samuel de Champlain and her barge Innovation fought ice in northern Lake Michigan off Seul Choix Point Wednesday, and were assisted by USCG Biscayne Bay and Mobile Bay. The tug and barge are bound for Alpena to load cement.

Escanaba, Mich.
Fleetmates Wilfred Sykes and Joseph L. Block were loading Wednesday evening. This is the second load of the young season for both vessels.

St. Clair River - Charles Miller
Warming conditions and lots of sun have combined to loosen the ice in the lower St. Clair River. The Alpena followed the Great Lakes Trader / Joyce L. VanEnkevort and the Hollyhock upbound Wednesday afternoon with no difficulties.


Big ships prepare to leave Erie despite thick lake Ice

3/20 - Erie, Pa. – Despite thick ice all around the Great Lakes, three large ships that have been undergoing winter repairs in Erie are preparing to sail in the next two weeks. Two of the ships are scheduled to leave port on Saturday. The third ship is set to sail on March 28. All three ships will head to the upper Great Lakes to haul bulk cargo.

Coast Guard icebreakers will try to clear shipping lanes but still, travel is expected to be difficult. John Nekoloff of DonJon Shipbuilding and Repair said, "I think it is going to be a big challenge. The ice conditions are not as bad here as up north. Up north they have upwards of 4 feet of ice."

Still, the shipping companies never considered waiting for a warm up.

"They have to get to where they are going because they have contracts with companies to pickup cargo. They have to pickup taconite, and coal. And they are obligated to those dates,” Nekoloff said.

The Great Lakes shipping season officially starts next week with the opening of the locks at Sault St. Marie.


Corps to study possibility of limiting flow of St. Clair River

3/20 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to spend about $50,000 to figure out if it’s possible to slow the flow of water exiting Lake Huron through the St. Clair River.

While the corps is just starting its study, which includes a review of previous studies including one done in the 1950s, some ideas being considered are dams, weirs, turbines or flow restriction devices — like speed bumps on the river’s bottom.

“It could be anything placed in the river to impede the flow,” said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the corps’ Detroit district. He and Scott Thieme, deputy Detroit district engineer for project management, said it’s too soon to tell whether any structures would be built in the St. Clair River.

Thieme said the agency is authorized to study ways to compensate for a 7-inch permanent decrease in water levels caused by a 25-foot-deep dredging project in the 1930s and a 27-foot-deep dredging project in the 1950s.

Dredging and deepening projects in the late-1800s and early-1900s caused a 3- to 9-inch permanent decrease in water levels, but Thieme said the corps currently is authorized to compensate only for the seven inches lost in the 1930s and 1950s dredging projects.

He said compensation for the decrease in lake levels would be attained by limiting or regulating the flow through the St. Clair River.

Kathy Johnson owns Gregory A.D., a diving and art company, with her husband, Gregory Lashbrook. Johnson is concerned about the possible impact of flow-restricting structures in the river. Johnson and Lashbrook have assisted with sturgeon studies and documentaries for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Michigan and Wisconsin departments of natural resources, Sturgeons for Tomorrow and U.S. Geological Survey.

Johnson said the mouth of the St. Clair River, under the Blue Water Bridge, is the largest sturgeon spawning habitat in the Great Lakes. “There’s no way they can do anything to that river bottom without disrupting that sturgeon spawning area,” Johnson said.

Thieme said possible risks to the environment and boating and shipping industries will be part of the corps’ study. He said it’s possible structures placed in the river could double as sturgeon spawning habitat.

“It certainly would be one of the things that would be looked at,” Thieme said.

The corps will unearth a study from the 1950s to examine how to regulate the increased flow through the St. Clair River. “The starting point is to re-evaluate what had been authorized in the past,” Thieme said.

Thieme said staff will have to analyze the 1955 study in light of new data, new practices, and new laws.

The $50,000 allocation will fund a preliminary study to scope out the limits of a larger general re-evaluation review, which could cost $3 million over three years to complete, Kompoltowicz said. The process would be done in cooperation with Canada.

The 1950s study recommended compensating works — anything that restricts the flow of the river. The compensating works at Lake Superior at the head of the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie is a dam with gates that can be opened and closed to release or hold back water.

Preliminary designs for sills, or speed bump-like structures, were completed in the 1970s, but never received approval from the United States or Canada, according to a decision document review plan prepared by the corps in 2013 for the compensating works study.

When lake levels jumped in the 1970s and ’80s, the plans for compensating works on the St. Clair River were placed on the back burner.

But more than a decade of below-average lake levels in Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron — Lakes Michigan and Huron often are considered one large lake — have brought the issue to the forefront again.

Kompoltowicz said Lake Michigan-Huron reached record lows in December 2012 — 576.15 feet above sea level — and in January 2013 — 576.02 feet above sea level.

The January 2013 record low was about 2.36 feet below January average levels. Kompoltowicz said levels in the lower lakes — Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which would presumably benefit from an increased flow through the St. Clair River — have fluctuated through the years, but never for a sustained period like Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron.

“Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron have been consistently below long-term average for the past 15 years,” Kompoltowicz said. “That’s the longest sustained period of below-average levels for Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron since 1918.”

The corps will address permanent decreases in levels caused by dredging.

Kompoltowicz said evaporation and the lack of runoff and precipitation have contributed to lower lake levels over the years. The heavy snow and ice cover this winter has helped to increase levels, he said. This winter’s extreme cold and heavy ice coverage have helped to increase those levels to nearly average levels in Lake Superior.

“The current forecast for Lake Superior shows it about an inch above average in March,” Kompoltowicz said. “If that happens, it’d be the first time it’d be above average since April 1998.”

The outflow from Lake Superior is regulated, but Kompoltowicz said conditions on Lake Michigan-Huron can influence that outflow. “If Lake Superior is closer to its long-term average than Lakes Michigan-Huron, the outflow will be higher,” Kompoltowicz said.

Frank Bevacua, a spokesman for the International Joint Commission, said the commission recommended in 2013 the American and Canadian governments study compensating works in the St. Clair River Bevacua said the recommendation stemmed from the International Upper Great Lakes Study that took place from 2007 to 2012.

He said the board that conducted the study advised against multi-lake regulation, such as compensation works in the lower Great Lakes, but did not make a recommendation for or against compensation works in the St. Clair River. Bevacua said the IJC made that recommendation based on the study.

“We recommended that the governments undertake an investigation to restore Lakes Michigan-Huron by 5 to 10 inches,” Bevacua said.

“The IJC supports any steps towards implementing our recommendation, but we’re waiting for a response from the governments of the United States and Canada to those April 15 recommendations.”

Port Huron Times Herald


No bidders for Presque Isle Power Plant

3/20 - Marquette, Mich. – The future of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant remains uncertain after no bidders submitted proposals to buy the plant from the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. during a recent proposal solicitation effort.

A request for proposals was issued in January, with responses due to We Energies by March 3. Monday was to be the day the short list of bidders were to be notified.

However, a Wisconsin Electric spokesman said Tuesday there were no bidders.

"At this time, we have not received any proposals in response to the RFP," said Brian Manthey, senior communications specialist with We Energies in Milwaukee, Wis.

We Energies expected 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. The plant receives its coal by lake freighter.

The utility wanted final proposals submitted by May 9; final offer negotiations completed by Aug. 1, with required regulatory approvals gained by March 13, 2015 and the sale closed a week later.

Last year, Cliffs Natural Resources announced it would be getting power for its two Marquette County mines from another provider. The Empire and Tilden mines were the biggest consumers of power from the plant. Cliffs consumed 270 to 280 megawatts of power from the 431-megawatt Presque Isle plant each day, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

In September, given 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 in February 2014.

In October, the MISO concluded the Presque Isle Power Plant should remain operating, at least through 2014 and denied We Energies' request to suspend operations at the plant.

The Presque Isle plant, which employs 170 workers, was built from 1955 to 1979, originally with nine operating units, five of which remain, producing a combined 431 megawatts of power.

The MISO determined all five units at the plant needed to remain operating to maintain a reliable electric system for electric customers in the Upper Peninsula. We Energies applied for system support resource subsidy payments from the MISO for operating a plant the utility wants to close.

The Mining Journal


Lookback #123 – Flames reached 100 feet when City of Buffalo burned on March 20, 1938

3/20 - With the 1938 navigation season soon to be underway, the passenger steamer City of Buffalo was fitting out for another year of service when it caught fire seventy-six years ago today.

The vessel was part of the Cleveland & Buffalo Transit Co. and, when launched on December 25, 1895, was heralded as the largest sidewheel steamer on the Great Lakes.

City of Buffalo provided overnight service between Cleveland and Buffalo and was called the “Honeymoon Special,” as it was often the means of transportation for newlyweds bound for Niagara Falls. Originally 317 feet long, City of Buffalo was lengthened to 356 feet at Detroit in 1904.

Beginning in 1915, the ship also offered occasional Lake Erie cruises to places such as Cedar Point and even across the lake to Port Burwell. It was struck by lightning on June 23, 1923, and sustained rudder damage when blown on the breakwall at Ashtabula on May 2, 1929.

City of Buffalo was at the East 9th Street pier in Cleveland when the fire, of unknown origin, erupted. Eleven fire companies responded but they could not save the ship. Efforts to douse the blaze poured tons of water on the hull and the ship sank at the pier before the fire could be extinguished.

A total loss, City of Buffalo was refloated and sold for possible use as a barge. But instead it was resold for scrap and reportedly broken up at River Rouge, Mich., in 1940.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 20

Weekly Website Updates
News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 20

On 20 March 1885, MICHIGAN (Hull#48), (iron propeller passenger-package freight steamer, 215 foot, 1,183 tons) of the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee Railroad was sunk by ice off Grand Haven, Michigan.

The sidewheeler NEW YORK was sold Canadian in 1877, hopefully at a bargain price, because when she was hauled out on the ways on 20 March 1878, at Rathburn's yard in Kingston, Ontario, to have her boiler removed, her decayed hull fell apart and could not be repaired. Her remains were burned to clear the ways.

On 20 March 1883, the E. H. MILLER of Alpena, Michigan (wooden propeller tug, 62 foot, 30 gross tons, built in 1874, at East Saginaw, Michigan) was renamed RALPH. She was abandoned in 1920.

1938: ¬ A fire of an undetermined cause destroyed the passenger steamer CITY OF BUFFALO while it was fitting out for the 1938 season at the East 9th St. Pier in Cleveland The blaze began late the previous day and 11 fire companies responded. The nearby CITY OF ERIE escaped the flames, as did the SEEANDBEE.

2011” ¬ The Indian freighter APJ ANJLI was built in 1982 and began visiting the Great Lakes in 1990. It was sailing as c) MIRACH, and loaded with 25,842 tons of iron ore, when it ran aground 3 miles off the coast of India on March 20, 2011. Four holds were flooded and the crew of 25 was removed. The hull subsequently broke in two and was a total loss.

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


Seaway delays opening, but Soo Locks on schedule

3/19 - Due to unusually heavy ice conditions, the opening date for the 2014 navigation season for the Montreal / Lake Ontario Section of the St. Lawrence Seaway has been pushed back to March 31 at 8 a.m. The opening date for the Welland Canal has not changed, and remains March 28. Vessel transits will be subject to weather and ice conditions.

Ice or not, the Soo Locks will open on schedule. On Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers began the process of re-watering the Poe lock. Despite the icy conditions, engineers still plan to have the locks open next Monday at midnight.

The USCG Mackinaw and Katmai Bay spent Tuesday breaking out the lower St. Marys River around Neebish Island. The pair reached the area of Six Mile Point before stopping for the night.

Seaway, Corps of Engineers


Coast Guard warns of Alpena Harbor ice-breaking activity

3/19 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The U.S. Coast Guard is advising residents of Alpena, Mich., that the commercial tug Manitou is scheduled to break ice in the Alpena Harbor near the Lafarge facility beginning Wednesday afternoon. The icebreaking 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.


Canadian Shipowners Association concerned about icebreaking

3/19 - With the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway facing the thickest and broadest ice cover in years, the Canadian Shipowners Association (CSA) is extremely concerned that Canada's icebreakers will not be able to create and maintain the routes needed to move key cargo to Canadian and American industries.

The Canadian Coast Guard is doing its utmost to work with resources across a large geographical area subject to heavy ice, but this situation is rippling into Canada's transportation and economic system.

Concerns over ice conditions and the ability of the Canadian Coast Guard to provide sufficient icebreaking has delayed the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway past opening dates achieved in recent years. Despite Canadian government efforts to encourage the movement of Canadian grain, it will remain stored in ports such as Thunder Bay until icebreakers open ports and support ship movements. Not only are Canadian grain movements threatened by insufficient icebreaking, so too are other industries with already low stocks of commodities such as iron ore, construction materials, salt and petroleum products which are moved by ships.

CSA and its members have advised the Canadian Coast Guard of the need to employ three icebreakers to support the opening of the Great Lakes- Seaway system. Disappointingly, the Canadian Coast Guard's effort to commit the necessary resources appears to be late as it manages challenging winter conditions in many regions.

The Canadian Coast Guard's fleet of icebreaking ships is aging and too few in numbers to support the economic and environmental benefits of short-sea-shipping in Canada. The CSA calls on the Canadian Coast Guard to fulfill its support to maritime commerce immediately by deploying three additional ice-breaking assets to support shipping throughout the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system while also meeting obligations to support navigation in the St. Lawrence River and Maritimes. Furthermore, CSA encourages the Government of Canada to find a longer-term solution to augment assets.

Canadian Shipowners Association


Dossin Maritime Group Hosts annual rowing regatta March 29

3/19 - Detroit, Mich. – The Detroit River will be the site of the sixth annual Dossin Regatta, presented by the Detroit Historical Society’s Dossin Maritime Group. Weather permitting, this rowing event takes place Saturday, March 29, from 10 a.m.-noon and will feature match races pitting returning boys and girls crews from metro Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.

After a year off for the Dossin Great Lakes Museum’s renovations last spring, the Dossin Invitational Regattas award ceremony returns to DeRoy Hall. Crews from the Detroit Boat Club, St. Johns Jesuit Academy (Toledo), and St. Ursula Academy (Toledo) will kick off the races at 10 a.m., starting at the Detroit Yacht Club and ending in front of the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle. Following the races, all are invited to head to the Dossin by noon to celebrate with a special award ceremony.


Annual Blessing of the Port to be held Thursday at Duluth

3/19 - On Thursday, March 20 at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center (marine museum) will host the annual Blessing of the Port. A brief service will be held at 5 p.m. (doors open at 4:30 p.m.). A forecast for 2014 shipping season will be given by Vanta E. Coda II, Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director. The service is open to the public


Lookback #122 – Little remembered Port Dalhousie lost on March 19, 1916

3/19 - While it was named for the northern entrance of the first three Welland Canals, the steamer Port Dalhousie had only a brief career of Great Lakes trading and photographic evidence is scarce.

The ship was built in 1913 by the Smith's Dock Co. of Middlesborough, England. It was designed to be the first electrically-driven merchant vessel in the world and the experimental freighter, completed as Tynemount, was to join the Montreal Transportation Co.

The first trip took Tynemount to Santander, Spain, but it did not perform well and was refused by Montreal Transportation. As a result, the vessel was rebuilt as a steamship in 1914, sold to Forwarders Ltd. and renamed Port Dalhousie. The same company also owned the steamer Port Colborne. The latter was built in 1909 and lost in 1917.

The voyage to the Great Lakes in July 1914 took 19 days to cross the Atlantic. The ship settled into a limited mix of Great Lakes service and East Coast trading with pulpwood from New Brunswick to Maine as the main cargo.

It was chartered to the Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co. in 1915 and then returned overseas only to meet up with UB-10 98 years ago today. The enemy submarine sent a torpedo into the hull of Port Dalhousie on March 19, 1916, while the freighter was sailing to Nantes, France, with a cargo of steel billets. The attack occurred two miles south and a half-mile west of the Kentish Knock Light Vessel off the coast of England. Twelve lives were lost when the Port Dalhousie sank.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 19

Weekly Website Updates


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 19

W. R. STAFFORD (wooden propeller bulk freighter, 184 foot, 744 gross tons, built in 1886, at W. Bay City, Michigan) was freed from the ice at 2:00 a.m. on 19 March 1903, by the Goodrich Line’s ATLANTA. When the STAFFORD was freed, the ice then closed around the ATLANTA and imprisoned her for several hours. Both vessels struggled all night and finally reached Grand Haven, Michigan, at 5 a.m. They left for Chicago later that day in spite of the fact that an ice floe 2 miles wide, 14 miles long and 20 feet deep was off shore.

CARTIERCLIFFE HALL was launched March 19, 1960, as a.) RUHR ORE (Hull # 536) at Hamburg, Germany, by Schlieker-Werft Shipyard.

INDIANA HARBOR (Hull#719) was launched March 19, 1979, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, by Bay Shipbuilding Corp.

CITY OF GREEN BAY was launched March 19, 1927, as a.) WABASH (Hull#177) at Toledo, Ohio, by Toledo Ship Building Co., for the Wabash Railway Co.

ALFRED CYTACKI was launched March 19, 1932, as a.) LAKESHELL (Hull#1426) at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd.

On 19 March 1886, the PICKUP (wooden passenger/package freight steamer, 80 foot, 136 gross tons, built in 1883, at Marine City, Michigan, was renamed LUCILE. She lasted until she sank off the Maumee River Light (Toledo Harbor Light), Toledo, Ohio, Lake Erie, on August 8, 1906.

1916 The canal-sized PORT DALHOUSIE saw only brief service on the Great Lakes. It was built in England as TYNEMOUNT in 1913 and came to Canada as PORT DALHOUSIE in 1914. It left for saltwater in 1915 and was torpedoed and sunk by UB-10 while carrying steel billets to Nantes, France. It went down March 19, 1916, south and west of the Kentish Knock Light vessel and 12 lives were lost.

1978 BELKARIN was a Norwegian cargo carrier that made one trip inland in 1963. It struck a sunken warship in Suez Bay on March 19, 1978, as c) NAHOST JUMBO and the engine room was holed. The vessel, en route from Aqaba, Jordan, to Holland, settled in shallow water. The hull was refloated in January 1979 and sold for scrap.

1990 On March 19, an explosion in a container on board the Norwegian freighter POLLUX at La Baie, QC, killed two sailors, seriously injured a third as well as 7 Alcan dock employees. The ship made its first trip up the Seaway coming to to Port Weller Dry Docks May 18 for repairs. It was renamed there and left the lakes in August as d) NOMADIC POLLUX. This ship returned inland in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and was back as e) BALTICLAND in May 2004.

1993 An explosion and fire rocked the tanker SHIOKAZE in the North Sea en route to Rotterdam killing one member of the crew. The vessel had first been a Seaway trader in 1986 and returned in 1998 as DILMUN TERN bound for Hamilton with palm oil. It was scrapped, after 30 years of service, arriving at Alang, India, on June 14, 2010, as c) THERESA III.

2002 A hull crack of close to 13 feet was found on LAKE CARLING off Cape Breton Island while traveling from Sept-Iles to Trinidad with iron ore. Originally ZIEMIA CIESZYNSKA, the vessel first came to the Great Lakes in 1993 and was renamed LAKE CARLING at Chicago in October. The crack widened to 25 feet before the vessel could reach safety but the damage was repaired and it returned to service. The original name was restored in 2004 and the vessel was last on the lakes in 2009.

2003 A fire in the after end of the CALEDONIA on the Heddle Dry Dock in Hamilton was contained to one deck. The vessel was there for conversion to a sailing ship and the work was eventually completed. The ship had visited the Great Lakes as the coastal freighter PETREL in the late 1970s but was much more at home around Maritime Canada and Hudson Bay. As a sailing ship, it carries 77 passengers and visits Caribbean ports.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, The Marine Historical Society of Detroit, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Coast Guard begins process of breaking out Soo Locks

3/18 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – It won't be long now. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay was busy breaking ice in the lower approach to the Poe Lock Tuesday morning. Steam was being used to help melt ice on the lock walls and the gates and from the newly exposed water, which was considerably warmer than the air.

The plans are to have the Poe Lock open and ready on the regular date, midnight March 25, even if the ice prevents traffic from reaching the locks. Stop logs are scheduled to be pulled on the Poe Lock on the 17th or 18th, and the Mackinaw should be locking through to start working in Whitefish Bay later that week.

Corps of Engineers


Canadian Coast Guard heavy hitters coming to breakout Seaway; no mention of Lakes assistance

3/18 - A deep seasonal freeze and lingering winter will fall to the might of the Canadian Coast Guard Service (CCGS) late next week. With the St. Lawrence Seaway scheduled to open for cargo ship navigation March 28, the coast guard will deploy two icebreaking vessels into the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario beginning next weekend.

That is if scheduling isn’t interrupted by more late winter storms or worsening conditions.

“Leading into (the Seaway opening) we’re a little behind schedule,” said Rachelle Smith, the regional manager of communications with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “Obviously, because of the weather, everything has been pushed back a week or so.”

The Martha L. Black and Pierre Radisson icebreakers are scheduled to move through the area starting on March 22. The Black is scheduled for March 22 or 23 and the Radisson for March 25 or 26.

“These dates are kind of moving targets,” said Smith.

St. Lawrence Seaway communications director Andrew Bogora said the March 28 opening is about a week later than the normal opening for the past four or five years, and only once in the past decade has the first day been pushed back temporarily because of abnormally cold weather.

The coast guard will be busy throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system with the most ice coverage, more than 90 percent, in more than two decades.

The late March opening is not unusual: the Martha L. Black icebreaker carved a channel past Brockville on exactly the same dates in 2008. Bogora said the opening date is always set with vessel safety and environmental sustainability as the priorities, and even more so with heavy ice conditions like this winter.

“Our opening date is predicated on the availability of coast guard resources to ensure the safe transit of vessels within our jurisdiction, and the environmental conditions within our watershed,” said Bogora.

The long-range forecast toward the end of the month does not indicate much of a chance of a rapid thaw so conditions will be eyed closely.

“We continue to monitor conditions day by day,” said Bogora of post-icebreaking operations. “We’re looking to the 28th and, as always, keeping a careful eye on all the conditions.”

Brockville Recorder and Times


Coast Guard breaks near-record ice on Lake Superior

3/18 - Duluth, Minn. – On America's largest body of fresh water, winter does not surrender easily. Sometimes it needs convincing. That's where the U.S. Coast Guard's cutter Alder comes in.

On March 6, the Alder and her crew broke their first ice in the Duluth-Superior harbor. Cutting through ice 30 inches thick in places, the Adler's crew took 21 hours to go three miles.

"I had never seen anything like this before," said Boatswain Mate Second Class Jacob Nielsen, who arrived on the ship last summer from Maine.

Even Lake Superior veterans understand this polar vortex inspired winter is unique. "They're saying this is the worst ice season since the mid-90s," says Tony Maffia, the Alder's captain. He calls it "a once in a generation-type of thing."

On the Adler's first day out ice covered 92 percent of the Great Lakes surface, the second-most ever measured.

On Monday, the Adler made its first trip under Duluth's aerial lift bridge, slowly cutting a path several hundred feet off the north shore of Lake Superior. Chains rattle as the ship's two diesel engines, cranking 6,200 horsepower, propel the Alder's bow up onto the ice, which collapses under the stress.

"This ship just constantly moves, rocks, bounces," says Nielsen.

This season will be the greatest test for the Alder in her 10 years on the lake.

Normally weighing in at 2,000 tons, the ship has been loaded with three concrete buoy weights for good measure – each weighing 16,000 pounds.

Pressure ridges are the most challenging. Plates of ice buckling and stacking can create a ridge 5 feet thick. Though the propellers keep pushing, the Alder comes to a stop. The ship reverses course 100 yards or so, then black diesel smoke pumps from its stack as it gathers speed and rams through a pressure ridge. The process is repeated over and over during the course of a day, sometimes multiple times on the same ridge.

"You need a lot of patience," explains Maffia. "You can't drive it like you stole it."

Steel mills out east are hungry for Minnesota's iron ore, now piling up and waiting for shipment. Grain and cement must also be delivered. Before the end of March, the Alder and her crew will have cut a path through more than 300 miles of ice, all the way to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The Soo Locks are scheduled to open for the shipping season on March 25.

