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Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon

On December 30, 2003 I had a chance to join the crew of the Griffon on a trip from the Canadian Coast Guard Base in Amherstburg, Ontario to Sarnia.

Canadian Coast Guard base in Amherstburg at dawn.

Gull Isle and Cape Hurd rest for the winter.

Bow view of the Griffon as the sun rises.

Welcome aboard.

Looking down on the Coast Guard Base.

Captain Paul Beesley and 2nd mate Larry Bell  plan the day's trip.

The Chief Officer and 2nd mate prepare for the day's activities.

High tech control stations were added during the summer refit.

Chief Officer Pat McGarrity  takes the Griffon from the dock while Paul watches the stern.

New bow thruster eases the Griffon off the dock.

Tony McKay and barge at Allied Chemical.

View astern. Amherstburg channel is on then left and Livingstone on the right.

Meeting the Algosteel


Stern view

Low water levels revile the base of the former MamaJuta Light House.

Off Detroit

Leaving Windsor on our stern.

J.A.W. Iglehart arriving for lay-up in Detroit.

Passing the webcam at the Dossin Museum

William Livingstone Lighthouse at the head of Belle Isle

Stern view heading into Lake St. Clair.

3rd mate Chris Everitt demonstrates the AIS.  This will superimpose information about other ships on your electronic chart, which helps make your passage safer.

Paul watches over the transit.

Notice the little grin?  That's because Paul still can't believe how great this job is.
Quartermaster (Wheelsman) Dave Smith on the left.  4th mate Paul Spngle watches over our cadet as he earns wheel time.

Paper work, paper work. Log Officer Len Cowdrey can always track down the guy with the pen!

Clear-Vu Screen spins at very high RPM which ensures water, snow and ice are thrown off so this small circular patch is always clear.  The electric drive motor is at the top.  The glass is extremly thick to prevent breaking when green water gets up this high - which is does on occasion.

3rd mate Chris Everitt leads us on a tour of the Griffon

Builders Plate.

Anchor windlass.

Ship's bell.  The bell is required by the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea.  It is used to make a specific sound signal when a ship is at anchor.

Windlass power pack.

New bow thruster. To see it from the outside, click here

Cables and winches for the boom.

The Griffon has a huge cargo hold.  Compare this to the Risley's where you can't even stand up straight.

The ship always carries a few spare buoys and moorings.  Even in the winter it may be necessary to replace a missing buoy..

heavy framing for ice breaking.

Crew work shop in the cargo hold.  Don and Dave enjoying the privacy.

View to port.

Heading up to the buoy deck.

On the buoy deck.

Hatch to hold. This is a MacGregor type of hatch.  It slides and folds into 3 sections.  As you can see, there is no coaming.

Crane controls. There is a duplicate set on the starboard side.  This allows the Winchman to work whichever side the buoy is on.

View aft.

Work barge, used to pull buoys where the water is too shallow for the Griffon to venture.

Engine work on the work barge.

Aft deck. On the left is the stern anchor control and mooring machinery.  On the right is the port mooring winch.  the fibre lines are used to double up the wires  when necessary.

Work boat.


Life ring.

Rescue boat that can be launched and retrieved while the ship is underway.  The davit is a one point lift made by Schat and called Miranda Davit.  The boat is diesel powered.

Stern view of rescue boat.

Binnacle atop pilot house.  A wooden model.  New ones are plastic.  Nothing is sacred!  Magnetic compass is required by law, just in case the gyro fails.

Roomy interior

Griffon is often used for scientific work and offer a good deal of extra space for the scientist to work from.

Spare cabin.

Crew accommodations

Captain's office

View forward from the Captain's cabin..

On the lake it is time to catch up on paper work in the captain's office.
The Captain can monitor the electronic chart from his desk computer!

The former engine controls.
these were replaced by smaller units when the engine control system was upgraded.

Crew's lounge.

Crew's dining room.

Meal's are served cafeteria style.


Another view

Dish washing with a view.

2nd Cook Dave McCourt prepares dinner
Up one deck the officer's dining room.

