Monday 31 August 2015


"Quick & Dirty" Post Take 2!! Yes another hard working beauty that's been collecting dust for far too long in my "2Bdone" folder. Though they have only 18 ships in their liquid and dry bulk carrier fleet, it seems like a week can't go by without at least one  Groupe Desgagnés vessel motoring one way or the other along this end of the upper St. Lawrence River and Seaway. Though more often it's a Desgagnes tanker that we'll see, in these snaps, it's one of their larger dry bulk carriers, the downbound CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS that motored by us in Morrisburg, Ontario in June 2013.
Well she's actually called a "Heavy Lift Multi-purpose Dry Cargo" vessel, and just like all of her fleetmates, the dark blue hulled CLAUDE A., looked equally impressive with her standard mustard-yellow banner slashed near the bow and the flying company flag displayed on her stack which is also dark blue. Her superstructure of course is white like the others too along her crimson coloured deck equipment, foremast, hatches and her two monster 150 metric tonne carrying cranes.
By the way, Groupe Desgagnés has been in the shipping business since 1866 when Captain Zéphirin Desgagnés set sail from Les Éboulements on Quebec's Charlevoix region delivering goods on the little wooden schooner, MARY-ANN

When the 454.5' heavy lift-whatever was launched in 2011 in Jiangsu China, her name ELSBORG and was owned by Nordana Line of Soeholm, Denmark. Soon after the ELSBORG was purchased by Groupe Desgagnés of Quebec City and at her christening on July 24, 2012, she was given the name CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS in honour of Captain Claude Desgagnés who worked more than 50 years with the company, first as a captain and later as manager in both their marine transportation and stevedore sectors.
Just like her namesake, the CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS is a very flexible and versatile ship. Also known as a "Tweendecker", the CLAUDE A. has three decks which allows her to carry dry bulk, or stacked items on the retractable "tweendecks" below, while awkward cargos like wind turbines, pleasure craft, containers, or construction equipment can be lashed off to her upper or "weather" deck. By the way, the CLAUDE A. can also carry up to 665 TEU containers.  Again like all of her Transportation Desgagnés fleetmates, CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS has an ice strengthened bow which allows her to cut her way through iced over channels and harbours in the Arctic in the summer and  along Canada's Atlantic coastline during the winter months.

Though CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS is Canadian owned and flies Canada's flag when motoring in Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Arctic waters, the CLAUDE A. she has been known to change her registry to Barbados so that she can operate more affordably when working deep-sea during the winter months. Though she's currently on her way to Diana Bay in near the tip of Norther Quebec, last winter the CLAUDE A. DESGAGNÉS was seen in Singapore, the Panama Canal and Port Everglades, Florida.

Oh-oh!! Looks like Tanner got tried waiting for me to play ball with him and decided to go take a dip in the St. Lawrence. EEEEE!! c):-El I hate it when he gives me one of those "it's not my fault, you know golden retrievers love the water, eh" looks :>b. I hear ya buddy but oh look, here comes another boat. It's the Algoma tanker ALGOSAR.....2Bdone soon!! c):-D

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Oil/Chemical Tanker CHEM NORMA

It's not my fault. My orthopedic surgeon said I had to keep my immobilizer brace on for three more weeks and since I now have more time than I know what to do with, I thought I'd try to push out a few extra "quick and dirty posts" of boats that have been lingering around my Carlz Boats "2Bdone" file far too long like the 475' Marshall Island flagged oil & chemical tanker CHEM NORMA which I noticed on two boat groups that I follow on Facebook (the Prescott Anchor & St. Lawrence River Ship Watchers), that the she had made her way upbound through the Seaway last week on her way to Bay City, Michigan. Well this young lady in her flashy red hull did that and right now she's motoring back downbound in the middle of Lake Erie heading to Montreal to juice up before crossing the pond once again. 
Built in Ningbo, China in 2011, the CHEM NORMA with the word "ACE" brightly displayed sideways on her royal blue stack, is owned by Ace Tankers of Amsterdam, Holland.

