Ledcor Boys

Early this morning I went for a bike ride around the harbour.    On my way home I caught sight of smoke billowing  out of  the stacks of the “Sea Commander”  It’s been up on the blocks for a few weeks now.    Look’s to me like the boys might be getting ready to take off.

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I did a quick sketch it the other day when it was still up on blocks.

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When I got home I tried to paint.

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When I am in the studio on a nice day I have to keep the blinds pulled down to keep out the light.   Drives me nuts when I know it’s beautiful outside. Through the side windows I could see that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.   Birds were chirping and jumping about on the outside window ledge.  Little bundles of twigs were sticking out of their beaks.    By about 3 pm I couldn’t take it any more and went for a walk.

It only took about 15 minutes to run into the Ledcor boys heading towards the empty gravel barge by the Bay street bridge.

Storm Bandit… a great name. Cheeky but strong.

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Following up was the Storm Spray – used to be yellow and red in its past life.   The name brings up frothy  images of my wild ride down the Westcoast of the Island on the historic MV Uchuck III a few years back.

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Bandit hitches up to the bow and the Spray noses up to the stern of the barge. Then together they swing the whole she-bang in a counterclockwise circle.

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Deckhands getting ready to clamor abroad with there gapple’s  to unhook the lines

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The Spray nudges the stern  while the Bandit yanks around the bow.

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It’s a challengeing swing  to get tugs and barge  pointing towards the Johnston Street bridge (blue bridge).  The Bandit is so close to the dock I am standing on I can nearly reach out and grab myself a deckhand.

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Not a bad view from up here…

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Still shuffling the swing….

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Nearly there….

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better be on time…otherwise the bridge guy won’t be happy… ..  testy commuter’s put up a fuss if the bridge is lifted after 4 pm.

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Just a little closer please……..I’ll jump any second now.

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No sweat, piece of cake!

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Bridge is waiting..here we come..the bridge lifter fellow will be smiling.

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Right on time. There will be lots of grins and finger-pointing from looky lou’s waiting on the bridge deck and shoreline.

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Off they go out of the harbour wherever gravel barge’s must go.   I couldn’t help myself but to run to the other side of the harbour to get one last shot.

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The rest of my walk home was on much lighter footsteps.   Cheers for now,



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Fresh Beginnings

It’s been ages and I have no excuses for not writing.  Over the past year or so I’ve formulated hundreds of blogs in my head but have never followed though with writing them down.    It’s been hounding me …. this desire to express …    with each breath we are given the gift of a new moment to start fresh … so let me begin again….

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First thing this moring through the drizzle I spotted a tug out near the mouth of the harbour.   I couldn’t tell for sure  but  it looked like it had an old steam stack sticking up on its rear end.  I was getting soaked so I decided I couldn’t wait around for it to make up it’s mind so I kept hoofing it along the walkway.

Nothing much was happening until I rounded the corner from under the Blue bridge and spotted the Sea Commander up on blocks.  This  didn’t really come as a big surprise as I’ve noticed it tied up on the dock for nearly a week now waiting it’s turn for in the ship yard.

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John Brix and the Sea Commander, a mightly pair.

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A road control guy directing traffic was watching me clicking away on my camera.

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Lately I’ve been feeling a twitch every time I come across the road construction crews. The bright flourescent colors, orange lights and lots of action … makes me want to get out my paint brush. They might make it to my easel soon …

The traffic control guy yelled out “you just missed the Coast Guard boat ‘Gordon Ried’.   It went under the bridge  about an hour ago” he told me.

I’ve been working on a painting of the coast guard Gordon Ried since last week.  It’s up on my easel right now. Hopefully, I’ll have it done in time for my upcoming show at “Bean Around the World” next month.

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Pushing on I rounded the bend by the Bay Street bridge to hear the grinding of engines from across the water.   Slinking out from behind the rocks by Budget Steel were the Seaspan boys with the chip barge all piled up.

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Cates XX straining forward…

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Foam huffing and puffing as it takes control…flipping a belly roll

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Over the past couple of years I’ve taken so many photo’s of the boys that I am surprised my computer hasn’t blown up.

