Sept 2019

Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.


Sept 23  More Hurley-built fish tugs found. Last week I enjoyed an excellent motorcycle riding day with John Hurley to visit Wheatley Harbour and Erieau in search of more of his father Ralph’s fish tugs, built in Port Burwell.

Wheatley has a large harbour for boats fishing the western basin of Lake Erie. In addition to the fish processing plants, there are boat building, repair, and maintenance services.

We rode into the Hike Metal Products shipyard. John introduced himself to Tony Oliveira, the manager. The Hurley name is well known among the fishing fleet, he is spoken of respectfully. The reliability, handling and lasting quality of his work is evident.

Mr Oliveira was very accommodating and took the time to guide us around. He led us aboard the Dorreta L, in for the mandatory four-year marine survey inspection. She looked spectacular, even in dry dock, gleaming with fresh paint and attention.

Doretta L built at Port Burwell by Ralph Hurley, 1972 for Loop Fisheries (still the present owner).

Note: The Doretta L has another antenna aft of the flag. It was obscured by a very distracting green tank in the background which has been removed for clarity. Visible along the keel is the grey engine coolant heat exchange pipe – cooled by lake water and recirculated.

The interior showed the care and attention that has kept the 47-year-old, hard-working Doretta L on the water, hauling nets in all weather.

“She’s a credit to the owner (Todd Loop),” Tony Oliveira said, “a boat that has been well maintained on a regular schedule.”

Impressive as the structural integrity and overall condition was, the wheelhouse was a gobsmacker, all wood with oak predominant. Mr Loop spends a lot of his time on the water and he wants a comfortable and attractive workspace.

A comfortable office.




Next, we had a back-door peek into Hike’s current boat build contract: Canada Coast Guard SAR (search and rescue) boats. Lightweight, welded aluminum construction, loaded with high tech and sporting 4000 hp of get-there-fast power. That’s 25 knots worth.


Photo showing SAR hull construction. The bow section on the right is constructed upside-down and then flipped and joined to mid-ship and stern.

Boat and shipbuilding has been a Great Lakes industry for over 300 years. It’s good to see the tradition continue in Wheatley. The contract to build Canadian Coast Guard boats, awarded to Hike Metals, shows the capability of Erie builders.


The Hurley search took us back east to Erieau. Chatham-Kent is an almost featureless landscape, flat, large fields and deep drainage ditches beside the roads. I sympathize with motorcycle riders who live there and ride roads that are so straight and flat. Our home turf (Elgin county) features land that is not so flat with many curves, particularly near the river and creek valleys. I have a circuit that I show to visitors that is varied and interesting.

The main difference between the harbours of the western basin and those that serve the central/eastern fishing basin is that many of our harbours are surrounded by cliffs that line the shore. It makes for so dramatic and picturesque entries to the harbour.

Erieau has a large commercial harbour and many fish tugs were in port. We spotted the Mar-Vel-Ann, a Hurley build from 1973 and another example of the lasting quality of his design and craft. The care and attention their owners have invested in maintaining them is apparent.

The Mar-Vel-Ann is has been owned and worked by three generations of the Goodison family operating as Goodison Fisheries. Todd Goodison, the current owner pays tribute to his father, Douglas, and grandfather Kenneth, with their names on the bow. Classy.


A Mar-Vel-Ann crew member affirmed what others have told us, “a great boat to work on.” I can’t imagine an excavator operator working with a relic from 1973 praise it’s quality and efficiency if used on a job site today, yet Hurley’s boats still earn a living for many fishermen.

This week we rode to nearby Port Stanley. Something about our riding motorcycles to find Hurley boats seems fitting. We enjoy both the riding and discoveries.

Once again, luck was on our side. A beautiful day to ride and another Hurley fish tug, the Carol Ann II.


Not a Hurley design, but Ralph Hurley did help build it in Bronte before starting his own business in Port Burwell.

The Carol Ann II was both lengthened and made wider at a later date by Gamble shipyard in Port Dover. George Gamble was Ralph Hurley’s uncle and taught him welding.

Carol Ann II is powered by the ubiquitous Detroit Diesel, an engine common to many fish tugs of that size. Captain Mark Golem told us it puts out 400 hp.

At least 73 years on the water.


Previous story ~ more on Hurley, his boats and Lake Erie history.


Sept 21 Investment follies. I admit to having little respect for giant investment firms- those dream merchants with glossy brochures and web sites promising a pot of gold, boasting of past conquests, shiny execs in Armani suits.

