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Business and pleasure

Norweta cruises into third decade in the North

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 02/02) - The M.S. Norweta is a well-known sight in every port along the Mackenzie.

She arrived in port last week for her second and last sailing to Inuvik this year.

The ship will spend the rest of the summer sailing fishing charters from Yellowknife to the East Arm of Great Slave Lake.

The Norweta was built in Riverton, Man., in 1971 and was cut apart, trucked north and reassembled in Hay River. The ship's captain, Russ Brown, calls Victoria his home port, but is spending his last season sailing aboard the Norweta.

Brown sailed freighters on the Great Lakes and tugs on the west coast but came to the North in 1972 to work for Cap's Transport, which later became Arctic Transportation Ltd.

In 1985, he went back to the west coast.

He has spent the past seven years as captain on a fire tug.

He returned north last year, to pilot the Norweta for his last two years at the helm.

"I figure 43 years in this racket is enough," Brown laughs.

The Norweta was originally owned by Don Tetrault and started out as a cruise ship working the Mackenzie River seven trips a year from Fort Providence to Tuktoyaktuk.

Since then, she's been employed as a work ship during the heydays of the Delta oil boom.

"She used to be a standby vessel for the drill ships," he said.

"We were there just in case they had to evacuate the rig."

The ship was also used for survey work back in the boom.

"What is now the lounge down here, used to be full of computers," he said.

The ship was renovated back to a cruise ship in 1996 by new owners George and Margaret Whitlock, who still own the vessel.

She caters for up to 20 guests and has a crew of two engineers, a cook, seaman, and two stewards.

The Norweta is powered by three 871 Detroit Diesel engines, producing about 275 horsepower each. Brown said sailing down north she can clip along with the current at about 16 knots.

"Coming with it, it's great, we make all kinds of good time," Brown said. "Heading back we make about eight knots and burn a lot of fuel."

The ship is navigated with the help of River Laureate Fred Camsel.

"He does a bang-up job," Brown said.

Along with the veteran river reader the ship is guided by a gyro and repeater, an auto-pilot, radar. Communications include single side band and VHF radio

On this sailing, the ship started in Yellowknife, making stops in Fort Providence, Camsel Bend, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope and Tsiigehtchic.

As Brown fires the old girl up, he smiles and checks the Inuvik sky for one last time.

"It's sure a fun job and I love it, I really do," he said.