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Last week I was watching the Foam hook up to the scrap barge over at Budget Steel and I dropped my camera.  Smashed it good and hard on the creosoted wharf.  What do you think my Doc would say if I told her I get the shakes every time I see a tugboat?

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I made my way down to the water’s edge. Low tide, gooey, silty, and smells worse than my kitchen compost.  I am ankle deep in yuk…..Scotty spots me  on the greasy shoreline …. gives me a big wave!  My steps will be lighter for the rest of the day.

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Captain Scotty has been on these waters longer than Victoria’s famous Princess Mary restaurant.

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pushing up to the Bay bridge …..

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Looking tight……

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I think it will fit…..

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going for it…….

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So far so good….

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Piece of cake….

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Oodles of room…..All in a days job for Scotty and the  boys.

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I am truly grateful…. until next time,   Janet

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Blue Bridge Blues

Demolition of Victoria’s Blue Bridge has begun and I’ve been avoiding the harbour as if it has come down with a deadly case of the plaque. One day, a while back, I knew something was seriously wrong with me when I found myself ignoring the boys, the tugs, and any other industrial activity down on the waterfront. Then it dawned on me wide and clear – I’ve got a serious case of the Blue Bridge Blues.

Friends started asking me questions. “Why aren’t you down by the bridge sketching?”  “Why aren’t you painting or drawing, it’s history in the making” they were all yapping at me.  “I can’t.  I’ve tried.  I can’t.” I shake my head at them.  It’s just to damn hard. Gives me weepy eyes to watch the destruction of our beautiful Blue bridge.

The Johnston Street Bridge (or “Big Blue” or “Blue Bridge”) is iconic to Victoria’s inner harbour and downtown.   It’s a striking heritage landmark.   You can see it from just about every angle around the waterfront and up city streets.  You can hear the creaks and groans as it draws upward to the sky to let marine traffic pass underneath it.  Kids point fingers and people smile at the site of the character and charm of the bridge.   To lose it all because of past neglect and lack of insight for the future is difficult for my brain to comprehend.

Being dramatic is part of the package of who I am.  So I won’t make any excuses for displaying symptoms of melancholy over the taking down of Big Blue.  Being in close touch with my senses is part of the parcel of being an artist.

I don’t know how anyone can not feel droopy eyed over the loss of this unique site.

So that’s why I was so astonished the other day when, out of the blue, I found myself hunkered down by the bridge, sketching.  My backside was planted on a chilly cement step staring at a big clawed machine ripping at the last bits of the rail bridge.  I hadn’t been any where near the destruction even ignoring a visit from the largest barge and crane on this coast.

On my way back home I skirted by the torn out rail bridge lying dead on the ground over here at Point Hope.  It was barged here to be dismantled by the fellows in the colourful hardhats.  It’s a tragic sight for sore eyes seeing it sprawled out all alone just like I will be when I leave this earth.  Like they say we come in alone and we go out alone.

Give me a moment to wipe my nose.  Ok, that’s better.   Just think if I can get this worked up over the loss of the rail section of the bridge I hate to see what’s going to happen when the whole she-bang comes down. I guess I’ll have to dot those eyes and cross those tees when the time comes.  For now I’ll just hang tight and see how this case of the Blue bridge Blues unfolds.



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Dry Beam No. 2

On the other end of the phone I hear a cheery “This is your morning wake up call”.   The phone is lodged between my ear and my shoulder while my right hand is flipping a pancake and my left is holding the cast-iron flying pan.   “You’re too late Galen; I’ve been awake for hours!”  Before I can utter more, he quickly jumps in, “thought you might like to get yourself over to Ogden Point right away.   There’s an interesting barge being hauled in by a large tug.   It’s mighty colourful and it’s nosing up to the Dry Beam.   Looks like a fuel barge of some sort.  Bright Blue and Yellow, you better get  over there,” he repeats.   Boy! Now what I am I suppose to do?  The house smells like fresh-baked goods and the steaming pancakes are a perfect golden brown.

