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.

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