Friday, March 27, 2015

Soo Locks Opening in the News

In the past two days I have shared some photos of the opening of the Soo Locks this week.  The snowy pictures for a spring event have captured the attention of news sources around the Great Lakes area.  Here are a few for you to enjoy.

Duluth Tribune-Soo Locks Opens for Ship Traffic Spring in the Soo
This link has some great photos of opening day that I hadn't seen anywhere else.


I also follow the Algolake on Facebook.  If you are interested,  they have great photos and keep us up to date on the day-to-day operations of a Great Lakes freighter.  This is a post from this week.

M.v. Algolake
Can you hear it? The sounds of the Algolake's Engineers and Mechanical Assistants busily inspecting and reassembling her machinery? The sounds of the Deck Crew still at home, holding their breath, hoping that the unavoidable call back to work will be delayed so they may be with loved ones and friends a little longer? Yes, the beginning of another sailing season is drawing near. Some ships have started their respective sailing seasons already, with many more in the process of fitting out. As for the Algolake... in time... in time. After all, we do not want to scrape off our shiny new paint job in the ice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Opening Day Woes

The Soo Locks officially opened on Wednesday, March 25, but it has been slow going because of ice.  Here are some photos taken on Wednesday by Debbie Jelen.  As always, Debbie's photos give us a wonderful view of the St. Marys River and the freighters on it.

Edwin H. Gott at Mission Point

The Gott and Blough await passage through the Locks

 A snowy day

 Tied at the east pier

Hammond Bay assists in getting the day going

The following description of the first day is from
"The mighty 1,000-footer Edwin H. Gott tried her best to be the first boat to lock through the Soo Locks late Wednesday morning, but in the end she was bested by ice in the lock chamber and had to back out and tie up at the east center pier to wait for conditions to improve. Fleetmate Roger Blough was tied up astern of her. 

Wednesday evening the Corps tug Whitefish Bay was working to clear ice from the Poe Lock wall, while USCG Mobile Bay was cutting track in the upper approaches. By 8:30 p.m., the Gott was making a second run at the lock; this time she was successful and by 9:30 was clearing the lock. 

The Gott initially started going upbound through the locks around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. A welcoming party of community leaders and residents celebrated the Gott and its crew as it passed by during a heavy snow squall. But the excitement was short-lived as ice brought the passage to a crunching halt. 

Also, on Wednesday evening, the downbound John G. Munson and USCG cutter Alder were nearing Whitefish Point. If all goes well, the Munson will be the first downbound passage sometime on Thursday."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shipping Season 2015 Opens in a "Flurry"

The Soo Locks opened for the 2015 shipping season officially at 12:01 am on Wednesday, March 25. However the first ship didn't pass the Locks until nearly 12 hours later. The Edwin H. Gott made the first upbound passage and was closely followed by the Roger Blough. The Gott was welcomed by a group of city leaders from Sault Ste. Marie who were treated with a ride into the Locks in the Gott. As you can see from the pictures, the weather for the beginning of the shipping season was very winter-like. 

Looking back at the Roger Blough. 

The view from the Gott's pilot house. 

Entering the Locks. 

Pictures courtesy of Linda Hoath- Sault Visitor and Convention Bureau. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Roger Blough Arrives in Sault 4-7-2014

The Roger Blough arrived in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday, April 7, 2014, just as I arrived there with my family including my grandchildren.  Two of them are interested in watching the boats and were excited to be part of this day.  The Blough was the first upbound commercial boat of the season.

The Blough was accompanied by the USCG Mackinaw and the Canadian Coast Guard Pierre Radisson.

The Roger Blough continued her trip through the Soo Locks and waited for a convoy to proceed up to Lake Superior.  The convoy consisted of the Edwin H. Gott,  Edgar B. Speer, Steward J. Cort and Sam Laud left the Sault midweek.  But the sailing was tough going.  On Thursday the Blough sustained damage of a 3' crack in her quarter. She is currently on her way back to the Sault following the Mackinaw.  The Blough will stop at the Carbide dock for assessment of the damage.

An enthusiastic group of boatwatchers was on hand to greet the Blough.  The ice in the St. Marys River had to be pushed out of the way so the Blough could move up to the dock.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ice Breaking In Progress

These photos were taken in the St. Marys River this week by my cousins, Debbie and Gus.  I thought you would enjoy seeing the work near Sault Ste. Marie.  The USCG cutter, Katmai Bay, was working to clear a passageway for the ship, the Algocanada.  The trip to Soo, Ontario took the ship 8 days instead of the normal 6 hour trip.

News Channel on has a good description of the problems that the early shipping season is going to encounter.  Roger LeLievre states the this will be a 'brutal' opening to the shipping season.  The ice in the eastern end of Lake Superior is four feet thick and presents a great challenge to the United States Coast Guard. 

Right now, the March 25 is opening day for the Soo Locks as  scheduled.  But I will try to keep the blog updated if there are any changes to that.

TV 9 & 10 reported on the difficulties faced by Sugar Island residents due to the ice.

" 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."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Coal Pile

Last month I wrote about the controversy surrounding a mysterious black substance

that was piled on the Carbide Dock in Sault Dte. Marie, Michigan. The pile turned out to be coal which is needed for the production of steel at the plant across the St Marys River. The seasonal closing of the Soo Licks made it impossible for the lake freighters to reach the steel plant which sits about a mile away but on the other side of the Soo Locks. 

I checked out the coal today. Although the pile is larger than when I last saw it, local residents tell me it is steadily becoming smaller. Trucks are transporting the coal across the International Bridge. 

I was out taking photos for a story about architecture in the Soo when a string of trucks took my attention. 

These trucks are lining up to be filled with coal. It takes 7 scoops from a front-end loader to fill both trailers and the process takes 10 minutes. This goes on 24/7 all week. 

This process is pumping extra money into the local economy including over $140,000 in Bridge tolls alone. 

Portage Avenue's west bound lane is dark black as well as evidence of coal dust in the adjoining snow banks. I hope that is the extend of the environmental impact on our area and the precious, clean condition of the St. Marys River. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January at the Soo

I'm on my way home after a short trip to Soo to spend time with my parents. It was bitterly cold yet beautiful while we were there. I thought you would enjoy some photos. 

There was an interesting controversy happening in the Soo this week. We noticed some huge piles at the Carbide dock. They appeared to be coal. But later I read in the Evening News that perhaps it was pet coke. Pet coke is more hazardous than coal. I know both Chicago and Detroit are struggling with disposal of huge amounts of pet coke. I had real concerns about pet coke sitting next to our  precious St. Marys River. 

I contacted Jeff Stafanski , a city commissioner and received the following reply this morning. 

Dear Brenda
    It is not petcoke that is pile at the dock.  It is just normal coal going to Essar Steel across the river.  The ice got thick and the ships could not deliver past the locks.  It is safe coal from west virginia that was delivered to Sandusky Ohio then brought here.  It is being hauled across the bridge in covered trucks , there is no harm to people , pets or they would have had to close for 2 months which could have had a impact on both communities.  The City also gets paid a rate on the tonnage of material that is dropped off at the dock, which goes to a fund repairs to the old Carbide dock.  Also a Michigan based trucking company is hauling it too.  I hope this settles any concerns you may have and thank you for contacting me.
  Jeff Stefanski

That is good news.

The shipping season is done. I stopped by the Locks Park. The sidewalks were cleared into the park but there wasn't much to see.