Okay here we go, planning a trip to take with my husband Anders so we'll be together for Christmas, I got my ETA a few days ago December 12th 1 Am.
December 3rd....40 knot gale winds on Lake Erie, Coolbeans has to anchor in Long Point Anchorage.
December 10th....Now normally that weather would DELAY my trip but in this case..Anders had a schedule that was going to bring him to Nanticoke a few times from Ashtabula then head to Superior, I was going to hop aboard on one of those trips to stay aboard until lay up. Well he called me that afternoon and told me the trips had been cancelled, he wouldn't be coming back to Nanticoke until much later if at all. So I had 5 1/2 hours to get ready for this trip .......could I do it??? Now what do YOU think???? I had to call the kennel and see if they could take our dogs a few days early, go to the post office and ask them to hold our mail ( note to Cathy our postmaster in Vermont...do you know they CHARGE you to hold mail here in Canada???? ) Lets see , then I had to do laundry, pack my clothes, clean the kitty boxes, empty the trash, clean out the fridge, e-mail all my friends and call my family to let them know I was going to be gone. Somehow the day was gone like a flash and soon I got a call from Anders giving me my one hour notice! I had just enough time to shower and get dressed, load up the car and go. Well I admit I had a few minutes, no reason to go early anymore as security won't escort you down to the ship until it's all tied up and in position to unload. I had to get a ride down this time too since I'd be leaving my car in their lot until the ship was laid up for the year in Hamilton. I was really excited to say the least. The security guard drove me and the new electrician down to the ship once Anders called him to say he was secure at the dock. Anders was down on the dock waiting to help me with my luggage it was GREAT to see him!! He had a bunch of paperwork to do when we got back up to his office so I sat down in the living room to watch my favorite TV show CSI crime scene investigations. By around 8:30 he said he was tired and was going to bed...oh well it was a rerun anyway so away we went to get some rest, the trip across the Lake was a quick one so we have to rest when we can. I admit I was asleep in a flash even with the unloading noise in the background. Well NOW I know why we went to bed so early too. 2 AM I wake up to the sound of that STUPID buzzer next to Anders bed. Yep its time to get up.....whaaaaaaaaaaa???? So up we got, got dressed, up to the wheelhouse...quick!! where's the coffee???!!! Anders turns on all the equipment in the wheelhouse and writes in the logbook. We left the dock around 3 am. Then about 1/2 hour later we were back down in his office , he was doing all that fun paperwork, customs forms, immigration forms, vessel traffic, ballast reporting, you name it there's a form for it and a certain time he has to get them faxed into the right place. It's so very nice to be back out on the lake, now that we are underway, the movement of the ship is so very relaxing. I could go back to sleep in a heartbeat but my Sailor Guy aka THE CAPTAIN (THE BOSS) says we are staying up until we finish loading in Conneaut. Anders has to plan his sleep for the trip ahead, the trip ahead is down through the Welland Canal across the lake to Lakeview then back up through the Welland Canal to Ashtabula to load coal for Lambton.. It's an exhausting trip with not much sleep. (The Canal, I STILL am totally confused about the up/down thing. Where I am from UP is North, when you go DOWN in the Canal you are heading NORTH, it makes NO sense at all. I know, I know, I know your heading DOWN the locks, but your still going UP north, just confusing for a non sailor guy person...:o) See Anders explanation here...
Anyway back to my story... 5:30am we both were getting tired so decided to try to grab a couple hours of sleep since it would be a long day. It sure was great sleeping on the ship even if it was only 2 hours before that buzzer went off again with someone saying "1 hour to the piers" When we got up to the wheelhouse, we found out that the Calumet was in there loading already so Anders was going to take the waiting dock. It was a cloudy, drizzly day with a good amount of wind too. The current was pretty strong at the piers so Anders took the ship inside the piers then turned her around to back down to the waiting dock.
The Calumet was still loading and didn't expect to finish until around 2 that afternoon so we will just hang around and wait here. Anders called down and told the crew that they could go ashore but not me...here I am in my own country but I can't leave because immigration won't be down until we are at the loading dock this afternoon.
