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“one of the toughest ports in the world, sharing that distinction with Shanghai and Calcutta . . .”  I believe that’s “tough” as quantified in black eyes, missing teeth, and blood spat out onto the gravel.  I wonder who had the breadth of experience to render this judgement.  Why would such ports as Rio, Murmansk, and Oswego not be included . . . or others?

Besides that, those few sentences render a great description of mechanization.

Mississagi is wintering over here in Ashtabula. She’s appeared on this blog a half dozen times . . . working.   I’m coming home is Norfolk Southern’s mantra.

I believe this archway is a coal conveyor belt.

That’s all you get of GL tug Rhode Island.  Mississagi (1943) is only a year younger than Alpena.  But Rhode Island dates from 1930.   The white tug in front of it is Nancy Anne. based in Cheboygan, MI.

A bit farther east in Ashtabula, Calumet winters over.  Previous posts including Calumet can be found here.

and off its stern, it’s the upper portion of tug Olive L. Moore (hull launched in 1928) and barge Menominee.  I caught them on Lake Huron in August 2017.

If you wanted to start reading that historical marker from side one, here it is, then if you want, you can go back to the beginning and read that in proper context.  If you want the short history of Ashtabula, click here for a review of a good book.  If you want the juicy details or at least the gritty ones, buy Carl E. Feather’s Ashtabula Harbor:  A History of the world’s Greatest Iron Ore Receiving Port.  My copy is on order.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.


Maybe you saw this in yesterday’s post and wondered why I hadn’t commented.  Dorothy Ann and Pathfinder have appeared on this blog before.

Soon after I got these photos, they departed to Cleveland to discharge a load–as I understand it– that

had been in the hold since last year.  Ice had moved in so quickly that the unit was prevented from offloading.  I don’t know how much ore (?) was in the barge;  her capacity is 21,260 tons.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Not to belabor the point, but I wanted to see this scene with ice, and expected to, given this was taken in late February and the fishermen have already put away their ice drills.

Ahead of the former fixture in the sixth boro, then called Bear and now Elizabeth Anna, it’s the huge Joyce L. Van Enkevort, launched 21 years ago.

Joyce L. is a 10,000 hp tug with dimensions of 135′ x 50.’


Joyce L. is mated to Great Lakes Trader, launched in Louisiana in 2001.  The barge has capacity of 39,600 tons, 66% greater than that of Edmund Fitzgerald.


The Old Rite Russian Orthodox church in the background is Church of the Nativity. 

I can’t wait to see these two units mated and  . . . great lakes’ trading.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

The port of Erie is protected behind an “almost island” called Presque Isle, pronounced in French to rhyme with “wheel.”  Click on the map to interact with it.

So guess which “laker” was behind Presque Isle the other day?  Presque Isle, of course, and that’s the name of both the tug and barge.  Both parts date from the early 1970s but were built in different locations . . . Louisiana and Michigan.  Does that mean the tug made the saltwater journey to Michigan solo?  I caught her here in Port Weller last summer.


Over in the distance, the land is inner side of the peninsula of Presque Isle.

St Clair was also in port, tied up here to the DonJon pier.

I finally got a closeup of one of the more interesting “second lives” vessels” I’ve ever seen:  a 1945 YO-178 tanker, sold out of government service in 1953,  converted to a trailing suction hopper dredge!  J. S. St. John started life in Pensacola.

To see her underway, check out this video.  for lots of news and photos from Erie, check out Erie Shipping News.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp, last week.


To repeat what I said yesterday, this was supposed to be a visit to get photos of tugs and ships in ice.  The Cuyahoga may be quite cold, but no ice . . . .

This shot is taken from the Carter Road Bridge looking toward Collision Bend and the bug venues.

Under the Rte 2 Bridge, Alpena awaits her 76th season!  She makes me feel young!

In resplendent light last summer late, I caught her heading northbound mid-Lake Huron.

Again, I imagined ice;  two weeks earlier and I likely would have seen it.

The yellow of the water makes more vivid the yellow of her hull.

Some crew is maintaining boiler pressure.

And when the season begins, Alpena will back out of this dock on the old river, turn to port and head back to work for her 76th season.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who looks forward to seeing her steaming on the Lakes again this summer.

Previous Cleveland posts on tugster include this and this with laker Buffalo,  and this with–among other things–Iowa towing Sea Eagle II up the Cuyahoga.   There are others also if you just use the search window.


I’d planned a gallivant along the coast of Lake Erie to see ice, maybe even walk and fish on it, as I did many decades ago.  February would normally be a good time for that, but my actual schedule depended on someone else, my son.  Well . . . I was told that a week earlier, ice fishing was happening here . . .  Click on the map below to make it interactive.

