Saturday, 13 October 2018


SACKVILLE returned to the water after a 9 month docking and refit period that started in January 2018 - her initial haulout was covered here at that time. She was relaunched on Tuesday, October 9th.

The refit included an extensive condition assessment of the hull and internal support structure that provided the basis for the repairs that were carried out - I'm unclear on the finer details, but I know that there was a considerable amount of new plating applied to the exterior of the hull. The hull was completely repainted both above and below the waterline, and a new suite of anodes was installed.

Rolled out of the shed and onto the Syncrolift platform, SACKVILLE sits ready for relaunch.

Lowering the platform, with the wood deck still visible under the water's surface.

The overcast sky at least made for more balanced lighting for photography purposes.

SACKVILLE was lowered to the 8' depth marking on her bow so that the riding crew could check for leaks inside the ship. Two previous launch attempts ended at this point after the ship took on some water. The patchwork of riveted and welded steel plate means that watertight integrity isn't certain until tested.

Afloat and off her blocks, SACKVILLE was pushed to the side of the Syncrolift to make room for the tugs.

With the usual configuration of a Glen tug astern and a Ville tug forward, SACKVILLE is backed out of the camber.

SACKVILLE still requires some re-ballasting before she rides correctly in the water.
Although relaunched, SACKVILLE's refit is not quite over. The mast needs to be reinstalled, and extensive cleanup above and below decks remains to be done before she can take her position on the Halifax waterfront in Spring 2019.

My photo album of the haulout, refit, and relaunch can be found here.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Flower-class Corvette chart house

As a child growing up in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, there were a number of similar garden sheds around the town - boxes with windows sitting in various backyards. I probably played in more than one of them over the years.

But these were no ordinary garden sheds - they used to be sea going structures. Not only that, but they used to be installed on the bridges of warships - well, corvettes anyway - small commercially -built ships based on whale catchers that were gerrymandered into submarine hunters and convoy escorts. 

Not a Tardis - this humble shed used to be a charthouse mounted on the bridge of a Flower-class corvette. This example has been restored and sits in front of the Queen's County Museum in Liverpool. 
The first batches of Flower-class corvettes came from the builder's yard with a short foc'st'le and a small chart house (also known as a compass shelter or "Asdic hut") on the open bridge platform above the wheelhouse. On the early RCN corvettes, this hut housed the ship's only compass - in contrast with the RN corvettes with their gyro compasses and multiple repeaters, it was a magnetic compass with no repeaters. Macpherson & Milner's "Corvettes of the Royal Canadian Navy 1939-1945" recounts that this made it impossible for the corvette's captain to direct a submarine battle from the open bridge while having direct sight on the ship's compass. Some ships had a monkey's island on top of the chart house, and judging from the many photos of early corvettes in the above mentioned book, the construction of the chart houses themselves might vary from ship to ship in terms of size and the number of windows.

The following photos show early Flower-class corvettes with their charthouses fitted - in fact, as these photos were copied from the memorial wall of the Royal Canadian Legion's White Ensign branch, I believe all of these ships were sunk with the charthouses still mounted.

HMCS WINDFLOWER - one of the original batch of Flower-class corvettes built for the Royal Navy in Canadian yards but taken up by the Royal Canadian Navy. The chart house is seen on top of the wheelhouse, and just behind the mast. Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Legion, White Ensign branch.

HMCS SPIKENARD in the original configuration, though with an early SW1C radar at the masthead. Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Legion, White Ensign branch.

HMCS WEYBURN. Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Legion, White Ensign branch.

HMCS LOUISBOURG. Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Legion, White Ensign branch.
The original batches of corvettes had a number of issues which were rectified in refits later in the war (assuming the ships survived that long), and later batches of corvettes were built from scratch with the modifications incorporated. These modifications included (but were not limited to) a longer foc'st'le (to improve seakeeping abilities among other reasons), moving the mainmast behind the bridge (to improve visibility from the bridge), and the removal of the charthouse - it was replaced with an open pilotage, as can be seen today onboard the only remaining Flower-class corvette, HMCS SACKVILLE.

