Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ice Still Affecting St. Marys River

The Soo Evening News carried a story recently about the effects of the icebreaking activities on Neebish Island residents. Neebish Island is a 21 square mile island just downstream from our cabin. Neebish Island is basically undeveloped although there are many year-round residents. A ferry operates during the warmer months and an ice bridge forms in the winter. The big problem is in the spring when the ice bridge is broken up and the residents are basically stranded. My understanding is that there are no stores on the island so residents must be prepared for several days of isolation. Right now, several days of isolation sounds good but I'm sure the residents don't appreciate a forced 'vacation'.

You can read all about Neebish Island in the Hunt's Guide to the Upper Peninsula. Tomorrow I'll write about the history of Neebish Island. As with everything in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, it goes way back and is very interesting.

Last summer I found a website that contains information for island residents that you might enjoy: Neebish Island News

Soo Evening News story:

Icebreaking activities by the U.S. Coast Guard are coming under fire from a vocal contingent of Neebish Island residents who are stranded. “The river was wide open, then the coast guard went down through and broke off the shore ice,” one resident said. “It was just so unnecessary.”

The icebreaking activities on Wednesday have prevented the Neebish Island Ferry from running across the channel for three days and it was unclear on Saturday afternoon when the ferry would be able to resume operation. The island resident added that it certainly isn’t unexpected to have the ice jam curtail ferry traffic during breakout, but the 2009 closure didn’t need to happen: “Mother Nature was doing a great job.” Those who live on Neebish Island year-round had presumably stockpiled fuel and food in preparation for the spring break-up so the situation is, by no means, dire — just inconvenient. It is also familiar, happening nearly every season during spring break up.

Chippewa County Central Dispatch will work in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and Chippewa County Sheriff Department in the event of an emergency to provide assistance to island residents. There are at least two airboats that can be employed and, if needed, a helicopter would also be available to provide assistance until the ferry can be utilized.

Commercial shipping began with the opening of the locks last week and there have been multiple downbound transits of the river. The USCG Mackinaw worked the channels around the river on Sunday to help move the ice down river.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Midwest Flood Assistance by Coast Guard

Personnel from the Sault Ste. Marie Coast Guard is assisting in the flood rescue in North Dakota. This heart-warming picture was posted on their website. Since there isn't much going on in the St. Marys River with such a slow start to the shipping season, it is wonderful they can be helping those poor people who are experiencing the devastating floods. The following paragraph is from the Coast Guard website. I didn't see anything about copyright so I am just copying it for your enjoyment.

Machinery Technician 3rd Class Dan Fraley of Coast Guard Station Sault Ste. Marie offloads the faithful friend of an Oxbow, N.D. woman, as both the dog and its owner required rescue from their flooded home along the Red River, Thursday, March 26, 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard/Photo by Petty Officer Bill Colclough)

Ninth Coast Guard District units are assisting the Eighth Coast Guard District during the Midwest flood response.

For updated information visit the Eight Coast Guard District's flood response website:http://www.uscgfloodwatch.com/go/site/1769/

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Algosar Finally Locks Through

The Algosar locked upbound at 5 PM Wednesday. She is carrying fuel bound for Thunder Bay. You can read a good article about the upcoming season at Detroit Free Press.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sault Coast Guard on Flood Relief

The Sault Coast Guard is assisting in the flooding along the Red River according to this press release from the Coast Guard.

Units from the Ninth Coast Guard District are assisting units from the Eighth District in response to flooding along the Red River, which runs through Minnesota and North Dakota.

Coast Guard crewmembers are working closely with both local and state officials from response centers in the Red River region and have saved 16 lives as of approximately 1:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Ninth District assets responding include an Air Station Traverse City, Mich., HH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter and crew; and 20-ft.airboats from Coast Guard Stations Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.; St. Clair Shores,Mich.; Sturgeon Bay, Wis. and Marblehead, Ohio.

Algosar Due at 8 PM

The latest update just came from Linda at the Sault Convention and Visitors Bureau. She took this picture of the Mackinaw locking through this morning, I believe. Linda says the Algosar is due at 8 PM tonight. If any of you take a picture of it, would you please email to me at saultboatwatcher@gmail.com. Thanks

Algosar Makes Way to the Soo Locks

Mackinaw underway in support of Operation Spring Breakout by d9publicaffairs.

The Algosar arrived upbound at Detour about 10 p.m. Tuesday and transited up river to the area of Mud Lake where the Katmai Bay was stopped for the night. She was expected to wait for first light before transiting up river Wednesday to open the Soo Locks for the 2009 season.

That means she is passing our cabin this morning. Any of you readers observing this?

The Coast Guard reports that they will be working on opening the waters between St. Ignace and Mackinac Island on Friday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Algosar News

The Algosar is still on course to be the first boat through the Locks for the 2009 season but she won't be there until a day later-March 26.

Algosar to Lock First

Boatnerd.com is stating that the Algosar will be the first vessel through the Soo Locks for the 2009 season. According to the website, there are no ships waiting in the river at this time although that could change before the 12:01 AM opening on Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard remains busy in the river opening up passage ways. All shipping traffic will use the upbound channel as the channel through the Rock Cut remains closed.

