Tuesday 13 December 2022

Port of Oshawa Regulars: Tugboats SANDRA MARY and LA PRAIRIE

655'10" bulk carrier HELENA G unloading steel at the port on August 21, 2019

Thank goodness for the Port of Oshawa. I cannot tell you how many times it has been my release. My breath of fresh air. An eyes wide open relax app. Wherever it is that you jump on Ontario's multi-lane super highway 401, from that moment forward it's go-go NOW, or get the HECK out of my way.  It's nuts and just as you start motoring along at a comfortable speed it's suddenly dead stop and crawl for the next 60 kilometres east until you are at Harmony, the road exit off the 401 rat-race, that is. Harmony actually becomes Farewell Street which you continue for a bit until you turn right on Harbour Road, and then left on Simcoe Street South to the parking lot at Lakeview Park. Kill the engine and after maybe a two minute walk past more often crashing waves onto the park's long Lake Ontario beach, you're there, a boat watchers heaven with few limitation to catch saltie bulk carriers, tankers and Great Lakes self unloader offering in-your-face action on the other side of the pier, or sometimes both. Oh YAAA 👍🚢👍   

Our insanity break at the Port of Oshawa during our homebound run on Sunday, December 4th was extra special, catching two salties along the east side wharf. The backed-in  656' FEDERAL CLYDE appeared ready to unload but strong winds off Lake Ontario perhaps delayed that activity. Just arrived earlier in the day from the Port of Johnstown where I caught her Friday afternoon unloading behind a high pile of road salt was the 474'9" heavy lift general cargo vessel BBC SONG.   
Both fine looking ships but what caught my eye along the Port's inner wharf were two little toots, the McNally Construction tug SANDRA MARY and Groupe Océan's LA PRAIRIE.
McNally fleetmate WHITBY working at Oshawa harbour entrance on July 20.
The twin screw 80' SANDRA MARY was built in 1962 at Russel Brothers Ltd. of Owen Sound for C.A. Pitts Construction of Toronto and named FLO COOPER after the owner's wife. According to the Russel Bros. Archive website, for many years FLO was involved in many marine projects including the Nanticoke coal unloading dock, Montreal's Bickerdale Pier, Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station, the Confederation Bridge to PEI and Hibernia. In 2000, the powerful tug was sold to McNally Construction of Hamilton and renamed SANDRA MARY. Since then the largest tug in the McNally fleet has been involved in the dredging and construction trade along the Atlantic coastline and Great Lakes.  

SANDRA MARY below Welland Canal Lock 1 on April 12, 2006 by Capt. Paul Beesley of St. Catharines
Photo courtesy: https://www.shiphotos.com 

The other compact and very versatile tug tied off along that wall was the 73'9" LA PRAIRIE. The also twin screw harbour tug was built in 1975 for the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority at East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PEI.

In 2002, LA PRAIRIE was sold to Quebec City based Groupe Océan which operates a fleet of 35 tugs and workboats and they all look immaculate whenever you see them. All very impressive looking tugs. 

From early spring until late autumn, LA PRAIRIE works on Lake Ontario  conducting harbour tug duties such as towing or berthing vessels when needed in Hamilton, Toronto and Oshawa. 

However just like this past weekend LA PRAIRIE makes her annual passage to Montreal and becomes available to conduct icebreaking operations along the South Shore Canal between St. Lambert and Côte Ste-Catherines Locks. That's where LA PRAIRIE was going when I caught her pushing water by the Port of Johnstown in these two photos on December 11, 2020. Eric Vice, who is a member of my Facebook ship watching group mentioned to me about LA PRAIRIE's amazing maneuverability which allows her to complete a 180 degree turn in a seaway lock which is useful when flushing ice flows out or scraping chunks of ice off the walls to keep the lock at its maximum 80' width. 

Once the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed for the shipping season, LA PRAIRIE then makes her way to her homeport of Sorel where she's used to transfer river pilots on a frozen St. Lawrence. 

On my first rendezvous with LA PRAIRIE she was entering Iroquois Lock while bound for Oshawa on April 28, 2015. For more information about this cute little toot and her owners, check out my original blogpost https://carlzboats.blogspot.com/2015/09/harbour-tug-laprairie.html

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