Charlie’s Trip aboard the MV MENOMINEE

Well, despite being away from home for a week, this trip has been a lot of fun. The voyage from Menominee to Marathon was very nice. There was just enough wind to make the ship rock gently all night; I got a great night of sleep. Some of the furniture in my cabin is smashed; a result of a hurricane the vessel went through on the way over from Europe. Fortunately, there are no hurricanes forecast for Lake Superior this week!

Marathon is such a pretty little harbor. I hope you can see that from these pictures I took today. You can also see the clouds which have made it rain off and on all day. The rain makes things very difficult for loading, because we have to stop loading every time it rains. Then everyone stands by until the rain stops, the holds are opened, and we work some more until it rains again.

Docking the ship was a real adventure. There are no tugs in the harbor, so it is all up to the Captain and the pilot to get the ship in and out. The wind was blowing hard and caused the stern of the ship to swing away from the dock, out of the channel. The bottom is all rock here, so this is a little scary. By lowering the anchor part way, the pilot could create some extra friction on the bottom and so steer the vessel without it moving forward. In this way the vessel was lined up on the dock in spite of the wind blowing us away. Once the vessel was lined up, the propeller pitch was increased and the ship simply dragged the anchor along.

Here’s a shot of the crew handling lines on the forward deck. This work is very critical when the wind is blowing and there are no tug boats to hold us in position. The key is to get a spring line off of the bow ashore as soon as possible. Once there is a good forward spring, the pilot can use engine and rudder to bring the stern into the dock. The wind was blowing hard off of the dock when we arrived, the worst possible direction. Of course, the ship’s momentum can easily snap that first spring line, so it is a delicate operation. And we are also very dependent on the ground linehandlers to catch the line thrown off the ship and get it around a bollard.

Here is the same ship on March 24, 2002.  The vessel has just passed through the Cabot Strait, where bad weather and freezing spray have iced over the deck.  This picture was taken in Lawrentian Channel.  No, I was not aboard the ship to take this picture (thank goodness!).  The pic was sent to me as part of the work I still do for Great Lakes European Shipping.