How To Get A 630' Freighter Out Of the Thickest Ice In 40 Years.

Picture of How To Get A 630' Freighter Out Of the Thickest Ice In 40 Years.
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Ok. Let's knuckle down everybody. You thought November was long and cold? That was just pre-game. Button up butter cups, double up your long johns and put your parka's on and let's take a trip to the arctic. AKA: Northern Michigan. From here on out, consider it January.

Now if you're a Yooper, you're smiling from ear to ear right now. If you're a deck winch or a bollard, see photos, It's going to take us all day to thaw it out with hot water.

The photo above is from when we ran from Duluth to Gros Cap (across Lake Superior) in some snotty weather. We took the North shore and didn't get a drop of water on us until we became just a little to greedy and tried to shave an hour off our ETA by cutting across the smallest tip of Michipicoten Bay. After all, how bad could it be for 1 hour? Well, with decks awash we froze everything up pretty fast. Time to send the hot water up on deck and start de-icing. Needless to say the deckhands won't be too thrilled with you.

So, step 1, keep the decks dry and don't be a hero in January!

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Step 1: Figure out how thick the ice is

Picture of Figure out how thick the ice is

Look at a fixed object, Lansing Shoal light will do just fine. Hmmmm, it looks pretty darn thick but, the wind and current are still blowing it right around the light. We have come to a complete halt (the engine wont push us through it anymore) so based on that alone....must be more than a foot. We have about 70 miles to go to get from the top of Lake Michigan to the top of Lake Huron, heading due East, and over to the straights of Mackinac.

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tduckworth12 months ago
I live in port Huron, this winter was a fun one. the lake just north of the blue water bridge looked like a parking lot with everyone waiting for the ice to break. got to see the damage to the back of the USCG cutter hollyhock after its incident of bumping uglys in the straights, quit the dent.
tlynn92 months ago
I'm from petoskey. I know this ice. Lol. Good job
shallnot3 months ago

"How To Get A 630' Freighter Out Of the Thickest Ice In 40 Years."

According to this headline it took 40 years to free the freighter from the ice.

That's how I first interpreted it too. :)

zappenfusen2 months ago

Salaried or hourly? Another great read!


mhepp12 months ago
Love it as a Michigan native and transplant to the northern LP I love watching the freighters slip by.

I absolutely love your freighter series, especially because I purchased a 560 ft freighter on Lake Michigan last year. I could have used this -ible last winter, though, with all the heavy ice in the Manitou Passage.

kibukun2 months ago

I don't think I'll ever sail a freighter, but I enjoyed it either way.

TheMainMan3 months ago

A very entertaining and informative read! Well done!

grangerknives3 months ago

Cool post. I suspect that for enduring those harsh conditions and the ever-present danger, you and your shipmates each pull down at least a cool million per year.

Well told story; thanks for sharing!


flivver443 months ago

Being born and raised in the UP (Kingsford) and having spent 4 years in Marquette (Go Cats!) I can relate to the author. We Yoopers have always said there are two seasons...the 4th of July and the rest of the year. Nice Instructable!

cfsunlet3 months ago

Very entertaining! I had no idea you all were trying to get boats around the Great lakes even in the crazy winter weather we had this year. Thought all the freighters were in dock someplace warm.

CobaltBlue3 months ago

Very clear and thorough instructions. I used to whine that all Instructibles required a plasma cutter, or a laser cutter, or an Arduino, or all the above. But now I have to start saving for a USCG icebreaker as well, or try to make my own with Legos and Sugru.

You forgot the 3D printer...

DeusXMachina3 months ago

This was delightful to read! I am blown away by the kind and variety of instructionals on Instructables! You never know what you might learn about.

churchjw3 months ago

Very cool post. Not sure I will ever get to use it but I loved reading it.

From one michigan boy to another(even if youre not from MI, you are an honorary for doing runs like that), thank you. this made me miss home more than anything else.
drnation3 months ago

Thanks for this

Great great great.

I read with delight.

