Wednesday 22 April 2015

Port Colborne Winter Layup

Back in March 1974 when I snapped my 1970 Chevy Malibu sitting in front of the self unloader and laid up for winter E.B. BARBER by the Rochester & Pittsburgh coal dock in Port Colborne, no one would have known anything about "global-warming" let alone suggesting it had anything to do with the mild spring-like temperatures and ice-less harbour conditions back then. I even recall my dad who was still working as a lockmaster on the Welland Canal, telling me that the then Seaway Authority was strongly considering keeping the canal open year-round. It never happened but perhaps it may have been worthwhile 18 years later, when my bil (brother-in-law) Mark, snapped the panoramic view below of another ice-less Port Colborne harbour on a mild St. Patrick's Day in 2012.

A normal ice-packed harbour returned in 2013....l
...and 2014 along with a nearly frozen solid Lake Erie due to the "Polar Vortex from Hell"!! Say What? c):-o Yup, you heard it right. Also known as a "polar cyclone", it hung over Eastern Ontario and the Great Lakes region for far TOO LONG!! c):-()
Feel free to read the whole bone chilling story about in this Carlz Boats post:, or NOT c);-b
Nathanz Boats
Nathanz Boats
As for 2015, well I believe these snaps taken by my man in Port Colborne, Nathan Attard, says it all. While I was on a beach in Cuba during the first week of January, Ontario and America's Great Lakes region got whacked with snow, freezing rain, then a deep-freeze drop in temperatures to -32 celsius in the wind. (Hehehee c);-D). I've since learned my lesson and now knows the true meaning of the saying, "He who laughs last, laughs last" because not only did it take me 45 minutes to chip the ice off my windshield at the Ottawa airport when we arrived back from our winter vacation in the SUN, but the snow and frigid cold blasts from Siberia continued until mid-March when our first thaw of the winter arrived a month late.
Nathanz Boats
Regardless of the temperatures outside or how brief the stay is, like CSL's self unloaders RT. HON. PAUL J. MARTIN and WHITEFISH BAY (which didn't arrive in Port [Colborne] until the last week of January), winter lay-up is the time for crews to make babies (or not) while others make the necessary repairs before the new shipping season commences. Most ship companies got an extra week to complete things, due to the St. Lawrence Seaways decision to delay the opening of their system until April 2 because of severe ice conditions throughout the Seaway and Great Lakes. The last time the Seaway delayed the opening of the season was in 1997.

Time is money and over the short but cold winter lay-up, CSL's Trillium-class self discharging bulk carrier BAIE COMEAU got a new coat of paint on her hull. Yes, she needed to look pretty because when the Welland Canal opened bright and early on April 2, her captain received the "Top Hat" Award for being the first downbound of the season at Lock 8. However soon after clearing the lock, the COMEAU turned herself around by the old Robin Hood flour mill and sat below the lock until a clear track could completed on an ice-laden Lake Erie by the Polar-class icebreaker, CCGS PIERRE RADISSON (
Meanwhile, due to her boom collapsing while discharging salt at Thessalon, on Lake Huron's North Channel on November 28th, the ALGOWAY sat at the old R.E. LAW stone dock since December 6 while her boom was repaired.
Despite the delayed Seaway season opening and ice jammed Great Lakes and rivers, all of Port Colborne's 2014-15 winter lay-up have left the Lake Erie port and southern entrance to the Welland Canal. First to leave on April 1st was the 730' self unloader ALGOWOOD which picked up a load of salt at Goderich for Duluth and is now anchored and waiting to pick up a load of prairie grain at Thunder Bay. Last to leave with a new end-section "crazy-glued" to her discharging boom was the ALGOWAY on April 15th.
Though not actually a winter lay-up despite her late December arrival at Port Colborne,  one ship remains until she is no more, the 730' ALGOMA PROGRESS. Surrounded in a thick lakefront fog at the International Marine Salvage dock, the record breaking PROGRESS looked bashful or ashamed in Nathan Attard's photo above, laying naked for everyone to see without her infamous self unloading boom. Though I can't confirm it, I heard that the end section of ALGOMA PROGRESS's boom was attached to ailing fleetmate, ALGOWAY. Recycling her can be GOOD, right?  c):-))
Despite her bleak situation, wintering in Port Colborne has been a regular occurrence for the 47 year old ALGOMA PROGRESS and I've been able to snap her a couple of times locked in the ice along the harbour's east wall. There she is to the left in February 2013 and below with her original name when owned by Upper Lakes the CANADIAN PROGRESS in January 2003. Even my bil, Mark, snapped her above Bridge 21 in his wide angle photo way up near the top.
On one of her last trips in December, my Kanata friend Shaun was able to snap the proud ALGOMA PROGRESS (below) as she motored upbound on the St. Lawrence River. She was named after Canada's centennial slogan "A Century of Progress", and as the PROGRESS continues to be broken apart, piece by piece, her strong Canadian-made steel will be used to build other products, thereby allowing all kinds of Canadian companies to grow and PROGRESS. How's that for an ending? No pun intended, of course. c):-))