Officer's lounge.

Exercise room.


Ship's office

Ship's office

Chief Engineer Mike Heslinga  working with the fax machine. Cell data connections can be a test of patience.  1.2 kbs does not allow internet activity. 

Outside we meet the Cason J. Callaway

Paul did a great job of arranging lots of traffic in the river.

I think I was suppose to arrange for the sunny weather.. ooops.


Lake Crossing allows Paul to enjoy lunch with Chief Engineer Mike Heslinga. (They were laughing at Neil!)

Salad bar and desert

The old St. Clair Flats South Channel Range Lights

Tug Salvor and Columbia Star downbound in the St. Clair Cut off Channel.

Meeting the Cedarglen at Port Lambton.

Senior Engineer Paul Whelan  monitors the Control room.  This is part of the new control and monitoring system that was installed in the most recent refit.

Engine room ballast board and alarm monitoring panel

Main engines. The diesel engines run electric generators that power motors to turn the propellers.

Electric motor.

another view

One of the Griffon's two Propeller shafts.

Ship Service Generators which provide all the electricity required.  The propulsion generators are in a different part of the engine room.

Boiler for heat.

Steering gear
Compass repeater on the left so the ship can be steered from this position - with input from the wheelhouse!

Another view

Passing Fawn Island

High tech pilot house.

Dave Smith at the helm.

3rd mate Chris Everitt and Dave Smith pilot the Griffon upbound.

H. Lee White fueling.

Former USCG Bramble at the Port Huron Seaway Terminal

USCG small boat on patrol

Paul Spingle, centre, getting pilotage advice from 2nd mate  Larry Bell while Dave Smith wheels.

Paul watches our course.

Smitty at the  helm.

Paul takes over for the turn into Sarnia.

in temporary lay-up.

Sarnia Harbor.

USCG helicopter over head.

Lines going ashore.

Roger, the Winchman,  standing by the winch controls.

In Sarnia to load buoys.

Stern view.



..and over.

Placing on deck.

The crew works quickly. The Griffon had to load and leave as the wharf was needed by another ship.

Zebra mussel encrusted. Willard Heidman, the Bosun, controls the deck.

Ahhh.. the smell of Zebra mussels.

Coordinating the buoy mooring  placement.  Steel anchor and chain.

Ready to hook the next buoy.

View from the bridge. Starboard-hand buoys & one  port-hand buoy and one fairway buoy.

As the crew continues loading we take a quick walking tour of the harbor.

Stern view of the Griffon.

Boarder patrol overhead.

Fishing tug Mar-Vel-Ann

New 7 person escape craft. Paul for scale.  This would be an uncomfortable survival.

Stern view.

Tug Kewatin in lay-up.  The ship is registered in Edmonton, Alberta.  This is not the home port.  Wilmington Delaware is the port of registry of many US great lakes ships.

Northern Transportation styalized stack logo. 'n' over a 't'.  This company has a huge fleet in the Arctic.  It is based in Hay River, NWT.

Keewatin is a shallow draft tug.

James Delaney on the buoy and Mel McIntyre waiting for the hook to return.

Last buoy is loaded

This crew works fast!

Back onboard, port side of the Bridge deck looking forward toward the wheelhouse.

Chief Cook Mike Murray is preparing dinner.

Chicken a-la-king or pork.

Dave McCourt putting an order in the dumb waiter for delivery to the Officer's mess.

When loading was complete the Griffon moved across to the elevator dock to secure for the night.

Scott stands by to dock.

Paul Duguay, Quartemaster,  at the center control station.

Paul watches the approach. There were 4 Paul's on board, 3 of whom worked in the wheelhouse!

With Christmas lights burning the Griffon will remain docked in Sarnia until she returns to Amherstburg.

My sincere thanks to Paul Beesley for inviting us aboard to get an inside look at the Griffon (and captions for this page!), I would also like to thank the crew for their hospitality and tolerance of my never ending questions and pictures. For more Coast Guard and shipping pictures visit Paul's site at

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