Tuesday 31 December 2019

Last River Run - Part 1: Self Unloader ALGOMA MARINER

It’s that time of year again. It just seems like yesterday that I was standing at Loyalist Park about midway between Morrisburg and Iroquois on Lakeshore Drive waiting for the first upbound of the new shipping season, the 656’ Fednav bulk carrier FEDERAL KUMANO to motor by. While the weather conditions were almost identical with a scattering of snow on the ground and temps hovering above freezing, it was actually 9 months plus 2 days from my first to Saturday’s last run to  the St. Lawrence River.
FEDERAL ALSTER unloading at Ogdensburg, N.Y. - September 30. 2019
I’ll admit it, the ship that I wanted to get was the FEDERAL ALSTER, also a Fednav laker-type bulk carrier which I caught unloading across the river at Ogdensburg in June and was going to be the second to last saltie to make it out of the Great Lakes before the St. Lawrence section of the Seaway closed today at noon.
True, I would have liked to get the very last downbound saltie of the season but the FEARLESS was still somewhere out on Lake Erie, it was virtually empty due to a freezing problem in her lines that was discovered in Thunder Bay. There were even concerns that she maybe wintering there. She was to be passing through Iroquois Lock later Sunday afternoon which was when a major ice and winter storm was to blow through our neck of the woods, making it pretty risky for my drive from Ottawa to the River and back. As it turned out though the FEARLESS motored from the Lakehead high in ballast on schedule and the winter storm was a day late. What are you going to do 😁.
However as an added bonus, I saw that the 740' Algoma Central self unloader ALGOMA MARINER was also making her last upbound river run so it was off to Brockville to catch her first.

ALGOPORT unknowingly leaving Great Lakes for last time
- taken by Ron Beaupre - June 28, 2009
Now here’s a ship with a very interesting background which could explain for her rugged well worked look. She all came to be due to an unfortunate happening to the then often idle Algoma self unloader ALGOPORT which sank in the East China Sea off Japan on September 6, 2009 while being towed to China for a new forebody. The plan for the 680’ Nova Scotia-class ALGOPORT which was named for my old hometown, Port Colborne, was to have a new longer and wider Seaway-max forebody, (a.k.a. the cargo holds and bow section of a ship) attached to her wheelhouse and accommodation stern section. The plan worked for ALGOPORT’s sister, ALGOBAY which now plies the Great Lakes and eastern seaboard during some winter months as the RADCLIFFE R. LATIMER.
ALGOMA MARINER about unload more road salt at the Port of Johnstown - June 18, 2018. 

Wheelhouse similar to next generation Equinox-class newbuilds.
With no stern section to attach to it, the new forebody sat idle for a year until Upper Lakes Shipping Corporation decided to use it for a new self unloader to be named CANADIAN MARINER. However that name was changed to ALGOMA MARINER when Algoma Central acquired Upper Lakes Shipping's complete fleet in February 2011. With the exception of a bulbous bow which is common for ocean-going freighters, the wheelhouse and accommodations section of the new ALGOMA MARINER looks very similar to the company’s current Equinox-class gearless and self discharging bulk carriers, don't you think.

When the new vessel arrived at Port Cartier on August 2, 2011 to pick up a load iron ore pellets for a Hamilton steel mill, her port of registry was Toronto, where previous-owner's  head office was located but soon after it was changed to Port Colborne and then dedicated at a special ceremony at the Lake Erie port on August 25, 2011 in recognition of the communities long standing relationship with Algoma Central and for company’s subsidiary Fraser Ship Repairs, which has been based in Port Colborne for many years. Kudos to Algoma Central for that and the ship-like designed skateboard park at Lock 8 which is named ALGOPORT.

Downbound ALGOMA MARINER plays peekaboo between the
shoreline trees and islets east of Cornwall - June 15, 2015
After an unexpected Captain's Salute of one long and two short blasts from her horn πŸ“’ to the group of us present for her last upbound run past Blockhouse Island Park, I was able to continue to track the Coastal-class ALGOMA MARINER despite a few glitches with my Canon πŸ“·Rebel (appropriately named) as she made her way towards the Brockville Narrow until she was nearly out of sight. For the last few days she's sat anchored of Port Weller and east of the Burlington Skyway. However according to MarineTraffic she is currently underway bound for Clarkson to finally deliver her cargo. After that she probably layup for winter in Hamilton or with the Welland Canal still open until January 8th, perhaps another run to the upper lakes is in order for the 8 year old ship. we'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, coming up in Part 2 of my "Last River Run" we'll be at Iroquois Lock to meet up with the FEDERAL ALSTER during her escape from the Great White ⛄ North and in the distance, another "Red Boat". Canadian Coast Guard ship GRIFFON. I wonder what she's up to? Well you'll find out NEXT YEAR!!! Until then have a Happy New Year πŸŽ‰, thanks for reading my blog and saying so many nice things about my pics. Take care and I wish you All the Best in 2020. πŸ‘‹. 

