Special to the Nor’Wester
It is not an uncommon sight to see the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Ann Harvey docked in Springdale Harbour. She quietly steams into the bay unannounced and ever so quietly steams back out again, leaving us all to wonder “Why was she here?” Well curiosity got the better of me and before I knew it I was standing on the deck of the Ann Harvey with the Second Officer, Ray Ingram, who offered to answer my questions and give me the grand tour.
Of course my first question was “What are you doing here?” Apparently, the reason for docking in Springdale is not as simple as stopping for maintenance or supplies, as I initially thought, but rather because the crew is on 30 minute standby for Search and Rescue.
The Ann Harvey is a Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) and is one of a fleet of many ships that deliver a wide range of services to Newfoundland and Labrador. It was built in 1987 in Halifax and is used for search and rescue (SAR) and icebreaking as well as service and maintenance to the navigation aids (buoys, light towers etc.) in our region. The ship is named after the daughter of a Newfoundland fisherman from Isle aux Morts on the southwest coast. In 1828, 17 year old Ann and her 12 year old brother helped their father rescue 160 crewmembers and passengers from the ship Despatch, which had been driven onto the rocks. The rescue was largely due to Ann’s determination and courage.
The ship’s home port is St. John’s, but she spends most of its days navigating the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, assigned to the North East coast, Area 32, which runs from Cape Freels to St. Anthony and 200 miles off shore. In Newfoundland and Labrador the CCG’s SAR zone extends halfway across the Atlantic. This vessel returns to St. John’s only for personnel rotation every 28 days and for a complete refit/maintenance once a year.
My tour started out in the officer’s lounge where I had a chance to chat with Ray about the services of the CCGS Ann Harvey and the rankings and responsibilities of its crew. She has a crew of 26 plus four cadets in training. The personnel is divided into three departments: Officers, Engine and Deck, with the Officers being responsible for the command the ship. The Engine Room department has four engineers and two oilers. The Deck department consists of the Boson, Boson’s mate and deck hands. The Boson is in charge of deck operations and Boson’s mate is responsible for operating the large crane you see at the front of the ship which is used mostly for retrieval and placement of the buoys.
A minimum number of certified fire rescue personnel (BA’s) and trained rescue specialists are required on board at all times. The rescue specialists are trained to administer preliminary medical aid during a rescue operation , and the BA’s are trained to deal with fire, however everyone on board is trained for the breathing apparatus. Their SAR equipment room which is checked by a rescue specialist on every 28 day shift contains BA’s, defibrillator kit, stretchers, oxygen and a rocket launcher for shooting a line to another ship.
Most impressive of my tour was the deck of the ship. The large white dome on the rear deck is a helicopter hangar that can house 2 helicopters and the dome retracts to expose the full deck which serves as a landing pad. Certain missions may require the assistance of a helicopter.
Hanging on the side of the ship is a “work boat/barge” which looks like a small submarine and is used to reach, retrieve and place buoys that are too close to shore for the ship to get to. Hanging beside it is their orange life boat in case they have to abandon ship. This enclosed unit can comfortably seat all its crew members on board and is equipped with survival gear, food and water rations for 4 or 5 days at sea. If need be it can hold up to 60 people. On the opposite side of the ship is an additional 5 inflatable life rafts. Alongside it is their FRC (fast retrieval craft) which is the raft most frequently used when retrieving someone from the water. It receives regular maintenance every day.
My tour ended on the bridge of the ship where I met quartermaster Glen Smith from Boat Harbour whose responsibility is to steer the ship into port under the command of the officer on watch. There must be two officers or one officer and quartermaster on the bridge at all times even when tied up in port. The bridge has an impressive display of navigational and communications equipment, all of which there are 2 of, so they have backup. When navigating the ship both electronic and paper charts are used, and when navigating at night, drapes are drawn around the officer’s station to block out all artificial light so as to see better.
The brave men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard serving Newfoundland and Labrador are very dedicated to making the waters safe for Mariners. The most demanding of responsibilities being Search and Rescue, while saving others they are putting their lives on the line. The fleet of ships serving Newfoundland and Labrador are subjected to the longest ice season and the harshest of conditions compared to other parts of Canada, second only to the Canadian Arctic. This season is even longer with the abundance of ice islands and bergs moving down the coast because of the giant ice island that broke away from Greenland. While the safety of others is their first priority, they are well equipped and trained in case of an emergency on board.
The Ann Harvey is indeed a hard working vessel but also must serve as home to its crew members while at sea. She provides adequate private sleeping quarters for everyone on board and has comfortable common/living areas and a large kitchen/galley where two cooks and one steward cater three meals a day. It may have all the comforts of home but they still miss their families.
During my tour, as I walked through the corridors inside the ship I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of pride for the service the coast guard provides us. The walls are lined with pictures and plaques in appreciation for successful rescues over the years – rescuing a fleet of fishing boats that were stuck in the ice and a man stranded on the ice when out seal hunting, are just two rescues that stand out in my mind.
The crew sacrifices their own safety and time with their families to make the coastal waters safe for us. Knowing that these guardian angels of the north Atlantic are out there, we can all feel a little safer when venturing out to sea.