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Gate Vessel Memories
by John M. MacFarlane and Dave Shirlaw 2014
HMCS Porte Quebec (as built)
Like hundreds (maybe even thousands) of Canadian Naval Reserve personnel, my first taste of naval sea training was as an Officer Cadet in the University Naval Training Division on board a Gate Vessel. These small vessels, based on a trawler design, were originally intended to be capable of opening and closing anti–submarine nets at the entrance to strategic harbours.
They were certainly not designed for training relatively large groups of trainees. Living conditions were cramped and there was no space for instruction. They had a bit of a poor reputation among reserve officer trainees – and I understand that later on they acquired the nickname ‘Pig Boats’. Since the navy wasn’t offering any other kind of sea time I embraced every aspect of it, and in retrospect I’m glad I did. It gave us all hands–on experience with all the equipment and jobs on the ship – something we would not have acquired on a larger vessel. They were certainly not designed for training relatively large groups of trainees. Living conditions were cramped and there was no space for instruction.
Our entire training period was during a period of fiscal restraint so there were no foreign cruises except for one group who attended the Rose Festival in Portland Oregon. We circumnavigated Vancouver Island and transited the St. Lawrence Seaway still excellent experiences as ship voyages go!
Recently, probably due to some sentimental nostalgia there has been an effort to track down the fates of each of the vessels.
Each UNTD Officer Cadet was issued a Practical Factors card - a booklet listing all the practical sea knowledge expected of them by the end of sea training. Each one had to be ‘signed off’ by the instructor or divisional officer. It was up to the individual Officer Cadet to get the experience or training and have it verified.
During the Second World War at least six Gate Vessels were constructed by the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON. They were deployed in their traditional role at harbour entrances. These vessels were transferred to Crown Assets & Disposal Corporation for disposal at the end of the Second World War. They were:
- GV–3 Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON (Incorrectly reported as built in 1944 but should be 1928. Perhaps acquired in 1944?) Sold post-war as the Foundation Fasolt, later renamed as R.C.C. No. 28 (#154447)
- GV–4 Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON (Incorrectly reported as built in 1944 but should be 1928. Perhaps acquired in 1944?) Sold post-war as the Foundation Fafnir, later renamed as R.C.C. No. 29 (#154445)
- GV–20 Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON (Reported as built in 1944 but should be 1911.) Sold post–war as C.D. 101 (#171899) (Fate not known)
- GV–22 Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON 1944. (Some writers report that she was sold post–war as C.D. 151 (#134442) may be incorrect, as there was a C.D. 151 ON#189828 built in 1957.)
- GV–(apparently not numbered) Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON (Reported as built in 1944 but should be 1926.) (Some writers report that she was sold post–war as C.D. 102 ON#150487) (Still afloat in 1958.)
- GV–(apparently not numbered) Built at the Canadian Dredge & Dock Co., Ltd., Kingston ON (Reported as built in 1944.) Sold post–war as C.D. 152 (#134443) (Still afloat in 1958.)
After the Second World War five gate vessels were constructed in the Porte–class. They were named for historic gates in Quebec City. These are the vessels in question:
- Porte St. Jean (RCN Gate Vessel YMG 180) Built by Geo. T. Davie 05/12/1951. Retired in 1996.
- Porte St. Louis (RCN Gate Vessel YMG 183) Built by Geo. T. Davie 29/08/1952. Retired in 1996.
- Porte de la Reine (RCN Gate Vessel YMG 184) Built by Victoria Machine Depot 12/07/1952. Retired in 1996.
- Porte Quebec (RCN Gate Vessel YMG 185) Built by Halifax Shipyards 19/09/1952. Retired in 1996.
- Porte Dauphine (RCN Gate Vessel YMG 186) Built by Port Arthur Shipbuilding 12/10/1952. Retired in 1996.
The ships were armed with a deck gun when originally built, and equipped with minesweeping gear.
The Gate Vessels were the last ships in the Canadian Navy to accommodate crew members in hammocks. There were some fitted bunks, but the large numbers of trainees carried at one time necessitated the use of hammocks. Those who used them grew to like them but the additional chores of lashing it up at night and taking it down and stowing it in the morning were tedious. Having a bunk assigned gave a place to relax when off watch whereas hammocks could not be lashed up and used until later in the evening. Even then a movie might be projected beneath them or the watch coming off duty after midnight might have a ‘mug–up’ (late night snack) beneath the hammocks while men slept above.
