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Category Archives: John G. Munson

On Monday morning the Mesabi Miner was scheduled to be the first ship to leave Duluth/Superior to start the shipping season on Lake Superior. I watched all morning but there was no activity. Around noon the scheduled changed and the John G. Munson was now scheduled to leave around 3pm. My wife noticed that the Munson had pulled away from the CN Dock in West Duluth where it had loaded Taconite. We jumped in the car and drove down to Canal Park to watch it Leave the Harbor.

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We were early and waited in the warm car while the Munson made its way down the harbor. In the mean time a small crowd of photographers had gathered to watch the first ship of the season leave the harbor.

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Typically when a ship sails under the Duluth Lift Bridge it blows its horn in a “long-short-short” sequence. It is a friendly salute to the Port of Duluth from the ship captain and is responded to by the lift bridge operator with the same sequence. As the Munson sailed under the bridge there was a long sequence of horns and cheers from the crew as the opened the shipping season.

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As soon as the Munson was free of the ice surrounding the harbor entrance it must have accelerated because it started belching black smoke.

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In contrast to last year the Munson arrived at the Soo Locks by Thursday.

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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-

 

 

When the Lake Superior shipping season ended the third week of January some of the ships that ply the great lakes head for Duluth/Superior for winter layup. This season a smaller number of ships than normal are in winter layup. Five ships in all can be seen this winter. A sixth ship, the Edwin H. Gott , was scheduled to layup but it could not make it through the Soo Locks before they closed.

The John G. Munson was the last ship to come into port on January 20th and is in Fraser Shipyard for winter layup.John G. Munson 15-2-_2392

The Kaye E. Barker is in dry dock also at the Fraser Shipyard.

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The Mesabi Miner came in on Monday morning, January 19, 2015 and can be found at the Midwest Energy Resources dock.

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The American Integrity was the first of 6 vessels scheduled to arrive in Duluth/Superior for winter layup. She arrived on January 7and can be found at the Carrier Port Terminal Berth 1.

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The Indiana Harbor arrived January 17th entering the Superior entrance and is at the Enbridge Ogdensburg Pier. We happened to be at Wisconsin Point when the Indiana Harbor arrived.

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Lake Superior shipping should resume in about a month.

Slack Line walking has become a popular sport at Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum in Duluth’s Canal Park. I had seen a different group walking about a month ago. The fellow in the first photo was quite good. He completed the walk and then returned to the pier walking backwards. In the middle of his return trip he did some aerobatics. The remaining walkers weren’t so good and took a dive into the lake. The walkers seemed to be attracting a large crowd that the arrival of the John G. Munson.Slack-Line-Walking-Uncle-Harvey's-Mausoleum-14-9-_0670

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This is the first time I’ve seen the John G. Munson since early spring when it was one of the first boats to leave Duluth. We watched for about six hours as the tug boats attempted to free it from the icy grip of winter. It was in sharp contrast to a beautiful late summer day when it sailed into Duluth.

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I spent quite a bit of time in Canal Park last weekend photographing a wide variety of things.  I watched the John G. Munson leave the harbor. There was a large crowd in Canal Park watching the ships this past weekend. The most people I’ve seen since last summer at the Tall Ship Festival.John G. Munson 14-8-_0524

A popular pastime is sitting on the benches in the park and watching the kids chase the gulls and pigeons in the park.Chasing-Birds-in-Canal-Park-14-8-_0546

I happened to notice these star reflections in the harbor and managed to capture a nice photo of them.Star-Reflections-14-8-_0454

A week ago my wife and I drove up to Duluth. As we were leaving I checked the Marine Traffic site to see if any ships would be coming into Duluth during the day. As it turned out there was a large convey of ships on their way from the Soo Locks. Most of the ships were coming to Duluth although a one was going to Two Harbors. I didn’t expect to see them arrive in Duluth because we were going to make a stop at Crex Meadows to photograph birds.

Paul R. Tregurtha

Paul R. Tregurtha

As we neared Duluth I checked Marine Traffic and discovered the ships had not arrived so we headed down to Canal Park to watch them come through the Ship Canal. In total there were six ships in the convoy. This is the largest number of cargo ships that I’ve seen come into the harbor at one time.

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

This was also the last convoy of the spring. Since the shipping season opened the third week in March ships have only been able to sail from the Soo Locks to Duluth in convoys escorted by Coast Guard Ice Breakers. The ice has just been too thick for the ships to make it on their own.

Tim S. Dool

Tim S. Dool

One of the ships in the first convoy leaving Duluth required a month to make the trip. Normally four deliveries could be made during that time. Some of the steel mills had to close because they ran out of iron ore.

Buffalo

Buffalo

The Coast Guard said it would come to a freighters aid should it become stuck in the ice. As the ships were entering the harbor an ice breaker was working off of the Superior entry.

Jamer R. Barker

Jamer R. Barker

You can still see the ice outside the harbor. As each ship came through the Ship Canal it pushed more ice into the harbor. It took a couple of hours for all of the ships to make it into port.

John G. Munson

John G. Munson

 

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.

These photos were taken last week.  Tugs were breaking out several ships in the Duluth area prior to the start of the shipping season. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Morro Bay, Katmai Bay and Mackinaw had broken a path to Duluth, Minnesota from the Soo Locks. On Wednesday morning they left Duluth to Lead a convoy of ships back to the Soo Locks.

Mackinaw

Mackinaw

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 left Two Harbors. The convoy slowed as it neared Thunder Bay and the Munson was able to catch up.

Cason Ju Callaway

Cason J Callaway

Things started going south after that. The Morro Bay and Katmai Bay stayed behind in Thunder Bay to break ice. The Morro Bay was damaged while breaking ice. The Katmai Bay had to tow the Morro Bay back to Duluth with assistance from the Alder. On Friday all three Cutters returned to Duluth with the Morrow under tow.  Divers discovered that most of the bolts holding the Morro’s rudder were broken.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

About the same time the Presque Isle was damaged by ice east of Thunder Bay and had to be escorted back to Thunder Bay by the Mackinaw. The Presque Isle has since returned to Duluth for Repairs. The Mackinaw spent Saturday in Thunder Bay breaking ice before departing late Saturday to finish leading the convoy to the Soo Locks.

Presque Isla

Presque Isle

The John G. Munson and the Cason J. Callaway are stranded in the northeastern part of Lake Superior waiting for ice breakers to assist them in getting to the Soo Locks.

John G. Munson

John G. Munson

The Locks opened on the 25th but at this point no ships have been able to get to the locks either from Lake Superior or Lake Michigan. The ice is five feet thick in places and some of the pressure ridges are eight feet thick. Three ships are currently waiting east of St. Ignace for ice breakers to assist them to the Locks.

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.