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Diving into repairs

Superior/Douglas County Dive Rescue Team Commander Tom Champaigne, center, leaps into the Duluth harbor Wednesday behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center as, right, dive team member Tom LeSage holds the other end of his rope. Champaigne, a sergeant with the Superior Police Department, took the day off work to assist divers from P.J. Norick & Sons Diving of Duluth with repairs to the Morro Bay’s rudder. (Jed Carlson/

During the calm between two storms, divers were able to get underneath the Coast Guard cutter Morro Bay and perform some temporary repairs to the rudder. Two members of the Superior/Douglas County Dive Rescue team assisted with the work, which took place Wednesday behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Dive Team Commander Tom Champaigne of the Superior Police Department plunged into the harbor while Tom LeSage of the Superior Fire Department stayed on dry land.

“We tell our guys, ‘Dive as much as you can,’” said Champaigne, who took the day off to help with the dive. He also dove with the crew from P.J. Norick and Sons Diving on Saturday when they worked on the cutter. The dives were fun and different from typical calls.

“Most of our diving for work is not fun,” Champaigne said. “You literally can’t see your hand in front of your face and we’re looking for a body or evidence all by feel.”

LeSage also brought the team’s 42-foot dive trailer to the site. Purchased with port security funds last year, it contains all the team’s gear.

“It’s definitely the biggest piece of equipment we have,” LeSage said. “Finding a home for it is a challenge.”

But, he said, “this allows us to have everything in our inventory in one spot.”

The Superior/Douglas County Dive Rescue team is the only public safety dive team in the Twin Ports. Champaigne said they coordinate with Carlton County’s dive team and make use of Duluth’s electronic gear when called to an emergency. It makes sense to share resources instead of duplicating them, he said.

The 140-foot Morro Bay sustained damage last week while helping with icebreaking operations on Lake Superior. The shipping season is off to a slow start, according to the Ninth Coast Guard District. The Soo Locks officially opened for the season March 25, but no commercial ships have passed through the locks because they are still being escorted across Lake Superior by Coast Guard cutters, according to a Tuesday news release.

The St. Lawrence Seaway officially opened Monday. Near-record ice coverage on the Great Lakes this winter has caused a major slow down for commercial shippers and long hours for ice-breaking cutter crews. Cmdr. Matt ten Berge of the Coast Guard Ninth District said Tuesday, he expects to be ice breaking well into the month of May.