Bay Class Minesweepers - Radio Fit

GENERAL
In 1951 and 1952, fourteen replacements were laid down for the aging minesweepers of wartime construction. Six were transferred to the French Navy in 1954, but were replaced by six of the same name in 1956-57. These ships were very similar to the Royal Navy's Ton Class of the same vintage.  Comox was paid off in 1957 and transferred to the Turlish Navy as Tirebolu. Fortune paid off in 1964 and was sold to commercial interests in 1966 becoming Greenpeace Two.  The six surviving ships soldiered on until the late 1990s, providing shiphandling experience for junior officers, on a rotating basis, as members of Training Group Pacific.

Neil Goodwill adds to the above. "The Bay Class minesweepers were named after the Canadian Bays. In my squadron, and in reference to the 1967 time period,  all the sweep gear was removed and the ships were used in the role of Cadet Officer training for coastal and Great Lakes duties. We did make trips to the Caribbean and also to Atlantic, USA, Newfoundland and Gulf ports. For propulsion, the Bay class was fitted with two twelve-cylinder 12-272A GM diesels for main engines and two Model 3-268A GM diesel generators".

The minesweepers were known by these pendant prefixes during their service life and in the order shown:

MCB - Minesweeper Coastal Bay (Class).
BCCPS - Bay Class Coastal Patrol Ship
PFL - Patrol Escort (Small)  1972 designation
PB - They later became Patrol Boats.

The names of the ships in this class and their radio call signs were: Chignecto CGTX (3rd of name), Miramichi CGWY, Fundy CYWE, Chaleur CZDS, Cowichan CGZR and Thunder CZCY. They were all based in Esquimalt, BC.

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HMCS Thunder is representing the Bay class minesweeper.  (Photo courtesy David Shirlaw) 

 
VITAL STATISTICS
Length: 152 ft . Beam: 28 ft. 
Draught: 8 ft.  Displacement : 390 tons
Top Speed: 16 knots Crew: Varies. See text
  Propulsion: Two V12 diesels; 2400 hp aggregate 
The ships were built to a British postwar design with 3 inch mahogany hulls with extensive use of aluminum. They were powered with two locomotive-type V12 aluminum diesel engines.  Maneuverability , however, was not that easy because there was an air clutch system that took 7 to 8 seconds to inflate when placing the engines ahead or astern. If the vessel went slower than 9 knots, the steering ability was affected. The sweep winch and gun deck was replaced by a deckhouse in the 1980s which was built at Burrard Yarrows in Esquimalt.

André Guibert provides this recollection about Mirimachi when she was being constructed. "When living in Halifax, our Company was asked to supply electricians to go to the Saint John Drydock to work on a Bay Class sweeper (ie the first Miramichi). Our first job was to route the degausing cables to the connection boxes. The side planking was not completed as these big aluminum cables with 17 thick conductors had to be shaped with hydraulic wedges and jacks to fit them in the connecting boxes. Got to work on the complete degausing system with the M-N-Q etc coils, the control box and learned everything about its operation including the pulse transmitter and the main DC generator. I never did find out anything about the shore based underwater loops and the system used to determine the settings to neutralize a ship's magnetic signature".

There were four crews established for the six ships in the mid 1970's. Officers and men moved from one ship to another as the vessels went into refit. That way there were virtually four active PFL's running and manned at any time. The computer in Ottawa couldn't seem to keep up with this system, but the four-ship continual manning principle ensured that the maximum use was made of the ships, with adequate time for repair and maintenance.

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Preparing to stream minesweeping gear on board one of the RCN's Bay class minesweepers in 1963. (DND photo E-65917 from Crowsnest Magazine) 
THE MISSION (mid-1970's)

The four operating PFL's worked together as a close-knit formation in order to provide top-level training in Phases III and IV of the Maritime Surface and Subsurface  (MARS), Classification Qualifying Course. They were very effective platforms to train the young sailor-officer in the basics of visual navigation techniques, Officer-of the-Watch (OOW) duties, ship manoeuvring in close company, and individual shiphandling. Up to 10 officers under training were assigned to each PFL. They lived in a tiny forward mess deck.

However, they didn't get much opportunity to use their bunks. The training program had them spending, in rotation, at least half their time during the normal 10 hours a day at sea, on the open bridge in a high-intensity training environment, under the tutelage of the ship's Commanding Officer. During the remainder of the time, including the evening hours, they had off-watch exercises, study, or prepared for the next day's activities.

In addition to the primary role of MARS junior officer training, the PFLs were tasked, as are all naval vessels, with providing search and rescue assistance whenever required. It's was not a minor aspect of their operations, because they were called upon quite regularly to help in various situations. For example, in 1975 the PFLs had six occasions when they provided assistance to sailing or fishing vessels in distress, including one on fire, one occasion of an area search for a missing man, and of course the Campbell River episode. In 1976 the Campbell River, BC  government jetty caught fire so HMC ships Miramachi and Cowichan were dispatched to offer assistance. By the time they got there the fire had been put out.

In 1975, the ships travelled as far south as Portland, Oregon, and as far north as Ocean Falls, B.C., but normally they operated in and around the Gulf Islands, San Juan Island, and Puget Sound.

As well as being one of the most beautiful areas on this earth, these waters were virtually perfect for MARS junior officer training, because the area is honeycombed with navigable passages, abounds with safe anchorages, has several open areas available for multi-ship OOW manoeuvres, has a great deal of other traffic for the OOW to contend with, has tidal streams strong enough to test the mettle of any navigator, and even has a few good ports, such as Vancouver and Seattle, to visit and replenish the inner man.

