Thursday, June 23, 2005


Historic tugboat "S.S.Master" will be in Nanaimo

By Walter Cordery
June 20, 2005

The historic tugboat Master will be in Nanaimo from July 22 to July 24,
as part of the Nanaimo Marine Festival. One of the few remaining steamships
on the West Coast, Master was once a fixture during Bathtub Days. She stopped
coming here after Vancouver closed the Sea Festival. Above Master is pictured
at Canada Day celebrations in North Vancouver.

A long-time friend of Nanaimo’s bathtub race returns to the Harbour City this year after a multi-year absence.

The society which owns and operates the “last remaining steam powered tug boat in North America” — SS Master — plans to have the historic vessel tied up at the Nanaimo Port Authority’s visiting vessel pier from July 22 until after the bathtub’s start racing July 24.

Nobody could be happier about this than Bill McGuire, Commodore of the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society.

“In the past it (Master) has been the flagship of the bathtub fleet, for quite a number of years when the race used to go to Vancouver,” said McGuire. “We are delighted they want to participate in the World Championship Bathtub Race and Marine Festival.”

“This is the first time we have returned to Nanaimo since they cancelled the Vancouver Sea Festival,” said Chris Croner, president of the SS Master Society.

“We can’t wait to get back.

“We’re really excited about bringing her back for the race,” said Croner, who well remembers the days the steam-powered tug carried Frank Ney in his Black Frank paraphernalia across the Strait of Georgia.

“We used to sail before the race started and set up".

“You people in Nanaimo really know how to party. Boy, we in Vancouver, could learn a thing or two from you guys,” said Croner.

When she’s not involved in special activities, SS Master berths at Vancouver’s Maritime Museum.

“She is the only vessel that we know of that has been designated as a floating heritage object,” said society member Jason Lott. The province of B.C. and city of Vancouver awarded her that designation.

“She is probably the closest of any of the early tugs built by B.C.’s master tugboat builder Arthur Moscrop to being in her original state of any of the surviving tugs built in B.C.,” said Lott.

Master still operates on her original steam engine, which was purchased from the Royal Navy as surplus, following the First World War.

She was built for Capt. Herman Thorsen in 1922, one of three wood-hull tugs constructed at Moscrops’ shipyards in Vancouver — the same shipyard that supervised the construction of the RCMP’s famous arctic explorer, St. Roch, which also has a permanent berth at the Maritime Museum. Master, along with Sea Swell and R.F.M. (Richard Frederick Marpole) are believed to be the last steam-powered ships built in British Columbia, according to a SS Master Society booklet.

Steam and gas powered engines were being replaced by diesel at the time. The cost of building Master is believed to have been around $34,000 and Capt. Thosen retained control of the vessel until 1927 when the Master Towing Company incorporated and took title of the ship.

In 1940, Master was purchased by the Marpole Towing Company, states the society’s booklet, “joining her sister ship R.F.M. alongside of which she had been built in 1922.”

For years, she towed coal barges from Vancouver Island to Coal Harbour in Vancouver.

Maintenance was neglected during the years and Master changed hands numerous times before 1962 when members of the World Ship Society of Western Canada purchased her for $500. The society wanted “to restore her as a tribute to the tugboat industry of British Columbia,” states the society’s pamphlet.

“Master has survived to become the sole representative of the early era of the tugboat industry and its concomitants, the forest and mining industries.”

Anyone wishing to catch a glimpse of a floating, mechanical pioneer that helped build this province can tour SS Master during Bathtub weekend July 22 to July 24 at the Port of Nanaimo’s Visiting Vessel Pier, said McGuire, who added HMCS Nanaimo will be moored nearby and also open to public tours.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?