Saturday, December 9, 2023

Launch Day - AOPV 434 Frédérick Rolette

 Time was when launch day at a shipyard was a festive occasion. Dignitaries gathered on a special elevated stand - sometimes with a band in attendance. The sponsor - also known as the godmother - "christened" the vessel with champagne and a religious blessing. Employees not directly involved with the launch operation gathered, often with their families. The ship itself was usually festooned with bunting and streamers.

The CCGS Ann Harvey was built at Halifax Shipyard and launched stern first on a sloping launch way.

 Workers with heavy mallets knocked out the blocks that kept the ship in place and it began to slide down heavily greased rails, gradually picking up speed until it splashed into the water. (A later version had the ship mounted on a sled.) The crowd cheered as the ship floated free, and was taken in charge by tugs. Most ships were launched stern first, and some were launched sideways (but not inHalifax). When the ship was fully afloat, if its bow turned seaward, that was thought to be a very good omen. (Turning shoreward meant that the ship might someday run aground.)

 The future HMSC Summerside MM 711, the last of twelve Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels built at Halifax Shipyard, was launched stern first and with traditional fanfare September 26, 1998. It was mounted on a sled (yellow crib work) that had to be removed in drydock after the launch.

 Halifax Shipyard launched the Atlantic Eagle August 14, 1999, bow first in order to protect the azimuthing stern drives from impact damage.

These celebrations and traditional launches still do occur at some shipyards, but the practice of launching a ship down sloped launchways is a dangerous one for the workers and could also lead to damage to the ship. Many modern shipyards now "float off" the ship either by filling a drydock or using a launch barge. Halifax Shipyard now uses the latter method. [See also yesterday's post].

In a day long operation today (December 9) the barge Boabarge 37, with the AOPV5, the future HMCS Frédérick Rolette on board, moved from the Shipyard to Bedford Basin where it was gradually submerged until the ship had buoyancy. The attending tugs then eased the ship away from the barge and back to the shipyard, floating on its own for the first time.

Pilots were called for 0700 hrs AST, and the tugs Atlantic Fir, Atlantic Willow, and Atlantic Larch (the latter brought in from Saint John) arrived alongside.

 0807 hrs: In the glare of early morning sun, tugs move the barge off the dock ad turn it toward Bedford Basin. Parts of the ship then became visible in close up.

0819 hrs: the heavy ice knives will protect the ship's rudders and props when backing in ice.

0816 hrs: With the barge's bow heading for Bedford Basin, the ship's icebreaking bow faces seaward for the first time.

The tug Atlantic Fir is at the barge's bow pulling, Atlantic Willow is alongside for additional power and direction control and Atlantic Larch is on the stern for braking and turning.

0826 hrs the tow passes beneath the A.Murray MacKay bridge. Two Connor's Diving workboats have been launched at the Africville boat ramp, and will be working on the float off along with several other small craft.

1026 hrs: in position in Bedford Basin ballasting operations are underway as the barge's tanks are flooded. The Tuft's Cove power plant in the background was running only two turbines today, and burning natural gas.The chimneys were venting mostly water vapour.

1336 hrs: the barge's tanks are flooded progressively from the stern, (ship's bow).


1421 hrs: the ship is nearly afloat, and the barge's (red) hull is completely submerged.

 1446 hrs: viewed from Africville Park the ship is nearly afloat. The tug Atlantic Fir has a line up to the ship's bow ready to pull. The other tugs will stand by on each side to keep the ship in line.(The support cradles remain on the barge's deck, and could damage the ship's hull if not kept clear.)

1546 hrs: well clear of the barge, the ship is now passing the Africville park enroute to the Shipyard.

1602 hrs: the ship is off Pier 9 as the Shipyard's 4pm whistle sounded.


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