Pacific Nautical Heritage Articles Archive

Vessels and Ships

    The Gillnetter Eva on Finn Slough BCEva Finn Slough

    21/01/2014 The Eva was built as a wooden gillnetter by the Suzuki boatyard for an owner who lived in the little community of Finn Slough on the Fraser River. Finn Slough is a tiny Fraser River fishing community located at the south end of No. 4 Road in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. The community has approximately 30 residents who live in wooden houses, both floating and built on stilts, along the marshy river bank.

    Stadacona – Yacht, Rum Runner and Naval VesselStadacona

    Stadacona was originally owned by J. Harvey Ladew a New York executive of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. In 1915 she was sold to Aemilius Jarvis for use by the Royal Canadian Navy as an armed yacht. In 1919 she was transferred to the west coast via the Panama Canal. In 1920 she was paid off to the Minister of Fisheries and Marine as a fisheries protection vessel. In 1924 she was owned by Central America Shipping Company, Vancouver BC. In 1924 she was owned by Ocean Salvage Co., Vancouver BC (Joseph W. Hobbs) and converted to a yacht and rum runner mother ship.

  • The List of British Columbia Rum RunnersRum Runners

    This list is an attempt to record the British Columbia vessels believed to have been involved in the the rum running trade.

  • The Record–Setting Voyage of the Amon–ReVoyage of the Amon-re

    Alan Butler sailed the little catamaran Amon–Re into the record books as Single–handed Circumnavigation in the Smallest Catamaran in History. Here is Alan Butler’s first–hand account of the voyage.

  • The Grounding of the Empress of Canada at Albert HeadEmpress of Canada

    On the morning of October 13th, 1929 the large steamship Empress of Canada was approaching William Head to undergo inspection at the Quarantine Station she ran aground at Albert Head.

  • The Exotic History of the Schooner Casco Schooner Casco

    Of the thousands of vessels that have called British Columbia a home port the Casco had one of the most exotic backgrounds of any of them. Maritime heritage knows no boundaries and this story ties in themes from California, the South Seas, Alaska and Siberia. She was built c1878 in California as a yacht for Dr. Samuel Merritt of Oakland CA. She was opulently fitted out. In her time she was the yacht of Robert Louis Stevenson, a sealing vessel and a schooner trading into Siberia for furs.

  • The 70th Anniversary of the Secret Visit of the Queen ElizabethQueen Elizabeth

    How do you hide a gigantic 85,000 ton ship in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and later drydocked in Esquimalt BC for 13 days? Impossible – but spread the word in wartime that "loose lips sink ships" and you have an entire population pretending not to notice. She was sent to North America to escape German bombing and eventually arrived off Esquimalt February 23, 1942.

  • A List of Vessels Dismantled by Capital Iron and Metals Ltd.Capital Iron and Metals Ltd.

    A detailed list of the ships dismantled by Capital Iron and Metals Ltd. in Victoria BC over the years.

  • Careening The North Star of Herschel IslandCareening the North Star

    Captain Sven Johansson, well–known Arctic mariner, employed traditional sailing ship techniques to clean and repair the bottom of his three-masted sailing vessel North Star of Herschel Island.


    The visit of a highly specialized drill ship to Victoria BC was an opportunity to explore a vessel that spends the majority of its life at sea exploring the ocean floor.

  • The Sailing Ship Moshulu In Esquimalt British ColumbiaMoshulu

    On May 28, 1935, the four–masted barque Moshulu was towed into Esquimalt harbor by two tugs, and entered the drydock for survey and bottom cleaning. After refit and refurbishment she was intended to resume her role as the largest commercial sailing ship in the world.

  • The History and Rebuilding of the Aix / Nan LeaAix Nan Lea

    The Aix was, in turn, a cannery tender, a tug boat, a fish boat and a yacht. She was lovingly rebuilt by Ron Drinkwater who enjoyed her for several years. She’s still afloat, in good condition, after more than a century of service.

Ship Wrecks

    The Grounding of the oil tanker Santa Maria at Victoria BC.Santa Maria

    The oil tanker Santa Maria grounded on the waterfront of Victoria BC creating a public spectacle. After some delay she was salvaged and went on to continue her career.

  • Wreck of the ZephyrWreck of the Zephyr

    The Zephyr was wrecked at Mayne Island BC during a winter gale in 1872. The vessel was loaded with sandstone slabs and columns destined for the US Mint under construction in San Francisco. The wreck had lain undisturbed for over a century before being located by Island locals in 1976. Rosalie McPherson, Gary Le Tour and Bob Sauerberg made several dives and finally found Zephyr in 40 feet of water covered with a foot of sand resting on a sloping ledge surrounded by piles of ballast rocks.