Gotta love Global Warming.

stumitch3 months ago

You can't underscore the value of a good yarn. Very good read! Thanks. I wanted to hit the "I made It" button but...well...

booga0073 months ago

Wow, an 'ible like no other I've seen, great idea, and while I never want to get stuck out there, I'll know what to do if I do. :)

swander3 months ago

So, how is that "global warming" working out for you? Yeah, its NOT! Pack ice is on the rise.....Al Gore just looks the other way. This is deffinately an instrucatable that I will never have to use, but know now!

eschneck3 months ago

Ya know, this wouldn't have been a problem if you had just put a cover over it for the winter. Just sayin' ...

I can't use this instructable because my freighter is only 629 feet long. :(

I snickered.

bwelkin3 months ago

I am curious about how the ship's owner felt about all the lost time that came from a decision you made that resulted in your ship being stuck. Also, do you - or the owner - have to pay for the efforts made by the other ships on your behalf?

lawsonuw3 months ago

Why was that Ice breaker circling the whole time? I'd figure a tight pattern off the bow would be faster? Or maybe hook up a tow line and tow like a drunken sailor? (i.e. since 2x the horsepower seemed to cut the ice.) Is the bow shaped to cut the ice, or just for minimum fuel burn?

fzumrk3 months ago

I have found that when in a pinch, a credit card can be used as an ice scraper.

lassensurf fzumrk3 months ago
dude, where were you with this tip when he needed you??

ha, I laughed for a minute straight
orangepeel913 months ago

Calling those vessels ships? What's next, going to tell your Captain he needs a pilot?

For those who don't know the boats that travel the great lakes are just that, boats. Why not ships? Because they don't travel the oceans. The larger Great Lakes boats can not reach the ocean because they are too large to fit through the locks in the St. Lawerence. Also most ocean going ships have a Captain in command of the ship, but need a pilot to direct the ship in port. Great Lakes vessels are captained by pilots. They need not surrender command of their vessel to someone else to dock it for them. It's a pride in skill and knowledge issue. A harbor pilot has to know the contours of the land under the water to make sure the vessel does not run aground. I have no sailing experience myself, just got interested in the lakers when I was in the U.P. and did a little research and bought a couple of books.

To the author, I found this very entertaining. Be safe, watch for storms, remember the Fitz and may no other share her fate.

cqaigy3 months ago

Man i just love these. Keep it up!

hogthrob3 months ago

Absolutely the least useful instructables I have ever read. That includes how to make a holster to take your gun to bed!

I am addicted keep them coming! Particularly like the references to star wars and national lampoons European vacation.

Amon-100 hogthrob3 months ago

Well I don't know about you, but if I ever find myself on a ship stuck in the ice, thanks to this helpful witty and informative guide, I will now be able to escape from that iciy prison and return to my friends and family.

tovey3 months ago

It seems that people missed the most important lesson of this Instructable:


We took the North shore and didn't get a drop of water on us until we
became just a little to greedy and tried to shave an hour off our ETA by
cutting across the smallest tip of Michipicoten Bay.


Shortcuts can turn into longer cuts.

GrumpyOldGoat3 months ago

Would it have been easier to redesign the project to include the following steps:

Warm Clothes, (a must)

Hot Chocolate (with or without Peppermint Schnapps)

A good video game.

Take your time to make sure it is done flawlessly and you can be proud of to show your grandkids.

Pray silently and with fervor.

Ask God and Mother Nature if they have a few moments to give you an experienced hand and professional advice.

It works on Vail Pass in the Winter. (well CDOT helps a lot too. THANKS GUYS!)

fixfireleo3 months ago

haha. cool story. what i'd like to know though, is (say 10 years from now) how many times you tried to "shave off an hour" again! :)

AusOpal3 months ago

This is really cool, I'd like to try this at home. My only problem is that I am having problems finding a 630' Freighter. I tried eBay, but there are none that are 'used but in good condition' that are in my price range.

Very cool instructable though - the closest that I have been able to come to that was taking one of our paddle boats out on the pond in late March / early April (any sooner and the ice is too thick, much later and there isn't ice). Great pics, Thanks.

bnaivar3 months ago

I couldn't help it. While I read this "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" kept playing in my head. :) Great story. Thanks!

Robibame3 months ago

fun read, thanks for sharing the story.

sunshiine3 months ago

Interesting instructable. Thanks so much for sharing and do have a splendorous day!


kc8hps3 months ago
Looks like you had 50-80 tons of ice onboard. I'm sure it was all for traction ;) lol. Great stories!
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