The Tug Lorne Loses a Log Raft

by the late Robert Harvey Q.C. 2013

Lorne

The Lorne (#94809) (Photograph from the John Henderson collection.)

Campbell River’s Captain Rolf Salvesen, long retired from running RCMP vessels on this coast, has helped me write this from an old log book from the Lorne. Any mistakes in this account are mine, and not his. His father, Captain Sigvardt Salvesen had been captain of that vessel. The log book records only one voyage by the tug Lorne sailing from Vancouver to make two Davis raft tows from Seymour Inlet to Ocean Falls in November–December 1933. Storm winds and snow storms predominated during that short time. The trip ends with her back in port in time for Christmas with no further towing work on hand for her, deep in the Depression.

These two Davis raft tows could have been her last tows near the end of her days. Captain Salvesen soon went on to become Master of a larger tug, the J. R. Morgan, in 1934. Her story as a Badwater Towing Company vessel and his many years in her make for a tale to be told on another day.

In the time-honoured fashion of leaving port on the mate’s watch, midnight to 6 am, the Lorne and her 10 man crew departed from Vancouver at midnight November 23rd, running light to pick up a Davis raft deep in the heart of the labyrinth of Seymour Inlet. The rafts had been made up at logging camps at widely separated locations, but each was destined for the mills at Ocean Falls.

The log shows her route slowed by fog from Pt Atkinson to Welcome Pass. The captain came on watch at 6 am to ring for full speed in a brisk westerly wind in Malaspina Straits. The weather had changed so fast. Then he ran her over to Seymour Narrows, which he passed through at high water slack water. Then he took six hours of ebb current to speed past Chatham Point into Johnstone Straits.

Crossing Queen Charlotte Sound: The route then followed shows Captain Salvesen’s liking for making his track across Queen Charlotte Sound using Goletas Channel and Bates Passage (at the far side of Nigei Island, and in the lee of Hope Island). On that track with more visible landmarks and aids to navigation, perhaps the Captain may have slept better leaving the Mate on watch. In any event, on this particular trip, he was early for slack tide at Nakwakto Rapids, so he could take his time.

(In later years, when Crown Zellerbach ran Badwater Towing’s Sudbury, with the aged Captain Salvesen in command in his 70s, the number–crunchers in the office were telling the Captain to save 10 miles or so of extra running by a short cut through Christie Pass to Pine Island. Eventual retirement came at 75 without pension. Captain Salvesen was presented with two new briar smoking pipes (he had smoked a pipe from his earliest days) and a captain’s cap (he had never worn one).

Chart

Nakwakto Rapids: The log shows passage across to the entrance to the Outer Rapids of Slingsby Channel, and then through Nakwakto Rapids at the time of high water slack to run on into Seymour Inlet. Seymour Inlet, itself, may have been only partially charted in 1933, but an old British Admiralty chart showed the lay of the land and had given some place names. The log books shows a full collection of place names. Some captains had made their own rough maps to follow, often with the aid of the loggers at some locations who were anxious for the tugs to come in to get their logs. The logging companies would not get paid for their logs until the rafts came to be delivered to the mill. Marine Insurance premiums had become an expense for the logger. Some ran the risk, with the result that some loggers suffered, at times.

On November 25th, from inside the Rapids, the vessel ran at speed for 4 hours plus 30 minutes deep into the heart of Seymour Inlet, to the very northeastern end of it at what the log describes as Waterfall Bay to pick up the Raft destined for Ocean Falls. The log notes "Strong SE wind and heavy rain, and waiting for the watchman".

At 10 am the next day, Lorne left with the raft tow. Four long side logs on each side, each 80 feet long, would enclose the raft, which like an iceberg, would lie deep under the water. She would have made 2 knots with the raft, perhaps more with the tide, less against the tide.

On the way out to sea, the log shows a compass course of Southwest when the entrance to Eclipse Narrows lay abeam to port. This will enable those familiar with Seymour Inlet to fix to just which one of the inner inlets the log refers.

Waiting for the right slack tide IS part of this game: by 1:15 am the next morning, the tug was running slow on shortened towline with the raft to wait for high water slack at Nakwakto Rapids. Slack came on time at noon. Knowing that a heavy swell would exist at the entrance to Slingsby Channel, they tied the tow to the rocky shore at Boot Point in the channel to wait for the weather to abate. They stayed there for 4 days, the mate being expected to find work to keep the crew busy with the raft. The waters at the entrance to Slingsby Channel can be wild with wind, waves, tide and groundswell contending.

Cape Caution on the way to Ocean Falls: In mid-afternoon on December 3rd the tow began again, passing through the Outer Narrows in Slingsby at slack tide; running in the ocean swells past Cape Caution at 5:45 pm in "SW squalls and a moderate ocean swell". The 65 mile tow onward through Fitzhugh Sound to Ocean Falls had begun.

