Thursday 10 April 2014

Polar Icebreaker DES GROSELLIERS

'There's No Life Like It' may have been a recruitment slogan for the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1980's, but after high school, the life direction I sought out was to become a skipper of a polar ice breaker in the then recently formed 'Canadian Coast Guard' (before that it was just a government department c):-(). The promotional material made it look pretty exciting so off I went one Saturday to a high school gym in Niagara Falls to complete all their exams. Later I was told I didn't get selected because basically their ad campaign was too successful. There were far more candidates than actual openings. C'est la vie, que sera, sera. Actually, advertising became my first career I and was pretty good at it, working for Ontario newspapers in Welland, Leamington, Cambridge, Trenton, Ottawa and then to Toronto at Canada's national newspaper, The Globe & Mail. Soon after, I kind of changed things up by getting into 'direct' advertising when I joined the also recently formed Crown Corporation, Canada Post. I was transferred to head office in Ottawa, where I continued to promote direct marketing for the PO (very short for, Post Office) and during a stint as an entrepreneur.
However for the past twelve years, whenever I'm not snapping photos of boats along the Seaway (or wherever), I very much enjoy driving a transit bus here in Ottawa, which may not be as large as a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, but our buses are also coloured red and white, with a big 'Maple Leaf' on each side, much like the CCGS DES GROSEILLERS which was recently snapped by an old but much younger friend, Nathan Attard in Port Colborne.
Sorry Nathan, but I don't recall much about you because you were pretty young when I left Port Colborne, but I do fondly remember your folks, especially in the early days when we we'd visit them on one of the laid up for winter Misener boats. I recall touring may parts of the SCOTT MISENER (or was it the JOHN O. MCKELLER), and especially the engine room and thinking no way would I want to work down there. But that's where your dad worked and he was very good at it for many years.

Meanwhile, back at the boatblog, WOOHOO snaps Nathan of the DES GROSEOLLIERS passing the BAIE COMEAU above Lock 8 while making her way to do battle with the massive ice packs and ridges on the nearly still frozen over, Lake Erie. Like her fleetmate, CCGS PIERRE RADISSON which entered the system and passed through Port Colborne just a few days earlier, the 322' DES GROSEILLERS, is a powerful Medium Arctic-class icebreaker. Built in 1982 at Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines, Ontario, the DES GROSEILLIERS generally conducts icebreaking and escort operations on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Saguenay and St. Lawrence rivers during the winter months, and the Seaway in the spring. During the summer, she would travel to the Canadian Arctic for ship escort and navigation aids operations as well as supporting various scientific mission. However, due to the extremely thick and steadfast ice conditions from Lake Erie through to the western reaches of Lake Superior, these two massive icebreakers were needed to provide additional icebreaking capacity and help get lakes and saltwater fleets moving. In fact just one day after its arrival at Port Colborne, the Quebec City based DES GROSEILLIERS escorted five lakers (ALGOMA DISCOVERY, ALGOMA EQUINOX, ALGOMA ENTERPRISE, BAIE COMEAU and the articulated tug & barge SEA EAGLE II), through ice between 2 to 3 feet thick and ice ridges between 4 to 10 feet high to the western edge of the ice pack. While DES GROSEILLIERS remains stationed on Lake Erie, PIERRE RADISSON has been busy conducting ice operations and convoy escort duties on the St. Mary's River, and Lake Superior with the USCGC MACKINAW (

While the powerful and heavy weight icebreakers are assisting the larger freighters manoeuvre about, the smaller cutters like Canadian Coast Guard ships SAMUEL RISLEY, GRIFFON, and USCGS KATMAI BAY, and other resources have been busy laying lighted navigation aids and clearing river openings to prevent flooding, and opening lake ports along either sides of the border because on the Great Lakes both Canadian and American coast guard fleets operate as one. Quite the unique friendship we have, eh!! c);-))    

Being one of the last ships to operate before her winter lay-up, the CSL self discharging bulk carrier BAIE COMEAU has also been very active already this spring. From above Lock 8 in Port Colborne, to a Lake Erie destination and back, then through the Welland Canal to laying anchored on the St. Lawrence near Prescott is where I snapped her hiding behind some trees. GOTCHA!! c):-o On her way to Sept-Iles, Quebec, the COMEAU along with ALGOMA SPIRIT and ALGOMA GUARDIAN had to wait for the all clear before getting underway due to severe ICE conditions further down the system. 
For some very interesting updates and amazing photos, check out 'Daily Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News' on
Thanks for the great snaps Nathan and say hello to your dad for me. c);-b

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