At the last Makers’ Social Night, we were invited to tour the CCGS Cape Roger by its chief engineer, Gerry McDonald. Luckily, we were able to arrange a time before it left port. We made our way to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, under the MacKay Bridge, on a rainy, foggy Halifax night. Gerry met our group and ushered us on board the 4400HP search and rescue ship.
Our group of eight ranged from elementary school-aged kids to forty-somethings, and we all had a lot of fun. Gerry was welcoming, and as comfortable talking shop with our marine engineer as he was answering a 10 year old’s questions.
We started on the foredeck, as Gerry went over the specifics of the anchors and associated gear, then moved to the bridge. I was surprised to learn they had a standard compass, among the more high-tech stuff, mounted above the bridge and viewed with a periscope-like mirror.
We wound our way down and through the ship, throwing out questions as we thought of them and resisting the urge to press buttons and turn knobs. There is an impressive amount of auxiliary gear, other than the obvious pair of engines: en electric bow thruster, generators, huge transformers, water purifiers, a centrifuge system to clean the engine oil, air compressors to start the engines, an aerobic waste management system, winches for towing.
Eventually, we found our way to the workshop, admiring the metal lathe, which we found out was to be replaced with a much better lathe in a few months, drill press/mill, and welding setup.
Makers tend to have a fascination with other makers’ shops and work spaces. Gerry’s was not huge, but super efficient, organized, and surprisingly clean and well-lit. Every drawer had a latch, every shelf had a lip to keep stuff in place. Even his thick steel workbench had a 2 inch lip. I imagine this must be frustrating when he tries to work on anything that hangs over the edge, but I guess it’s preferable to engine parts crushing your toes in a stormy sea. Parts cabinets were sturdy (no cheap dollar store parts bins here), meticulously labelled, with each drawer running smoothly on beefy slides. A ceiling-mounted rail system let him move parts from the engine room to the workshop with relative ease.
We had a couple programmers and a marine engineer among us, so on the way out we had a look at a supply room and a pretty thorough overview of their inventory/maintenance management software, the latter being Gerry’s baby.
My son and I had a wonderful time, as I’m sure did everyone else, and I’m grateful to Gerry for taking time out of his evening to host us.