Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Recent Harbour Shipping

I will dispense with much commentary, and merely show some shipping photos from the last week or so.

Yang Ming Essence.

Yang Ming Essence.

Yang Ming Essence.

Yang Ming Essence.

Sarah Desgagnes.


Serenade of the Seas.

Serenade of the Seas.


Crown Princess.

Guangzhou Highway.

Nova Pilot.

Serenade of the Seas.

Hapag-Lloyd's Palena.

Hapag-Lloyd's Palena.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Sailing in Hebridee II

When done well, museums bring history to life for visitors. Working museums, such as the various working farm museums, sawmills, and blacksmith shops around the province, add live action and interactive elements, where action replace the words on an information plaque. My interests in boats and boat building aside, the opportunity to not only see a traditional Nova Scotian boat being built (or in this case rebuilt), but to actually see the end product sailing around the harbour - and if you're really lucky, to be able to join the boat for a sail - is a real privilege.

Hebridee II heading out into Halifax Harbour under sail.
I'm been following the progress of reconstructing the schooner Hebridee II at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the Halifax waterfront for some time, and she has been the subject of this blog before:

Reconstruction of schooner Hebridee II

In addition, all of these photos, and more, can be found in my Hebridee II gallery on Smugmug.

After the rechristening and relaunching, I was told by builder Eamonn Doorly that I should invite myself out for a sail at some point. It took me a while to find the time, but with the hurricane and boat hauling seasons upon us, I decided to take him up on the offer. I was instructed to meet up on the waterfront next to her berth at noon on Friday. We left the wharf in calm conditions under the power of Hebridee's electric motor, and went looking for some wind, which we found beyond George's Island. 

It was a four cruise ship day in Halifax. 
After raising the sails, the electric motor was shut down, and off we sailed. The wind started out light, but gained strength throughout the afternoon, and of course gave us some of our most exciting moments just before we were due to lower the sails. 

Soon after we put up the sails, we crossed wakes with the auto carrier Guangzhou Highway - and what a wake it was!

Approaching Guangzhou Highway.
The auto carrier had just pulled out of the Autoport in Eastern Passage, and was making a hard turn to port in order to round McNab's Island and head out to sea again. 

A rare view of an auto carrier (for me, anyway) taken low to the water and with nothing but the ocean's horizon beyond.

Guangzhou Highway's hard turn to port left significant turbulence in her wake.

Hebridee II crossing the boundary of Guangzhou Highway's wake and the tail eddies left by her propeller wash.
At this point, we temporarily lost steerage in all the turbulence, and marveled at the effects of the prop wash on the surface of the harbour. Small whirlpools passed along our port site.

A small whirlpool from the ship's prop wash.
Eamonn made his crew work for our passage, and our participation made the sail that much more enjoyable. Under his watchful eye, we took turns on the helm, raising and lowering sails, and trimming sheets. I managed two turns on the helm myself, and probably had a stupid grin on my face the entire time.

Looking up a schooner's vast mainsail - the boom often overhangs the transom, and requires running backstays to keep the rig from falling forward when going downwind. Unlike the single backstay that I am used to on my boat, running backstays need to be reset after each tack or gybe. The "BJ" at the top of the sail stands for "Bluenose Junior", the name bestowed to Hebridee's class by her designer, William J. Roué. Sailboats usually carry letters or a symbol indicating their class on the mainsail.
Schooners are known for being reluctant to tack (some more than others), and Hebridee is no exception (though this may have been exacerbated by her inexperienced crew). I am used to a smaller sloop rigged boat that is fitted with a tiller and a fin keel, and she turns on the proverbial dime. Hebridee, on the other hand, has a full keel and her rudder is turned with a wheel - the former kills more momentum when she turns, and the latter takes longer to shift the rudder hard over. One trick is to allow the jib to backwind during every tack before hauling in the jib sheet on the new tack, to allow the wind to bring the boat onto the new course quicker - but we were not always effective in doing so, and sometimes Hebridee's bow would take a while to fall off onto her new course. The light winds probably didn't help in this respect.

Eamonn Doorly adjusts the foresail sheet. Sheets are the ropes that pull sails in and out, and they often (as seen here) use blocks to gain a mechanical advantage to make it easier to pull the sail in against the force of the wind. In Hebridee's case, the blocks are from the original schooner and were refurbished for use on the new.
Speaking of the helm, the helmsman (or helmswoman) sits on a seat on top of the worm gear that the wheel is attached to. The wheel itself turns in the opposite direction of where you want the boat to go, which takes some getting used to for anyone who is used to driving a car or, for that matter, boats where the wheel operates normally. I eventually got used to it to a certain extent, but continued to second guess myself everytime I turned the wheel, and made a few mistakes. I did not offer to bring Hebridee alongside the floats at the end of the sail.