While returning from a boat shoot along the Welland Canal and a visit with Mommy in Port Colborne in May 2013, I thought I lucked out when I saw that the NORMA was docked in Oshawa, an industrial city that myself and probably most locals might know it more as the "Automotive Capital of Canada" with its huge General Motors plant located there, than a busy Lake Ontario "deep-sea" port.  Just 60 km east of Toronto and only minutes away from the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (Highway 401) and main railway lines for both Canadian National and CP, the Port of Oshawa has handled over 500 vessels and shipped more than 3 million tonnes of cargo in the last 10 years. I did not know that. Whether it's salt, steel products, asphalt or grain, the lake port handles approximately $23 million worth of cargo annually. Hmmm c)l:-o 
The only downside to this quaint little harbour or 'unexpected oasis' for boat snapping boatnerds like us, is the only clear shot you have of your subject is the section that's facing Lake Ontario or as in this case, NORMA's flattened fat stern (thought I was going to write something else, eh? You're BAD!!). Whether she's underway or tied off, my boat snapping "Three View Rule" is get her: 
  1. bow view (dead on, angled or side view with her name, spearhead or foremast, wheelhouse & accommodation if forward, and wake or swell if underway),
  2. full length view (complete stem to stern [unless a 1000 footer], superstructures, masts, self unloading booms and cranes all in or in action) and,   
  3. stern view (front and back on, wheelhouse and/or accommodation, stack(s), lifeboat, and zoomed to her name and homeport with stirred-up water if underway)  
Anything else I get like a close up of her bridge, or a crewman walking about, or a full flapping Canadian or American flag to me is like an "Oh YAAA!!" However wherever I ventured for another angle shot of this hot looking NORMA, all I came across were high fences, cement barriers, spacious parking areas for heavy equipment that's not there, and lots and lots of trees.
Hey, don't get me wrong, I love trees, (as long as they're not shading my pool) or tall shoreline reeds and especially wild flowers and hollyhocks to accent a photo, but long stacks of rusting rebar, misplaced blue recycling bins and pylons don't simply do it for me. A fence doesn't generally bother me much because I'll just poke my camera lenses between the links, move it this way and that for another angle or two then crop out the undesirables later, but installing two separate layers of fencing, what gives?. Hey, Oshawa Port Authority, I get the message! "Next time, bring a ladder!!" Of course I could always park my car really close to the first barrier of fencing and then while standing on my console and dash, I'll be able to extend my height through the moon roof to get a snap or two away. NAAAA, it'll never work! c);-b.
I couldn't even get a decent bow shot of the 83' harbour tug OMNI RICHELIEU, with her hull and fenders partially covered behind stacks of pallet skids and a "tree". Owned by Le Groupe Ocean of Quebec City, OMNI RICHELIEU is one of 32 tugs in their fleet that's stationed at Oshawa all season long to assist in & out bound vessels. If you haven't already done so, check out this link of the RICHELIEU and fleetmate JERRY C. posted 2 years almost to the day:, or NOT.
I may not have snapped all the shots I wanted to get during this boat shoot, but that's not important. The key thing is I got away from the bumper-to-bumper craziness of the 401 for even just a little while. I got to stretch my legs, do and think about something else while viewing and snapping all that's good about living in Canada.

Not exactly a "quick and dirty" post eh? Oh well, I've got another week or two off work to nail that down. Hasta la vista!! c):-D