But even an icebreaker newcomer knows humility too goes a long way too.

"Absolutely," says Nielsen, casting an eye toward the lake. "You don't want to tease her too much, she might fight back."

Winter may be broken, but it still isn't beaten. "We'll just call it a draw," smiles Nielsen.

Port Huron Times Herald


Army Corps OKs money to address Great Lakes' 'hole in the dike'

3/18 - Milwaukee, Wis. – Years of pushing for action by property owners along Lakes Michigan and Huron have finally prompted the federal government to explore an engineering fix to the low water plaguing the lakes for the past 15 years.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has set aside a small amount of money this year to dust off a plan to install water-slowing structures on the St. Clair River, which is the primary outflow for Lakes Michigan and Huron.

That original St. Clair riverbed restoration plan was designed to compensate the lakes for water lost due to a 1960s dredging of the St. Clair to enable freighters to sail into the upper Great Lakes. That work was never done.

Levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron are in constant flux, varying by about a foot from season to season and by several feet over the course of a decade.

But these natural highs and lows have been profoundly affected by more than a century of human tinkering to make the St. Clair navigable by bigger and bigger ships.

The Army Corps' 1960s channel expansion, along with earlier dredging and riverbed mining beginning in the late 1800s, led to faster outflows, dropping the long-term average levels on Michigan and Huron by about 16 inches.

A study released in 2012 and funded by the International Joint Commission found that unexpected riverbed erosion since the 1960s dredging cost the lakes an additional three to five inches. That means the combination of erosion and human meddling has drained away nearly two feet from the long-term average of Michigan and Huron, which are actually one body of water connected at the Straits of Mackinaw.

The scientific board that conducted the five-year, $17 million study originally advised the International Joint Commission, which oversees U.S. and Canadian boundary waters issues, that no riverbed fix should be pursued at this point.

The Joint Commission rejected that advice and instead last spring recommended that the U.S. and Canadian governments consider a structural solution to raise lake levels by as much as 10 inches.

Even with the St. Clair dredging, the fluctuation of lake levels around their long-term average stayed within a rhythmic range until the late 1990s. Previous drops into low water, in the 1920s, '30s, '50s and '60s, average. Then, in the winter of 1998-'99, the water levels plunged more than three feet and have never recovered to their long-term average.

Hydrologists say this is due to a long-term change in the lakes' precipitation and evaporation cycle triggered by an increase in air temperature in the Great Lakes region in recent decades.

This winter's extreme ice coverage notwithstanding, the lakes have lost a dramatic amount of ice cover since the 1970s, and that has led to a bump in evaporation, further lowering lake levels. While cold winters with big ice cover have persisted since the 1970s, the trend shows they have not come as often and have not been as severe.

John Allis, the Army Corps' chief of hydraulics and hydrology for the Detroit district, said last week that his district's 2014 budget includes a modest $50,000 to explore what options may be available to manipulate river flows to help restore lake levels. Allis said his district has requested significantly more funding in 2015 to begin what would likely be a three-year, $3 million full-blown study on how to slow the St. Clair flows.

He did not say specifically how much the district requested for 2015, but it is believed to be around $1 million. That figure did not make it into President Barack Obama's just-released 2015 budget proposal, but Allis said that doesn't mean the funding won't come through by the time the final budget is approved.

This year's $50,000 allocation is a tiny sum for an agency that does billion-dollar projects, but the dollar amount belies its significance, says Roger Gauthier, a retired senior hydrologist with the Army Corps who is now advocating for a lake-level restoration project.

"This is a major big deal, as it has finally gotten recognized within the executive branch ... as a critical issue," he said.

Lakes Michigan and Huron hit a record low in January 2013 about six feet below the record high set in the mid-1980s. The lakes have since rebounded due to the exceptionally wet 2013 spring and this persistently frigid winter, but they remain about a foot below their long-term average.

The drastically low water last year affected everything from marina operators to freighters trying to sail into ports to public drinking water supplies. On Washington Island on the tip of Wisconsin's Door Peninsula, emergency dredging was ordered just so the ferry service could maintain the island residents' link to the outside world.

Such dredging has been happening in recent years in communities all along the 5,460 miles of shoreline that wraps Lakes Michigan and Huron, every inch of which is directly affected by how much water tumbles through the 800-foot-wide gap at the headwaters of the St. Clair River.

But not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of a technological fix to the low water. There are concerns that the Army Corps may opt for a structure that could open and close to keep water levels relatively steady, regardless of precipitation. That's a problem because the lakes' natural fluctuations are important to wetlands and wildlife.

Others have advocated for static structures that would simply raise the average level but allow the natural variability to persist. But that could be problematic as well, causing erosion if high water levels return.

Lana Pollack, the U.S. chair of the Joint Commission, is one of those opposed to an engineered solution, saying the larger problem is climate change and that it would be best if people just learned to live with and adapt to the change in lake levels.

Mike Kahr, a Door County dredger, is helping people do just that, but he says it's not as simple as some might think.

Reached Friday morning on the ice of Door County, Kahr was trying to scrape a channel in picturesque Eagle Harbor so people can get their boats this summer from a dock in the Village of Ephraim to the open waters of Green Bay. He said the last year of cold and wet weather has brought some relief, but not enough.

"All these municipalities, their budgets are stretched to the limits by this dredging," he said. "These are just Band-Aids on the bigger problem."

And that bigger problem, he said, is restoring the St. Clair. "Let's plug the hole in the dike," he added.

Journal Sentinel


Great Lakes ice documentary premieres Saturday in Detroit

3/18 - The documentary “Project: Ice,” which tells the story of the Great Lakes through the prism of ice, viewed from the crossroads of history, science and climate change, will receive its world premiere at the Freep Film Festival this weekend in Detroit. The film will be shown at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. Tickets are $10 at the box office or at

The film covers wide ranging topics from the history of Great Lakes ice breaking, recreational uses on and around ice and climate change’s impact on ice coverage.

The documentary is partly based on research that co-writer Brian Jaeschke wrote for his master’s thesis on ice breaking conducted by the Straits of Mackinac railroad ferries. The film includes footage of ice breaking by the United States Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw on the St. Mary’s River in 2011, the first passage through the Soo Locks by the Paul R. Tregurtha and lake freighters coming into the ports of Duluth and Superior.

The film contains numerous interviews, historic photographs, digital animations and stunning images. Dr. Henry Pollack, emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Michigan, served as the science advisor and tells the history of the Great Lakes going back 30,000 years. Jaeschke and carferry historian Art Chavez are interviewed about Great Lakes ice breaking, and former chief engineer of the SS Chief Wawatam, Robert Tamlyn, discusses life aboard the mighty rail ferry. Principal photography was captured with 4K digital cinema cameras, providing Ultra High Definition images with nearly five times the resolution of Blu-ray disc.

“Project: Ice” was produced and directed by William Kleinert, and written by Jaeschke and Kleinert. The film trailer is viewable at:


Lookback #121 – The former Petra Dan arrived for examination on March 18, 1965

3/18 - The Danish tanker Petra Dan made only one trip into the Great Lakes. That visit occurred in 1959 on behalf of well-known J. Lauritzen & Co. who operated a significant fleet of ships.

Petra Dan had been built at Gothenburg, Sweden, and completed in December 1952. It operated on saltwater routes and could carry 16,380 tons deadweight. In 1963, the ship traveled to the Far East and was used to carry supplies of freshwater from the Pearl River of China to help alleviate a drought in Hong Kong.

The vessel was sold on November 28, 1964, and joined Westwater Shipping Inc. under the flag of Liberia as Watford Trader. On January 16, 1965, this tanker was loading at Abadan, Iran, when a fire broke out in the ship's engine room. The refinery, completed in 1912, was one of the largest in the world.

The blaze did significant damage to Watford Trader and it was taken to Valletta, Malta, arriving for examination 49 years ago today. The survey concluded that the ship was not worth repairing and it was sold for scrap. The former Seaway caller was purchased by Spanish shipbreakers and the vessel arrived at Valencia on April 26, 1965. The dismantling of the hull got underway the following June.

The Abadan Refinery was a focal point of the war between Iran and Iraq in 1980 and was largely destroyed by invading Iraqis in September 1980. It is located on an island not far from the Iraqi border and was a target during the early part of the war as it produced 635,000 barrels of oil per day. When peace returned, the facility was rebuilt and is again a large refiner of petroleum topping 425,000 barrels per day.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 18

Weekly Website Updates


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 18

In 1967, under the command of Captain Ray I. McGrath, the Columbia Transportation Company's HURON (steel propeller self-unloader bulk freighter, 415 foot, 4,810 gross tons, built in 1914, at Ecorse, Michigan) cleared Fairport, Ohio, and headed to Toledo, Ohio for a load of coal. She was the first freighter to sail in the new season. She sailed on the same day that the U. S. Steel's Bradley Fleet of seven vessels started fitting out.

On 18 March 1906, the Goodrich Line's ATLANTA (wooden propeller passenger/package freight steamer, 200 foot, 1,129 gross tons, built in 1891, at Cleveland, Ohio) was sailing from Sheboygan, Wisconsin for Milwaukee. When she was 14 miles south of Sheboygan, fire was discovered in the aft hold and quickly spread to the engine room. She ran out of steam, making the fire pumps inoperable. There were 65 persons aboard and Capt. Mc Cauley gave the order to abandon. The fish tug TESSLER came to help and only one life was lost. As the TESSLER was steaming to port, the Goodrich Line's GEORGIA came into view and took on all of the survivors. The hull of the ATLANTA was beached by the TESSLER. Later, the burned hull was purchased by D. O. Smith of Port Washington.

ARSENE SIMARD (Hull#404) was launched March 18, 1972, at Sorel, Quebec, by Marine Industries Ltd., for Branch Lines Ltd.

PERE MARQUETTE 21 (Hull#209) was launched March 18, 1924, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. She was christened by Mrs. Charles C. West, wife of the president of Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co.

The straight-deck bulk carrier SYLVANIA (Hull#613) was launched March 18, 1905, at West Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co., for the Tomlinson Fleet Corp.

On 18 March 1890, CITY OF CHICAGO (steel sidewheeler, 211 foot, 1,073 gross tons) was launched at West Bay City, Michigan by F. W. Wheeler & Co. (Hull#68) for the Graham & Morton Line. CITY OF CHICAGO was lengthened to 226 feet at Wheeler's yard one year later (1891). She was again lengthened in 1905-06, this time to 254 feet. On the same day and at the same yard the 3-mast wooden schooner A.C. TUXBURY was stern launched.

On 18 March 1928, M. T. GREENE (wooden propeller freighter, 155 foot, 524 gross tons, built in 1887, at Gibraltar, Michigan) burned to a total loss near Brigdeburg, Ontario, on the Niagara River.

1923 The wooden steamer JAMES P. DONALDSON was built in 1880 and often worked in the lumber trade. At the end, it was used by N.M. Paterson & Sons Ltd. to bring wet grain to the company elevator for drying. The ship caught fire at the Canadian Lakehead on this date and the remains were sunk off Isle Royale, Lake Superior, on May 6, 1923.

1991 The Canadian Coast Guard ship GRIFFON collided with the fishing trawler CAPTAIN K. sinking it in Lake Erie. Three lives were lost.

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


Port Reports -  March 17

Straits of Mackinac - Robert Bemben
Saturday night saw some fireworks on northern Lake Michigan, with a Channel 16 security call at 9 pm announcing a firing exercise by USCG cutter Mackinaw near Squaw Island with red and white flares, possibly using up some of the pyrotechnic materials with limited shelf life for training purposes.

On a frigid Sunday morning (-4 F. on Mackinac Island), three USCG icebreakers were present on northern Lake Michigan and the Straits: Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay near Lansing Shoal, and the Morro Bay on the east side of Bois Blanc Island near Round Island Passage. Morro Bay worked its way westbound as the Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay broke ice southwest of Lansing Shoal. Neah Bay joined the group north of Garden Island, and moored in the ice with the Morro Bay near Lansing Shoal. The Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay transited the Straits eastbound and are moored at the St. Ignace docks Sunday evening.

A new wide track is now in place which runs just north of the LCA track line from the bridge to Lansing Shoal.

Escanaba, Mich. - Rod Burdick
Wilfred Sykes loaded ore on Sunday at CN, and Hon. James L. Oberstar arrived and waited to load.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
Wilfred Sykes departed the yard and turned off Sherwood Point, but had generator problems that had to be repaired. After rafting to the Paul R. Tregurtha at the shipyard for repairs, she finally cleared the downtown bridges around 4 p.m. After a day of tug pulling and ballast pumping, the Hon. James L. Oberstar finally was freed from the middle berth and took on ballast before it headed out to Sherwood Point to turn around and then head toward the lake.

Detroit, Mich.
Alpena remained at the Lafarge dock in Detroit. The USCG Bristol Bay began working the lower St. Clair River about 9 a.m. preparing a track for the downbound tug Joyce L. VanEnkevort and barge Great Lakes Trader. The tug and barge passed downbound without issue and continued on to Lake Erie unassisted. Bristol Bay stopped at the St. Clair Crib Light, and returned upbound to meet the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley escorting the tug Everlast and her barge followed by Algocanada.


Grounded cargo vessel John 1 lost power, drifted to shore

3/17 - Halifax, N.S. – The Canadian Coast Guard had attempted to intercept a drifting cargo vessel off the southwestern shore of Newfoundland on Saturday afternoon, after the ship had lost power. Maj. Martell Thompson, with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, N.S., said the John 1 was en route from Spain to Montreal when it experienced engine failure.

The Canadian Coast Coast Guard ship Earl Grey (sister ship to the Samuel Risley) was sent to assist the John 1 as it drifted, arriving on scene around 8:30 a.m. However, Thompson said the crew aboard the CCGS Earl Grey was unable to intercept the 180-metre bulk carrier before it ran aground 1.6 kilometres off Rose Blanche around 1:30 p.m.

Jan Woodford, a spokesperson with the Coast Guard, said environmental response officers have been sent to the site to assess the situation. Woodford said there is ballast water and fuel aboard the ship, which was otherwise empty on its way to pick up cargo in Montreal.

A Cormorant helicopter was dispatched from 103 Squadron in Gander and removed all 23 people aboard the John 1. They were taken to Burgeo just after 4 p.m. Saturday. No injuries were reported.

Jerry Masson and CBC news


Lookback #120 – Paterson struck by ships torn loose in a storm on March 17, 1973

3/17 - A wild winter storm swept across Lake Huron and into Goderich 41 years ago today. With spring on the horizon, it was a last blast of winter but it proved to be damaging and expensive.

The first Paterson, a bulk carrier in the N.M. Paterson & Sons Ltd. fleet, had spent the winter at the pleasant community of Goderich. It was preparing for a new season of service at the inner end of the harbor and would soon be commemorating its 20th anniversary year on the Great Lakes.

The 50 mph gale ripped several ships loose, blowing them in the direction of the Paterson. The latter was struck by fleetmate Mondoc, breaking off her steering pole, a searchlight and some railing while trying to mind its own business secure at the dock. The stern of Agawa Canyon also broke some lines but the bow line held. Some of the storage grain barges also got loose.

The 574-foot-long Paterson was repaired and sailed through the 1982 season. It was idle at Thunder Bay in 1983-1984 before being sold to local shipbreakers. Paterson arrived at the scrap dock on October 9, 1984, as a new Paterson was set to begin service in 1985. The latter is still with us as Pineglen of Canada Steamship Lines.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 17

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 17

WESTCLIFFE HALL (Hull#519) was launched March 15, 1956, at Grangemouth, Scotland, by Grangemouth Dockyard Co. Ltd., for the Hall Corp. of Canada.

March 15, 1949 - The Ann Arbor carferry fleet was laid up due to a strike called by the boat crews. The fleet was idled until March 22nd.

On 15 March 1882, GRACE PATTERSON (wooden propeller tug/freighter, 111 tons, built in 1880, at Grand Haven, Michigan) was carrying lumber and lath when she stranded near Two Rivers Point, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. She caught fire and was totally destroyed. Lifesavers rescued the crew.

Mr. Russell Armington died on 15 March 1837. He operated the first shipyard at St. Catharines, Ontario from 1828, until his death.

On 15 March 1926, SARNOR (wooden propeller freighter, 228 foot, 1,319 gross tons, built in 1888, at W. Bay City, Michigan, formerly BRITANNIC) caught fire at Kingston, Ontario near the La Salle Causeway. She burned to a total loss.

1942: The first SARNIADOC of the Paterson fleet was lost with all hands on the Caribbean en route from Trinidad to the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was apparently torpedoed by U-161 in the night hours of March 14-15, 1942, while in the south for the wartime bauxite trade.

1969: The bulk carrier ALEXANDER T. WOOD, remembered by many for its regular early Seaway service in the ore and grain trades as well as for a collision with the Finnish flag freighter MARIA in the Detroit River on August 12, 1960, was lost on this day in 1969 as VAINQUER. The latter had been to the Great Lakes in 1968 but sank following a boiler room explosion in the Gulf of Mexico with the loss of one life. It was en route from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to New Orleans with a cargo of sugar.

1976: The rail car barge HURON rolled over and sank at the Windsor dock due to an uneven deck load. The 1875 vintage vessel had operated across the Detroit River as a steamer until March 1971 and then as a barge. It was refloated and returned to service.

1980: The Liberian vessel FRATERNITY was built in 1963. It visited the Great Lakes in 1967 and operated briefly as ARYA NIKU in 1975-1976 before becoming FRATERNITY again under Greek registry. Fire broke out in #1 and #2 cargo holds en route from Hamburg to Karachi on this date in 1980. An explosion followed the next day and the crew abandoned the ship in the Red Sea. The hull was beached March 17 around the border of Eritrea and Sudan but was refloated April 1 and deemed a total loss. After unloading at Sharjah, the hull was towed to Gadani Beach, Pakistan, arriving at the scrapyard on May 19, 1981.

1984: The Greek freighter ELINA likely made only one trip to the Great Lakes, coming inland in 1982 to load frozen meat at Kenosha, WI. It laid up at Emden, West Germany, on June 13, 1983, only to catch fire on March 15, 1984. The damage was extensive and the hull was towed into Gijon, Spain, for scrapping on April 23, 1984.

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


USCG helps Great Lakes Trader make it out of Straits of Mackinac ice

3/16 - After mooring overnight in the ice around eight nautical miles west of the Mackinac Bridge, the USCG icebreaker Mackinaw and the tug Joyce L VanEnkevort, pushing the barge Great Lakes Trader, resumed icebreaking operations around 8 am Saturday. The Mackinaw, which started the day about one mile east of the VanEnkevort, first cut new track for about three miles toward the bridge, returned to make it a double-wide track, then broke out the VanEnkevort and headed east to break more track.

The USCG icebreaker Neah Bay, which had moored at St. Ignace overnight, assisted, and the Mackinaw handed off escorting duties to the Neah Bay at the bridge. Neah Bay escorted the Van Enkevort to the eastern ice edge, then the VanEnkevort proceeded downbound on Lake Huron and the Neah Bay headed towards the St. Marys River. Meanwhile, Mackinaw was westbound, working the new track, and the eastbound Biscayne Bay joined it and assisted in icebreaking between White Shoal and Lansing Shoal.

The Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay were stopped in the ice near Lansing Shoal Saturday night. Roger Blough departed Escanaba for Gary Saturday, and Wilfred Sykes was upbound on Lake Michigan Saturday night for Escanaba.

The USCG Morro Bay was westbound near Mackinac Island about 11 p.m. Saturday. Joyce L. VanEnkevort and barge Great Lakes Trader were downbound on Lake Huron, making good time heading for Cleveland.

Robert Bemben


Port Reports -  March 16

Escanaba, Mich.
Roger Blough left for Gary on Saturday. Joseph L. Block was loading and Wilfred Sykes was expected Sunday.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
Wilfred Sykes departed in the morning for Escanaba, but returned to the dock for a couple of hours for unknown reasons. She was upbound on Lake Michigan in the evening. After two day’s worth of effort, the Hon. James L. Oberstar was released late Saturday from the ice that had kept her at her layup dock. She is expected to load in Escanaba.

Cleveland, Ohio
The cement carrier Alpena departed Cleveland about 10 a.m. Saturday assisted by a G tug breaking ice. Saturday night the Alpena was docked at the Lafarge terminal in Detroit with an AIS destination of her namesake port of Alpena.


Lookback #119 – Manchester Courage rammed lock gate on March 16, 1969

3/16 - The career of the Manchester Courage did not get off to a good start. The vessel had been completed at Middlesborough, England, in February 1969 and got into trouble 45 years ago today.

The 498-foot-long container carrier had gone to Manchester to load for Montreal and was outbound when it rammed the lock gate of the Manchester Canal at Irlam on March 16, 1969. The structure was damaged and the lock was out of action for about a month trapping seven ships on the inland side while repairs were being made.

Manchester Courage was part of the historic Manchester Liners fleet that sent many of their vessels into the Great Lakes in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. However, as a container carrier, Manchester Courage stopped at Montreal where the cargo was, for a time, transshipped through the Seaway on the small shuttle type container carriers of the 1970s such as Manchester Rapido and Manchester Mercurio.

After a decade of transatlantic service, the ship was sold and renamed Pacific Endeavour in 1979 and then Hangkwai in 1989, MSC Marina also in 1989 and City of Limassol in 1992. The latter was scrapped at Alang, India, shortly after arriving on April 28, 1992.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 16

Today in Great Lakes History March 16 On 16 March 1901, ARGO (steel passenger/package freight propeller, 173 foot, 1,089 gross tons) was launched at the Craig Ship Building Company (Hull #81) at Toledo, Ohio, for the A. Booth Company. She left the Lakes in 1917, and was last recorded in 1938, out of Brest, France.

BUFFALO (Hull#721) was launched March 16, 1978, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp., for the American Steamship Co.

On 16 March 1883, The Port Huron Times announced that the passenger and package freight steamer PICKUP would be built in Marine City, Michigan and would run on the St. Clair River between Port Huron and Algonac. The machinery from the burned steamer CARRIE H. BLOOD was to be installed in her. In fact, her construction was completed that year and she went into service in September 1883. Her dimensions were 80 foot x 19 foot x 7 foot, 137 gross tons, 107 net tons.

The Niagara Harbor & Dock Company, a shipbuilding firm, was incorporated on 16 March 1831, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

On 16 March 1886, the tug MOCKING BIRD was sold by Mr. D. N. Runnels to Mr. James Reid of St. Ignace, Michigan. Mr. Runnels received the tug JAMES L. REID as partial payment.

1924: MOHAWK of the Western Transit Co. was known as a fast ship. It was built at Detroit in 1893 and was renamed AMERICA in 1916. It was cut in two to exit the Great Lakes and re-assembled at Montreal for East Coast service. The ship was renamed BERMUDEZ in 1921 and sank in the Erie Basin at Brooklyn on March 16, 1924, with the stern resting on the bottom and the bow afloat. The hull was pumped out but scrapped at New York in January 1925.

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


Slow going in Mackinac Straits ice

3/15 - The USCG icebreaker Mackinaw spent most of the day escorting the tug Joyce L VanEnkevort and her barge Great Lakes Trader across northern Lake Michigan from Lansing Shoal to White Shoal. Around 7:30 pm, they were joined by the USCG icebreaker Neah Bay, which departed from St. Ignace around 3 pm.

In radio traffic just before 6 pm, the Mackinaw noted that conditions a couple of miles west of White Shoal were much tougher than when the Mackinaw had transited westbound just recently. The VanEnkevort was unable to build up enough speed to keep moving in the track, and she was stopped by some tight spots and had to be broken out.

One issue is slight bends in the track, which the Mackinaw was trying to straighten out. However the real culprit is the heavy accumulation of brash ice that has been broken and refrozen multiple times with freighter traffic and icebreaking activities in December, January and February. The Mackinaw described the ice west of White Shoal as very thick and very tight.

When asked about the possibility of cutting a fresh track north of the current track, the Mackinaw replied that this was indeed planned, and that it looked like it would happen this coming weekend after escorting the VanEnkevort eastbound. A cleaner track would be cut through plate ice.

