Sunday 12 November 2017

Hero-class Mid Shore Patrol Vessel CCGS PRIVATE ROBERTSON V.C.

While a mass of nasty looking clouds rolled in off of Lake Erie, the 140’ Canadian Coast Guard Hero-class mid shore patrol vessel PRIVATE ROBERTSON V.C. sat like a sentinel at the foot of Sugarloaf Street in Port Colborne on November 19, 2015. First in her class, the PRIVATE ROBERTSON V.C. is named after Private James Peter Robertson who while serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the the First World War, was given the Victoria Cross (V.C.), the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Born in Albion Mines (now named Stellarton), Nova Scotia, the 34 year old private with the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Infantry Battalion, earned his Victoria Cross during the final assault on Passchendaele, Belgium just over 100 years ago on November 6th, 2017. According to Private Robertson's Victoria Cross biography:                    
  • "His platoon was held up by barbed wire and a German machine gun. He was able to dash  round to an opening on the flank of the enemy position and rush the gun. After a desperate   struggle, Robertson killed four of the crew, then turned the enemy gun on the remainder. This  enabled his platoon to continue towards its objective, with Robertson still firing the captured gun at the enemy as it retreated. Later when two of his own snipers were wounded in front of their trench, he went out and carried one of them in under severe fire, but when he returned with the second man, he was killed by a bursting shell."   

Built from 2011-13, at Irving Shipyards in  Halifax, Nova Scotia, each of the nine mid shore vessels are named after fallen Royal  Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries & Oceans and Canadian Forces personnel who are credited with performing exceptional or heroic acts during their service. The others Heroes and their namesakes backgrounds are:    

CCGS CAPORAL KAEBLE V.C. named after Corporal Joseph Kaeble who died near Arras, France on June 9, 1918 while single-handedly repelling a strong attack with his Lewis gun. 

CCGS CORPORAL TEATHER C.V., is named after Corporal Robert Gordon Teather, an RCMP diver in Surrey, British Columbia, who rescued two fishermen trapped in the hull of their capsized boat. For his actions Corporal Teather was awarded the Cross of Valour.      
CCGS CONSTABLE CARRIERE after Constable J.L. François Carrière, died on November 30, 1997, while conducting an underwater search of a vessel believed to be smuggling illegal drugs. 
CCGS G. PEDDLE S.C., after Canadian Coast Guard Chief Officer Gregory Paul Peddle, S.C., who lost his life on October, 15, 1989, when his fast rescue craft overturned in an attempt to rescue a diver off Middle Cove, Newfoundland. Chief Officer Peddle was awarded the Star of Courage.    
CCGS CORPORAL MCLAREN M.M.V., after Corporal Mark Robert McLaren, M.M.V., who was  killed along with two others on December 5, 2008, when their armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device outside Kandahar City. He was awarded the Medal of Military Valour for risking his life to save his team’s Afghan interpreter in Kandahar during an ambush on November 6, 2008.    
CCGS A. LEBLANC, after Fishery Officer Agapit LeBlanc, of Bouctouche, New Brunswick. who was killed on October 20, 1926, while investigating illegal fishing vessels. His murder remains unsolved.
CCGS M. CHARLES M.B., after Seaman Martin Charles, S.C., M.B., of Bamfield, British Columbia, and Hereditary Chief of the Nitinat Band. Martin Charles, now deceased,  earned the Medal of Bravery for his instrumental role in a search and rescue incident that began with a sunken fishing  vessel and ended with the crash of the helicopter assisting in the rescue efforts.     
CCGS CAPTAIN GODDARD M.S.M., after Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, M.S.M., who was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for her exemplary service in Afghanistan from January 2006, until her death in combat on May 17, 2006.    

They don't call them "Heroes" for nothing.          

PRIVATE ROBERTSON V.C. is one of four mid shore patrol vessels that are used in a joint program with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enhance national security, respond to potential threats, safeguard and address Federal maritime and on water enforcement requirements along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system.
The primary mission of the five remaining mid shores is to support the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Compliance and Enforcement program on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts where both  Canadian Coast Guard personnel and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Fishery Officers work together to conduct surveillance of fisheries operations, seize, recover, store and transport illegal fishing gear monitor and patrol the oceans (coastlines and international boundaries) and provide a Canadian presence to discourage smuggling and fish  poaching.    
Regardless of how they are used each patrol vessel has a top speed of 25 knots or 46k/h. They also have a combined crew of 14 (8 CCG+6 RCMP or Fisheries) personnel and each can launch or retrieve rigid-hull inflatable boats while in motion.

