Sunday 20 April 2014

Light Icebreaker CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK

Here comes the cavalry!! She's the high endurance multi-task vessel, (a.k.a. light icebreaker), CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK snapped yesterday afternoon by my friend Nathan Attard as the big red machine made her way through Lock 8 and Port Colborne harbour on her way to the Lakehead (a.k.a. Thunder Bay, Ontario). Her speedy arrival will be very much appreciated as ice conditions remain solid and steadfast on Lake Superior, St. Mary's River and the Straits of Mackinac. Icebreakers in both Canadian and US coast guard fleets have performed superbly against a foe that apparently is thicker and far more expansive than any other spring shipping season in the last 20 years. While conditions on Lake Erie appears to be improving (though the CCGS DES GROSEILLIERS was required to assist the PETER R. CRESSWELL ( deliver salt to Buffalo yesterday), transiting up above and beyond Lake Huron has been frustratingly slow going and only completed with one or more icebreakers to assist. Just today, a convoy of six lakers commenced their sluggish journey to western Lake Superior while being escorted with the heavy icebreakers CCGS RADISSON and USCGC MACKINAW which hours earlier helped escort the last of a downbound convoy to the Soo Locks. As this convoy leaves, another grouping is assembled and waits for their turn to discharge or load needed cargo at ports along the north shore of Lake Superior.  A nice HOT SPELL would definitely be welcomed right about now. c);-b

Meanwhile, yesterday I was checking out 'My Fleet' on and saw that the MARTHA L. BLACK was transiting the Welland Canal and was on her way to Thunder Bay. YES!! So Budda-bing, budda-boom, FB chatting I did do to Nathan who earlier sent me some great snaps of the old self unloader CUYAHOGA at the stone dock across from the Robin Hood Flour mill (in the background there, eh). I said 'Hey, can you snap the BLACK for me?' He says, 'where do they have her?' I say 'beyond Welland near Ramey's Bend' and Nathan says, 'No problem, I'll wait for her at the stone dock' and I said, YESSS!!!!
Nathan not only snapped the BLACK as she passed the stone dock but also as she approached, then entered Lock 8, and from along the West Street wall as she slipped through chunked pack ice beyond Bridge 21. NICE SNAPS NATHAN!!!    

The 272' MARTHA L. BLACK was built in 1986 at Versatile Pacific Shipyard in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her homeport is Quebec City and she is equipped with a helicopter. I recall reading that she worked the St. Lawrence River and Gulf during the winter months and this spring, she mostly was been assigned to ice operations and escort duties on the lower St. Lawrence Seaway between the Snell and St. Lambert Locks. When the medium Arctic-class icebreakers RADISSON and DES GROSEILLIERS entered the Great Lakes earlier this month, the equally hard working but smaller GRIFFON ( was sent down to open Lake Ontario ports like Hamilton, Toronto, Picton and Kingston, and offer vessel assistance along the Seaway with the MARTHA L. BLACK. 

Named after an American-born Yukon Member of Parliament, it totally makes sense for the MARTHA L. BLACK to be selected for this mission. Along with her Canadian and American icebreaking fleetmates, she will continue to work as one just like any good friend or neighbour would. c);-))

Friday 18 April 2014

Self Unloader MAUMEE (Revisited)

Just 39 days before my father was born along the northshore of Lake Erie, the 605' self unloader MAUMEE was launched on the other side of the lake on June 22, 1929. Built at American Ship Building in Lorain, Ohio, her name then was WILLIAM G. CLYDE and she sailed for 32 years as a traditional 'straightdeck' ore carrier for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company and U.S. Steel Corp. until she was converted to a self unloader in 1961 and from a coal burning steam engine to diesel a few years later. At that time, her name was CALCITE II and according to my new boat-watching friend, David Mallette, who sailed for 44 years in the engine room of many vessels like the laker RESERVE and tankers like the ROCKET and the AMOCO ILLINOIS, the old girl had a very loud typhon air horn. WOW, I can only imagine her "Captain’s Salute". David, who currently lives in Fairfield, California, was born and raised in Detroit, and spent every chance he could get at the Detroit River watching the up, and downbound ships, and then the deep sea vessels when the Seaway was opened in 1959. I did exactly the same thing along the Welland Canal where my dad worked until retired in 1991. Yes, those were the days for sure David and again, nice chatting with you tonight.
Meanwhile, CALCITE II continued to haul limestone, stone and other aggregates for the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet until she was sold to the Lower Lakes Towing Company of Port Dover, Ontario in 2001. With a new coat of paint in company colours and their unique 'First Nations' insignia on her stack, the newly named MAUMEE continued to be transport stone aggregates and coal until she was sold for scrap and towed to Port Colborne in December 2011.

