Friday 28 March 2014

Navigation Aids Vessel CCGS TRACY

Ice maybe great in a soft drink or an after work highball but this winter, ICE has been a CAPITAL pain in the BUTT for Great Lakes mariners that usually remain active, moving essential cargos to key ports from the Soo on the St. Mary's River through to Nanticoke's oil refinery on Lake Erie. Passages that normally would take a matters of hours, have been extended by several days even with to constant aid by Canadian and American coast guard ICEbreakers. However, despite all their timeless and gallant efforts, Canadian ship owners have complained that more resources should have made available this winter, (like who knew this was to be the worst winter in 20 years?). Regardless, as the end of March approaches, ship owners, skippers and crews are itching to get the new sailing season underway, only to be delayed once again to due to ICE. Generally the St. Lawrence Seaway opens March 28 but due to the over abundance of ICE, the opening has been delayed to the 31st. The Soo Locks opened as planned on March 25, but for the first time in years, the locks remained idle, leaving workers 'scared ship-less' (or NOT) due to the thick ICE conditions out on Lake Superior and the ICE jammed channels of the St. Mary's River for those ships that would normally transit northwest to the Soo from the southern lakes. The Welland Canal will be opening today but it'll be hard to predict when the first downbound will enter Lock 8 in Port Colborne from Lake Erie since almost all of the lake remains frozen over. As the saying goes,' Time is Money' and delays, whether weather is to blame (no pun intended, really), increased costs sooner or later effects everyone's wallet or debit card.
To ease the pain and help kick-start the shipping season, this week the Canadian Coast Guard dispatched two additional ICEbreakers, (the 272.2' light ICEbreaker MARTHA L. BLACK, snapped in a floating drydock in Hamilton by my friend Shaun last summer, and the 318' medium Arctic ICEbreaker PIERRE RADISSON into the system prior to the Seaway's opening. Yesterday, while searching the whereabout of these two ICEbreakers, I noticed the RADISSON was west of the Eisenhower Lock heading presumably to the Coast Guard base in Prescott. YES!! So almost immediately, Tanner and I were off motoring down to the 416 hoping to get a few snaps of the large polar ICEbreaker in action along the St. Lawrence River. No such luck as in turned out my source was somewhat out dated, and the PIERRE RADISSON was actually motoring beyond Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario making her way to Port Weller. (check out this coast guard snap:
What I did see though at the Coast Guard base was the laid up buoy tender CCGS TRACY, and a lot of ICE which was held in position by a boom that crossed to the river to the American side. The boom, which is made of wood floats and linked together with chains is placed in the river above the Seaway hydro dam at Iroquois in December to prevent ICE build-up and ensure an even ICE formation on the river. In the Spring and when the ICE has melted, the boom is removed before the Seaway shipping season commences. Such is not the case this spring as melting has not occurred because it's been too cold up here in the Great White North, and most likely the tug STEEL HEAD (in photo below) was used to open up a channel for the RADISSON to continue her upbound passage.

There didn't appear to be much activity around the CCGS TRACY when I snapped her last May at the Prescott coast guard dock. The 180' TRACY was built at Port Weller Dry Docks in 1967 and for much of her career, the multi-task shallow draft vessel was stationed at Sorel, QC. Though primarily used to service navigation aids along the St. Lawrence River, the TRACY is ICE-strengthed to allow light icebreaking duties. Whether or not she may have been capable enough to offer the additional resources needed to meet the ship owners outcries this winter, who knows. Meanwhile, the proud and patient TRACY sits and waits for her next assignment or sold for scrap. As for Tanner, whether it's refreshing dip in the St. Lawrence or sniffing for his ball along the shoreline, he too is flexible and goes with the flow. N-ICE Dog c):-))

Friday 21 March 2014


It's been a long cold winter up here in the Great White North. Since late November, I have been monitoring snowfall accumulations on my backyard deck table and though we were delighted to receive a couple above freezing thaws in January and February, the table hasn't been without snow on it until yesterday which coincidentally was the first day of Spring or the March Equinox. Though there remains an ample supply of the white stuff everywhere in Ottawa (which received over 225 centimetres of the snow this winter to date), we can expect more will fall over the next few weeks but at least it will only be a 'spring snow' or flurries which generally means, it won't be around for very long. So we hope!! c);-b