  • Wreck of the L and HWreck of the L and H

    A little known stranding of a government vessel, the L and H, at Nitinat Bar on Vancouver Island’s west coast illustrates the dangers of the Graveyard of the Pacific.

  • Wreck of the Tug DaringTug Daring

    The Daring burned and sank off Nootka Sound. The crew were saved in a most unlikely fashion and the skipper received a cheque for $75.00 as his reward.

  • Wreck: Flotsam, Jetsam & LaganReceiver of Wreck

    Is salvage at sea a matter of finders keepers? Who looks after wreckage and goods washed up on shore? Is it finders keepers?

  • Wreck of the UzbekhistanUzbekhistan Wreck

    The Uzbekistan, a steel freighter was built in 1937 in France by Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire at St. Nazaire and turned over to the Soviet Government (Northern Soviet Supply Service) under a lend-lease arrangement. Travelling from Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington she was wrecked when she went ashore just west of the mouth of Darling Creek 2.5 miles east of Pachena Point British Columbia 30/04/1943 on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

  • The Tug Lorne Loses a Log RaftChart

    In 1933 the big tug Lorne was towing two Davis Rafts of logs on the British Columbia coast under Captain Sigvardt Salvesen. In a big storm in which the skipper battled the sea – the two Davis Rafts were lost.

Marine Industry Companies

  • The People’s Steam Navigation CompanyPeoples Steamship Navigation Co.

    For a short time this company competed for dominance on the passenger run from Victoria BC to Nanaimo BC only to be put out of business by the railway.

  • Yarrows Ltd.Yarrows Ltd.

    Once a major employer on Esquimalt Harbour this company passed out of existence in the 1990s. Building naval and merchant vessels they were a scion of the great British ship builders.

  • MacFarlane Brothers TowingMacFarlane Brothers Towing

    The history of a pioneer west coast tug boat family and the vessels that they owned and operated over nearly a 100 year span in the forest and fisheries towing industries.

  • Capital Iron and Metals Ltd.Capital Iron and Metals Ltd.

    Today’s popular Victoria BC department store had beginnings as a ship breaker and scrap metal dealer. Moving slowly from that to surplus marine equipment sales to hardware to a fully fledged department store is part of British Columbia's maritime heritage.

Captain John Voss and the Tilikum

  • Captain John Claus Voss
  • Captain John Voss was a tough but competent mariner. He was an exceptional handler of small boats in long distance blue water voyages of great duration. He sailed the dugout canoe Tilikum from Victoria BC to London UK.

  • Norman Kenny Luxton
  • Luxton gnerated the idea of the voyage of the tilikum and pitched it to Captain Voss. He accompanied voss on the voyage to Australia but left there on very bad terms. He wrote his own account of his experiences after going on to found the Crag and Canyon newspaper in Banff Alberta.

  • The Remarkable Voyage of the Tilikum
  • The Tilikum is a cedar dugout canoe that was sailed by Captain John Voss from Victoria BC to London UK in an epic voyage that has captured the imaginations of arm chair explorers and mariners for over a hundred years.

Nautical & Maritime Heritage

  • Two Banknotes Featuring Ship EngravingsBanknote
  • Contributor Ronald Greene is a well known expert on banknotes and numismatics. In the days before the Bank of Canada assumed control of all banknote issues in Canada the Canadian chartered banks issued their own notes. To the delight of the collector, there was a wide variety of designs in use, many of them were extremely attractive. A good number of banknotes featured engravings, "vignettes" as they are called, are of ships or of nautical themes. Greene’s article discusses two related designs for banknotes of the Royal Bank of Canada, one issued, the other not. The two designs evoke some fascinating maritime history.

  • Ship Mail and Ship Post OfficesShip Mail and Ship Post Offices
  • Until airmail overtook ship–borne mail, ships were the only way to get letters across water. Stamp collectors sometimes specialize in the postal history of these services. British registered ships carrying mail used the title Royal Mail Ship and the initials ‘R.M.S.’ was employed in front of the ship’s name. A ship would use this prefix only while it was contracted to carry mail. A limited number of ships were given this designation.

  • Early Outboard Motorboat Racing in British ColumbiaOutboard Racing

    In the period between the 1930s and the 1950s the racing of outboard notor boats was very popular in British Columbia.

  • Plimsoll’s Line (aka the International Load Line) – Saves LivesPlimsoll Mark

    The Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 established the safety regulations for loading of ships, instigated by Samuel Plimsoll. Various lines indicating the level of the ship in various conditions (based on the specific gravity of the water) are indicated. (A ship will sink deeper in the water in warm areas of the tropics than in winter conditions in the North Atlantic.)

