Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shipping news

This is the Canadian Ranger, a Great Lakes bulk carrier that's been tied up at pier 51 here in Toronto for the past year or so. I shot these photos from my sea kayak earlier this fall.

If you would like to feel incredibly small, I strongly recommend sidling up next to one of these huge iron monsters in a craft that's less than two feet wide. You'll feel especially vulnerable next to the Ranger; even though she was apparently retrofitted in 2004, it's difficult to find much evidence of this. In fact, every time I go down to the harbour I expect to find her flopped over, resting on the lake bed with her wheelhouse half submerged. Finished.

Why? For one, the hull appears to be so rusted out it's hard to imagine she's still a serviceable laker (you can pull flakes of surface rust off with your hands if you work hard enough at it). This is mainly because, although she's considered a fairly new ship by lake freighter standards, the Ranger is in fact the product of an unhappy marriage between two older ships, the Hilda Marjanne, an ocean tanker launched in the forties that was later converted for lake service, and the Chimo, a lake freighter that first put to sea in 1967. I think it's safe to assume that building a new ship out of two old decrepit ships is cheaper than building an entirely new one, hence the Canadian Ranger was born out of the stern section of the old Chimo and the bow of the Hilda Marjanne.

It must have been a helluva job. To match both sections, which varied by nineteen feet at the beam, a special twenty-five foot midsection had to be built and slotted in. This was apart from razing the Marjanne's old wheelhouse, lifting the Chimo's wheelhouse the level of an entire deck, and essentially gutting both ships. The whole project took more than a year to complete, and the hybrid freighter slipped (back?) into the water in April 1984.

So next time you're in the city, have a look in the harbour for the Ranger. It's a safe bet she'll still be here.

For the full story on the Canadian Ranger, click here.

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