The presence of snow or wintery temperatures were nowhere near a concern when we visited Perth, Western Australia in their early spring of September 2012. Then, the temps and hospitality we received from everyone there was both warm and wonderful. It was also quite the joy to go walkabout past the well maintained and colourfully painted buildings along the narrow streets of the old port of Fremantle. One immaculate looking building that caught my eye was the P&O Building which was built for the Australasian Shipping Company in 1903 to help accommodate their rapid growth during the West Australian gold boom. During the boom between 1890 and 1910, Fremantle was established as a major shipping port where large numbers of people arrived at Fremantle and then made their way to the gold fields to try their luck at prospecting. This also resulted in a large quantity of freight being moved through Fremantle and expanding the port industry. P&O, which is short for the 'Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company', took over the Australasian Shipping Company in 1914 and if you look real closely, you may see both company logo's or abbreviated signatures featured on the facade. Or NOT!

Though nothing like the Siberian polar blasts that we had to deal with up here in the GWN during this past winter, it was quite windy on the day we visited Upper Fremantle Harbour where I snapped the flashy 128' Rottnest Express ferry, STAR FLYTE EXPRESS as she positioned herself near Shed B at Victoria Quay with the huge container-ship  MOL EMINENCE in the background. (Check out: Built in 1978  in nearby Henderson, STAR FLYTE EXPRESS is one of three high speed ferries that motors to Rottnest Island four times a day from Shed B. Located just 19km northwest of Fremantle, Rottnest Island is an ‘A’ Class Nature Reserve. Named by a Dutch captain who while exploring the island in 1696, discovered an abundance of giant rats, hence calling the island 'Rotte Nest' or 'rat nest' in English. The giants rats were actually small kangaroo-like animals called 'Quokkas' and even today there remains a great many quokkas on Rottnest Island along with seals, ship wrecks and apparently many other really neat things, or not. 
All good to go, the STAR FLYTE EXPRESS motors past the livestock carrier OCEAN DROVER (, and commences her crossing back to Rottnest which is renowned for being one of the roughest in the southern hemisphere. However, according to Rottnest Express, their fleet of high-speed, ocean-going ferries have been specifically designed to counter any condition and are known for their smooth, fast and safe crossings. This youtube video may suggest otherwise. It's your call!! c);-b

Saturday 15 March 2014

Bulk Carrier TIM S. DOOL (Revisited)

Upbound above Iroquois Lock - August 11, 2013

From the former Ramey's Bend - March 28, 1973
As the upbound 730' bulk carrier TIM S. DOOL got underway after leaving Iroquois Lock, I couldn't help but wonder, "I think I've snapped that behind before". I certainly did but only then the name on her stern was SENNEVILLE and the occasion was when she became the first downbound laker to enter and transit the new 8 mile long Welland By-Pass on March 28, 1973 which has since sent ships along a fairly straight and much wider channel from Port Colborne to Port Robinson.

Before then ships would make a fairly sharp turn to the port (left) at Ramey's Bend below Humberstone and continue along a narrow channel which passed by the John Deere plant in Dain City, Union Carbide and Atlas Steel in Crowland and through the always busy downtown Welland. While I have many fond memories of those days, many others were frustrated with the delays and traffic-gridlocks that happened when especially the Main St. Bridge #13 went up for one or sometimes two vessels. c):-()
(for SENNEVILLE's story see:

One of only a few lakers built at the St. John Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, in St. John, New Brunswick, the SENNEVILLE was launched during Canada's centennial year, 1967, for Mohawk Navigation of Montreal, Quebec. However, in 1980, the SENNEVILLE and fleetmate SILVER ISLE were bought by Pioneer Shipping of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and soon after their hulls were painted the distinctive fleet colours of orange and red as shown in this company post card that was given to me some time ago. Though the SENNEVILLE primarily carried dry bulk goods, like grain and soybean, in 1992 she had her bottom doubled so that she could also carry canola oil.
West of Cardinal - August 11, 2013

When Algoma Central Marine took over Pioneer in 1994, she was re-painted and her name was changed to ALGOVILLE. In 1996, the VILLE's hull was widened by an addition 3' to meet new Seaway maximum widths (see top snap) just like what was done to CSL TADOUSSAC also at Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines, Ontario. (See:

