Visiting the Roger Blough and the Gros Cap Reef


The Roger Blough owned by Canadian national Railway, and operated by Keystone was damaged when she went aground Friday, May 27th on Gros Cap Reef in Whitefish Bay.

On Friday, June 3rd at 8 am Sault Locks Boat Tours offered a special cruise up the St. Mary’s River to where a small collection of vessels are collected around the Blough: Ontario Provincial Police, US Coast Guard, Phillip R. Clarke, a crane on a barge, and a handful of smaller craft. About 30 people took advantage of this sailing to view this unusual occurrence. With modern technology, it was difficult to understand how a ship could run aground. There was fog that morning, and some media is reporting that there was another vessel under tow at the time of grounding.


The wind towers at Prince Township are visible on the top of the ridge.
The wind towers at Prince Township are visible on the top of the ridge.

Canadian National Railway is owner of the Blough and contracts with Key Lakes Inc., a Keystone field office in Duluth to operate its lake freighters because American-flag vessels are required to be operated by an American company, Key Lakes Inc., a Keystone field office in Duluth, operates the Duluth-based vessels.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the operation to reflect the Bough. Salvors (DonJon-Smit and ECM Maritime Services) worked for for several days evaluating and preparing for a refloat attempt. Minimal damage was identified to the hull (two forward ballast tanks) and no structural damage was observed. To ensure that should there be any fuel leakage, a containment boom was deployed around the stern and flights were continually made to observe for tell tale signs of an oil slick.

bloughWith the Blough carrying a full load of iron ore pellets from Duluth the only way to get her off the reef is to lighten her load so that she will float free. The above photo clearly shows that she is listing to port. That process is scheduled to begin Friday, with the ore being loaded onto the Clarke. The Arthur M. Anderson is to arrive tomorrow, Saturday to help.

During their time stranded, the crew remained aboard, only running low on potable water, which was resupplied to them via a barge, and food came by tug.

Saturday afternoon came the welcome news that enough pellets had been unloaded from the Blough and that she was now moving under its own power, but is being helped by tugboats. Plans were to move it Waiska Bay.


The incident is under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard with the assistance of the National Transportation Safety Board. Other media is reporting that Mitch Koslow, a spokesman for her operator’s parent company, said that there were reports of fog and another vessel under tow at the time of the grounding.