After Christmas, I was on a crew that moved on of Ocean’s tugboats from Hamilton, ON to Goderich ON. This required a trip through the Welland Canal, across Lake Erie, up the Detroit River, through Lake St Clair and part of the way up Lake Huron. This was very late in the season, and so it was interesting to see things. It was also the first time I’ve done this particular journey in approximately 17 years. I managed to take some photos of the interesting things before, in and after the Canal, along the way. In this blog I’ll be posting the photos of the first leg of trip, when we left Hamilton Harbour.
It’s the end of the shipping season on the Lower Great Lakes for example, the St Lawrence Seaway at Montreal closed on December 31st, and the Welland Canal is scheduled to close on January 8th. This will isolate Lake Ontario, and what ships remain in its harbours are on winter layover.
Here we have the Ocean A Simard, the tugboat we were delivering to Goderich. The Simard was built in 1980 in PEI for Alcan. She was purchased in 2011 by Ocean, and renamed. She’s a Voith-Schneider drive tug, similar to the Ocean A. Gauthier. She’s 92 feet and 3290 HP compared to the Gauthier, but she also lacks the cabins and accommodations and is very much a dayboat.1 She spent the summer in Sorel, QC, where she was helping ships into the locks there due to the very high water levels on the St Lawrence seaway.
Here we have the wheelhouse of the Simard. Where on the Gauthier, the stacks is placed dead centre after of the wheelhouse, they exhausts are split here. This means that she can have a single control station, centred rather than the two control stations on the bridge wings. However, this means that the ability to see the back corners is quite limited (for example when backing onto the dock). They’ve added mirrors so that the Captain can use those and get the visualization they need.
Starting in Hamilton, with the end of the season the harbour was actually more full than it had been during the previous weeks as various vessels came in for winter lay up. On the left, for example we have a cement barge owned by McKeil Marine (another tug company that is based in Hamilton). That said, McKeil is shifting away from tugs towards smaller tankers and other small ships. However, McKeil’s is not the only company to have its vessels lay up in Hamilton. As you can see, the barge (the Alouette Spirit) is so lightly loaded that her bow thruster and bulbous bow is out of the water. I actually also saw this barge in Oshawa a few months ago.
Here we have the NACC Capri, which is owned by Nova Algoma Cement Carriers, which is indeed owned by Algoma, the famous Canadian shipping company. If you’re familiar with Toronto harbour, the NACC Argonaut is frequently docked at the cement pier there. I’ve also been aboard tugs that have assisted the NACC Quebec into Oshawa harbour as well. The Capri is the smallest cement ship I’ve seen this season, and while I never thought it would be possible to apply the adjective ‘cute’ to a Cement ship, this might just be an appropriate moment to do so. In Hamilton she was tied up against the Stelco pier.
Although not laid up for the winter, the John D Leitch was also tied up against Stelco as we passed. The Leitch is a an absolute classic. One of the very few remaining Lakers that have the wheelhouse and accommodations in a a deckhouse at the bow, and the engineeroom and other things in the deckhouse astern. She was built for Upper Canada, and christined as Canadian Century when she was launched in 1967. She’s very much a local, as she as built at at the Port Weller Drydock, on the Welland Canal (photos of which are in the next blog in the series). In 2002 she was renamed for John Leitch, the chairman of Upper Lakes, and in 2011 she was sold to Algoma with the rest of the Upper Lakes fleet (although they retaine the name).2 She passed through the canal after we did, and as of the writing of this blog is on her way back to Hamilton from Thunder Bay, and she’ll likely be one of the very last ships to go through the Welland before it’s closed for the season on January 8th.
In the next blog, I’ll show some of the vessels that we saw as we passed through the canal, as well as some of the new equipment of the canal itself.