Monday 2 December 2019


Carl and a boat c);-b
While waiting for the ghost ship on the horizon to approach McNair Island and beyond on Remembrance Day, Janice, my better half, who was sitting in our nice warm KIA Sportage said, "Gee, I sure wouldn't want to be on those ships during weather like this". Very true, but what about your boatnerd husband whose been standing on a snow covered hill for who knows how long waiting for the upbound in near blizzard conditions in a quasi fall jacket and a hoodie. BooHooHoo 😒 to you, Yeah I hear ya.
Like we'd done a pretty good job of staying ahead of another early cold winter blast that had made it way from over the top and was continuing to spread a wide swath of the white stuff from west of London through to the Quebec border. Yes, that in itself was a clear warning to stay in the car πŸš™ and go home, but the 476' tanker CHEMBULK YOKOHAMA was just a few minutes or 10 away so how bad could it be? According to the Weather Network app it was a balmy -5 celsius or feeling like -11C in the 30 kilometre wind gust, but I'll tell you it was a lot colder than that πŸ’¨πŸ˜.

Actually, Janice was right on the mark. November can be brutally cold with snow, high winds, and sadly too, deadly for mariners on the Great Lakes. A "November Gale" or also known as a "November Witch" are storms that can maintain hurricane-force wind gusts, producing waves 50 feet high, and dumping several inches of rain or feet of snow and last for several days over the Great Lakes region. Since 1847 there's been at least 25 killer storms striking the Great Lakes like during the Great Storm of 1913, 13 ships sank and another 19 were damaged or run aground killing 244 sailors, including 6 crew members of Buffalo Lightship LV-82 that was anchored off Point Abino east of Port Colborne and found 2 miles from its assigned location in 63 feet of water. During the Armistice Day Blow of 1940 which lasted from November 11-12, 5 ships sank and 66 souls were lost. The 639''American self unloader CARL D. BRADLEY sank in a Lake Michigan storm on November 18, 1958 taking 33 of her 35 man crew, while only one sailor survived when the 603' bulk carrier DANIEL J. MORRELL broke up during a strong storm on Lake Huron on November 29, 1966 taking 29 sailors down with her.
In the United States, a gale warning is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when wind strengths range from 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) to 47 knots (87 km/h; 54 mph). The 729' EDMUND FITZGERALD was just under 5 hours out of Superior, Wiscousin, fully loaded with taconite ore pellets destined for Zug Island, at Detroit, when the NWS altered their forecast to gale warnings for all of Lake Superior at 7 pm on November 9, 1975. Seven hours later, the NWS upgraded their warning from gale to storm with wind gusts ranging from 35-50 knot (65-93 km/hr; 40-58 mph). Another loaded ore carrier, the ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, which was trailing the FITZGERALD across Lake Superior reported to have been struck with wind gusts of 70-75 knots (130-139 km/h; 81-86 mph) and rogue waves as high as 35 feet (11m). Listing and taking on water from constant heavy seas crashing over her decks, the EDMUND FITZGERALD suddenly disappeared out of sight with all 29 hands on board at about 7:20 pm in November 10, 1975.

There's been many more great storms in November and other months of the year since the sinking of the EDMUND FITZGERALD forty-four years ago, but instead of risking their livelihoods over time deadlines, more often I've seen ships waiting out a storm at Whitefish Bay or in the lee of Lake Superior's "wolf head mouth" Keweenaw Peninsula. Thanks to Boatnerd's and MarineTraffic's AIS mapping, I've also seen ships anchored at the mouth of St. Mary River near Detour and Drummond Island, or tucked behind Long Point on Lake Erie or Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario. I've even photograph a few anchored near Prescott or further down the St. Lawrence while waiting for high winds to cease. "Arrive Alive" or "Better be safe than sorry" are clichΓ©s  that we all hear time and time again, and words of caution that can apply to many situations in life even for ship owners and their crews.  

