Climbing Aboard the James R. Barker, Part II

This is part 2 of my photos from my recent trip aboard the James R. Barker. In my first post, I ended with sunset on Lake Superior. We arrived in Whitefish Bay around 10:00 Monday night, and then entered Soo Harbor at 3:00 the next morning. I was a little disappointed that we transited the Poe Lock at night, because I was hoping to take some photos of the locks and river.  I did attempt some, but they did not turn out at all. I was glad to at least get the experience though! We didn’t end up departing the lock for another two hours, however, as we waited for the Baie St. Paul to lock downbound ahead of us.

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After we locked downbound at 5:00 am, I went back to bed for just an hour or so, and got up to catch the sunrise. But I got this instead – we were just arriving at the Rock Cut, with the rising sun to the left. I was really excited to see the Rock Cut from the ship, and it was really cool.

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We passed the small carferry Neebish Islander II, which only has to cross the channel to get to the mainland.

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We passed through the Rock Cut slowly, as it really is quite the tight channel. Keeping a straight course is one thing, but there’s one other factor that makes it more difficult: depth. The channel is barely deep enough for a fully loaded 1,000 footer – at certain points in the transit, the depth monitor showed less than a foot of water underneath the massive Barker. This causes excessive vibration, as the water from the propellers is pushed right back into them because the bottom is so close. Our trail of wake wasn’t muddy, however, like much of the St. Marys River: the bottom in the Rock Cut is, you guessed it, rock. Many will remember the grounding of the Paul R.Tregurtha a few years ago in the channel, putting the ship out of service for a few months.

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After the Rock Cut, the bottom turned to mud, and we came upon the classic laker Mississagi.

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Of course, the lighting was extremely poor. But the excessive wash-out from the sun actually has a cool effect on Mississagi.

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My stern shots turned out much better, but the ship quickly headed on her way.

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And with a quick pass completed, the Mississagi continued upbound.

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We came upon one other vessel before reaching DeTour – American Steamship’s 634-foot Buffalo.

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She is upbound light, presumably for Duluth or Marquette to load.

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Buffalo was built in 1978 by Bay Shipbuilding, at a cost of $25 million.

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Buffalo‘s two 3,600 horsepower engines push her past and away from the Barker, so adieu to her.

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After passing DeTour we exited the St. Marys River, and turned west for the Mackinac Bridge. Lake Huron was beautiful, even a bit wavy. We reached Mackinac Island by noon, and got to see the spectacular view of the island from the water.

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The Wilfred Sykes passed underneath the bridge before us, and passed us in between Mackinac and Round Island.

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She was headed light to Cedarville, just a few hours away, to load limestone.

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She continues on her way, so we bid her adieu – for now.

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It was our turn next – the massive bridge spread out before us.

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I have driven over the Mackinac before, and it feels extremely high up. Standing on the pilothouse deck, when we passed underneath, there was somewhere between 20 and 50 feet between our masts and the bridge!

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And once we passed underneath, we entered Lake Michigan. The Mackinac Straits are always windy, but this day was especially windy, kicking up some surf over the bow of the Barker.

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The rest of the day proved to be one of my favorites – we got to experience some good size waves. The farther we got from the bridge, the wavier it seemed to get – by dinner time, the waves were easily 8-10 feet, some pushing 12. And being aboard a 1,000 footer, we barely felt the rocking! The waves continued throughout the night, and the next morning was much of the same. But as we neared Indiana Harbor, the lake gradually calmed, and by the time Chicago was in view, the waves were much smaller.

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And, as you can see, the weather greatly improved by the time we arrived in Indiana Harbor!

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We slowly passed through the harbor entrance in the small yet busy port, leaving behind a lot of stirred up mud.

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Indiana Harbor has nothing to see – that is, unless you enjoy traveling to see steel mills and stockpiles of cargo.

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This would be our dock, just on the other side of the breakwall. We would unload into the hopper you can see in the center of the photo, just in front of the red building.

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We began slowing down again as we passed the small harbor light to the starboard side, as we had to make a 180 degree turn to our dock.

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The water you see in front of the James R. Barker is all that there is of the harbor, minus the small slip on the right.

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This pile of stone wasn’t very big when we arrived, but that would soon change.

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It took about half an hour for the ship to completely spin around, and then we docked and waited to begin unloading our iron ore pellets.

So that’s all for post number two! I should be able to fit the rest of my photos into one more post tomorrow.

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