Huron OH?  I admit never having heard of it.  It’s just east of Sandusky, which I saw here, and roughly between *7 and *8, posts on the Great Coast that I did last fall.

This two-part panorama (above and below) shows the turning basin near the mouth of the Huron River, which might be fun to canoe one of these years.

I use AIS to determine which roads I take on a gallivant like this, and this surely is not the green icon I saw, but I’m thrilled the icon led me here.  Adam E. Cornelius is not as old as it looks–launched 1973–and I’ve no idea what her fate will be.  And she’s Toledo’s pride.


One of these years, I hope to see her, under this name or another, back hauling Great Lakes minerals around our Great Coast.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.  And that green icon that led me here, I’m guessing it was either R/V Kiyi or R/V Kaho.  anyone help?  Chain link stood in the way of my getting any reasonable picture.

For the many previous “port of” posts on tugster, click here and scroll.


This is the grande finale, although you’ll notice I didn’t know when the finalization would  . . . finalize.  Spotters on the bow of the safety boat watch the canoeists through the snow squalls.

And at 31 minutes after the start, the first boat  (Archibald micro brasserie) returning from the Lévis side comes into view,

pursued by two others.

Archibald lands and races home….


with the next two running close together.

Three more arrive closely clumped.



But that’s when I realized I’d missed an important detail:  they make more than one lap!  Notice the Archibald team heading back out!  Later I believe I understood they were disqualified, although I didn’t understand why.

Now I understand that it’s more a marathon than a sprint.



At this point I head back to point 1 (See yesterday’s map.) to watch from the start/finish line.  Notice the three incoming boats from over by the pine trees where I got the previous photos from.

The two teams push their canoe past the two 8200+ hp behemoths  

to take the checkered flag.  By this time, I’ve lost track of who’s who and in what place.

Here’s a tavern to help you celebrate.  Care for a glass of Caribou?  Click here to learn the secret of the incongruous plastic canes I saw a lot of men carrying.

I headed up the street past the ice taverns so that after tasting something I had to go only downhill to my snowcave.

These ice bars–I was told–go up around Christmas and by March start to melt.  For now, they are exquisite.  And the bottles to the right of Jaegermeister are local spirits:  Quartz, Chic choc rum, Coureur des bois whiskey, and Ungava gin.

As I said, from the ice bars it’s downhill to my snow cave inside the walled city and return to hibernation.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.  For more photos, click here.  For a video clip of the snow bath–I did NOT indulge–click here.

For some photos of a clear winter’s day in Quebec City last year, click here.  For more frozen St. Lawrence riverbanks photographed in 2017, click here.


The premier event of Carnaval de Québec has become ice canoeing, a unique sport stemming from early French settlement along the St. Lawrence:  in summer boats connected the opposite sides of the river, and in winter sleds traversed, but during the times between, canoes alone could provide this contact.  The need for treacherous crossings ended after the introduction of steamboats and building of bridges.

Now, hazards are addressed, and a total of 290 canoeists raced this year, 58 canoes.  Rules require that canoes weigh at least 225 pounds and provide a prescribed amount of flotation.

Use the map below to orient yourself.  The top three photos I took standing at point 1 looking toward the river.  Here a crane lowers a canoe onto the frozen portion of outer part of Bassin Louise.

See the pine tree cluster in the photo above?  That’s point 2.  U is upstream (to the right) and D, downstream (to the left).  The race happened on an ebb tide, so ice floes moved at 4 to 5 knots from U to D.  Obviously, since the race is from 1 to 2 to 3 for four crossings, racers leave the bassin and turn upstream, making the course triangular.


The rest of these photos I took from point 2, over near the pine trees.  Here the safety tug Ocean Henry Bain departs the bassin to break up ice that’s gathered at the opening over the past hour.

You can barely make out the city of Lévis–marked as 3 on the map–on the other side.

The bonhomme banner flies from the mast.

After the third prolonged blast from Ocean Henry Bain, the first racers–the elite women’s teams– depart, five -person crews wearing spiked crampons push the waxed bottomed canoes to open water.  The technique here is this:  keep two hands and one knee on the boat at all times in case your boot goes through.

Note the crowd;  numbers estimation has become a contentious sport in itself, but I’d guess 10,000 spectators braved the cold to be there.

Here the transition from pushing to rowing–with spiked oars–


Ten minutes later, other teams head out, again after a third blast from Ocean Henry Bain. 

Only the crew member at the stern has a paddle, rather than an oar.

Recall that at this point, crews turn upstream to contend with the 4 to 5 knot current;  the water flows that fast, and any ice chunks there do too.  So the technique here is to get momentum upstream ASAP.

