By Brian Roulston
As far as I can tell it doesn’t have an official name but as you’re walking along the Pier 4 walkway, you’ll come across a red & white tugboat with a big blue 4 painted on her stack. Please forgive me for wondering if this little tug was something special aside from letting kids, run, jump, and play on her deck and in her pilothouse. So, my curiosity got the best of me.
I found out this little tug is a bit of a Frankenstein, meaning she’s two ships melded into one. Each ship has a story to tell.
The hull is from the H.M.C.S GLENELLA, one of three Glen Class tugs built by Canadian Dredge & Dock Company of Kingston, Ontario for the Royal Canadian Navy (R.C.N) in 1944.The war was over before she was to enter service and by that time most R.C.N vessels (tugs too) were decommissioned. They were re-assigned to the auxiliary fleet and staffed by civilians under the control of the Queen’s Harbour Master whose official duty was to keep ports secured for both the military and civilian shipping. In 1947 Maritime Towing & Salvage assumed ownership of H.M.C.S GLENELLA. She had the first of two lifetime name changes. Now called BANSWIFT she was put to work in Halifax Harbour and for the next 15 years, she was a tow truck of the waterways, pulling disabled vessels, maneuvering large boats in and out tight spaces and guiding ships through dangerous or busy sections of the harbour.
Canada Steamship Lines Ltd took over her registration in 1962, and then renamed her The BAYPORT. The tug operated in the waters of Georgian Bay until she was sold to Harry Gamble in Port Dover in 1973. Gamble in turn sold the vessel to Meridian Bulk Carriers in 1976. BAYPORT’s working days were soon over when her main engine failed, shortly after that the BAYPORTS’s registration was suspended in 1978.
As for the pilothouse on this little tug at Pier 4 her story is even more interesting. It starts in 1947; two ships were built at the Montreal Dry Docks by Vickers Canada Ltd for the Hall Corporation (Hallco) of Montreal. Their names were NORTHCLIFFE HALL and her sister ship SOUTHCLIFFE HALL.
NORTHCLIFFE HALL would spend her first 10 years hauling bulk cargo between Montreal and Toronto. She was then converted to a liquid tanker in 1957 and received a name change to CAPE TRANSPORT in 1961. Still with Hallco, she proudly traveled throughout the Great Lakes. The Cape encountered heavy waters on Oct 27th, 1963 while sailing on Lake Huron 14km off Harbour Beach, Michigan. She fought through a fierce three-day storm with winds in excess of 112 km/h with heavy rain. CAPE TRANSPORT’s steering gear was severely damaged, she lost her radio and her windows were smashed on the pilothouse from the damaging waves. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries or deaths to her crew.
Right after the storm she was towed to Windsor and moored there for the winter. Then she was moved to Montreal where she sat along the LaSalle Causeway for several years. Wilt Corporation of Panama took over her papers and changed her tonnage and had her converted to a barge in Toronto. Later she was to head to the Caribbean where she was supposed to serve as a water tanker. Unfortunately, she was too tall to fit through the Erie Canal and she was stripped of her pilothouse, railings and anything else protruding above her main deck.
Under tow of the Great Lakes tug the PRINCESS I she was taken across Lake Ontario to Sill’s Marina at Sodus Bay N.Y where she spent the winter of 1977. CAPE TRANSPORT would be moved and shelter the next winter at the Port of New York. During the summer of ‘79 CAPE TRANSPORT travelled down the New York State Barge Canal and through the Hudson River to Clayton New York. She was scrubbed clean from top to bottom; even her tanks were cleaned out. The Cape had her final name change to WITTRANSPORT II in 1980. The name change, however, was only reflected on paper, the name CAPE TRANSPORT would remain visible on her bow. After three long years since departing Canadian waters she was towed into Port Royal, Kingston Jamaica.
The Cape was foundered in 1983, purposely filled with water and sunk to create an artificial habitant for schools of fish and reefs. It also served as a diving attraction for tourists off Jamaica’s south-eastern coast.
Finally, McKeil Boat Works Limited put the pilothouse of CAPE TRANSPORT to the hull of the BAYPORT. The tug was donated to the City of Hamilton in July 2007 as a playground apparatus for children.