THE CREW

Each crew had an established strength of 18 men and two officers, the commanding officer and the executive officer. Additionally, a graduate of the training system was attached as navigating officer, and from time to time members of the Naval Reserve augmented the crew. The total number of officers and men was considerably reduced from the minesweeping days, and it made for long hours. The normal working day included sailing at 0800 hours and returning usually at 1800 hours, with repairs and maintenance being carried out after arrival. To run such a system successfully required, as the U.S. Marines would say, "a few good men," and the PFL crews had proven to be just that. To work these long strenuous hours day after day, week after week, and be away most weekends as well, required dedicated men, and understanding wives.

This dedication had its rewards; the crews saw tangible results from their efforts, and the difference between the capabilities of the young officers joining and those leaving was quite remarkable. Also, being in a ship with so few men also meant that members of the crew were given a great deal of responsibility at very early stages in their careers - something which they all seemed to thrive on. But perhaps the greatest reward for the men was being members of a happy team. Without exception, all contributed beyond their own trade requirements to get the job done. This team effort idea was best shown by the engineers on board. They worked the longest hours, in order to have the ships meet important training commitments. But they were  not alone in their efforts.

The ship's lone steward, for example, would be found standing his regular watch at the gangway, attending to his duties as the man-in-charge of the quarterdeck, and even being the ship's expert in such things as outboard motors. As well, he had his "assigned" job of catering to the officers in the wardroom.

The Senior man on board each ship was the Chief Petty Officer, Second Class, Marine Engineering Technician, who retained the old navy title of "Chief Engine Room Artificer", or Chief ERA for short. In practice he was the Ship's Engineering Officer, responsible for the operation and maintenance of all machinery and equipment on board, including areas such as electrical power generation and electronics maintenance, normally outside his field.

PFLs were a very cost-effective means of imparting a great deal of basic knowledge to an aspiring MARS officer. The ships had the added advantage of being very simple in design with their wooden hulls. The cooperative, industrious, and dedicated approach of the ships companies  to their duties, reinforced the old saying of "iron men in wooden ships".

RADIO FIT
Dave Low, who served in CHIGNECTO, recalls a few details. "CHIGNECTO was fitted with a Marconi CM11 so I assume the remainder of the ships in this class had one as well.  The radio room itself was an L shaped. Each ship was billeted with one CR/RM rating. When traveling as a squadron, the ships split the duty watches so that one rating was on duty all the time. In other words, one ship did the 12-4 watch, another the 4-8 watch, another the 8-12 and so on so that there was a radio watch on duty in the squadron at all times with just one rating in each ship. These vessels carried an Adonis KL-7 off-line crypto machine. It is believed that the Bay class initially used flattop antennas for the CM11".
 
bay_antenna_fit_s.jpg Antenna fittings circa 1985: Looking Forward. Click to enlarge. Four whip antennas (1 x 35 ft; 3 x 28 ft.) are very much in evidence. That sure seems like a lot for a ship of this size. (Image courtesy RCN) 

RADAR

The Bay class was fitted with the Sperry Mk II navigation radar. An extra radar set was added in the 1980s to allow a bridge PPI near the captain's chair.

SONAR

This class was not fitted with SONAR on-build.
 

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HMCS Chaleur, PFL 164, taken in 1976.  (Sentinel Magazine photo by Cpl. Andre Cabuche). 

 
 
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Minesweepers in company somewhere on Canada's west coast circa 1976. (Sentinel Magazine photo by Cpl. Andre Cabuche). 
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Two PFL's of the Esquimalt based Canadian Training Squadron transit the Gulf Island area of British Columbia's coastal waters circa 1976. (Sentinel Magazine photo REC 76-242 by Cpl. Andre Cabuche) 

DISPOSAL

Of the earlier batch of minesweepers, only two are still active in Turkey as of 2007- the ex Gaspe and Trinity which serve as patrol boats. The six that went to France and four to Turkey were paid for with US MDAP funds in the 1950s.

As of 2007, Fundy and Thunder are languishing in Beecher Bay BC and Miramichi is believed to be there as well.  Chignecto was scrapped in Victoria as the mahogany in her hull was of a type that is now extinct. Chaleur is a diveboat in Sydney, Australia. Cowichan was put up for sale and is now gone. The ex Fortune is now charter vessel Edgewater Fortune based in New Westminster, BC.

PHOTO SECTION


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In this scene taken in August 2008,  Miramachi 163(?), Thunder (161) and Fundy (159) were moored in Beecher Bay B.C.  They are no longer there. 
bay_59210008.jpg
Can anyone identifty the model of the navigation radar on the foremast? Contact: jerry.proc@sympatico.ca. This was the same type used in the Bird class and Gate vessels. 
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Richard Miess gives the funnel some sense of scale. 
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Port side view of forward superstructure.
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Most of the stanchions are missing from the main deck. 
All photos in this table by Marci Miess. 

 


Contributors and Credits:

1) Ships of Canada's Naval Forces (1910-2001) by Ken Macpherson and Ron Barrie. Vanwell Publishing 2002.
2) RCN's AOR/TRBL/ISL/265/IRE/MACK Class Equipment Handout. September 1985.
3) Spud Roscoe <spudroscoe(at)eastlink.ca]
4) PFL by Lt-Cdr. R.F. Archer. Sentinel Magazine, March 1976.
5) Dave Shirlaw <djshirlaw(at)shaw.ca>
6) André Guibert <aguibert(at)sympatico.ca>
7) Richard Miess <rmiess(at)msn.com>
8) Tom Brent <navyradiocom(at)gmail.com>

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Oct 20/14