Every November 11th is  Rememberance Day here in Canada, the day that not only marks the end of First World War but also a day for many to  take a moment and remember the countless soldiers, sailors and airman, who put their lives on the line for the freedom we have today in conflicts before WWI and since. 
Yesterday whether at a local cenotaph, or the War Memorial in Ottawa, thousands gathered in the below freezing air while many others  watched  the national ceremonies on TV,  or listened to it on the radio as we did while driving to Toronto. I give you my word to all that were lost or returned safely, “We Will Never Forget and We Will Always Be Grateful “

True yesterday was cold and windy but it was nowhere near what it was like when a November storm blew across Lake Michigan taking 33 of 35 crew members lives when the   659’ self unloader CARL D. BRADLEY sank on  November 18, 1958, fifty-seven years less a day before I took these snaps in Port Colborne with those ugly morbid skies in the background.  A strong November storm  broke up the 603’   DANIEL J. MORRELL on November 29, 1966 taking all but one soul of her 29 member crew. The  Armistice Day storm of 1944 sank 5 ships  and killed  66. The “Bad Storm of  1913” sank 13 ships and took 244 men from their families. And as her former fleet flagship replacement AMERICAN FORTITUDE awaits dismantling in the distance,  we will never forget the night when the winds of November came early sending  the 729’ ore carrier EDMUND FITZGERALD to her icy grave at the bottom of Lake Superior with all of 29 crew on  November 10, 1975. What a devastating month November can be for mariners in our inland seas but rest easy my lost seafaring friends because “You Too Will Never Be Forgotten “ .     

A big thank you to the Canadian Coast Guard website. They too appear to be very proud of their heroes. 

Saturday 14 October 2017

Tug and Barge kALIUTIk & MM 170

Some come to the river to pray like in the words from the folk gospel hymn sung by Alison Krause in the movie, Oh Brother, where art thou? While some may come to the river to simply fish, others come there to view and photograph wonderful sunrises, water foul and fish eating birds of prey. Myself I come to the river to see boats, or actually, ships. It doesn't matter about the size, whether they are new or old, freshly painted or showing they're age and wear from the cruel seas they've passed through or the type of trade they are in. The boat could be a laker, a saltie, a navy or coast guard vessel, a bulk carrier, a tanker, a fishing boat, a workboat, an excursion or passenger boat, or sadly, a classic lady that's been laid up for far too long or at the end of her career, destined to an overseas breaker being towed there at the end of a line.
Unfortunately for a variety of reasons I haven't been able to come down to the river that often this summer, not to mention write about them but on August 27th we were driving home from Toronto and as per usual, hoped to take an extended pitstop somewhere along the St. Lawrence River from Mallorytown Landing on down to snap a boat or two before heading north to Ottawa. Brockville is ideal to capture a boat popping out of the narrows or making her way upbound with a pretty good wake as she approached the park on Blockhouse Island. Actually there's all kinds of other neat places just off the 401 or Macdonald-Cartier freeway to take a pic or twenty at Prescott, Windmill Point, by the grain elevator at Johnstown or even our last chance photo op location, behind a small church at the junction of old highway 16, to snap a beauty motoring beneath the tall towers and span of the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.
Since most of the boat passages along the St. Lawrence had taken place earlier in the day or not until much later that evening, it was beginning to look like our four and a half hour journey home was going be just like Jo Anne Worley used to say on Rowan & Martin's comedy show "Laugh In""BORING!!"  Am I dating myself here? c):-()

Thank goodness though for the MarineTraffic app as one last look after topping up the tank at the First Nation's reserve near Shannonville proved very worthwhile, as I saw the light blue arrowed icon of a boat leaving Eisenhower Lock. It was a tug, the kALIUTIk and she was heading our way. YES!!! c):-D Then, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway website, she was pushing a barge, the MM 170, and due at Iroquois Lock at 17:52. That was more than two hours away but perhaps the barge and the fast downstream current would slow her down. Oh YAAA, let's do it!!

Though we really didn't need it we stopped anyways to top up the tank again in Cardinal because the price of gas there is usually a good 10 cents a litre cheaper than in Ottawa. The pitstop also gave me a chance to check MarineTraffic again and saw that the tug and her charge was just passing Morrisburg and her ETA at Iroquois was changed to 18:10. Yes we we're going to make it. c):-))

However, I became somewhat concerned that we may have missed the tug & barge too because as we motored along the final straightaway of Carman Road which borders the village of Iroquois and ends at the lock's main viewing area, I noticed that the single leaf bascule bridge at the east end was not raised. Since it was not used for regular motor vehicle traffic, more often the jackknife bridge, (what one from Port Colborne would call it), would be up and waiting for an approaching upbound to arrive.