When I snapped the laid up   MAUMEE in Port Colborne in May 2013, she not only looked worse for wear, she appeared exposed and running out of time. During an earlier visit to Port during the 2012 Canal Days there, the MAUMEE was almost totally hidden behind the former last steam-powered laker, the 656' JAMES NORRIS. For more snaps check out:

However when I snapped her in February 2013, the back end of the MAUMEE was tucked in behind the former well-travelled oil tanker PROVMAR TERMINAL II.  Check out her story at:

You don't need a picture to say a thousand words when looking at these last two snaps of the MAUMEE taken during my visit to Port Colborne on October 2013. Clearly, the writing and rust was on wall. Despite all of the MAUMEE's accomplishments and 80 years valued service, soon she'd be gone and her berth replaced with another "Legend of the Great Lakes"...
...the 730' straightdeck bulk carrier ALGOMA QUEBECOIS  (
Nice photo Nathan Attard!! To Be Continued.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Polar Icebreaker DES GROSELLIERS

'There's No Life Like It' may have been a recruitment slogan for the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1980's, but after high school, the life direction I sought out was to become a skipper of a polar ice breaker in the then recently formed 'Canadian Coast Guard' (before that it was just a government department c):-(). The promotional material made it look pretty exciting so off I went one Saturday to a high school gym in Niagara Falls to complete all their exams. Later I was told I didn't get selected because basically their ad campaign was too successful. There were far more candidates than actual openings. C'est la vie, que sera, sera. Actually, advertising became my first career I and was pretty good at it, working for Ontario newspapers in Welland, Leamington, Cambridge, Trenton, Ottawa and then to Toronto at Canada's national newspaper, The Globe & Mail. Soon after, I kind of changed things up by getting into 'direct' advertising when I joined the also recently formed Crown Corporation, Canada Post. I was transferred to head office in Ottawa, where I continued to promote direct marketing for the PO (very short for, Post Office) and during a stint as an entrepreneur.
However for the past twelve years, whenever I'm not snapping photos of boats along the Seaway (or wherever), I very much enjoy driving a transit bus here in Ottawa, which may not be as large as a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, but our buses are also coloured red and white, with a big 'Maple Leaf' on each side, much like the CCGS DES GROSEILLERS which was recently snapped by an old but much younger friend, Nathan Attard in Port Colborne.
Sorry Nathan, but I don't recall much about you because you were pretty young when I left Port Colborne, but I do fondly remember your folks, especially in the early days when we we'd visit them on one of the laid up for winter Misener boats. I recall touring may parts of the SCOTT MISENER (or was it the JOHN O. MCKELLER), and especially the engine room and thinking no way would I want to work down there. But that's where your dad worked and he was very good at it for many years.

