The Last Days of the RCN Gate Vessels

by LCdr/Capc Eric A. Dufresne RCN 2016

Gate Vessels

Gate Vessels Undergoing Conversion to Yachts in Anacortes WA. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

I remember very well a weekend that HMCS Porte Quebec and HMCS Porte de la Reine were supposed to leave Esquimalt harbour for the last time in 1998. I was a newly qualified Reserve MARS Sub-Lieutenant (N) and was posted to HMCS Chaleur as her last Deck Officer. HMCS Chaleur and HMCS Miramichi were nested together on the Colwood side of Esquimalt Harbour by what I seem to remember was called "Building 10". The two Gate Vessels were nested up ahead of the two Sweepers and there was a Canadian Patrol Frigate tied up at the fuelling Jetty for the weekend.

Gate Vessels

Gate Vessels Undergoing Conversion to Yachts in Anacortes WA. (Photo from )

I was the Officer of the Day. Because of the small crew sizes, the duty watch was made up of two quartermasters and an Officer of the Day on a "pager watch" in the event of an emergency. Very early on a Saturday morning that Fall, my duty watch contacted me to raise their concerns that there was someone milling about on the Gate Vessels so I made my way over to Colwood to investigate. We hadn’t been informed that they had been sold and would be leaving the harbour anytime soon.

I found that there was a indeed a gentleman on the Gate Boats and he seemed to be moving around with purpose, taking stock of things and making plans of some kind. I introduced myself as the Officer of the Day (OOD) for the two ships tied up astern of him and that I was just paying a courtesy call. The gentleman seemed to be thrilled with my visit and introduced himself as the new owner of HMCS Porte Quebec and HMCS Porte de la Reine and invited me aboard for coffee.

Gate Vessels

Gate Vessels Undergoing Conversion to Yachts in Anacortes WA. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

As I enjoyed his hospitality, he explained that he planned to move his two ships to Washington state to convert them into "luxury yachts". He even produced crude sketches of what he had in mind; a clipper bow, raked funnel; the drawings looked very Christina O, albeit amateurish and hopeful in scope. Having recently graduated from a Naval Architecture program, I was a little skeptical of a "Pig Boat" ever becoming a yacht, let alone a high end luxury one!

When I asked him who would be towing them to Washington, he informed me that he intended to sail them there himself. Somewhat taken aback, I asked how he was planning on doing that and asked where his crew was. He said that he didn’t have a crew but a friend who was "mechanically inclined" would be joining him in the afternoon to help start the engines and accompany him to Washington State.

Gate Vessels

Gate Vessels Undergoing Conversion to Yachts in Anacortes WA. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

I asked if they would need a hand letting go of their lines, but my offer was declined. The owner was confident that they had everything in hand. They would rig for a self–slip and drift off the jetty face using engines and the tide. As they drifted in the camber between my Sweepers and the Canadian Patrol Frigate, they planned to slip the lines between the Gate Boats and have one take the other in tow. Growing increasingly nervous, I made an excuse to take my leave and thanked him for his hospitality and bade him a fair crossing. I then ran back to HMCS Chaleur’s Wardroom and made phone calls, first to the adjacent Canadian Patrol Frigate and to the Queen’s Harbour Master to inform them of what was about to happen and then to the Duty nest CO to explain what actions I had taken.

I decided it was best to stay aboard the nested Sweeps to do what I could to make sure that all necessary preparations that could be taken had been taken such as rigging extra fenders and closing watertight doors and openings. All I could think about with my limited experience was that this entire evolution was going to end in a collision and my court martial. I was greatly relieved when an official looking car (either Transport Canada or the Coast Guard) came driving down the jetty and some officials walked aboard the Gate Boats spent a couple of hours on board and then left.

Gate Vessels

Gate Vessels Undergoing Conversion to Yachts in Anacortes WA. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

The owner then came over to visit me and as I entertained him over coffee in the Wardroom, he informed me of a change of plans. Whomever had been down to visit him had ruled that his ships were not in a materiel state to sail on their own and that the “crew” did not have the necessary qualifications to sail them so the owner would have them towed out of the harbour sometime in the following weeks. I was very relieved with the overall outcome of the situation.

I never thought I would hear of either HMCS Porte Quebec or HMCS Porte de la Reine again. I was happy to find out about their outcome on The Nauticapedia. I must admit that I am surprised with how far their new owner made it with their conversion before the project had to come to an end.



To quote from this article please cite:

Dufresne, Eric A. LCdr/Capc RCN (2015) The Last Days of the RCN Gate Vessels. Nauticapedia.ca 2015. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Gate_Vessels_Last_Days.php

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