Sunday, September 7, 2014


Around 2300 last night, the Sam Laud received notice that another vessel, the American Spirit, had run aground in the open water near Mackinac Isle. We sailed over to their location, not too far out of the way, to offer our assistance, arriving around midnight.

The ship was listing badly but not damaged, so the task of rescue was fairly straightforward, though requiring much caution. We keep on our ship tires attached to short lines held in reserve for just this circumstance, and these were cast over the side after securing the free end of the line to the deck. Then we heaved our mooring lines over to the Spirit and heaved ourselves hull to hull. The lines holding the tires are rarely used, and in the moment of first contact half of them sheared right off, eliciting mild swearing, but we still had enough bumper for the maneuver at hand.
Mackinac Island during a break in the rain. It really looks like a nice place, but the other sailors tell me it is unbelievably expensive.
 The two chief mates, being the officers in charge of load and balance, devised for the Spirit and unloading plan and for the Laud a loading plan. We were empty and they had a full load of iron ore, so the plan was to unload (carefully) from thier ship onto ours. The American Spirit is slightly larger, but of the same general construction as the Sam Laud, possessing a self-unloading boom capable of dropping iron into our holds. The two conveyormen (who operate the booms) danced the booms around each other carefully while the ABs and officers heaved and payed the mooring winches to put thier conveyor under the right hatch so as to neither tip over thier already listing vessel and to not unbalance the Laud.

For all the complexity of the operation, everyone (except me) knew what to do and the whole thing went as uneventfully as a normal shore loading. We slid back and forth, starboard hull touching starboard hull, while thier crane dumped into the right hatches. I shoveled up behind all the iron pellets, dust, and mud that missed the hatch.
We are the front ship, American Spirit is the one behind carefully unloading. The Sam Laud boom is raised right above my head.

Of course, the entire thing was performed under heavy intermittent rain, with droplets thick enough that you could feel them individually striking beneath raincoat and denim, since it would not have been dramatic enough in calm seas under sunny skies.

I, of course, missed most of it, only coming in for the last two hours, since the bosun seems determined to keep me from getting any overtime and he had some painting jobs for me to round out the rest of my eight (and no more) hours.

We were only an hour away from the Soo locks en route to Silver Bay, but our course has shifted now to carry half of the Spirit's cargo. I am back on Lake Michigan, which I hadn't seen since setting out from Muskegon, on our way to some port near Chicago. Since it is only a partial load, I doubt there will be any opportunity to get off, not that they are likely to let me off, since I am part of the unloading team.
Saved! Note that the Spirit didn't hit any obviously visible features. This is another reason why I want no part of being a navigator.

As for photos, it is very hard to take many good ones, since whenever there is something interesting happening they have me working on that interesting thing (or kept well out of the way), so I am often too busy to take any.

As for the comments; GUDE stands for General Utility, Deck and Engine. It is technically an engine department job, the first rating on the path to QMED (Qualified Man of the Engine Department), but on this ship they use them as deck hands.


  1. Are groundings common - seemed like all involved handled this situation with very little angst? JB

    1. I don't actually know. Obviously, they aren't very common, but I wouldn't even try to guess at a frequency. This situation was pretty calm because A) it wasn't our ship that was stranded, and I bet it was a little more stressful on the other deck and B) the Spirit wasn't in any danger, they were just stuck, and everyone knew how to get them moving again.

  2. GUDE (General Utility, Deck and Engine) is not exclusively an Engine Department job. It is a Deck and Engine Rating. The time counts towards upgrading to a AB (Deck Rating) just as it counts towards upgrading to a QMED. That is why the time does not usually count 100% for either.

    Just my 2 cents.

    CFR §12.503 Service or training requirements.(National Endorsement)

    (a) An applicant for an endorsement as QMED must provide the Coast Guard with proof of qualification based on 6 months of service in a rating at least equal to that of wiper or coal passer.

    (b) Approved training programs may be substituted for the required periods of service as follows:

    (1) A graduate of a school ship may qualify for a rating endorsement as QMED, without further service, upon satisfactory completion of the program of instruction. For this purpose, school ship is interpreted to mean an institution that offers a complete approved program of instruction, including a period of at-sea training, in the skills appropriate to the rating of QMED.

    (2) Training programs, other than those classified as a school ship, may be substituted for up to one-half of the required service. The service/training ratio for each program is determined by the Coast Guard.