The Final Days of HMCS Cape Breton

by JD Jordan Rowand 2016

HMCS Cape Breton

HMCS Cape Breton afloat (Photo from the Nauticapedia collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton started life during the Second World War as H.M.S. Flamborough Head in 1945 while being constructed at Burrard Drydock Co. Ltd. in North Vancouver BC.

She was completed on 2 May 1945. She finished the Second World War in service with the Royal Navy and continued into the postwar period. In 1951 she was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as H.M.C.S. Cape Breton a Canadian Naval Escort Maintenance Ship. In 1999 she was sold to the Artificial Reef Society.

In 1953 she was a training ship for Engine Room Artificers. In 1958 she was converted to an Escort Maintenance Ship. In 1959 she was designated as a Mobile Repair Ship. She was decommissioned and maintained as a hulk 1972–1993 as a base for the Fleet Maintenance Group Pacific). She was sunk as a diving reef near Nanaimo British Columbia on 20/10/2001.

Cape Breton Engine

Halfway Done (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

There were a number of initiatives to save the engine from the Cape Breton over the previous years. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia proposed to feature it as the center piece of its proposed new building on the waterfront of Victoria. When this project collapsed in 1991 others took up the cause.

The stern was donated to the City of North Vancouver, British Columbia by the Artificial Reef Society. They placed it on display on the waterfront in 2001 with the plan to eventually develop the area into a maritime museum. However, those plans fell through in 2007 from lack of support. On 9 September 2013, the city council voted to dispose of the stern after the cradle upon which the stern was resting began to near the end of its functional life. Dismantling of the stern began in December 2013 and continued through July of 2014.

Cape Breton Engine

Final Stages of the Project (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

We worked with a crane company and an engineering firm to develop and execute the dismantling plan. We also had to contend with the removal of a lot of lead paint from the hull. We used a conventional scrap torch for much of the work and at the bottom an oxygen lance was employed.

Cape Breton Engine

The Engine Beside the Stern Hull Section (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

The Steering Steam Engine, Water Pump and Shaft Steady Bearing (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

We dismantled and cut up the engine. Some of the key parts were purchased by the National Liberty Ship Memorial which operates the Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco CA. The engine was virtually the same one that they operate so the parts were a welcome addition to their inventory.

Cape Breton Engine

The Oil–fired Triple–Expansion Steam Engine (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

The engine could produce (on one shaft),6,000 hp (4,474 kW). The National Liberty Ship Memorial wanted to purchase the whole engine, dismantle it and ship it to California. However, the massive size and the complexity of that operation would have been far too costly, so they settled on the purchase of spare parts.

Cape Breton Engine

Removing the Engine Head (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Shaft and supporting structure of the keel. Our man Nico is about 5’7" tall (for scale) and the shaft and keep support was about 36" thick. (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Quadrant Gear (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Oxygen Lance At Work (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Oxygen Lance Separating Shaft From Keel (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Lower Rudder Support (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Cutting Connecting Rod (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Cutting the Shaft 14 Inches Thick (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

HMCS Cape Breton

Crank Shaft Section (Photo from the Rowand collection. )

Editor’s Note: The author’s company, Mountain Towing and Contracting Ltd., undertook the work on the project. He states "I have worked in the welding, marine and construction industry for 18 years. Our group of companies handles every thing from construction, environmental abatement to excavation and trucking. small projects to industrial steel demo we do it all. We break up a variety of vessels every year and collectors can arrange directly with us for the salvage of mementos or parts before the dismantling is undertaken by contacting me directly."

To quote from this article please cite:

Rowand, JD Jordan (2016) The Final Days of HMCS Cape Breton. 2016.

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