The Ordeal of the Energy



The fish tug Energy has had many adventures since its construction in 1934. Fifty years after its launching, the boat survived a winter test off Lake Superior's Devils Island. Newspaper accounts tell the tale...


Fishing Boat Stranded On Ice Floe

Duluth News-Tribune & Herald

March 3, 1984


A 48-foot fishing tug with two Bayfield, Wis., men still aboard remained helpless and damaged on an ice floe in the northern reaches of Lake Superior's Apostle Islands Friday night.



The Energy in winter


The Coast Guard cutter Sundew reached the scene Thursday night and was to remain there until the boat is freed. The fishing boat crew members were not in danger Friday night, according to the Coast Guard.

The fishing boat, Energy, had gone out in open water a week ago and was returning to Bayfield about 9 p.m. Thursday when two ice floes came together and pushed the vessel on top of the ice. The boat was tipped on its starboard side, completely out of the water, said Rodney Barnes, petty officer for Coast Guard Group Duluth.

Boat owner Cecil Petersen and crew members Laurence Soulier and David Curran were on board when the craft became trapped 25 yards off Devils Island, the northernmost of the Apostle Islands located about 20 miles north of Bayfield.

"Everything was under control until the ice appeared," said Curran, who was taken from the Energy by Coast Guard helicopter Friday.

"We were anchored in and eating dinner when it happened. The ice came up really fast and pushed us onto another ice pack. It snuck up on us. We tried to get away, but couldn't help it," Curran said in a telephone interview from his Bayfield home.

After the boat was stranded on the ice floe, the men radioed for help and walked over the ice to Devils Island because they were afraid the boat would capsize. They then began a sleepless vigil to watch the boat and stay in contact with the Coast Guard.

The helicopter that rescued Curran also dropped food supplies and a portable pump to the stranded tug. The pump was used to dispose of water from leaks that reportedly developed in the boat.

Curran, who had not slept for two days, said Petersen and Soulier will remain with the boat as long as possible.

Soulier's wife, Karen, said the three men left Bayfield a week ago to fish and she has had no contact with her husband since then. She's been told the boat sustained "some small leaks, but nothing that should be too much of a problem," she said.

Soulier said the Sundew crew would not try breaking up the ice round the boat because they were afraid the boat would capsize. "It is listing to one side, and they are afraid it will roll over into the water."

The Sundew will remain with the fishing tug to assist when the boat slips back into the water. Coast Guard officials were predicting a wind shift, expected some time during the night, would solve the problem.

"The Sundew is out there waiting for the wind to shift and move the ice offshore. When the wind shifts, it should drop the vessel off the ice and the boat should move out into open water," Barnes said.

Barnes said he didn't know what could happen to the boat when it drops back in to the water. "It all depends on what the wind does. We have the helicopter and the Sundew standing by. If they need them tonight, they are available."

Three day ice battle ends

Ashland Daily Press, March 5, 1984

By Sue Erickson

"Energy" earned her name as she chopped through the iced-in harbor of Port Wing Sunday afternoon, bringing home her Captain, Cecil Peterson, Bayfield fisherman, and crew, Laurence Soulier. They had spent a three-day "man against nature" battle with pack ice on Lake Superior and were only blocks from a safe mooring.

After hours of repeatedly ramming up on ice blocks, backing away, and ramming again, Energy made the boundaries of the Port Wing breakwall about 3:10 p.m., to the relief of wives, families and friends who had been standing on the windswept breakwall since Energy appeared at the outskirts of the iced-in harbor, about 11 a.m. Sunday morning.

About the same time, snowflakes started to fall from a sky which had begun to appear more ominous, with the promises of a winter storm coming. Upcoming weather had been a concern both of Tina Peterson and Karen Soulier, wives of the two men aboard.

Energy had been caught between two converging ice floes near Devils Island on Thursday when returning to Bayfield. Coast Guard buoy tender Sundew came to the scene Friday morning and was finally able to break her free from the pack ice on Saturday afternoon.