By 6 am the next day tug and tow had made good time up to pass Addenbrooke Island in snow squalls, with a fresh Southeast wind and a 16 foot run–in flood tide to give a push. The log notes the number of feet of flood and ebb to be dealt with, day by day.

Soon, they faced an ebb tide with only less than a 2 foot run-out, which they would buck or find and use a back–eddy if they could. Then, further flood tide currents to assist; in alternate succession, followed by other ebbs, in succession, slowing progress, again. But soon, in light winds and snow, with another flood tide and a light offshore wind to assist, tug and tow reached Ocean Falls to deliver the tow, and to take on bunkers, i.e., oil to burn to keep steam up in the boilers.

Return to Seymour Inlet for another raft: At 3 am the next day the Lorne departed to run light to a new destination in Seymour Inlet, but this time to run at speed into the upper Seymour Inlet arm beyond Mereworth Sound. On the way, a Southeast storm got up in Fitzhugh Sound. With the barometer at a record low of 29.00. Captain Salvesen stopped the Lorne and sailed in to a favourite tug boat tie-up spot in behind Addenbrooke Island. Here he tied up to a log raft from the Queen Charlotte Islands, which had been left tied up there by another tug, the log showing, "strong SE and Rain". (Addenbrooke Island is not to be confused with Addenbrooke Point, which lies not far south).

December 6th, "strong SE and Rain and Snow, weather-bound all day" . On December 7th at 9 am the Captain took the tug out to look at the weather, but kept on going south in a strong easterly wind; "half speed by False Egg I, and facing a heavy SW swell". Too much, because, soon, he turned the vessel around and ran into Smith Inlet for shelter. At 1:15 pm the tug anchored in Takush Harbour with "strong SE and heavy swell outside".

Finally, on December 8th she left anchorage at 3:20 am running light, passing Cape Caution at 5:10 am with fresh Southeast wind and moderate swell. She waited outside for the tide to slacken to pass through the Outer Narrows, then passed through Nakwakto Rapids at 7:40 am, turning sharply to the Northwest to pass by Mignon Point, then turning east, and running 3 hours to a logging camp that lay one hour farther in past Mereworth Sound. This, the log names as Allison Inlet. The work began to put gear on the Davis raft of hemlock pulp logs.

On the way out to sea on December 9th, tug and tow reached Mignon Point. In turning the corner at Mignon Point, the deep raft fetched up in the nest of underwater rocks lying off the Point at 6:30 am. It took until 3:30 pm to get the raft off, undamaged, but the high water slack time for the Nakwakto Rapids had been missed.

Low water slack could not be used, because the tug could not tow in Slingsby Channel against the force of the flood tide that would come after low water.

Tug and tow finally were able to pass through the Rapids at the next slack tide, and to run into Slingsby Channel on December 10th. All went well, at first, the wind logged as light north, sea calm and smooth to Cape Caution. However, the barometer was dropping past 29.77. They were soon to face a 4 foot run-out for the ebb tide from Fitzhugh Sound. In a run of Murphy’s Law, they had been forced to lose time while the engineer was "fixing oil pump". This was the prelude to disaster for the tow.

Trying to turn around to go back into Slingsby Channel was not an option, because the ebb current soon to begin would have prevented that to be done.

Finally, repairs completed, towing time lost, standing into danger: By midnight, they were abeam Cape Calvert with a fresh north wind and ebb tide. The ebb tide out of Fitzhugh Sound would be sending immense volumes of saltwater out of the Mainland Inlets. Facing an ebb off Cape Calvert meant breasting seas that were, literally, running downhill. By 2:30 am on December 11th, the log notes snow and a strong Northeast wind. The winter cold dry air off the BC Mainland mountains was being drawn down by a low pressure storm area approaching the coast from offshore to the southwest. In the result, the storm wind came screaming down the Mainland Inlets, gathering moisture from the coast air, and dropping it as snow. The ship was being pushed back by wind and sea into danger.

By 4:40 am the log shows the Lorne trying to hold the raft close to the downwind side of Calvert Island. Underway again at 7 am with Northeast "gale starting to blow, sea rough". At 8 am (tug and tow being blown back out into the Queen Charlotte Sound) "sighted Pearl Rocks close on port side. Managed to hold raft until low water when we started to move ahead slowly, but at the start of the ebb tide, started to set back again. NE gale and heavy snow".

The agony continued all day: by 10:25 pm, "had to release the (tug’s towing winch) brake and let the raft go as we were close to ... Breakers, and in danger of the boat setting on. As we could not do anything, steamed back to Fitzhugh Sound. Strong northerly wind and heavy snowfall". The log shows the tug. anchored in Safety Cove on Calvert Island at 4 am on December 12th.

