It has been weeks since Beaver Island has had a shipment of fuel. Confined in ice since mid December, the PetroQueen (fuel barge) and tug boat, have been unable to make the journey south from Manistique Michigan. Despite sunny skies and warming temps of March, the harbor is still thick with ice.
Fuel supply for the island is now critically low. Call the maritime cavalry!
Talk about excitement. Two U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers head to the north west end of Lake Michigan to free the 2 boats and escort them thru 40 miles of frozen waters to the shores of the island. Seeing those large vessels appear on the horizon gave a thrill like spotting land thru a telescope after days lost at sea.
Cheers bounced all around the bay “We have gas! We have gas We have gas!”
Last week: Just last Friday a mundane trip to the grocery store takes an exciting turn when I notice the unusual activity across the bay. What are those men doing? What is that noise?
Holy crap! The tug boat is crushing the ice at ramming speed! If there are 3 men and 2 pickup trucks on the ice, surely I can walk along the tread marks and not bust through. Let the adventure begin.
Levi and his team of mighty men have been drilling hundreds of holes, carefully spaced, in hopes that Buddy’s tug will be able to crack the ice, making way for the fuel barge to find her home once again in the harbor.
“Do you want to climb aboard?” Buddy yells to me from the bridge of the tug. I think that is what he said. I can’t hear. The sound of 3 electric augers scream and chew thru the thick ice around me. If NASA were to take a picture from space, Paradise bay would look like a block of Swiss cheese.
My mother (along with my husband and a few friends) would kill me if she saw me out in the middle of paradise Bay on a sunny day. I stand, heart racing, watching and hoping that Buddy will be able to ram the tug far enough onto the ice so my short legs can stretch to the tire that is chained to the side of the boat.
It happened so fast. The ice chunk under me gave way and I went down. Dave grabbed my free arm and pulled me up while Buddy reached over and hauled me over the edge of the Shamrock. I stumbled around on deck, trying not to catch my feet in the thick heavy ropes snaking all over. Above the sound of a humming engine I think I can here Buddy shout “Hold on tight!” It was an exciting day.
This week: 3 augers, 2 chainsaws and 1 excavator later, the Petro Queen, tethered to the tug, waits to be moved into place. This has gone on for days. The ice is so thick and dense.
Each new day calls for a new idea and a new piece of equipment. Some progress with the chainsaw is made, however, an excavator could really speed things up!
Buddy swings the bucket down, scoops up the enormous blue chunks and dumps them on the shore. As the sun sets I get to blow the air horn on the tug. “Give it a good long blast.” says Buddy. I pull the grubby rope and empty the air compressor. The little boy standing close, covers his ears as the horn emits a loud long toot.