Hey, while I've been all narrative here, the 11.5 thousand gross ton capacity chemical and oil tanker CHEMBULK YOKOHAMA continues to motor by Blockhouse Island in Brockville through the wind and random snow squalls. Built in 2003 at the Usaki Shipyards in Usaki, Japan, the tanker looks similar in size and cargo capacity to that of Algoma Tanker's ALGOSEA and ALGOMA HANSA which are both 472.5 feet in length. Laden with a cargo for Hamilton, Ontario, the CHEMBULK YOKOHAMA which has kept the same name in her 26 years in the trade is currently owned by Executive Ship Management of Singapore and flies the flag of the Marshall Islands.
Hey, if you're thinking the weather conditions didn't do much to improve the looks of the aging CHEMBULK YOKOHAMA at Brockville, it was even more challenging for me in worse snow conditions when I caught the 459' cement carrier NACC QUEBEC with its "ugliest stack on the Great Lakes", later that afternoon at Prescott. But that'll be another story for another day. πŸ‘‹

Friday 21 June 2019

Gearless Bulk Carrier ALGOMA STRONGFIELD

While the 656' bulk carrier and former "duck" boat HELENA G continues downbound towards Toussaint Island and soon after that Iroquois Lock, the 740' gearless bulk carrier ALGOMA STRONGFIELD skirts along the New York State shoreline and past the scattered homes on Sparrowhawk Point Drive, sitting low in the water and laden with iron ore for a smelter at Hamilton, Ontario.
Wednesday, June 5th was much like many of our spring days this year - dull, rainy and virtually windless, which made the wide section of the St. Lawrence River east of Cardinal, Ontario, flat as a board and offering some very interesting reflections in this series of photos. While slicing through a slow rolling wake from the former Canadian Forest Navigation (Canfornav) owned, GARGANEY, the white water at her bow, appeared to suggest the STRONGFIELD was speeding along while in reality it was anything but.
This year's spring run-off has been especially challenging for mariners and shoreline home-owners on the Great Lakes, and rivers that sends the water downwards to the Atlantic Ocean. Last winter's massive accumulations of snow and biting Siberia-like winds from over the top which caused most Great Lakes to almost completely freeze over and with it's late February gale force gusts, created high ridges that hampered the start of the shipping season. Then melting and excessive rainfalls throughout this spring has caused higher than normal water levels throughout the Great Lakes submerging docks, roads and flooding homes. With Lake Ontario over 20 inches higher than normal the outflow from the Moses-Saunders Power Dam which stretches across the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, Ontario to Massena, New York, has been increasing from 9,100 cubic meters per second on June 3rd to 10,400 cbm/sec. by June 14th which by the way is enough water to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools every second. That's a lot of water. However, though the current 10,400 cbm/sec outflow was a new maximum volume set in 2017, it doesn't appear to be enough this year as the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Board is considering increasing the outflow even more as levels on Lake Ontario will continue to remain high for the next several weeks.
While increased flows are needed to reduce the flooding impacts upstream and downstream of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam, it can also create velocities higher than normal in the navigation channels and variations in normal current patterns which has caused the Canadian and American St. Lawrence Seaway authorities to instruct mariners to exercise extra caution especially when navigating in areas of high cross currents like Galop, Toussaint and Ogden Islands, Copeland Cut above Eisenhower Lock, and the Cornwall South Channel (Polly's Gut). Also no meeting or passing is allowed in various sections of the Brockville and American Narrows, and in the Wiley-Dondero Canal. Zero tolerance restriction has been imposed for ship drafts and recent a tanker with its draft in excess of the maximum permissuble level was towed out of St. Lambert Lock and sent to a Montreal refinery to have some of her cargo removed. That had to be an expensive infraction to the skipper and ship owner. Mariners have also been advised to operate at the lowest safe speed when transiting close to shore to minimize their wake to the greatest extent possible and max speed reduced from a normal 11 to 12 knot/hour to 8.5 knots or less between Eisenhower Lock and Tibbett's Point on Lake Ontario. It is what it is.
Even a reduced speed against a constant downstream flow offers a pretty dynamic bulge at the ALGOMA STRONGFIELD's bow, which   along with her uniquely designed hull, splits then pushes the water to her large 6 meter diameter slow speed propeller. This along several other technological advancements allows her and the other Equinox-class bulk carriers to greater optimize fuel efficiencies in an environmentally-friendly manner while carrying 20% more cargo.

Named after an award winning durum wheat that's grown on the Canadian Prairies and is the basis for the finest pasta and couscous in the world,  ALGOMA STRONGFIELD is the fourth Equinox-class gearless bulk carrier in the Algoma Central fleet. However while being built in 2015 at Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry's shipyard in Nantong, China, her name was to be CWB STRONGFIELD for owner, the Canadian Wheat Board. In the process of being built, the shipyard went bankrupt and in 2017 Algoma purchased the nearly completed hull and named her ALGOMA STRONGFIELD.