Harbour tips that come out of the blue always put me in a bit of a tizzy.  First off, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate getting a head’s up but it does cause me some fuss.  For example if I am in the middle of something then it can cause me more than a little anxiety.  Maybe when the phone rings I might be cosy in my morning chair by the window staring at the birds. Or I am in the middle of poking sticks into the fire of my outdoor patio fireplace watching the smoke curl up over my deck.  So today do I really want to leave my  plate of pancakes behind?   But just thinking about missing out any action gets my nerves in a pickle.

If on the other hand Ceilidh and I are just out on our daily walk and we chance by the boys working in the harbour, my God, then all goodness breaks lose.  My blood pressure rises like a Chinook day in Calgary I am so thrilled.   My only twinge of anxiety is when I am trying to figure out which way to run, where’s the sun, which camera to use, and all the other subtleties of tug boat chasing.   Oh course my stomach always does some hicupping but that’s only pure happiness bubbling up inside.  Like yesterday all by chance  I caught the boys  doing sea trials (above pic), which I think should be renamed “spinning donuts around the harbour”,  with the  newly conditioned Smit Pride.

But this morning’s call from Galen has let loose images of tugs and fuel barges that are bouncing around my mind.    I know I won’t have any peace until I go see what’s going on.     Breakfast will have to wait as I load a barking tail-wagging dog into the car.    On the way across the blue bridge I noticed the Seaspan boys are not home at their dock.   I think to myself I’ll probably will see them over assisting with the fuel barge.

So here I am sitting in the car trying to pump out a sketch.   In front of me is the fuel barge “Petrobulker” from Vancouver and tied up to the right is a mighty Seaspan tug “Corsair”.   Over to the left is the crippled Dry Beam sucking up some fuel so it can  motor over to the States for repairs.

First thing I noticed  as I drove up to the Petrobulker is that the boys aren’t here.   “Must be over in Esquimalt” I tell a bouncing Ceilidh in the back seat.   The Corsair looks impressive!   I don’t think I’ve seen this tug before.

My sketch was done but I still felt a bit glum. What’s missing? Then I sense movement and I lift my chin up! Low and behold  the Cates 4 is slipping by the backside of the Corsair heading straight  for home. I snap a quick pic before she runs out of sight.

I drop my head down and when I again sense movement up I look and see the  Cates Twenty scooting  by.  Moving so fast I didn’t even have time to grab a photo.   “Not our day” I mutter to the dog   My head drops harder and then I feel a flicker of movement and I see the mighty Foam skirting by the stern of the Corsair.

Down goes the sketchbook and up comes the camera.   Before I know it I am outside scrambling over soggy grass, slippery logs, and sharp rocks getting myself in position for whatever comes next.

Which seems to be coffee and a break for the boys.  Oh well! I plunk my butt down on the least moist rock and take a moment to breathe the salty air.   Next thing, before I can  even shake a stick  I hear the grinding and see the billowing of powerful engines.  Oh Jimmy crickets! this looks promising!

Time to unleash and movin’ out!  You ready?

Look at that – colour, tugs, and men.   Gee, wasn’t that the name of my last art show.

Deep radio voices, bounce over the water to all us looky-lou’s.  Steel against steel grind and rub together.  Smells of fermenting seaweed and crying of swooping seagulls add to the moment.

Whenever my grandson visits he loves to play with sticks and poles on the beach.   Looks like he’s got this in common with the deck hands gappling lines off the barge.

Thank you Galen, if you hadn’t called I’d still be home digesting my pancakes in my rocking chair.   Yes, the Buddhist in me prefers to live in the moment.  Like being caught off guard when Ceilidh and I are out for our harbour strolls.  Just taking life as it comes.  But today proved to me there is no one way of tug boat chasing better than the other.   Both are good.  Following through on Galen’s tip was the right thing to do at that moment.    Now my camera is full and my spirit is light.   Yes, in life there is many paths to fulfillment.  We can each choose our own path that  suits us best. My own path seems to be wandering around sketching, painting and blogging about Victoria’s working harbour.

Ceilidh is giving me the hang dog look.   Time for our walk.   “I wonder what’s up at the shipyard, Ceilidh girl?”…….


