First day of the 2012 navigational season

Welland Canal

It was a bright sunny day, unseasonably warm in Port Weller today. Port Weller is ten minutes outside downtown St Catherines, in southern Ontario. It is home to Lock One of the Welland Canal, part of the St Lawrence Seaway System, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean using the various lakes and the St Lawrence River.

Today marked the official opening of the 2012 navigational season on the seaway. Typically the seaway closed down from late December to late March, as the cold and icy condition make lock operations impossible. You would not be able to tell with the current weather here, hovering near 23 degree Celsius, but usually, even at this time of year, the locks are still struggling to work properly through the ice. But no such misery today, as the locals celebrated the return of the “lakers”, well at least celebrate waiting in their cars for the lift bridges to come back down; maybe celebrate is a strong word.

Algoma’s MV John Baird

We are still in the dry-dock near Lock One, where we got to see a half dozen vessels sailing up and down the system starting in the late morning. Our barge will come out of the shallow dock tomorrow morning, where the MV John Baird will takes its place. It is in for steel repairs after those strong winds a couple of weeks ago, broke her wintering moorings and she played bumper boat with other vessels in Port Colburn, on the shore of Lake Erie, at the other end of the Welland Canal. Our tug will come out once our dock-mate, the cement carrier, English River, has its mechanical work completed later next week.

Although a sunny day today, it was a sad day for us at the yard. One of our peers, an engineer from Newfoundland on board the English River, was severely injured today, in a workplace accident. It would appear he fell from the fidley deck, down to the engine room deck, about 30-40 feet below. He had to be airlifted to nearby Hamilton. Once again a timely reminder that our job is fraught with danger at every turn – do take care of yourself. I understand his life is in grave danger, and wish him, and his family the best for some positive turns in his conditions.

On the bright side, the fire department was somewhat familiar with the shipyard and ship structures from rescue exercise I  blogged about last week, so hopefully it was beneficial.

Another day working on ships…

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