Local Residents Help GIve HMCS Ojibwa a Fresh Coat

In Editor Choice, Local, Photo Gallery

Below a tour of the inside of HMCS Ojibwa

Today’s Northumberland took a trip to Lake Erie with a number of people you might usually see along the Highway of Heroes cleaning garbage.

This mission on Monday, July 20, 2020 wasn’t to clean any garbage off of a highway, it was to paint a submarine in Port Burwell.

That’s right – to paint a submarine.

Port Burwell is a small community with just over 1,000 people. Other than size, it has a similarity to Cobourg with it’s beach.

The submarine, is the HMCS Ojibwa and it is just over 90 metres (297.5 feet) long, 5 stories high and served during the Cold War.

Ironically, locals say the beach grew in size when Big Otter Creek was dredged to allow the Ojibwa to be placed in its final resting spot at the Museum of Naval History – HMCS Ojibway.

Social media gives a history of the submarine as the Ojibwa was an Oberon-class submarine that served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and later the Canadian Forces Maritime Command (MARCOM).

Originally intended for service with the British Royal Navy as HMS Onyx, the submarine was transferred to Canadian ownership before completion, and entered RCN service in 1965.

Ojibwa operated primarily with Maritime Forces Atlantic until her decommissioning in 1998.

In 2010, Ojibwa was laid up at CFB Halifax awaiting disposal, with the Elgin Military Museum planning to preserve her as a museum vessel.

The submarine was towed from Halifax on a barge being pulled by a tug through Lake Ontario and past the lakeshore of Northumberland County to Port Burwell, Ontario in 2012.

It was opened to the public in 2013 and is now the new focal point of a planned Museum of Naval History to be built alongside.

In the meantime, the submarine needs a few touch-ups.

Prior to the sub being delivered to the museum in Port Burwell, it was painted in 2012 and something went wrong and the paint started to peel off.

Unfortunately, the paint may not have been the proper type for the Ojibwa and needed a bit of help.

Enter the call out for volunteers.

The window to get the Ojibwa a two new coats of flat black paint was between Monday, July 13 and Monday July 27.

A total of 118 gallons of commercial paint worth approximately $11,000 was graciously donated by My Paint And Decor in Tillsonburg and Simcoe.

Fundraising was also held for the equipment used to paint the Ojibwa.

The committee to get the sub painted put the call out and volunteers from across Ontario and beyond have stepped up.

One person even came from Nova Scotia to lend a hand.

Using scaffolding and a scissor-lift volunteers are, and will get the job done by the completion date.

But, when painting a submarine there are things you quickly learn.

The first is, painting starts bright and early.

The reason for that is when painting a metal hull of a submarine with flat black paint in the summer the temperature rises.

So, it’s always best to start bright and early and paint the side that the shade is on.

A quick check of the temperature on the sunny side of the sub around 9 a.m. was 114 degrees Fahrenheit or 45 degrees Celsius.

At that temperature the paint won’t dry properly on the sub.

When the sun hits the highest point, it’s time for lunch. After that, start on the other side that soon start to shade.

Twelve members of the Highway of Heroes cleaning team drove down and joined Team Rubicon with helping paint the sub for the day.

Among them was Silver Cross mother, Port Hope resident Anna Loveman who said it was a honour to drive over over three hours to paint.

“It was awesome,” said Loveman.

“I’ve never done it before and have never seen one (submarine) before.”

Veterans who served on the Ojibwa gave volunteers a tour of the sub which everyone enjoyed.

“I had no idea how really cramped it really is.”

Also from the area were Cobourg resident Lorna Dickson and her daughter Amy who stayed for two days spending a night in a nearby hotel.

Jerry Brown served on the Ojibwa from 1976-78 and currently lives in Ottawa, but is staying for the two week duration for the painting.

Brown is a member of the Submariners Association of Canada and is second in command of the project, chief cook and is also known as the “COVID cop.”

Brown said the organization is extremely grateful to everyone who has come out to help.”

“There is no way we could do this project without volunteers.”

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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