Refuelling a Lighthouse


photo credit Ron Amundsen

British Columbia (BC) lighthouses mostly have diesel generators unless they are close enough to a large town or city to allow a power cable to run to them.

So how does one refuel a lighthouse as most of them are sitting fairly high above the water line and very distant from a local gas station?

Well, thanks to the lighthouse keepers at Scarlett Point lighthouse and Ivory Island lighthouse for giving me permission to use their photos, I can now show you. 


Scarlett Point lighthouse – Google Maps

Ivan Dubinsky at Scarlett Point lighthouse, north of Port Hardy, BC has been photographing anything that moves and does not move at his lighthouse with his new camera and posting them on Facebook. He now has quite a few followers admiring his photos.

OK, back to the refuelling. There are many ways that I have seen it done. From most to least expensive we have helicopter slinging in fuel drums or bladders, hovercraft carrying fuel in it’s tanks, and Coast Guard ships pumping it into a fuel barge and moving it to shore.

           CG253_Ivan_DubinskyRefuelling Entrance_Ivan_DubinskyCCGS Bartlett_Ivan_Dubinsky Continue reading

Mise Tales Thirty-Six


For an update on what a Mise Tale is then please see Mise Tales One.


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Here is a great video taken on board the Coast Guard ship CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier as it services the mountain-top radio sites using the onboard helicopter. Great shots of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwai) and the old lighthouse and radio station at Cape St. James.

It is titled on Youtube as the “Big Red Restaurant“!

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Reprint – A Sailor’s Journal

LaurierThe Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) carries lighthouse keepers and their supplies (groceries, mail, household goods, etc) usually by ship or helicopter. This story describes the inner workings of the Canadian Coast Guard light icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier as told by my friend Abe Van Oeveren. I have been on several ships and they are indeed a complicated piece of machinery run by very competent men and women.

Abe’s comments to me about the story when I asked permission to reprint:

The account is based on material gathered on several trips blended together to make a story that flows end to end. To make it readable I avoided talking about too much crappy weather which keeps everybody on board the ship unable to fly up to Van, Naden or Barry, or how the ship’s crew’s collective mood changes as the 28 day typical patrol proceeds.  Continue reading

Development of the Canadian Icebreaker

I was writing an article that contained a reference to the CCGS Camsell, a Coast Guard icebreaker, and I got to wondering how many people knew about the history of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) ice breakers. Thanks to the generosity of the CCG website I have been given permission to reproduce their material here. It is a very interesting story.

The following article is reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2012


A History of the Canadian Coast Guard and Marine Services
by Thomas E. Appleton

Development of the Canadian Icebreaker

We have already noted the influence of the Prince Edward Island winter service on the building of passenger vessels able to navigate in ice, ranging from the underpowered and ineffective Northern Light of 1876 to the handsome cruising ship Earl Grey of 1909. The main business of these ships was to maintain communications. While this evolution was unfolding, the problem of flood control on the St. Lawrence demanded attention. From earliest times ice floating down had formed an annual dam between Montreal and Quebec, causing flooding as it built up and further damage to ships when it gave way. In an attempt to control this process by keeping the ice on the move, a requirement now arose for ships whose primary role was to break ice rather than to maintain communications. As a secondary role, which Canadian icebreakers must have to provide an economic year round usage, there was plenty of work to be done in support of aids to navigation.

CCGS N.B. McLean working in the St. Lawrence.

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In Memorium – Bill Exley (1920 – 1994)

Captain William (Bill) Mills Exley (January 08, 1920, Vancouver, BC –  April 24,1994, Victoria, BC) was a friend to all the lighthouse keepers he met. Bill joined the Coast Guard as a mess boy on the Estevan in 1939 and retired 45 years later as District Area Supervisor (DAS), Victoria. He was a tough boss but was respected by all who learned from him. See his biography below. Bill’s ashes were buried at sea.

To include your memories in Bill’s memorial please click this link.

Bill was Second Mate on the old “smokey joe” CGS Estevan under that legendary master mariner, Capt Harry Ormiston (1889-1971), when I joined the (then) Victoria District Marine Agency as the (then) Superintendent of Lights in June 1956, a post I held until Oct 1959. His seamanship, acquired and polished during his many years of sailing with Harry, was absolutely superb, a true credit to his mentor. Among my happy, solid memories of Bill was his skillful handling of the Estevan’s sturdy work boats then used to take supplies ashore at lightstations, often in heavy seas. (No choppers in those days). Not once in my time did he ever misjudge the swells, damage a work boat, or dump its cargo in the water. Nor did he ever cause me to be dunked when I used to jump from the bow onto wet slippery seaweed-covered rocks when doing an annual lighthouse inspection – or when scrambling back on board afterwards.

