The Demise and Cleanup of the Fisheries Patrol Vessel Pursepa

by Dirk Septer 2018


The Pursepa ON 154651 (shortened from the words Purse Seine Patrol) (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

I first spotted this sweet little wooden–hulled vessel a number of years ago while tied up at the marina at Deep Cove, BC. On 12 September 2012 the vessel was still tied up at the same location with a ‘for sale’ sign. Day–dreaming of possibly making an offer on it, I researched her background and history.

The Pursepa ON 154651 was built in 1928 for the Canadian Department of Fisheries by Hoffar–Beeching Shipyards Ltd., Vancouver,BC. 14.33m x 3.35m x 1.89m; 21.42 gt. The Nauticapedia Database of Vessels shows "In 1928–1961 she was owned by The Minister of Fisheries, Ottawa ON. In 1961–1976 she was owned by David D. McKenzie, Vancouver BC. In 1977–1988 she was owned by Coastal Biochores Ltd., Victoria BC. In 1989–1991 she was owned Gregory Warkentine, Victoria BC. In 1992–1997 she was owned by David R. Chippendale, Delta BC. In 1999–2015 she was owned by Ian D. Henry, Victoria BC. In 2018 she was still in the Canada Register."

The Pursepa was based at Pender Harbour, BC, the fisheries department operated the vessel until 1961. The Pursepa mainly worked in the southern half of Vancouver Island and later patrolled in Barclay Sound and Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii),

In 1998 Ian Donald Henry of Victoria, BC purchased the vessel and started a five–year retrofit. This final owner converted the vessel into a live–aboard pleasure craft that would remain in British Columbia waters.


On February 27, 2015, I saw this vessel again, now on the hard at the Fresh Water Boat Yard, in Campbell River. (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

On March 2, following repairs and only one week after I took this photograph of the Pursepa aground on a gravel bar below Painter’s Lodge at the mouth of the Campbell River. While traveling downstream the Campbell River on a tide she got stuck in the center of the channel which was sometimes used by Corilair Charters float planes.

A tug belonging to DCD Pile Driving was the first to respond via dispatch through Marine Assist International. Unable to move the vessel off the bar, a Canadian Coast Guard crew responded. The vessel, listing to starboard, was braced with planks and float bags to prevent it from tipping any further. It was hoped that she would float free the following morning on high tide.


The Pursepa on March 18, 2015. (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

At one point a pile driver and crane attached a line to the vessel’s stern but did not manage to pull her off. Other contractors, including Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures were called in, however, the vessel remained stubbornly stuck on the bar. Despite salvage efforts the vessel slowly disintegrated. The Canadian Coast Guard contracted the removal of the fuel tanks and engine. With each tide the hulk further disintegrated with debris including glass and metal spreading along the bar and the adjacent shoreline. Eventually she was practically reduced to scrap, the wreckage remained in the center of the channel, much to the concern of the local residents. Though they observed a small oil or fuel slick on one occasion, no adverse environmental impacts were reported. At the time of its grounding, the Pursepa was listed for sale for $29,000.


The Pursepa on March 22, 2015. (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

At the end of March the pile driver returned and with its crane and chainsaws started taking the wreckage apart piece by piece. For weeks, volunteers worked on the cleanup. They removed the wheelhouse and upper deck in sections, hauling it to the Comox–Strathcona Solid Waste Service landfill.


The Pursepa on March 26, 2015. (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

Finally only the hull and keel with its heavy ballast, too bulky and heavy to haul off by skiff, remained. Coincidentally, the final cleanup of the wreckage happened to come on Earth Day.


The Pursepa on April 1, 2015. (Photo from the Dirk Septer collection.)

On April 23rd, a 6,000–pound capacity industrial helicopter was brought in to finish the job. The HeliQuest chopper, piloted by Jay Blythman lifted the broken sections of the hull and keel. Utilizing a grappling hook and 50–foot cable, the hull was wrenched apart. By making approximately a dozen trips, the debris along with a propane stove and other items were removed. It was all slung over to a location on shore at the end of Perkins Road, on the north shore of the river. From here it was later hauled away and disposed.

Though the volunteers all donated their time for free, the $3,500 bill for the helicopter time remained. The Campbell River city council was approached to pick up the tab for the helicopter cost. When the council approved payment for this expense from contingency fund, the Pursepa file was finally closed.

To quote from this article please cite:

Septer, Dirk (2018) The Demise and Cleanup of the Fishing Vessel Pursepa. 2018.

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