Liverpool was home to Steel and Engine Products Limited - STENPRO for short (I've been corrected that it may have been called "Thompson Brothers" during the war). Later bought by Irving (and since shuttered and sold), this little ship repair yard (a short hop from the house in which I grew up) with its single marine railway, was active during the Second World War refitting corvettes - and not being ones to throw things away, the chart houses ended up in people's back yards, and some were still there 30-odd years later when I was growing up. 

I believe the small platform on the front of the chart house may have supported an RDF (Radio Direction Finder) antenna, although not all ships carried their RDF in this position. Many photos show it mounted more centrally on the roof of the chart house.

Along with the door on the aft end of the chart house is a small protrusion with a glass top - I believe this housed nautical charts so that they could be seen from outside without the chart getting wet in adverse weather conditions.

A view of the chart compartment from inside.

The museum was closed during my brief visit, so I don't know if it is known which corvette donated this particular charthouse - I wouldn't be surprised if that information has been lost to time. I'm just glad to see that at least one of these structures (along with some childhood memories) has been saved.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Relaunching Amasonia

Growing up, I spent many summers at the family cottage on the LaHave River below Bridgewater. Apart from my Dad's boat sitting out front, I could gaze upon the boats across the river including an offshore racer or two. Of particular interest were two schooners: Skylark designed and built by David Stevens, and Amasonia - a Tancook schooner. Skylark was renamed Sarah Abbot, and now calls Maryland home. Amasonia stayed closer to home, is still based here in Nova Scotia, and was relaunched this week after a restoration.

Amasonia was built in, and launched from, Big Tancook Island in 1935 by Howard and Tom Mason. A brief history appears on the Nova Scotia Schooner Association website, which I won't repeat here. She has had her share of adventures, including one previous major rebuild in 1963, and was due for another refit. Her owner since 1989, Lorne Leahey, took her to Bill Lutwick at Lutwick's Boat Building and Repair in Indian Point, near Mahone Bay, for some TLC. I only heard a few weeks ago that she was being restored, and dropped by the boat shop last week to see what progress was being made - I arrived just in time, as she was ready to return to the water within the week.

For those interested, there is a book on the Tancook schooners, called - you guessed it - The Tancook Schooners.  

The fine lines of Amasonia.

The interior of Lutwick's Boat Building and Repair.
I asked if I could be notified when she was ready to launch, and Lorne was kind enough to oblige. I was (just) able to make it down in time to see her come off her cradle earlier this week.

Amasonia still sitting on her keel in the cradle.

Still in her cradle.

Amasonia wasn't alone - there were a few other schooners present.

One of the spectators was Wawaloon - another Tancook-built schooner.
A number of years ago, I had an apartment overlooking the narrows of Halifax Harbour, right across from the shipyard. I remember seeing Wawaloon sailing up the harbour on a somewhat blustery day in 2007, and watching her respond to the wind.

Wawaloon making her way up the harbour.

Wawaloon heeling over after catching a gust.
High tide was scheduled for 1700h, but Amasonia wasn't quite ready to budge, so she received some help backing out of her cradle.

Spectators haul on Amasonia's lines to coax her from her cradle.

Efforts to haul her out were successful, and Amasonia was returned to her native element.

Amasonia is framed by another wooden boat in her cradle.

Amasonia's pleased-looking owner, Lorne Leahey, with Bill Lutwick standing behind.

Someone did the math, and there is a combined 252 years of Nova Scotia schooner history in this photo, with (from left to right) Wawaloon (built 1946), Pegasus (1971), Amasonia (1935), and Mary David (1968).

Amasonia is riding a bit high in the water at the moment, as she still needs to have her masts fitted and fuel tanks filled, among other things.
Bill has worked on many boats, and one of his recent projects - an International One Design (IOD) named Ghost - was sitting out front of the shop.

