Category Archives: Ships & Boats

Sikuliaq, tugs, shipyard and training

I’ve been home since just before Thanksgiving and enjoyed a nice holiday season with the family and got a lot done around the house too.  

Shortly after Thanksgiving I took a Vessel, Company and Facility Officer Course at PMI in Seattle. 

 Right after that I flew to New York City, rented a car and drove about an hour and half North along the Hudson River to complete my TOAR ( towing officer assessment record) on a very old diesel electric tug named the Cornell.  The program is offered by Diamond Marine Services and helps mariners like me who have a good chunk of their toar complete but are having a hard time getting the time at the wheel to finish the maneuvering portions.  In my particular case, the tugs I work on mostly tow freight barges from Seattle to Alaska.  When we pull into port, the chief mate, second mate and ab’s are all up on the barge to make her fast.  Only the captain remains aboard to maneuver the tug (sometimes the captain and chief mate trade roles).   It could take years before I could knock out all of the assessments, especially since we don’t do many of the maneuvers often or where I could break away from my job to get time to do them.  Diamond’s program lets you complete all the maneuvering with their tug and deck barge.  

As soon as I returned from New York, I turned in another application at the USCG in Seattle .  It took nearly 2.5 months to get my new MMC in the mail as they were so backed up with mariners trying to beat the rule change deadlines at the end of 2016.

I did one quick little overnight tug job from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada and back in January to deliver a barge to a shipyard:

Seattle, the Emerald City (evening):

Vancouver, Canada (very early am):

Mt. Baker along the way:

In early February, I was scheduled to work at Vigor Shipyards (formerly Todd Shipyard) for one month onboard the Thomas G. Thompson. She’s in getting a full makeover and re-power refit, re-pipe, paint, and many other upgrades. Shortly after getting my schedule all figured out, I received a call from the University of Alaska to make a relief trip on the R/V Sikuliaq.  I had to change my shipyard stint from one month to two weeks.  Trust me when I tell you that two weeks was plenty!  The ship is all torn apart and a ton of work to get done.  It was interesting to see the progress being made.  It will also be interesting to see if it will be done on time or not.

Shortly after accepting the relief gig on the Sikuliaq, I got called by my tug company to make a run to Dutch Harbor for roughly 35 days.  It’s their slowest time of the year so when I told them I found some relief work they were totally cool with it because they had several people to try and keep busy.  When I return in April they should picking up steam and probably keep me super busy over the summer.

So shortly I’ll be leaving home to join the Sikuliaq.  She’s got an ice class hull designed for science trips in the Arctic.  I’m meeting her in Hawaii and taking her to Newport, Oregon stopping by Musician Seamounts for some project that I’m not yet sure of.  She’s 261′ long, 55′ wide and was launched in 2014.  Until recently, she had a terrible reputation as having a awful ride.  A problem was discovered with the ships roll tank and once that was corrected the ride has improved dramatically according to those I’ve talked to.  We shall see.  Here are some more pics:

Everyone be well and I’ll try to keep updates rolling……..if the internet works.

Paul Harvey and the story of an old Buckinghamshire Barn – Amazing Nautical History

The great Paul Harvey tells the story of an old barn in Buckinghamshire, England.  This old barn may have an incredible past:

 

To all of the sailors at sea and military personal on duty around the world: Merry Christmas!

 

The Wreck of the Nathan E. Stewart

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I had been home a couple weeks from the San Francisco run and I was at Crawford’s Nautical School taking a course, when the office called with another last minute, hurry up job.  Our job was to tow the D.B. General derrick barge to be used in the salvage of the Nathan E. Stewart.

Early on the morning of October 13, 2016 the Kirby ATB tug and barge ran aground at the entrance to Seaforth Channel approx. 8 miles from the central British Columbia town of Bella Bella.  The site is just as you would enter Seaforth channel from sea coming in from Queen Charolette Sound and Hecate Straight.  With a westerly or southwesterly swell the site is fully exposed to breakers and surge. (sorry for the sideways photos below – I tried everything I could think of to fix it)

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Position in the rocks

An articulated tug and barge (ATB) is a type of tug that fits into the notch at the stern of a barge and locks in with large hydraulic pins.  To learn more about the design, please follow this link: ATB Design by Robert Allen Ltd.

