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 đŸ˜ĸ 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 🚙 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 💨😁.

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 clichÊs  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. 👋

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