Thursday, April 26, 2018

Glen tugs going about their business

Although we see Glen tugs going about their business in Halifax Harbour they do go farther afield from time to time.

On Tuesday morning (April 24) Glenevis (YTB 642) was at work with the flat top scow YC600 moving from HMC Dockyard to Shearwater.

The deck load on the barge appeared to be trot buoy anchors. The old trot buoys used to be positioned off the dockyard on the Dartmouth side of the main channel to the Narrows. They have not been used for some years and were lifted this spring and their anchors retrieved by Dominion Diving using the Waterworks Construction crane barge.

RCN ships HMCS Iroquois, Huron and Skeena secured to the trot buoys for fleet review 1980.

The trot buoys were not navigational buoys, but were Admiralty pattern mooring buoys, large steel cylinders, about 15 feet long and 8 feet in diameter used by naval vessels as an alternative to the civilian anchorages which were generally reserved for merchant shipping. Especially agile crew members, called "buoy jumpers" took bow and stern lines to the buoys by boat, then and clambered up onto the buoys to make the lines fast or let them go. The buoys had the advantage of keeping the ships in the same position no matter the direction of wind or tide, unlike a single point anchor..

On April Wednesday April 18 the Glenside (YTB 644) left Halifax towing HMCS Goose Bay. I was not aware of the destination at the time, but by tracking on AIS (and referring to the St.John's Shipping blog) I have learned that the destination was St.John's NL. The tow arrived there safely April 23 and Summerside was delivered to Newdock for a refit.


The tug sailed from St.John's on April 25 and stopped over in Marystown until sailing last night giving Halifax as its destination.

Glen tugs regularly make short coastal voyages to Shelburne and Pictou towing small naval craft to refits, or to go on refit themselves, but St.John's is about as far away as they range.

The current class of five Glens (three in Halifax, two in Esquimalt) are the second generation of Glens, the first having served the RCN for better than thirty-five years, but went on to successful commercial careers for many years after.

 A pair of first generation Glen tugs at HMC Dockyard shortly while still in naval auxiliary service. Note the elaborate pudding fenders. These masterpieces of ropework were once common on tugs and sailors made them up out of old rope. Even after old tires became the standard for fendering, the Dockyard's rope shop "embroidered" the tires to give them the desired characteristics. These included reduced scuff marks (black smears on navy grey hulls were not desired!) and better friction on contact - not to mention appearance..

 The first Glenevis (CN 890, W.65, YTB 502) was built by Russel Brothers in Owen Sound, ON in 1944 and served the RCN until 1979. McKeil Workboats of Hamilton, ON purchased the tug, and replaced its 400 bhp engine with 900 bhp, converting is from single to twin screw.

McKeil did not rename the tugs, and its RCN replacements used the same name, thus creating the unusual situation of two vessels of the same name operating in Halifax at the same time. Since naval vessels are not registered the way private vessels are, there is no requirement for their names to be unique. Private vessels may not have the same name as a vessel already on the register, so this does not apply to naval vessel names.

On January 1, 1991 Glenevis sank at its berth in Pugwash, NS, but was raised on January 9. A major rebuild included a new raised wheelhouse with captain's cabin. The tug lasted in McKeil service until June, 2007 when it was sold to Caribbean owners and sailed through the Erie Canals to Long Island Sound. Its movements thereafter remain a mystery.

Glenside (i), (CN.88, W.93, YTB 500) also built by Russel in 1944, was also acquired by McKeil in 1979. It was assigned to their Remorqueurs et Barges de Montréal Inc subsidiary and received a similar rebuild in the same year, and  converted to twin screw, with new engines totaling 1450 bhp.

In 1998 it was also sold to Bahamas owners and sailed from the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal. It was renamed Tycoon but little is known beyond that except that it likely did barge work for Tycoon Management Ltd, a large local construction aggregates operator.

The third Halifax based Glen is Glenbrook (YTB 643). I have not seen it in action recently, and it may not be crewed at present.

Its predecessor the first Glenbrook (CN.889, W.64, YTB 501), also a 1944 Russel product  and acquired by McKeil in 1979, received a different rebuild in 1980 when it was repowered with engines totalling 1300 bhp.

Its wheelhouse was replaced in 1990 with a larger installation with all round windows. After its sale to Caribbean owners in 1999 its movements are not known to me.

The current Glens have served the RCN for thirty-eight years now, and seem likely to hit the forty mark, since the replacement process is still in its early stages.


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