The VILLE's name was changed again in June 2008 in honour of Algoma Central's retiring and former President & Chief Executive Officer, TIM S. DOOL. Regardless of name and hull modifications, the DOOL is currently locked in the ice of Hamilton harbour waiting for a new shipping season to commence and continue to carry cargoes such as Canadian prairie wheat or iron ore throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence just like she's done since day one, 47 years ago. Motor On, Girl!! c);-b  
West of Cardinal - August 11, 2013
TIM S. DOOL Update: March 19, 2019
Downbound near Prescott - September 1, 2014
Downbound near Prescott - September 1, 2014
And a motoring the bulgy-hulled TIM S. DOOL did go as I continued to capture her from time to time. I snapped her downbound and laden with cargo in September 2014 near Prescott, Ontario and during her last trip of the season on December 28, 2015 as she was  really pushing water passed Brockville's River Park on Blockhouse Island, obviously eager to unload and then layup next to the recent CSL newbuild, BAIE ST. PAUL snapped on a brisk February  2016 visit to Montreal's Old Port section.
Brockville's River Park - December 28, 2015

Winter layup at Montreal with the cross atop Mont Royal in the background - February 15, 2016
Winter layup at Port Colborne - February 11, 2017
With former fleetmate ALGOSOO still being dismantled in the background, there were all kinds of concern about the veteran bulk carrier's fate when she laid up for winter in 2017 at the old furnace plant wall in Port Colborne, a dock which is known to be used by International Marine Salvage as a staging area for their ship breaking operation. Hopefully no one lost any sleep over that rumour as the DOOL has continued to sail since and when the 50 plus year old gets underway this spring, she'll be sporting a fresh coat of Algoma "blue" paint currently being applied at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, WI. No, the former trend setting SENNEVILLE and this update is not done yet.    
Former fleetmate ALGOSOO being dismantled in the distance - February 11, 2017

Sunday 9 March 2014


September 20, 2013
When I snapped the 406' tanker DARA DESGAGNÉS at the Shell refinery dock near Corunna, Ontario last September, I could not help but recall Bill Cosby's 1968 stand-up comedy routine, '200 MPH'. In it, Bill had just received his new 'American-built' Shelby Cobra Super Snake CSX 3303 roadster that could do over...200 MILES PER HOUR!!! Not like those 'fer'n' cars back then that could only do 180 mph, tops. Hey, you need speed like that to get to work in 2 minutes or less, eh?. Before his emotionally and physically stimulated test drive, Bill Cosby was amazed with all of the Cobra's 'Chrome Pipes' coming out of the engine, rapping all the way around the car forming into a Roll Bar. EXHAUST Pipes - 18 inches long. Pipes...PIPES...and look at all the PIIIIPPES!!! in this SNAP. Anyhow, I guess you had to be there but if you still have that one on vinyl (and a TURNTABLE), go listen to it tonight. It's hilarious right to and especially the ending.
September20, 2013
Meanwhile, back at the boat blog, the built in 1992, the DARA DESGAGNÉS was sitting high in the water and appears ready to take on a load of oil or refined fuel. Like her DESGAGNÉS sisters, ESTA and JANA, DARA was built in Wismar, Germany and as per Canadian law, she is double-hulled, multi-grade cargo flexible and her bow is ice-strengthen allowing excellent manoeuvrability when motoring through winter ice conditions along the Gulf and St. Lawrence River, in Atlantic Canada ports and early spring passages in the Great Lakes. For each of these DESGAGNÉS sisters, the bow design is similar to most ice-breakers or even the bulk carrier ARCTIC, (below with ESTA in Montreal-Est last spring) which allows them to slide on top of the ice which breaks up due to the shear weight of the reinforced ship's bow. (
Montreal-Est Suncor oil dock - June 9, 2013

