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):-)

No comments:

Post a Comment