At 8 pm Friday, the vessels were around 2.5 nautical miles west of White Shoal, the Mackinaw made a high-speed pass down the port side of the stuck VanEnkevort, came across her stern and then up her starboard side to free her. The new plan was to cut a double-wide short track that jogs to the north to get out of the brash ice and then cut a new straight track through plate ice at the same base heading as the original track which is 097.

By 9:30 pm the new parallel track appeared to be working well, and the VanEnkevort reached a speed of 5 knots. Apparently, the Mackinaw is planning to cut the new track all the way to the Mackinac Bridge, and the CG icebreaker Neah Bay is returning eastbound on the original track if its assistance not needed this time. The new track appears to be around 200-300 yards north of the old track.

The VanEnkevort slowed to 1.1 knots in one tight spot on the new track and after regaining some speed came to a stop around 9:15 pm, so the Mackinaw has turned back to assist. Both captains agreed that any speed at all was a good speed for the day.

Robert Bemben


Port Reports -  March 15

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. -
On Thursday the James L. Oberstar was schedule to leave Bay Ship but was trapped in the slip because of the thick ice. Three tugs could not break her free, with the Oberstar running her propeller to help push it out of the slip. Yard crews were expected to try to break up the ice with heavy weights suspended from the cranes. They quit early evening and were going to try to break out the Oberstar on Friday morning, an effort that was also unsuccessful. Wilfred Sykes is scheduled to head out for Escanaba Saturday.


Rand acquires tanker for conversion to self-unloader

3/15 - Port Dover, Ont. – Rand Logistics, Inc. has announced the acquisition of a Danish flagged chemical tanker that will be converted to a Canadian flagged river class self-unloader. The tanker is the Lalandia Swan.

The new vessel will support recent new long-term contract awards that begin in April 2015. The acquisition and conversion of this vessel is consistent with Rand's strategy of remaining the leader in both the U.S. and Canadian river class markets on the Great Lakes and reaffirms the company's commitment to support the growth of its customers.

"We have secured substantial long-term, contractual new business beginning in April 2015 for our Canadian flagged operations," commented Scott Bravener, president of Lower Lakes Towing.

"The new tonnage that we have secured is in addition to the more than 250 sailing days of new business that we have been awarded for the 2014 sailing season and have previously announced. We are in the final stages of negotiating the shipyard contract to convert the vessel into a Canadian self-unloader and currently plan to introduce this new vessel into service during the second half of calendar 2015.

"When introduced into service, the new vessel will have the largest carrying capacity of any existing Canadian river class self-unloader and will be the most efficient river class vessel on the Great Lakes."

Upon conversion, this vessel will be the first new Canadian-flagged river class self-unloader introduced into service on the Great Lakes in over 40 years. Once introduced into service, this vessel will increase the size of Rand's fleet to 17, including 10 Canadian flagged and 7 U.S. flagged vessels.

The conversion will take place in a Chinese yard and appears to involve mounting a new forebody with a bow mounted self-unloading system to the tanker’s original stern. The tanker was built in 1991.

Marine Link


Indiana Harbor dredging to resume

3/15 - Indiana Harbor, Ind. – An estimated 180,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment is scheduled to be removed from the Indiana Harbor and Canal starting in April. Staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and dredging contractors Kokosing Construction Co. and O’Brien & Gere discussed the dredging and air monitoring aspects of the project at a Thursday meeting.

Since 2012, the project has dredged roughly 400,000 cubic yards of sediment out of an estimated backlog of 1.6 million cubic yards and stored it in a confined disposal facility. Prior to 2012, dredging hadn’t occurred in 40 years because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that the previous open-water disposal method was unacceptable.

The canal is part of the EPA’s Grand Calumet River Area of Concern because of its historical contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycylclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals.

Aaron Harke, a project manager with the Durocher Marine division of Kokosing, said the dredging start date depends on ice conditions on Lake Michigan. A boat that is used in the project is moored in Chicago with no way to get it to East Chicago, he said.

O’Brien & Gere operations manager Scott McQueen and site technician Scott Peterson said air quality at the combined disposal facility hasn’t been an issue.

McQueen said the only troublesome event occurred on June 20, 2013, when a machine kicked up dust and caused a particulate problem, but the contractor was notified and water was used to tamp down the dust.

In addition to the four monitoring stations at the disposal area, Harke said workers at the dredging site wear badges that collect compounds in the air that are shipped off to a lab daily.

“But they have never exceeded one-tenth of the allowable average,” he said.

Brian Kootstra, a civil engineer with the Army Corps, said dredging tends to occur closest to the lake, where the harbor sees the most traffic and more sediment is created.

Harke said the dredging will go on until funds allocated by Congress run out, but he admitted that the funding doesn’t fully address the backlog. “If funding stays this way, it will never be finished and it will always be maintenance dredging,” he said. “Sediment always accumulates.”

John Bakota, who is on the board of the East Chicago Waterway Management District, is happy about the dredging but wishes it was being done environmental reasons rather than a navigational ones because it could better deal with issues such as oil sheens on the Lake George section of the canal, east of Indianapolis Boulevard.

The EPA is investigating the source of the oil, which was present before the dredging started, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Lovell, the Army Corps’ deputy commander of its Chicago District.

Post Tribune


Help wanted: Boat cruise company

3/15 - Full time captain for a boat cruise on Lake Superior in Marquette, Mich. Competitive wages and flexible hours are offered. Must be prepared to conduct a narration and enjoy working with the public. Captains must possess a 100-ton endorsement. Please send all inquiries/resumes to: PO Box 207, Marquette, MI 49855 or


Lookback #118 – Former Saranac sank under tow on March 15, 1920

3/15 - Saranac was considered by some as one of the “best proportioned” ships on the Great Lakes. The steel package freighter was built at Cleveland in 1890 and joined the Lehigh Valley Transportation Co. for service between Buffalo and Chicago. Later, Duluth was added as a destination.

The 308-foot-long steamer was acquired by the United States Shipping Board in 1917 and cut in two at Buffalo for exiting the Great Lakes. The sections were reassembled at Lauzon and the rebuilt ship headed to saltwater for coastal service at the end of World War One.

On the way south, Saranac ran aground in Halifax harbor but was soon released and sailed on.

After the war, the ship was reported as sold to Chilean interests and renamed Mingela. It was sold again in 1920 becoming Yungai but was soon in trouble. The vessel began leaking on March 13, 1920, on a voyage from Havana, Cuba, to New York with general cargo and was taken in tow. Unfortunately, the old Saranac foundered at sea, about 100 miles off the coast of Georgia, 94 years ago today.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 15

WESTCLIFFE HALL (Hull#519) was launched March 15, 1956, at Grangemouth, Scotland, by Grangemouth Dockyard Co. Ltd., for the Hall Corp. of Canada.

March 15, 1949 - The Ann Arbor carferry fleet was laid up due to a strike called by the boat crews. The fleet was idled until March 22nd.

On 15 March 1882, GRACE PATTERSON (wooden propeller tug/freighter, 111 tons, built in 1880, at Grand Haven, Michigan) was carrying lumber and lath when she stranded near Two Rivers Point, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. She caught fire and was totally destroyed. Lifesavers rescued the crew.

Mr. Russell Armington died on 15 March 1837. He operated the first shipyard at St. Catharines, Ontario from 1828, until his death.

On 15 March 1926, SARNOR (wooden propeller freighter, 228 foot, 1,319 gross tons, built in 1888, at W. Bay City, Michigan, formerly BRITANNIC) caught fire at Kingston, Ontario near the La Salle Causeway. She burned to a total loss.

1942: The first SARNIADOC of the Paterson fleet was lost with all hands on the Caribbean en route from Trinidad to the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was apparently torpedoed by U-161 in the night hours of March 14-15, 1942, while in the south for the wartime bauxite trade.

1969: The bulk carrier ALEXANDER T. WOOD, remembered by many for its regular early Seaway service in the ore and grain trades as well as for a collision with the Finnish flag freighter MARIA in the Detroit River on August 12, 1960, was lost on this day in 1969 as VAINQUER. The latter had been to the Great Lakes in 1968 but sank following a boiler room explosion in the Gulf of Mexico with the loss of one life. It was en route from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to New Orleans with a cargo of sugar.

1976: The rail car barge HURON rolled over and sank at the Windsor dock due to an uneven deck load. The 1875 vintage vessel had operated across the Detroit River as a steamer until March 1971 and then as a barge. It was refloated and returned to service.

1980: The Liberian vessel FRATERNITY was built in 1963. It visited the Great Lakes in 1967 and operated briefly as ARYA NIKU in 1975-1976 before becoming FRATERNITY again under Greek registry. Fire broke out in #1 and #2 cargo holds en route from Hamburg to Karachi on this date in 1980. An explosion followed the next day and the crew abandoned the ship in the Red Sea. The hull was beached March 17 around the border of Eritrea and Sudan but was refloated April 1 and deemed a total loss. After unloading at Sharjah, the hull was towed to Gadani Beach, Pakistan, arriving at the scrapyard on May 19, 1981.

1984: The Greek freighter ELINA likely made only one trip to the Great Lakes, coming inland in 1982 to load frozen meat at Kenosha, WI. It laid up at Emden, West Germany, on June 13, 1983, only to catch fire on March 15, 1984. The damage was extensive and the hull was towed into Gijon, Spain, for scrapping on April 23, 1984.

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


Algocanada clears St. Marys River ice

3/14 - The USCG cutters Neah Bay and Katmai Bay began breaking out the Algocanada about 8 a.m. Thursday for the final push to break the tanker clear of the St. Marys River. At 11 a.m. they were downbound on Lake Huron with the Katmai Bay escorting Algocanada. Neah Bay continued westbound into the Straits to the USCG base in St. Ignace.

It was a long trip for Algocanada, which entered the St. Mary River upbound on Feb. 26. Normally the trip would take six hours each way, plus a few days to unload. This time it took 15 days.


Icebreaking in Green Bay and the Straits

3/14 - Joseph L. Block was escorted by the tug Erika Kobasic across Green Bay into Escanaba on Thursday. She arrived to load taconite at 9:30 a.m., sharing the dock with Roger Blough. The Thursday, the USCG Mackinaw resumed icebreaking with the Joyce L. VanEnkevort / Great Lakes Trader, stuck off Seul Choix Point at the beginning of a very heavy ice pack. They battled the ice and made very slow progress, only covering about 10 miles after working all day. About 8 p.m. they were picking up speed, but hit a spot that stopped the Joyce L. about five miles west of Lansing Shoal Light at 9:30. They stopped for the night about 11 p.m. after making about 20 miles in 16 hours.


St. Marys River, Lower West Neebish Channel ice breaking to begin

3/14 - The United States Coast Guard will start breaking ice in the lower West Neebish Channel at 8 a.m. on Monday in preparation for the 2014 shipping season. The Coast Guard intends to break ice in the lower end of the West Neebish Channel from Mud Lake Junction Light to the Rock Cut’s Lower Dam, which will include the destruction of the two lower Neebish Island ice bridges. U.S. Coast Guard officials are working with EUPTA officials to ensure the ferries are able to operate throughout this phase of the break out operation. The upper ice bridge located north of the ferry crossing will not be disturbed.


Lookback #117 – Former Milly last reported in on March 14, 1962

3/14 - The Liberian freighter Milly was already 44 years old when it made its one and only trip to the Great Lakes in 1959. The ship had been built at Stockton, England, and completed in July 1915 as Porthcawl. It was renamed Claymont in 1920, Loke in 1928 and Milly in 1950.

The 295-foot-long cargo ship was sold again in 1961 becoming e) Generous and f) Hedia in 1962.

Hedia departed Casablanca, Morocco, with a cargo of phosphate for Venice, Italy, on March 10, 1962, and last reported in 62 years ago today. The ship was near Galita Island, north of Tunisia, at the time and was never heard from again. It was initially posted as "missing" and then "lost with all hands.”

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 14

March 14, 1959 - The ANN ARBOR NO 6 returned to service as the b.) ARTHUR K ATKINSON after an extensive refit.

In 1880, the harbor tug GEORGE LAMONT sank with her crew of three off Pentwater, Michigan after being overcome by weather during a race with her rival, the harbor tug GEM. The LAMONT was the only steamer to disappear with all hands during the many races that took place among steamers during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

On 14 March 1873, the new railroad carferry SAGINAW went into the Port Huron Dry Dock Company's dry dock where her engine was installed along with her shaft and propeller. Workmen had to break up the ice in the dry dock to release the schooner MARY E. PEREW so that work could begin on the SAGINAW. The work was done quickly since SAGINAW was needed to fill in for a disabled ferry in Detroit. Mr. Francois Baby was granted a "ferry lease" between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan on 14 March 1843. He built the steamer ALLIANCE for this ferry service and Capt. Tom Chilvers was the skipper. In 1851, Capt. Chilvers leased the steamer from Mr. Baby and ran it on the same route until the late 1850s.

On 14 March 1878, the first vessel of the navigation season passed through the Straits of Mackinac. This was the earliest opening of the navigation season at the Straits since 1854.

1918 ISLAND QUEEN, a wooden-hulled Toronto Island ferry, was destroyed by a fire at Hanlan's Point in Toronto. The ship was valued at $25,000 and the hull was left to rot.

1962: MILLY made one trip through the Seaway in 1959. It had been launched at Stockton, CA on May 13, 1915, as PORTHCAWL and became d) MILLY in 1950. The 295 foot freighter, sailing as f) HEDIA, last reported March 14 near Galita Island on the Mediterranean close to Malta and en route from Casablanca, Morocco, to Venice, Italy, with a cargo of phosphate. It was posted as missing and then lost with all hands.

1993: The Freedom Class freighter SHAMALY was a year old when it came through the Seaway in 1969. It returned December 1, 1990, as c) WALVIS BAY for Ogdensburg, NY to load corn gluten The 9650 gross ton freighter ran aground south of Greece off Cape Morakis in 1993 en route from Piraeus to Scotland as d) LIPARIT BAY. The hull was not worth repairing and sold for scrap. Renamed e) NORA for the delivery tow, it arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, April 4, 1994, for dismantling and work began May 16.

1999: The Panamanian freighter EVANGELIA PETRAKIS was built in Muroran, Japan, in 1978 as N.J. PATERAS. It came through the Seaway in 1988 and was renamed c) AMER VED in 1990. It survived a grounding off Horsetail Bank, UK on November 19, 1996, only to suffer serious damage in a collision with the newly built, 57,947 gross ton, Maltese flag tanker SEAPRIDE I off Khor Fakkan, United Arab Emirates. The damage to the 21-year old freighter was not worth repairs so it arrived at Alang, India, for scrapping on June 19, 1999.

1964: MARIA G.L. went aground at Suno Saki, Japan, about 30 miles south of Yokohama, in fog. This Liberty ship had been a Great Lakes trader in 1961. It was enroute from Long Beach, California, to Chiba, Japan, with a cargo of phosphates and broke in two as a total loss.

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


Icebreaking continues as Escanaba opens season

3/13 - Wednesday the USCG Mackinaw began breaking ice at 7 a.m., breaking a track into Escanaba. About 9 a.m. the Biscayne Bay left Escanaba, where she had spent the night, and headed downbound, working the track that the Mackinaw had broken. At noon, the Mackinaw escorted the tug Joyce L. VanEnkevort and barge Great Lakes Trader out of Escanaba downbound on Green Bay. About 2 p.m. the Mackinaw let the Joyce L. pass and waited to assist the Roger Blough. The Joyce L. continued onto Lake Michigan heading for the Straits of Mackinac.

The Blough arrived late Wednesday afternoon at the CN ore dock on her first trip of the season. The Mackinaw departed and headed out of Green Bay following the Joyce L. on Lake Michigan eastbound.

Joseph L. Block departed the Sturgeon Bay shipyard about 6 p.m. Wednesday with the tugs Jimmy L. and Manitou escorting. They turned and were outbound behind the tug Manitou to Lake Michigan. At 10 p.m. they were a half-mile from the lake, after having to back and ram through ice. They finally cleared the ship canal at 10:30.

Farther north, the Mackinaw caught up to the Joyce. L., which was stuck off Seul Choix Point, and began breaking out the tug and barge.  They stopped operations for the night at 11 p.m. and will try again in the morning.

On the St. Marys River Wednesday, Algocanada continued to make progress in the lower river, assisted by Coast Guard’s Neah Bay and Katmai Bay. Together they broke through the thick ice field in Mud Lake. The two cutters, working in tandem, have advanced the tanker past Lime Island Wednesday afternoon to a position abeam of Fort St Joseph before stopping for the night at 7:15 p.m.

Rod Burdick and BoatNerd staff


Lake Superior, Great Lakes ice breaking up

3/13 - Duluth, Minn. – The frigid winter of 2014 threw its best at Lake Superior, but the big lake was just too stubborn to freeze over completely. Satellite photographs over the past few days show ice on Lake Superior beginning to diminish, with vast areas of open water along the North Shore and fissures developing across the lake.

“It appears that the ice cover on the Great Lakes is starting to break up and recede with the warm air temperatures and higher winds we are having,’’ George Leshkevich, Great Lakes ice expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the News Tribune on Tuesday.

Lake Superior peaked at about 95 percent ice cover, both in mid-February and again in early March. But the lake ice had diminished to an estimated 91 percent on Monday, the most recent analysis.

Experts noted that lake ice developed and expanded quickly this winter when Superior appeared on the way to its first ice-over since 1996. But continued strong winds, an increasingly higher and more powerful sun angle, and a blast of warm weather in the past week thwarted those chances.

Collectively, the Great Lakes dropped from a peak of about 91 percent ice cover to an estimated 84 percent in the most recent analysis. Lakes Ontario, Michigan and Superior always held large areas of open water. Lakes Huron and Erie came closest to complete ice-over, with ice cover estimated at more than 95 percent.

Lake ice is expected to hold fast for some time at the extreme western tip and around the Apostle Islands, as well as at the eastern tip of Lake Superior and in channels and harbors.

Ensign Barton Nanney, public affairs officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alder stationed in Duluth, said harbor ice averages about 3 feet thick but was up to 4 feet thick in parts of the harbor during exercises Monday. The Alder found much thinner ice on Lake Superior. The cutter easily reached open water about seven miles out from the Aerial Lift Bridge, Nanney said.

The Soo Locks will open March 25 and, barring any ice difficulties, upper Great Lakes vessels should be moving again by that date. Great Lakes shipping interests have predicted slow going for the first days of the shipping season because of the ice.

Combined, the Great Lakes had their greatest ice coverage since the 1970s, thanks to near record low temperatures from December through February, including Duluth’s second-coldest meteorological winter on record.

Leshkevich said ice on the southerly Great Lakes generally peaks in mid- to late February, while peaking in late February or early March on the upper lakes.

Duluth News Tribune


Soo Locks Visitors Center Association will mark Opening Day

3/13 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The Soo Locks Visitors Center Association will celebrate the official opening of the Soo Locks on March 25 with an open house in the Soo Locks Visitor Center from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Come by and visit, share stories and pictures, and see the changes taking place at the Visitor Center. Coffee and snacks will be served.

Jim Carrick


Making waves, making changes at Grayfox

3/13 - Port Huron, Mich. – The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet ship Grayfox might be hemmed in by ice, but plans for the boat’s improvement and certification are in motion.

The former torpedo retriever stationed in Port Huron since 1997 is being spruced up for certification by the U.S. Coast Guard. The ship is used to train Naval Sea Cadets.

“It’s always been an informal certification,” said Jim Semerad, commanding officer for the Grayfox. “I have determined that we need to go through this formal certification process, because the ship is training cadets and we should be a model for every ship in the Great Lakes, and if we are going to be a model, we need to set a very high standard.”

Thousands of area and visiting Sea Cadets have trained on the ship, which was used to retrieve torpedoes in the Bahamas from around 1986 to 1996.

Sea Cadets are youths ages 13 to 17 who participate in leadership and seamanship training. Part of their training includes two-week trips on the Grayfox where they learn ship handling, navigation, engineering and mess duties.

The St. Clair County Sheriff Dive Team was hard at work Sunday near the Grayfox’s mooring at the south end of the Blue Water River Walk.

The team dove through the ice and under the ship’s hull to take thickness readings on the hull and clean off some zebra mussels attached to the bottom. Dive team chief Wayne Brusate said the crew used the task as training.

“They’re going to dry dock sometime in the spring, and anything we can do ahead of time, we’ll help them out,” Brusate said.

Semerad said the dry dock maintenance period in the spring will be used to bring the ship up to code.

Other recent changes have been made to the management of the Grayfox.

At the end of January, Semerad was made commanding officer of the Grayfox, a position that had remained vacant since the death of former Commanding Officer Bill Barnhardt in September. “We can’t operate the ship without a commander,” Semerad said. “I had agreed to step in.

“I’m working on my captain’s license, because if I’m going to command the ship, I’m going to need my captain’s license.”

Sea cadets resumed training on the ship in November and will continue to do so through renovations, Semerad said.

The ship’s ownership also was changed from the Naval Sea Cadet Corps to the Grayfox Association.

Semerad said the change was necessary to keep up with the ship’s filing status as a not-for-profit organization. Some of the bylaws also have been changed, but Semerad said the mission of the ship remains the same.

“The Grayfox will continue the mission to educate and train youth in maritime operations, character, and service,” Semerad said in an email. “It will continue to support maritime and youth organizations and retain the strong relationship with the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.”

Changes also are in store for the pier where the Grayfox is moored.

“That ramp will be level and it will have a brand new deck on it, a viewing station where cadets can actually stand and be inspected,” Semerad said.

The design of the deck and pilings “will represent an artistic maritime theme,” Semerad said.

He will be meeting with Smith Group JJR to discuss plans for the area March 25.

Smith Group JJR is the same design company the Community Foundation of St. Clair County used to design the Blue Water River Walk, said Randy Maiers, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.

“We’re excited that they’re showing some new enthusiasm for the Grayfox,” Maiers said.

“Knowing that they’re using the company that designed our river walk, we’re pretty confident we’re going to like what they come up with.”

Maiers said the community foundation owns the area where the Grayfox moors, and leases the location to the Grayfox for one dollar a year.

He said any plans for the area will have to be approved by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County to ensure it meshes with the aesthetic of the river walk.

Any improvements to the area would be funded by the Grayfox, Maiers said.

Semerad said he is in the process of pursuing grants and private funding for the renovations and improvements to the Grayfox.

The Grayfox also is used for Canadian Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, training for U.S. Navy Reserve and the Michigan Navy Recruiting District and Coast Guard operations in the area.

Port Huron Times Herald


Lookback #116 – Shipbroker ablaze after collision on March 13, 1994

3/13 - The Bosporus Strait is one of the busiest waterways in the world and a collision there twenty years ago today ended the careers of two vessels. One, Shipbroker, had been a Seaway trader under two names.

The other vessel was the 907-foot, two-inch-long tanker Nassia. It had been built at Sestao, Spain, in 1976 and was outbound with oil from Novorossisk, Russia, to Genoa, Italy, when the accident occurred.

The fluid spread to both ships and they erupted in flames. Three sailors on board Nassia perished but 29 of the 33 sailors aboard Shipbroker also died.

The blazing 605 foot long bulk carrier, en route from Chalkis, Greece, to Novorossisk, drifted ashore on the Asian side of the strait near Beykoz, Turkey, and burned for days. Eventually burned out, the hull was sold for scrap and arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, under tow for dismantling on December 3, 1994. Nassia was also a total loss and it too ended up on the beach for scrapping at Aliaga, arriving earlier on April 20, 1994.

Shipbroker had been built at Varna, Bulgaria, and completed as Ocean Seagull in January 1980. It began service under the flag of Liberia and was upbound in the Seaway for the first time on July 3, 1980. It returned subsequently until becoming Shipbroker in 1986. The latter made its first appearance on the Great Lakes in November 1991 headed for Cleveland, Detroit and Duluth. It was inbound for the final time on Sept. 27, 1993, with its destination listed as Burns Harbor.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 13

The keel for the tanker IMPERIAL REDWATER (Hull#106) was laid March 13, 1950, at Port Arthur, Ontario, by Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co. She was converted to a bulk freighter at Collingwood, Ontario and renamed b.) R. BRUCE ANGUS in 1954. The ANGUS operated for Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., until she was scrapped at Setubal, Portugal in 1985.