The Stewart was southbound with an empty petroleum barge when she ran hard aground at Edge Reef and Gale Rocks.  The empty barge’s outer hull was breached however when the tug struck the rocks her hull was also breached and she lost one of her shafts and propellers.  It took around four hours for the tug to sink and as she sank, she came out of the notch and disconnected from the barge.  The tug spilled around 66,000 U.S. Gallons of diesel.  The barge was able to be floated off the rocks at high tide and was removed from the wreck site before we arrived.  If you look at the photo of the chart above, you can see a small channel just east of the wreck site called Gale Pass.  Much of the spill washed up on the beaches near the wreck and went into Gale Pass with the tide.

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We arrived with the D.B. General on a Wednesday morning with nearly perfect weather and the General crew went straight to work making last minute preparations to their equipment and flaking out all of the heavy 3″ chain and cable straps they would use to drag and lift he tug.  By the end of Thursday they were ready and we waited for the call to move the General to the wreck site and begin the removal.

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The whole time we waited for the call to move the weather was perfect.  Abalone had been observed on the rocks around were the anchors and chain would lay so it was decided to bring in starfish to try and herd the abalone out of harms way.  After 2 or 3 wasted days, the divers just picked them up and moved them.

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We finally were tasked to move to the site on Monday morning.  The plan was for us to move the General to the site with the assistance of the Seaspan Haisea Guardian tug.  The General has large 20,000 lbs. anchor on each corner of her deck.  We would slowly motor the barge ahead and as we pass over the outer anchor drop points, the barge would drop her anchor and pay out as we continued to the next drop point.  Then the General could pull herself back to the center of the two offshore anchors.  We would set her two inshore anchors for her by nosing up to the anchor as it hung from the corner of the barge, running a large 8 strand line through the anchor shackle and making it off on our bow bitts.  The General’s winch operator would slowly payout until the weight of the anchor was hanging from our bow and we would slowly back away from the barge towing the anchor to the predetermined drop point.  Once we were at the drop point, we would take a couple turns off our bitt and the anchor would fall away.  The barge could then position herself further offshore or winch herself inshore closer to the wreck.  You can see in the photo below how the barge could change positions by adjusting her anchors (again sorry for the sideways picture).

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Additionally, there was a gigantic Stem Shark anchor placed off of the offshore side of the barge approx 500′  and connected to the barge with 3″ chain.  On the inshore side, amidships of the barge, 3″ chain went to the wreck where the divers had cut out the tow pins on the barge and rigged a bridle out of the chain.  There were two massive hydraulic pullers on the deck of the barge.  One would tension up on the offshore stem shark anchor while the other would pull tension on the sunken tug.  The max pulling capacity was 300 tons. See photo of Stem Shark anchor below:

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It took most of the day to move, set the anchors and get the heavy chains connected to the Stem Shark and to the tug.  The next morning when I woke up, the workers were taking all of the connections apart and we were told to prepare to move the General back to the protected Norman Morrison bay due to incoming weather.  It took most of the day to move her back and get her tucked in.  It’s a good thing too because over the next five days of standing by we had some ferocious blows up to 70 knots.

Some underwater shots of the Stewart:

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Finally we moved back to the wreck, except this time there was a lingering swell.  As we approached the anchor drop points, our tug was made up along side of the General and we had the Haisea Guardian on the opposite bow of the barge.  We got the first anchor set and slowly moved to position the second anchor when a large set of swells came through.  We were running two head lines (one was a large 9″- 8 strand line we affectionately called “Big Nasty” due its difficulty handling it), a doubled up spring line 8″ and a 8″ stern line.  When the surge came we parted the 8″ head line, the double spring line and the stern line.  The only line that didn’t part was Big Nasty but that was because the bitt on the barge Big Nasty was made off to ripped off the deck of the barge and sling shotted back into the house on our tug.  Very dangerous!  It is amazing how much stored energy a nylon line can release when it parts and you have got to be aware NOT TO STAND IN THE SNAP BACK ZONES!  On the other side of the barge, the Guardian also parted their spectra head line.

