Sunday 14 February 2016

Former TANAC Tug M.R. KANE

I can't tell you how many times I have visited Toronto Harbour to see and an almost lifeless waterfront with its usual cluster of short and longterm layups. True, sometimes I'll luck out and see a Canfornav "duck" boat like the MOTTLER or SHOVELER offloading her cargo of sugar at Redpath's but for the most part with the odd exception of a wind-starved sail excursion boat being motored passed the Harbourcastle, the only motion visible along this once vibrant Great Lakes port, would the half hour crossovers of the Toronto Island ferries.
However, the outcome during my last visit to the big smoke on September 24th was quite different, when while walking Tanner along the west end of the Cherry Beach dog park, there suddenly appeared the veteran tug M.R. KANE making good speed while pushing a low in the water sludge scow into the outer harbour where it would be dumped along the always extended shoreline of Toronto's man-made Lesley Spit. True, it's not a pretty job for the hardworking 60.5' KANE hauling silt from the mouth of the Don River but she was being useful and that's all that counts for the 70 year old former Canadian navy tug.

When launched in 1945 at the Central Bridge Company of Trenton, Ontario, she was known as the TANAC V-276. Don't quote me on this but I've read that the word TANAC was an acronym that combined the letter "T" for tug with the start of "Canada" spelled backwards to identify the 265 Canadian tugs that were built during World War II for the British Ministry of War who foresaw a need for several small harbour tugs worldwide. If you ask me, a simple "CT" for "Canadian Tug" could have worked just as easily too along with the real meaning of the letter "V" which some say it was "V for Victory" while others say it was for the tug's "Vivian" diesel engines that were built in Vancouver. No one seems to know but for certain, the dimensions for the single screw tugs were 60.5' x 16.5' x 7', they could accommodate a crew of 6 and each had firefighting capability.

Just the other day I watched in amazement at a time-lapsed video of a cruise ships being put together in sections, meanwhile the made of steel Tanacs were also prefabricated and assembled by a group of established or makeshift shipbuilders along the Great Lakes. During the war years, 69 Tanacs were built at Canada Bridge in Walkerville (currently Windsor), 156 were assembled at Trenton's Central Bridge and according to Steve Briggs who manages the website, 13 were assembled by Russell Brothers Limited's Steelcraft Products in Owen Sound. Of the 35 wooden versions of the tug, 25 were built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and the other ten were built at nearby Mahone Bay.  Once completed the Trenton built tugs were motored across Lake Ontario to Oswego, New York and then they continued their journey via the Erie Canal and Hudson River to New York City where they were loaded onto freighters and shipped to destination all over the world. The upper lakes' built Tanacs were loaded and shipped out from New Orleans after making their way south down the Mississippi River via Chicago.

I wasn't able to find anything that suggested exactly where the Tanacs were shipped to, but I did read that the Royal Navy had 38 and were said to have been used during the D-Day invasion. After the war, of the 50 that were still under construction in Canada, 12 were shipped to China, the Royal Canadian Navy kept 9 and were used on both coasts for yard duty, firefighting and also towed target vessels for anti-submarine warfare training.
The remaining Tanacs were sold off for commercial use and at some point McKeil Marine of Hamilton had four including the LAC MANITOBA which many of us living along or near the St. Lawrence, know of this little workhouse which sank after a collision while trying in ernest to maneouvre a crane barge in an extremely swift current at Cornwall, Ontario last summer.
TANAC V-276 was sold off for civilian use in 1947 and became known as M.R. KANE. Though I've not been able to find any background information about what she's done since her navy days or even who her namesake was, I'm happy to say the little lady, M.R. KANE is still operational in Toronto and doing what she was built to do along with many TANAC that remain in use in Australia, Malta and the United States. Meanwhile, please let me know if there are other TANAC tugs near you? I'd be interested sharing their stories. Meanwhile, for a more comprehensive overview and archive photos of other TANAC tugs, check out this link:


  1. Hi Carl! I maintain I see you mentioned they built 5, and that same "fact" is mentioned in an article by Joe Fossey i have on this page but I actually have a list of 13 supposed Russel built TANACs there. Just wondered if you could comment any further...

  2. That's interesting Steve because I couldn't find anything that mentioned that any more we're built there other than the original 5 in 1943. I see on your website another piece by Jaap Bijl also mentioning only the original 5 built at Russel Brothers but if you say more we're built, I'm fine with that and I will revise my post. I'll also include a link to your site. Okay 👌 there, Steve?