We have a very special boat on which we travel the coast to do research for my paintings. The vessel is an historic wooden boat built by the US Navy in Pearl Harbor in 1944, and was brought to the mainland in the 50’s and converted to be used as a pleasure craft. When in service in the US Navy it was used as a launch or barge by Admirals for transportation between their ship and the shore when they were not along side a dock. We have been told it was used by Admiral Nimitz as his launch at one time.
I bought the boat in 1988 and it has been used as my research platform, and also used for search and rescue on the Fraser River, out of my home port, Steveston, which is just south of the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, BC.
As well as cruising the coast to do research, we volunteer our boat, the Steveston Lifeboat, into the Canadian Lifeboat Institution service. This non profit organization is similar to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in England in that it is run by volunteers and supported by donations and receives no federal government funding. We run patrols on the Fraser River during August, September, October and sometimes November when the salmon are running and our assistance is required to patrol and offer preventative service to the shipping companies and to the commercial fishermen and women.
We are closely connected to the Navy as I am a naval war artist and we often work with the local Naval and Army reserves in Vancouver during their exercises. One exercise in particular stands out as a very interesting example of co-operation. We were in a waterway close to Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, and were requested to deliver a landing party of 35 armed Princess Patricia reservists at the Buntzen Power station at midnight, then wait for them and return them to the main group after their exercise.
We loaded the group on the way to the exercise and I requested my crew ensure the heavily armed reservists were positioned to balance our craft, which is only 52 feet long. They were scattered appropriately around the ship on the outbound trip. However, on the return trip I was quite curious as I could not see any of them on the outer decks. I was told to look below in the mess. There, standing and wedged together in a solid mass, were all of the party – most of them sound asleep as they had been on their feet for many hours and the pleasant motion of the ship rocked them gently to sleep!
If you ever travel the west coast of British Columbia, please watch for us as we work on the Fraser River. We also visit the Gulf Islands, the Central coast and next year will go south to the San Juan Islands and Seattle looking for more ideas to add to my over 50 paintings about Captain Vancouver and to complete research for a book about the good Captain.
Details about the ship
LOA 53’ 0”; LWL 51’ 0”; Beam 12’ 8”; Draught 5’ 0”
Construction: Mahogany and fir on oak frames
Engine Specifications: Single Detroit 671 diesel, 157 S.H.P.; economical cruising speed 9 knots; maximum speed 10 knots; range 1,000 nautical miles.
Builder: US Navy, Pearl Harbor 1944
Naval use: Admiral’s barge aboard flagships