‘What the hell is an ice pilot?’

Bonnie Learning
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American tugboat crew reflect on Labrador experience as their time in the Big Land winds down

Engineer Jeff Neves, deckhand Brian Lindemann and Captain Clyde Stanfield have enjoyed their time in Labrador and are very impressed with the friendliness of local residents. The barge ‘Marilyn Monroe’  — which they towed from Jacksonville, Fl., to Goose Bay, can be seen in the background. The barge was loaded with heavy equipment brought in for visiting American military.

From the pristine turquoise waters of Florida to the deep blue of the North Atlantic, it was an eventful and eye opening experience for an American tugboat crew this summer.

Captain Clyde Stanfield, along with a six-member crew, were hired to tow the barge ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from Jacksonsville, Fl., to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, in order to bring in heavy equipment for American military members who are currently stationed at 5 Wing Goose Bay.

The tugboat ‘Rio Bravo’ left port on June 20 and arrived at Terrington Basin on July 8, with barge in tow.

The Rio Bravo attained a top speed of eight knots (nine to 10 miles per hour) as they pulled the 8,000 ton loaded barge — measuring 350 feet long by 75 feet wide — 1,500 feet behind them.

“She don’t travel fast, but she has 3,000 horsepower in two locomotive engines,” said Stanfield.

Stanfield said the entire journey was an awesome experience — even the towering icebergs they began to encounter as they sailed up the west coast of Newfoundland, which had everyone a little on the nervous side.

“We had some discussions with our company (about icebergs), so we ended up picking up an ice pilot in Halifax,” explained the captain.

“I said, ‘What the hell is an ice pilot?’ — I had never heard tell of that before.”

Stanfield said everyone was impressed with the icebergs and were grateful an ice pilot was on board to guide them.

“There was one point in the trip where, over a 12 mile scope, we counted 75 icebergs,” he recalled. “The biggest one we picked up on radar was almost a mile wide.”

The crew also had to wait out some unpleasant weather, as Hurricane Arthur made its way through the Maritimes in early July, petering out over the Labrador Sea on July 7.

“We stayed in the Strait of Belle Isle for about 18 hours, as we let the storm come over us before getting back on the ocean,” explained Stanfield.

After sailing 3,000 miles from their home base to Goose Bay, Stanfield said the trip was well worth it.

“It was beautiful coming into (Lake Melville),” he said.

“It’s nice getting a breeze offshore, as the trees smell great — it’s like Christmas!”

Stanfield said local residents have been great as well.

“We’ve had many local people come see us, chat with us. Joe Cabot and his family, in particular, have been very nice to us and helping us out with a lot of things.”

Unfortunately, said Stanfield, he hasn’t been able to spend much time exploring the local area, as they are currently operating on a skeleton crew of three men.

“When we arrived here, three crew members went home, so we’re down to three until we get ready to leave again (when the others will be back),” he said.

“So myself and the engineer have to stay on board most of the time, in case something goes wrong.”

Jeff Neves is the engineer.

He said he has been very impressed with his time in Labrador thus far.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The trip up here was beautiful.”

Deckhand Brian Lindemann has been able to get away for longer stretches of time to look around.

The 27-year old Jacksonville man has been working as a deckhand for about five years and said he’s been enjoying his Labrador adventure.

“I’ve gone to the North West River Beach Festival, been to a few bars to have a few beers with the locals, and I’ve found out something — you can’t outdrink a Canadian!” he quipped.

Lindemann has nothing but praise for the friendliness of the community.

“I actually went out to some yard sales last Saturday to kill some time, and ended up hitting all these sales with a lady who told me to come along with her, as she pulled out a big list of locations,” Lindemann laughed.

“It was great, it made me feel at home, as that’s the kind of environment I grew up in.”

As their days in Labrador draws to a close, Stanfield said the return trip will take 30 days, as they have to drop off the barge in Louisiana before heading back to Jacksonville.

“Our ice pilot will also be joining us when we leave Goose Bay, and take us as far as Halifax,” he smiled. “We don’t want a repeat of the ‘Titantic.’”

The crew will be setting sail somewhere between Aug. 25-28.




Geographic location: Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Florida North Atlantic Halifax Happy Valley Terrington Basin Jacksonville Lake Melville North West River Louisiana

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Recent comments

  • D
    August 07, 2014 - 08:23

    Correct me if I am wrong or have half a story, but I think that the old military houses were meant for Florida back in the 50's but a storm stopped them from delivering. The original houses meant for CAF Goose Bay were also in the same storm and I think it was agreed to keep the Florida houses at Goose while the original went to Florida.