Groceries at Green Island c.1975

Groceries at Green Island c.1975

Cloo-Stung - photo Barry Duggan

The Cloo-Stung was a catamaran of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) used for delivery of personnel and supplies to Prince Rupert area lighthouses in protected waters. The groceries were delivered to the Coast Guard base in Prince Rupert from the local stores. These were then packed in slings (large canvas or net circles with ropes attached to allow them to be attached to a hook) and loaded onto the Cloo-Stung.

Cloo-Stung with supplies - photo John Coldwell

One day while working at Green Island the Cloo-stung arrived with our monthly supplies of mail, groceries and miscellaneous supplies from Prince Rupert base. The weather was fine, the sea was fair and all was well as the highline hook ran down the line, tripped at the catch and slid slowly down the line to the boat. One of the crew grabbed the highline hook and with the other hand slipped the lines from the net sling over the hook. At the haul away signal from the crewman, I slipped in the clutch on the winch and started to lift the slingload of groceries from the open deck at the back of the boat.

Normal bonnet sling arriving as it should - photo John Coldwell

In one ear I heard the winch engine groan as if to stall, and with my eyes I saw the net sling catch on a projection on the Cloo-Stung. I released the brake and the net slowly sank back into the well deck. At the same time the Cloo-Stung was drifting into the beach because of the low ocean swell. Well, that started the sling moving again. It was anchored to the boat; it was anchored to my winch hook. Slowly the sling began to lift over the low side of the boat and before anyone could even yell, the full slingload of ten cardboard boxes of groceries tipped over the side of the boat and into the salt water.

Cloo-Stung showing thew twin hulls - photo John Coldwell

Now some of these boxes were filled with light stuff like paper towels or toilet paper, etc. and floated, and some were filled with tin cans, etc. and you guessed it – straight to the bottom. The bottom under the highline was not very deep (maybe 20 feet) but we were not divers so all was lost.

The Coast Guard was very good about replacing our lost supplies another day (comparing received supplies against our copy of the grocery list) and the crew did manage to rescue some of the floating boxes, so we were not without for very long.

But, come next day, the regular ocean current and tides started washing up some of these lost items onto the beach. One silver can here, another there! Of course the labels had washed off in the water and we had no idea of what we were retrieving.

So, for the next week or so we made a regular patrol of the short beach trying to locate more cans. After opening one or two cans and identifying the contents, we finally found out what each of the markings (bands) on the cans was for and so we had our own identification.

“Here, I’ll trade you a can of beans for a can of corn.”

“I don’t like mushrooms. You take this one. I’ll get that can over there.”

For a week this provided an unusual diversion from the everyday routine of a lightstation and provided us with a few free groceries. After a week or so, the gift of cans disappeared and we had to find other entertainment.

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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