Meanwhile, back at the boatblog, WOOHOO snaps Nathan of the DES GROSEOLLIERS passing the BAIE COMEAU above Lock 8 while making her way to do battle with the massive ice packs and ridges on the nearly still frozen over, Lake Erie. Like her fleetmate, CCGS PIERRE RADISSON which entered the system and passed through Port Colborne just a few days earlier, the 322' DES GROSEILLERS, is a powerful Medium Arctic-class icebreaker. Built in 1982 at Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines, Ontario, the DES GROSEILLIERS generally conducts icebreaking and escort operations on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Saguenay and St. Lawrence rivers during the winter months, and the Seaway in the spring. During the summer, she would travel to the Canadian Arctic for ship escort and navigation aids operations as well as supporting various scientific mission. However, due to the extremely thick and steadfast ice conditions from Lake Erie through to the western reaches of Lake Superior, these two massive icebreakers were needed to provide additional icebreaking capacity and help get lakes and saltwater fleets moving. In fact just one day after its arrival at Port Colborne, the Quebec City based DES GROSEILLIERS escorted five lakers (ALGOMA DISCOVERY, ALGOMA EQUINOX, ALGOMA ENTERPRISE, BAIE COMEAU and the articulated tug & barge SEA EAGLE II), through ice between 2 to 3 feet thick and ice ridges between 4 to 10 feet high to the western edge of the ice pack. While DES GROSEILLIERS remains stationed on Lake Erie, PIERRE RADISSON has been busy conducting ice operations and convoy escort duties on the St. Mary's River, and Lake Superior with the USCGC MACKINAW (

While the powerful and heavy weight icebreakers are assisting the larger freighters manoeuvre about, the smaller cutters like Canadian Coast Guard ships SAMUEL RISLEY, GRIFFON, and USCGS KATMAI BAY, and other resources have been busy laying lighted navigation aids and clearing river openings to prevent flooding, and opening lake ports along either sides of the border because on the Great Lakes both Canadian and American coast guard fleets operate as one. Quite the unique friendship we have, eh!! c);-))    

Being one of the last ships to operate before her winter lay-up, the CSL self discharging bulk carrier BAIE COMEAU has also been very active already this spring. From above Lock 8 in Port Colborne, to a Lake Erie destination and back, then through the Welland Canal to laying anchored on the St. Lawrence near Prescott is where I snapped her hiding behind some trees. GOTCHA!! c):-o On her way to Sept-Iles, Quebec, the COMEAU along with ALGOMA SPIRIT and ALGOMA GUARDIAN had to wait for the all clear before getting underway due to severe ICE conditions further down the system. 
For some very interesting updates and amazing photos, check out 'Daily Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News' on
Thanks for the great snaps Nathan and say hello to your dad for me. c);-b

Sunday 6 April 2014


Whether the vessel is a maximum width chemical/oil tanker like the SLOMAN HERMES  ( or a hard working tug like the WILFRED M. COHEN, they all look pretty small when entering an empty Lock 3 along the Welland Canal in St. Catharines, Ontario.
 However, once the lock is filled and it's time to move on to the next lock, everything is put back into perspective like these snaps of the WILFRED M. COHEN and her barge taken by my friend Shaun Judge of Kanata when he visited the Welland Canal last June.
When built in 1948 at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, the name for the 102.5' train barge tug for Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad was A.T. LOWMASTER. Shortly after being rebuilt in 1974 the LOWMASTER was sold to A.B. McLean Ltd. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and continued her trade on the Great Lakes while being renamed WILFRED M. COHEN.  
The COHEN. was acquired by Purvis Marine Ltd also of Sault Ste. Marie in 1994 and seven years later she had a raised wheelhouse added for improved vision when pushing a high in the water barge like she was pushing while making her upbound departure out of Lock 3 in Shaun's snap above.
Sometimes though added features and all of your experience means nothing when Mother Nature has other plans, like after delivering a load of steel coils to Detroit, Michigan, her barge, the 338' PML IRONMASTER became stuck in the ice-jammed St. Mary's River on her return trip to the Soo last January. Despite every effort by the veteran tugs WILFRED M. COHEN and PML fleetmate, ANGLIAN LADY (above, snapped in Port Colborne in 2012) to free her, the IRONMASTER had to be abandoned and to this day remains locked in the ice in the river.
Meanwhile, the PML tugs WILFRED M. COHEN and ANGLIAN LADY have remained tied-off at the Purvis dock in the Soo and waiting for the coast guard to open a path in the ice so the that the IRONMASTER can be retrieved and returned to her home base. When the barge became mired in the ice on January 27, the duration of the returned journey to date had already taken over 28 days. Patience has been the virtue this winter. It ain't over till it's over this year for sure. c);-b