Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Day for Tugs

I also enjoy seeing tugs at work in the river. It may be because they are small but so hard-working. Tugs are similar to the children's book, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Mike was able to accomplish much in spite of his small size.

Yesterday I saw two tugs at work. The Avenger IV was pushing the barge PML 9000. This has become a common sight lately.

Later, I saw the tug Missouri guiding the Yucatan up to the Locks approach. I need to always carry my camera for such opportunities.

Also sighted yesterday was
American Valor
Kaye E. Barker
Stewart J. Cort
Herbert C. Jackson
H. Lee White
Mesabi Miner
Canadian Enterprise
Great Lakes Trader
American Integrity
Lake Erie

Photo by John McCreey

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday's Traffic

Tuesday was a busy day on the river in spite of the rain, thunder and lightening. It continued to be busy at night, however, I can't identify those ships. We saw the following ships:
Tim S. Dool
Paul R. Tregurtha
Kaye E. Barker
American Republic
Canadian Transport
Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin
Indiana Harbor

So far this morning, I've seen the Stewart J. Cort and Herbert C. Jackson.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tim S. Dool Says Good Morning

This morning I was enjoying a chance to sleep a little later than usual, when I was awoken by the a short single blast on a boat whistle. I was able to ignore it and quickly resume my last few minutes of that precious morning sleep. However, the blast was repeated again and again, so I knew it must be a foggy morning on the river.

It was foggy but ships were still moving. It was the Tim S. Dool that was moving very slowly up river. As I watched, the foggy became thicker and currently there is zero visibility out front.

Last night, I enjoyed my bedroom view of the river watching ships quietly slip by all night. Around 3 AM. the moon was rising over Sugar Island casting its light across the waters. The sky was ablaze with stars. When we were young, my sister called the night boats 'star boats' and that is a fitting name because they have lights their entire length and they were part of a beautiful evening. Boats quietly make their way to their next destination but this is an especially wonderful time to observe the boats.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What A Difference The Length Makes

We have had a busy day on the river today. I've observed the following boats today:
Edwin H. Gott
American Courage
American Victory
H. Lee White
CSL Tadoussac
Mesabi Miner

As I saw the difference sized boats, I began to wonder how much more cargo do the 1,000 footers carry? Researching in my boat bible, Know Your Ships, I found that the Speer which is on its way here from Gary, Indiana, can carry 73,700 tons of cargo. Its sister ship from the same company, Arthur M. Anderson, is 237' shorter at 767' and can carry 25,300 tons of cargo. The Speer carrys almost 3 times as much cargo. Amazing!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The Vossburg just passed up bound on her way to Thunder Bay. As a general cargo vessel, it appears she is carrying some type of equipment. A similar vessel in that fleet, the Asiaborg, has been carrying wind generator parts from Denmark and returning to Europe with grain. This may be the case with the Vossborg.

The Vossborg was built in the Netherlands in 2000 but is now sailing for a Germany company under a flag from Antigua.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Edward L. Ryerson

The Edward L. Ryerson was up bound in the St. Marys River this afternoon. It is always an event to see the old beauty passing by. The Ryerson has been a favorite of mine ever since it first began sailing in 1960. It was always a favorite of my grandfather as well.

Checking the shipping records, I found that the Ryerson is still a work horse, in spite of her advanced age.

The Ryerson passed here down bound on July 19. She arrived in Hamilton with a load of iron ore pellets and departed light after unloading on July 23 at 4:10 AM. She is expected to arrive back at Superior, Wisconsin on Saturday, July 26 between 3 - 4 PM.

Try meeting her at Mission Point in the Sault for a great photo opportunity. She should be back in 3- 4 days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mesabi Miner and More

There have been four thousand footers by so far today. These include Mesabi Miner, American Century, the Edwin H. Gott and the Paul R. Tregurtha.

Other ships passing today were the Joseph L. Block, Roger Blough, American Republic and John J. Boland.

Most of the ships are filled with ore coming from Duluth/Two Harbors.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mayfly Hatch

Photo outside our cabin this morning.
There is no doubt here on the lower river that the mayfly hatch is occurring. This morning we awoke and found our windows covered with the 1 1/2 inch long winged insects.

A little research taught me that this is an annual event. The immature mayflies live in the water feeding on water plants. The hatch occurs to allow reproduction and nothing else. The adult mayflies have no mouth parts so no eating is done. They live from 30 minutes to 1 day and then their life's purpose is fulfilled and they die.

Traffic on the river has been brisk this morning. I've seen the Canadian Olympic and the Maritime Trader and one unidentified Lower Lakes Towing vessel. I was out on a run and didn't have my binoculars.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Busy Night

After a slow day for traffic, Sunday evening ended with a flurry of traffic. The problem is that I couldn't identify any of them. In the past, I could use the scanner to identify ships in the dark because we are located between 6 Mile Point and 9 Mile Point, both call-in points. With the advent of AIS, ships are no longer calling in as often.

I have heard that there may be AIS locations available on-line next spring. If any of you have information, please tell us about it. Thanks.

I found this web site with some information on AIS.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Edward L. Ryerson

I was out for a morning walk and heard several master salutes and one formal master salute sounded by boat whistles coming from the direction of the Soo.

When we returned we discovered the reason for all the excitement-the Edward L. Ryerson was coming down bound.

The Ryerson met the Presque Isle out front but no salutes were sounded then.

