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Category Archives: Helen H Tug

The Philip R Clarke arrived in Duluth at six am. I managed to get out of bed at sunrise and saw that it was attempting to dock. I drove down to the harbor to watch as several tug boats attempted to get it into the docks for winter layup. I finally gave up and drove back to the condo for breakfast. Late in the morning we were leaving town so we drove past the docks to see how things were going. The Clarke still wasn’t docked but they were getting close. More photos from Duluth Harbor can be found on my website.

American Spirit- Philip R. Clarke

American Spirit- Philip R. Clarke

American Spirit- Philip R. Clarke and Helen H

American Spirit- Philip R. Clarke and Helen H

- American Spirit and Helen H

-American Spirit and Helen H

American Spirit and Helen H

American Century – Helen H – American Spirit and Philip R. Clarke

 

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It was one of the last days of the 2016 Great Lakes shipping season in Duluth, Minnesota. I was awaken at 6 a.m. when I heard salutes as  the Philip R. Clark sailed under the Aerial Lift Bridge. It was still dark out so I didn’t get up to go down to the harbor. At sunrise I checked on the Live Ship Map to see where the Philip R. Clark was in the harbor. Because of the ice in the harbor it was just attempting to dock at berth 1 at the Port Terminal. I grabbed my camera gear and drove down to the harbor to watch the Helen H from Heritage Marine breaking ice and attempting to pull the Clark into is berth. There were quite a few other Boat Nerds watching and photographing the docking. There was some great light as the sun was just coming up.

american-spirit-philip-r-clarke-and-hellen-h-duluth-harbor-17-1-2462

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philip-r-clark-duluth-harbor17-1-2540

On Sunday morning my wife and I were heading out for a walk along the Duluth waterfront when I check the Marine Traffic on my phone and noticed that the Heritage Marine Tug the Nels J was out breaking ice. We decided to forgo the walk and drive out to Rice’s Point to watch the tug work.

Helen H

Helen H

When we arrived the tug was working at the Calumet Fuel Dock which is a secure area where we couldn’t photograph. I assumed that a ship was going to move from winter layup to refuel before the start of the shipping season and the Nels J was breaking up ice around the dock. I was having problems following the Nels J with my Marine Tracker and discovered the app hadn’t been updated in some time so I updated it. When It came back on I noticed the Nels J was heading to Rice’s Point. I grabbed my camera but was a little late to get any good photos. Just about then my wife noticed another Heritage Marine tug, the Helen H sail out from Howard’s Pocket where the Frasier Shipyards are located. We watched as the Helen H moved back into Howard’s Pocket.

We jumped in the car and drove down to Conner’s Point which offers a good view of the ships in winter layup at Frasier Shipyards. Sure enough the Helen H had already broken ice to free the John G. Munson from the ice. As was getting up steam to move out of winter layup. This was a far cry from last year when we watched most of the day while the Helen H and Nels J tried to free the Munson from the heavy ice.

John G. Munson and Helen H

John G. Munson and Helen H

Duluth has a good collection of Boat Nerds that show up whenever there are boats moving. Many of the folks that were watching the Munson leave were also on hand to watch the Indiana Harbor arrive to end the shipping season at Wisconsin Point.

Indiana Harbor

Indiana Harbor

We watched as the John G. Munson slowly backed out of Howard’s Pocket and under the Blatnick Bridge. It was followed by the Helen H in case it ran into trouble. He Nels J was waiting at out in the Saint Louis River in case it was needed to help turn the Munson.

Helen H and John G. Munson

Helen H and John G. Munson

The Munson then sailed under the Blatnick Bridge past Rice’s Point before turning and then backing into the Calumet Fuel Dock where it spent several hours refueling. The Nels J was on hand in case it needed help docking.

John G. Munson and American Integrity-

John G. Munson and American Integrity-

 

 

 

This spring has been one of the most exciting in decades for following the opening of the shipping season on Lake Superior. The Soo Locks opened on April 25th but have yet to see a cargo ship going though the Locks. A number of Coast Guard Cutters have gone through as they attempt to open the ice on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Normally intra-lake shipping starts before the locks open. This year was no exception. The first two ships to leave Duluth were the Presque Isle and the Cason J. Callaway. They sailed to Two Harbors to load Taconite. We watched the Callaway as it entered Two Harbors.Cason-J.-Callaway-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1907

A few days later we watched as the tugs in Superior Harbor attempted to break the John G. Munson out of the ice to get the season going. It was an all day Task.Nels-J,-Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2043

Early on the morning of March 26th the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Morro Bay, Katmai Bay and Mackinaw left Duluth to lead a convoy of ships to the Soo Locks.