The Coast Guard had previously lifted off one crew member, David Curran, and according to Petty Officer Paul Brady, Bayfield Coast Guard Station, had also brought supplies and made sure the men were safe.

Tina Peterson says that on Saturday morning they sent supplies out to the boat, including ice augers, batteries and food, with Arnie Nelson, LaPointe, in his windsled and Wayne Nelson, LaPointe, in his ultralite airplane. She said the ultralite guided the windsled to its destination.

After being freed, Peterson's wife explains, the boat went out around Outer Island, but could not find shelter Saturday night so returned to the southern tip of Devil's Island.

Following the boat as it chopped its way between the breakwalls of Port Wing, Tina Peterson claimed she would thank God for a safe return, but only after the boat was finally tied safely at the dock.


Icy ordeal over for Bayfield fishermen

Duluth News-Tribune & Herald

March 6, 1984


A three-day fishing voyage turned into an eight-day ordeal for two Bayfield, Wis., men who were finally resting at their homes Monday.

"We thought we'd be home in three or four days with a catch of fish. If it wasn't for the Coast Guard and the Sundew, we would have been out there until the ice melted a few months from now," boat owner Cecil Petersen said Monday.

Petersen and crew member Laurence Soulier spent nearly two days stran4ed with their boat on windrowed ice 25 yards from the shore of Devil's Island, one of the Apostle Islands near Bayfield.

Petersen's 48-foot fishing tug Energy had gone out in open water Feb.25 and was returning to Bayfield about 9 p.m. Thursday when it was caught between two converging ice floes. The boat was pushed completely out of water and tipped on its starboard side on the ice.

The tug was broken free Saturday afternoon by the Coast Guard cutter Sundew.

The Energy spent Saturday night anchored off Outer Island, another of the Apostles group.

The Energy made it back to the mainland Sunday afternoon after fighting windrowed ice to return to Port Wing, Wis., about 30 miles west of its home port of Bayfield. Heavy ice kept Petersen from sailing to Bayfield.

"It was quite an ordeal, but you always take chances when you go out there," Soulier said of their Lake Superior fishing grounds.

Petersen and Soulier stayed with the boat throughout the time it was stranded. Another crew member, David Curran of Bayfield, chose to leave the boat by Coast Guard helicopter Thursday night. Soulier said the worst part of the situation was sleeping in the tilted tug.

"We stayed with the boat because it is our livelihood. We knew it would stay upright and thought it was a matter of time until the Sundew broke through the ice," Soulier said.

Petersen said he had no second thoughts about staying with the boat. "I would have stayed there until it melted if I had to."

He said the Sundew crew was prepared to remove them from the boat if a life-or-death situation developed.

"As long as it didn't turn into a life-threatening situation, I intended to stay on the boat," Petersen said.

Before becoming stranded, the tug ran into other problems in ice-covered water and the men never did get to fish.

The day after they left Bayfield, conditions on the lake started to deteriorate and the men woke Sunday to find the Energy surrounded by ice. They spent the next four days anchored north of Twin Island (sic). By Thursday morning, no path of open water was visible and they tried to break through the ice but anchored for the night off Devils Island.

"We were anchored for about two hours when we saw a floe of ice moving down on the boat, We started up the boat and began heading to the west side of the island, hoping we could find some open water. The floe caught us about two minutes before we would have made it," Petersen said.

The experience won't keep Petersen from fishing during the winter, but he will go with other boats for safety reasons. His boat escaped extensive damage, but needed repairs for a broken weld above its waterline.

Stan Sivertson, owner of Sivertson Fishery in Duluth, said this type of incident is rare because commercial fishermen have learned to watch for danger signs.

"We watch for wind shifts and get away from the ice if it starts to shift. It is always a danger for the smaller boats, but usually fishermen watch for it and get out of the ice before it starts piling up under the boat," Sivertson said.

"It's the kind of thing fishermen have to look out for. When you see ice, beat it for the harbor or head for open water."



Read about the history of the Energy...

...and its brief but distinguished service to country in World War II.



Posted to the Web on Nov. 20, 2007, for educational purposes only.