The Ryerson remains an area favorite of boatwatchers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lower River News

The American Victory passed by in all her glory yesterday. The American Victory, formerly the Middletown, saw action in World War II. She was built in 1943 and damaged in an attack by five Japanese aircraft off Spain in 1944. During time in the Pacific, she shot down 2 Japanese plans. She is the only Lake freighter to shoot down enemy planes and is one of the most decorated cargo ships to sail in the Pacific.

The Sugar Island II is back in service and safely transporting residents from the Island to the mainland.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum boat, the David Boyd, was back yesterday searching for the anchor of the American Spirit that was lost last fall. After believing they had located the anchor, a diver was sent down but was unable to find the anchor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ferry Trouble

Yesterday, we saw the the Drummond Islander III pass by here on its way to replace the Sugar Islander which was out of commission. The Drummond Islander III came to relieve those island residents who depend on the ferry for daily transportation. This photo shows the Drummond Island III in service for Sugar Island.

Today we have also seen the David Boyd back searching for the American Spirit anchor lost last fall.

The Edward L. Ryerson passed up bound just a bit ago.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Thousand Footer Day

I'm posting this at 10:00 AM on Tuesday because traffic has been heavy this morning.

Since 8 AM we have had the James R. Barker, Edwin H. Gott, and Edgar B. Speer pass up bound along with the John J. Boland. The American Century passed down bound. There was also a footer that passed during the night but I couldn't see it to identify it.

Great day for pictures at the favorite photo spots near the Soo.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thousand Footer Day

Today we enjoyed watching several 1,000+ foot boats pass by out front. They include Mesabi Miner & Burns Harbor. We also saw the Charles M. Beeghley and the Arthur M. Anderson which are two of my favorite old style boats. The Arthur M. Anderson is loaded with limestone for Duluth. Once that is discharged, the Anderson will be loaded with taconite for Chicago.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Indiana Harbors & Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

It is a rainy, foggy afternoon on the river. But river traffic has picked up after a slow day yesterday.

Walter J. McCarthy Jr. is headed down bound and the Indiana Harbor is going up. They passed out front here -saluting each other.

Both ships are owned by the American Steamship Co. ( But they aren't the only American Steamship vessels passing today. I've also seen the St. Clair and the Sam Laud.

Friday, July 11, 2008

American Spirit Anchor

I have solved the mystery of the David Boyd. She is the research vessel of the Shipwreck Museum Society.

The Boyd is in the lower river today searching for the anchor of the American Spirit which was lost here last fall. They zeroed in on this location through conversation with the captain and the observations of a Sugar Island resident.

I will keep you updated if I learn more.

David Boyd

The David Boyd just passed downbound out front. It is a research vessel owned by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

I'm sure there is an interesting story about the Boyd's destination and I will work to find out what it is.

If you know anything about the David Boyd, please share it with us.

How Big Is That Boat?

We play a game at our house called How Big is That Boat? As a boat passes out front we all guess the length. Admittedly we have an advantage over visitors because we are familiar with some many of the frequent boats.

Last night we were all stumped by the Algorail which is 640’ long. It was built in 1968 and is owned by Algoma Central Corporation.

The photo was taken by Todd Shorkey.

According to the Internet, the Algorail is carrying coal for delivery to Nanicoke, Ontario which is on port on Lake Erie. Nanicoke is home to the Nanicoke Generating Station which supplies electricity to southern Ontario.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

James R. Barker

The James R. Barker just passed upbound. She is due in Duluth on Thursday, July 10 between 8:30 and 9:30 PM to load coal. The schedule calls for the Barker to depart Duluth on Friday, July 11.

Do you ever wonder how boats get their names? The James R. Barker was named for James Rex Barker, an excutive of the shipping industry. The ship was launched in 1976 and became the third thousand foot ships to ply the lakes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Following the Passages

I have been coming to this spot on the St. Marys River for over 50 years, ever since I was born. I never cease to be fascinated by the passage of the boats. As a youngster I had a Know Your Ships book to identify the ships by their smokestacks. I wasn't allowed to use the binoculars. Now I own this place on the river and I have a telescope to view the ships. I can see much more than their smokestacks.

The American Integrity passed upbound this afternoon. Thanks to the Internet, I can follow its travels. I know that it is bound for Duluth/Two Harbors to pick up ore. I use the http://www.boatnerd/ information for vessel passages. If any of you fellow boat watchers know better ways for following the passages of the boats, please share with us.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What Will Be Coming Today?

After a week's visit downstate, I'm back on my boat watching post on the St. Marys River. I'm located between 6 Mile & 9 Mile point. In the past my scanner was a great way to hear what boats were going up or down the river but now we must use more high tech methods.

I use the Boatnerd web site ( see where ships on in the system using the vessel passage link. The Duluth Shipping News link gives accurate times of boats unloading or loading at the western end of Lake Superior. I can then compute when the boats will arrive in the Soo.

It looks like it is going to be a busy week here with a full slate of boats currently in Duluth.

Happy boat watching! If you have any hints for boat watchers, please forward them to me and I'll share them with everyone.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Soo Locks History

As you probably noticed, I'm away from my favorite spot living right on the St. Marys River for a few days. However, yesterday I had an opportunity to visit the Library of Michigan to do genealogical research.

In the library, I came across the program for the 1955 Soo Locks Centennial celebration. The entire city celebrated for the whole summer with many, many special events.

The history of the Soo is tied to the history of the rapids of St. Marys. There was a picture of an early lock from the 1700's. So that is my new research project. What kinds of early locks were built at the Soo?

We'll be back on the river soon.