Investments are not much different than Vegas, just the odds may differ.  Ya’ take yer chances and roll them dice. Money for nothing, if you win.

Those wise guys in bespoke suits are supposedly the gurus, the man, who directs vast investment funds and places the bets. Sometimes they lose.

From the Guardian:

“BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor, has lost an estimated $90bn over the last decade by ignoring the serious financial risk of investing in fossil fuel companies, according to economists.”

Chew on that number: $90 billion over a decade of loss? Armani dude must be a slow learner. Or maybe just a die-hard fossil fuel fan.

From BlackRock’s chief investment officer, Rick Rieder, “We’re going through a technology revolution, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before.”

Yes, Rick, it’s been going on for more than a few decades. Glad you’re learning about it.

Ironically, I read about the BlackRock losses in Reasons To Be Cheerful. Funny as I found the wise-guys losses, it’s a positive write about how doing the right thing is good business, by David Burne.


Sept 16   Confrontation with a stranger. Recently I encountered an elderly man in a retail store. Yes, I’m ‘elderly’ too I suppose but I don’t cultivate an old man image. I don’t feel old, mentally or physically.

Some people seem to relish the old man image and this particular person could easily win the grumpy bastard award.

He was ahead of me at the checkout, fumbling in a suitcase-size wallet for some form of plastic to pay for his purchase. Finally, the cashier said she was putting his sale on suspension while he searched. She rang up my sale and I quickly paid with cash.

Turning to the fumbling man, I jokingly said, “Cash works every time, maybe try that.”
He snarled at me, “It’s a cashless society, haven’t you heard?”
“Not for me,” I said.
This time he barked, “Get with the program, pal, you’re stuck in the ‘50s.”

The ’50s? Last I heard debit cards didn’t appear on the scene until the ’90s, and personal computers were not common until the ’80s.

Those facts aside, I have both credit and debit cards (who hasn’t?), am likely far more computer literate than said grumpy geezer, and am competent in digital restoration and post-production of photographs. Plus, I maintain this blog on my own. So take that, you grumpy fart! And I’m not your pal.

Did I say any of that to him? No, I did not. Better to move on and leave him to his anger and frustration. He was still fumbling in his wallet, red-faced and boiling over when left on my motorcycle. Have a good day.


Sept 10  Wanna feel good, loosen up, real fast? Check out this Samantha Martin with Delta Sugar set. Turn it up loud, full blast.

What a voice, what a sweet groove. Enjoy- you can’t help but feel good if you have a pulse.

ECW reader, Freda writes, “I feel good listening to Samantha Martin, drinking my morning coffee. She’s fantastic.”

You’re welcome, Freda.



Sept 6 “Hoisted on his own petard” Now that is a strange saying. I’ve always imagined a petard as being a sort of spear or sword. I’ve have had a mental image of a man pierced by his own spear and lifted up for the crowd to view.

I was totally wrong. A petard, according to the Oxford dictionary is “a small bomb made of a metal or wooden box filled with powder, used to blast down a door or to make a hole in a wall.”

A shaped charge in other words, like the C-4 used by the military to gain access to strongholds, or by adventurers on a bank vault to liberate some cash from the clutches of capitalism.

How the hell does that relate to hoisting? It would be a temporary hoist at best.

To add confusion, and more humour to the term, the origin of ‘petard’ is mid 16th century from French pétard, from péter ‘break wind’. Now the culprit is both blasted into the air and also farts at the same time.

Want another crazy word image? try ‘codpiece.” Hint: it isn’t a decorative fish sculpture.

Fashion knows no limits.


Sept 5   Autumn or Fall, which term do you favour? According to Wikipedia fall is a common Canadian and American name for the season. However, other sources state that fall was originally a very old British term (the fall of the leaves) and autumn developed from the French word automne.

Autumn became the preferred British usage and fall came to be considered archaic. Those damn colonial Canadians are just as illiterate as the upstart Americans.

It was a fall from grace. In typical fashion, both terms have come into usage in Canada- another Canuck compromise. Words fascinate me.

Labour Day for most countries, is celebrated on May 1, International Workers Day. That was just a little bit too pinko for commie-fearing North America so the date was switched to the first Monday in September.


While we’re on the subject, I didn’t get arrested in the city today for wearing white after Labour Day. Another bullet dodged, or maybe the fashionista police are becoming complacent?