On March 13, 1989, the Rouge Steel Co. announced the sale of its marine operations to Lakes Shipping, Cleveland (Interlake Steamship, mgr.).

1994: SHIPBROKER was built at Varna, Bulgaria, in 1980 as OCEAN SEAGULL and came through the Seaway that year on July 3. It was renamed SHIPBROKER in 1986 and made its maiden voyage to the Great Lakes on November 19, 1991. The ship was in a collision with the Cypriot tanker NASSIA in the Bosporus Strait on March 14, 1994, and caught fire. It burned for days and 29 members of the crew of 33 plus four on the tanker, were lost. Following a sale for scrap, the gutted bulk carrier arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, under tow on December 3, 1994, and dismantling began April 5, 1995.

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



Icebreaking efforts continued Tuesday; Algocanada still having trouble

3/12 - USCG Mackinaw and Biscayne Bay travelled through the Straits overnight and arrived off Green Bay Tuesday morning. The Biscayne Bay escorted the Roger Blough onto Green Bay, while the Mackinaw continued upbound off the Wisconsin shore heading for the Sturgeon Bay ship canal. There, Mackinaw joined the USCG Mobile Bay and spent the day breaking out the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and Sturgeon Bay.

The Blough became stuck in ice north west of Washington Island about 8:30 a.m. While the Blough was stopped the Biscayne Bay slugged through the ice heading for Escanaba. By 8 p.m. the Biscayne Bay was approaching Escanaba, taking almost 12 hours to cover 15 miles. Mackinaw departed the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and headed to assist the Blough reaching her position about 11:30 p.m. for the slow trip up Green Bay.

On the St. Marys River, the Neah Bay joined the Algocanada in Mud Lake, where the tanker has been stopped since Sunday, at about 1:30 p.m. Neah Bay worked close escort with the Algocanada but progress was measured in feet. By nightfall they had moved a few ship lengths downriver.


Lake Michigan's ice cover has set a record

3/12 - The federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor reports that ice spread across 93.29 percent of the lake's surface area on Saturday. That eclipsed the previous high of 93.1 percent in 1977.

The 37-year-old record was broken just before moderating temperatures began shrinking Great Lakes ice. At one point last week, the ice cover reached 92.2 percent for the entire five-lake system, second only to the 94.7 percent high reached in February 1979. On Monday night, it had dropped to 83.9 percent.

Lake Michigan fell to 77.1 percent Monday.

Detroit Free Press


Ice jams Lake Erie fishery

3/12 - Port Stanley, Ont. – Five weeks after a church service held each year in Port Stanley to bless their nets for a safe and bountiful season, local fishers have yet to get them wet. It could be April before the ice clears to allow Lake Erie fishers out of their winter ports. Erie, which boasts the largest of any of Ontario's Great Lakes commercial fisheries, is almost frozen over.

Mark Golem is among those who are biding their time. “This time last year, we were pretty well started,” says the 53-year-old Port Stanley fisher who has been on the lake since high school. “There's so much ice out there, this season's going to be a later start. It could be the first of April.”

However, Golem is far from idle, mending nets and maintaining machinery. “We're like farmers. There's always something to do,” he said.

And when the ice clears and the fishers get out, the late start of the season will be just another memory like the late start he recalls a dozen years ago. Golem doesn't expect the harsh winter of 2013-2014 will be a detriment.

Dennis Cartier agrees. In fact, the secretary-treasurer of Blenheim-based Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association says that if anything, the ice covering Lake Erie could benefit future catches by reducing the population of gizzard shad, an introduced species which preys on fingerling native fish like perch and walleye, also known as pickerel.

The warm-water gizzard shad needs a higher level of oxygenation than the ice-covered lake allows.

Like many things, the Lake Erie fishery isn't what it once was. At the peak of the commercial fishery in the mid-'80s, there were almost 170 fish boats – called tugs – sailing out of ports on the lake's north shore.

The association doesn't have a ready count but recently-named executive director Jane Graham agrees with reports the number today is less than 50. “The industry has consolidated,” Graham says.

The tugs are concentrated in Wheatley -- the largest inland fishing centre in the world, Graham says – in Chatham-Kent as well as Kingsville in Essex, Port Stanley and Port Dover in Norfolk, along with smaller centres. The fish they catch are consumed locally and shipped to the U.S. and Europe. In addition to smelt, yellow perch and pickerel most familiar to local palates, another dozen species make up the commercial fishery.

Last year, fishers landed $25.8 million worth of fish. That was down from $31.8 million in 2012. Cartier says reduced catch following a reduction in quota, and lower prices are to blame. A stronger Canadian dollar also hurt export earnings.

The association, whose membership includes fishers and processors and others, currently is updating decade-old data on the size of the industry and its direct and indirect contribution to the provincial economy.

This year's wild winter weather may be the least of their concern.

In addition to a perennial question of quota – the annual limit to be set at the end of the month by the Canada-U.S. agency on their allowed catch – Graham says her industry also faces some same issues as others. She cites the cost of electricity needed in processing, and the price of fuel.

All the same, Golem says he has no second thoughts about the way of life he chose as a teen.

“It's worked out good for me. There's been some trying times but that's the same with any business.”

St. Thomas Times-Journal


Men journey from Glen Arbor to North Manitou Island on a frozen Lake Michigan

3/12 - One man dreamed of following in his father's footsteps, and that took him on a walk across the ice of Lake Michigan. In all, four men walked from Glen Arbor to North Manitou Island. It's a journey decades in the making.

Forty-some years ago, Bob Sutherland's father almost made it the whole way, and then was forced to turn around due to open water. Bob, along with three others, knew this winter would finally be their opportunity to make the trek once again.

"The last month it started to thicken," explained Sutherland, "And you saw less open patches and we made an attempt two weeks ago, and didn't get that far."

Last Thursday, the four men tried again.

"We started out pretty timidly, digging a lot of holes in the ice to check thickness and slowly we'd go further and further."

Dressed for the elements with safety gear packed on their backs, they knew what they were attempting was extremely dangerous.

"We had no idea that distance wise," said Tom Bisbee, "It was close to 7 or 8 miles, but when you're actually on the ice it means nothing, one foot in front of the other trying to be as cautious as possible.”

“It was absolutely incredible. I mean, this is one of the most beautiful places in the world really, and to be experiencing it in the middle of winter, with sheet ice everywhere, covered in snow, sparkling white, it was just magical out there, a winter wonderland," described Andrew Pritchard.

Once they made it to the island, their journey was only halfway over.

"We sat there and we took it in, but we also kept in the back of our mind, and really forefront of our mind that we had to make it back," said Andrew Moore.

With the sunset, then stars, as a backdrop to their walk home, they say they can only describe their epic adventure as a once in a lifetime experience.

"To be standing on the water out there as it were, it was just a remarkable experience, we'll remember it for a lifetime."


Lookback #115 – Exanthia struck a mine in the Mediterranean on March 12, 1947

3/12 - While World War Two had been over for almost two years, but there were still undetected rogue mines floating around the oceans and seas. The C2-S-A1 general cargo freighter Exanthia managed to find one drifting on the Mediterranean, about 12 miles from the island of Elba, 67 years ago today.

The vessel, part of the American Export Lines, was on a voyage from New York to Istanbul, Turkey, when the explosion occurred. The hull began to flood and the crew abandoned ship but it remained afloat. After the wind blew Exanthia away from the mine field, it was towed to Elba and beached.

The 420-foot-long steamer was reboarded, unloaded and refloated later in the month. Following a tow to Genoa, Italy, the damage was repaired enough to allow another tow across the Atlantic for permanent work. This began in July and they made a brief stop at Gibraltar to take care of further leaking and another in Halifax on September 19, 1947, before the tug Joseph P. Moran completed the voyage into New York.

Exanthia resumed saltwater service and, in 1959, made two visits to the Great Lakes via the newly opened Seaway. It was back on three occasions in 1960 and four more times in 1961. The vessel later joined the James River Reserve Fleet and was idle there when sold for scrap in May 1973. Following a tow to Brownsville, Texas, the ship was scrapped in 1975.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 12

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 12

The b.) RUTH HINDMAN was launched March 12, 1910, as a.) NORWAY (Hull#115) at Toledo, Ohio by Toledo Shipbuilding Co., for the United States Transportation Co. She was scrapped at Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1978.

G.A. TOMLINSON was launched March 12, 1907, as a) D.O. MILLS (Hull#29) at Ecorse, Michigan, by Great Lakes Engineering Works for the Mesaba Steamship Co.

March 12, 1941 - The ferry CITY OF MIDLAND 41 arrived in Ludington, Michigan, on her maiden voyage. She loaded cars of paper at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and then picked up some cars of canned milk at Kewaunee, with Captain Charles Robertson in command.

On 12 March 1883, the steam barge R. MC DONALD was renamed IDA M. TORRENT.

1917: ALGONQUIN was built at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1888 and saw service for several companies on the Great Lakes. The ship was torpedoed by U-62 when it was 65 miles off Cornwall, England, while west of Bishop's Rock and en route from New York to London with general cargo. It was the first American merchant ship lost due to enemy action in World War One.

1942: ¬CRAIGROWNIE was a World War One Laker and had been launched at Ashtabula on April 12, 1919. It was sailing as d) OLGA when torpedoed by U-126, 20 miles off Nuevital Light, Cuba, while en route from Port Everglades, FL, to Beracoa, Cuba. One crewmember was lost but 32 were rescued and taken to Cuba.

1947: EXANTHIA struck a mine in the Mediterranean while 12 miles from the island of Elba while traveling from Istanbul to New York. The ship was flooded and abandoned but reboarded and eventually towed to New York for repairs. The ship sailed for the American Export Lines and came to the Great Lakes on nine occasions from 1959-1961. After a few years in the James River Reserve Fleet, the vessel was taken to Brownsville, Texas, in 1975 and broken up.

1971: SUNCLIPPER, a Seaway trader in 1966, was built in 1953 as BOW BRASIL. It ran aground at Haifa Bay as f) CLIPPER when the anchors dragged in a storm. The ship was refloated April 10, and taken to Perama, Greece. It was sold “as lies” to Turkish ship breakers, and arrived at Istanbul, Turkey, for scrapping on August 29, 1972.

1985: LETITIA was the 96th and final addition to the British flag Donaldson Line. It made four trips through the Seaway in 1966 and three more in 1967. It was sailing as d) TEPORA when it caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico en route to Veracruz, Mexico, on March 12, 1985. The Honduran-flagged freighter was abandoned by the crew. The fire was apparently extinguished and the vessel reboarded. It was taken in tow but the blaze broke out again and the ship sank on March 14.

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


Icebreaking efforts continued Monday; Algocanada still stuck

3/11 - 8:30 a.m. update - The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw departed its Cheboygan, Mich., homeport Monday after being down for maintenance. She wasted no time getting back into the fight, heading westbound into the heaviest ice in the western Straits of Mackinac. She made two passes breaking a track into the Coast Guard base at St. Ignace before continuing westbound. The USCG Biscayne Bay departed the base about 3:30 p.m., following the Mackinaw into the Straits. The two cutters continued working west bound into the night arriving off Green Bay Tuesday morning. The Biscayne Bay escorted the Roger Blough onto Green Bay while the Mackinaw continued upbound off the Wisconsin shore heading for the Sturgeon Bay ship canal. 

On the St. Marys River Monday morning, the Katmai Bay was working with the downbound tanker Algocanada, which remained stuck in the ice at Mud Lake. The 140-foot ice-breaking tug returned to her base in the Soo early that afternoon.

At Sturgeon Bay, the US Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay was icebreaking in the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and out to the Sherwood Point Light area to allow the first departure from the shipyard. CNN featured a live shot interview onboard the Mobile Bay showing the difficult conditions in which they are working.

Jerry Masson


Port Reports -  March 11

Twin Ports - D. Edward Clark
After the USCG Cutter Alder made a two-day run out the Superior entry on March 4-5, she was again breaking ice Monday in preparation of the fast-approaching shipping season. This time she headed out the Duluth entry.

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. - Mitch Custer
Ice has made it a three-day operation to move the James R. Barker out of the dry dock and move the Edgar B. Speer into it. They had to leave the Barker out in the ice overnight and then backed it into the slip next to the Cort. As of Monday, Selvick tugs were still working to get the Speer in the dry dock correctly. The USCG Mobile Bay has been busy breaking ice out into Sturgeon Bay as far as the Sherwood Point Lighthouse.

Milwaukee, Wis.
Roger Blough departed Milwaukee around noon Monday. She was headed north on the lake to load in Escanaba, at 11 p.m. she was off Kewaunee, Wis.


Mariners remember late SS Badger Captain Dean Hobbs

3/11 - Traverse City, Mich. – Hundreds gathered here over the weekend to remember a well-known Great Lakes captain. Dean Hobbs, master of the Lake Michigan carferry Badger, died five months ago at age 59 after suffering a heart attack. A special maritime memorial was held Saturday at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, where he learned his craft. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy Alumni Association has put together an award in his name to be given out each year to the mariner that the cadets think was the most helpful.

9 & 10 News


Lookback #114 – Explosion and fire aboard Shenango No. 1 on March 11, 1904

3/11 - An 8 a.m. explosion in the engine room set the ferry Shenango No. 1 on fire 110 years ago today. The ship had been caught in the ice off Conneaut, Ohio, on January 4, 1904. The 300-foot-long rail car ferry had managed to return inside the breakwall but was unable to reach the dock and had been locked in ice for nine weeks.

The blazing ship was destroyed and one member of the crew, an oiler, died. The loss of the vessel was set at $250,000.

Shenango No. 1, a wooden rail car ferry, had been built at Toledo in 1895. It first operated for the United States & Ontario Steam Navigation Co., a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh, Shenango & Lake Erie Railway. It traded across Lake Erie connecting with the Grand Trunk Railway at Port Dover, Ontario, carrying rail cars of coal north for the steel companies in Hamilton and returning with wood pulp and newsprint.

The ship also traveled to Port Burwell with coal destined for the railway hub in London, Ontario. It joined the Lake Erie & Detroit River Railway in 1899 and the Marquette & Bessemer Dock & Navigation Co. in 1903 with added calls to Erieau.

Never good in ice, the ship had been trapped for a month off Port Burwell in January 1899 before being fatally stuck five years later.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 11

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 11

The keel was laid March 11, 1976, for the 660-foot-long forward section of the BELLE RIVER (Hull#716) at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp. Renamed b.) WALTER J. McCARTHY JR in 1990.

L'AIGLE was launched March 11, 1982, as a.) ERRIA PILOT (Hull#308) at Imabari, Japan by Asakawa Zosen Co. Renamed b.) KOYAMA 3 in 1983, c.) IONIAN EAGLE in 1989. Purchased by Soconav in 1991, renamed d.) LÕAIGLE. Sold, renamed e.) ALAM KERISI in 1996, f.) SALDA in 1999, and sails today as the tanker g.) ARAL.

Sea trials were conducted on March 11, 1956, on Paterson's new canaller LACHINEDOC.

The tug RIVER QUEEN was sold to Ed Recor of St. Clair, Michigan on 11 March 1886.

1904: The wooden-hull Lake Erie car ferry SHENANGO NO. 1 caught fire and burned following an engine room explosion on March 11, 1904. The vessel had been frozen in the ice off Conneaut since January 1 and one member of the crew perished in the blaze.

1912: FLORA M. HILL sank in Lake Michigan en route to Chicago after being caught in an ice floe that crushed the iron hull. The vessel had been built as at Philadelphia in 1874 as the lighthouse tender DAHLIA and rebuilt and renamed at Milwaukee in 1910 for Lake Michigan service.

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


Monday icebreaking

3/10 - 4 p.m. update - The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw departed its home port of Cheboygan, Michigan Monday after being down for maintenance. She wasted no time getting back into the fight heading westbound into the heaviest ice in the western Straights of Mackinac. She made two passes breaking a track into the Coast Guard base at St. Ignace before continuing westbound. The Biscayne Bay departed the base about 3:30 following the Mackinaw into the Straights.

On the St. Marys River Monday morning the Katmai Bay was working with the downbound tanker Algocanada who remains stuck in the ice at Mud Lake. The 140-foot ice breaking tug returned to her base in the Soo early that afternoon.

At Sturgeon Bay the US Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay was icebreaking in the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and out to the Sherwood Point Light area to allow the first departure from the shipyard.   CNN feature a live shot interview onboard the Mobile Bay showing the difficult conditions they are working in.


Algocanada working down the St. Marys River

3/10 - The downbound tanker Algocanada and USCG Katmai Bay took a few hours Saturday to reach the bottom end of Neebish Island, it took them four days to cover that distance coming up river. The pair ran into heavier ice Sunday, but nightfall they were stopped in Munuscong Bay above the Junction Buoy.


Erie port to receive $1.52 million for dredging

3/10 - Washington, D.C. – The Port of Erie, Pa., is located on the southeast shore of Lake Erie in a natural bay formed and sheltered by Presque Isle peninsula. Its harbor entrance channel is narrow and 29 feet deep. Dredging is a constant concern. In fact, dredging of harbors around the Great Lakes has been a hot button issue for the maritime industry. Funding is provided by the Harbor Maintenance Tax, a user fee collected by the Federal government to ensure the adequate maintenance and operations of waterway infrastructure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On Tuesday, the Corps released its next fiscal year budget. It included an additional $25 million for Great Lakes harbors – $13.8 million of which will be dedicated to dredging. The Port of Erie is slotted to receive an additional $1.52 million toward maintenance dredging of their waterway.

Raymond Schreckengost, executive director of the port, applauded the news. “The simple fact is that without this allocation, we would be severely impacted in our operations,” he said. “These additional dollars are a direct result of our industry lobbying efforts and we look forward to working with the Corps on ensuring that our channel and turning basin, which is about 10-15 acres, are ready for the 2014 shipping season.”

Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair, a member of the Erie marine community and a business that depends upon adequate water depth for deep-water vessels to access the Lake Erie facility, will also benefit from the dredging.

“Since our creation in December of 2009, we have been making positive strides every year, with the help of our friends and business partners throughout the Erie area most importantly the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority to increase our business,” said President and CEO J. Arnold Witte.

“With the recent signing of a new build contract for a 185,000 barrel chemical barge, the future remains bright. This proposed dredging project will allow us to continue to be in a position to offer both new build and repair services to the U.S. and Great Lakes marine communities and will help Donjon Shipbuilding remain a positive contributor to the continued economic success of the region.”

Proper dredging of Erie Harbor is also critical to the operations of Carmeuse Lime & Stone Erie Sand & Gravel. Scott Rehder, area operations manager, said Erie Sand & Gravel depends on the harbor for inbound stone shipments via self-unloading vessels, project cargoes and other port activities by salt-water vessels, dredging operations by the J.S. St. John, and for vessels that come each winter for repairs.

“We have also secured a multi-year contract with the Corps of Engineers to provide beach sand to Presque Isle State Park that must be delivered by lake vessel through the Erie Harbor,” Rehder added.


New Cliffs CEO predicts good times for Iron Range mines

3/10 - Duluth, Minn. – In his first 100 days on the job, Gary Halverson closed Canada’s third largest iron ore mine, halted a chromite mining project in Ontario and worked to fend off a Wall Street demand that his company split up. Other than that, it was mostly uneventful for the new president and chief executive officer of Cliffs Natural Resources.

Halverson was on the Iron Range on Thursday, where his company operates three of Minnesota’s six major taconite iron ore operations, saying his company is “shrinking to grow’’ but predicting a good year for its part of the state’s taconite industry.

Halverson, speaking to Iron Range business and community leaders, said he expects U.S. automakers to build 16.5 million vehicles in 2014, 1 million more than 2013; that new construction should increase 6 to 8 percent this year; and that U.S. steel demand should increase 4 percent this year over last, creating a good market for his company’s taconite iron ore.

“We’re about back to full production at NorthShore (mining) and we expect to produce between 22 and 23 million tons of pellets this year’’ at U.S. operations, Halverson said, noting that’s up from 21 million tons in 2013.

The Ontario native and former gold-mining executive said all three of Cliffs’ Minnesota operations — Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite and NorthShore Mining — will be at virtually full capacity with stable employment in 2014. Moreover, the company’s Upper Michigan operations, Empire and Tilden, also will keep producing, with Halvorsen at the helm, as Cliffs inked a deal last month with ArcelorMittal USA that will keep Empire open into 2017, two years after it was scheduled to be closed.

With the company scaling back on global growth plans and cutting new spending in half from 2013, Halvorson intends to “focus on the core business of what we do; iron ore” as part of the company’s “drive to a leaner, more efficient organization.” But, Halverson said his company will continue to invest in its Iron Range operations, noting they are among the most cost-competitive in North America.

Cliffs said in February that it would close its Wabush iron ore mine in Newfoundland and Labrador and suspend efforts to build a second phase at its Bloom Lake iron ore mine in Quebec. Cliffs also owns an iron ore mine in Australia and coal mines in the U.S.

Halverson’s company was praised by several Iron Range officials Thursday at the company’s annual breakfast gathering for Cliff’s stable operations and investment in Minnesota. The company has 1,856 employees on the Range with a payroll of $251 million.

He also said his company stands ready to produce so-called DRI-ready taconite pellets that are made for electric arc steel mills, but so far hasn’t found a customer near enough to Minnesota to warrant shipping costs. Cliffs current pellet production is generally aimed at traditional blast furnaces on or near the Great Lakes. But electric arc “mini mills” now account for about 60 percent of the U.S. steel made. Halverson said tests of about 30,000 tons of low silica, DRI-ready pellets at NorthShore Mining went very well but that the company won’t start making the pellets until a customer signs on.

“There are no customers yet in our field of view,’’ Halvorsen said. “But it’s coming.”

He added that Cliffs was “well-positioned’’ for an upcoming increase in global taconite production, including the massive Roy Hill mine in Australia that will produce more than all U.S. mines combined. There’s also additional U.S. capacity expected within three years at the Essar Steel taconite plant in Nashwauk under construction and the proposed Gogebic taconite operation in Wisconsin.

Duluth News Tribune


Lake Superior within reach of historic average water levels, Corps projects

3/10 - Detroit, Mich. – Another month of snow, ice and freezing temperatures has led government experts to project water levels in the Great Lakes will rise more in the coming months than earlier estimated — and possibly get one lake back to its historic average.

A typical March could drive Lake Superior to match its historic average for the month for the first time in more than 15 years, according to estimates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released Wednesday. The last time the northernmost Great Lake was at its historic level was in April 1998.

Each year, as the collected snow and ice in the Great Lakes region begins to melt, it provides a seasonal boost for water levels in the spring and summer. And the ice buildup this year on the five lakes has been substantial, creating the potential for each to be several inches higher than it was last year, according to Army Corps of Engineer estimates.

For lakes Erie and Ontario, it could mean being within an inch or two of their historic averages from March till late summer.

Even with a large boost this year, Michigan and Huron are likely to remain several inches below their historical averages. The two lakes experienced their lowest water levels in roughly a century of recorded history in January 2013 following years of drought-like conditions and drier-than-usual winters and springs. But they should be in better condition compared with the same time last year for those who live and play on the lakes, such as shoreline property owners, recreational boaters and charter fishermen. Harbormasters and marina owners have worried about boats running aground in shallow waters, triggering a state-funded $21 million emergency dredging program for 58 harbors in Michigan. Shipping companies also have been concerned about restricted shipping channels.

Hydrologists use the snow water equivalent to measure the amount of liquid water waiting in the unmelted snow and ice. That estimate is larger in the Great Lakes this year than in years past.

On Wednesday, ice covered roughly 91 percent of the Great Lakes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It puts the Lakes within striking distance of the record of 94.8 percent set in 1994.

“The snow water equivalent in the Lake Michigan basin is 30 percent higher than at any other time over the last decade,” said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the Army Corps’ Detroit office. “We’re forecasting a 14-inch seasonal rise. But if we were to see a repeat of last spring’s very wet conditions with significant rainfall occurring, we could see a 20- to 22-inch seasonal rise in lakes Michigan and Huron.”

Six-month forecasts generated by the Army Corps raise the possibility that all but lakes Michigan and Huron could rise above their long-term averages by this summer. That’s only if the higher-end of precipitation estimates come to pass. And it’s no sure thing.