Still awake? Well then perhaps you'll want to check my original ALGOMA PROGRESS post or maybe the ALGOWOOD's Anyone for CSL's WHITEFISH BAY, HON. PAUL J. MARTIN or BAIE COMEAU How about the ALGOWAY, eh, or NOT c);-b

Sunday 12 April 2015

Medium Gulf/River Icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON

Guess who? c);-b
Unlike this year, when I grew up in Port Colborne, a typical winter mostly consisted of snow and lots of it. Located 20 miles west Buffalo, New York, whatever snow accumulation the Niagara Frontier city at the east end of Lake Erie got, we got it first. The white stuff usually started arriving near the end of November and stayed until the end of March, or longer. Whatever snow that didn't fall during a typical "dump" (a Canadian term for a 6 to 12" or 15-30 cm, snowfall), the rest was blown in off of a frozen solid Lake Erie. Walking to Snider Public School back then was always an adventure. Though most sidewalks would have been cleared off, it was a lot more fun to simply trudge through the knee-to-hip deep snow that was shovelled from neighbours' driveways into high mounds of snow. "I'm the king of the castle, and you're the dirty rascal" is what you'd call out if you were able to shove a schoolmate off a roadside mountain and into the snow, or vice versa.
Conquering the ice banks with sisters Cheryl and Nancy in late 60's
What was even more fun was when we'd drive to my grandparents farm which was located near the shores of the lake at Lowbanks almost every Sunday after church. The old homestead is still there at the corner of Lakeshore and Burkett roads. Soon after saying hello to everyone, my sisters and I would scurry out usually with our dad and head down to the snow-covered beach and climb the 15' to 20' high ice bank ridges that appeared to guard the shoreline like a breakwall for miles in each direction. Created by constantly crashing waves and snow blown ashore during our early winter's frigid cold days and nights, the pinnacle offered a great view of the frozen lake below and the slope was steep and fast when tobogganing or just sliding down on your butt. Those were the days. c):-D
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and when the winds start to howl, watch out as waves 8'-10' high that are not able to crash into a shoreline, will simply lift the ice and stack the jagged clear slabs high on top of each other rising anywhere from 5 to 10 feet high causes ice ridges that would extend itself for miles.
ARTHUR M. ANDERSON locked in ice near Ashtabula, OH on February 19, 2015. Canadian Coast Guard photo
A crewman marks the distance from flight deck, as reversing CCGS GRIFFON 
cautiously approaches and clears ice around ARTHUR M. ANDERSON's stern.
- CCGS photo. 
It was conditions likes these that prevented the 767'  ARTHUR M. ANDERSON from entering Conneaut, Ohio in February to load cargo for Gary, Indiana. Escorted by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BRISTOL BAY the closest the American ore carrier came to her destination was four miles of shore. While her escort remained locked in the ice, the BRISTOL BAY attempted to pick up provisions and fuel in Ashtabula but the icebreaking cutter could not smash through the ice ridges outside the Ohio lakeport.
USCG cutter BRISTOL BAY encountering brash icefield
5-6' thick off Ashtabula. U.S. Coast Guard photo by 
Lt. Cmdr. John Henry  
The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker GRIFFON which had been escorting Algoma tankers to and from Nanticoke, Ontario, came across Lake Erie to aid her U.S. icebreaking partner, ramming those the high ridges and remained with the BRISTOL BAY as she reached Cleveland instead for refuelling. As the BRISTOL BAY headed to Detroit for repairs, the GRIFFON pushed on back to ARTHUR M. ANDERSON and along with CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY, which left icebreaking duties on the St. Clair River, the two Canadian icebreakers freed the ANDERSON.
Freed ARTHUR M. ANDERSON heading to Detroit while
assisted by CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY.  CCGS Photo
Motoring behind the GRIFFON, the empty ore carrier got underway on the 14th day of a trip that should have only taken two and a half to complete, heading westward to Detroit with the RISLEY assisting while the GRIFFON returned to Nanticoke to assist the tankers ALGOCANADA and ALGOSEA to their destination.
After all vessels were refuelled, the GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY returned to assist the ANDERSON along with USCGC NEAH BAY up the St. Clair River to the open waters of Lake Huron and eventually arriving at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for winter lay up on March 4th.
Due to anticipated ice condition issues, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority delayed the opening of the new shipping season for the first time since 1997 until April 2 this year, one week later than normal. While the Seaway opened as usual last year on March 28th, after transiting the locks, ships ended up being laid up for at least week due to thick ice conditions from Lake Erie onwards. This year's opening delay allowed additional Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers the opportunity to clear up channels, harbours and create shipping tracks before commercial bulk carriers could enter the system and Great Lakes. The duties of the light icebreaker, CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK primarily focused on icebreaking activities in the Bay of Quinte, eastern Lake Ontario, and the Seaway to the Beauharnois locks, (you can see more about her in my last post, while the medium icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON photographed by my ship-watching friend Ron Beaupre off his "dock" in Mariatown, above and approaching Iroquois Lock, below on March 29th was also sent into the Great Lakes.
Built in North Vancouver, British Columbia in 1978, the 322' x 62' CCGS PIERRE RADISSON is a Medium River/Gulf icebreaker which works in the Gulf and St. Lawrence River area in the winter, the Great Lakes in the spring, if needed and in the Arctic during the summer months.. Her max speed is 16.7 knots or 31 km/hr and the RADISSON is also equipped with helicopter. After transiting Iroquois Lock, the big icebreaker made good speed breaking river ice, and pushing open water further up the St. Lawrence, across Lake Ontario and over the Niagara Escarpment via the Welland Canal to Port Colborne where my friend Nathan Attard snapped these shots below as PIERRE RADISSON exited Lock 8 on March 30th.
Weighing close to 6,000 tons, the unique bow on the RADISSON and other icebreakers allows her to rise above the ice in what's known as "beaching conditions" while her full weight bears down and breaks the ice. When approaching an ice ridge, icebreakers like the PIERRE RADISSON, will ram the ridge at full speed several times until she breaks through. While most Great Lakes like Erie received ice coverage similar to last year due to extreme cold temperatures from January to early March, the ice plates apparently are not as thick as last year.

