HMCS Sackville out of drydock following extensive repair work
By Joanie Veitch,
After eight months of critical repair work at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott, Canada’s Naval Memorial is back in the water.
On Wednesday, June 2, HMCS Sackville was rolled out of the submarine shed at HMC Dockyard and put on the Synchrolift for water ballasting before being lowered back in the water and towed to NC1, the ship’s dockyard berth, where she will remain until she’s ready to go to Sackville Landing on the Halifax Waterfront.
The work was vital as the 80-year-old hull was reaching the end of its life expectancy, said Cdr (ret’d) Gary Reddy, Commanding Officer of HMCS Sackville, who gave top marks to FMF personnel for their work on the project over the last several months.
“FMF personnel were completely dedicated and committed to this project, they took a special interest in ensuring the high standard of workmanship and thoroughness of the work required,” he said.
Sackville went into drydock last September to finish cladding the rusted and thinning hull with quarter-inch steel plates up to one foot above the water line — a $5 million project that was first started in 2018 and paid for through a federal grant, RCN support and money from the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, the non-profit organization that owns and operates HMCS Sackville.
“All the pieces fell into place for the work to begin again last fall and it worked out tremendously well,” said Capt(N) (ret’d) William Woodburn, CNMT board chair. “The professionalism and enthusiasm of the crews of workers at FMF Cape Scott, and the other outside contractors and volunteers, was exceptional.”
Ten shops from FMF Cape Scott were involved in the refit project, with the plating and welding shop doing the bulk of the work, said Capt(N) Michel Thibault, FMFCS Commanding Officer. “Given that it is the Sackville, it was certainly a special project for us, but we treated it no differently than any other project in terms of tracking its progress…everything comes down to schedule and capacity as I have to manage the employees and the workforce based upon the priority work that comes our way.”
To help manage the schedule, FMFCS tackled the more complicated sections of the repair project when Sackville was first taken into drydock last fall — namely the stern and the bow of the ship, where the plates had to bend to fit the curvature of the hull — knowing that would be the slowest part of the work.
“Those are the areas where you can only apply small sections of plate at the same time because there are so many curves,” said Capt(N) Thibault. “It required a lot of precision and very detailed execution of the plate fitting and the welding. This type of precision work is something that FMF really excels at doing.”
The recladding work is an interim solution until funds can be raised for an estimated $12-million reskinning of the hull, the basis of the CNMT Just For the Hull of It campaign and trustees’ major focus now and in the years ahead, explained Capt(N) (ret’d) Woodburn.
“We’ve saved the ship for now, while we develop that long term plan and focus on raising funds,” he said. “We will need government support for this project and are looking forward to working with all three levels of government…the significance of this ship as part of our history cannot be overstated.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented much of the usual activity last summer, visitors to the region consistently rate Sackville as one of the top attractions. The last of the 123 Flower-class Corvettes built in Canada during the Second World War, this year marks the 80th anniversary of HMCS Sackville’s commissioning.
“Sackville is the only remaining Corvette in the world. The ship is a physical reminder of the dedication and sacrifices of the men and women who served,” said Cdr (ret’d) Reddy.
After being taken out of drydock, Sackville is going through a cleaning and preparation process to get ready to go to her summer berth at Sackville Landing, tentatively set for June 23.
“We will follow Public Health guidelines so, for now, we will not be open to visitors, but this most likely will change,” said Cdr (ret’d) Reddy. “The crew is excited to get the ship back in order and downtown…to tell the story of the Battle of the Atlantic and those who served.”