The Art of the Load

Loading Freight on the MV Uchuck III

The MV Uchuck III has been moving cargo for over 60 years. Today, it is a highlight experience for our guests.

Passengers watch from the safety of the upper deck as the Mv Uchuck III crew deftly offload freight to a remote salmon fishing lodge in Nootka Sound.
Passengers watch from the safety of the upper deck as the Mv Uchuck III crew deftly offload freight to a remote salmon fishing lodge in Nootka Sound.

At first you might think there isn’t much to moving cargo, but there is an art to it. The Kyuquot trip for example, is always our busiest trip for cargo.  As we do this trip once a week our customers count on us to get their freight to them in a timely fashion and in good order. 

Although the Uchuck is 140’ in length there is only so much room for cargo.  Everything has to fit and be organized for loading and off-loading in an orderly fashion to accommodate the many stops we make on our routes.  This process is what we call the “Art of the Load”. 

The Mate onboard is in charge of the loading process and generally has the final decision on where and how the cargo is stored (below and on-deck) prior to sailing.  If the Captain is concerned with the way any freight has been loaded he will overrule the Mate.  More often than not, this is not the case. 

Prior to loading, the Mate reviews the cargo and paperwork onboard, where it is going and how much of it.  From there, a cargo plan is discussed between the Mate, Deckhand and dock staff and the loading begins. The winches or cranes on the MV Uchuck III are union purchase in configuration where the operator runs two cables from two electric motors; one on the port and one on the starboard side of the vessel.  The operator raises the cable on one side and lowers the cable on the other side to create the lateral movement required for moving cargo.  Though this process is efficient, very few ships in the modern era use this loading system for cargo.  With the union purchase system the MV Uchuck can lift up to 10,000 lbs. on any one lift. 

In general, freight that is long or cumbersome goes on deck.  The remaining cargo goes below into our cargo hold where it can be stacked and secured for transportation.  Perishable items, such as dairy products, meat and produce must be hand stowed into freezer and cooler units also located in the hold.

The mate primarily runs the cargo winches onboard the MV Uchuck III and has to consider the different shapes, weights and sizes during the loading process. When the ship leaves port it must be trim; meaning not overweight or loaded heavier to either the port or starboard side. 

Some of the cargo you will generally see transported includes groceries, propane, lube oils, wire, fish feed, building materials, shellfish, and various parts and furniture to name a few.  The oddest cargo ever shipped onboard; portable toilets (full), beehives, a phone booth, crew cab trucks. 

The MV Uchuck III leaves port with roughly 60-70 tons of cargo and makes between 8-12 stops, depending on the route.  Our stops include logging camps, fish farms, fish lodges, and the communities of Tahsis, Esperanza, and Kyuquot.