Friday, August 31, 2012

Lunch at The Lockview

One of my favorite foods to eat in the Soo is whitefish. I like it deep fried or broiled. My favorite spot for fish in the Soo is Lockview Restaurant on Portage Avenue. They offer whitefish prepared 5 ways I can recommend any of those 5 ways. I enjoy whitefish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Today we are meeting some cousins from Florida as they pass the Soo on their way to fishing in Canada. They've heard us talk about Lockview so often that they are making a stop to see us and have fish.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Once again a ship plying the Great Lakes has gone aground.

The cruise ship Yorktown became stranded in the Detroit River Saturday evening.  She was freed within hours and cleared to proceed to Cleveland.

There were no injuries reported with the 95 passengers and 35 crew members.

We've seen the Yorktown in the St. Marys River several times this summer.

 She has docked in at the Carbide dock in the Sault.  I've enjoyed seeing this beautiful ship many times.

Yorktown heading down the St. Marys River

The last day I sighted the Yorktown was August 22 as she was heading down bound at about 10 pm.  I took this picture with my new camera but I have to work on night shots!

Friday, August 24, 2012

United States Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie

Recently I was watching boat traffic at the West Pier in Sault Ste. Marie.  A small United States Coast Guard vessel headed out of the Soo Locks and returned sometime later.  This small vessel did have a gun on deck and I wondered about their responsibilities on our waterways.

We see the US Coast Guard on the water but I was surprised to learn that their work includes more than search and rescue.  They are also involved in pollution response such as oil spills, vessel inpsections, and drug, smuggling and illegal alien enforcement.

The United States Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie provided two opportunities for citizens to view some of their facilities and hear about their operations this summer.

The first opportunity was an open house on August 4, 2012 at the USCG base on Water Street in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  This was part of the Sault Ships and Sailabration festivities held to showcase our area’s history and connection to the beautiful water that surrounds us here in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

The second event was an informational meeting held Thursday, August 23, 2012 at the Soo Locks Visitors Center.  Four members of the local US Coast Guard facility presented their specific duties in keeping our waterways safe and clean.

United States Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie

Search & Rescue Vessels

Special Purpose Air Boat

Our tour guide explaining the mission of the Buckthorn

Welcome Abroad the Buckthorn

Ready to spring into action when needed

Buckthorn-a 100 foot bouy tender
Although the US Coast Guard tour was low-key, what we saw was amazing. The USCG maintains a fleet of vessels for their work here including maintenance of navigational aids, search and rescue, and vessel inspection.  

At the informational meeting, Executive Petty Officer Joseph Kerr explained that the Sault station is small for the Great Lakes but their area of responsibility is 250 nautical miles-from Grand Marais to 30 miles into Lake Huron.  Their responsibilities include coastal security for the Soo Locks, search and rescue and enforcement of laws and treaties.

Maintaining aids to navigation requires a group of seven people who maintain the 228 navigational aids between Munising and Drummond Island and the Les Cheneaux area. The vessels used are a 26 foot boat, a 20 foot skiff and two 4 wheel drive trucks to reach the 50 shore aids that must be kept clear and visible to passing boats.

Aids to navigation are inspected on a schedule that varies from 6 months to 5 year check-in time. 
Vessel and facility inspections are another responsibility of the Sector Sault group.  Commercial vessels such as ferries, tour boats, charter fishing boats, sailing excursions, parasailing and dive boats are given annual inspections as well as a five year recertification inspections.  

This group also handles responding to damaged and grounded vessels.  They were the first on scene when the Paul R. Tregurtha grounded recently in the St. Marys River. When the Paul R. Tregurtha grounded, a USCG unit was immediately dispatched to the scene.  The officers boarded the vessel.  They administered drug and alcohol tests to those in command of the Tregurtha.  Then a visual inspection was conducted in the boat.  A diver conducted an outside inspection.  It was eventually decided that it was safe for the Tregurtha to precede on for repairs once she was set free from the St. Marys River mud.

Pollution control is another responsibility handled out of the Sault Sector station.  This includes investigating all types of spills into our precious water.  There is oil spill containment equipment at many places around the Great Lakes including Sault Ste. Marie.  These personnel were also first on the scene to the grounded Paul R. Tregurtha to ensure that no oil leaks were occuring.

There have been 34 Search and rescue missions this year as well as 198 vessel boarding and 58 security boardings.  The Sector Sault group has winter responsibilities focused mainly on Raber Bay, Munuscong Bay and Ashmun Bay near the Soo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

West Pier Boat Watching

Where is the best boat watching place in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan?  I have several favorite spots but yesterday I spent time at the West Pier and it ranks right up there as a great view of the action on the river. 

My aunt lives in West Pier apartments and  her third floor balcony gave me a great view.  These pictures were taken there and also in the parking lot.

When the apartments were built I wondered why the contractor put the garages between the apartment buildings and the Lock's approach.  He couldn't have been a boat watcher or he would have realized what a 'million dollar' view he was obscuring with the garages.

In spite of that, there is great boat watching here.

Frontenac entering the Soo Locks

The boat is so close here that I could hear the crew talking to one another

The sunset is still beautiful even though it is partially blocked by the garages  and other buildings of the apartment complex.

Sunset at West Pier over Canada

Algoma Steel plant in Sault, Ontario

International Bridge between Michigan & Ontario

US Coast Guard vessel returning from a patrol at the head of the Locks

Monday, August 20, 2012

Warm Up Your Engines-We're Going to Move This Thing

I did not take this picture and don't know who did.  If you know the photographer, I would appreciate knowing so I can give proper credit.
I took this picture as the PRT sat across the shipping channel.  She is sitting east to west and the shipping channel runs north and south.

