Last week, I took a rare winter boat trip in Hamilton harbour as we took the Ocean A. Gauthier to Heddle’s drydock. Luckily, we left mid-afternoon so I was able to take some interesting photos of the ships that were in harbour. There were far fewer freighters in harbour laid-up than I thought there would be- apparently much of the Great Lakes fleet is in various drydocks (for example, apparently ships are lined up at Les Mechins). However, there were a number of interesting things going on.
The first ship that we passed in the harbour is the Florence Spirit, a Mckeil bulker. Built in 2004, she’s one of the ships that McKeil purchased as they move away from their previous tug-centric focus. You may remember the Florence Spirit as one of the two ships that collided in the Welland Canal earlier this year. I embed the video here just because it’s so informative. While Transport Canada has not yet made its report public, information suggests that the Florence Spirit was speeding through the canal.
The next vessel was the John D Leitch, one of the few remaining classics of the Great Lakes.
Built in 1967, the John D Leitch will probably end her career in the next few years as ships of this age become more expensive to get recertified. She was originally built at Canadian Century for Upper Lakes, and was later bought by Algoma. In 2001, she was refit and the centre of the ship replaced while the bow and stern were retained. This resulted in a larger and wider hold. What’s really interesting in these photos is you can see that the Leitch has twin rudders- but you can also see the tumblehome from the sides to the deck.
Docked astern of the Leitch was two of the fairly modern Equinox Class freighters run by Algoma.
These two ships are the G3 Marquis and the Algoma Harvester. These two ships were built in Nantong, China. The G3 Marquis was built for the former Canadian Wheat Board (now G3), but is run by Algoma which is why it looks like an Algoma ship. These ships are highly efficient, but their reputation is that they were quite cheaply built. There have also been problems with the building of these ships, with two of the three shipyards involved going into bankruptcy or severe financial issues. There are actually several versions of the Equinox class- some were built (like these two) without unloading equipment, while others (built in China) have stern-installed unloaders, while others (in a shorter 650ft version built in Croatia) have a bow-installed unloading system, such as the Algoma Innovator.
Here we have a photo from when we lined up, just prior to entering the drydock itself. Our drydock is actually perpendicular to these, and you can see that in the one on the left there is a Canadian Coast Guard small buoy tender Ile St Ours. On the right are two tugboats, the Petite Forte (closer to the camera) and the Wilf Seymour.
Here we have a side view of these two tugs. These are pusher tugs, which always semi-permanently notched into barges. The perpendicular additions (which you can see particularly prominently on the Wilf Seymour). As you can tell, neither of these tugs were constructed that way- and it’s not unusual that tugs should be modified like this over their career. Infact the Seymour is having new ducted propellers installed, each of which has 3 small rudders, to improve maneuverability. In this view, you can also see the small longitudinal stabilizers added to the Petite Forte.
Here you can see the Drydoc that we floated into, while it was in the process of being sunk (it was sunk to more than 20 feet below the surface of Hamilton harbour). The Gauthier took up about half of the length of the drydock that post seen in the centre is centred in the drydock, and was installed so that we could put the stern of the tug right up against it. We brought the tug into the drydock under minimal power, then shut it down, and used small lines to move it sideways into the centre of the dock. This took quite a while, since we used small lines, a small wind and the method of standing on the lines to create movement. It worked extremely well and we were able to settle on the blocks they had put in place.
The Gauthier is a Voith-Schnedier Tug and *technically* could be perfectly stable on the deck of a drydock. However, it was placed on blocks on this occasion since the Heddle drydock has pipes running across the deck that would have been in the way. In this photo you can see that the Gauthier is effectly a giant bathtub, with eggbeaters underneath. It is those eggbeaters that make it so effective for ship-assist, as it can provide thrust fowards and backwards, as well as side-to side. It may not be as effective or maneuverable as a podded tug but it’s much more effective than a standard twin-screw tug, let alone a single-screw tug.
This is a photo taken from just forward of the bow, and shows what the Voith Schneider system looks like up close. There are two sets of four blades, with a “Thrust plate” underneath. The blades are about 6 inches short of the thrust plate, which has several struts attaching it to the hull of the tug.
I very much hope you enjoyed this post!