Tuesday 18 August 2015


What a week and change it has been. It's 4:47 AM a week ago Friday morning, and I'm rushing across a lawn at Baseline Station in Nepean to meet a 4:50 AM bus to take me to my garage to start work at 5:10 when for a nano second I realize I'm tripping on a curb that I didn't see in the dark and am now belly flopping the asphalt roadway. Budda-bing, Budda-splatt. c):-() I could see that my right ankle was already swelling but it seemed to be okay when I got up and started limping to the bus stop. My knee was bleeding and I figured since I was able to "kinda-walk", I was good to go. I made it just in time to the stop to be picked up, went to the garage, ordered my bus, continued to limp along during my circle check and then boogied out to the airport to do my 97 west to Bells Corners.  About 20 minutes into the drive I started having chest pains when I took a deep breath which probably resulted from my Costco bought Contigo stainless steel coffee mug being rammed into my rib cage when I hit the tarmac. So since I fell on the property I called my controller to bring him up to speed and suggested we complete an incident report later on in my shift, just in case I actually hurt myself. After my next trip, the 118 to Hurdman Station, I met with the supervisor at Billings Bridge Station and after completing the report together he told me to take the bus back to the garage and get to a hospital to checkout my injuries. To make an already long story shorter, after 6 hours at Queensway Carleton Hospital's emergency department, the doc finally told me that my ribs were only bruised, my puffed up ankle and sore wrists were slightly sprained but my left knee cap was broken.
The "Good News" was that I didn't need a cast for my knee but instead I was given a leg brace called an "immobilizer" to keep the knee cap in place in hopes that the broken bones would fuse back together preventing the need for surgery which I find out about on August 20. Meanwhile I was told I could walk around provided the immobilizer was on. Of course it's not actually walking that I'm able to do but rather a pendulum-like swing of my bum leg similar to what the character "Chester Goode" did in that old TV western on Saturday nights called "Gunsmoke". 'Oh Mr. Dillon" is what the sidekick (no pun intended), Dennis Weaver use to say while trying to catch up to the marshall until he scored his own TV comedy-drama called "McCloud" and laughed all the way to the bank, or NOT c):-(). 
The 'Untold but not really Bad News" is the reason they call it an 'immobilizer' is because the moment you try to move, that is, stand up or take a step or two, gravity kicks in and the brace starts to slide down your leg leaving you "immobile" and requiring you to stop wherever you are and re-adjust the velcro straps over and over and over again. It's so tiring, all you want to do is sit, which is another bone chilling experience all in itself because the action is no longer called "sitting down" but due to this immobilizing brace that's strapped as tight as you can from your thigh to your shin bone, positioning yourself downward is better termed as "A CONTROLLED CRASH". "Oh how I hope the chair has armrests to guide me into place". Fortunately to date the toilet seat has been down. I could go on, so I will. 
No actually I won't because regardless how troublesome it has been for me (and my direct family), I know from my experience as a transit bus operator in Ottawa, many people are enduring far worse situations than mine. Due to my injuries, obviously I cannot drive a city bus, but you can ditto that too for the  family car (house rules along with going down the stairs to do the laundry, YES!! c):-D). I know being off from over a week now might beckon the question, "Where's my Boat Blog?" Well, I'll have you know I've tried but the only way for me to type and relax my broken knee and swollen ankle is (as the photo up above shows), is to perch my achy break legs on my wife's ottoman (or as we part Newfie's would call it, a "dumpy"**) and reach towards the keyword from about a foot or more away. A great stretch for a stretch but any longer that, it then becomes a extended pain in the butt. That combined with continually being stared at by all kind of birds while working in my home office, and compelling me to take there pictures of them instead of working on a boat blog post. It's been very distracting to say the least. But enough said about my ailments and those darn pretty birds. Let's talk boats...

Like this tweet little tanker, the 462' VÉGA DESGAGNÉS which I snapped at Loyalist Park near Mariatown on Canada Day 2014. Built in 1982 in Helsinki, Finland, this pretty bird has been called many names, nothing bad like when I caught Mr. Squirrel trying to get into the Cardinal feeder, that slimey @#$%^& hairy rat!! No, just nice names like when she was owned by Shell Oil of Rotterdam, Holland, her name was SHELLTRANS, then in 1994 she became ACILIA and BACALAN in 1999. When Groupe Désgagnés of Quebec City purchased her in  2001, her name was changed VÉGA DESGAGNÉS.
"Oh, look at the pretty beak, I mean bow on the VÉGA!" Unlike so many other tankers we see plying the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes which sport "bulbous" bows, VÉGA's is designed like that if an icebreaker and has a 1A Ice classification which is about the norm for ships that may need to cut through ice covered harbours in the Baltic's, (like what she would have done soon after being built), Canada's Atlantic coast line, the Gulf and St. Lawrence River during the winter months.
Oh look at the baby geese with their mommies and daddies going for a swim up river. "Hey, you're going the wrong way!! The nearest golf course in Morrisburg is in the other direction!!"

When I snapped these pics, VÉGA DESGAGNÉS was winding her way around the many Seaway shoals below the surface like a flock of ducks might do while migrating south for the winter. Later that day,   the VÉGA would have made it to the Montreal-East oil refineries and return many more times laden with oil or chemicals from Sarnia or Nanticoke until the shipping season ended in late December 2014. Instead continuing with normal St.Lawrence River and Atlantic Canada trading, VÉGA DESGAGNÉS laid up in Montreal for the last time.

