Sunday, November 18, 2012

The 1923, Ex-British Columbia Forestry Vessel

Our lovely girl Kwaietek, is about to turn ninety years old!  In honor of her birthday, this blog post is dedicated to her early years in the BC Forest Service.

BC Forester in Desolation Sound, B.C.
Headquarters Launch
 From the Forest History Association of British Columbia, Newsletter no. 44, 11/1995

At the dawn of the forest industry in British Columbia, most of the annual cut of timber came from the Vancouver Forest District. This was considered a matter of some importance and merited the allocation of a headquarters boat to the Vancouver district. That boat would be outfitted for a variety of duties, including the hosting of VIPs connected with forestry.

The BC Forester was the second vessel to obtain this position in Vancouver. She went into service in 1924, and the following statement appeared in the annual report of the Department of Lands:

"The BC Forester was built as a headquarters boat to replace the RJ Skinner which has been in commission for the past 15 years."

The RJ Skinner was sold, renamed Anne Sophie and destroyed by fire in 1932.

The hull of the BCForester (originally 57' long) was built in 1923 and the engine was installed at the BCFS marine station at Thurston Bay on Sonora Island. A formal launching took place on January 24th 1924 and was witnessed by all those attending a rangers conference held at the station.

The BC Forester was then taken to Vancouver, where all additional work was performed. The job was completed in March of 1924 and a trial run made to Victoria. The editor of Root and Branch, an early Forest Service newsletter, had the pleasure of making this inaugural voyage and he wrote a lengthy article for the newsletter (February 1924). Here are a few excerpts:

  • "Today we had an opportunity to inspect the good ship BC Forester, the latest and largest vessel of our fleet, and we place ourselves on record as being of the opinion that she is a good job, and a credit alike to the brain which conceived her and hands that built her."  

 "She is a sturdily-built craft and her accommodation is luxurious, she is thoroughly habitable and her living quarters will present a very pleasing appearance when the painting and interior trim has been completed. A noticeable feature is the generous headroom in the chart-house, engine-room and main cabin."

Crew member filling water tanks from a waterfall.

As the years went by, the BC Forester was called upon to provide a very broad spectrum of services. For example, in April 1931, UBC forestry students were taken aboard for a field trip to the pulp mill at Woodfibre. The next spring, members of the Surveys division of BCFS used the BC Forester in connection with an operational reforestation project on West Thurlow Island.

The most persistent demand for the BC Forester came from the Surveys Division. A seaworthy craft was required to accomadate coastal field parties. The Surveys Division made use of this vessel in 1932 (Loughborough survey), 1933 (Jervis Inlet- Howe Sound survey), 1934 (Toba survey), and 1935 (Kingcome survey).

BC Forester's new Gardner diesel engine.

By 1935 it had become apparent that the Surveys Division required the continued use of a boat to accommodate field  crews. Two events soon followed. The launch PZ Caverhill was purchased for use as a headquarters boat based in Vancouver.

The BC Forester was then lengthened (to 63'), refurbished and provided with a new engine in preparation for use by survey crews in the field.

In 1941 the BC Forester was again assigned to the Vancouver Forest Distric as a headquarters boat as the result of a marine accident. The following is a quote form the BCFS newsletter of July 15th, 1941:

  • "On Friday March 7th, while proceeding from Vancouver to Howe Sound, the Vancouver District launch PZ Caverhill was struck by the CPR coast steamship Princess Charlotte. The damage was so extensive that it was decided not to repair the launch. The machinery and equipment were salvaged and the hull was sold."

In 1942 the BC Forester was briefly used by Forest Surveys on the Sayward survey. However, she was primarily used as a headquarters boat until the Syrene was purchased by the Vancouver Forest District on August 1942.

During 1943 and 1944 the BC Forester was not used by Forest Surveys because filed crews were not available due to the war. The vessel may have been used extensively by the military. According to Jack Rhodes, retired from the Inventory Branch, the BC Forester was used out of Prince Rupert Sound by the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943.

Over the next three decades, the BC Forester saw plenty of service for inventory crews. However, she also provided short term transport and accommodation for field personnel in the Research, Reforestation and Engineering divisions.

In July 1972 she was sold. However the BC Forest Service specified that the sale was contingent upon the name BC Forester no longer being used. She is now called the Kwaietek and her home port is Vancouver. After 71 years of use she is still a proud, well maintained and seaworthy craft.

Happy Birthday Kwaietek!!


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