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Boatnerds Track Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping

Author: James R Mayer

As the Buffalo River and the Outer Harbor are changing from industrial to more recreation use, there is a growing group of people who come to Buffalo’s waterfront to see the large lake freighters that still make deliveries of wheat and other bulk commodities.

They call themselves “Boatnerds”. They are armed with an App on their phones to track the ships headed to Buffalo and a radio to listen to the chatter as an approaching ship calls for a tug or to have a bridge raised.  They listen to the deck crew calling the bridge to report the location of the kayakers that are approaching the ship. They have even heard the ship’s crew laughing at all the folks taking pictures of them.

The NACC Argonaut under the Michigan Ave Bridge leaving Buffalo and assisted by the tug Washington

The Boatnerds know the regular visitors to Buffalo, but still come out to take pictures of the The American Mariner and H. Lee White, as they bring grain from Duluth to General Mills. The Manitoulin comes with wheat from Thunder Bay to the Standard Elevator to support ADM’s milling operation. The NACC Argonaut brings cement products to Lafarge’s elevator by the Ohio Street bridge. The Boatnerds come to see the Calusa Coast and her barge Dauntless pass through the Black Rock Lock on its way to deliver asphalt product to the Suite Coat dock by the Grand Island Bridge. They watch the ships throw sand up on the sand docks along the city ship canal.

The tug Sarah Andrie and Barge 393 passing under the Ferry Street bridge as she heads to Tonawanda

Always mindful not to trespass on private property, the Boatnerds strain to get pictures of the ships that come into the Gateway Metroport (the old Bethlehem Steel docks in Lackawanna). The ships come in the south entrance of the harbor and head into the Metroport.  There is only a small window to get a good picture.  The ships bring loads of road salt or come to pick up loads of coal from the mines in Pennsylvania. This year the first “saltie” to visit Buffalo in a few years brought a load of sugar. The Federal Oshima came to Buffalo with a load of 22 thousand tons of sugar. The Federal Rhine is on its way from Brazil with another load of sugar, and the BBC Russia is currently passing north of Scotland with a load of goods from Germany.

If there is a ship coming in, you can be sure that the Boatnerds will be out in the rain or snow searching the bits of public spaces where they can get a good shot of  the day’s welcome guest ship!

Visit Boatnerd online to track and learn about all of the ships coming and going.

Lead image: The Manitoulin at the Outer Harbor, with Boatnerds taking pictures

The American Mariner under the Skyway, about to dock at General Mills

Written by BRo Guest Authors

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