Or else.  Here the blue canoe–heading for the tug, i.e., the wrong direction, got pushed downstream by that ice floe.  The red canoe also going the wrong way got turned by the blue canoe.  The three teams on the ice need to get to open water upstream ASAP because they are floating downstream.

Click on the photo of Jean Anderson below to get the article I’ve copied it from, but you’ll have to translate it.  Anderson is ice canoeing royalty,  a perennial champion of this event, as well as an innovator of gear for the sport.  Jean and his brother Jacques are mentioned in this article in English.

If you decide you have to witness ice canoeing, four more races are coming up in the next 30 days:  Montreal Feb. 11, Isle -aux-Coudres Feb. 17, Sorel-Tracy Feb. 24, and the grand championship back at Bassin Louise March 3.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who wonders what other unique sports events like this there are . . .  All I can think of right now are woodcutters festival like the one in Tupper Lake and Boonville and the Iditarod.  Surfing maybe?  Schooner racing?  Eleven Cities Tour? Bronc riding?  Help me out here.

To start out, here’s the Groupe Océan dock in the old port of Quebec.   The large tug to the left is Ocean Taiga; its twin Ocean Tundra is to its right.  Here’s my article on the 8200 hp twins (118′ loa x 42′) in February 2018 issue of ProfessionalMariner.

Question:  As the temperature range at this location this past weekend was a high of 12 F to a low of -6 F, is that ice safe to walk on?  Quebec has 12′ tides.

The photo above shows the entrance to Bassin Louise.  Below, Ocean Clovis T enters the bassin from the River after assisting a ship into the commercial port.  Note the straight-line break in the ice and the open water there?  To the left of that line, the ice is still;  to its right, the flood tide moves the ice upstream.  Interestingly, Ocean Clovis T used to be called Stevns Icequeen.

Now I digress, but I’ll get back to the icy river soon.  I went to Quebec for Winter Carnaval– Carnaval de Québec, originally celebrated in 1894 and then annually since 1955.  When you see “-ons” at the end of a French word, often it’s a verb and makes a suggestion.  Dansons means let’s dance.  Carnavalons means let’s carnival . . . sort of like Mardi Gras, that other pre-Lenten festival, just in a different climate.  Allons!

Above and below, the red-hatted guy is the mascot of the Carnaval, aka bonhomme carnaval, and his image is everywhere . . . like Santa Claus but it unrelated to Christmas.  He’s a snowman, i.e., a bonhomme de neige.  The snow sculpture is just called toboggan.   And notice the belt, aka ceinture fléchée, or arrow sash.

Here a sash-wearing inuksuk of ice blocks greets a statue of Champlain.  A variation of the inuksuk was the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But let’s go back to the River, where tugster meets the duchesses of Carnaval.  See the Chateau Frontenac in the distance in the upper city to the right?  We all have warm smiles for 4 degrees F, eh?

The man dressed like a logger . . . he’s the narrator for the events down by the river;  the vuvuzela bearers on either side, their answering his quiz questions, or trying to.  That’s the River behind them.

So the question .  . could you walk over the ice piles here?  They’ve just been broken up by Ocean Clovis T and,

right behind, Ocean Raynald T (ex- Stevns Iceflower ) after they assisted aptly-named Arctic into a berth in the cargo port.  I posted a photo of the spoon-bowed Arctic here (scroll;  it’s almost the last one) in November.  Ask me and I’ll post more photos of her.

Well, the sauvetage nautique  (water rescue) truck is there next to the pilots’ station.

And farther into the bassin, over by the lock, there ARE folks on the ice setting cones.

More tomorrow.  All photos by Will Van Dorp, except the one with the duchesses.  Any misread of the events is my fault alone.

aka I’m off script, doing junkster instead of tugster…  This is like hitting the snooze button for another few precious minutes of sleep.

Besides,  I found this wall of old Detroit steel, some painted up like bricks in the wall.  Scrapping is a necessity, but here’s to preserves like this.

Given some pesky dark ghosts annoying me, I’m buoyed by playfulness here,

just scrappable cars piled up and painted

a splash of spring colors in winter.  Too many other places of scrap hint at the terror that left them there; that’s not here.


Someone had fun here once.

Let’s sport about . . .

let’s sign on with a program to get this year going . . .

All photos by Will Van Dorp, whose time in the grove teaches resolve that distinguishes us from bears, turtles, bees, and other critters that hibernate; as well as learning that his preference is for shooting outdoor painted or rusty metal rather than feathers, scales, rock, stars, skin, or fur.

Related:  Here’s a place to add to the must-visit list.

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