It wouldn't have been the first that MarineTraffic steered me to the wrong location to snap a boat but in this case they were right on the mark. Receiving a flashing red and amber from the green control board near the bridge's counterweight, the little tug with only her white mast and wheelhouse visible in the distance, steadily pushed her black hulled payload with a white wake constantly rolling forward as if trapped beneath the barge's angled rake bow beyond Mariatown until eventually barely seen through the tall conifers along the east end approach wall situated across from the former Iroquois Lock and entrance to the old Galop Canal.
Had it not been for the dull roar from behind, I may have completely missed the tan coloured Lincoln Town Car crossing the bridge's meshed steel deck. It's crossover obviously explained why the massive barrier remained lowered because soon after the vehicle turned towards the lockmaster shack at the centre of the lock, the bridge's warning siren sounded repeatedly, the crossing gates were lowered and within moments, the span began it's upwards motion like the blade of a pocket knife being pulled out to an angle just short of 90 degrees.....

.....and then moments after the control lights at the middle of the raised span and on the panel in front of the counterweight simultaneously turned green.....
....out from behind the tall trees popped the high in the water barge MM 170 with her wall spotters on both sides of the empty of cargo deck...
.....and then the 10 tonne bollard pull harbour and coastal tug, kALIUTIk.

It's not everyday you get to snap a couple of vessels that have mostly worked or motored through many distant seas, and now paired together to work at this end of the Great Lakes. MM 170 with a homeport of St. John's, NL, was actually built in China in 2013. I know many of us are concerned with vessels made of chinese steel, but this 169' ABS-class flat decker was actually built to the rigid American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) rules and requirements which allows the MM (McKeil Marine) 170 to transport a range of heavy lift cargoes weighing as much as 2,000 tonnes.

Built 1988 by Dovercraft Marine in Nanticoke, Ontario (also her port of registry) and outfitted a little further west along Lake Erie's north-shore in Port Dover, the 65' kALIUTIk spent much of early years working in the isolated bays and rivers of Canada's Far North for her owner, the Labrador Inuit Development Corporation of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. Back then kALIUTIk was primarily used to push barges laden with Labradorite, (a unique mineral that was mined on Paul's Island near Nain, NL), to salties anchored offshore which transported the colourful rocks to Europe where they were refined into precious gemstones or used for sculptures. When the quarry closed in 2009, the kALIUTIk was put up for sale. Soon after, McKeil Marine, then of Hamilton, Ontario, first chartered the kALIUTIk and eventually purchased her outright using the little tug that looks more like a mini offshore drilling tender to do various jobs on the St. Lawrence River and Eastern Canada.
One project where the kALIUTIk's unique size and designed played an very important role was when the former Montreal bunker tanker ARCA I ran aground off Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island when her engines failed while on route to Mexico on January 8, 2017.  McKeil Marine dispatched two tugs to free her, the 107.5' salvage tug TIM McKEIL and the kALIUTIk.  Due to her 10' shallow draft, the kALIUTIk was able to position herself close to the disabled ARCA I, to deploy a towline which she relayed to the 73 tonne bollard pull TIM McKEIL. Within a few hours after commencing the salvage operations on January 15th, the ARCA I was pulled off the rocky strand and towed to safe harbour in Sydney (a.k.a. Sydport) without injury or environmental impact. c):-D        