The convoy picked up the Cason J. Callaway just outside of Two Harbors and it picked up the Presque Isle near Grand Portage. The John G. Munson was still loading in Two Harbors when the convoy went by. The Munson caught up to the slow moving convey several days later outside of Thunder Bay.

In the last few days the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw has been joined by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Pierre Radisson to help break a path to the Soo Locks. As of this writing the convoy is off of Whitefish Point. Unfortunately they are encountering ice that is six feet thick with pressure ridges over twelve feet thick.

This spring I’ve watched the convey of ships mentioned above as they have attempted to reach the Soo Locks. They Left of March 26th and finally reached the locks on April 3rd. I’ve documented some of their problems in an earlier blog.

I have also been following a group of ships that are currently anchored in the Straits of Mackinac waiting to transit the Soo Locks for Lake Superior. They are waiting for the downbound convey to come through the Locks from Lake Superior. The Edwin H. Gott, Stewart J. Cort, Roger Blough have been waiting for about a week and they were joined a few days ago by the Sam Laud.

Unfortunately it is impossible to follow the ships, in person once, they are out on the lake. But, thanks to the internet, it is possible to follow their progress online as they move around the Great Lakes. In an earlier blog I described how I follow the ships so I can be on hand to photograph them as they exit or enter a port near me I’ve been using some of the same tools to watch as the ships attempt to transit the ice covered Great Lakes.

The first place I check is on MarineTraffic.com. This typically gives me the locations of the ships on the Great Lakes. This spring I’ve noticed that does not always show all of the ships. I’m not sure why but part of it may be dead areas in AIS (Automatic Identification System) coverage. Since the ships are taking a northerly route to and from the Soo Locks to Duluth they go up the North Shore of Minnesota to Thunder Bay then along the north shore of the Lake near the Canadian border. There seems to be a lack of AIS coverage near Michipicoten Island. I have also been checking the AIS/Marine Information from Thunder Bay. Sometimes this site is following a ship I can’t find on Marine Traffic. Recently I discovered BoatNerds and have been using the vessel passage link on BoatNerds as another source to see where the boats are located. BoatNerds also has a companion Facebook page.

One thing I’ve learned this spring when following ships on Marine Traffic is that you need to zoom in on the ship icons to show the ships in great detail. For example when you look at Lake Superior as a whole you may see an icon for a single ship. If you zoom in you may find that the one ship is a convey of ships. This problem occurs because the ships are very close together. This spring most ships, including the ice breakers, have part of a convoy.

In addition to following the ships in the AIS sites I also check several other sites for information on shipping. BoatNerds is a great place to follow what is happening with Lake Superior shipping. Just click on the news channel link. The news is updated daily and includes photos. I always check the Duluth Shipping News website. They have been covering the spring shipping problems with photos of activities in the Duluth Harbor.

This is definitely a fun activity while waiting for spring.

Last Tuesday we were in Superior, Wisconsin to watch the John G. Munson leave the Frasier Shipyards for its first trip of 2014. We arrived around 11:20am. Two Heritage Marine Tugs the Helen H and Nels J had been working most of the morning to break up the ice from the St. Louis River to the Munson. The Monson was at winter layup at Frasier Shipyards. It was anchored far into the bay next to N 5th street. The Munson was scheduled to head for Two Harbors several days earlier but had some frozen pipes that had to be fixed.

When we arrived the Helen J was just starting to break the ice along the bay side of the ship. The Kaye E. Barker , and John J. Boland can be seen behind the Munson. In the background the Nels J can be seen breaking ice at the entrance to the dock.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1927

The Helen H worked its way along the side of the Munson. The ice was very thick and it was slow going. It would take a run at the ice and the front of the tug would slide on top of the ice before the weight of the tug collapsed the ice. It would then repeat the process. It broke the ice about half way up the length of the Munson before retiring.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1942a

The Munson’s captain then tried to free the ship by reversing engines. When that failed the captain tried to go forward. This went on for a while but the Monson remained firmly suck in the ice. It was quite a racket when the propellers were working because they sucked in large chunks of broken ice which were chopped up and thrown into the air.John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1959

The Helen H they repositioned itself to the dock side of the ship and attempted to push the Munson away from the dock. At one point the Helen H was pushing and the Munson was going in reverse but the result was the same the Munson was firmly stuck in the ice.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1975a

They next attached a tow line and the Helen H attempted to pull the Munson out into the channel. After a number of tries this too failed.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1987

The next step was to break more ice along the bay side of the ship. This time the Helen H broke ice along three quarters of the ship. It then went back and broke ice along the dock side of the ship. The Helen H was then able to push the Munson free from the ice. At this point it was around 3pm and the Munson was still not able to exit the port at on its own.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2001

