Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Small Craft Old and New

 Halifax harbour is not only host to a wide array of commercial ships, but it is also home to countless smaller craft. These boats include pleasure craft, based at one of the five yacht clubs scattered around Bedford Basin, Eastern Passage and the Northwest Arm, or the at countless private moorings. There are several dozen fishing boats in Eastern Passage and other inlets and coves all the way out past the harbour limits as far as Sambro.

At Sambro the CME shipyard specializes in repairing smaller vessels up to and including Halifax Harobur ferries and small Navy and Coast Guard boats.

At any time one may see government small craft from the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Royal Canadian Navy, training, exercising, researching or going about who knows what business in the harbour.

Then there are the commercial small craft, classed generally as work boats, but sometimes with specific duties such as line handling at Autoport or Irving Oil's Woodside Terminal. They may also be tending diving operations or carrying out small towing jobs. 

I generally cover workboats in the companion blog Tugfax but a couple of recent arrivals and some seldom seen boats have attracted my attention recently and deserve wider notice.


On July 11 of this year the heavy lift ship BBC Virginia arrived in Halifax with a pair of British built pilot boats named St. Brides and St. Govans. Built in 2016 by Mainstay Marine in Pembroke, Wales to a CAMARC design, the 19m boats operated for a time at Milford Haven, Wales. It has been reported that they were unsuitable for the severe sea conditions there and were laid up for sale - at a good price with low usage hours.

After unloading at Pier 9C the boats whistled off to the Canadian Maritime Engineering (CME) shipyard in Sambro where they are nearing completion of a "Canadianization" process. (That generally means suitable fittings for operation in winter, such as heated hand rails, decks and windows.) Yesterday (November 20) I noted an AIS signal from one of the boats, so I went to investigate.

Both boats are still on the cradles at CME, but have now been painted in the usual yellow colour for Atlantic Pilotage Authority boats and have been renamed and registered in Canada effective October 20, 2023.

Signal Pilot has been assigned Official Number 847091, registered in St.John's, and is now showing on AIS. The former St.Brides ? will be based in St. John's and is obviously named for Signal Hill, the promontory marking the entrance to St.John's harbour and site of the Cabot Tower. It is now a National Historic Site recognizing the first transatlantic wireless transmission received there (in Morse code) from Guglielmo Marconi in Poldhu, Cornwall in 1901.

Workers board the Signal Pilot at the CME shipyard in Sambro. The rectangular yellow object on the wheelhouse is a weather tight housing in the open position, see also next photo for the closed position.

The second boat, now named Muir Pilot, is to be based in North Sydney and was registered in Halifax, Official Number 847092. also on October 20. The significance of the name is less obvious, but may recognize the late union leader and politician Robert Muir, who represented the North Sydney area of Cape Breton in Parliament and the Senate.I am not aware that he had any connection with marine matters or pilotage, so I await further clarification.


Dominion Diving

Dominion Diving Ltd operates a fleet of workboats and barges for miscellaneous duties in the harbour and along the coast. They operate as diving tenders, work boats, lines boats, tugs and perform pilot transfers when the regular pilot boats are not available. 

Their colourful fleet has its base in Dartmouth Cove, but can be seen at work in many areas around the harbour.

The company's newest fleet member is an aluminium hulled vessel propelled by a pair of powerful diesel outboards, giving a top speed of 18 knots. Acquired from St-Pierre et Miquelon, the boat carried the name K-Bio and the Official Number SP934638L.  

 Even though the boat operated under the French flag, it was built in Glovertown, NL by FabTech Industries to their Silver Dolphin 31 design (10m long x 3m wide). Dominion Diving has its own boatyard for refits and repairs and will be "re-doing" the boat for miscellaneous duties in the harbour, particularly pilot transfers, where its speed will be welcome, and lines work.

 The new boat will likely reappear in the spring with a new colour, and may replace the venerable Halmar which sees almost daily service somewhere in the harbour. Built in 1960 by Halifax Shipyard apprentices, and based at the old Dartmouth Marine Slips, it was rebuilt by Dominion Diving in 2009.


The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) was formed in 1996 with the amalgamation of all the municipalities surrounding Halifax harbour ( Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County). With a population nearing 500,000, it operates a large transit system, including harbour ferries, a police force and a fire department. Both public safety organizations operate rigid inflatible craft in the harbour and on the many lakes in the municipality. Recently both have upgraded to larger vessels.

Halifax Fire and Emergency Services operates Fire Boat 1, the Kjipuktuk (a version of the Mi'kmaq First Nations name for Halifax harbour, often anglicized as Chebucto). It was built by Metalcraft Marine Inc in Kingston, ON in 2021.

 It patrols the harbour regularly, where combustible timber pile structures are close to residential properties.
Policing in the HRM may be carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the HRM force, depending on the area, and both have boats in Halifax harbour as needed. The HRM force appears to have taken delivery of a new boat in recent weeks, having sold their previous boat last year. The so far unnamed new craft was built by the local builder Rosborough Boats. It showed up at Pier 25 last week, perhaps to be hauled out for the winter, although boats of this class can be spec'd for year round service.

Rosborough Boats are popular with several government departments and private concerns. I spotted another unnamed boat doing soundings off the Mill Cove jetty in Bedford Basin. It is also a rigid hull vessel with a buoyancy collar, this one a type RF-246.

As a 4.99 gt small craft it is registerd by number and has no official name, but is known as Sea Quest and is owned by CSR Geo Surveys Ltd of Porter's Lake, NS (a semi-rural community within the HRM).

To conclude this post, I spotted RMI Marine's Tidal Runner on November 15. It was moving a barge from Mill Cove, Bedford Basin to RMI's base in Eastern Passage.

 Built by Eastern Equipment Canada Ltd in LaSalle, QC, it is an aluminium hulled boat with a bow door. Eastern Equipment built boats for the Canadian government in the 1970s. This one also has no official name, but its numerical registration is from New Brunswick, where I assume it once worked for the Canadian Coast Guard. It is listed as inboard/outboard powered, but is now driven by outboards.

There are several other boat operators in Halifax, including Eagle Beach Contractors Ltd, which will be covered in a later post, but for now see my Tugfax post of August 23, 2023.


No comments:

Post a Comment