In this post, we’ll have a little bit of insight into Oshawa Harbour and Hamilton, two of the main ports where I work on Lake Ontario.
Oshawa Harbour, East of Toronto is steadily becoming more and more busy. There are spaces for up to 4 ships to berth there. Two on the east wall, one on the west all, and one further in on the east side. In the last blog, I showed Oshawa at its busiest. The most recent times I went into Oshawa, it was for only one ship- which was a good thing,
given how windy it was and how difficult it was to put the ship in. Here we have the Isabelle G. On this trip, job, we were using the tugboats Laprairie and Ocean Golf, twin screws which are more fuel efficient than the Voiths (such as the Gauthier).
This was particularly interesting. Usually, when approaching the East wall, freighters will go alongside starboard-side too, facing into the harbour. This is an easier entry, but makes exit more difficult (sometimes requiring two tugs). It was quite windy, and the pilot decided to turn around, and enter the harbour stern-first, and go alongside portside-to.
What this required was for the two tugboats to cooperate in turning the freighter, and then to tow it back into the harbour. The Ocean Golf, the most powerful of the two tugboats, was sent to the freighter’s stern, where they would tow it in, the Laprairie (the boat I was working on) went to the Isabelle G‘s bow, where we took a line to place on our hook- and we would be pulling in the other direction. In this photo (taken from the wheelhouse of the Laprairie) we can see how both tugs are arranged. Here, we’re moving back into the channel, with the Golf pulling towards the green buoys on the western side of the channel. Green is not always west- in Canada/US- rule is Red Right Return- so heading into a harbour- upstream through the St Lawrence Seaway, red buoys are on the right side of a channel, green buoys on the left. In the UK/Europe, this is different. This is because Canada/the US follow IALA (International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities)B standards, while UK/Europe follow IALA A.
The Oshawa channel is quite narrow, and it’s not straight. And, it’s almost directly north/south, which is tricky because many of the winds on Lake Ontario are westerly (theoretically, the prevailing winds) or easterlies. We had a mix.
This is a most unusual scene. Usually, the tugboats are on the opposite side of the ship from the wall that it’ll be going alonside. Here, the Isabelle G was being blown off the wall, and so the Golf and Laprairie had to work hard to make sure it got alongside. Here, you can see see the towing hook that we use almost 100% of the time on the Voiths, and maybe 30% of the time on the twin-screw tugs (which usually work from the bow). Whenever we the twin-screws take a line from a freighter, it’s always placed on the hook. It has a hydraulic piston, so can be released automatically if it has to be, but in practice we usually slack the line (by backing closer to the freighter) so that the deckhand (ie, myself) can take the line off the hook manually.
Here, we have the much more normal mode of operations. After we got the freighter close enough to the wall, both the Laprairie and the Golf moved around so that we could directly push her against the wall. For these twin-screw tugs, this is how we most often work, off the bow. (We have a line there to send up to the freighter when we need to pull).
As I mentioned before, it was lucky that the Isabelle G. was the only ship alongside that day, because the channel heading into the harbour itself is fairly tricky. I mentioned before, last time that the channel in Oshawa actually cuts off part of the pier- infact, part of the pier where we have to put ships, sometimes, (like the NACC Quebec, which I showed in the last post). On a recent visit to Oshawa, I was able to take photos to show the relationship between the eastern berth and the channel.
This is looking east, and you can see here that the channel doesn’t actually align with the wall- but is actually substantially narrower than the entrance to the harbour. Indeed, it’s about an entire freighter-width narrower. When we put the NACC Quebec into Oshawa, it was tied up on the left side what you can see here, with the final red buoy just a few feet from the stern. So when it’s a busy harbour, and in bad weather, Oshawa presents a number of challenges.
Continuing the theme of interesting weather, the rest of this post will be photos from an afternoon in
Hamilton harbour, where the Laprairie and the Gauthier assisted the Maccoa onto the wall on pier 10. Pier 10 is in the western part of Hamilton harbour. The job was delayed as the Maccoa needed to wash out her tanks after unloading at Redpath in Toronto (she’s part of the same line as the Whistler and Shoveller– and also named for a type of duck) before loading with grain. The delay meant that we hung around pier 10 for a while- right next to the basin where McKeil (the rival in Hamilton) parks their tugboats, and also the berth for HMCS Haida, now a national historical site.
On the left here we can see a more long-distance shot, which really shows how the Haida is berthed in what is very much a commercial and industrial space. Also, it’s really interesting how clearly effective Haida‘s grey paint scheme is.
Haida shares her basin with McKeil Marine, which for many years ran lots of tugboats out of Hamilton. However, recently they are transitioning into running small freighters around the Great Lakes (such as the recent addition Blair McKeil). They still do have some tugboats based in Hamilton, and I was able to get a photo of the Gauthier alongside (not tied up, just using her engines to press against the pier) opposite a number of the McKeil tugs.
The best things from that job however are from after the Maccoa arrived, when a thunderstorm started to roll in, with some pretty impressive clouds and skies.
Here, we see the Gauthier moving together with the Macco, after putting up a line. As you can see, the tugboat isn’t being dragged, but rather is moving backwards at the same speed as the line is slack. For Voith-Schneider drive tugs, they actually move better “astern”, for example being more responsive to helm changes.
Here, we see the regular mode of operations. The Gauthier is pushing astern, while the Laprairie (which I was working on) had taken two bow lines on of our bollards to take them over to the corner of pier 11, to tie up since pier 10 is pretty short.
Next time, it’ll be more photos of various ships that I’ve seen in Hamilton harbour recently.