Thursday, May 22, 2014

Westport Ferry - harbour stalwart

One of the stalwarts of Halifax  harbour, though perhaps little known, is the tug/workboat Westport Ferry . When  I photographed it last Monday, making its way through the Narrows, I was struck by how it has continued to serve its current owners for 35 years, but even when they acquired it, it had seen many years of service.

It owes its unusual name to the first owner who had it built by St.Marys Bay Industries Ltd in 1965 to operate as a ferry across the Grand Passage between Freeport, Long Island and Westport, Brier Island. Carrying passengers and light freight, it was replaced by a purpose built cable car ferry.

It had four owners during that period: Walter E. Titus 1965-69, Loran F. Swift 1969-75, and Donald B. Kenney Jr 1975-1977, all of Westport, NS. Documentation may have lagged somewhat, for it was not until 1977 that the owner was listed as Neil J.Connors of Halifax. 

I first saw it in 1976, tied up at the Cable Wharf in Halifax. The corner of the wharf had been used by Smith's bum boat Nan and Greg and Walter Partridge's Atlantic Salvage. The boat still had its passenger cabin, and stout stem post, and must have looked much the same as it did when built.
Atlantic Salvage's war-built draggers Calm and Drift, which were to be converted to salvage ships, (but were never completed) and the Cable Wharf  form the backdrop.

Acquired by Dominion Diving Ltd during 1978, the boat has served them ever since, undergoing several modifications over the years.  One noteworthy feature is its mast, which supports a cargo boom, but also doubles as an exhaust stack.Its passenger cabin was cut back to a smaller wheelhouse.

Seen in action in 1987 and 1993 Westport Ferry has a business-like look about it.

It still retains its original, but modified, deck house, and has acquired a raised deck over its forward cabin. Additional windows in the deck house improve visibility, but the heavily stayed mast/derrick/ funnel remains its distinguishing feature.Its hull has been sheathed and the multiple tires replaced by tubular fendering, and appears ready to continue service well into or past its 50th anniversary next year.


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