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Dry Beam

Today was a good day.   A real good day.   First thing this morning, all by accident, I met up with the boys over at Ogden Point.   I didn’t know they were going to be  over there.    I went over to sketch the Dry Beam, a  Singapore cargo ship that  has been tied for the last few days.   She is all crippled up from a rogue wave that smacked her hard up the coast last week.  The rushing wave hit with such a force that the logs shifted and toppled some of the load into the sea.   The long line of steel poles containing the load of logs bent like melted candles on a birthday cake.  Under the weight of all those American logs that  poor freighter must have been tipping and rolling.  My lord! if  I was on board  that ship I would have you-know- what in my pants.   Now looking at those twisted poles I can well imagine the Filipino crew scrambling for their lives, jumping about,  cayay-ing away in high Filipino tones.

“Gee Ceilidh I wonder what’s going on!” I tell my dog who is bouncing around in the back of the car.  Poor girl  thinks she is going for her morning walk along Dallas Road.   All I can see as I swing my little VW into the  parking lot is cars, people, camera’s, tripods,  even a TV crew all lined up at the end of the cement pier.    The Dry Beam is tied up along side the  pier but then I quickly notice off to the side is  an empty barge.  The “Seaspan Phoenix” is its name which has two mighty gigantic Seaspan cranes sitting on top of it.  The cranes are already at work lifting the logs from the freighter unto the waiting deck of the Seaspan barge.    At the bow of the barge, beaming in the morning light, is one mighty red and white Seaspan tug.  “Oh Dear! Here we go again Ceilidh girl!” I tell her as my veins begin to pulse.

My knees would buckle too if I got smacked out of  nowhere by a gigantic wave.   Thank goodness it didn’t happen to me last winter when I went to Newfoundland.   It was bad enough being on the  “Smallwood” with 140 km winds in the Alantic Ocean  and being tossed about like a matchstick in a bathtub with a two year old. 

My foot hit the gas and next thing I know I am sliding into the only parking space left open along the pier.   The very minute I turned off the ignition and looked up I saw right in front of me the dark stacks of my favorite little tug “Cates 4”.  The 4 was  pushed up against the concrete barrier, bow thrust forward, resting in place.   My pulse was thumping as  I reached for  my camera,  I leaped out of the car,  I heaved myself up onto the cement barrier and when I looked up, there, right there, ya, ya,  right there…  in front of me was  my most favorite tug boat captain and crew in the whole world!!  In the next fleeting of moments, as I lifted my head to have a better look around me  I saw a figure in orange coveralls slipping around the side of the  cabin.  It’s one of my boys!  He’s clamoring  up over the bow of the tug  coming to meet me.

My heart hits my throat as I reach up and give  him a great big hug.   As we chat  I feel oblivious to what’s going on around me.   I am so thankful to be here.   To be standing here with clear sky’s and tugboat’s surrounding me.   All my winter doldrums slink away.   We talk about the Dry Beams harrowing story, how long the Phoenix might be in port and what jobs they are up to next.  He says to me “have you been OK we haven’t seen you out taking pictures for a while, the boys been wondering how you doing?”  Those are words that can make a tugboat girl cry on the spot.   I suck it up and tell him honestly ” I’ve been under the weather the past few months”.  It’s too bad that right now I can’t remember the juicy details of our conversation.  I’d love to be able to pass the harbour gossip along to you.  But I am afraid nothing stays in my brain when I am around the boys and the tugs.  My mind is all a twrill.

Like life all pleasant things come to an end and the boys had to get back to work.  So with my jiggly hand I do a quick 5 min sketch.    From now on I’ve decided take less photograph’s and do more drawing’s.     I’ve decided that even a not so good sketch is much more personal than a photograph.

Later on at supper time I drove over to the old tank farm.  Cars were lined up with people staring into binoculars who were all gawking at the transferring of logs.

Victoria doesn’t generally get this kind of action.   Maybe in the old days we would get log barges coming in here but not no more.  Probably have to go North, Port Alberni, Campbell River or further north Prince Rupurt or something like that to find working log dumping barges.

The sun was going down.   This one was sketched with gloves on.   Quick, simple to give me the feel of the moment.

