The Sea Keeper - CSL St. Laurent

By: Patty Mondore

Volume 15, Issue 4, April 2020

It is called “The Sea Keeper”, which is the perfect name for this magnificent work of art. You won’t find it in a museum, but you might spot it if you happen to be out on the River in your boat.  

That is where I first discovered it, while out doing a little afternoon ship watching, which I have been doing since childhood. My dad would buy his Know Your Ships book every year and would spend each summer checking-off each ship that went by, the date, and direction it was going in. By the end of the summer he would have seen several of the same ships coming and going, upstream and back downstream numerous times. Especially the lakers whose sole function was to carry cargo and goods from the Seaway to the Great Lakes.

Having grown-up in that kind of ship-loving household, I also came to recognize many of the ships by name, or at least by company name. Probably the most familiar name to me is the CSL - Canadian Steamship Line, and logically so, since the CSL Group is the largest owner and operator of self-unloading ships in the world. I have paddled out to the main shipping channel many times to capture yet another picture of one of these impossibly long Seaway Lakers (I would admit that from a 9-foot kayak, a 200+ foot Laker is always going to look impossibly long).

It has now been a few summers since the morning I spotted a CSL Laker heading our way and tried to race it to the spot right across from us, in my kayak, where I knew I could get a great photo. I discovered that from the time I first spot a ship coming from the east, I have about 20 minutes until it passes behind the island across from our camp. Coming from the west, it is about 10 minutes.

This particular ship was coming from the east, so I had plenty of time to paddle into position. But this time, as I brought its mountainous helm into focus I had to do a double-take.  There, painted all across the helm, was a magnificent work of art! It was a beautiful multi-colored Canada Goose.

Since that day, and my first encounter with the CSL St-Laurent's mural-in-motion, I have seen it go by several times and am no less impressed every time I do. I have also learned several interesting details behind the creation of “The Sea Keeper” mural.

First, there is the reason for the mural: The Sea Keeper was created in 2017 to commemorate not only Canada's 150th birthday, but the 375th anniversary of the City of Montreal. It also serves as a reminder of the roles of the St. Lawrence Seaway, marine transport, and CSL itself in building the Nation and the City.

Second, is the subject of the mural: What better way for Canada to celebrate its birthday than by using a Canada Goose! The CSL explains that the mural "depicts a Canada Goose with its powerful wings spread in flight, its forward motion a tribute to Montreal and to Canada.  Instantly recognizable, the iconic Canada Goose is a familiar sight along the banks of the St. Lawrence Seaway and represents the vessel sailing in harmony with nature. It was natural, then, that the bird in flight would be depicted on the CSL-commissioned mural to commemorate Canada's 150th birthday"

Third, there is the specific ship they chose to use:  The CSL St-Laurent is the second Great Lakes bulk carrier of Canada Steamship Lines' Trillium Class. The vessel was built in 2014 in China. It is 740 feet long, by 78 feet wide. It is a bulk carrier registered at 22,597 gross tons and able to carry 36,100 tons. It was launched on Jan. 25, 2014, and the naming ceremony was held on April 24, 2014.

The voyage to Canada began on Dec. 13, 2014.  It arrived in the Port of Montreal on February 15, 2015, marking the final step in the Trillium Class newbuild program that produced a total of 11 state-of-the-art self-unloaders and bulk carriers for CSL's fleets. But only one would become the pallet for a River masterpiece.  The CSL chose the CSL St-Laurent to host the tribute to Montreal and Canada, because her name honors the St. Lawrence River, and her state-of-the-art technology and seamanship represent the new generation of high-performing, environmentally-responsible cargo vessels. It uses less fuel, reduces emissions significantly, and provides overall operational efficiency to the benefit of customers and the environment alike.

Finally, there is an interesting story behind who was chosen to be the painters of the mural. The Sea Keeper was designed by four different artists with the intent of representing the nation's diversity.  The CSL selected four urban Montreal artists, to work together, to create the mural on the forward façade of the accommodations block of the St-Laurent.  The Sea Keeper scene is an original work of art conceived by Bryan Beyung and created by Beyung with artists FONKi, Ankh One, and Benny Wilding of the Ashop art collective.  CSL explains that "Clearly visible from afar, the goose's coherent outline contains its diverse and colourful back, wings and tail, each painted by one of the four artists in his signature style and with his unique vision." I love that!

The CSL eloquently describes their mural this way:

"Bursting with colour, The Sea Keeper melds and weaves the diverse techniques of each artist into a unique and beautiful piece of art that combines cultures and styles to evoke Montreal's and Canada's diversity. The mural's overall impact is both inspiring and hopeful to the seafarers who will sail with it everyday and to the thousands of people on the shores of the Great Lakes and St-Lawrence River who will watch it as CSL St-Laurent and her Sea Keeper sail by."

Whenever I hear anyone talking about diversity, I can't help but to think about Heaven and these familiar words:  "After this I looked, and behold, a vast multitude that no one could count, people from every nation, tribe, cultural group, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands" (Rev 7:9). What could be more diverse than that?

I am so glad I have had the opportunity to see The Sea Keeper mural. Since that first time I saw it back in 2017, I have spotted the floating masterpiece numerous times cruising past our camp.  I hope you get to see it too. I also hope the CSL will do more ship murals in the future. If so, I'll be out stalking it in my kayak. Of course, in the distant future, I've got other plans.

By Patricia Mondore

Patty Mondore and her husband, Bob, are summer residents of the Thousand Islands. Patty's most recent books include River-Lations Revisited: More Inspirational Stories and Photos from the Thousand Islands, River Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love the Water and its two sequels, Nature Reflections and A Bird Lover's Reflections. She and Bob co-authored "Singer Castle" and "Singer Castle Revisited", published by Arcadia Publishing, and co-produced "Dark Island's Castle of Mysteries" documentary DVD, in addition to a Thousand Islands Music DVD Trilogy. Patty is a contributing writer for the Thousand Islands Sun. Her column, "River-Lations", appears in the Vacationer throughout the summer months. The Mondores are online at www.gold-mountain.com. (Be sure to also visit Bob's singercastle.blogspot.com.)

Posted in: Volume 15, Issue 4, April 2020, History, Sports



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