Captain Exley, as he was when I last met him (his guest for lunch on the CGS Sir James Douglas while visiting Victoria in 1964), was a man I greatly admired and respected – as he was indeed by the lightkeepers who knew him and the ships’ crewmen who served with him. It was my privilege to have known him, enjoyed his friendship and sailed several thousands of West Coast nautical miles with him. – John Bathurst


Bill’s first love might have been the sea..,but as superintendant of Lights he soon became an avid helicopter passenger and particularly liked low flying.

As pilots we had a wonderful rapport with him and consequently we made every effort to comply with his numerous requests and I for one appreciated the fact that he never pressured us to fly when we considered for instance that the weather precluded flying, but he expected us to give it a try if conditions were marginal, and that was fair enough.

One example was when he “desperately” wanted to interview and eventually fire a troublesome assistant lighthouse keeper at Pine Island lighthouse. As we both approached Pine the usual summertime band of fog was really heavy (Pine was calling it 1/4 mile visibility), below our limits, but we headed out hover taxying you might say, riding the swells, the sea being my only reference. Our only concern being that we might bump into a ship!

Anyway we made it, picked up the assistant and headed back through the same soup, saw a hole in the fog climbed like an elevator and rode several miles back to Port Hardy on top of the fogbank.

On arrival there Bill Exley turned to me and said “Let’s never do that again!” It was pretty hairy all right. – Ivor Roberts (aka Ivor the Driver)


– thanks to Karen Waugh for the bio

I always considered Bill Exley a Leader! – retlkpr

In Memorium – Ed Harris (1925 – 1987)

Ed Harris

Edgar (Ed) Dennis Harris Born November 12th 1925 at Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Islands, BC. A second generation Salt Spring Island Hawaiian. Ed married Margaret (Greta) Carlton in Victoria on October 19th, 1946. he had 4 daughters: Lonie Belsey, Lynne Donaldson, Lorna Carrigan and Lorie Palmer and stepdaughter Linda Varcoe.
Ed lived in Victoria, BC and started work with the Canadian Coast Guard in the early 1950’s. In April of 1958 Ed was accepted into the Scholarship Program for Ships Officer training. Based out of Victoria agency, Ed served on the CGM Berens , CGS Estevan, CGS Sir James Douglas and other CCG vessels too numerous to mention.
In 1960 Ed successful competed for the position of Superintendent of Lights with the Department of Transport, Prince Rupert Agency. Edgar and Greta, along with 3 girls moved to Prince Rupert arriving by Coast Guard ship in October 1960. Shortly after moving to Prince Rupert the Harris’s were blessed with their 4th daughter Lorie.
Upon arriving in his new position in Prince Rupert, Ed worked under District Marine Agent, Capt. Ormsby. As Superintendent of Lights he worked very closely with the lightkeepers all along the BC coast – north to Langara and south to the tip of Vancouver Island. He took his position as Superintendent of Lights very seriously as evidence by his personal commitment to visit all the lighthouses in his jurisdiction. He always made a special effort during the holiday season to visit the families on the stations along with Jolly Old Saint Nick.
It was a special treat for me to be able to accompany him from time to time on his visits to the stations and witness the joy he brought to the families that tended the lightstations.
After a number of years as Superintendent of Lights his duties were expanded to include Inland Aids to Navigation which required him to travel to such places as Hay River, Carcross, Whitehorse and Fort St. James. Eventually Ed was promoted to the position of District Marine Agent in the Prince Rupert Agency and served in that position until retiring in 1984.
Edgar and Greta moved to their hobby farm in Kitwanga, BC. In July of 1987.
Dad became ill and he was diagnosed with primary brain cancer and passed away on October 08, 1987. He is survived by his wife Greta, 4 daughters, 1 stepdaughter and 14 grandchildren. Many of Ed’s family followed in his footsteps working for the Canadian Coast Guard. Today there are two son-in-laws and one grandson working. Edgar’s oldest daughter worked for CCG in the 1980s and a grandson and nephew in the 1990s. Kevin Carrigan (son-in-law) is the Superintendent Marine Navigation Services, Victoria CCG; Leslie Palmer (son-in-law) is an officer on the Rescue Vessel with Prince Rupert CCG and Nathan Rochon (grandson) is a Carpenter at the CCG Base Prince Rupert. This text was created for this website by Lonie (Harris) Belsey  June 28, 2012.

To include your memories in Ed’s memorial please click this link.

Below is a poem written by Captain Robert (Bob) Mellis in memory of Ed Harris. Ed was well-liked by all personnel on the BC coast – a man well-missed.

(click for larger size)