“There is always the chance that beyond that six-month window, a return to drier conditions could happen,” Kompoltowicz said. “That would lend themselves to water levels declining rather than gaining.”

In the report released Wednesday, lake levels in February were 3 inches to more than a foot higher than the same period a year ago in the five lakes and Lake St. Clair.

On Tuesday, one international group concerned about water loss in lakes Michigan and Huron called for additional steps to address the situation. Restore Our Water International called for the placement of structures in the St. Clair River to reduce the flow of water out of Lake Huron — a step the group has pushed for for years.

In April 2013, the advisory International Joint Commission urged the United States and Canada to consider creating artificial structures in the St. Clair River to raise water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron. The recommendation — estimated to boost water levels 5 to 10 inches — still would require the completion of a cost-benefit analysis and an environmental impact study.

“The foot-dragging by governments is unconscionable,” said Roger Gauthier, chair of ROWI and a retired Army Corps hydrologist.

“We recognize that this is a complex problem, but it is simply ‘paralysis by analysis.’ ”

Detroit News


Lake Erie levels expected to stabilize

3/10 - Lake Erie could create flooding concerns this spring, but experts at the Army Corps of Engineers predict that the lake’s water levels will remain close to the historic average.

The Army Corps of Engineers released its latest water level report Tuesday. The information contained the latest forecast of water levels for the Great Lakes and the current Great Lakes basin conditions.

Record cold temperatures, near-record ice cover and record-breaking snowfall are impacting water levels, with the possibility of significantly above-average seasonal rises for the second consecutive year.

Lake Superior is seeing a rise in water levels, but Lake Erie should see no real change, said Keith Kempoltowicz, chief of the watershed hydrology branch of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps took measurements of the surface of the lake above sea level in Toledo, Cleveland, Port Stanley and Port Colborne. Those measurements were compiled into a mean water level.

Lake Erie’s level was recorded at 570.69 feet, slightly above the average last year but below the long-term average of water levels from 1918 to 2013. Kempoltowicz said Lake Erie experienced no seasonal rise in 2012 and a decline in water level for several months. Since then, in 2013, the water level began to rise. Such a rise in water level could affect recreational boating and access to beach areas.

Although water levels are expected to remain generally unchanged, flooding could be a concern if the ice covering Lake Erie melts quickly, said George Leshkevich, a Great Lakes environmental researcher.

Leshkevich said Lake Erie is about 96 percent covered by ice, and if the ice melts quickly, it could lead to ice jams. Runoff could also be a concern if there is heavy rainfall, he said.

The city of Vermilion recently experienced massive ice jams in the river near Mill Hollow, leading to flooding around Riverside Drive and West River Road. Those residents were evacuated during the floods at the end of February.

Kempoltowicz said the ice coverage on Lake Erie is not record-breaking — it has neared 100 percent coverage in the past — but the ice could create navigational problems.

“The ice has proven to be very challenging in the western basin of Lake Erie,” he said.

Chronicle Online


“Know Your Ships” preorders begin

3/10 - Preorders for "Know Your Ships 2014," the popular annual field guide to boats and boatwatching on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, are now being accepted. Order now and the book will be shipped the same day it is received from the printer, around March 21.

Standard binding, spiral binding and a digital version for the iPhone or iPad are all available.

"Know Your Ships," now in its 55th year, is meant not only for those with a casual interest in the parade of nautical commerce that passes our shores, but also for more serious-minded individuals who have a passion for all the details about the ships that ply the inland seas.

Preview at


Obituary: William Clay Ford

3/10 - Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr., who spent 57 years as an employee and board member of Ford Motor Co., died Sunday of pneumonia in his Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, home.

Mr. Ford had a Great Lakes connection.

In 1953, the Ford Motor Co., which operated its own fleet of vessels on the Great Lakes carrying raw materials, added a new laker to its fleet and named it after William Clay Ford.

The vessel, built at River Rouge near Detroit, made the headlines in 1975 when her captain, the late Donald Erickson, took the steamer into harm's way to search for survivors of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Ford's pilothouse is now on display at Detroit's Dossin Great Lakes Museum. The vessel itself was scrapped in 1987. A second William Clay Ford now sails for the Interlake fleet as Lee A. Tregurtha.

Ford, 88, helped steer Ford Motor Co. into the modern era while also serving as a guiding hand for the Ford family. He linked Ford Motor Co.s past and future as the last surviving grandchild of company founder Henry Ford, son of Edsel Ford and the father of current Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr.

Detroit News, BoatNerd staff


Lookback #113 Former Harmonious sank in the Arabian Sea on March 10, 2000

3/10 - The bulk carrier Harmonious was only a year old when it first transited the Seaway in 1978. It had been completed the previous year at Takamatsu, Japan, and was operating under Panamanian registry.

The ship returned inland from time to time including two trips, to Thunder Bay and Duluth-Superior, in 1983. Its final voyage to our shores occurred in 1988.

The 148.1-metre-long vessel was sold later in 1988 and registered in the Philippines at Clipper Alliance. A decade later, it was resold for service under the flag of Cyprus as Kastor Too. Neither name appeared on the Great Lakes.

Kastor Too was en route from Aqaba, Jordan, with a cargo of phosphate for Visakhapatnam, India, when it began leaking and sank in the Arabian Sea fourteen years ago today. The 18-member crew were rescued by the nearby container ship Mildburg.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 10

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 10

CHARLES E. WILSON (Hull#710) was launched March 10, 1973, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp., for American Steamship Co. Renamed b.) JOHN J. BOLAND in 2000.

The ADAM E. CORNELIUS, built by the Great Lakes Engineering Works (Hull#53) in 1908, was renamed b.) DETROIT EDISON on March 10, 1948. In 1954, she was renamed c.) GEORGE F. RAND and in 1962, the RAND was sold to Canadian registry and renamed d.) AVONDALE. She was scrapped at Castellon, Spain in 1979.

FORT HENRY (Hull#150) was launched March 10, 1955, at Collingwood, Ontario by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., for Canada Steamship Lines Ltd.

KINSMAN VENTURE was launched March 10, 1906, as a.) JOHN SHERWIN (Hull#617) at West Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co.

On 10 March 1881, the propellers MORLEY and A. L. HOPKINS were purchased by the Wabash Railroad Company from the Morley Brothers of Marine City, Michigan.

The N. K. FAIRBANK (wooden freighter, 205 foot, 980 gross tons, built in 1874, at Marine City, Michigan) was sold by Morley & Morse to Captain H. Hastings on 10 March 1884.

The tug RIVER QUEEN sank at her dock in Port Huron, Michigan during the night of 10 March 1885. She was raised the following day and one of her seacocks was discovered to have been open that caused her to fill with water.

CADILLAC (steel ferry, 161 foot, 636 gross tons) was launched on 10 March 1928, by the Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan (Hull #260) for the Detroit & Windsor Ferry Company. The ferry company claimed that she was the largest and most powerful ferry in North American waters. When she was launched, the Ambassador Bridge and the tunnel, which connects Detroit and Windsor, were being constructed. She was placed in service on 25 April 1928, and had a varied history. From 1940 to 1942, she ran as a Bob-lo steamer. In 1942, she was sold to the U. S. Coast Guard and renamed b.) ARROWWOOD (WAGL 176) and used as an icebreaker. She was rebuilt in 1946, renamed c.) CADILLAC, and served as a passenger vessel on Lake Erie. At the end of the 1947 season, she was tied up to the dock for use as a restaurant. She went through a couple of owners until she finally arrived at the scrappers' dock in Hamilton, Ontario on May 26, 1962 for breaking up.

In 2000, the HARMONIOUS, a Panamanian freighter dating from 1977, visited the Great Lakes in 1978 and returned on several occasions through 1986. It was lost on the Arabian Sea as c) KASTOR TOO while traveling from Aqaba, Jordan, to Visakhapatnam, India, with a cargo of phosphate on March 10, 2000. The crew of 18 were rescued by the nearby container ship MILDBURG.

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


Algocanada finds easier going on downbound trip

3/9 - The 426-foot-long Algoma tanker Algocanada left Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario late Saturday morning. Moving at a good speed, the tanker followed the USCGC Katmai Bay down river. Earlier in the day, the USCGC Neah Bay had started up river from Drummond Island, the three passing by Six Mile Point. As the Katmai Bay and Algocanada continued on, passing the icebound 360-foot-long PML barge Ironmaster (marooned in the ice since Jan. 28), Neah Bay reached Soo Harbor around 1:30 where it was expected to help move ice, broken during the tanker’s movement, from the path of the Sugar Island ferry. Making much better time than its upbound trip, Algocanada had reached the North Channel around Neebish Island at 2 p.m.

The tanker and cutters all passed very close to the barge Ironmaster. The vessel, still anchored, has moved about 100 feet further down river. It is expected to be freed in a week or two when major ice breaking is done before the Soo Locks opening March 25.


Coast Guard scheduled to break out Sturgeon Bay

3/9 - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay will be conducting ice breaking operations throughout the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and out to the Sherwood Point Light area Monday morning in preparation for the first vessel departing lay-up from the ship yard.


Lookback #112 Former Tronstad confiscated for drug smuggling on March 9, 1985

3/9 - U.S. authorities seized the freighter Cruz Del Sur and escorted it into Miami 29 years ago today. The ship had been confiscated for drug smuggling and detained for an investigation.

This vessel had been launched at Kiel, West Germany, on July 7, 1956. It first came to the Great Lakes, via the old St. Lawrence Canals, in 1957 as Tronstad under Norwegian registry.

Despite the opening of the Seaway in 1959, the small Tronstad returned to our shores 12 more times with four more trips in each of 1959, 1960 and 1961. It was sold to Finnish interests and renamed Eva in 1962 and registered in the Bahamas as Caribbean Tamanaco in 1969. The final name of Cruz Del Sur was acquired in 1980 and was at least initially registered in the Cayman Islands.

After the investigation had been completed, the 78.6-metre-long vessel was towed out into the Atlantic and scuttled off Miami on December 19, 1986.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 9

In 1905, the JAMES C. WALLACE (Hull#334) of the Acme Steamship Co., (A.B. Wolvin, mgr.), was launched at Lorain, Ohio, by American Ship Building Co. Purchased by the Interlake Steamship Co. in 1913, she was scrapped at Genoa, Italy in 1963.

On 09 March 1933, all nine steamers of the Goodrich Transit Company were seized by federal marshals under a bankruptcy petition. These steamers were CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, CAROLINA, ALABAMA, ILLINOIS, CITY OF BENTON HARBOR, CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, CITY OF ST. JOSEPH, CITY OF HOLLAND, and the CITY OF SAUGATUCK.

AMOCO ILLINOIS was launched March 9, 1918, as a) WILLIAM P. COWAN (Hull#724) at Lorain, Ohio, by American Ship Building Co.

NOTRE DAME VICTORY (Hull#1229), was launched on March 9, 1945, at Portland, Oregon, by Oregon Shipbuilding Co., just 42 days after her keel was laid. She became the b.) CLIFFS VICTORY and sailed on the Great Lakes from 1951 until 1985.

WIARTON was launched March 9, 1907, as a) THOMAS LYNCH (Hull#73) at Chicago, Illinois, by Chicago Ship Building Co., for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. She was used as part of a breakwall at the Steel Co. of Canada Dock in Hamilton. The GROVEDALE of 1905, and HENRY R. PLATT JR of 1909, were also used.

March 9, 1920 - The PERE MARQUETTE 3 sank off Ludington after being crushed by ice.

On 9 March 1858, the propeller ferry GLOBE was being loaded with cattle at the Third Street dock at Detroit, Michigan. In the rush to get aboard, the cattle caused the vessel to capsize. All of the cattle swam ashore, although some swam across the river to the Canadian side.

1985: The Norwegian freighter TRONSTAD first came to the Great Lakes as a pre-Seaway visitor in 1957. It returned on another 12 occasions after the new waterway opened in 1959. The vessel was sailing a d) CRUZ DEL SUR when it was confiscated by U.S. authorities for drug smuggling and brought to Miami on this date in 1985. The 30-year old ship was towed out into the Atlantic and scuttled off Miami on December 19, 1986.

2007: The Greek freighter WISMAR was built in 1979 and came through the Seaway in 1980. It lost power below Lock 2 of the Welland Canal while upbound on August 30, 1980, and had to drop anchor. It was sailing as h) GRACIA from Thailand to Dakar, Senegal, with a cargo of rice, when the engine failed in heavy weather in the Indian Ocean on February 27, 2007. The crew took to the lifeboats and was rescued. The former Great Lakes visitor was last seen on March 7, adrift, with a 20-degree list to port, and likely soon sank.

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


Despite “brutal” ice conditions, cargo needs push start of shipping season

3/8 - Ice may be nice, but not if you are a Great Lakes mariner. With record-setting cold and a waterway that’s almost completely frozen thanks to a winter that is not even over, a difficult spring breakout seems inevitable.

“It’s going to be brutal,” Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Ohio-based trade organization the Lake Carriers' Association, confirmed Friday. The group has been meeting with representatives of shipping companies and the U.S. Coast Guard to formulate plans for getting the long ships moving.

Thanks to a strong demand for cargo, Great Lakes vessel companies have already begun already calling crews back for the 2014 season. The early onset of ice last December and into January meant that some cargo commitments could not be fulfilled before winter ended the shipping season.

“We were not able to get stockpiles to their normal levels,” Nekvasil said. “People went into the winter not having quite as much (raw materials) on the ground as they wanted.”

Weather conditions will clearly play a role in breakout plans.

“We’re expecting that transit times are going to be double or triple their normal length,” Nekvasil said. “We fully expect there will be convoys again. It’s just going to be tough to get going. But with the delays we experienced in December and January, we’ve got to get going. The customers need cargo.”

He said the Soo Locks are expected to open as scheduled on March 25. Both upbound and downbound traffic will be using the Middle Neebish channel for the early part of the season, he added, with the Rock Cut opening at a later date depending on conditions.

The USCG icebreaker Mackinaw is expected to head to the St. Marys River around March 17 to get shipping lanes groomed in that area, and it’s hoped she will be able to lock up to begin work in Whitefish Bay around March 22. The Canadian Coast Guard cutter Samuel Risley will concentrate on the St. Clair River, with USCG Bay-class cutters deployed as needed.

“The good news is that all of the icebreakers that are stationed on the lakes are going to be ready for service,” he said, “although the Risley is down one engine. She won’t be capable of full operations, but she will be in service.”

The biggest concerns, Nekvasil added, are the eastern end of Lake Superior, the St. Marys River and the Straits of Mackinac. Duluth-Superior and Sturgeon Bay are obvious choices for early attention, he said, with two vessels expected to leave lay-up at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay next weekend.

“The eastern end of Lake Superior is just incredible. The ice is four feet thick – it’s going to be very, very hard to establish a track down to the St Marys River. And the eastern three-fourths of Lake Erie the ice is very, very thick. It’s pretty tough all over.”

Even though the locks will open as planned, Nekvasil said he’s unsure if there will be any vessels waiting in line to pass through, as there have been in years past that have enjoyed milder winters.

“It’s going to be tough having boats there for the opening, there’s no denying that. … We’re grateful that all the icebreaking assets should be ready to go. Unfortunately this has been such a rough winter they aren’t enough. We know that.

“We’re all going to have to work together and get some cargo moving in March.”

Roger LeLievre for


Great Lakes ice cover tops 90 per cent, may cause cool, dry summer

3/8 - Ice cover on the Great Lakes is now the second highest on record at 91%. That's the highest ice coverage since1979, when the ice cover peaked at 93.9 %. And scientists are warning we can expect the the vast ice cover that now blankets the lakes to have consequences for spring flooding and summer weather.

Ice jams in the mouths of rivers flowing in the lakes could contribute to upstream floods and the cooler lake temperatures caused by the prolonged ice cover could lead to a cooler and less humid summer.

Current numbers show Lake Ontario at 45% ice-covered (which is actually pretty high for Ontario), and Lake Erie at 95% ice-covered.

“If temperatures stay low, the ice will be around into the early spring—in the teens or the lower 20s (Fahrenheit)—that could prolong the ice on the lakes,” said George Leshkevich, a scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “The longer the ice is on the lakes it can delay the warming period.”

If this is the case, the water may stay extremely cold until later in the spring.

To compare, in 2013 the average winter temperature of Lake Erie was -2.5 C, compared to this year’s average of -8 C. Environment Canada expects temperatures in Lakes Erie and Ontario to be below normal through to mid-March.

“Temperature can affect evaporation... so the water levels could go up the following year,” said Leshkevich. Also consider that colder lakes and less evaporation could lead to a cooler, less humid summer.

The 91% ice cover for the lakes is the highest amount on record for this time of year- but the scientists believe the cover has peaked for the year.

Leshkevich says wind is a factor when predicting the breakdown of ice on the lakes because high winds over an opening in the ice can create waves that will run against the ice and break it faster.

The St. Lawrence Seaway's February prediction was for seaway traffic through Lake Ontario and the Welland Canal to begin on March 28. That is 6 days later than in 2013.

Hazel Breton, Water Resource Engineer for the Hamilton Conservation Authority says the extreme cold this year means water is not being absorbed by the snow pack but is turning into ice.

"There is a very good chance of flooding,” she said. In particular, the Red Hill Creek is a flashy system and reacts very quickly."

In many locations the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) is recording two or even three times as much water in snowpack as the long-term average. This could mean that come the spring melt, water levels along the river and into the tributaries could be significantly increased.

Ice jam is created when large pieces of ice get caught in shallow water and build up, cutting off the flow of water. Ice jams can build up quickly and cause major flooding making it difficult to put out timely warnings.

The GRCA is particularly concerned about build-up, which could be increased due to the amount of debris that fell from December’s ice storm. Communications Manager for the Grant River Conservation Authority David Schultz said a lot of tree branches and limbs fell into the river. If those branches get caught together, they could net the ice in some places, which can lead to flooding.

The spring melt is typically mid-March into late April, but “that doesn’t get us out of the woods entirely,” said Schultz. If the melt remains high into late April, when the spring rain falls, the water levels could continue to be higher than normal.

In a lot of parts along the river dikes have been build to manage high flow in the spring, however Schultz said there are some towns such as Caledonia and Dunnville that do not have dikes built which is putting them at an increased risk of flooding.

It’s not just the river area that can be affected by high water flow and ice jams, but the tributaries that connect, running into agricultural areas south of Hamilton are also as equal risk of overflow.

CBC News


Lookback #111- Mezada lost at sea on March 8, 1981

3/8 - The Israeli bulk carrier Mezada was six years old when it began Seaway trading in 1966. The ship had been built at Hamburg, West Germany, and launched on May 19, 1960. During the early years Mezada stayed on saltwater routes but began coming to the Great Lakes after being lengthened to 676 feet in 1965. Mezada spent its career working as part of the Zim Israel Line. Its final cargo was a load of potash that came aboard in Baltimore, Maryland, and was destined for Haifa, Israel. The vessel broke in two crossing the Atlantic and sank about 100 miles east of Bermuda 33 years ago today. Only 11 members of the crew of 35 sailors survived. The other 24 on board perished in the cold waters of the Atlantic or went down with their ship.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 8

EUGENE P. THOMAS (Hull#184) was launched March 8, 1930, at Toledo, Ohio by Toledo Shipbuilding Co., for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co.

March 8, 1910 - A fire from unknown causes destroyed the ANN ARBOR NO. 1 of 1892. The hull was sold to Love Construction Co., of Muskegon, Michigan.

On 8 March 1882, the tug WINSLOW left Manistee to tow the NORTHERN QUEEN to Marine City for repairs. NORTHERN QUEEN had collided with LAKE ERIE the previous autumn and then sank while trying to enter Manistique harbor. Robert Holland purchased the wreck of NORTHERN QUEEN after that incident.

1981 MEZADA of the Zim Israel Line first came to the Great Lakes in 1966 after it had been lengthened to 676 feet. The vessel had been built in 1960 and foundered after breaking in two about 100 miles east of Bermuda on March 8, 1981. The 19,247 gross ton bulk carrier was traveling from Haifa to Baltimore with a cargo of potash and 24 lives were lost while only 11 sailors were rescued.

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


Ice interferes with Sugar Island ferry operation

3/7 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The U.S. Coast Guard says the ice is starting to have an impact on island communities. People trying to go to and from Sugar Island are dealing with getting stuck on either side. Wednesday night people were stuck, and that may be the case Thursday night as well. The USCG says it will continue to have an icebreaker out working, but they may not be able to get things clear by midnight.

The USCG says this problem may continue for some time. They said that Wednesday night the tanker Algocanada, carrying oil to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., passed through St. Marys River. When it did, it broke up ice and sent it downstream, which ended up near the Sugar Island ferry. They say the problem they are facing now is there is nowhere to put the ice as they break it.

9 & 10 News


Port of Monroe set record tonnage in 2013

3/7 - Washington, D.C. – The 2013 shipping season was a record-setter for the Port of Monroe, Mich. Nearly 2.2 million metric tons of cargo were handled by the port, marking the beginning of a period of revival. Over the course of the last 18 months, the Port of Monroe has seen exponential growth under the direction of new port director Paul C. LaMarre, who has worked to re-establish Monroe’s identity as an active seaport within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.

“In 2013, we had 97 vessel calls: 81 to DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant carrying bulk, three carrying project cargo (two of which were Seaway tonnage) and 13 liquid asphalt cargoes to Michigan Paving & Materials,” said LaMarre. “Additionally, we have established ourselves as a leading industry advocate in multiple legislative forums and are placing the sustainability of our industry as a whole before all other interests.

“The Port sees the 2014 shipping season continuing the momentum set last year. We anticipate significant tonnage increases as we develop multiple new outbound cargoes with DTE Energy, the most significant of which will be synthetic gypsum produced by the Monroe Power Plant’s new scrubbing units,” continued LaMarre.

The ability to receive materials and equipment by vessel is critical for the continued operation of tenant Monroe Power Plant. “The plant requires approximately 8.5 million tons of coal per year, and one-third of that volume is delivered by ship. Over the last 10 years, we have relied on vessels to deliver most of the modular components to be used in the construction of emissions control systems that are making the Monroe Power Plant one of the cleanest operating coal plants in the country,” explained Andrew S. Dobrzanski, manager of fuel supply for the plant.

“These components are too large to transport by rail or truck, so being able to receive them by ship has been key to our ability to minimize cost and schedule impacts on these major installations.”

Onsite developments at the port include a 23-acre general-cargo facility which will have 3,000 feet of waterfront and double-track rail on dock. This will be known as the port’s Riverfront Dock. The port will also be installing a rail spur into tenant Ventower Industries, which is now operating at full capacity. These two rail projects represent roughly $2 million in port/rail improvements to be constructed in 2014. The port is working closely with Canadian National and Norfolk Southern railroads to develop new cargo opportunities.

Dredging of harbors around the Great Lakes has been a hot-button issue for the maritime industry. Funding is provided by the Harbor Maintenance Tax, which is a user fee collected by the federal government to ensure the adequate maintenance and operations of waterway infrastructure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LaMarre sits on the National Freight Advisory Committee, which was established to advise the Secretary of Transportation on ways to improve national freight transportation policies and programs. LaMarre advocates for the Great Lakes shipping industry on issues such as dredging.

On March 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its newest budget. It included an additional $25 million for Great Lakes harbors. The Port of Monroe is slotted to receive an additional $510,000 toward maintenance dredging of its waterway. LaMarre said he is pleased with that news.

“This allocation is proof positive that our industry lobbying efforts have been successful,” he said. “In addition, we will also be conducting comprehensive maintenance dredging along our turning basin dock for the first time in over 20 years.

“Having our waterway dredged to its proper depth will ensure we meet our tonnage goals for 2014, as well as ensuring we help keep the economy moving in Michigan.”

Marine Delivers


Lake Michigan 1 percentage point away from record ice cover

3/7 - Holland, Mich. – Ice cover on Lake Michigan continues to expand, covering 92.2 percent of the lake — close to a record. The highest maximum ice cover for Lake Michigan is 93.1 percent in 1977, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The thickest ice is in the northern sections of the lake — some more than 54 centimeters thick, about 21 inches thick. The thinnest is in the south, from 0.1 centimeter to 6 centimeters (up to 2 inches). The mean thickness is 39.2 centimeters — about 15 inches.