Luckily we got both offshore anchors down and we were able to set the inshore anchors with no further issues.  The chains were connected to the stem shark and to the tug and the pulling began!  As chain tension came up, the Stewart turned easily and started to come toward us fairly well. Later in the afternoon she got hung up and no matter how much tension the crews pulled, she just wasn’t going to budge.  The divers had to spend several hours rigging air bags and pumping air into the tug as best they could to try and lift her bow over the “curb”.  The curb was a rock ledge about 3′ high that stopped the Stewart in her tracks. Photos below: The Stewart had been parallel to the beach but she turned offshore easily and then hug up on the “curb”.

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Since we had parted so many of the lines, I spent most of my watch mending lines, splicing new eyes, or trying to make something usable out of the remnants.  The captain decided that we wouldn’t make up along side next time and that we would use a set of soft bridles instead.  We went down into the fore peak to retrieve the matched set of 140′ long bridles and there was only one!  Somewhere along the line on a previous trip one was damaged or used for something else and not replaced.  I took one new 85′ spring line with an eye at each end and flaked out on the deck in the fore peak. Then I laid one of the longer remnants of parted line exactly on top of it to get the length just right and spliced a new eye so we had two 85′ bridles.

Later in the day as the pulling was progressing, the swells seemed to be picking up.  The command boat suggested to the General to relax pulling and winch themselves further offshore.  They chose to continue pulling as they were making good progress.  Right at dark some massive sets came in and broke just offshore of the General and her western most offshore anchor slipped.  Were rushed in and threw up our new bridles.  As we passed up the first line (the new line) and they got it on the bitt, we took a huge swell and the line came super tight.  We all scattered for shelter but the line held.  We managed to get the second line up and pull away as we dumped wire.  When we got to a position where we could take a strain, the new line was stretched out about 4′ longer than the line I spliced (shit!).  That meant that all of the strain would be on the used line that I had just spliced the eye in.  We pulled on the barge all night to keep her in position and from slipping her anchors and moving any closer to the rocks. The used line with my new splice held together thankfully.

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Photos below: We pulled through the night to keep the General in position.  The photos from the next morning show the swells were way down.

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The next day reset the offshore anchor and the pulling continued.  They managed to get the Stewart pulled off the reef and into deeper water.  Only her top pilot house was showing.  Then we broke off from her and returned to the protected bay for more incoming weather.

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A few more days of waiting around and we returned one last time to prepare the Stewart for lifting.  The divers spent much of the day rigging the chain and cable rigging that would be used to lift her.  The estimated weight full of water was around 460 tons.  The General has a capacity of 700 tons. Rigging the lifting gear:

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The weather slowly started to pick up again and the rains came in.  We were fearful that we would have to stand down again.  Right at the end of the day the big lift came:

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I racked out because I knew we’d be getting a call out to pull anchors and move back to the bay.  I didn’t manage to get any shots of the Stewart being loaded onto the barge (it was dark anyway).  We moved the General back to the bay late that night and in the morning the Stewart was on a different barge anchored not too far away:

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I’m not sure where she was taken from this point.  We had a couple days of buttoning up the General and then we towed her back to Seattle.  Our planned 6 day trip (to drop off the General) ended up being 27 days start to finish.

