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Category Archives: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder

I was happy to see that I had a couple of photos included in the current Calendar but was appalled to see that one of them was close to a photo of our Idiot governor.

The firs photo was taken at Amnicon Falls State Park under ideal water conditions. Unfortunately it was a sunny day which makes waterfall photography difficult. Fortunately I had just purchased a variable neutral density filter which allowed me to photograph the falls at a slower speed even under sunny conditions.

Now and Then Falls Amnicon Falls State Park

Now and Then Falls Amnicon Falls State Park

The photo of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder was taken during the bitter winter of 2013-14. We were returning from our final visit of the season to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves when we notice on our Marine Tracker that the Alder was out in Lake Superior. This was the first ice breaking trip of the year for the Alder through the Wisconsin Point Entry.  Little did they know that it would be a very long time before ice breaking ended for the season. We tracked the Alder as it sailed out into the lake so we drove out to Wisconsin Point to see if we could photograph it when it returned to the harbor. We waited for quite a while but it didn’t return so we started back to Duluth. Just as we were leaving Wisconsin Point I made a final check of the Marine Tracker and noticed that it was on its way back into the harbor so we turned around and were lucky to get this photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

As I was photographing the sunrise in Canal Park I noticed a ship on the horizon. After waiting for about an hour the ship entered the Duluth Ship Canal. It turned out to be the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder which had been out in the lake.

USCGC-ALDER-15-4-_1769

USCGC-ALDER-15-4-_1781

As we were leaving Duluth I notice on my Marine Tracker that the Indiana Harbor going to come through Wisconsin Point on its way to winter Layup. It was one of the last ships to enter the harbor during the 2014-15 shipping season and the last one to come through the Wisconsin Entry.

Indiana-Harbor-Wisconsin-Point-15-1-_1782

Ironically I was at Wisconsin Point to see the first ship of the season enter the harbor through the Wisconsin Entry. That was the Coast Guard Cutter Alder shown here as it returned from its first ice breaking run. We were on our way back to Duluth from a visit to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves when we noticed the Alder was returning to Superior.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

It was a really gloomy day when the Indiana Harbor came through the entry. It rained as we drove out to Wisconsin Point. Fortunately it quit while we were waiting for the Indiana Harbor to arrive. I suspect the crew was happy to be done for what turned out to be a long season fighting the ice.

Indiana-Harbor-Wisconsin-Point-15-1-_1831

As usual there were quite a few boat nerds out taking photos of the ship as it came in. I’m on a first name basis with some of them since I see them frequently when I’m out photographing around Duluth/Superior.

Indiana-Harbor-Wisconsin-Point-15-1-_1851

The great lakes shipping season will start again in late March.

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

 

Last week we drove up to Duluth, Minnesota for a short visit. On the way up I was watching the Coast Guard Cutter Alder break ice in the Duluth/Superior Harbor. Most of the time it was working clearing the ice in the St. Louis River. As we neared the Blatnick Bridge in Superior I noticed that it had moved its operations down by the Gavilon Grain Docks so we turned off by Frazier Shipyards to see if we could find it. Just about then it started moving toward the Superior Entry.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_1411

We quickly headed back to Wisconsin Point to see if we could get a shot of it exiting the harbor. When we arrived it was standing just inside the entry attempting to break ice. Apparently the ice in this area was really thick. You could tell that it was having a tough time because every time it started to ram the ice the two diesel engines started belching smoke.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_1439

I took some photos of it before it started heading back down the Harbor toward Duluth. There were a couple of other photographers attempting to get photos but the snow was so deep they couldn’t get down the breakwater. Fortunately I was light enough so that I could walk on the crust.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_1441

The shipping season on Lake Superior should start in the next couple of weeks. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week US Coast Guard Cutter Alder

started breaking ice. It was tough going. On Tuesday it made it out of its moorings  and broke ice past the St. Louis River toward Superior. Some of the ice was over 5 feet thick. On Wednesday it made its way to the Superior Entry and out into Lake Superior for 12 miles.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_0920

We had been over at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves in the morning. On our drive back to Duluth we noticed the Marine Traffic website that the Alder was out in Lake Superior so we drove down to Wisconsin Point to see if we could see it.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_0926

On our first attempt we didn’t have much luck. It was very windy and cold. I walked out toward Wisconsin Point Lighthouse but couldn’t see the ship so we drove to the end of the road. There was another person sitting in his car and I assumed he was waiting for the Alder to return through the Superior Entry.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_0929

We waited a while then noticed that the Alter was continuing out into Lake Superior so we started driving back toward Duluth. Just as we exited Wisconsin Point I asked my wife to make one last check on the status of the Alder. As luck would have it the Alder had turned around was heading back to Superior so we turned around and headed back to the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-14-3-_0919

We watch on Marine Traffic as the Alder neared the Superior Entry. Once again I walked out toward the Lighthouse. There was a fisherman ahead of me and I watched him go out onto the ice. It was really cold and the wind was blowing. I thought he was nuts but when the fish are biting you have to go.Wisconsin-Point-Lighthouse-14-3-_0917

As the Alder entered the port I took some photos. I then notice another photographer heading out onto the ice from a parking lot next to the south breakwater. He walked out to where the Alder had made a path on its way out of the harbor and started taking photos. If you look just in front of the Alder you can see him. This is a fellow I’ve met before. He works for the harbor taking photos of ships. He is one lucky fellow because he has access to places others don’t have including the bridge operators house on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-at-Wisconsin-Point-14-3-_0939

We woke up with the intention of going cross country skiing but saw that it was going to be a warm day. The day before it had been -10 but this morning it was pushing +20. I happened to notice that the U.S Coast Cutter Alder was out in the harbor breaking ice so we put the skis into the car and drove over to Superior to see if we could catch the ice breaker at work.Alder-14-1-_0372

It was a frustrating experience. The Alder was really moving it out and by the time we reached Barkers Island it was already down at the Superior entrance to the harbor. We waited for it to come back but it then went out into Lake Superior. We thought we might get a photo of it coming back into the harbor and started driving over to Wisconsin Point. It soon became obvious that it was traveling too fast and would be back in the harbor long before we reached Wisconsin Point.Alder-14-1-_0400

We then headed back down to Barkers Island to see if we could get a photo of it passing Barkers Island. It turned out to be a race because the ship was moving faster than we could drive through traffic. We quickly pulled into a parking area before Reaching Barkers island and I was able to get a few shots of the Alder as it passed. It was a strange sight with the ice breaker breaking up the ice and people fishing and driving cars on the ice just a few yards from the ice breaker.Alder-14-1-_0405

We then noticed that the Alder heading up the Saint Louis River to break ice by the taconite loading docks. We drove down to Rice’s Point to try and get a few photographs as it came down the Saint Louis River into Duluth Harbor.