The crew gets cleared just once in the spring and only needs immigration when a new crew member comes aboard or when the ship has visitors like me. Oh well nothing I needed in Conneaut anyway and it looked nasty out there too!
Its 10:15 am and Anders is writing night orders...I always get confused about that too. Its morning but yet the book says "Night orders". He did say this time he is writing them in preparation for this evening as when we leave it will be a quick 7 hours to the canal so he wants to sleep as soon as we clear the piers here and doesn't want to have to go down to write them then. The night orders are for the wheelhouse guys letting them know his instructions. The mates are required to read them and sign the book stating that they've read them. The Calumet finally left around 2PM.
The wind was getting pretty strong by the time they were ready to shift the ship to the loading dock. Backing down there the mates were giving spots all the way to let Anders know how close, they make it look really easy "parking" a boat longer than the Main Street here in our new town in Canada. :o) Immigration was there as soon as we got tied up, so I could go ashore now but still didn't want to, it was too darn cold out! Very windy and snowy. By 3:00pm we were down relaxing in Anders room ...well I was relaxing, Anders was doing more paperwork. Oh my poor sailor guy!
We ended up taking a nap shortly after dinner. (steak night on the ship..Yum!) Amazing how tired you get when you can't get a straight 8 hours sleep. Although for me just being on the ship makes me tired. The motion, the sounds it's just all very relaxing. Anders got called around 11:00 PM one hour notice to be finished unloading. So up to the wheelhouse we went. The Joseph H. Thompson Jr. was there waiting to take our spot when we left. Busy day here in Conneaut!
Out on the lake it was 1am when we went downstairs, the ship was rolling a little bit in the swells. I was so looking forward to sleeping across the lake! I was hoping that maybe finally I'd see some big waves!! (But too tired to stay up to wait!)
We got up around 6am the ship is still rocking a little, slept like a baby like I expected. Anders had his computer work to do, I swear everytime I come here there is another new form for him to fill out everytime he goes to a different port.
Port Colburn Piers
We finally got to lock 1 and started heading out on Lake Ontario. The weather forecast doesn't
look good for making the dock at Lakeview though so Anders took the ship to the Port Weller Anchorage.
Its 7:30PM now, I am more than exhausted and can't imagine how Anders must feel. We got to bed and around 4 AM Anders wakes up, goes to the window and I ask him what hes doing. He says "The wind isn't doing
what its supposed to be doing"....hmmmmm now just HOW can he tell that from lying in bed??? So he gets up and listens to the forecast again, I figure, well, I guess we are getting up now. Yep, after he listens to the forecast he says hes going up to the wheelhouse, sent the Mate to pick up the anchor and we headed across the lake.
The ship is hardly rocking at all, but I guess the wind was supposed to change direction. He says hes going to give a crack at making the Dock in Port Credit also known as Lakeview. I guess its a tough place to get into with any kind of wind because of the water currents off the end of the dock.
Lock 2 almost there!!
4am in the morning in the wheelhouse....****YAWN****
Honestly at this point , I've only been on the ship for a couple of days and I feel like I've been days and days without sleep. Anders reminds me that in less than 9 hours we'll be headed back to do that long trip in the canal yet again.
We had some breakfast and took a nap. Anders had his usual paperwork and forms to do since he'ld be in the canal all night by the sounds of it. We did have a slight delay because the guys had to do some repairs to the hatch crane before we could get away from the dock. Decided to grab an hours sleep across the lake which was oh ever so great but I sure wasn't happy to hear that dang buzzer go off!! One hour to the piers....ugh!!
It was snowing and a bit breezy when we got up. All the guys seemed to have the opinion that we'ld have a quick canal. oh really??? Lock one was quick, well sorta...we had a bunch of groceries to get onboard for Christmas dinner. So we all watched the grocery guy loading up the crate in the wind and snow. Not a nice night to be outside. I think it was -12. Much colder with the wind chill!!!