I’ve never been involved with a salvage of this size.  There was a tremendous amount of effort covering many aspects.  There had been a full depth contour survey done, massive amounts of oil boom put out and constantly mended and monitored, oil skimmer boats, crew boats, standby tugs, barges with tanks for pumped out fluids to be stored, etc.  The Canadian Coast Guard sat on scene the whole time guarding the wreck and also checking in and out the crews and little boats coming and going from the site to ensure they returned to port each time and make sure no one was lost along the way.  There were multiple flyovers each day looking for progress and oil slicks.  There was a boat that collected trash from all  of the other boats during the weeks so that was never an issue.  Overall there was a lot of planning and coordination to make this happen safely.  I was highly impressed overall even if it seemed like we wasted a lot of time in the beginning.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, stays out of the snap back zones and stays safe!

Update 12/3/2016: The Stewart was taken to Vancouver, Canada to be scrapped at the Amix yard.

 

Seattle to SF Bay; Spirit of Sacremento Salvage

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A couple days after arriving home from Alaska, my phone rang and the office called and wanted me on a tug Southbound to SF Bay two days later.  I was home just long enough to mow the grass, clean out the gutters, do a few honey do’s and repack my bag.

Our job consisted of towing the gigantic derrick crane barge, D.B. General, to SF Bay where it would be used to salvage the derelict sternwheeler “Spirit of Sacramento”.   She had seen better days and has quite the storied past including being previously owned and used in a film by John Wayne.  Read more of her history here: Spirit of Sacramento.

So we crewed up at 2300, loaded and stowed all of the stores and supplies for a midnight departure from the yard.  The chief engineer was struggling with one of the Caterpillar engines running for around 20 seconds and then shutting down.  It was determined that a sensor had gone bad and he went about changing it out.  Once the repair was completed the same problem persisted and the port engineer (now onboard) and the chief decided the issue was more complex and in the effort to remain on schedule we would take another tug instead.  We spent the next couple hours shifting all of our personal equipment and clothes, groceries that had already been put into the freezers / reefers and boxes thrown away, ships supplies etc to the new tug.  It was a huge undertaking for a quick departure and everyone was spent.  Then we got underway for the 2 hour run to Seattle to get fuel.  We arrived about the time I should be getting off watch and we fueled for about 4 – 5 hours.  Then we met our barge as it was brought out of the river to us.  We made up and got underway and I managed about a 60 minute nap before my next watch.

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Transferring all of our stuff to the Polar Ranger.

I crashed after watch and skipped dinner to get caught up on some sleep.  On my next Midnight watch from 12-0400 we were just approaching the western end of the Straights of Juan De Fuca and the forecasts offshore really weren’t looking good.  As my watch ended and I racked out, we turned the corner into the Pacific and proceeded to get our asses kicked.  Forget about sleeping as all effort was spent just holding on.  During the next watch at noon I shot al little video.  The seas and winds had come down quite a bit at this point but we were still getting worked.  

After the storm of the first night, the weather was awesome!  We put out the hand lines hoping to catch some fresh albacore on the steam south, but didn’t get a nibble.  

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We had several encounters with massive swarms of porpoises swimming with us and playing in our bow wake.  It is a fairly common thing to see these guys while underway in the ocean.  

It took us three days to get to SF Bay and we pulled in under the Golden Gate in perfect conditions.  It’s always cool passing under the bridge, Alcatraz and the skyline of SF.  We towed the barge up the Sacramento River to Vallejo, which is where Cal Maritime is located.  We dropped our barge off to the contractor so they could complete rigging the crane for the salvage job.  The next morning two Westar tugs came and got the barge and took her upriver to the job site.  We were bummed that we wouldn’t be able to be involved with the operation or even see it.  The contractor said they would be back in three days so we laid at a deep water site across the river from where we delivered the barge.  It was another contractor who offered to let us tie up at their facility as it has sufficient water depth.  They also gave us keys to one of their yard trucks!  That was totally cool of them and allowed us to get out around Vallejo a little bit.  A note about Vallejo…….it’s a pretty run down rough area.  Don’t plan a family vacation there…ever.

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So what’s an AB supposed to do while tied to a dock and the sun is shining?  Break out the painting shit and get to work.  We also serviced all of the on board safety equipment and ran the emergency dewatering pump.  

