High water woes

The fixed steel bumpers on the Victory I cruise ship caused damage to Little Current’s docks last week due to high Lake Huron water levels. photos by Alicia McCutcheon

One cruise ship now unable to moor at Little Current docks, will anchor out, tender in passengers

PORT OF LITTLE CURRENT – High water levels on Lake Huron are causing havoc for the cruise ship industry.

During a meeting of Northeast Town council last week, CAO Dave Williamson reported that the visiting Victory I cruise ship caused damage to the main dock wall. 

“Today we had to advise the Victory I that they won’t be able to come in to dock,” Mr. Williamson said. 

Unlike most other cruise ships that visit the port, the Victory I has steel fenders that are welded to the side of the hull rather than the more traditional rubber fenders that hang from cleats along a ship’s deck. The steel fenders are almost in line with the rub rail along the wall’s side, close to the top of the dock. Mr. Williamson pointed out to council that there are only 11 inches separating the water from the top of the dock.

The Victory I also utilizes bow and stern thrusters to position itself into the dock. As it left port last week, the thrusters caused the boat to rock, slamming the steel fenders on top of the concrete portion of the dock and breaking a chunk of it off. The pressure behind the thrusters also broke the dock’s wooden rub rails.

The following day, the Pearl Mist docked in Little Current with no issues. Mr. Williamson explained that the two vessels are shaped differently and said that the Pearl Mist uses rubber fenders.

The Pearl Mist cruise ship, which was also in Little Current last week, uses the more typical rubber fender when docking. If water levels get much higher, the Pearl Mist might also have to weigh anchor and tender its passengers in.

Mr. Williamson told The Expositor that the Victory I has been notified about its inability to dock at the town wall. Instead, the cruise ship will weigh anchor nearby and tender visitors into the downtown core. The cruise ship company asked if they could dock at Little Current should they add rubber funders, but Mr. Williamson said that this would be of no help due to the vessel’s shape. Should the boat rock, the steel fender would still cause damage.

“There are only 11 inches to the top of the dock,” Mr. Williamson reiterated. “If that level increases, the Pearl Mist will have to anchor out too.”

The Northeast Town has other concerns with rising water levels. Mr. Williamson explained to council that the main drain for the west end of Little Current enters the North Channel below the municipal office and that as of last week, there was only a matter of inches from the top of the drain to the water.

“This could cause flooding,” he warned.

To be on the safe side, 600 (empty) sand bags have been ordered for the public works department.

As of last week, Lakes Michigan and Huron are up 29 inches from the long-term June monthly average, two inches off the highest June monthly average.