The tug Missouri comes alongside to assess the situation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 there was an almost "once in a life-time" event here on the lower St. Marys River.  The Interlake vessel, Paul R. Tregurtha went aground just north of the Neebish Island ferry and the Rock Cut.

As soon as the grounding occurred, activity picked up here on the St. Marys River.  We saw two tugs hurrying past so we jumped in the car and headed down to where the action was. 

There were already about 15 people at the ferry dock watching and snapping pictures.  We stayed for a while but had to leave because as much as I would like to watch boats all day, I had work to do.

Paul Williams, however, wanted to be there for everything.  He arrived in the late afternoon because he had to come from about an 1 1/2 hours west of the Soo.

He stayed from 5pm on August 15 until 7 am August 16 and watched the Tregurtha go past him and begin her journey once again.

By nightfall, there were only a handful of observers on the river bank.  The overnight shift found just two people who watched the freeing of the Paul R. Tregurtha.

I interviewed Paul about what he saw during the night and here's some of what he told me.

"From what it appeared, they had to take compressors and push the water out that had seeped into ballast tanks.  This is only a surmising because I saw them welding on the deck after they put the compressors up there. I can't imagine what they would do other that that. That is what took so long before the captain said, 'Warm up your engines and we're going to move this thing in 20 minutes.'  That 20 minutes turned into an hour.  That was about 2:15 am or so and it wasn't until about 3 am until he finally said go to the back and get on the cable.  That was the Florida.  The Missouri went around the other side and was going to push.  They tugged and pulled and apparently was not accomplishing anything.  After about 20 minutes of that, he says 'drop the line and go around and push'.  So the two tugs were around the other side.  I had no idea where they were pushing.  (Because they were on the other side of the ship.) But next thing I noticed, you know, because I was lining it up with the pillar post of my van, pretty soon the light starting getting dim so I knew it was moving.  You are talking about 5 AM by the time he could put his propellors in motion.  (The PRT)."  By six oclock they were moving.

They (the tugs) just roiled up the water and were blowing smoke and I never thought about what it was doing to the bottom. What I was concerned about besides his propeller was his rudder.  Moving in the mud."  (Interview with Paul Williams of Engadine, Michigan, August 18, 2012)

It was a slow, methodical process by seasoned captains who knew what they were doing.  Thanks to PW for filling us in on what happened the night of August 15 and the early morning hours of August 16, 2012.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

St. Marys River Report Like No Other

American Integrity anchors awaiting the opening of the Rock Cut.


American Integrity had to sit all night.

46 hours later American Integrity finally underway down the St. Marys River

Our neighbor's sea plane is landing even with the ship out front. 
We have had a few days here on the St. Marys River so filled with action.  It started with the grounding of the Paul R. Tregurtha which I wrote about earlier this week.  The PRT is the longest Great Lakes freighter at 1, 013.5 feet long.

The Rock Cut  is a narrow channel in the St. Marys River that was actually cut through rock to provide a shipping channel many years ago.  It is an engineering marvel worth visiting.  But this week the Tregurtha ran aground just above the Rock Cut.  Two tugs were able to get her off the mud and back into the shipping channel.  I interviewed a fellow boat lover who was there to observe the re-floating and I'll tell you his story later.

Once the Tregurtha was underway, the Corps of Engineers came in to clear up the bottom.  There was damage to the channel from the grounding and the work required to get the Tregurtha on her way.

The American Integrity, another 1,000 footer was required to anchor in the Hay Lake Anchorage area right in front of our cabin.  She sat there from 3:30 am on August 15th until 1:15 pm on August 17th.

Once the river system was reopened we expected life to return to the quiet days we normally enjoy here.  But at 10:00 pm last night (August 17) we heard a transmission on the marine scanner.  The Algosoo had issued a mayday call while in the Rock Cut.  She had lost both engines and that caused her to hit the wall of "The Cut".  But she quickly got one engine restarted and proceeded down the river to where she could be checked for damage.

Once again the Rock Cut was shut down.  The Corps had to come down and survey the walls of the Cut for damage before any boats were allowed to traverse through.  Two boats-the Presque Isle and the Sam Laud dropped anchor out front and spent the night.  The Cut was found to be safe and river traffic resumed between 5 and 6 AM this morning.

These events remind me that shipping on our St. Marys River is really complicated and dangerous.  The boats and their crews that pass by here make it look easy but it takes a experienced and knowledgeable crew to navigate from Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paul R. Tregutha Grounds

These photos were taken on Wed., August 15 at 10 am.  The Paul R. Tregurtha is sitting aground across the shipping channel just north of the Rock Cut in the St. Marys River.

The Tregurtha, the longest Great Lake freighter, is 1013.5 feet long.

There are tugs coming to help but as of noon, she is still sitting across the channel blocking any down bound traffic.

As a result, the American Integrity is anchored in Hay Lake waiting for the river to open. This photo was taken from our place.  It is a hazy morning and the American Integrity sits patiently waiting for river traffic flow to resume.

Upbound traffic is preceding without any problems.  The HHL Amazon, carrying wind generator parts, just passed by.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Full Moon on the St. Marys River

I see the moon
And the moon sees me.
God bless the moon and God bless me.

That little ditty that I used to recite to my children certainly has been true this week here in the Soo. We have been enjoying some of the most spectacular scenes of the summer the past few nights.  The moon has been rising around 8 pm and coming up over Sugar Island.  We don't get dark here until about 10 pm and that has allowed me to take some pictures.  Of course, pictures never convey the breathtaking beauty that we are seeing but hopefully this will give you an small sense of the great views we are enjoying.

 This shot was taken on 7-31-12
 The full moon rising over Sugar Island around 9 pm.

 The American Integrity heading down the St. Marys River under the light of the August full moon.