Friday 15 May 2015


Anyone living here in the Great White North has their own tell-tale sign that "Spring is 'Really' here". No, I'm not talking about simple little things like that foot and a half of snow melting off the roof or lawn because that generally happens at least once during our normal winter (except this year of course). For many it's the first sighting of a robin red-breast or hearing its pleasant song in the neighbourhood, or perhaps it's the opening of your bulbed flowers like tulips, hyacinths and daffodils in your garden or randomly appearing in the middle of the yard due to unplanned re-planting activities done by neighbourhood squirrels in the fall. People who let their dogs do their business out back know exactly when spring has arrived. That's a fun annual event, right? c):-() Regardless, for me when those purple buds start popping out of the ground in my asparagus patch, I know right then "Spring is here". Like the snap above, asparagus spears cut into inch or so morsels, boiled or steamed for a few minutes, lathered in melted butter then seasoned with freshly ground pepper. Oh YAAA!! Is there a better freshly grown spring time vegetable treat out there? I don't think so!!! c)8-D
Meanwhile, back to the boat blog, yes I know many self-confessed boatnerds or shipwatchers might suggest "Spring is here" when the Seaway commences its new shipping season and all kinds of salties and lakers make an appearance for the first time since late December. I agree it's a fun time but you still have to bundle up to stay warm due to all that ice that's still bobbing about and the wind is COLD!! It's still so winter-like that you may just as well have stayed in Florida or Arizona, eh? c):-o However, a true tell-tale assurance that "Spring is 'Really' here" for boat or shipwatchers is when a Canadian Coast Guard small buoy tender like the CARIBOU ISLE or COVE ISLE motors by because they can only venture away from their home base to repair or place small navigation aids when all channels and port entrances are completely free of ice. So many other coast guard buoy tenders that we see all season long like the GRIFFON, and SAMUEL RISLEY remain active throughout the winter as icebreakers on the upper Great Lakes, but CCGShips CARIBOU ISLE and COVE ISLE are laid up all winter long because their bows are not ice strengthened, so they cannot become operational until "SPRING".
It was still technically "Spring" on June 7, 2014 when from behind the tall spruce trees west of the Iroquois Lock, out popped this cute little boat, the 75.5' CARIBOU ISLE. Cool c):-D At the time I was actually waiting for the downbound Algoma tanker, ALGOCANADA ( which was listed as the next downbound on the Seaway's 'Order of Turn' website for Iroquois Lock. However since 9/11, Seaway passage information for all Canadian and American navy ships, and coast guard vessels have been restricted to the public due to security reasons. Meanwhile, anyone can check their whereabout on MarineTraffic's AIS site, so what's with that, h'uh? c):-l
Regardless of what you can or cannot know about, it sure was neat to see the 75.5'x19.7'x5.5' CARIBOU ISLE motor through the 766'x80' Iroquois Lock with the same grace and confidence of any of her substantially larger fleetmates like the helicopter carrying high endurance bouy tender CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK (

When built in 1985 at Breton Industries in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, the CARIBOU ISLE was one of four vessels in her class of small buoy tenders that were primarily intended for use in restricted and shallow waters. Manned with a crew of 5, the controllable pitch twin screw CARIBOU ISLE has a top speed of 11 knots and is powered with a 475 horsepower diesel engine. To haul buoys in and out of the water, CARIBOU ISLE comes also with a hydraulically-powered articulated crane which has a maximum lift of 2.5 tons. When not motoring about along the St. Lawrence River, Seaway, or Lake Ontario, CARIBOU ISLE's home base is the Prescott Coast Guard Station located about 24 kms west of Iroquois Lock..

While touring the Canadian Sault Ste. Marie Canal in September 2013, I came across another small buoy tender, the CCGS COVE ISLE tied off along the lock's upbound east wall. Based at the Parry Sound Coast Guard on Lake Huron, the COVE ISLE was built in 1980 at Canadian Dredge & Docks in Kingston, Ontario and has the same specifications as CARIBOU ISLE except the COVE is ten feet shorter and is powered by a slightly smaller 380 horsepower diesel engine.  
If you didn't know it already, the Canadian Coast Guard is mandated to provide aid to navigation in Canadian waters. Winter ice conditions may require the removal of some buoys at the closing of the navigation season and in less severe ice conditions, unlighted summer buoys maybe left in place or lighted buoys maybe replaced with unlighted winter buoys. Got That? c):-o OK, I'll try to lighten the rest up, or NOT. However with winter ice melted, ship's crews on all coast guard buoy tenders are currently busy throughout the Great Lakes and Seaway replacing winter to summer buoys and/or positioning those that may not be in the advertised location due to storms and shifting ice.
Though one might be slightly older and 10' shorter that the other, did you notice that both ISLES have a pair of marker buoys on the fo'c'sle deck near their starboard bow. The green one with the flat top is a "Port Hand Buoy". It marks the port or left side of a channel or location of danger and must be kept on the vessel's port or left side when proceeding in an upstream direction. The red one with pointed cone top is a "Starboard Hand Buoy". It marks the starboard or right side of a channel or location of danger and it must be kept on the vessel's starboard or right side when proceeding in an upstream direction. If the "Starboard Hand Buoy" is located on the port side when heading in an upstream direction, the name of your ship may be the 623' Polesteam bulk carrier JUNO and the reason why your ship appears to be dead in the water, is because she's run hard aground beneath the Thousand Island International Bridge. Embarrassing but it actually happened almost a month ago? c):-((

Besides aids to navigation work, these versatile little boats could also be used for marine and fishery research, conservation and protection patrols, search & rescue support and even fire fighting with their water cannon mounted high and amidships. That's why the Canadian Coast Guard prefers to call CARIBOU ISLE & COVE ISLE "Specialty Vessels". They're pretty much "Jack of all trades and masters of them all" and prime examples of the Guard's motto' "Safety First, Service Always". c):-D
Still awake? Hey, want to read more exciting information about lighted or unlighted markers and buoys? Then check out this colourful link or NOT c);-b : 

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