Are any of you heading to the Soo for the opening? Any information would be appreciated.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Preparations for Shipping Season in Full Swing

Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping details the preparations of the Coast Guard for opening up for the shipping season. The warm spring weather will aid in the opening. Its 32 degrees in the Sault right now so spring must be coming. I'm looking for a method to see what ships are in the St. Marys River system because boats are relying less on scanner communication than before. Any ideas out there?
For the web article, to to the above link and look under News Channel for Sunday, March 22.

U.S. Coast Guard to open West Neebish Channel

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Lakes Shipping Saves Money

A study released recently shows that Great Lakes freighters are the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to transport many goods. The fact below illustrate some of the high points of this information.

Shipping season starts on Wednesday, March 25. It will be interesting to see the impact of the economic downturn on the shipping industry.

Are any of you readers going up to the Soo for the opening of the shipping season? Please let us know and tell us where you think the best ship watching location is.

Here's a numerical breakdown of the Great Lakes navigation system and the so-called "lakers," freighters that never travel outside of the lakes.

1,600 miles: Length of the navigation system, extending from Duluth, Minnesota, to Ogdensburg, New York; the system spans lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Eric and Ontario.

63: Commercial ports on the Great Lakes.

173 million: Tons of cargo carried by lakers in 2006.

44,000: Jobs directly related to Great Lakes maritime transport.

54,000: Mining industry jobs that depend on Great Lakes shipping.

138,000: Steel industry jobs with ties to Great Lakes freighters.

$3.6 billion: Savings realized annually by industries that use Great Lakes freighters instead of trucks or trains to move cargo.

607 miles: Distance a Great Lakes freighter can carry one ton of cargo on one gallon of fuel.

70,000: Tons of cargo that can be carried by a 1,000-foot-long freighter; it would take 3,000 semis to carry that much cargo.

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Friday, March 20, 2009


I will be using Twitter this year to post what ships are in the river out front from the Cabin. You can follow me at sooboatwatcher on Twitter. I am using Twitter more and more now. How about you? Have you found any good things about Twitter?

Opening of Shipping Season

Shipping season to start slowly

Associated Press
8:56 AM CDT, March 18, 2009

SUPERIOR, Wis. - The shipping season is expected to start slowly when the Soo Locks open next week.

Port officials say that of the dozen ships docked for the winter at Duluth-Superior, some will remain idle until shipping demand rebounds.

Lake Carriers Association's Glen Nekvasil says many of the 65 Great Lakes fleet vessels don't have sail dates yet.

Nekvasil says Great Lakes shipping depends on the nation's economic health. He says as soon as the steel industry picks up and automakers are working again, cargo will increase on the Great Lakes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

This past weekend i spent time in the Sault and found that they are still in winter but I don't think that will last to much longer with the warm sun and the longer days. These pictures taken on Saturday show the Soo and the view from the Mackinac Bridge. There is just a large crack in the ice so not quite ready for the opening of shipping season later this month.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First Visit of the Year

After a winter of travel around that country that took me 8400 miles and to 22 states outside of Michigan, I'm anxious to return to the UP. This Friday I'm heading north. I will be visiting my parents who live right in the Soo. We don't open our cabin up until May but I don't know if I should go out there just to check on the place. A couple of thoughts-there may be too much snow to get in the driveway and get the door open. We visited in April once and had to shovel snow away from the door to get it open. That isn't fun. And secondly, if I go out there, I will want so badly to stay.

I know it is just a few months until we will be there and I can't wait. Once shipping season opens, there is no good reason not to be there except cold, snow and the fact that I am still working down here in the 'south'.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shipping Season Opens Soon

I found this article in the Battle Creek Inquirer today.

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie are scheduled to open three weeks from today, signaling the traditional start of the Great Lakes shipping season.

Unfortunately, it appears that there won't be a boatload of traffic. Many freighters don't expect to return to the Great Lakes until later in the spring, as the recession slows demand for shipment of materials.

Dismal as the economic picture appears, there is reason for hope when it comes to Great Lakes shipping.

National interest is being revived in promoting marine highways. Expanded use of the nation's 25,000 miles of navigational waterways could help to alleviate truck traffic on congested roadways while at the same time providing a more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly means of transport.

For example, one cargo container on a barge removes a truck from crowded highways. A 15-barge tow can contain as much material as 1,050 tractor-trailers, according to the Associated Press. A barge uses only one gallon of diesel to move a ton of cargo 576 miles. That same amount of fuel only moves a ton of cargo 413 miles by rail, and 155 miles by truck.

Tugboat companies are showing signs of growth along the Atlantic coast, offering the prospect for similar expansion along the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes.

There are hurdles to clear in making short-sea shipping competitive with other forms of transportation. Not the least of these is the need to update locks to accommodate increased freight traffic, a venture that would cost tens of billions of dollars. Rail and truck shippers also don't face as many hefty fees, such as harbor maintenance taxes.

But with heavy truck traffic becoming a growing concern on our nation's highways, and the push for better fuel efficiency, promoting greater use of our Great Lakes waterways for shipping could help bolster Michigan's economy in the years ahead.