Like a feathered friend that more often dies a violent death by a predator, with her name and Désgagnés banners painted over, all indications suggested that this rare bird would meet the cutter's scorching torch more sooner than later. Instead, she re-hatched to become the Panamanian-flgged FORT ABEL and on August 14, she took off out of Montreal like a bat out of hell, destined to Plateau Dakar, Senegal some 6,244.5 kilometres away, as the crow-flies, that is. "I hope you return again Miss VÉGA or whatever your name is. We'll leave some seed, I mean fuel out for you. Looking forward to your call!"  c):-)

**A "DUMPY" is a Newfoundland term for a square box-like piece of furniture that may be turquoise and rose in colour and covered in genuine-synthetic leather. The top may or may not have a hinge but the dumpy will be opened and filled with discard newspapers and items you might not want to be seen laying around if your mudder come by without calling' eh b'y. Hence the term "DUMPY".   To check the icebreaker bow many Désgagnés tankers have, click on to this link about VEGA's sister, ESTA DESGAGNÉS, NOT c):-)B-)

Saturday 1 August 2015

Former U.S. Army Tug BOWDITCH

To quote then President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, "let me make myself perfectly clear" not only am I too "not a crook", but I have to admit other than a warship of any kind, my next favourite boat is a tug. Believe it or DON'T c):-l
Since Port Colborne, Ontario is only 20 miles away from Buffalo, New York, growing up there in the 50's and 60's had one key advantage over most any other Canadian kid growing up back then and that was "American TV". Instead of being stuck with only one TV network in Canada then, the CBC, down there we got three: ABC, NBC, and CBS. Shows, shows and more shows like McHale's Navy, Ensign O'Toole, Convoy, Combat, The Whackiest Ship in the Army and more. In fact though I was only a toddler, I remember being allowed to stay up to watch a show on our black and white TV set called the "Adventures of Tugboat Annie". It was a comedy about this cantankerous women skipper of the tugboat NARCISSUS and her ongoing calamities while taking work away from her rival, Horatio Bullwinkle who captained the tug SALAMANDER. I used to get such a charge out of seeing these small but powerful boats motor at full speed around a harbour like in this link of the show's opening credits ( or seeing photos and painting in library books of Moran tugs with their red cabins and wheelhouse, and the big white "M" displayed on their black smoke stacks while nudging a huge Cunard passenger ship or the USS UNITED STATES to her dock in New York harbour. I guess you can see why I got hooked on tugboats, eh. c):-D

As we drove along Riverside Drive, in Clayton, New York during our recent "Journey to the OTHER SIDE!!, I couldn't help but notice a good size boat tied off to a jetty behind what looked like a warehouse. I reversed the car to get a better look and there she was, a "tugboat" with a red pilothouse and cabins, and a black stack just like the Moran harbour tugs I saw in the library books as a kid. She even had a bridge ladder below her pilothouse just the NARCISSUS in "Tugboat Annie". YES!! Well I couldn't park and get out of the car fast enough. I scurried down though a boathouse to the waterfront to snap the 71' tug BOWDITCH. Oh YAAA!!! c):-))
While snapping these pics, her skipper, Captain DeWitt Withington came over and told me that the BOWDITCH used to be an army tug and also served with the U.S Army Corp of Engineers before being sold for civilian use. He also mentioned that she's currently used for salvage work along with the other former army tug his company, Abaco Marine Towing LLC owns, the 61.5' CARINA T-516 parked beside the BOWDITCH.

