Icy warm welcome

I do apologize for the lack of recent post. Several factors have conspire to keep me away from the hobby I love doing, about the job and the industry we all share some fondness for. As I grow older I find myself being responsible. What happened! One minute I was in the pub “having a pint with the mates” not a care in the world, the next I have three kids, a full time job, and a heck of allot of responsibilities. I cant promise you anything for the future in terms of posts, but right now I just happen to get lucky and get an internet connection, so for the time being I want to share my new discoveries.

Ile aux Coudres
is situated about one hour drive down the St Lawrence River from Quebec City in Eastern Canada. That’s where I am right now, carrying out a refit of the 4000 hp tug William J Moore. Its a small island in the river, inhabited by about 1300 folks year round. The region is rich in artistic flair. Just across from us is Baie St Paul, home to the famous Cirque du Soleil troupe. Although not as visually dainty, Ile aux Coudres boast quite a fancy little shipyard called Industry Ocean, part of the Groupe Ocean. Group Ocean is a tug outfit (primarily) that has been aggressively expanding ever since coming on the scene in Quebec about 15 years ago, although its history begins in the early 70’s.

The shipyard and its people so far have been very professional and efficient. The yard is a busy place, with two boats on the ways and more importantly, its expansive workshops housing the beginnings of two new Robert Allan designed harbour tugs. The hull are well under way and the yard is a busy, happy place from what I can see.

Maybe they are just happy to be working inside a covered shop, after all it is the east coast and minus 15degrees Celsius is considered balmy around here. Yes, don’t even talk to me about the common sense of making dry dock in this weather, but you know, that is what we do as engineers, we get things done no matter what. The cold temperature, snow and ice are quite a new challenge for me, I though just being in the shipyard was normally chaos, now try doing it with roller skates on and no fingers. One begins to understand the challenges a bit better.

The people at the yard, the largest employer on the island, and certainly a large part of the local economy, are quite friendly just like the rest of this small community. Maybe a little crazy but certainly friendly. I say crazy with some serious respect, as the first weekend here, we were treated to a festive mood of racing. Not your typical race though, just like Quebecers are not typical people, this race is steeped in tradition which some might say share the universal essence of seafaring.

The race is from the island to the mainland and back again, in a canoe. Sure, seems easy enough, but across a large ice filled river moving at 7 knot current. This tradition dates back to the earliest of days for the region, where the strongest of men were relied on to supply the island(s) with necessary medicine and supplies. I tell you I have never seen anything like this. A few days earlier, I was questioning the logic and prudence of venturing out in a 4000 hp, 150 foot steel tug; seeing these guys, and girls, venture out in the same, leads me to conclude that I am a wuss.

This particular race was part of a larger event occurring in several other communities throughout the area, culminating in a final race in Quebec City. Just like all races, teams are sponsored by various companies. I was particular pleased to see the various big maritime players in the area sponsoring racing teams. Quebec City based Group Desgagnes was a big sponsor of the event, and had a team in the race as well. Although it seemed they were facing some serious navigational challenges at the beginning, they placed eight, after starting 13th, and spending 2 hours 20 minutes on the river. Group Ocean (Port of Quebec), Ultramar, Veolia were also sponsoring teams. The Quebec Ferry System was also an event sponsor.

Although I was numb from the blustery winds, I appreciated some of these maritime names being involve in such a tradition. Good on them, but mostly my hat goes off to those five guys or gals, willing to set their 250 lbs canoes into icy cold, fast moving water, infested with ice floes.

So, this weekend, the locals take a break, and next weekend is a dog race – in the snow, of course. This is what they do on their time off from work – imagine the enthusiasm on the job. I am quickly understanding the mentality of the people who designed those dangerously fun contraptions known as ski doos and sea doos, also a Quebec export.

The picture right above is from the race website, the other is of the “canotier” waiting in line to enter the water. At the top is the William J Moore at the Groupe Ocean Shipyard in Ile aux Coudres.

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