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Page 32 - Icebreakers around Cape Breton

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1987/6/1 (257 reads)

that want to get somewhere, and you just can't leave. You've just got to finish the one you're on. I'm sure people aren't aware, actually, of the work that we do. And the conditions that we have to work under. Ships that are very unsuitable to be in the Gulf. Capt. Gomes: I don't think (ships) would deliberately get themselves in trouble. But it's just like: they don't understand ice. Ice is a very unpredictable thing. It's there, that ice there--it's got no brain. This thing moves with the wind, and it moves in a current. If you've got the wind from the west, you know very well that the ice is going to drift to the east? ward. But you may have current coming from the opposite direction and shift it fur? ther south. So you've got to have some kind of an ice sense. You know the Cabot Strait. If you get nor'east winds, Sydney has a bad time--Syd? ney harbour is always plugged up. You get a westerly wind--it's opened up. But some? body else suffers. The guys that come from Europe, they run smack into it, right dead on it. Get off Port-aux-Basques. Or going towards Anticosti Island going upriv- er. Another bad spot up there. West coast of Newfoundland, they're going through the Strait of Belle Isle. That's blocked; might know it's blocked solid. Now if a ship unsuspectingly decided to go down there--which he shouldn't go anyhow, be? cause we send reports out on where the heavy ice is located--but, "Oh, ice is ice," and they just go plowing. So we have to sort of police the area. And if we see a ship coming into the Gulf of St. Lawrence--you may, see the propeller wash. You can try to advise the captain, "Get that propeller down." When you hit the ice with that propeller, it's either going to bend or break. (How does he get it down?) Just shift ballast. Put ballast in the stern, get the stern right down. Your rudder is not protected too well. You're steaming along, and you have to go astern, and the rudder hits the ice: it's just a shock, and it goes right through the whole system, and may break the mechan? ism above the rudder. (Is there any danger to the icebreaker it? self?) The only danger is an unsuspecting freighter, following what we call a lead. Say you have a mass of ice. And you have a crack down the centre--it's a long lead, it's open water. Freighter may follow it, probably not realizing he's getting to? wards the shore. And he gets so near to the shore, he can't get back out of that. And the ice closes in. Then they send us to go get him. And we're drawing, say, 20 feet of water. The freighter may only be drawing 16. We're in danger of going a- ground ourselves. Personally, I had a rescue--this was some years ago--it's off Cranberry Island in the Canso Strait. We had a dragger up there, got into difficulty. I was on the Sir Wil? liam Alexander'. (The dragger) had lost his power and was drifting towards the shore. By the time we got hold of him, we were on? ly 2 cables, 600 feet, off the shore. We were sitting at anchor, you know. On the Cape Breton side. And they forecast a gale that night. And we got a mayday call. This guy was only 30 miles away from us. We got down to him. He was drifting to? wards the shore, quite fast. The wind at that time was northeast, 35 to 40 knots. And being a dragger, he dropped over his gear, his fishing gear--he had no anchors. I don't know why. He dropped over this fishing gear to slow him down. And it did slow him down. But it also hampered the rescue operation. He's there at sea drift? ing, with this big wire in front of him. And I couldn't get close. This wire kept getting in the way. Every time I came up alongside, this wire would stick up. So I was scared of getting the damn thing caught in my propellers. So we fired a rocket. And the wind was so strong that the rocket, when it got to him, it just went off to one side. I think we shot about 5 or 6 rockets. He finally got hold of 2 of them, but he couldn't haul the line in. We were going to tow him. We figured, "What's going on here? Why couldn't he get the line in?" And the fel? low was a French accent. He said he's only got 3 people aboard. I said, "You've got to be kidding"--the size of that dragger! Apparently he'd gone to Louisbourg--this was just before Christmas--and being a

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