The view from the helm, with two of my fellow crew, Aaron and Ray.
When not under sail, Hebridee is powered by an electric motor and a battery. This makes her very quiet under power, and simplifies a number of aspects in her operation and design. No longer does she carry flammable diesel fuel, and the blower normally required to remove explosive fumes from the bilge of vessels powered by internal combustion engines isn't present. The "throttle" for the motor is a simple dial located by the helmsman's right ankle, and one turns it forward to go forward, back to go aft, and it is merely turned to the neutral position when under sail. Power is instantly available when needed by turning the dial in the desired direction. The endurance of Hebridee's batteries isn't known at this point, but Eamonn says he has run the engine for 5 hours and only run down the battery by 10% (although he suspects when the batteries do drop off, they will do it quickly).

Mainsail and boom.
On our way back downwind, we managed to get the fore and main sails "wing on wing" - the foresail was on the port side, and the main was on the starboard. I didn't even know this had a name until that moment.

Sailing "wing on wing". 

A good view of the cockpit from dead aft, with the helmsman at the bottom of the image. We were still "wing on wing" at this point.
I spent some of my time lying flat on my back up at the bow, under the jib, to get some shots of the rig set against the sky. I find this often makes for good photo composition, and I love the curve of the while sails set against the blue sky.

Halifax, and George's Island, make an appearance in the bottom of this image taken as we headed out the harbour. One of the halyards is tied off on the port shroud.

The sails on my boat feed into a track in the aluminum mast. On Hebridee, a rope spirals up the foremast to attach the luff of the sail to the mast. 

The curve of the jib mirrors that of the foresail.

As with the leech of the sail to the mast, the foot of the foresail is attached to the boom with a spiraled rope. The leech and foot of the mainsail, on the other hand, are attached to clips that run in tracks in the mast and boom respectively.

Another shot showing the different attachment methods used for the different sails.

Hebridee II's restoration isn't quite finished, and Eamonn expects to work on her this winter. The turnbuckles that connect the shrouds to the chain plates, for instance, are from the original schooner and grey paint is covering up their true age. She also requires some modern electronics to allow her to sail farther afield than just afternoon sails in Halifax Harbour, and Eamonn hopes to sail her down the South Shore for Chester Race Week and schooner races in 2018.

Hebridee employs polypropylene rope that has been treated to look like traditional hemp rope.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable sail. As Friday afternoons go, I've had much worse.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Naval and Cruise Ships

Cruise ships are regular visitors to Halifax during the summer months, but things ramp up in September and October, sometimes with three or more in port at a time - sometimes they can be seen arriving in a line in the harbour approaches. Friday only saw two arrivals, but at least they did line up for a photo.

Zuiderdam and Serenade of the Seas.
Serenade of the Seas.
The Grey Funnel Line was also active this week. HMCS ST. JOHN'S was busy getting ready for a training cruise, which may be combined with a relief mission to hurricane stricken locations down south, Hurricane Irma having just devastated several islands and now heading for Florida.




On Friday, HMCS MONTREAL arrived back in Halifax from a training cruise.


On the port side of her funnel, in a location where RHIBs are normally carried, there were two Meggitt Hammerhead target drones stacked.

The Meggitt Hammerhead drone can be see to the left beside the funnel, and there seems to be another under it.
Hammerheads are remote control drones that are used for training and target practice. They are built locally by A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. for Meggitt Training Systems.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

HMCS WINDSOR returns to the water

On my commute this morning on the ferry, I noticed that HMCS WINDSOR has been rolled out of the submarine maintenance facility building after a refit, and was sitting on the Syncrolift platform. 

WINDSOR sitting on the Syncrolift platform.

WINDSOR sitting on the Syncrolift platform.

WINDSOR sitting on the Syncrolift platform.

On my afternoon commute, the Syncrolift platform and WINDSOR had been lowered into the water.

WINDSOR lowered into the water.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Overnighting in Fortress Louisbourg

I'm still editing away at the Tall Ships 2017 images, so I thought I would post this first.

I recently had the opportunity to spend the night within the walls of Fortress Louisbourg, an option that Parks Canada only began offering within the last few years. We chose to stay in Lartigue House, but there were also four tents available within the courtyard of the King's Bastion. 