Bill is also working on a boat that is near and dear to my own heart - an International 18 One Design by the name of Bratt. My father owned her from 1966 to 1973, and she will be a sight to behold when completed. But that is a subject for another blog post.

Back in 2009, a sailing trip from LaHave to Chester provided a couple of chance encounters relevant to this post. First of all, off Indian Point and Bill's shop, we encountered one of his Robin L 24s (or RL24), a 24-foot adaptation of a Tancook Sloop.

An RL24 sailing off Indian Point, with the red shed of Lutwick Boat Building and Repair in the background.


We also encountered Amasonia herself off the shore of Nova Scotia. She's so pretty that I just had to go back and edit a few more photos just for this blog post.

Amasonia sailing along on what I assume is a beam reach.

Amasonia sails off towards the horizon.
With any luck, I will be able to catch Amasonia under sail once more this summer when she is rigged.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Harbour Fog and HMCS ST. JOHN's return from NATO

Warm temperatures and high humidity over the last week have joined to create some impressive mists and fogs, and the view on this morning's commute to work on the ferry was accordingly somewhat obscured. There were a number of fog horns at work in the harbour, including those of the harbour ferries. (A drive down Highway 103 late this afternoon was also suitably impressive.)

Ferry Viola Desmond heading for Woodside.
This complicated my aim this morning of photographing the return of HMCS ST. JOHN'S, which was arriving in Halifax for the first time after a six-month NATO tour. Although I could see her approach on the Marine Traffic app, the ship herself was completely obscured. 

I had hoped that ST. JOHN'S would pass west of George's Island, as I had clear sight out through that channel, whereas the fog was mostly concentrated on the east side of the harbour. However, she stubbornly stuck to the eastern channel. In the end, I was rewarded with an imposing view of ST. JOHN'S in the fog, but for a while I was worried I would miss her entirely.

For instance, I could see Holland America Line's Veendam just fine out through the western channel.

I even got my obligatory shot of Veendam with the George's Island lighthouse.

Even when the fog thickened up again, I could still see Veendam just fine.

I also got to capture this cormorant taking off.
Admittedly, despite being able to see Veendam, the image quality suffered - heat coming off the water on hot days tends to play havoc with the optical qualities of the air when using telephoto lenses, and if you zoom in on the ship you can plainly see the degradation. But the images look fine here, at least.

Just when I was about to give up on ST. JOHN'S, a shadow started to appear out of the fog behind the Vincent Coleman, itself returning from the Woodside terminal.

HMCS ST. JOHN'S finally makes an appearance.

Although the fog is obscuring the ship, it is also obscuring Dartmouth, so there's that. (Nothing against Dartmouth, but the former refinery area is not exactly picturesque, and I prefer to have mostly blank backgrounds for my ship images, when possible, to avoid confusing the outline of the ship.)

If you look closely, you can make out the crew lined up on the foc'st'le.
ST. JOHN'S proceeded up the harbour and alongside her jetty in HMC Dockyard, where her crew and their families were reunited. Welcome back, 340!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Lunenburg Waterfront

I had heard that a schooner was being launched this past Sunday, and figuring that they would launch on the high tide, I headed over to see if I could photograph the launch. Unfortunately, I was too late, but there were still some picturesque scenes for me to capture.

David Westergard continues to build schooners in the historic Smith & Rhuland shed on the Lunenburg waterfront.

The launching ways lead into the water from the old Smith & Rhuland shed.

A more modern version of the traditional fishing dory.

The schooner whose launch I missed on Sunday, already tied up at a nearby wharf.

Further along the waterfront, other boats prepare to take to the water. Wooden boats often need to allow their planking to swell up at the beginning of a season, and to prevent them from sinking, they often need to sit on the shore while this occurs. This may be what was happening here. 

Not all the boats in Lunenburg were sitting alongside or on the shore - the tour boat in the background was taking passengers around the harbour.

It started out overcast, but the sky cleared and provided some beautiful light on the waterfront.