Ice coverage on the entire Great Lakes is 91.8 percent. The record is 94.7 percent ice coverage in 1979.

This year has seen some unusual ice statistics, according to George Leshkevich with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

For the first time since 1994, four of the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie — have 90 percent or more ice coverage. That hasn’t happened since 1994.

Great Lakes ice coverage has peaked twice this season — On Feb. 12-13, it was about 88 percent before a thaw dropped the ice levels, Leshkevich said. The ice recovered, hitting its current 91.8 percent. This double maximum hasn’t happened since 1996.

The ice coverage data is compiled through satellite and radar, Leshkevich said. “Most of the data is radar data, an all-weather, day-night sensor. It can ‘see through’ the clouds.”

Holland Sentinel


Stranded dog rescued by crew of cutter Bristol Bay reunited with owner

3/7 - Cleveland, Ohio – The stray dog rescued on Monday afternoon on Lake St. Clair by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay was reunited with its owner Wednesday night.

Jodi Benchich of St. Clair Shores, Mich., visited with her 14-year-old pet KC at the Wilson Veterinary Hospital before taking him back home. The dog sustained frostbite on his paws and also lost a significant amount of weight during the time he was lost.

"KC is happy to be back home and is eating everything we give him," said a very happy Benchich. "We're forever grateful to the Coast Guard and hope to be able to thank the crew in person sometime soon."

On Monday afternoon, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay spotted the dog four miles from shore during ice-breaking operations on Lake St. Clair. The crew then brought him aboard the ship to provide him with food, water and first aid.

Once the ship returned to its homeport of Detroit on Tuesday afternoon, the crew contacted A Rejoyceful Animal Rescue, which made arrangements to have the dog taken to the vet clinic for further treatment. On Tuesday evening, Chief Petty Officer Joshua Bozarth of the Bristol Bay tapped his social media network to locate the owner.

"We are all happy this rescue had a happy ending," said Lt. Cmdr. John Henry, Bristol Bay's commanding officer."Although KC was on board for only a day, some of the crew really took a liking to him."


Federal Budget provides $71 million for local civil works projects

3/7 - Detroit, Mich. – The budget for fiscal year 2015 includes more than $4.561 billion in discretionary funding for the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with more than $71 million for Detroit District projects around the Great Lakes.

The Civil Works budget funds the operation and maintenance program, which includes the maintenance of federal shipping channels on the Great Lakes, maintenance of federal structures, and the operation and maintenance of the Locks. Incorporated in the budget is funding that will be used across the district's jurisdiction in Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The FY15 funding will be distributed among the Detroit District major projects as follows:

St Marys River/Soo Locks, Mich. Navigation/Hydropower/Recreation $39.8 million
Detroit River, Mich. Navigation $5.9 million
Duluth, Minn./Superior, Wis. Navigation/Recreation $5.6 million
Saginaw River, Mich. Navigation $3.0 million
Fox River, Wis. Flood Risk Management $2.9 million
Green Bay Harbor, Wis. Navigation $2.8 million
Milwaukee, Wis. Navigation $2.1 million
Monroe Harbor, Mich. Navigation $1.0 million

A total of $16.7 million will be used for dredging projects at the following locations: Detroit River, Mich., Duluth-Superior Harbor, Minn. and Wis., Green Bay Harbor, Wis., Grand Haven Harbor, Mich., Milwaukee, Wis., Monroe Harbor, Mich., Saginaw River, Mich., St. Clair River, Mich. and St. Marys River, Mich.

Also, $3.7 million will be used to continue monitoring lake levels and water flow throughout the Great Lakes.


Levels of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron may rise 8 to 14 inches

3/7 - Milwaukee, Wis. – This winter's heavy snow and massive ice cover will drive up the water levels of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron by 8-14 inches over the next six months, compared with the same time last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday.

But because they have been low for so long, the lakes are expected to remain 9 to 13 inches lower through the end of August than their long-term average, the Corps said. Lakes Michigan and Huron are considered a single lake for the purposes of hydrology.

In January 2013, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron plummeted to their lowest levels since 1918, when records started being kept. Lake levels have been down since the late 1990s.

The cause of the grand decline has been due to many factors, but scientists point to a key trend: Greater evaporation from the effects of wind and higher air and water temperatures.

Low water levels have had economic consequences, forcing commercial cargo ships to carry lighter loads. The low levels also harmed harbors, required more dredging, produced more vegetation on formerly sandy beaches and wreaked havoc on spawning beds of some fish species.

This winter, the abundance of snow and near-record ice cover are the reasons for the rebound in water levels, according to Keith W. Kompoltowicz, a meteorologist with the Corps' office in Detroit.

Snowfall around Lake Michigan is 30 percent higher than any time in the last decade, and ice cover on the lake is flirting with a record.

On Tuesday, ice on Lake Michigan reached 92.2 percent coverage, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. That's the second highest level since the record of 93.1 percent in 1977.

The expanse of ice slows evaporation by blocking water vapor from leaving the surface of the lake.

The near-term effects: Potential flooding, Kompoltowicz said.

Great Lakes experts are predicting that the cold winter will also keep water temperatures below average and, in turn, produce a refrigerator effect, making spring and early summer cooler.

Ice expert George Leshkevich of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory said plentiful ice could have other possible ecological effects. In one instance, it could be good for whitefish, which require stable ice over spawning beds, he said.

But the winter of 2013-'14 can only have so much effect on the lakes. Water levels are cyclical and rise and fall due to a series of events over many months and years, Kompoltowicz said.

Even if the next six months mirrors the rainy spring of 2013, Kompoltowicz said, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron might reach within a few inches of the lakes' long-term average. The Corps doesn't make predictions beyond six months.

Meanwhile, Lake Superior is showing the clearest sign of a rebound, with data from the Corps showing that the lake is 12 inches higher than the same time last year and just 1 inch below the long-term average.

By the end of August, Lake Superior is projected to be only 2 inches below its long-term average, according to the Corps' analysis. But a conservation group said the reprieve offered by the snow and ice hasn't solved Lakes Michigan and Huron's problems.

The group, Restore Our Water International, this week called on U.S. and Canadian governments to restore water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron by installing flow reduction structures in the St. Clair River that would restore water levels by up to 20 inches.

Dredging of the St. Clair for a century has increased the flow of the river and lowered Lake Michigan and Lake Huron by about 16 inches, according to the federal government.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Lookback #110 – Algosoo caught fire on March 7, 1986

3/7 - A spark from welding work on the interior of the Algosoo at Port Colborne ignited the conveyor belt 28 years ago today. The smoky fire spread through the after cabins of the ship on March 7, 1986, leaving considerable damage.

Once shore based firefighters had extinguished the blaze, the clean-up began. The ship was taken to the Welland Dock where someone with a sense of humor added a “T” to the ship's name on the stern. This resulted in it appearing briefly as “Algosoot.”

Algosoo was repaired and returned to service on October 6, 1986. The 730 foot long self-unloader remains an active member in the Algoma Central Corporation fleet.

Algosoo was product of the Collingwood Shipbuilding Co. and completed in 1974. It was the last laker constructed with a forward pilothouse. The ship has set cargo records over the years, including delivering 31,936 tons of salt from Ojibway to Buffalo in July 1977 and a record 32,292 tons of salt out of Goderich for Toledo in May 1984.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 7

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 7

ALGOSOO suffered a serious fire at her winter mooring on the west wall above Lock 8, at Port Colborne, Ontario on March 7, 1986, when a conveyor belt ignited, possibly caused by welding operations in the vicinity. The blaze spread to the stern gutting the aft accommodations. The ship was repaired at Welland and returned to service on October 6.

TEXACO BRAVE was launched March 7, 1929, as a) JOHN IRWIN (Hull#145) at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees, United Kingdom by Furness Shipbuilding Co.

On 7 March 1874, the wooden tug JOHN OWEN (Hull#28) was launched at Wyandotte, Michigan, by the Detroit Dry Dock Company for J. E. Owen of Detroit, Michigan.

On 7 March 1896, L. C.WALDO (steel propeller freighter, 387 foot, 4,244 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan by F. W. Wheeler (Hull #112). She had a long career. She was rebuilt twice, once in the winter of 1904-05 and again in 1914, after she was stranded in the Storm of 1913. She was sold Canadian in 1915, and renamed b.) RIVERTON. In 1944, she was renamed c.) MOHAWK DEER. She lasted until November 1967, when she foundered in the Gulf of Genoa while being towed to the scrap yard at La Spezia, Italy.

ANN ARBOR NO 1 (wooden propeller carferry, 260 foot, 1,128 gross tons, built in 1892, at Toledo, Ohio) got caught in the ice four miles off Manitowoc, Wisconsin in February 1910. She remained trapped and then on 7 March 1910, she caught fire and burned. Although she was declared a total loss, her hull was reportedly sold to Love Construction Co., Muskegon, Michigan, and reduced to an unregistered sand scow.

1969: The British freighter MONTCALM, a Seaway trader when new in 1960, made 29 trips to the Great Lakes to the end of 1967. A truck in #1 hold got loose on this date in an Atlantic storm 420 miles southeast of Halifax in 1969 causing a heavy list and a 12 foot gash in the hull. A U.S.C.G. helicopter dropped extra pumps and the ship reached Halifax and safety. The vessel later became a livestock carrier and arrived at Chittagong, Bangladesh, for scrapping as c) SIBA EDOLO on August 8, 1988.

1973: BISCAYA was a Danish flag freighter that first came inland in 1965. It was sailing as c) MARGARITA, and under Greek registry, when it sank following a collision with the ANZOATEGUI, a Venezuelan reefer ship, while in bound about 39 miles off Maracaibo, Venezuela on March 7, 1983. It was carrying barytes, a mineral used in oil-drilling fluids, from El Salvador.

1982: OCEAN LEADER came to the Great Lakes in 1980 and ran aground upbound near Sault Ste. Marie on November 11 when the radar malfunctioned. Later, in 1982 as c) FINIKI, the then 7-year old ship hit an underwater obstruction 10 miles west of the Moruka Light, while en route to Paramaribo, Suriname. The vessel reached Georgetown, Guyana, and was declared a total loss. It was reported as scuttled in the Atlantic off Jacksonville, Fla., on or after December 9, 1982.

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


Algocanada finally makes it to Soo, Ont., dock

3/6 - The tanker Algocanada finally made it to the Purvis Dock in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., settling in just before sunset Wednesday. The trip took approximately eight days, for what is normally a six hour trip. She was assisted throughout the passage by the USCG cutter Katmai Bay.

Bonnie Barnes


Port Reports -  March 6

S. Chicago – Dan McNeil
The tug Samuel de Champlain and cement barge Innovation, after unloading cement Monday and Tuesday at the Lafarge Cement dock in S. Chicago, were loading a cargo of slag Wednesday. Once loaded, if there was still daylight, she was going to depart. If not then, then she was going to depart on Thursday at first light. She is only moving in the rivers during daylight due to heavy ice.


Dog rescued from ice on Lake St. Clair reunited with owner

3/6 - KC the dog spent Wednesday night curled up on his favorite blanket, a far more pleasant spot to sleep than the frozen surface of Lake St. Clair.

The 13-year-old boxer-chow-Lab mix is being treated for frostbite but has a good prognosis for recovery after being rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter earlier this week.

“I’m so glad to have him home,” said KC’s owner, Jodi Benchich of St. Clair Shores, shortly after reuniting with her beloved pet.

KC — who was named Lucky by the ship’s crew — is going to be OK, according to Michelle Heyza, founder of A ReJoyceful Animal Rescue in Mt. Clemens, which took responsibility for the pooch Tuesday after its rescue Monday.

“He’s tired. He just wants to rest and be with familiar faces,” Heyza said. “He’s having a hard time walking. He needs his family. He needs his bed and he needs his people.”

The tuckered-out dog was reunited Wednesday with his owners at Wilson Veterinary Hospital in Washington Township, where he was treated with IV fluids. Heyza said his paws, lips and the inside of his ears were frostbitten, but his prognosis is “really good.” He is currently on medication.

Benchich said KC, who will turn 14 on April 20, disappeared Feb. 24. He had been tied up outside that morning for less than two hours when she and her father, David, noticed that the rope had been broken and he was missing.

“We dropped everything and started looking for him throughout the whole neighborhood,” she said.

Benchich said that same day, she put an ad about KC on the Facebook page For the Love of Louie, which lists lost and found animals.

On Tuesday, she got two happy phone calls. The first was from a woman who saw news coverage of the dog’s rescue and said it looked like KC. The second was from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The cutter Bristol Bay was on the lake Monday morning heading north to help another vessel stuck in ice when a lookout noticed what appeared to be a group of foxes in the distance. As the ship moved closer, it became clear that one animal was larger than the rest.

Three petty officers suited up in weather-resistant gear and left the ship to help the dog, which was on the ice about 4½ to 5 miles offshore from the area between Jefferson Beach Marina and Lake Front Park in St. Clair Shores. They placed it on a stretcher-like device and moved to the ship. The other animals scurried away.

The 140-foot ice-breaking tug pulled into its home port in Detroit. On Tuesday evening, a seaman disembarked to take the dog to a veterinarian.

KC was thrilled Wednesday to see Benchich and her father.

“His tail just started wagging. He lit up like a Christmas tree,“ Heyza said. Detroit Free Press


Snowy winter to boost Great Lakes levels up to 14 inches – but crisis isn't over

3/6 - Detroit, Mich. Record-breaking snow, ice cover and cold temperatures this winter will mean rising Great Lakes water levels over the next six months, but don’t expect too dramatic a recovery.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ six-month forecast for the lakes, released Wednesday, has good news for marinas, beach-goers and the shipping industry: The unusually deep, unusually water-heavy snow-pack melting and feeding the lakes is expected to help them continue to rebound from years of record-low water:

Connected Lakes Michigan and Huron through spring and summer are expected to see water levels up 9 to 14 inches from a year ago, but will still be 9 to 12 inches below the lakes’ long-term average. Lake Superior is forecast for levels 13 inches above a year ago, and could rise to 1 inch above its long-term average for March the first time the lake could exceed its monthly average since 1998.

Lake Erie is forecast to rise 2 to 6 inches above its levels of a year ago, but remain about 2 inches below its long-term average. Lake Ontario is expected to rise 2 inches above where it was in early spring last year, but to fall 5 to 7 inches below its levels of a year ago by the end of summer.

The Army Corps’ forecast also included Lake St. Clair, which is expected to rise 3 inches above its levels of last year, but to remain about 7 inches below its long-term average. Levels on the lake are being impacted by the extensive ice built up on the St. Clair River, which is impeding water flow into the lake, said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of the Army Corps’ Watershed Hydrology Branch.

The improvements don’t eliminate Michigan’s worries from low-water levels, Kompoltowicz said.

“Depending on where you are on the Great Lakes, there still could be impacts to navigation on Lakes Michigan and Huron, elevations are still expeected to remain below average,” he said. “That will affect navigation, maybe by reducing load sizes and requiring more trips.”

The improving lake levels, along with a $105,000 grant from the Michigan Waterways Commission that helped pay for harbor dredging last October, have Boyne City municipal marina harbormaster Barb Brooks “breathing much easier” heading into this boating season, she said. The marina, near the city’s downtown, is on Lake Charlevoix, whose depths are tied to those in connected Lake Michigan.

“We should not have to turn anyone away due to the depth they need,” she said.

The modest-seeming lake level increases might surprise those who still have waist-deep snow in their yards. Lakes Michigan and Huron’s projected 14-inch rise, for example, compares to a typical seasonal rise of 12 inches. That largely has to do with the sheer vastness of the lakes. The Great Lakes cover 94,000 square miles and contain 6 quadrillion gallons of water that’s 6,000 trillion gallons.

Those expecting a bigger recovery could still see one if a rainy spring is on tap, Kompoltowicz said. “If we were to see a repeat of last spring’s rainy weather, we could see another 20- to 22-inch seasonal rise,” he said.

The near-record-setting ice cover on the Great Lakes more than 91 percent covered as of this week is likely to stick around well into spring, and that could be good news for lake levels going forward, said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

“The heating season would be postponed if there’s ice cover on the lakes” well into spring, he said. “It certainly depends on summer temperatures, but we could have a cooler water temperature through the summer and fall, which affects evaporation and, therefore, water levels the next season.”

Aiding the lakes’ rebound is the unusually high water content in the heavy snow-pack on the ground, Kompoltowicz said.

“Around Lake Michigan we’re seeing snow water equivalents 30 percent higher than any time in the past decade,” he said.

It’s impossible to say if the Great Lakes’ water level crises of recent years is over, Kompoltowicz added. “The Corps really does focus on that 6-month forecast window,” he said. “There’s always a chance that beyond that 6-month window, a return to drier conditions happens.”

Detroit Free Press


Great Lakes levels rebounded in 2013

3/6 - Traverse City, Mich. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Great Lakes water levels rebounded sharply last year after a prolonged low period dating from the late 1990s.

A report issued Tuesday says Lake Superior rose early two feet, almost twice as much ground as it usually gains during its seasonal rise. The biggest of the lakes exceeded its average net water supply for eight straight months.

Lakes Michigan and Huron rose 20 inches, which also was nearly double their average seasonal rise. It was a strong comeback from January of 2013, when those lakes hit their lowest level ever recorded.

Scientists say heavy evaporation caused by the milder climate and occasional dry spells caused the lengthy decline. Heavy snowfall the past two winters and a wet spring helped the lakes recover.

Associated Press


Marine News: Casualties and Demolitions for March 2014

3/6 - Marine News, the monthly journal of the World Ship Society, reports the following ships with Great Lakes connections as casualties or going for scrap in the March 2014 issue.

Super Sun, a Panamanian registered vessel, caught fire in the Yangtze Estuary off the coast of China on October 14, 2013. The ship was en route from Papua-New Guinea to Zhangjiagang, China, with a cargo of logs. The fire erupted in the accommodation block and spread to the deck cargo. It provided a serious challenge to fire fighters and the blaze was not extinguished until October 17. The Chinese Coast Guard rescued the crew but the ship was heavily damaged and is a good prospect for the scrapyard. The vessel first came to the Great Lakes as Nordic Trader in 1985 and returned as Roubini on November 13, 1994 with steel for Hamilton and Burns Harbor. Roubini suffered an engine problem below Lock 1 of the Welland Canal on Dec. 9, 1994, and required assistance before the problem could be fixed.

Al Naser arrived at Alang, India, on Nov. 26, 2013 and was to be broken up by Dhan Steel Pvt. Ltd. The ship was only a year old when it first visited the Seaway as Clivia in 1978. Originally a West German freighter, the vessel was also registered in Singapore, Liberia, Cyprus, Georgia and Lebanon carrying five names in a 36-year career.

Balikesir first came through the Seaway in October 1984 headed for Duluth. The 475-foot vessel retained the same name through 33 years of trading and was sold for scrap last fall. The ship arrived at Alang, India, on Nov. 28, 2013, for recycling.

Captain Ismael was a Great Lakes visitor in 1981 under her first name of Golden Breeze. The 425-foot-long freighter survived 37 years carrying eight names and at least five flags of registry. Sailing as e) Cevi on Oct. 8, 1996, the ship went aground leaving Tampa and had to be towed back to port for repairs. It was sailing as Captain Ismael when it arrived in India for scrapping on Oct. 24, 2013.

Fatahur Rahman was a Seaway caller as Castano in 1986. The ship dates from 1982 and sailed under her sixth name of Fatahur Rahman since 2010. On March 29, 1988, as b) Castano, the ship rammed the Canada Steamship Lines bulk carrier Simcoe while the latter was anchored off Pointe aux Trembles, Quebec. Then, in October 2004 as d) Atlantic Charm, it was immobilized in the Atlantic west of Dakar, Senegal, and had to be towed to Las Palmas, Canary Islands. The 31-year old vessel was beached at Alang, India, for scrapping on Nov. 3, 2013.

Irida was flying the flag of Belize when it arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, for scrapping on November 27, 2013. The ship was known as Escuby, and only two years old, when it first entered the Seaway on May 2, 1984. The Spanish built freighter later sailed as Lux Scout and Uritsk before becoming Irida in 2002.

Mikhail Strekalovskiy was built in 1981 and came to the Great Lakes from 1982 to 2001, missing many of the in-between years. It was sold to Chinese shipbreakers and arrived at a Chinese port on April 23, 2013. The hull was broken up by Zhoushan Changhong International.

The tanker Mispillion dated from 1945 and came to the Great Lakes in 1964. It was rebuilt at Toledo with a new mid-body and left the next year to continue deep=sea service. It was reported as broken up in the USA and it appears this occurred at Brownsville, Texas about April 2012.

Salindo Perdana I came to the Great Lakes as Brazilian Express in 1977 under the flag of Netherlands. This 39-year old freighter spent most of its time in the Far East in recent years and has been under Indonesian registry since 1989. It was sold to Indonesian shipbreakers and dismantled in 2013.

Scipione was a Seaway caller as Caro in October 1999 and came inland to load soybeans at Windsor. The ship dated from 1984 and the 485-foot-long bulk carrier was operating as e) Scipione when it arrived at Chittagong, Bangladesh for scrapping on Dec. 13, 2013.

Tanjung Oisina, the former Oranje Lijn passenger and freight carrier Prinses Irene, was built in 1959. It has been idle and beached at Jakarta, Indonesia, for many years after service as an Indonesian pilgrim ship and then as a troop carrier. The ship is reported in this issue as having been sold to Indonesian shipbreakers but it is believed that this occurred a number of years ago and the ship was been dismantled about 2000.

The Liberian tanker Wisdom first came through the Welland Canal as Ras Maersk on Nov. 13, 1994, headed to Port Stanley and Detroit with a cargo of chemicals. It was under its fifth name when sold to Indian shipbreakers. The 27-year old vessel was beached at Alang on Nov. 22, 2013, for dismantling.

Lakes related
The journal also reported the sale for scrap of the laker Algoma Quebecois which arrived at Port Colborne on Nov. 21, 2013, but remains intact in the outer harbor.Two members of the Canada Steamship Lines deep sea fleet have also been scrapped.

CSL Cabo was used by the company in the west coast gypsum trade and then to Australia for new service in 2010 in the Zircon trade. The vessel dated from 1971 and came to CSL International in 1995. The date and location of the scrapyard were not listed. CSL Bergen was part of CSL Europe from 2011 to 2013. It was built at Lervik, Norway, in 1985 as Trollnes. The vessel arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, last summer and was broken up in a period of about six weeks.

Compiled by Barry Andersen, Rene Beauchamp & Skip Gillham


Lookback #109 – Former Indiana abandoned in Adriatic Sea on March 6, 1982

3/6 - Indiana seems like an unusual name for an Italian-owned, Italian built saltwater ship, but the vessel traded inland in 1959 and returned on four occasions in 1962.

The 361-foot-long general cargo vessel dated from 1956 and was chartered to Swedish interests for the 1962 visits to the Great Lakes.

Beginning in 1975, the ship was registered in Cyprus as Tassos Tsiris, became Theseus for a Greek company in 1969 and Zoe II, Panamanian flag, in 1980. It was sold again, without any change in name, in 1981 and re-registered in Liberia. The general cargo carrier was lost 32 years ago today.

On March 6, 1982, the former Indiana was abandoned on the Adriatic Sea, south of Pula, Croatia, while enroute to Koper, Slovenia. A severe list developed and the vessel, loaded with timber and bagged rice, was never seen again.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 6

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 6

EUGENE J. BUFFINGTON (Hull#366) was launched March 6, 1909, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co., for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. She lasted until 1980, when she was towed to San Esteban de Pravia, Spain, for scrapping.

At noon on 6 March 1873, the steam railroad carferry SAGINAW was launched at the Port Huron Dry Dock Co. She did not get off the ways at first and had to be hauled off by the tug KATE MOFFAT. She was built for use between Port Huron and Sarnia.

On 6 March 1892, SAGINAW (wooden 4-car propeller carferry, 142 foot, 365 tons, built in 1873, at Port Huron, Michigan) burned at the dock in Windsor, Ontario where she had been laid up since 1884. The hull was later recovered and converted to an odd-looking tug, a well-known wrecker in the Detroit River area until broken up about 1940.