The Nels J came up from the St. Louis River where it had been breaking ice. The Helen H positioned itself on the dock side of the Munson and the Nels J attached a tow rope to the Munson. The Nels J tried to pull the Munson away from the docks toward the St. Louis River but it was slow going.Nels-J,-Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2043

The Nels J Would move the Munson about fifteen feet before it would become stuck in the ice. The Munson would then start its engines and move forward about twenty feet and the process would be repeated. When we finally stopped watching about 4:30pm the Munson had moved about thirty yards in an hour and a half.Nels-j-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2030

I checked around 8pm and the Munson was finally in position to move out onto the St. Louis River on its own power and about 10pm I noticed it had just gone under the Blatnik Bridge on its way to Two Harbors. The next morning it was loading taconite at two harbors when the convey of ice breakers and ships left for the Soo Locks.

 

The 2014 Shipping season started on Lake Superior last Saturday. Early in the morning two Heritage Marine Tugs, the Helen H and Nels J, Helped free the Cason J. Callaway from the ice so it could exit Duluth Harbor.

Later in the morning we drove over to Port Terminal 1 in Duluth where the Presque Isle spent the winter in layup. The Helen H was breaking ice around the Presque Isle so it leave the harbor to load taconite in Two Harbors.Helen-H-and-Presque-Isle-14-3-_1829

Helen-H--14-3-_1807

The ship’s crew was busy working to get ready for the first voyage of the year. Here they are working on the life boats.Presque-Isle-14-3-_1810

After watching the Helen H work for a while we decided to drive down to Canal Park and see if there were any ducks under the Lift Bridge. As we drove up my wife noticed that the Lift Bridge was up. The Coast Guard Cutter Alder was heading out into Lake Superior. I was so busy watching the Helen H I failed to notice the Alder leave port. We were too late to see it go under the bridge but I managed a shot as it hit the ice just outside the harbor. The Ship Canal was free of ice and it was clear for about a hundred yards out into the lake. There was thick ice out into the lake beyond Brighton Beach.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-14-3-_1825

The Alder made several passes clearing the way for the ships that were schedule to sail to Two Harbors. This is a shot of the Alder as it returned from its first trip.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-14-3-_1848

After Lunch I noticed the Cason J. Callaway was getting ready to depart for Two Harbors. We drove down to Canal Park only to find that it was already out into the lake. Apparently my Marine Traffic App was not working correctly. In fact, I had problems with it the rest of the day. You can see the Alder out in the lake in the background between the anchor and the North Breakwater Light. The Cason J. Callaway was the first ship to leave port for the 2014 season.Cason-J.-Callaway-14-3-_1852

We then decided to drive up to Brighton Beach and watch the Callaway make its way through the ice. It was a surreal scene at Brighton Beach with about a hundred fisherman and cross country skiers out on the ice with the Callaway in the background.Cason-J.-Callaway-Brighton-Beach-14-3-_1856

Just as we were about to leave Brighton Beach we noticed that the Helen H was also heading for Two Harbors. We decided to drive up to Two Harbors to watch the Alder and Helen H break ice before the Callaway docked.

When we arrived in Two Harbors there were already cars in the parking lot with more arriving every minute. Apparently we were not the only ones who thought it would be a good idea to watch the ships come in. It was bitterly cold out with the air temperature about fifteen degrees and a thirty five mile per hour wind.

The Alder was the first to arrive. It sailed around the harbor a couple of times breaking up the ice. I found it strange that the Alder didn’t break up the ice next to the loading docks but it didn’t.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1884

The Callaway was the next ship to enter the harbor. Just as it entered the harbor the Helen H arrived to break up the ice around the docks. I always thought that tug boats would be used to help the ships into the docks but they are not required. Cason-J

Helen-H-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1902

After the Callaway was docked the Helen H continued breaking ice around the docks.Helen-H-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1919

The Cason J. Callaway, Presque Isle and the John G. Munson are all scheduled to load taconite at Two Harbors this week. When the loading is complete they will form a convoy with several Coast Guard Cutters and head for the Soo Locks. This is the first time since the 70’s that Coast Guard Cutters have been required to escort ships from Duluth to the Soo Locks.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves:

Normally I’m complaining about the lack of a good winter but this year we have had a fantastic winter. Every winter I look forward to photographing the Apostle Island Ice Caves but this is the first year since 2009 that they have been accessible from the ice on Lake Superior. I was very surprised when I checked  the middle of January and found that the ice caves were already open. Normally they don’t open until January but with the cold weather they were early this year.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471a

We immediately drove up to Cornucopia to visit the caves. This was followed by two other visits to the caves. We weren’t the only ones visiting the caves. Thanks to social media more than 140 thousand people visited the caves before they closed in mid March.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1672

