CCGS Labrador in the graving dock at Halifax Shipyard
Built for the Royal Canadian Navy but unceremoniously transferred to the Minister of Transport in 1958, Labrador was the first naval ship to complete a Northwest Passage and the first naval ship to circumnavigate North America: Halifax to Halifax July 23 to November 21, 1955. Built by Marine Industries Ltd in Sorel, QC in 1953 and based on the USCG Wind class, it acquitted itself well in CCG service, and probably broke a lot more ice than it ever would have for the RCN.
Nearing the end of its working life in 1984, it was finally laid up in 1987 and renamed 1210 in February 1988. In September of that year it was towed out of Halifax by the Polish operated tug Rembertiturm. Upon reaching Balboa, 1201 was left while the tug returned to Mobile, AB for USCG Westwind and on return to Panama took the ships in tandem tow for Taiwan. The tug was sold en route, renamed Ocean Range and handed over the tow to Pacific Rescuer. The trio arrived in Kaohsiung June 24, 1989.
John A. Macdonald
She was not so fortunate in 1984 when she broke a prop blade while breaking out the Irving Oil tanker Arctic in the high north. On November 7, 1984 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent was sent to assist in getting the John A. back to base by about December 1. John A. went into the Novadock floating drydock at Halifax Shipyard December 3 and completed repairs and the fitting of a new prop December 19.
The ship received a life extension refit in 1987, and despite more distinguished service the ship made its paying off trip in Halifax harbour December 2, 1991. It was renamed 1201 in 1992 and left Halifax November 22, 1993 in tow of the Dutch tug Elizabeth for India.
The day before its paying off trip John A. Macdonald looked amazingly good.
Many plaques and other mementos of its activities lined the bulkhead. The Manhattan trip held pride of place (despite the misspelling of the ship's name!). The 1987 refit, only four years before was not enough to save it from the ax.
Almost finished with engines.
Louis S. St-Laurent
Louis S. St-Laurent is still with us and will be be for many more years. As stated above, it was thirty years ago that the Louis was called out to fetch John A. Macdonald, but it was during the famous Manhattan voyage that it cut a wide swath around the stalled convoy and impressed even the most jaded arctic hands.
However it was on one of those passes that it acquired the famous "Manhattan crease" which still appears on its hull, starboard side aft, at main deck level.
After refits, repowering and an entirely new bow, the Louis looks quite different today, and of course it is no longer based in Halifax.
For Part 3 we will look back at some of the "lesser lights" of the CCG fleet in 1984.