Friday 29 March 2013


Graham Grattan of Pointe Louise on the upper St. Mary's River was a navigation cadet on the 730' Algoma Central bulk carrier ALGOCEN when he captured the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker ERNEST LAPOINTE below the Beauharnois Locks in April 1970. Nice pic and thanks Graham c):-D  
Though the locks and channels of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Welland Canal and at the Soo were closed for winter for rehabilitation, it has been business as usual for shipping along the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and beyond thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Canadian Coast Guard which was created in 1962.
For over 50 years, the Coast Guard's red hull icebreakers with a transverse white band and white funnel with maple leaf have been tasked with maintaining the navigation channels allowing the passage of ocean-going freighters to maintain commerce year-round, and as spring approached avoid the formation of ice jams which may cause flooding in Montreal and other St. Lawrence River Valley communities. Maintaining shipping lanes over the winter on the St. Lawrence sector has consisted of Medium Gulf/River Icebreakers CCG Ships PIERRE RADISSON, AMUNDSEN and DES GROSEILLIERS, the Light Icebreaker CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK, a newer version of CCGS GRIFFON (, which I snapped in Port Colborne in 2006 (below), and Atlantic division resources like the Heavy Icebreaker CCGS TERRY FOX. With the exception of the TERRY FOX, each has a landing deck and helicopter, and are responsible for icebreaking and escort operations on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. Also available are two powerful and heavy hovercrafts, CCGS SIPU MUIN and CCGS MAMILOSSA which are used for flood control activities by breaking up ice covered rivers and shores along the St. Lawrence, where conventional icebreakers are unable to operate.
Currently the Welland Canal is open, and the GRIFFON is heading east to her homebase at Prescott and is currently breaking up channels near Picton and Kingston, and the Lake Ontario entrance to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Based in Parry Sound, the Light Icebreaker CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard Cutter KATMAI BAY, has actively been clearing channels in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and the St. Mary's River through the Soo to Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. Clearing the channels of ice jams prevents flooding and damage to ships which may result in a oil spill or loss of life, so the Canadian Coast Guard's motto "Safety First, Service Always" cannot be taken lightly.
During our drive up the St. Lawrence in the fall of 2010, I came across the former icebreaker CCGS ERNEST LAPOINTE perched proudly in tall grass on a gravel-filled dock at the Musee Maritime du Quebec in L'Islet-sur-Mer PQ. The 172' LAPOINTE was built for the Department of Transport in 1941 at the Davie Shipyard in Montreal. During WWII, she was used to ferry supplies to the airbase in Goose Bay NL and service the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Trois-Rivieres along with the larger icebreaker, N.B. MCLEAN until 1978. Instead of being broken up into scrap like so many other hard working ships of the past, the ERNEST LAPOINTE began her second career as a museum ship in 1980 along Canada's former navy hydrofoil, HMCS BRAS D'OR ( shown below in the background. Both can be seen resting easy and going nowhere fast.

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