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The Vista King depicting the Herald (left) and The Edward H. depicting the Ramon de Larrinaga stage in Lake Superior on Sunday afternoon during the re-enactment of the arrival of the first oceangoing vessels into the Twin Ports. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

Boats re-enact arrival of first salties to Twin Ports

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DULUTH - A series of loud horn blasts from Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge welcomed two boats Sunday afternoon in a 50th anniversary re-creation of the first ocean vessel to reach the Twin Ports through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

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The standard horn greeting of one long, deep baritone blast followed by two shorter honks were given as the Edward H, an 86-foot tug boat, came into the harbor imitating the May 3, 1959, arrival of the Ramon de Larrinaga, a 457-foot British-flagged ship. The Vista King took the role of the Herald, a 441-foot Liberian-flagged ship, which arrived about 10 minutes behind the Larrinaga.

"They gave the Ramon more than one salute," said a smiling Jerry Grandmaison, the Larrinaga's ship agent who was among 3,500 people who gathered to watch the event on an overcast and dreary day 50 years ago. "This just brings back a lot of memories. I was excited because it was my third day on the job. So many people were excited, and I was in on the excitement."

When the Larrinaga came under the bridge "car horns and ship signals then echoed throughout the harbor," reported the Duluth News Tribune on May 4, 1959.

"It was a cruddy day, but people were joyous," said David Poulin, a Park Point resident who watched the Larrinaga get doused with water from celebratory hoses set up by the fire department. "It was a dream come true."

Grandmaison, 76, was the first Duluthian on the Larrinaga after it docked at Peavey Elevator.

"Most people hadn't seen a saltwater vessel before," said Grandmaison, who assisted with logistics for the Larrinaga. "It was interesting to see it. People were excited about creating a new harbor."

Ross Maker of St. Paul recalled watching TV news stories about the seaway opening as an 11-year-old boy.

"It was big news," said Maker, who with his wife, Shelly, coincidentally took in the re-enactment as they soaked up the sunny and warm spring day in Canal Park.

"Two thumbs up," Shelly Maker said. "It was well done and the announcements were nice. They had a moved audience."

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