Lock two went fast though. Then 3,4, 5, and 6, it was at that point that there was a ship we were going to have to meet "in the pond" I wasn't aware the canal HAD a pond, and even more interested in just how you knew exactly what time to get to the pond to meet the other ship that was coming the other way. When you only have certain spots you can actually meet other ships. Well it was right when we headed out of Lock 7, slowly moving ahead out of the lock when Anders finds out the bow thruster isn't working. Hmm...okay there goes my adrenline again. Okay call the Chief to see whats up, hmmm must need resetting, call a guy to head to the windlass room to reset it. Opps he doesn't know how, time to send the Chief up. Okay so before all that could be accomplished the ship we are about to meet is right in front of us. I don't know what I was worried about Anders had everything under control. He just calmly said "no bow thruster? We just have to be smart thats all" So thats what he was, After we got by the ship the bow thruster came on and then he told me he had done that canal a few times without one at all. Why was I not surprised?.....
Well by this time it was about 4am. Luckily I got a boost of energy during that bow thruster episode and now the lockmaster says that Anders will be meeting another ship in the level. Yep, just another spot that you have to time just right to meet the ship at just the right spot....how DOES he do that?? I swear that level goes on forever though in between Lock 7 and 8, its like a highway. I noticed it even had mile markers on it, and its all lit up too. Anders told me that he can actually ask the lock master to dim the lights if they are bothering him. Pretty neat. Amazing too actually. But the time we got to Lock 8 the sun was starting to come up and we had seen all 3 wheelsman on their 4 hour rotations in the wheelhouse, in fact the first guys we actually saw twice which means....we were in the wheelhouse for ALONG time! Over 12 hours anyway...By the time we got clear of the piers I was almost asleep standing up. Well felt like I could anyway. It was 8:00 am and we finally got to go to bed. I don't know why but Anders got up at 1pm...I could of slept all day but of course he had more customs forms to do. So we got up and grabbed some breakfast in the galley. We headed up to the wheelhouse to see how things were going. It was snowing like crazy and the ship was rolling just a bit. We'ld be in Ashtabula around suppertime...well if there were no more delays....
Heading to the flight locks
Well that didn't work out so well. The winds were blowing 30 knots and the currents in front of the piers were making it impossible to get in. There were 4 ships anchored outside the piers already. Anders tried 2 or 3 times then decided to anchor in hopes that the wind would die down soon. So we joined the list of ships waiting to get inside Ashtabula. It was 2:30am when Anders decided to give it a try again. The wind is still blowing pretty good and you can actually see the current flowing past the piers. The waves are crashing over the breakwall too. Anders finally got the ship in by heading in and turning around inside the piers. It was pretty cool actually.
Course the weather has been very cold. I don't think it's been over 10 degrees since I've been
here. But that's not a problem, we don't need to go outside!
After we had a little snack, we went back to bed for about 3 hours. When we got up, couldn't help but notice that nothing was going on outside. I guess after a few hours of loading they had to stop in order to fill up the silos with coal. Another delay, hmmm. Anders was hoping we'd be able to get out on the lake before the gale winds starting blowing though. It's pretty bright and shiny right now though, hard to believe it's supposed to get nasty later. But that's the way these lakes are. We spent the afternoon just hanging around the wheelhouse really. I find it really interesting watching everything that goes on. Watching the loading rigs, the trains, all the ships coming and going watching the reclaimer as it picks up the coal in the piles and puts it on a conveyor belt that brings it to the silos.Lots to look at and there's a GREAT view from up in the Wheelhouse!
We ended up having another delay while waiting here. One of the rollers on the load rig caught fire. Luckily one of the guys on the ship noticed it before anything serious happened. They shut everything down and after several hours they were ready to get going again. We finally left around 10PM and got to bed around 11PM. Slept GREAT! We took the long way around the lake because of the gale winds blowing, so that was the south shore. Anders got up around 6:30 the next morning but just saying he was going to the wheelhouse. We are on our way to Lambton.
But once we were up in the wheelhouse the ships mood took a somber turn. Anders got a call while we were up there that one of the crew had passed away in his sleep during the night. I'm sorry to admit I didn't know him. But of course the crew is all like a big family so were all pretty shook up. Out of respect for his friends and family I won't give out his name. I was very impressed though with how everything was handled by the ship, the company, the police etc. Anders had a lot more on his plate to handle at that point, he "wears a lot of hats" on the ship that's for sure.
Its Winter in Ashtabula Ohio!
Walter J McCarthy Jr.
All ships were entering this way because of the strong west currents