In-spite of the large number of people visiting the caves I was able to get some great photos and, for the first time, my wife was able to visit the caves. As you can see by the number of blogs I wrote on the subject this was my favorite winter activity.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-3-_0983

Bald Eagle Watching:

The cold weather has been a boon for Bald Eagle watching since it concentrated the eagles in areas where there was open water. This winter we spent time visiting three locations along the Mississippi River to watch Eagles. Our most productive location was Covill Park in Red Wing, Minnesota where we always saw eagles. There were also a large number of ducks that provided entertainment when the eagle watching slowed down. The water is always open below the heating plant above Covill Park so the eagles and ducks hang out in this area.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_1996

The second best location was Reads Landing in Minnesota. On three occasions we saw large numbers of Eagles at this location. We also saw Trumpeter Swans that were hanging out in this section of the river. Viewing at this location slowed down as the winter progressed.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_0599

Alma, Wisconsin was the least productive area we visited. We only saw a significant number of eagles on one visit. On several other visits we didn’t see any eagles or only saw a few. I found this a difficult area to photograph eagles because you are usually looking into the sun.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2164

I wrote a number of blogs describing our visits to these locations.

Trumpeter Swans Watching:

We made a number of trips to Hudson, Wisconsin to watch the Trumpeter Swans. Several people had mentioned that Trumpeter Swans hung out on the St. Croix river but didn’t know the exact location. We eventually found them in downtown Hudson.Trumpeter-Swan-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1125

Because of the very cold weather they were hanging out it a very small area of open water close to shore during the coldest part of the winter. You could walk down along the shore and photograph them and they didn’t seem to be the least concerned with your presence.Trumpeter-Swans-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1176

These trips resulted in several blogs reporting on our visits.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_0592

Lake Superior Ship Watching:

The very cold weather resulted in a lot of ice on Lake Superior. The early ice made for some great opportunities to photograph ships in the cold weather. One of my favorite year around activities is ship watching in Duluth and Superior Harbors so being able to photograph them working in ice was a great adventure.

Baie Cormeau

Baie Cormeau

We were able to watch ships arrive in the harbor during the very cold winter.

Baie Comeau

Baie Comeau

The Coast Guard Cutters were very active this winter and I was able to see them in action as they were breaking the ice and anchored in the harbor.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Tug Boats were also required to help break the ice when the Coast Guard was not available.

Helen H

Helen H

A large number of ships are in the Duluth/Superior docks either being repaired or for winter layup.

American Spirit

American Spirit

The long winter will continue into spring as the ice breakers are working to free the harbor of ice and the ships in layup are waiting to head out for the 2014 shipping season. The season should start in the next couple of weeks.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

 

Rush River Ice Formations:

I discovered the Rush River Ice Formations this winter. What a wonderful place to visit. A local land owner has run piping around his property tapping into underground springs. At about two dozen locations on the property he has run vertical pipes with holes drilled into them. The result are some spectacular ice formations.Nelson's-On-the-Rush-River-14-1-_1918

Long Ski Season:

For the second year in a row we have been blessed with a lot of snow. The difference this year is that the ski season started at Thanksgiving and has continued into March. With a little luck we should be able squeeze in at least one more ski trip this year.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1375

Our favorite location this year was the ABR Ski Trails because they usually receive early snow and they do the best job of grooming of any ski location. They are usually able to have good skiing even after warm weather because they have equipment to break up the trail in icy conditions and lay a new track.ABR-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1183

We also skied at The After Hours Ski Trails in Brule a number of times this year. This is a great location because of the large number of trails and its close proximity to Duluth.After-Hours-Ski-Trails-13-3-_3674

We discovered the Boulder Lake Ski Trails near Duluth and made sever visits to these trails. There are enough trails to provide a nice day of skiing without skiing the same trail twice.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1378

We only made one visit, to what we consider, the most beautiful ski trails in the Midwest. These are the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calument, Michigan. They get more snow and beautiful light fluffy snow than anyplace else.Swedetown-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1124

 

When the Baie Comeau exited the Duluth Harbor last week the Heritage Martine Tugs helped it get through the ice. They broke up the ice around the dock and then assisted it as it turned down the St. Louis River toward the Harbor.

Nels J

Nels J

The Helen H and the Nels J raced up and down the river to break up the ice. The Ice Breaker Alder was in port so the tugs had to undertake the ice breaking operation.

Helen H and Nels J

Helen H and Nels J

As the Baie Comeau reached the Harbor it had to make a left turn toward Duluth. The two Tugs spent considerable time breaking the ice prior to the turn. In a couple of cases they seemed awfully close to the Baie Comeau.

Helen H

Helen H

After the ship turned the two Tugs spent time breaking up the Ice in the harbor before the Baie Comeau exited through an ice free ship canal.

Helen H

Helen H

Helen H

Helen H