While the CCGS PIERRE RADISSON had no problems tracking or breaking ice on Lake Erie, conditions were very different at the eastern end of Lake Superior. While initially some ore carriers were able to cross the lake without major issues within days of the opening of the Soo Locks on March 25th, conditions changed significantly within a week as 25-30" ice plates and stacked ice ridges 4-5' high were reported from the Soo Locks to 15 miles west of Whitefish Point bringing movement in both direction to a halt. To make matters worse, an unexplained water leak in the port azipod of the U.S. Coast Guard's heaviest Great Lakes icebreaker MACKINAW ( required her to limp back to the Soo for inspection.
Meanwhile, CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY already sent up to Lake Superior to assist where needed, took over MACKINAW's duties and the big medium icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON was then dispatched to make her way to Lake Superior.
CCGS GRIFFON was sent to take over ice breaking activities on the St. Lawrence River and Seaway, while MARTHA L. BLACK motored to Port Colborne to take over tracking and ice breaking duties on Lake Erie.
On April 8th, the RADISSON locked through the Soo and early the next day she crossed into Lake Superior with seven upbound lakers following behind her. Though reduced to the use of only the her starboard azipod, USCG cutter MACKINAW was able to assist with convoy escort duties. Meanwhile, the sleek Canadian icebreaker SAMUEL RISLEY, escorted six downbound lakers to the Soo Locks.
In recent days, those lakers that were trapped in the ice and freed by the RADISSON, have reached their destinations. Some have taken on loads and are already starting their downbound trip back. The first bulk carrier to arrive at Thunder Bay and two weeks earlier than last year, the TECUMSEH ( is loading her hull with another bumper crop of prairie grain.

The United States and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers do what they have to do as a team keeping the shipping lanes and trades routes open regardless of the weather conditions. Isn't it amazing what can be completed when good neighbours and friends work together as one. Makes me proud. How about you? c):-D