At Windmill Point - July 10, 2016 
Though most lakers that ply the Great Lakes carrying a variety of dry bulk cargo remain laid up mostly due to the over abundance of ice on most lakes and passageways, all but one of Algoma's tanker fleet stationed on the Great Lakes this winter has remained underway shuttling oil or its by-products between Sarnia, Windsor and Nanticoke (located a significant distance beyond Long Point) on Lake Erie, which currently is almost entirely frozen over. To keep the fluids and of course, the economy going, Canadian and American coast guard ice-breakers appear to have performed superbly while working around the clock in the their effort to escort each ship and their cargo to market without incident. Last Wednesday, the Algoma tanker, ALGOCANADA finally arrived in Sault Ste. Marie with a much needed cargo of fuel oil. A trip that would take about 6 hours during normal weather conditions, took almost 8 days due to the ice choked St. Mary's River.
Ice-breaking tug USCGC KATMAI BAY (WTGB-101) at
Sault Ste. Marie, MI homeport - September 18, 2013
Unlike the DESGAGNÉS sisters, the ALGOCANADA has a bulbous bow which is great for speed and mobility in open water, however the design offers nothing but resistance when motoring through brash or jammed solid lake and river ice. USCGC KATMAI BAY (WTGB 101) was with the ALGOCANADA for the whole passage north to the Soo while it appears another American cutter, NEAH BAY also arrived to assists her.
CCGS GRIFFON at Port Colborne
March 8, 2006
Meanwhile, out in Lake Erie this weekend the CCGS GRIFFON has been busy assisting the ALOGEAST and ALGOSEA creep along one at a time from Long Point to Nanticoke's Esso refinery, while the the American cutter USCGC HOLLYHOCK (WLB-214) was stopped and waiting off Cleveland for the ALGOEAST's return. Then as planned the HOLLYHOCK escorted the ALGOEAST back to the Detroit River where the Algoma tanker then became monitored by the Canadian ice-breaker CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY, and her American counterparts during the EAST's upbound journey through the ice choked Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River to Sarnia. Meanwhile the GRIFFON doubled back to Long Point to assist the ALGOSEA when she was ready make her upbound passage home. and so it goes all winter long. c):-b

USCGC HOLLYHOCK (WLB-214) at Port Huron, MI
homeport - September 21, 2016
Whew, talk about a modern day game of "Snakes and Ladders" for both of our country's ice-breakers. While we all know the Canadian and American coast guards make a great team and do their best all winter long to keep commerce flowing (no pun intended), ship owners have to thank their lucky stars that these mighty ice smashing ships are there for them time and time again. However as Archie Campbell on HeHAW would say, "the 'storal of the moral' is if you know fool well Lake Erie freezes every year, save oil and toil on the goil, and start using "winter-ized" self-ice breaking tankers like the DESGAGNÉS sisters, Oh boy-o, Oh boy-o, Oh boy-o"!! c):-o In fact I DARA for anyone to "Just Do IT!!". Fuel for Thought c);-D

Saturday 1 March 2014

Self Discharging Bulk Carrier WHITEFISH BAY

It was a cold and dreary day last November as I waited for the far distant and newly built WHITEFISH BAY slowly make her way toward St. Lawrence Seaway's Iroquois Lock. There was also a certain eeriness in the air, because my first vantage point for these snaps was at the eastern entrance to the former Iroquois Lock and the start of the 7.5 mile Galop Canal that lifted 'canallers' like my dad's ship, the BIRCHTON, ( 15.5 feet to bypass the swift and treacherous rapids at Point Iroquois, Cardinal and Galop Island.
I recall during a visit the summer before he died, how excited he was to see the Iroquois and Galop Locks still in existence and well maintained, unlike so many former Welland Canal locks that had been destroyed or buried under after the current canal was opened in 1932. I remember my dad telling me how they would stop in overnight at Cardinal or other canal villages back then, and at first light, off the BIRCHTON and other downbound canallers would race out to ride the rapids to Montreal. Canals like the Galop were needed for the upbound passage to Lake Ontario and above. It was like my dad was there with me that day as the WHITEFISH BAY passed two former marker buoys sitting on either side of the old Iroquois lock walls and the hydro plant in the background while edging closer to her destination.
Meanwhile, the 740' WHITEFISH BAY is the third of four Trillium-class self unloading bulk carriers that like her sisters, BAIE ST. PAUL, THUNDER BAY and BAIE COMEAU ( each were built in China and had to traverse the Pacific and Panama Canal before they could commence operating on the Seaway and Great Lakes.
She is also the second Canada Steamship Lines vessel to bear the name WHITEFISH BAY. Built in 1961, the first was a 730' straightdecker. Other CSL 'Bay' named vessels which honoured various large bays on the Great Lakes, included BLACK BAY, MURRAY BAY, THUNDER BAY, NIPIGON BAY and the GEORGIAN BAY.
The actual 'Whitefish Bay' is located on the southeastern end of Lake Superior and had a certain great ore carrier 'put 15 more miles behind her' to the protected waters of this large bay, there may not have been a reason for Gordon Lightfoot to create the ballad, 'The Wreck of the EDMUND FITZGERALD'.

With his ball protected between his front paws, Tanner patiently allowed me to snap the WHITEFISH BAY as she passed through the lock and the CASCO corn starch plant in Cardinal, Ontario, where prior to the opening of the Seaway in 1959, no upbound vessel could transit due to the Cardinal Rapids which were situated at that exact spot. Nothing fishy about this tale. c);-b