Search for lost raft continues: Next day at 9 am the Lorne got underway in snow, and ran down into the mess of rocks and breakers in the Sea Otter Group, and west to the Virgin Rocks, which lie south of Cape Calvert. All vessels seek to avoid going there in normal course of navigation. The log shows from this disadvantageous position: "And then had to give up search owing to easterly gale, Heading for Nahwitti Bar to anchor in Shushartie Bay. In this exercise, the tug had run all the way across Queen Charlotte Sound to shelter at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

On December 13th, once more into the breach, and underway again at 7:30 am, through Bates Passage to pass Pine Island at 8:45 am; and Egg Island at 10:40 am: barometer, low at 29.20; "strong easterly, sea rough, thick of snow, slowed down". The wind now was fresh NW with snow. At 2:40 pm tied up to a raft lying tied up at Addenbrooke Island in a snow storm.

On December 14th at 6 am this captain took the Lorne out into the rocks and breakers of Queen Charlotte Sound past and around Watch Rocks and Virgin Rocks, and to the north, "made sure that the raft was not there. The wind was light west but thick of snow". By 1:45 pm he returned to meet the Pacific Mills company boat the Wyrill, "with Mr Bonney aboard. No sign of plane yet" (apparently, by radio telephone, the loss of the raft had been reported, and the company had planned to use an early British Columbia aviation asset to help find the lost raft). Mr Bonney was ’top kick‘ at the Ocean Falls sawmill.

December 15th and 16th passed tied up at Addenbrooke Island waiting for the aircraft (which never did come, likely because of the un-flyable weather).

December 17th came with strong Southwest wind and snow. Captain Salvesen sent out a boat out to look at the weather, but remained weather-bound. On December 18th the tug left at 6:30 am to continue the search along the Calvert Island shoreline, without success. With an easterly gale rising, the tug returned to tie up at Addenbrooke.

Home again, running light: The Lorne left the next morning, December 19th, at 7 am to return to Vancouver, but facing a strong Southwest wind and rough seas, she did not reach so far as Cape Caution, and had to turn back at the entrance to Smith Inlet. Soon, the weather showed signs of abating and, instead of anchoring in Takush Harbour, the tug carried on across Queen Charlotte Sound past Pine Island to Bates Passage, and from there, to Broughton and Johnstone Straits against a fresh easterly wind. By midnight on the 19th, the Lorne had reached Boat Harbour Light (15 miles beyond Alert bay), but within an hour, she had had to slow down and turn around because of the weather, which was now "snow and a fresh east wind".

The turn-around meant that the seas produced by a big flood tide running against fierce out-flow winds screaming out of Knight and Bute Inlets had made it impossible for this sturdy vessel to keep going, for a time. In these parts, at such a time, the strong winds come to be slanted westward by the mountain wall of North Vancouver Island. At 4:20 pm, the trip south resumed, but with time lost waiting for the slack tide in Seymour Narrows. By midnight, she was nearing home; and by 2:05 am was tied up in Vancouver.

Editor’s Note: The big steam tug Lorne was built in Victoria BC in 1889 for the Dunsmuir family interests. She was 151’ x 26’ x 13.2’ 288gt 155rt At the end of her useful life her steam engines were removed (sometime during the Second World War) and she served as a barge before being hulked as a breakwater. She was owned by the Hecate Strait Towing Co. (c1925) and then owned by the Puget Sound Tug Boat Company but registered to the Vancouver Tug Boat Co. In 1931 she was owned by Pacific (Coyle) Navigation Co. Ltd. at Vancouver BC. In 1939-1979 she was owned by Dominion Tug & Barge Co. Vancouver BC. On 30/08/1914 she was stranded with the barge America in tow on Kanaka Bay San Juan Island WA USA. The tug Lorne and barge Pacific Gatherer together were involved in a spectacular accident in September of 1930. Fast and unpredictable tide caused problems with the tow. With the captain slowing the tug down, the two vessels collided side by side and went into the Second Narrows Bridge. C.H. Cates Towing was dispatched, but their strong fleet made no headway. As the tide came in, the tug and barge slowing rose up and caused the bridge span to come off its foundation and the bridge was plunged into the water.

Harvey

The Author: Bob Harvey was a retired lawyer (Queen’s Counsel) who sailed in the tug Snohomish during the Second World War as a Quartermaster under Captain Fred MacFarlane. In recognition of his writing in the West Coast Mariner and in the Western Mariner magazines about the log towing industry on the Coast, the Nanaimo Division of the Company of Master Mariners of Canada elected him as an Honorary Member.



To quote from this article please cite:

Harvey, Robert (2013) The Tug Lorne Looses a Log Raft. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Harvey_Tug_Story.php

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