On our last day of waiting, myself and the second mate, took the truck over to Cal Maritime for a tour.  The mate is a graduate of the Maine Maritime workboat program and I probably looked like his father.  The people at Cal Maritime were very gracious and gave us a full tour even though I made it clear that we weren’t going to be enrolling.  I think the most fun I had was wearing my new “Hawespipin Ain’t Easy” shirt around the campus.  The shirt was a gift from a fellow maritime blogger when I passed by mate exams earlier this summer.  Please go check out his selection of shirts and get one for yourself from Workboatwear.  The campus of Cal Maritime is really nice and the facility is really nice.  It’s too bad the town doesn’t match.  We toured the engineering labs, simulators (weren’t in operation), the classrooms, the training ship “Golden Bear”, the bookstore and had a nice lunch in the cafeteria.  When I was getting out of high school I had no idea an option like this existed.  For a young person wishing to go to sea, I would suggest this type of route.  It will give you a huge head start over hawespiping along with a degree.  

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Three days later our barge returned and the contractor crew spent some time stowing all of their gear and lashing everything for us to tow her back to Seattle.  The trip north was uneventful and the weather was superb.

All in all a great trip with a great crew and it ended up being a total of 14 days.

 

North to Alaska on the tug Polar Endurance


Lots happening here since finishing mate school.  The very day I passed Terestrial Nav at the USCG REC in Seattle, myself and one other crew member drove to Port Ludlow, WA to meet the R/V Clifford A. Barnes.  I relieved the captain for the balance of a five day trip.  The trip was a continuation of the trip when we broke down.

After completing the voyage, there really wasn’t much work on the books until mid September so I started running the local Vessel Assist boat again until I could find something else.  I had sent out my resume to several tug / shipping companies.  Last Thursday in the late afternoon, while I was towing a broken Bayliner back to port, Dunlap Towing of Everett, WA called and asked if I was available.  I let them know that I was enrolled in a Leadership & Mangement Skills course the following week.  The course is being required by the USCG to be completed by the end of this year.  The call from Dunlap was late afternoon on Thursday and on Friday morning I was taking a physical, drug test and work test in downtown Seattle.  Dunlap had tossed around a few different start dates but really hadn’t pinned it down for sure.  After the physical, I drove to their office to fill out some paperwork for them and they pinned down the date for this Friday as soon as I get out of class!

Like I said, things are moving fast.  Here is some information about the tug I’ll be on from tugboat information: Polar Endurance

I’ve really only ever been on one other tug, and that was a tour at Western Towboat in Seattle.  I’ve got a lot of learning to do and I’m really looking forward to it.  We are towing a loaded freight barge from Seattle to several ports in SE Alaska and possibly going to Dutch Harbor before heading home.  The one thing I expect is changes to the schedule and port of calls along the way.  It’s Alaska and the weather gods and customers throw lots of curve balls.

For me, Dunlap is just across the bridge from my home town, maybe a 20 minute drive.  Most of the crew changes happen right there, so it is very easy.  Hopefully they will like me and ask me to go on another trip after this one!  Stay tuned.

Todd

Rounding Cape Horn on the tall ship Peking

Irving Johnson made this video that has been adapted into the film “Around Cape Horn.  In this short clip he really details the vessel and the dangers encountered by the crew as she rounded Cape Horn.  I find this stuff fascinating and thought you may enjoy it.

More Tugs

More tug photos from around the Pacific Northwest.
Crowley Nanuq at the Foss yard:



Western Towboat Alaska Titan:


Crowley assist tugs in San Diego:

Curtain Maritime working in San Diego:


Sause Black Hawk:

Lindsey Foss:


Crowley Ocean Wind:

Westar Bearcat:

Westar Pacific Wind:

Freemont Tug’s working the Foss 300 Steam Powered Crane into the Kvichak Yard while launching a new vessel:


Some Kirby Tugs:

Other tugs I don’t remember snapping:

Western Towboat assisting a USCG Cutter out of Lake Union through the Freemont Cut:

Thank you for stopping by.  More posts coming soon.

T