Looking down at a frozen Lake Erie

As a significant part of the U.S. continues to be hammered by snow and cold, many of us don’t think about ice covering the Great Lakes and connecting rivers.  It does happen.

This hasn’t been a good year for the lakes or the lake boats.  You can check out Boatnerd.com if you’re curious about what’s been happening on the North Coast.

In early April of 2014, I flew from New York’s La Guardia airport to O’Hare in Chicago, and had a window seat.

As we were nearing Buffalo, NY, the pilot made an announcement about much of Lake Erie being frozen over, and that we could see it from the right side of the plane.  As luck would have it, I was on the “right” side for a change!

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What you’re seeing in this phone photo is Lake Erie in the foreground, and Lake Ontario in the background.  All that gray/white stuff in the center/left-center is in fact ice on Lake Erie!  You’ll see a squiggly gray line that splits in two and then rejoins itself toward the top right – that’s the Niagara River leading toward Niagara Falls.  Fort Erie and the Niagara Region of southeastern Ontario to the left of that, Buffalo NY and its’ suburbs and surroundings are to the right and in the lower foreground.  And, that’s dirt on the window in the very foreground as the sun sets to the west…

Something different to share and talk about is always nice. This is certainly different, and something that most of us have probably never thought about or heard about.

This image will never make it to the galleries on Laughing Frog Images – I know that.

But, sometimes a picture, regardless of the technical and aesthetic quality, is well worth sharing because of the thoughts, wonderings, and conversations it brings about.  This is one of those times.

Thanks for visiting.

Great Lakes Boats Gallery Added

The Great Lakes Boats Gallery has been added to Laughing Frog Images!

No, it’s not little boats on the Great Lakes.  What would be called a “ship” if it were on the oceans is called a “boat” on the Great Lakes.  I don’t know the story – it just is. Keep in mind that some of these “boats” are 1000 feet long!  Kinda changes ones perspective on the word boat, doesn’t it?

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On the other hand, an ocean going boat on the Great Lakes is known as a “salty.”  Ocean, salt water, well, that makes a little more sense.

There are also tugboats and barges, retired boats serving as barges, and ATBs (Articulated Tugs and Barges) like the Lakes Contender and Ken Boothe Sr. that ply the Great Lakes, and you’ll eventually see some of those here as well.

The St. Clair River between Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair is a renowned boatwatching area.

Those who follow railroading and photograph trains have Trainorders.com.

Those who follow Great Lakes boats and photograph them have Boatnerd.com, whose world headquarters is in Port Huron, Michigan in land once occupied by the Pere Marquette / Chesapeake & Ohio / Chessie System / CSX rail yards and carferry docks.

The Great Lakes Boats gallery compliments the standalone gallery for the Algoma Montrealis – the last Canadian steam ship on the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Boats gallery will feature boats I’ve photographed on the St. Clair River, Detroit River, St. Lawrence River, and Welland Canal over the years.  This gallery will take some time to fill out, as some of the images have to be located and scanned.

Check out the gallery for something different!

The Algoma Montrealais

I rarely do same day posts, mainly because most of my images are from somewhere in the past – be that days or decades.

Today is different, because as a result of some dumb luck, I potentially saw and photographed history and the end of an era all at the same time.

Driving south on M-29 between Port Huron and St. Clair, Michigan, I looked to my left and saw a downbound Algoma boat on the St. Clair River.  Anticipation and curiosity kicked in at the same time.

Translation: what most of us would call a “ship” is called a “boat” when it serves only in the Great Lakes.  Everything moving in the Great Lakes is either “downbound” (moving towards the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean) or “upbound” (moving generally west into the Great Lakes System).

Having read on Boatnerd last night that the Algoma Montrealais, the last Canadian steamship on the Great Lakes, was soon to be downbound on her last voyage – I realized that I had to get into position to shoot the boat, as it could be the Montrealais…  This would have been easy if I’d spent more time in St. Clair lately – it had been 30 years since I photographed a Lake Boat from the park there.  So, after a small stressful moment, I found a place to turn around, and parked by the park (no pun intended, but I’m going to leave that as it is…).

It was all of 29 degrees while I waited the few minutes for the boat to come around the corner.  I should have taken my jacket – after all, it was on the floor… but no…

And… I wasn’t alone.  Just like people photograph trains, people photograph boats.  I met Ronald Bialecki of Shipseekers Photography (Facebook page) there waiting for her.  He was smart – he had a tripod.  I had to control my breathing and shivering so I didn’t screw up my images!  Yes, I had my IS lens, but I was still worried!

As the boat came into view, and I focused on her bow – I saw that it was in fact the Algoma Montrealis downbound with wheat from Thunder Bay, ON.  Did I mention it was a rather bleak gray day?  It was, and I shot away as she curved along with the channel and met the CSL Tadoussac  upbound.  It was nothing more than dumb luck, as I had no scanner and I hadn’t checked in at the World Headquarters of Boatnerd in Port Huron to see what was moving.  But I’ll take it!

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I had missed her in Port Huron by a few minutes.  I shot the John J. Boland upbound, and I could see a boat downriver – but I thought it was upbound based on the position of the wheelhouse.  As it was a grungy day, I decided to head down to St. Clair for my original purposes (separate post to come).

The images were edited on my laptop, which is not color-profiled, so I hope they’re OK.  As this looks like instant history, I felt it’s more than appropriate to post them as-is today, and decide if I need to clean them up later.  You can find them here on Laughing Frog Images.

You’ll note that the Algoma Montrealais is a steamship, but she doesn’t look any different than other diesel-powered Great Lakes boats.  She’s relatively modern – having been built in 1961.  You can read more about here in the Winter 2014 Bearfacts Algoma Central company newsletter.

Enjoy this look at a piece of history and a moment in time that will largely go unnoticed in the grand scheme of things…