Tug Boat Seymour Narrows – Acrylics on Canvas
|30 × 40 in
Only 5% of BCs land mass is arable land, meaning you can grow crops on. The other 95% is rocks, lakes, rivers, forests and glaciers. Also north of Campbell River on Vancouver there is very little human settlement on the coast. Coast Mountains plunge diagonally into the ocean making road building impossible. Shipping is the only way to move goods and services. Tug Boats are crucial with powerful diesel engines they pull push loads of logs, chips, barges moving heavy machinary needed in mining and forestry operations.
During the Great Depression crews worked everyday 12 hours shifts with only Christmas as a day off. With 25% unemployment men were waiting at the docks to take your job. Crews in todays world are pampered. When I was driving taxi in Vancouver paying for my art school and University education we would drive out to remote areas on the Fraser River to pick up the crews working for Kingcome Navigation one of several tug boat companies operating on the coast. It is understandable it would take years to train a tug boat captain and crew. It is crucial to understand the dynamics of coastal waters; the tide changes, shifts in winds when to sit and wait out bad weather or risk loosing a long chain of logs boomed together, easily whip lashed and dashed on the rocks. . Many harrowing stories have been told in beer parlours over the years although I never heard of a tub boat sinking or loss of life due to the skill of the Captain.
When you drive the Old Island Highway north of the Comox Valley you can see across the Strait of Georgia to the Coast Mountains. Tug boats are always visable. There is a small little vessel, a tug boat which come in various sizes pulling a huge load of logs or a barge loaded with equipment necessary for logging trucks, cranes, grapplers or supplies for the growing fish farm industry. The industry has solved the problem of log booms breaking up which cost the industry millions. Logs are loaded on a self dumping barge which can dump the load into the chuck upon reaching its destination either a pulp or sawmill. The high cost of lumber in todays building boom keeps the industry working at full capacity.
Tugboats have a variety of equipment on board. The mast has red, green and yellow lights for operating at night and a large search light that turns night into day for night operations. Remember everything is geared to mother nature. When is the high tide? When is the low tide, that is the time to park and wait for the tide change. Its interesting up in the narrow channels around Okosola rapids are signage on an old douglas fir snag. That attest to the many tug boats tied up there waiting for the high tide to get through the narrow channels.
The Fraser River is where the tug boats go for maintainance or a change of crews. Realestate is so expensive in the Lower Mainland many of the old docks and moorages are now condo developments. Some forms of technology never change. Tug Boats will always have a place as it the cheapest way and most functional way to move goods and services on the coast. In the old days with no radar, no depth sounders no GPS it was a different world. Everything was dead reconning. If fog moved in they used eco sounding to gauge the distance to rock formations that could sink a ship. Captains had years and years of experience before they could be trusted to take the helm. It is an attestment to their skill that I have never heard of a tub boat sinking although an errant Captain of the Queen of the North, BC Ferry sank with a full load of cars with loss of life!!