1982 INDIANA was chartered to Swedish interests when it made four trips to the Great Lakes in 1962. It was sailing as d) ZOE II, under Liberian registry, when it was abandoned in the Adriatic Sea, south of Pula, Yugoslavia, (now Croatia) after a severe list had developed while on a voyage from Koper, Yugoslavia, (now Slovenia) to Ancona, Italy, on March 6, 1982. No further trace of the ship was ever found.

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


Icebreaking update

3/5 - The USCG Neah Bay was reported in southern Lake Huron bound for the Soo Tuesday afternoon to assist in the upbound passage of the tanker Algocanada, which has spent the last several days battling ice on a trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Tuesday evening, Algocanada and USCG Katmai Bay were in the vicinity of Nine Mile Point, probably stopped for the night. Meanwhile, the tug Everlast and her barge finally made it to their Detroit destination on Tuesday, while Algosea arrived at Nanticoke. Algoeast has left Nanticoke and appears to be waiting in the Long Point anchorage for the CCGS Griffon to escort her back to Sarnia.


‘Lucky’ Dog rescued on icy Lake St. Clair

3/5 - Lake St. Clair, Mich. – Crewmembers with the Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay helped rescue a dog Monday they found stranded on the open ice of Lake St. Clair about 4 miles off shore. The dog was hoisted aboard the cutter and given first aid as “his feet were pretty messed up,” said Coast Guard FS1 Brian Essler.

The large dog, estimated to be about 8-years-old, had badly injured his feet digging in the snow and ice to make a barrier for himself against the wind. “Lucky and Cutter are two names we came up with,” said Essler. “He was in the middle of nowhere, and couldn’t walk when we got to him.”

Once indoors, the dog was given choice cuts of meat and even spent the night in the chief’s quarters to rest soundly. He was transferred to an area animal shelter for further care and is expected to recover.

The story went viral in the local media and the dog’s owners were found, the dog was reported missing last month.

WXYZ interview with the Bristol Bay crew



Crews recover Coast Guard helicopter forced to make emergency landing

3/5 - Traverse City, Mich. A Coast Guard Dolphin helicopter that was on Washington Island after the crew made an emergency landing on Sunday was recovered Monday and is being transported back to Air Station Traverse City, Mich., to undergo necessary repairs.

A six-member recovery team from the air station arrived on Washington Island on Monday morning to begin the process of recovering the helicopter. At about 5 p.m. CST, the crew loaded the trailered aircraft onto the Washington Island ferry Arni J. Richter for a 30-minute transit back to Northport Pier in Door County, Wis. The aircraft is now being transported back to the air station on a commercially-contracted trailer for in-depth maintenance.

On Sunday morning, approximately 30 minutes after takeoff from Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, the air crew declared an in-flight emergency with air traffic control before landing safely on the beach on Washington Island. There were no injuries.


Ice cover on Great Lakes climbs rapidly

3/5 - The latest arctic outbreak, with morning low temperatures at record cold levels, has caused the Great Lakes to rapidly ice back up.

The overall entire Great Lakes system is rated at 90 percent iced over, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). This is the highest percentage of total ice cover this year, and increasing rapidly. GLERL has been using the same method to rank ice cover percentage since 1973. The highest ice total on the entire Great Lakes was 94.8 percent in 1994.

Lake Superior is now 95 percent covered with ice. That is up from 78 percent one week ago. The satellite image and shows a whole lot of ice. Lake Superior has been frozen over 100 percent one time since 1973, back in 1996.

Lake Michigan's ice cover has made the most dramatic increase in the last seven days. The ice cover percentage has grown from 30 percent last week to 90 percent March 2, 2014. This 90 percent ice cover is the highest so far this season, and the highest amount of ice cover since 1994. The record since 1973 is 93.1 percent, back in 1977.

Lake Huron is also flirting with being entirely frozen over. Right now Lake Huron is listed with 95 percent covered with ice. It has been that way for the last five days. This is the most ice since 2003, and the record level since 1973 is 98.5 percent.

Lake Erie is also virtually frozen over, with 95 percent of it covered in ice. Lake Erie has been 100 percent covered in ice three times: 1978, 1979, and 1996.

Lake Ontario has finally started to have ice grow on the surface. It is now rated as 45 percent covered in ice. This is the most ice on Lake Ontario since 2003. The highest ice total on Lake Ontario is 86.2 percent in 1979. There are even reports of parts of the Niagara Falls freezing. Lake Ontario is the slowest to ice up because it is deep without much surface area for heat to escape.

The next three days look very cold across the entire Great Lakes, so ice should continue to grow. Some areas of the southern Great Lakes could warm to between 32 and 36 degrees on Friday. After Friday, temperatures will generally be below normal, but at times warm into the 30s.

Great Lakes may reach peak ice this Thursday or Friday. We only have 4.9 percent to go to reach record ice levels. We've come this far. We might as well have a record. That way we can say we remember when...



Toronto fire boat making record ice-breaking voyage

3/5 - Toronto, Ont. – A Toronto fire boat is set to shatter its own record for consecutive ice-breaking missions in the city’s frozen harbor.

The William Lyon Mackenzie, which doubles as an ice breaker, is slated to make its 79th consecutive daily ice break on Lake Ontario on Tuesday, surpassing a previous record it set during the 2001-02 winter season. Toronto Fire Services spokesman Mike Strapko said that with this year’s intensely-cold winter, “every single day we’ve been going out.”

Named after Toronto’s first mayor, the Mackenzie is also marking its 50th anniversary. The vessel was built at the Russel Brothers Ltd. shipyard in Owen Sound in 1964. It went through a $1-million refurbishment in 2004 and is expected to stay in service until 2037.

In addition to fighting fires, the boat is used to clear emergency water lanes leading to the Toronto islands.

“A benefit of that is by keeping those emergency routes open, the island ferries get to use them as well,” Strapko said. “But the main purpose is to keep it open for itself, for fire fighting ... because we have the (island) airport there, residents, and other buildings to protect.”

Senior fire boat captain Adrian Lewicki added that before winter ends, he expects the number of ice break missions completed by the Mackenzie to go into the “high 80s or low 90s.” Docked at the Toronto Fire and Marine Station 334 on Queens Quay, the boat operates all year, according to the fire department.

It is 24 metres long, weighs around 150 tonnes and has a 3,000-horsepower diesel engine capable of pushing the WLM through the water at a top speed of 22 km/h.

Toronto Sun


Ice caves along Lake Superior draw 78,000 since mid-January

3/5 - The ice caves near the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin are still proving to be extremely popular. According to the National Park Service, nearly 78,000 people visited the caves along Lake Superior from Jan. 15 through the end of February.

The last time the ice was thick enough for people to see the caves was in 2009, but only about 8,400 visited in January and February that year. Julie Van Stappen, with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, has said social media is playing a bigger role this year in getting the word out.

It's unclear how long the lake ice will be sturdy enough to handle visitors. Park officials say one of the longest seasons was probably in 2009, when the caves were accessible for February and March.



Lookback # 108 – The former Antonis P. Lemos disappeared on March 5, 1997

3/5 - The second of two ships to travel through the Seaway as Antonis P. Lemos was sailing as Albion Two when it was reported overdue 17 years ago today. The 585-foot, 8-inch long bulk carrier had loaded a cargo of steel products at Gdynia, Poland, and was bound for Kingston, Jamaica, when it disappeared. A search was mounted and, in time, the wreckage was located and identified. The remains rest in over 400 feet of water off the coast of France. All on board were lost.

The ship had been built at Osaka, Japan, by the Namura Shipbuilding Co. and launched as Antonis P. Lemos on Sept. 15, 1975. It came to the Great Lakes the next year under Greek registry.

This bulk carrier was sold and renamed Macfriendship in 1993. It came through the Seaway that November, Cypriot flag, with a cargo of steel for Hamilton. Sold again and renamed Albion Two in 1996, it did not return to our shores before being lost in March 1997.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 5

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 5

On 05 March 1997, the Canadian Coast Guard cutter GRIFFON pulled the smashed remains of a 1996 Ford Bronco from the icy depths of the Straits of Mackinac. The vehicle flipped off the Mackinac Bridge on 02 March 1997, and the driver was killed. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter BISCAYNE BAY served as a platform for the M-Rover submersible craft used to locate the Bronco in 190 feet of water.

HARRY L. ALLEN was launched March 5, 1910, as a.) JOHN B. COWLE (Hull#379) at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. She was declared a constructive total loss after a fire on January 21, 1978. The vessel was in winter lay-up at the Capitol elevator in Duluth when part of the elevator complex burned. Debris from the elevator fell on the boat, badly damaging it. The owners decided to scrap it rather than repair it. The ALLEN was scrapped at Duluth in 1978.

LEADALE was launched March 5, 1910, as a.) HARRY YATES (Hull#77) at St. Clair, Michigan, by Great Lakes Engineering Works. Scrapped at Cartagena, Columbia in 1979.

March 5, 1932 - In distress with a broken steering gear off the Ludington harbor, S.S. VIRGINIA entered port under her own power.

On 05 March 1898, the WILLIAM R. LINN (Hull#32) (steel propeller freighter, 400 foot, 4,328 gross tons) was launched at the Chicago Ship Building Company in South Chicago, Illinois. In 1940, she was sold, renamed b.) L.S. WESCOAT and converted to a tanker. She was scrapped in Germany in 1965.

1997 - The former Greek bulk carrier ANTONIS P. LEMOS had been built at Osaka, Japan, in 1976, and visited the Great Lakes that year. As c) ALBION TWO, the ship departed Gdynia, Poland, for Kingston, Jamaica, with a cargo of steel products and was reported as missing on March 5. Wreckage was later found off the coast of France and identified as from the missing vessel. All 25 crewmembers were lost. The ship had also been through the Seaway as b) MACFRIENDSHIP in November 1993 with a cargo of steel for Hamilton.

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


St. Marys River navigation update

3/4 - The USCG cutter Katmai Bay has managed to work the upbound tanker Algocanda through part of the east Neebish channel in the St. Marys River. The pair stopped for the night just south of Stribling Point. The USCG Neah Bay is expected to join in the effort soon. In the lower St. Clair River, the USCG Bristol Bay continues to work with the tug Everlast and her barge, which have been beset for several days. Finally, the CCGS Griffon remains on station working with the tanker Algosea, which has been struggling to reach Nanticoke.


Port Reports -  March 4

Milwaukee, Wis. - Dan McNeil
The tug Samuel de Champlain and cement barge Innovation took on the tug G.L. Ostrander and cement barge Integrity's winter storage cargo in Milwaukee and departed sometime Sunday, March 2. She was going to anchor overnight just outside of South Chicago and was going to enter the Calumet River Monday morning with an ETA of 11 a.m. for the Lafarge Cement dock in South Chicago.


USCG faces tough work to meet deadline

3/4 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – Old Jack Frost has been hard at work during the 2013-14 winter season. He punched in early, leaving snow on the ground well before Thanksgiving and worked hard through December, January and February to keep temperatures well below the magical 32-degree mark.

And while March didn't necessarily roar in like a lion, it has brought more of the same, with nights falling well below zero and daytime highs only reaching single digits.

"I hesitate to say this is record breaking, but this is the most ice we have seen here in our 35 years," said Director of Vessel Traffic Services Mark Gill of the U.S. Coast Guard as the plate ice in the lower St. Marys River System is almost completely covered with a solid three feet. "Thirty-six to 40 inches."

Coast Guard crews already have gotten a taste of the task at hand, and it appears, that like Jack Frost, himself, they will have to work long and hard to get the shipping channels ready to handle the traffic in time for the Soo Locks to open on March 25.

The tanker Algocanada, entered the St. Marys River with various petroleum products bound for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and despite the best efforts of the 140-foot Katmai Bay the vessel is still well short of its goal.

"Day six, and we still haven't gotten them above Neebish Island," said Gill of the ice-breaking activity. "They're moving, it's just taking an extended period of time." A second 140-foot icebreaker, the Neah Bay, is slated to join in the effort. But Gill predicted the task will be measured in days and not hours as the two ships work together to break a path for the tanker.

"Right now, thankfully, we are in the closed navigation season," he said.

With the thick bed of ice atop the St. Marys River, Lake Superior and Lake Huron, the big guns — including the 290-foot Mackinaw among others — will begin to arrive in full force for the official break-out operation commencing March 10. The Soo Locks are scheduled to open March 25.

Predicting there will be difficulty, Gill said Coast Guard personnel has scheduled a meeting with the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority in an effort to address anticipated interruptions in ferry travel as the thick sheets of ice will likely clog those various routes connecting island residents with the mainland before all is said and done.

"There will be some service delays for the ferries," Gill predicted. "There is nowhere for this ice to go."

Reflecting back on his years with the Coast Guard, Gill indicated that the ice can create difficulty well beyond the winter season.

"It's not unprecedented to us to be breaking ice in June," he said before adding the 2014 season is shaping up to be a tough one for all involved. "I see this being a very long process."

Gill also indicated that a slow and steady warm-up would be ideal adding that if it comes on too quickly there could be potential flooding problems at unspecified locations if a sudden heat wave caused all of the snow and ice to go in a short period of time.

"It would be nice just to get some temperatures that were above freezing," he concluded.

Soo Evening News


Trees planted for windbreak along Welland Canal

3/4 - St. Catharines, Ont. – A large number of trees and cedars have been planted along the Welland Canal Parkway below Lock 2 and also along the parkway below the Seaway office south of Glendale Ave. The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation reports the trees will have a practical function when they grow bigger.

Alvina Ghirardi, manager of operational services, said the primary purpose for the planting below Lock 2 and near the Glendale office is to provide a windbreak for ships. She said those particular locations have large open areas to the navigational channel for wind to sweep across. The trees provide wind reduction.

The windbreak tree planting is unrelated to the Seaway’s tie up wall project above Lock 2, which will also include landscaping. Trees that are planted by the Seaway are carefully chosen so they don’t grow roots that will negatively impact the structural integrity of the dyke or grow too tall for overhead utility lines.

St. Catharines Standard


Sunken oil pipeline raises fears

3/4 - St. Ignace, Mich. A freshwater channel that separates Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas is a premier Midwestern tourist attraction and a photographer's delight, offering spectacular vistas of two Great Lakes, several islands and one of the world's longest suspension bridges.

But nowadays the Straits of Mackinac is drawing attention for something that is out of sight and usually out of mind, and which some consider a symbol of the dangers lurking in the nation's sprawling web of buried oil and natural gas pipelines.

Stretched across the bottom of the waterway at depths reaching 270 feet are two 20-inch pipes that carry nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. They are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 slices through northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac and winding up in Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipes were laid in 1953. They've never leaked, according to the system's owner, Enbridge Energy Partners LP, which says the lines are in good shape and pose no threat.

But a growing chorus of activists and members of Congress is demanding closer scrutiny as stepped-up production in North Dakota's Bakken region and Canada's Alberta tar sands boosts the amount of oil coursing through pipelines crossing the nation's heartland.

Concern has risen in the past year following serious spills in Arkansas and North Dakota, and as the government weighs the proposed Keystone pipeline project that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The issue is especially sensitive in Michigan, where another Enbridge line ruptured in 2010, spewing more than 840,000 gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek.

The Straits of Mackinac epitomizes a potential worst-case scenario for a pipeline accident: an iconic waterway, ecologically and economically significant, that could be fiendishly hard to clean up because of swift currents and deep water that's often covered with ice several months a year.

The 5-mile-wide straits link Lakes Huron and Michigan and flow near Mackinac Island, which is famed for its horse-drawn carriages and fudge shops. Several villages draw drinking water from the Straits and cargo freighters and passenger ferries use it as a passageway. Sport anglers chase salmon and trout, while commercial crews harvest whitefish and perch for restaurants.

Hundreds of activists attended a rally to protest the pipeline last summer. Local residents haven't paid it much attention over the years, but a packed crowd grilled Enbridge representatives at a community meeting this month.

"It's a huge pipeline carrying oil in one of the most ecologically beneficial and sensitive places in the world," said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office. "A massive oil spill there would have dire and irreversible consequences."

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow sent a letter of concern to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in December. Agency head Cynthia Quarterman said Enbridge has agreed to step up its inspections of the Lakehead system since the Kalamazoo River spill.

"We've invested a lot of money, time and resources to ensure that we're using the best available technology to operate our pipelines with the utmost integrity," said Jackie Guthrie, spokeswoman for the company, based in Calgary, Alberta.

Now, line 5's segment beneath the straits is getting extra attention.

Enbridge has reached an agreement with Michigan Technological University to deploy a newly developed "autonomous underwater vehicle" to provide digital images of the pipeline eight times in the next two years. The device resembles a 7-foot-long missile with a tiny, whirring propeller and will be fitted with sonar devices, cameras and computers.

The equipment probably isn't capable of detecting cracks, but "never before have you been able to see this kind of detail," said Guy Meadows, a director of the university's Great Lakes Research Center.

The National Wildlife Federation maintains it's time to replace the lines. The group posted a short video taken by divers that appears to show broken supports and sections suspended above the bottom or covered with debris. Critics also complain the company won't release enough data from its inspections of the pipelines and note that above-ground sections of Line 5 have ruptured in numerous spots on land, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons.

But Guthrie said the underwater section is sound.

"It's been operating there for decades and operating safely," she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard has conducted spill-response exercises in the straits the past three years. Some have taken place in winter to test technology for tracing oil beneath ice, said Steve Keck, a contingency specialist based in Saul Ste. Marie.

Dean Reid, planning commission chairman in Mackinac County who organized the community meeting, said locals needed more information about the pipelines, which many didn't know existed until recently.

"We tend to take for granted what's here," Reid said, "and sometimes don't know what's here."

Associated Press


Portland Harbor project offers insight into how dredging works

3/4 - Portland, Maine – They're working seven days a week, 24 hours a day, digging up the bottom of the harbor so ships have a clear channel. Here's what it's like to be onboard the Dale Pyatt, one of the largest dredges in the nation.

Sitting in a massive crane propped on the edge of a barge, Tim Kollman pulls a lever that lifts a clamshell bucket off the bottom of Portland Harbor. As the bucket rises, the entire crane swivels until the boom hangs over a hollowed-out barge called a dump scow. He releases the bucket’s contents, swings the crane back to position and lets the bucket drop to the water.

Kollman makes this same maneuver every 70 seconds. In one shift, he lifts up the bucket 300 times and digs up enough mud to fill more than five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“You strive to be the best,” said Kollman, who works to keep the bucket moving as efficiently as possible. “The better you are, the more you work.”

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, crews on the dredge barge are digging up the bottom of Portland Harbor, a $9.2 million project funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They began digging Feb. 6 and won’t stop until March 25, when the bucket makes its last scoop in Casco Bay somewhere off Spring Point.

This is a maintenance dredge, meaning the goal is to maintain the shipping channel’s charted depth at low tide of 35 feet. Because the dredge bucket is not accurate, the crew is digging to 37 feet to make sure it doesn’t leave behind anything that could grab the bottom of a passing oil tanker.

The Dale Pyatt is one of the largest in the nation. With each scoop, its bucket picks up 54 cubic yards of sediment – enough to fill the beds of 27 full-sized pickup trucks. There are 12 workers assigned to the barge. They work in 12-hour shifts, half at night and half in daylight.

Six other workers run a smaller barge, the F.J. Belesimo, which wields a smaller, heavier bucket with teeth. That barge, which operates only during the day, is used to tackle the hard-bottomed sections of the harbor’s shipping channel, while the Dale Pyatt grabs the soft clay and sand.

At the end of each shift, crew members are ferried home on a boat that drops them off at Rickers Wharf next to the Google barge, which hasn’t moved since it was towed into the harbor last October.

‘Walking’ Barge, Moving Lobsters

The Dale Pyatt moves. It doesn’t have a propeller, though. It moves as though it was an old man walking with a cane.

The dredge has three legs, or “spuds,” which sink into mud and hold the dredge in place while the crane is digging. The dredge lifts its twin front spuds while a cable pulls the lone stern spud so it pivots at an angle and propels the barge backward. The crane operator uses the bucket to steer the barge, which can “walk” in only one direction.

The shipping channel runs between 400 and 1,000 feet wide, and the dredge digs in 80-foot-wide lanes mapped out on a computer screen that displays a color-coded view of the harbor bottom based on depth.

The dredge reaches the end of one lane, turns around and starts on another.

“We are basically mowing the lawn, if you will,” said Norman Bourque, project manager for Cashman Dredging. Most of the dredging is focused on the edges of the shipping lane because ship turbulence clears out the middle and pushes the sediment to the side.

Four tugboats haul the four dump scows to a designated spot 7.1 miles east of Cape Elizabeth. There, hydraulic doors on their bottoms open up, releasing the sediment to the ocean floor about 200 feet below. The digging only stops when the seas outside the harbor are too rough for the tugs to safely haul the dump scows.

In preparation for the dredging, since December a local two-man crew has been removing lobsters from the harbor and taking them to an undisclosed location on the other side of Fort Gorges. Using special traps designed to catch juvenile as well as adult lobsters, they must clear an area of lobsters before the dredge barge can start digging.

“The dredge is then free to come and follow us down the river,” said Lance Hanna, deputy harbormaster, who along with lobsterman Jim Buxton make up the lobster relocation team.

In 1998, the last time the harbor was dredged, crews removed more than 36,000 lobsters. But the trapping was done in the early fall. By the time trapping began this year, most of the creatures had already relocated themselves by crawling out of the harbor to deeper water, which is warmer in winter. As of Feb. 25, Hanna and Buxton had captured only 998 lobsters.

The lobster removal project, designed to protect the lobster fishery, cost $90,000, which is split three ways by the Maine Port Authority and the cities of Portland and South Portland. If no more lobsters are trapped, it will have cost $90.18 to relocate each individual lobster.

Because of the high cost, the lobster removal idea will be reconsidered the next time the harbor is dredged, Hanna said.

Blasting Needed To Bust Granite

Besides mud, sand and the occasional lost lobster trap, dredge crews also have removed 1,550 cubic yards of rock from the harbor.

Crews on another Cashman vessel, a drill boat called the Kraken, last month drilled holes into granite outcroppings in the shipping lane, packed them with explosives and blasted. The granite is located in the shipping lane in five spots. Although the ledge was about 35 feet below the surface, sediment over time would build them up. So the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called in the Kraken.

An odd-looking vessel that has three drill towers, the Kraken is named after a legendary sea monster that is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland.

The Kraken lived up to its name in Portland Harbor. Each blast was actually multiple explosions set off in rapid succession in a linear pattern. The explosions were muffled by the water. Shock waves from the blasts created a low, fast-moving wave of foam, the kind a sea monster might make while swimming just below the water’s surface. Watch a vide of the blasting here.

Fish killed by the blasts floated to the surface and become quick meals for sea gulls. In New York Harbor, where the blasting occurred much more frequently during a recent dredge project, the gulls would swarm the Kraken whenever they heard the alarm announcing the one-minute countdown that preceded each explosion. Portland’s gulls never figured out that trick.

Before the blasting began in Portland, residents in the condominiums on Chandlers Wharf were anxious about the blasts, and some tried to stop them. They can now relax. The Kraken left the harbor Saturday morning.

At the end of this month, the rest of the dredging crew will leave Portland and move on to New Haven, Conn. There, they will dredge a harbor clogged with sand and sediment stirred up by hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

This is their life, traveling from harbor to harbor and up and down the nation’s waterways. The lifestyle is fun when one is young, but gets harder when their children grow old enough to attend school, crew members say.

The money is good. Kollman, for example, earns more than $36 an hour as a licensed crane operator, the highest-paid job on the union scale. But he misses his 10-year-old daughter back home in Pennsylvania.

He took some time off last week to be with her on her birthday. He then headed back to Portland to start digging again.

“She still cries when I leave,” he said.


Help wanted: Sterling Fuels, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

3/4 - Sterling Fuels is the premier fuel and lubricant supplier to the marine shipping industry on the Great Lakes. With its modern fueling dock in Windsor, refueling barges in Hamilton, and its fleet of trucks, Sterling Fuels has served both the marine and land Great Lakes market for over 30 years and is the licensed Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil lubricant distributor for the area. Recent growth opportunities have seen Sterling expand to the Port of Halifax to serve the Atlantic Canada region. This sales position has been created to lead and nurture our expansion into the Atlantic Canada marine bunkering business. Sterling is always looking for competent, dynamic people who want a challenge and to be a part of a growing company.

