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‘‹