Getting a Ferry Rolling

It is standard procedure to pull a ferry out of the water when it is not in use, but no matter how many times you have done it before, it is always a challenge!

by Tony D’Anjou, Dominic Hébert

Originally published in Tow Canada, March-April 2021

In mid-September 2020, Hillaire Journault, owner of CNM Évolution, contacted our dispatch at Remorquage Provincial Jacques D’Anjou to pull a ferry out of the St-Lawrence River and up onto the shore. It was not the first time we had been called for this kind of job. Once a year, at the end of sailing season, we pull it out of the water, and then launch it again in early spring.

We used to transport the ferry from the privately-owned pier in Ste Flavie, near Rimouski, to Gaspé, Québec, where it was stored for winter, but to eliminate the trouble of transporting it, Hillaire decided to build a parking spot right at the pier.

Taking into account that the ferry weighs 450,000 lbs., it is never a routine job for us, but having previous experience with this kind of project made setting up the plan easier. We also had no problem with choosing the right equipment, as our company owns a big variety of equipment for all kinds of special projects.

When coming up with the action plan, we had to make sure we coordinated the time with the high tide so the ferry would be floating closest to the pier. We decided to use our Century 60-ton rotator with a 50,000 lbs. winch mounted on a Peterbilt truck, and the NRC 50-ton boom with a 35,000 lbs. winch on a Freightliner Classic.

We had six crew members on the site that day—two tow truck operators, one coordinator, and three swampers—who were taking good care of our cables and attachments, as safety is our top priority.

The biggest challenge was synchronizing everything, considering the weather and the rising tide. The entire team is made up of passionate professionals who love their jobs. We did the impossible, with good communication during our setup.

First, a small boat was deployed to catch cables attached to the ferry and bring them back to the shore, where we attached them to our cables. When the tide rose, we started winching. When the ferry approached the shore, our swampers set up two buggies of 16 wheels each under the boat to bring it onto land. There was also an eight-wheel buggy in the front of the boat, which made it a total of 40 wheels that helped us roll the ferry uphill to its final parking spot.

There was no room for error; we had only one chance to succeed and align all equipment in the correct position to bring the ferry up. We pulled it about 285 feet from the water. Luckily, with our professional team, everything went as smoothly as planned, except for one thing; there was not enough coffee on the job site! Our next meet with this gigantic vessel will be in April 2021, when we will be putting it back into the water.