Lartigue House at dusk. These tents were left over from a previous function, and we didn't sleep in them.
Fortress Louisbourg typically closes at 5 PM daily, and staff usually leave by 5:30, so I personally have never had an opportunity to photograph the fort outside of normal hours. By spending the night, I was able to experience sunset, nighttime, and sunrise - and got to photograph all three.

Sunset viewed from the wall of the King's Bastion. The four tents available to campers can be seen in the background.
Most of the fortress's buildings are locked up after hours, but otherwise we had the run of the fortress, and I went where I pleased. The only real warning we received from staff was to not climb the walls outside of the normal walking paths, because of the 30 foot drop beyond. 

Sunset behind one of the cannon.
At this point mosquitoes made their presence known, and I had to edit quite a few black spots from these images, which I assume were insects because they thankfully don't appear in any of my images the following morning. 

Sunset behind the cannon of the King's Bastion. The nearer cannon was "fired" during demonstrations during the day.
Even once the sun had set, there were opportunities to photograph the fortress at dusk.

Wide-angle image of the fortress at dusk, with the seawall at left, Lartigue House in the centre, and the walls of the King's Bastion to the right.
After getting my fill of shooting at dusk, I retreated inside to avoid the mosquitoes for a while, and had dinner. The interior of Lartigue House is fairly spartan, from modern standards: we had two double beds upon which to sleep, some chairs, a washroom (without a shower, though we were told one will be added for next year), and a small kitchenette with a sink, small fridge, and microwave. The house had the added benefit of not being located right next to the clock tower, which sounded a bell every 15 minutes - we could hear it, but it didn't wake us up during the night. We were also provided with a Coleman stove for use outside if we wanted to do some cooking, and wood could be purchased for the fireplace outside.

Panorama of the interior, from the central room. The bathroom is to the far left, kitchen to the right (door hidden), and the sitting room in the centre. The two bedrooms are to the left and right of the sitting room. The upstairs of the house is used for storage, and is not accessible to visitors. 
Later that evening, I went back out with my camera for some more shooting. The mosquitoes had mercifully decided to pack it in for the night, and I wasn't bothered by them again.

The yard of Lartigue House. I lit the two tents with a single LED flashlight each, though I may have also painted the tent to the right with a third flashlight. The fortress was partially lit that night by the waxing gibbous moon visible in this shot.

The four tents in the courtyard of the King's Bastion. Only three were occupied that night - one party didn't show up - and the family in the tent to the left went to bed early. The brightly lit room to the left is the washroom available to campers.
Tent campers were provided with a tent for up to four people, a fireplace, and a Coleman stove among other things. All guests, in either tents or the house, needed to bring their own sleeping bags.

Another view of the King's Bastion building and courtyard. The yellow glow in the background is from the modern town of Louisbourg. I was lucky to have the Big Dipper well placed above and to the left of the clock tower. The waxing gibbous moon was not very bright, and this image took 30 seconds at ISO 640 and f/2.8 with my Zeiss Touit 12mm (18mm on an APS-C sensor) lens. I was fortunate the the moon wasn't bright enough to wash out the stars.

The moonlight was just enough for this image taken through the tunnel running through the King's Bastion building under the clock tower. Two cannon can be seen on the wall in the background.

This image is looking in the opposite direction, towards the town, and I used a flashlight to paint the clock tower. 

I took this while on my way back to the Lartigue House for the night. This shot looks down one of the streets to the main gate in the sea wall, and the Big Dipper makes a partial appearance in the top left.
Walking the empty streets of Louisbourg at night is an experience I won't soon forget.

I'm not a big fan of getting up early in the morning, but I felt compelled to try my luck the next day with the sunrise - and it was well worth it! After spending a few minutes scouting locations, I finally realized that one of the apps on my phone would provide me with the precise location of the rising sun, and I discovered that one of the streets in the town was perfectly aligned with the spot on the horizon where the sun made its appearance.

The sun rises between the buildings to the left of the image. I may have <cough> deleted <cough> an offending Parks Canada vehicle that appeared at the end of the street.

I really couldn't believe my luck with how well the sunrise lined up with this street.

It took almost every millimeter of my 12mm lens to fit in the entire King's Bastion building and still have room for the cannon and the rising sun. 

The rising sun captured from inside the tunnel through the King's Bastion building.

Once again, I needed my 12mm wide angle lens to capture the light of the rising sun washing over the King's Bastion building - and I ended up capturing my own shadow to boot. Oops. 

Another angle on the King's Bastion building. I had to erase one of the camper's vehicles from the left of the image.

Most of the yards within the town are fenced, and a number have farm animals in them.
I have not yet gone through my daylight images of the fortress, and I imagine they will result in a separate blog post once I have some time to edit them.