Tied off with a thick hawser secured to H-bits on both sides amidships and at her bow, and steel cables stretched all the way to her stern, the tug & barges slowly slides along as one passing the raised bridge and arrestor, the opened steel gates and spaced perfectly near the middle of the aging Iroquois Lock walls. The skipper knew what he was doing.
As they continued to make her way beyond the lockmaster's shack (and that almost late in arriving "Lincoln Town Car"), I couldn't help but noticing that the kALIUTIk's blue and white colour tones might suggest that these days she been working for Quebec City based Groupe Ocean instead of McKeil Marine. When launched, her hull was red and for a while too, her hull and stacks were painted black much like her McKeil fleetmates. But other than her white superstructure, there are two things that have not changed since day one.
First is her name. Every ship is required to have a name or number as a reference point for navigation purposes, and generally it's been fairly easy for me to find out the background of a ship's namesake at or the owner's website, but the case not for the kALIUTIk. It appeared the background of her name was going to be a mystery until I visited a place called "Larga Baffin" which is a special residence where Baffin Island Inuit can stay in a safe and comfortable home-like atmosphere when they come to Ottawa for medical care that’s not available in the Baffin region of Nunavut. I showed a photo that I had of the kALIUTIk on my iPhone to a couple of ladies behind the front counter of the 103 room facility and asked if they knew what the name meant in Inuktitut, the Canadian Inuit language. One lady asked, “Is it from Labrador?" I said, “yes, she used to work out of Nain”. She then nonchalantly said, “it means tug, or pull, it means ‘tugboat’”. “Really”, I said, “what a great name”. As for the lower case "k" at the beginning and at the end of her name, well, that's still a mystery. c):-o
Another item that has remained regardless of the colour of her hull is that little character on the kALIUTIk's funnels, the "inuksuk" (properly pronounced as, in-UK-suck). The people of Canada's Arctic are known as Inuit. They used to be called "Eskimos" which comes from a Native American word for "eaters of raw meat" and that term that is currently suggested to be a derogatory slur. Now the Arctic people are officially known as Inuit, which means "the people of Inuk, or "the person". An Inuksuk, which mean "that which acts in the capacity of a human" (or "inuk-person" and "suk-substitute"), is a human-made stone landmark or cairn that is used by the Inuit for navigation, a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, or for the western Inuit, they are used to herd caribou. Whatever the purpose, an inuksuk is an artistic way of saying that the Inuit were there.
Seeing those spotters standing on the deck of the barge with no life-line attached to it would drive my dad nuts when he was a lockmaster at Lock 8 in Port Colborne. Accidents can happen and if fallen over the side for whatever reason, those skimpy floatation devices they're wearing won't do much for them as the barge edges closer and closer to the lock wall. Enough said about that.  
After passing through Iroquois lock without incident, MM 170 was dropped off at the Port of Johnstown to pick up a heavy load, and the little tug that could,  kALIUTIk, continued on to Picton where she and other McKeil tugs like the EVANS McKEIL, are still being used to shuttle barges laden in stone, construction equipment and work crews to nearby Amherst Island where 26 wind turbines are being built. You work where you can and for the those who see the kALIUTIk and the unique emblem on her stacks, at least they will know the people or Inuit were there. c):-)

Friday 23 June 2017

Fish Tug JOSH II

I don't believe I've ever been to Grand Bend before but while heading up to Goderich last September to get a snap to the ALGORAIL which had just got underway from Sarnia after an extended winter layup, I popped into the Lake Huron village primarily to make a "pit-stop", if you know what I mean. After taking care of business at the village's tall pavilion that overlooks their beautiful beach, I decided to check out the harbour channel and found across the way, the fish tug JOSH II and a small tug named MITOI. Oh YAAA 👍🏻👍🏻  There didn't appear to be any activity around either vessel but with the positioning of the JOSH II along the wharf and the lighthouse in the background, it was a photo op that I simply could not walk away from. Such was the case it appears in this beautiful sunset 🌅 shot below  taken by Shaun Vary during one of his visits to "The Bend" and the snap further down of the JOSH II mired in ice taken last February by my sister Nancy. Nice pics kids and thanks for letting me show them.
Photo by Shaun Vary
Photo by Nancy Butller
Yes, she's one beautiful boat moored in each snap near the Purdy Fish Market, which operates fisheries in Grand Bend and in Point Edward, a community just north of Sarnia.  Initially I wasn't able find much information about 65' fish tug, but then a few friends from the Facebook group Great Lakes Fish Tugs came to my aid to help fill in a few gaps. I did know that JOSH II was built in 1980 by Liddle Brothers Fisheries Limited of Wheatley, Ontario but Great Lake's Fish Tugger's Monty Young, Shaun Vary and Sammy Ferreira all confirmed that she is still owned by Liddle Brothers which as Archie Campbell on the TV show  "Hee HAW" would say, "now that shows to go ya" is why the white letters "LB" for Liddle Brothers is displayed boldly on her black stack.  Shaun Vary also mentioned that she's normally stationed on Lake Huron, which also "shows to go ya" is why she's been seen and often snapped near Purdy's in Grand Bend or at their dock in Point Edward like in Monty's photo below. Ditto that for Shaun's chilling capture of JOSH II pushing her way through the ice flows near Sarnia on January 2, 2014.
Photo by Monty Young

Photo by Shaun Vary
Currently based on Wheatley, Ontario, the Liddle family has been fishing on the Great Lakes since Joseph "Josh" Liddle took up the occupation in 1887. According to a book I found online called "Open Boats" by Rita Lobzun, when Josh Liddle died in 1937, his two sons, Clarence "Tode" and Harold "Jimmy", who both worked with their father in the fishing and the boat building trade during the "off season", took over the business.
According to the website, there are still five Liddle Brothers built fish tugs active on the Great Lakes and it appears the last one built in 1980, was the JOSH II. Today the steel hulled carvel designed beauty named after the family patriarch is going through an inspection at Hike Metal Products, also of Wheatley. Let's hope all goes well so she can get back to doing what she does best or at least an unexpected photo op at a quaint harbour like "The Bend". Thank you Donna Toth for your input too.