Sunday, August 25, 2019

CTMA Vacancier

A weekly passenger service between Montreal and Cap-aux-Meules (Grindstone) in the Magdalen Islands is unique in eastern Canada where most regional ferry services are short distance / short duration. Catering to cruise passengers, it also carries cars (and bicycles), the C.T.M.A. Vacançier has served the route for 17 years and there are plans evolving to replace it.

For technical details see:

I see the ship every week when I am Quebec for the summer, as it passes my place on Thursday mornings on its upbound (westbound) leg. Actually I usually hear the ship before I see it, thanks to its pleasantly thumping Stork-Werkspoor engines. For the past two years the ship's passing time has been variable due to speed restrictions in the Gulf of St.Lawrence. Those limits are in place to protect the endangered northern right whales, and resulted in at least one cancellation of its Gaspé port call.

This week the ship was much later than usual and did not hove into view until nearly 1400 hrs. I was ready with my camera because I had heard it coming and it sounded a bit louder than usual. That was because the ship was sailing extremely close to shore. While there is deep water close to shore it is unusual for large ships to come that close.

As the ship passes, crew members are readying the FRC which is stowed just aft of the ship's bridge. Passengers line the rails.
It turned out that the ship stopped off the wharf at Cap-à-l'Aigle and sent its FRC ashore. This may have been to land a passenger who may have had a schedule to meet or possibly a medical issue.

Standing off the wharf, a sail boat from the local marina passes by. Note the FRC is away from the ship.

The whole operation took only a few minutes and the ship was soon underway again.

Owners C.T.M.A also operate the ferry Madeleine between Souris, PE  and Cap-aux-Meules. Earlier this month they brought in a new RoRo freight only vessel Clipper Ranger. It has been chartered for a year with a purchase option, to replace C.T.M.A. Voyageur. The new ship can carry 53 trucks with 53 foot trailers, and/or cars  versus 22 on the older ship, and entered service Monday August 19.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Albanyborg Update

Albanyborg got underway today at 1500, coinciding with high tide, and headed for Baie-Comeau. As per the previous post the ship was delayed by engine trouble and had to await a technician from Montreal.

Albanyborg underway. That is the Morin Shoal buoy just above the ship's anchor windlass.

According to shipping reports on line the ship experienced three momentary engine failures. However the reports I have seen are in error, reporting that the ship left the berth but returned for repairs. My own eyewitness account is that the ship never let its lines go and never budged from the pier. Line handlers were on the dock and the ship's deck crew were at their stations, but never touched the lines. There was significant smoke with each of the engine restarts, and after more than half an hour the crew members stood down and the line handlers left the dock.

Engine failures have become an all too frequent occurrence of late, with dozens of ships losing power in Canadian waters this year. On August 10 Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin lost power while leaving Quebec City, and returned to the dock, the bulker V. Sanderling lost power off the Ile d'Orléans August 11 and went to anchor, and Qamutik lost power off Betsiamites, QC on August 12 and was drifting for a time. In all cases the crew were able to effect repairs before the ship got into serious trouble.

There does not appear to be a single cause for these incidents, but it is worrisome trend. It is only a matter of time before some ship does become disabled and unable to help itself.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Summer REport- Pointe-au-Pic

The nearest commercial port to my summer roost is Pointe-au-Pic, located about 90 miles northeast if Quebec City, on the north shore of the St.Lawrence River. At one time it was renowned as one of the stops for the "white fleet" of Canada Steamship Lines. These passenger ships conducting sight-seeing trips from Montreal to the Saguenay River, also carried limited freight, and other passengers. They mostly supported the CSL-owned luxurious resort hotel Manoir Richelieu, sited high above the wharf.

Long a summer resort, the area also known as Murray Bay, contains the villages of Pointe-au-Pic, La Malbaie and Cap-à-l'Aigle (now all incorporated in the town of La Malbaie).  The Pointe-au-Pic wharf extends into deep water and is accessible at any state of the 15 foot tides in the area where most small ports dry out at low water.

Under the initiative of the Montreal hydroelectricity investment tycoon Sir Rodolphe Forget, a pulp mill was established in 1910 upstream on the Rivière Malbaie at Clermont, and a railway from Quebec City was started. Forget was also chairman of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co (R&O) and was responsible for building the resort hotel, and developing the cruise business. (Forget was also an elected Tory MP for the area in Sir Robert Borden's government, and was a major figure in the formation of the Dominion Steel Company. There were few conflict of interest rules in those days, but Forget was not admitted to Borden's cabinet due to his many business interests, many of which were in financial trouble.)

Eventually R+O became Canada Steamship Line, the newly formed Canadian National Railway took over the rail line and completed it to Clermont. (Plans to extend it to the Saguenay River and beyond never took place). The pulp mill evolved into a newsprint paper mill under the ownership of Donahue Bros. They exported the paper by rail and by ship from the Pointe-au-Pic pier.

Now, the rail line is a passenger only tourist line, the wharf is independent, and the newsprint mill is owned by Resolute and produces 225,000 tonnes per year. (The New York Times owned 49% of the mill until 2018.) The area is still a popular resort, but there is no longer any regular passenger ship traffic.

The wharf itself, with several expansions, now brings in wood chips and exports paper on a regular basis.

The wood chips arrive on the small Canadian flag bulk carrier Jean-Joseph.

Jean-Joseph unloads directly to trucks using is own mobile deck crane. The ship also transports chips to various other ports, including Port Hawksbury, NS. The ship carries gravel and other bulk cargoes when not doing chip work.

On dedicated service to Pointe-au-Pic and Baie-Comeau, Wagenborg's RoRo Oranjeborg is a frequent caller at Pointe-au-Pic loading paper for Europe.

Oranjeborg makes its careful approach to the pier (without tug assistance) in 2017. The buoy marks a notorious sand bar.

Oranjeborg loads newsprint rolls directly from the warehouse through side mounted elevator hatches, which work as weather protection awnings.

Several other Wagenborg ships also call at Pointe-au-Pic.

Albanyborg approaching Pointe-au-Pic streaming through the fog. It is a conventional open hatch tween decker and loads its box shaped holds through full width hatches, which offer no weather protection during loading.

Forklifts place newsprint rolls are placed in steel cribs (yellow frame between ship and signal tower) and craned onto the ship.

After a few days of delay due to rain, the ship completed loading August 12, but a rudder problem resulted in a cancelled sailing. A technician had to be called in from Montreal.No  ETD has been posted.