The bridge position is where the ship’s wheel was located. A ‘trick’ on the wheel was an enjoyable experience that put the helmsman in close proximity to the Captain, the officer of the watch and all the action on the bridge. A side benefit was actually being able to see where the ship was headed and to be able to observe the skipper and the officer-of-the-watch navigating the ship.
One of the most frequent training evolutions experienced in Gate Vessels was replenishment at sea. We did not actually transfer fuel oil but simulated it with the transfer of water through fire hoses. Other essential items, such as the loan of a card table (for the wardroom) from ship to ship was carried out from time to time.
The two Gate Vessels assigned to the East Coast were sold into service in the Caribbean. Their new names and countries of registration are not known to us at this time. They would have been similar to other small tramp steamers carrying inter–island freight in the Windward Islands. The fate of HMCS Porte St. Jean has recently been determined by Mac Mackay on his Shipfax website "She ended up at the Derecktor Shipyard in the Fort Lauderdale FL area of Dania Beach, and may have been owned by the yard’s founder, the late Robert Derecktor. After his death in 2001 work on converting the ship to a yacht was suspended. One photo has been located showing the work in progress, with the deckhouse removed and the start of a new flying bridge type wheelhouse. On April 29, 2004 the ship was taken to sea and sunk as an artificial fish reef and dive site. Tracing the ship was difficult because it had been renamed (perhaps unofficially) Miss Dania Beach. Its location is in Broward County at 26 degrees 08.605 minutes North x 80 degrees 05.502 minutes West in 71 feet of water. A plaque on shore points to the Bob Derecktor Memorial Reef.
HMCS Porte Dauphine was renamed as the Salmon Transporter (ON# 313111 IMO#8745254) and is currently servicing fish farms on the Inside Passage of British Columbia owned by Marine Harvest Canada Inc., Campbell River BC.
Salmon Transporter (ex–HMCS Porte Dauphine)
HMCS Porte Quebec was renamed as Porte Quebec. She was sold to an owner in Puget Sound, Washington (VIN CG058346 recreational classification). She does not appear to be registered in 2012. The last official report of her I can find through internet and other sources was at Commencement Bay (near Tacoma) WA USA in 2000. She had apparently been at anchor for some time.
HMCS Porte de la Reine was renamed as Porte de la Reine. She was sold to an owner in Puget Sound, Washington (VIN CG058347 recreational classification). She does not appear to have been registered in 2012. The last official report of her I can find through internet and other sources was at Seattle WA USA in 2000.
In 2004 while traveling through Anacortes Washington two vessels caught my eye and seemed to be familiar. It didn’t take long to recognize the two Gate Vessels that had, at one time, been fixtures for Reserve Navy training on the Canada’s West Coast – HMCS Porte de la Reine and HMCS Porte Quebec. They were in a yard guarded by a very angry dog on a long chain so my entry was nerve–wracking. I couldn’t find a human being in the yard so my approach was, by necessity, limited to partway down the dock. I got as close as I could and took pictures.
Gate vessels in private ownership in Anacortes Washington in the process of being converted to a yacht or pocket cruise ship. (Photo from the Nauticapedia collection)
Gate vessels in private ownership in Anacortes Washington. Just to the right of the doorway can be seen the call sign in painted signal flags. (Photo from the Nauticapedia collection)
Recently Dave Shirlaw, our Vancouver Waterfront Correspondent, saw the two vessels again in (Anacortes Washington State) in an advanced state of rebuilding. They appear to have been transformed into expedition vessels or pocket cruise ships for Alaska service. They are however in an unfinished state but now highly transformed from their original configuration.
Gate vessels in private ownership in Anacortes Washington (Photo from the Dave Shirlaw collection)
The website GoAnacortes.com dated April 16th, 2013 states that "Derelict vessels removed after state takes custody"Two 125–foot derelict vessels tied up at a dilapidated Guemes Channel dock were taken to safer moorage at the Port of Seattle by Global Diving and Salvage on Friday on behalf of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program took custody of the former Royal Canadian Navy vessels April 1 due to concerns they threatened navigational safety in the channel, the structural integrity of the nearby Guemes Island ferry dock and the health of the area’s marine ecosystem."
–Jerry Proc has an excellent article on his web site on Gate Vessel Communications
To quote from this article please cite:
MacFarlane, John M. and Dave Shirlaw (2014) Gate Vessel Memories. Nauticapedia.ca 2014. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Gate_Vessels.php
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