Wooden Boats

COLIN BISHOP reports from Vancouver

In late summer 2010, my wife and I fulfilled a long standing ambition to visit Vancouver, which met our expectations in every way. One of the local attractions is Granville Island Market which is set on False Creek, an inlet which separates Vancouver downtown from the mainland. The market area is bordered by marina pontoons which at the time of our visit were hosting the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival with a wonderful collection of boats from a steam powered dinghy to the last remaining wooden steam tug on the Canadian West Coast.
Most of the boats were open to the public and were very interesting indeed. To my mind, the stars of the show had to be the steam tug Master and the classic Chris Craft Constellation motor boat.
The most striking aspect of the show was the sheer variety of boats on display. The smallest boat was a four man lifeboat and there were acres of highly polished varnish which must absorb a huge number of man hours to maintain. Master, the largest vessel present, was built in 1922 for the British Columbia logging industry and fitted with an RN WW1 surplus triple expansion engine. She was in service until 1962 when she was taken over for restoration by the World Ship Society and later passed into the ownership of the SS Master Society who maintain and operate her. She is believed to be the only wooden steam powered tug still operating in North America and has her original engine. On boarding the vessel it is clear that she is lovingly looked after, albeit subject to the financial pressures that attend all preserved vessels. I had an interesting chat with her engineer who was pleased that I immediately identified the triple expansion power plant and he was interested to hear about the steam vessels on the UK side of the ‘pond’ including the P.S. Waverley and the Swiss Lakes paddle steamers which are still in service. Plans of the Master which are suitable for model making purposes are available from the S.S. Master Society website: www.ssmaster.org

Many of the other craft present fell into the ‘Gentlemen’s Yacht’ category, but one of the most striking was the 1956 Chris Craft Constellation exhibited by Lynn and Russ Tretiak. This boat was originally built in Michigan USA and is 35 feet long with an 11 feet beam. She has a mahogany hull with teak trim and planking and is powered by two Ford V8 petrol engines. As the photos show, she is an absolute classic including the trademark turquoise within the colour scheme. Other boats present included a half size replica of a Viking longboat and there was also an onshore exhibition of smaller boats which demonstrated some superb carpentry skills. All in all it was a fascinating exhibition, so much so that we went back for a second look a couple of days later. Most of the vessels on display would make very attractive models and offer the opportunity to really get into those woodworking skills as a change from the usual GRP and plastic.