Since my rendezvous at Iroquois Lock and near Cardinal, the STRONGFIELD has been a busy girl delivering her cargo of iron ore to a smelter at Hamilton, and has since motored up to Thunder Bay to pick up another load of grain and then delivered it to a lower St. Lawrence River grain elevator. It's the circle of life for the huge gearless bulk carriers transporting cargos  cost effectively through whatever seas come their way.   

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The First Upbound FEDERAL KUMANO

It's a spectacular interaction that can't be overlooked or unheard when open to the elements along the St. Lawrence River in early spring. It's nature versus man. Though somewhat traumatic, it's a clash that causes no pain or injury but the outcome from its participate's fear and anxiousness is as resounding and echoing as a sudden death overtime goal in a packed Olympic hockey arena or the gleeful outcry by a massive gallery when a deemed has been wins another green jacket after the sinking of his final putt.
CCGS PIERRE RADISSON near Upper Canada Village - March 22, 2019
Tranquility becomes a chain reaction of horror as thousands of waterfowl which had been resting in the cold blue or ice covered waters of the St. Lawrence while on their annual trek north to the high Arctic to breed, abruptly takes to the sky frightened by the distant chugging diesel engine and the ever rolling white wake at the bow of the onward approaching red hulled vessel. There are beautiful white-feathered Snows and long slender-necked Canada geese, mallards, mergansers, and wigeon ducks and swans, all screeching with all their might "whoak, whoak, whoak, whoak," as they skim, and then climb, and then circle back to where they came from moments before, and back to eating and resting like nothing ever happened.

CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK from Dr. Stevens Drive east of Iroquois Lock - March 27, 2019
Receiving the honking waterfowl flypast on March 27th, above Loyalist Park near the old river hamlet of Mariatown, was the 656' FEDERAL KUMANO and though she was given the honours of being the first upbound of the new 2019 shipping season, the first vessel was actually the medium size Arctic icebreaker CCGS PIERRE RADISSON which I caught with her feathered escort near Morrisburg on March 22nd. Because the big icebreaker is needed to break open ice covered channels on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, no "Top 🎩 Hat", the award given to the first upbounds and downbounds on the Welland Canal, was given to the very deserving PIERRE RADISSON nor to the actual second upbound and KUMANO's escort, the light icebreaker MARTHA L. BLACK which had just aroused a flock of geese near Flagg Creek when I snapped her approaching to Iroquois Lock.
In fact despite all the hoopla at St. Lambert Lock with Canada's Transport Minister and former astronaut, Marc Garneau there to mark the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the skipper of the Laker-class bulk carrier FEDERAL KUMANO also didn't receive an opportunity to don a "Top 🎩 Hat" either. However along with being the first upbound, the KUMANO was also the first saltie to receive the acknowledgement since the heavy lift cargo vessel BELUGA EMOTION opened the season while on her way to Valleyfield with a load of cement pipes in 2006.

I really enjoy photographing at Loyalist Park which is situated about 5 kilometres west of Morrisburg on Lakeshore Drive which originally was old Highway #2. As the St. Lawrence Seaway was being constructed, a navigable channel over the Long Sault Rapids was needed. Dams and locks were  created and when the area was flooded in July 1958, an artificial lake between Iroquois, Ontario in the west, and Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York at the east end was formed and named Lake St. Lawrence. The inundation of the river caused ten villages in Ontario, since known as the "Lost Villages" to be flooded over forever.  The little park is an ideal location to watch as vessels make several turns while following the original flow of the St. Lawrence River, and passing over lost villages, farmland, previous canal channels and locks, and roadways below.

Though owned by Federal Navigation (FedNav) of Montreal, FEDERAL KUMANO bound for Ashtabula, Ohio on Lake Erie flies the flag of the Marshall Islands with Majuro as her homeport. Built in 2003 at Oshima, Japan, the KUMANO is equipped with three 30 metric-tonne electro hydraulic cranes with a grab capacity of 10 tons to load and unload up to 36,563 gross tonnes of cargo in her six holds.

FEDERAL KUMANO was flagged Hong Kong when my sister Karin snapped her passing beneath the Burlington Skyway in the fall of 2014. Read all about it: https://carlzboats.blogspot.com/2014/11/bulk-carrier-federal-kumano.html 
Whether it's seeing tulips popping out of the ground, the "V" formation of Snows and Canadas flying northerly, or a boatnerd photographing the first upbound in a navy-blue suit after work, the signs of spring can be many different things for many different people here in the Great White North. It's a season that brings back life and renewed commercial opportunities like for the FEDERAL KUMANO which has already returned overseas with a load Canadian grain to a community in Norway. It's a great time of year for all. c):-D