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Marine Delivers Magazine 2019

Life Aboard a Great Lakes cargo ship

How do Canadian sailors spend a typical Saturday night on a cargo ship? Watching NHL hockey and having a barbecue, of course. It was all part of the experience as Donna Symonds and her husband John Low got a glimpse into life as a mariner this past month after travelling aboard the CSL Welland from the Welland Canal to the Port of Montreal.

Saturday is steak night aboard the Great Lakes ship CSL Welland with the barbecue set up outside on deck. Members of the crew gather in the galley on their dinner break to fill up their plates, play cards and catch the latest hockey action.  The night before Chef Jeffrey MacPhee treated everyone to a moose-meat fry up as an evening snack – a big crowd pleaser with the many Newfoundlanders on board who bring the meat back when they return from their leave home and fill up the freezer.

It was all part of the experience as Donna Symonds and her husband John Low got a glimpse into life as a mariner this past month after travelling aboard the CSL Welland from the Welland Canal to the Port of Montreal, where it discharged Canadian prairie grain.  The Wainfleet couple won the excursion as part of the Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) and CSL Group’s Win a Trip on a Great Lakes Ship contest in summer 2018.

Warm Welcome from the Crew

They got a warm welcome from CSL Welland  Captain Wilson Walters and his crew.

 “The crew has just been great. They are the best people going. They were constantly asking if we needed anything. They were all so friendly,” says Donna, who took home a safety helmet signed by every member of the crew.

The contest is a fun way for the Chamber to engage the public in a conversation about how ship operators are investing billions on modernizing their fleets with cutting-edge technologies. CMC set up an event booth with branding, advertising and giveaways at Port Colborne’s Canal Days festival along with promoting the contest and shipping’s investment in innovation and environmental stewardship through social media advertising and on its website.

New technology from stem to stern

Delivered in 2014, the CSL Welland  is part of CSL’s Trillium Class new build-program. The vessels were specially designed to improve navigation, the marine environmental footprint and crew safety.  Donna and John were given a tour of the bulk carrier from stem to stern, including the engine room that stretches over four stories.

“I liked the engine room. I can’t believe how clean everything is,” said John, who owns his own mechanic shop. “If I was a lot younger, I would be looking for a job.  It’s something different, I never thought of a career on water, probably because I can’t swim,” he jokes.

Donna was also “quite impressed” by the fuel savings that have come from the vessel’s custom hull design, latest engine technology and monitoring systems designed to minimize energy consumption.

It takes only 1 litre of fuel to go 500 kilometres per 1 tonne of cargo.  A truck can carry the same amount of cargo an estimated 48 kilometres on 1 litre of fuel.

Throughout the trip, the couple learned about a mariner’s daily life, like how groceries get hoisted onboard as the vessel passes through a lock or the bicycles available to the crew for short trips while a vessel is in port. They also watched the crew skillfully manoeuvre through the St. Lawrence Seaway locks system, the narrow channels of the stunning 1000 Islands and later into the Port of Montreal.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Donna. “I would do this again in a heartbeat,” adds John.