When launched in 1954 at the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works Yard in Leavenworth, Kansas, she was wasn't given a name, but instead a number, ST-1991 and she was one of the 202 "Small Tugs" that  were built in the early 1950's for the U.S. Army and ranged in sizes between 65' to approximately 100' in length. Say what, the Army has boats? c):-o
Actually during World War II, the American army operated over 127,000 pieces of floating equipment which included landings crafts, amphibians, modular bridges and over 700 tugboats. The 71' ST-1991 spent most of her 4O year career with 73rd Transportation (Floating Craft) Company at Fort Eustis, Virginia and though she did not serve in Viet Nam, ST-1991 would have been used to train personnel for deployment as well as complete heavy tows within the harbour and limited offshore terminals, along with berthing and unberthing cargo ships.
Other than her participation in a joint service sail past ceremony for the Vice President Dan Quayle on July 4th, 1989, I wasn't able to find out much about ST-1991's actual tasks and accomplishment during her days in the Army or when she was transferred over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and renamed ORISKANY. When retired in 1994, she was sold to a Port Everglades based towing company and to be frank, she was given the corny name: HOT DOG. Fortunately, soon after she was sold to Abaco Marine Towing LLC of Clayton, New York she was given a more distinctive name, the BOWDITCH. Nathaniel Bowditch was an early American mathematician who was especially known as the founder of modern maritime navigation. His book, "The New American Practical Navigator" was first published in 1802 and is carried on board every commissioned U.S. Navy ship. By the way, for weekend boat watching warriors like myself who might believe the first part of her name, "Bow" would rhyme with "Cow" or refer to the less often these day "pointy" section at the front of a ship, but in this case "Bow" rhymes with "Tow" which is one of BOWDITCH's common any day tasks in the marine salvage business along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
This came especially true on the night of March 27, 2012 when a fire broke in the engine room of the downbound tug PATRICE MCALLISTER off Ontario's Prince Edward Point. Though the tug was in Canadian waters, the call for help was heard and actioned by coast guard and airborne search and rescue crews on both sides of the border. BOWDITCH was the first vessel at the scene and when she arrived the MCALLISTER's cabins and pilothouse were engulfed in flames.
BOWDITCH and burned out PATRICE McALLISTER at Clayton, NY
- Photo from Abaco Marine Towing LLC's website 
Immediately, BOWDITCH's water cannon atop of her pilothouse and onboard firehoses went into action, and while her crews extinguished the fire, five  crew members were transferred to the Canadian Coast Guard motorized lifeboat CAPE HEARNE and then transported to Kingston, Ontario. Meanwhile, the tug's chief engineer who was injured when the fire broke out was air lifted by a Royal Canadian Air Force search & rescue helicopter to Belleville, Ontario's hospital and then later transferred to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto where he died the next day. Even though the stricken tug's rudder was jammed at a 10 degree angle. BOWDITCH was able to tow the burnt out PATRICE MCALLISTER to Clayton, New York, the nearest port with appropriate dock space available for both Canadian and American transport & safety board investigation officials to inspect her. Though nameless and working hard without significance or acknowledgement for so many year, the former "small" army tug BOWDITCH came through "big-time" that night, and deserves a "Hero Ship" significance in my book.

When not BOWDITCH's skipper, Captain DeWitt Withington is a seaway marine pilot and owner of a unique little shop on Riverside Drive in Clayton called "The Gold Locker". There, you will find really neat coffee table friendly rope work, charts, notecards and one of a kind mounted prints of photos taken by the Captain while piloting various salties on Lake Ontario and along the Seaway like the one behind our shaking hands of the final downbound salty of last year's shipping season, the 473' Norwegian tanker STEN BERGEN cutting through clear as glass ice between Eisenhower and Snell Locks.
BOWDITCH underway near Clayton from the Abaco Marine website.
As for the BOWDITCH, though working hard nameless for so many year, this former U.S. Army tug came through "big-time" on that cold night in March 2012, and I look forward to seeing her again during our next "Journey to the OTHER SIDE!!

- March 5/20:

I never did make it back up the St. Lawrence to Clayton for another photo op of the BOWDITCH, which is especially disappointing because I have recently been told the former Army tug was sold in September and is now based at Beaver Island, Michigan. Sad that she's now so far away but glad that she's still active and being of use which is what we all would like as we get older in life. She and her crews have experienced so much including a near fatal end in 1970's. Now that's an interesting story. To be continued.... 

UPDATE - APRIL 19, 2020: ...I still don't have all the details of what this hardworking veteran tug is up to but in this photo captured by Barry Andersen, of St. Catharines, Ontario on September 6, 2019, the BOWDITCH is passing through my old hometown, Port Colborne, Ontario on Lake Erie, while in transit to Beaver Island. Still trying to confirm her new owner, tasks and if her name is about to change again. Sorry but her story is not over just yet...
...I don't know if it has to do with COVID-19 or some other circumstances but I still have not been able to make contact with the BOWDITCH (ST-1991)'s new owner on Beaver Island. Meanwhile here's a couple of photos
I found from an area TV station of the former Army tug covered in snow on January 8, 2020.