Meeting up with the boys today has got me  feeling frisky like the birds out my  morning window.  I am taking that as a good sign.  Spring is here and I am roaring to go.   Happy sketching painting and of course tugboating everyone.


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A couple of paintings and a tugboat

Man oh man; it’s been ages since I’ve been out chasing the boys around.   As some of you know I’ve been laid up the past year or so with an illness.   Painting, sketching and blogging have been sporadic at best as every time I started anything this past year my energy tanked on me.   But thanks to the great tugboat in the sky my energy seems to be returning with gusto.  So today I am so thankful that I was able to finished not one but two paintings.

This one is for a friend of mine who is also going through an illness. I painted it for her because she has a special fondness for the deckhand.

To celebrate this grand achievement I decided to pull my spider-web encrusted bike out of the shed and head down to the upper harbour to have a good gawk around.   It didn’t take me long to come across the LaFarge gravel barge that the Tug “Storm Spray” ties up under the Bay street bridge.    The setting sun was lighting it up pretty good.   So I pulled my bike off the path and yanked it into the bushes, pushed some broken beer bottles off a rock and took out my sketch book and got right down to work.

Sometime during the night or early morning the large masted “Storm Spray” drops off a load of gravel a couple times a week.   I think it works that way but I am not 100% sure as I’ve never actually seen him come into the harbour.  I’ve only seen this blue, white and red Tug leave town and it’s always after 6 pm as the bridge guy can’t lift the bridge up for them until after rush hour is over.    The gravel unloading guy with his blue hardhat and his orangey-yellow loader takes most of the day to unload the barge.   The loader bounces along and beeps back and forth as it scoops the gravel up and places it onto the dented blue conveyor belt.  Sometimes I have noticed that the barge is sitting empty before 4 pm. So I’ve assumed that the boys are still napping over by Point Hope.   That’s why I think they might travel during the night to get here from somewhere on the mainland.   If I could get closer to the tug I’d probably be able to figure it all out but since the shipyards is off limits to me and the tug is tied in behind the docks I have no idea what’s going on.

Holy smoking tugboats! what the heck is that in the water?     I looked up to see this snake-like creature slithering along the top of the water heading towards the bridge.   I couldn’t tell if it was an overstuffed seal or an extra-long otter on steroids.   By the time I was able to grab the camera and shoot a photo it was already in the shadow of the bridge.  Whatever it is it seems to be taking a joyful sight-seeing trip.   His nose pointed sky-word like an Ivy League snob and his ears were sticking up like an evil llama’s just before it spits on you.  As his head loped from side to side he cut though the dark green water sending up twinkling lines of fluorescent red trails.

The last of the mauve tinge in the water was disappearing and my bones were shaking cold, so I decided it was time to head home and cook something hot. Darn bike! I complained as I tried to yank it out of the bushes and back unto the path.   Oh no!  Am I going to make it home? I crossed my legs to hold off nature while putting my camera and stuff back in my bag.   I looked up and saw the “Storm Spray” snuggling up to the lime green barge.  Already nimble deckhands were jumping from tug to barge scrambling up ladders getting ready to tackle the job at hand. Not now! Oh please not now!

The next 20 minutes I spent charging after tug and barge through the upper, inner and out of the mouth of the harbour.   My spine tingled as “Captain Spray” blasted his horn multiple times and the vocal deckhand yelled out the window at the kayakers in his way.   It all brought back entertaining memories of when ‘Dave on the Inlet Rover’ would stand on top of his tug with controls in hand shouting four letter words to anyone brave enough to get in his way.

The Storm Spray use to be yellow in a former life. Then it was called the Evco Spray. It was the first tug I ever painted in the painting “In the Wake of Joe Norris”. So this is the tug that started this whole crazy life for me.

The working harbour brings joy into my life.   The clanking, grinding, thumping of barge’s moving and the huffing, puffing of tug’s rolling moves my blood from head to toe.  Being able to paint what I feel deep inside is my greatest joy.  Victoria’ working harbour is changing far too rapidly.  I feel called to record these images of the working boys so that they are not forgotten in the future.  Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it is no longer with us and then when it is too late we realise how foolish we were to let it all slip away.

So my good friends until my next energy burst.

Good sketching and happy tug boating,



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