Duties and Responsibilities:
Working out of our Dartmouth N.S. facility, this position will be responsible for the sales, marketing and technical service activities in the Atlantic Provinces. You will become an expert on Sterling’s line of technically advanced Fuel products and services. You will promote and create demand by building customer relationships, providing technical expertise and working towards a full service offering in this niche market. You will pay close attention to customer needs and perform post-delivery sales calls in order to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

With a College Diploma or University Degree and experience in bulk liquid or Petroleum Sales and Marketing you will be conversant with fuels, budgeting, accounting and/or financial programs. You will be proficient with Microsoft Word and Excel and possess excellent oral and written communication skills. A good working knowledge and experience in the area of marine and land transportation will be considered a strong asset. The successful candidate will possess a high level of integrity and will be a self-starter, able to work independently or in a team environment. Possession of a good sense of humour will also be beneficial.

Interested applicants are requested to apply to Human Resources by March 7, 2014. Send your resume and cover letter to:

Human Resources
8800 Sheppard Ave East
Toronto, Ontario
M1B 5R4
Fax: (416) 281-8842


Lake Superior Marine Museum Association seeks volunteers

3/4 - The Lake Superior Marine Museum Association (LSMMA), in conjunction with the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, will host its annual Spring Cleaning Day on Tuesday, March 11 at the Visitor Center at 600 S. Lake Ave., in historic Canal Park in Duluth, Minn.

Volunteers are needed from 10 am to 3 pm 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 Grandmas Sportsgarden. If you can volunteer to help, please contact LSMMA at 218-727-2497 or email


Lookback #107 – Former Seaway trader Gretafield hit the breakwall at Capetown, South Africa, on March 4, 1976

The British vessel Gretafield was originally a 523-foot-long oil tanker. It was built by the Furness Shipbuilding Co. at Haverton Hill, England, and launched on June 9, 1952. The ship operated under British registry for the Northern Petroleum Tank Steamship Co. but was converted to a bulk carrier in 1961.

Gretafield first visited the Great Lakes with two trips inland in 1962. The 10,856 gross ton vessel was sold to Bystas Cia de Nav. and registered in Panama as Mayflower X in 1972. It became Siroco I in 1975 for the Joselyn Shipping Co. S.A. another Panamanian flag owner.

On March 4, 1976, 38 years ago today, Siroco I hit the breakwall entering Capetown, South Africa, pushing the bow back considerably. Now 24 years old, the ship was sold to shipbreakers in Taiwan and arrived at Kaohsiung on July 5, 1976. It was broken up for scrap there by the Hua Lien Iron & Steel Works.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 4

In 1944, the U.S.C.G.C. MACKINAW (WAGB-83) was launched by the Toledo Ship Building Company (Hull #188) at Toledo, Ohio. Her name was originally planned to be MANITOWOC. MACKINAW was retired in 2006.

CECILIA DESGAGNES, a.) CARL GORTHON, departed Sorel, Quebec, on March 4, 1985, bound for Baie Comeau, Quebec, on her first trip in Desgagnes colors.

March 4, 1904 - William H. Le Fleur of the Pere Marquette car ferries was promoted to captain at the age of 34. He was the youngest carferry captain on the Great Lakes.

In 1858, TRENTON (wooden propeller, 134 foot, 240 gross tons, built in 1854, at Montreal, Quebec) burned to a total loss while tied to the mill wharf at Picton, Ontario, in Lake Ontario. The fire was probably caused by carpenters that were renovating her.

On 4 March 1889, TRANSIT (wooden 10-car propeller carferry, 168 foot, 1,058 gross tons, built in 1872, at Walkerville, Ontario) burned at the Grand Trunk Railroad dock at Windsor, Ontario on the Detroit River. She had been laid up since 1884, and the Grand Trunk Railroad had been trying to sell her for some time.

In 1871, FLORENCE (iron steamer, 42.5 foot, built in 1869, at Baltimore, Maryland) burned while docked at Amherstburg, Ontario at about 12:00 p.m. The fire was hot enough to destroy all the cabins and melt the surrounding ice in the Detroit River, but the vessel remained afloat and her engines were intact. She was rebuilt and remained in service until 1922 when she was scrapped.

1976 - The former British freighter GRETAFIELD of 1952, a Great Lakes visitor for the first time in 1962, hit the breakwall entering Cape Town, South Africa, as c) SIROCCO I and received extensive bow damage. It was sold to Taiwanese shipbreakers and departed May 15,1976, arriving at Kaohsiung July 5 for dismantling.

1983 - The former Danish freighter MARIE SKOU of 1962, inland for the first time in 1966, caught fire in the engine room and was abandoned by the crew south of Sicily as b) CLEO C. The vessel was towed to Malta on March 9 and scrapped there beginning in April.

1986 - The onetime Greek freighter YEMELOS, built in 1962 as MIGOLINA and renamed in 1972, first came inland in 1973. It was abandoned as e) TANFORY off Trincomolee, Sri Lanka, en route from Kandla, India, to Chittagong, Bangladesh, with salt and bentonite. The ship was presumed to have sunk.

1995 - The tug ERIE NO. 1, a) DUNKIRK, b) PEGGY M., c) RENE PURVIS sank at the dock in Toronto. It was raised by a crane June 18, 1995, but the cable snapped, dropping the hull on the dock breaking the tug’s back. The vessel was broken up at that location in late 1995.

2011 - LOUIS JOLLIET caught fire at Montreal during winter work. The ex-St. Lawrence ferry was being used as an excursion vessel.

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


Icebreaking resumes at the Soo for Algocanada

3/3 - The USCGC Katmai Bay left the base in Sault Ste. Marie around 4 p.m. Sunday, traveling back down river to rejoin the tanker Algocanada. They made great time, reaching the north part of Neebish island in time to do some ice breaking before evening. By nightfall the Algocanada’s position was unchanged, and icebreaking stopped for the night.

Bonnie Barnes and Jerry Masson


Duluth-Superior icebreaking starts this week

3/3 - Duluth, Minn. – The United States Coast Guard will start breaking ice in the ports of Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wis. beginning March 4 in preparation for the 2014 shipping season.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder will commence icebreaking operations in the waters of the Duluth Harbor out to Lake Superior. This will include ice covered areas normally used by recreational users such as but not limited to Superior Front Channel, Superior and Duluth Harbor Basins, East Gate, the Entry Channels into Duluth and Superior Harbor and the ice in Lake Superior adjacent to Minnesota Point.

These icebreaking efforts will expand and increase in frequency as the ice and demands of shipping require. This will include all navigable waters in and around the ports of Duluth and Superior, as well as the waters of Silver Bay, Taconite Harbor and Two Harbors in Minnesota.



Coast Guard air crew makes emergency landing on Washington Island

3/3 - Washington Island, Wis. – A Coast Guard air crew made an emergency landing on Washington Island, Wis., Sunday morning after the helicopter experienced flight control malfunctions.

At 8:31 a.m., the crew, aboard a Dolphin helicopter based out of Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich., contacted the operations center at the air station and declared their intent to execute an emergency landing to the beach on Washington Island.

The aircraft's four-member crew launched early Sunday morning from Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, en route to the Iron Mountain Airport in Iron Mountain, Mich.

Approximately 30 minutes after take off and while near the western shore of Lake Michigan, the crew declared an in-flight emergency with air traffic control and safely landed on the beach of Washington Island.

The crew was uninjured, and members of the air station are making plans to recover the aircraft.



Lookback #106 – Former tanker Itororo caught fire at Talara, Peru, on March 3, 1958

3/3 - Itororo was built at Elizabethport, New Jersey, in 1920 and was originally a refrigerated package freight carrier. It often carried meat to and from South America and frequently traded to Argentina.

It was sold, rebuilt at Quebec City in 1926 and fitted with a trunk deck. The bridge was moved forward, from its earlier mid-ships position, at this time. The 258-foot-long vessel returned to service as a pulpwood carrier. The name remained unchanged and, with a capacity of 800 cords at a 14-foot draft, it usually ran from Bersimis, Quebec, to Quebec City.

The ship was rebuilt as a tanker at Lauzon, Quebec, in 1940 and came to the Great Lakes on occasion for Transit Tankers & Terminals Ltd.

Service in the Canadian tanker trade was brief. Itororo was sold to Chilean interests in 1944 and renamed Don Pancho. It operated in the South American coastal trade and became Don Jose, for a Peruvian company, in 1948.

Don Jose was likely loading at the refinery in Talara, Peru, when fire broke out there 56-years ago today. The now 38-year old tanker was apparently a total loss and soon disappeared from Lloyds Register.

Skip Gillham


Updates -  March 3

News Photo Gallery


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 3

The keel was laid on March 3, 1980, for the COLUMBIA STAR (Hull#726) at Sturgeon Bay, Wis., by Bay Shipbuilding Corp. She now sails as AMERICAN CENTURY.

At midnight on 3 March 1880, DAVID SCOVILLE (wooden propeller steam tug/ferry, 42 foot, 37 gross tons, built in 1875, at Marine City, Mich.) burned at the Grand Trunk Railway wharf at Sarnia, Ontario. Arson was suspected. No lives were lost.

1947: NOVADOC of the Paterson fleet was lost with all hands (24 sailors) off Portland, Maine, while en route from Nova Scotia to New York City with a cargo of gypsum. The ship had also sailed as NORTHTON for the Mathews and Misener fleets.

1958: The tanker DON JOSE, formerly the ITORORO that operated on the Great Lakes for Transit Tankers & Terminals in the early 1940s, was destroyed by a fire, likely in a loading mishap, at Talara, Peru.

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


Efforts to free Algocanada from ice to resume today

3/2 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The Canadian tanker Algocanada remained stuck in heavy ice in the lower St. Marys River at the bottom end of Neebish Island's upbound channel Saturday night.

The USCG cutter Katmai Bay, which has been breaking ice for the tanker the past two days, was expected back at its Soo base for fuel and supplies late Saturday afternoon. Enroute, Katmai Bay passed the icebound barge PML Ironmaster around 1:45 p.m. High winds in the area have blown a rail panel off the barge and on to the shore.

Katmai Bay will return to the Algocanada on Sunday, according to Soo Traffic Vessel Traffic Management Specialist Ken Curry.

Curry said ice is heavy in the river system. "The last report is 30 inches in the track," he told by phone Saturday afternoon. "It's a lot of ice, a lot of brash ... 30 inch broken plate (ice)."

Algocanada, which hove to south of Johnson's Point on Neebish Island Saturday afternoon awaiting the Katmai Bay's return, will discharge her cargo at the Purvis Dock in the lower harbor once she arrives in port.

The current situation does not bode will for the start of the shipping season March 25, when the Soo Locks reopen.

"It's gonna be challenging," Curry said.

Earlier Saturday, the Port Huron-based cutter Hollyhock was unable to break through heavy ice in the lower river. Saturday afternoon she was westbound in the Straits near Mackinac Island. The USCG Mackinaw remains at its home base in Cheboygan; it is down for maintenance and unavailable for assistance.

Algocanada was built in 2008 in Turkey. She is part of the Algoma Tankers fleet, operated by the Algoma Central Corp.

Roger LeLievre and Bonnie Barnes for


Lookback #105 – Saltwater visitor Bencomo completed on March 2, 1950

3/2 - The Norwegian freighter Bencomo was launched at Landskrona, Sweden, on December 15, 1949, and completed by Orestsundvarv A/B 64 years ago today.

The 385-foot, 6-inch long general cargo carrier served Fred Olsen & Co. and provided some limited refrigerated cargo space to company customers.

Bencomo was a regular on saltwater routes before making a visit to the Great Lakes in 1966.

After 25 years of service, the ship was sold to Orri Navigation Lines S.A. and registered in Saudi Arabia as Al Riyadh in 1975. It put in another eight years on their account before being sold to shipbreakers in Pakistan.

The former lakes visitor arrived at Gadani Beach on March 22, 1983, and the dismantling of the hull was begun on April 18, 1983 by a company listed as Golden Pickers & Leather Industries.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 2

On 02 March 1889, the U.S. Congress passed two acts for establishment of a light station at Old Mackinac Point and appropriated $5,500 for construction of a fog signal building. The following year, funds were appropriated for the construction of the light tower and dwelling.

March 2, 1938 - Harold Lillie, crewmember of the ANN ARBOR NO 6, stepped onto the apron as the carferry was approaching and fell into the water and suffered a broken neck.

March 2, 1998, a fire broke out on the ALGOSOO causing serious damage to the self-unloading belts and other nearby equipment. Almost 12 years earlier in 1986, a similar fire gutted the aft cabins.

On 02 March 1893, the MARY E. MC LACHLAN (3-mast wooden schooner, 251 foot, 1,394 gross tons) was launched at F. W. Wheeler's yard in West Bay City, Michigan as (Hull #96). The launch turned into a disaster when the huge wave generated by the vessel entering the water hit the freighter KITTIE FORBES (wooden propeller bulk freighter, 209 foot, 968 gross tons, built in 1883, at W. Bay City, Michigan). The FORBES had numerous spectators onboard and when the wave struck, many were injured and there was one confirmed death.

1972 - HARMATTAN, a Seaway trader beginning in 1971, arrived at Karachi, Pakistan, for scrapping after suffering missile damage at sea from Indian Naval units during a conflict between the two countries.

1976 - BROOK, a former Seaway trader as EXBROOk beginning in 1968, arrived at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for scrapping.

Data from: Skip Gillham, Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, and Steve Haverty


Efforts to free Algocanada from ice to resume Sunday

3/1 - 4 p.m. update - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – The Canadian tanker Algocanada remained stuck in heavy ice in the lower St. Marys River at the bottom end of Neebish Island's upbound channel Saturday afternoon.

The USCG cutter Katmai Bay, which has been breaking ice for the tanker the past two days, was expected back at its Soo base for fuel and supplies late Saturday afternoon. The Katmai Bay passed the icebound PML barge Ironmaster around 1:45 p.m., high winds in the area have blown a rail panel off the barge and on to the shore.

Katmai Bay will return to the Algocanada on Sunday, according to Soo Traffic Vessel Traffic Management Specialist Ken Curry.

Curry said ice is heavy in the river system. "The last report is 30 inches in the track," he told by phone Saturday afternoon. "It's a lot of ice, a lot of brash ... 30 inch broken plate (ice)."

Algocanada, which hove to south of Johnson's Point on Neebish Island Saturday afternoon awaiting the Katmai Bay's return, will discharge her cargo at the Purvis Dock in the lower harbor once she arrives in port.

The current situation does not bode will for the start of the shipping season March 25, when the Soo Locks reopen.

"It's gonna be challenging," Curry said.

Earlier Saturday, the Port Huron-based cutter Hollyhock was unable to break through heavy ice in the lower river. Saturday afternoon she was westbound in the Straits near Mackinac Island. The USCG Mackinaw remains at its home base in Cheboygan, they are down for maintenance and unavailable for assistance.

Algocanada was built in 2008 in Turkey. She is part of the Algoma Tankers fleet, operated by the Algoma Central Corp.

Roger LeLievre for and Bonnie Barnes

1 p.m. update
Algocanada remains stuck in river Saturday morning and the Katmai Bay was returning to their Soo Base for fuel and supplies. USCG Hollyhock was at Detour Saturday morning to help escort the Algocanada to Soo Harbor.

By Saturday afternoon the Hollyhock was unable to break through heavy and returned to Detour passage, out to Straits area.

Original report - The tanker Algocanada and the USCG cutter Katmai Bay remained stuck in the lower St. Mary River Friday. Friday night the pair was stopped below Neebish Island in Mud Lake. They may be waiting for additional icebreakers to continue the trip to the Canadian Soo.


Lake Superior hits normal water level for first time in 9 years

3/1 - Duluth, Minn. – Lake Superior hit its normal level in February for the first time in nine years, according to the International Lake Superior Board of Control. The big lake dropped just 0.4 inches in February, a month it usually declines about two inches, bringing the lake level in line with its long-term average for March 1.

Lake Superior now sits 13 inches above the level of March 1, 2013, and appears to be continuing an upward trend that started about one year ago. The lake has now pulled far away from its lowest points, when it hit monthly record lows in August and September 2007.

The last time the lake’s water level was at or above normal was April 2005, said Cynthia Jarema of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.

“It’s taken a long time, but it’s back up to normal, and that’s noteworthy,” Jarema told the News Tribune on Friday.

Water supply to Lake Superior was up in February, including snow, rain and river runoff.

Meanwhile, the level of Lakes Huron and Michigan dropped 0.4 inches in February, a month when it usually stays the same. Those lakes remain about 13 inches below their long-term normal level, but 13 inches above their March 1, 2013 level.

The level of the lakes is important for shipping interests as lower water levels can force Great Lakes freighters to lighten their loads, requiring more trips and higher costs to haul cargo such as taconite and coal. The water levels were so low a few years ago that they affected even recreational boating on some Great Lakes, with anglers and boaters unable to get into docks or landings.

The Great Lakes usually rise from April to September, and then fall through the winter when water is locked up in snow and ice. The lake levels are affected by rain and snow, evaporation and other factors such as how much water is released for hydroelectric power.

Experts have speculated that this year’s substantial ice cover will help reduce evaporation, while heavy snow will add to the rising lakes come spring.

Duluth News Tribune


Winds shatter Lake Michigan ice cover

3/1 - Traverse City, Mich. – Don’t underestimate waves on the Great Lakes. A windstorm last week created waves so strong it blew the ice lid off much of Lake Michigan. In a matter of days, ice coverage shrank from about 60 percent of the lake to 30 percent.

Wind creates waves in the open water, which crash into the ice and break it up. The tumult also churns the water, which in turn mixes warmer deep water with the surface water and heats it to just above freezing.

“The ice is getting shoved under the main ice pack so you get melting and compacting of the ice, so you’re opening up even more water,” said Nick Schwartz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord. “It’s not overly complicated, but it’s a bit of a snowball effect that goes on.”

Ice cover on the lake peaked at 82 percent around Feb. 13. Winds broke it down to 60 percent over several days, but the windstorm Friday to Saturday did the most damage, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour and waves of 10 feet or more.

Other lakes also lost ice coverage, though not such a large percentage.

“Lake Michigan took the biggest hit because of existing open water,” Schwartz said. “Once you had a decent stretch of open water, it lent itself to a decrease in open water ice coverage.”

Ice over deep water is much less stable than the ice that forms over inland lakes and bays. “It’s very prone to fracturing and winds,” Schwartz said.

Rain and warm temperatures last week also made it hard for the water to refreeze, said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lake Michigan hasn’t frozen to such an extent since 1994, when it was about 90 percent covered, Leshkevich said. The weather likely affected the quality of the remaining ice, too.

“It probably formed snow ice or slush ice with a lot of bubbles in it,” Leshkevich said.

Most of Lake Michigan’s bays remain ice-covered, as is the lake north of Beaver Island. An open Lake Michigan means a return of lake effect snow to the Traverse City area. Though that could mean more evaporation, there’s no need to worry about lake levels, said Hans Van Sumeren, the director of the Great Lakes Water Study Institute at Northwestern Michigan College.

“Even before we had ice cover, it rebounded significantly over the lows,” Van Sumeren said. “We have an enormous amount of snow pack, which will contribute an awful lot of water to the system, as well.”

Traverse City Record-Eagle


Record lows shattered; Two Michigan cities were colder than -40

3/1 - Record low temperatures were shattered across most of Michigan overnight and early Friday morning. A few locations even dropped colder than -40.

Of the major reporting cities in Michigan, only three cities didn't set new record low temperatures. Detroit, Lansing, and Traverse City fell shy of new records. All other cities from the southern border to the U.P. set record low temperatures.

Here are some of the low temperatures:

Newberry -43
Cooks -41
Pellston -33
Gaylord -29
Houghton Lake -29
Marquette -28
Escanaba -26
Ironwood -26
Houghton -25
Alpena -23
Sault Saint Marie -21
Traverse City -18
Grand Rapids -12
Holland -9
Saginaw/Bay City -8
Muskegon -7
Detroit 0

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan was 51 below zero at Vanderbilt back on February 9, 1934.



Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment to cap Sturgeon Bay series

3/1 - Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – For anyone who would like to know more about the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment in Sturgeon Bay, the final program in the Door County Maritime Museum’s Maritime Speaker Series, Thursday, March 6, at the museum in Sturgeon Bay, should be of interest.

Led by Lieutenant Commander John Kaser, supervisor of the local office, a trio of presenters will talk about their facility’s operations. While the Canal Station and the USCGC Mobile Bay may represent a more significant presence on the peninsula in terms of size, the Marine Safety Detachment has some significant responsibilities.

Oversight of new vessel construction and domestic deep draft vessel inspections are two principle responsibilities, along with others that Kaser will discuss along with co-presenters Marine Science Technician First Class Brian O’Neil and CIV Marine Inspector Jim Condra.

All programs begin at 7 p.m. in the Reddin Bridge Room at the Sturgeon Bay museum and are free and open to the public. Call (920) 743-5958 or visit for more information.


Lookback #104 – Former Swedish freighter Barbara lost on March 1, 1980

3/1 - The Swedish flag Barbara was built nine years after its West German counterpart noted in yesterday's story. It was launched at Sunderland, England, on May 4, 1962, and was wrecked 34 years ago today.

This 566 foot, 2 inch long bulk carrier entered service in October 1962 making it maiden voyage to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before heading to Amsterdam, Netherlands. It began Seaway trading in 1966 with four trips inland that year and four more in 1967.

It returned to the Great Lakes as Barkand in 1968 and as Marianna in 1969. It carried the latter name, along with Greek registry, until becoming Maria Bacolitsa in 1980.

Still under Greek registry, the ship was wrecked near Constanza, Romania, while inbound with 22,000 tons of pig iron from Vitoria, Brazil, on March 1, 1980. An S.O.S. was sent out but the message did not give the ship's position and the vessel was lost with all hands. An estimated 30 sailors perished. The hull was later located about 3.5 miles offshore from Mangalia, Romania, but it was too late to save the ship or any of its crew.

Skip Gillham


Today in Great Lakes History -  March 1

HENRY FORD II (Hull#788) was launched on March 1, 1924, at Lorain, Ohio by the American Ship Building Co. She served as flagship of the Ford Motor Company fleet for many years and was eventually sold to Interlake Steamship Company when Ford sold its Great Lakes division. It was renamed b.) SAMUEL MATHER, but never sailed under that name. It was scrapped in 1994, at Port Maitland, Ontario by Marine Recycling & Salvage Ltd.

In 1881 the steamship JOHN B. LYON was launched at Cleveland, Ohio by Thomas Quayle & Son for Capt. Frank Perew. She was a four mast, double-decker with the following dimensions: 255 foot keel, 275 feet overall, 38 foot beam, and 20 foot depth.

On March 1, 1884 the I.N. FOSTER (wooden schooner, 134 foot, 319 gross tons, built in 1872, at Port Huron, Michigan) was sold by Clark I. Boots to E. Chilson. This vessel lasted until 1927, when she was abandoned in Buffalo, New York.

1926 - The passenger ship WHITE STAR of Canada Steamship Lines burned at Hamilton. It then became a coal barge and was rebuilt in 1950 as the diesel powered, self-unloading sandsucker S.M. DOUGLAS. It operated mainly on the St. Lawrence and was sunk as a breakwall at Kingston, ON in 1975.

1972 - The Dutch passenger and freight carrier PRINSES ANNA first visited the Great Lakes in 1967. It was lost in Osumi Strait, 18 miles south of Cape Sata, Japan, as HWA PO while on a voyage from Nagoya to Whampoa, China. The cargo shifted and 20 of the 36 on board were lost when the ship went down.

1980 - The Swedish freighter BARBARA was 4-years old when it first came inland in 1966. It returned through the Seaway as BARKAND in 1968 and as MARIANNA in 1969. The ship was under a fourth name of MARIA BACOLITSA and in bound from Brazil with pig iron for Constanza, Romania, when it went down on the Black Sea with all hands. An S.O.S. had been sent out without giving the location and rescuers were helpless to lend any assistance.

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


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