  • Restoring a Harold Gates Canoe – Keeping History AliveHarold Gates Canoes

    Harold Gates was a builder of classic cedar strip canoes who was born in Middleton, Nova Scotia in the picturesque Annapolis Valley. He lived there his entire life and was the best known of the Maritime Canada canoe builders during his era. Contributing author Richard Howie chronicles the rebuilding of one of his Gates canoes in Kamloops, British Columbia by craftsmen Al McLean and Dave Lanthier.

  • The Ogden Point Breakwater at Victoria BCOgden Point

    The Ogden Point Breakwater is comprised of roughly 10,000 granite blocks, weighing together over a million tons, were quarried at Hardy Island and shipped to Victoria for use in the breakwater and completed in 1916. Without it large freighters and passenger ships would not be able to access the Port of Victoria.

  • The Old Canadian Vessel Licensing Number SchemeLicence Number

    Formerly pleasure craft carrying engines of more than 9.9hp were licensed. The licence alphanumeric was displayed on the bow of the vessel. This alphanumeric was generated from a geographical code table. The scheme has been replaced by a new system but the old alphanumerics will be in existence for some years before they disappear completely. A licensed vessel may be given a name, at the pleasure of the owner, but is officially known by its number. At one time there were a large number of ports at which vessels could be licensed. The ports in brackets are where the records were kept for the corresponding port.The ports in brackets are where the records were kept for some of the corresponding ports. Almost all of these records are no longer accessible or older record locations are unknown. Here is a key to deciphering the numbers.

  • Who's In Charge of These Waters?Waterfront Property Ownership

    Determining the ownership of waterfront and the land under the ocean is a complicated business. Contributing author and property manager David Sheffield explains the factors that come into play in British Columbia.

  • Accretion on Waterfront Properties - What Does It Mean?Waterfront Property

    A property negotiator and manager offers some thoughts on the changing shape of waterfront properties. Nothing is static – and an owner needs to be aware that changes in the shoreline over time can have more than visual consequences.

  • Comox Coast Guard Radio– Over One Hundred Years of HistoryAntenna

    For more than 100 years Comox Coast Guard Radio has been providing vital services to mariners. One of the busiest marine and communications services (MCTS) centres in Canada, it provides 24 hour service.

  • HMS Egeria and Early Hydrography on Canada’s West CoastHydrography on Pacific Coast

    In the early years hydrographic surveys were carried out by the Royal Navy. In 1910 this responsibility was transferred to Canada with the establishment of the Naval Service of Canada.

  • Cooking At Sea

    It was definitely a matter of grim grub for sailors in the early sailing ships. What did they eat and drink and how was the food prepared? Did it taste good?

  • Searching For Pirate TreasureCocos Island

    Who hasn’t dreamed of pirate treasure? There were actual pirates in the Pacific and they handled treasure. Where is it now, and why can’t we find it?

  • Maritime Graffiti on Pender Island BCCrossing the Line

    On the cliff in Bedwell Harbour at Pender Island BC, in what is now part of the Gulf Islands National Park, it is still possible to make out the names of ships painted on the bare rock. Although it would now be considered as vandalism it was a common practice for vessels to leave calling cards on the water side of docks, in canal locks and on cliffs in anchorages.

  • Last Morse Code Radio Message From Sooke Coast Guard RadioSooke Coast Guard Radio

    In 1992 the Canadian Coast Guard stopped transmission of Morse code messages from the Sooke Coast Guard Radio Station. It was a melancholy occasion for the operators.

  • The Monument to Captain James Cook RN at Kealakekua Bay HawaiiCaptain Cook Memorial

    The background of the origin of the Monument to Captain James Cook RN at Kealakekua Bay Hawaii and some links back to Canada and other Commonwealth nations.

  • Some Thoughts on Collecting Nautical AntiquesNautical Antiques

    When the decision to become an antique collector is made some good background information is needed to be successful. Collectors need to be more strategic than accumulators and make calculated decisions about what to buy and when to buy it.

Useful British Columbia Maritime Links

  • Maritime Organizations and Museums

    The genealogist or researcher should know where to turn for information on ships, mariners and maritime heritage. Here is a listing of good sources.

  • British Columbia Nautical Books
  • If you were going to assemble a nautical reference library these are some books that would be well worthwhile to include. Many of them are now out of print but can be obtained on the many used-book websites that proliferate on the internet.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: Dec 21st, 2018

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,445 vessel histories (with 5,467 images) and 58,183 mariner biographies (with 3,659 images).

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