........Comment by Bill Moore

...The forest around us

The “Good Ship Maquinna”

....If there’s one coastal steamship whose name will not be forgotten, it would have to be the C.P.R.’s Prin-cess Maquinna. Plying the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island – all 300 miles of it – from 1914 to the late 1940s, this tough passenger freighter was the only lifeline for the logging camps and canneries of western Vancouver Island. She was built in Victoria in 1913 and her first skipper was Captain Edward Gillam.
....There were many other vessels on our B.C. coast in those days, taking people and supplies to the Queen Charlottes, Ocean Falls, Prince Rupert and a hundred other communities. Their names are not remembered as is “The Good Ship Maquinna” for one reason. That reason was a CJOR Vancouver radio newscaster by the name of Kelly. For some reason, over many long years, Kelly would announce the location of the ship as she plied north or south on her journey. The west coast Islander relied on this radio announcement as it meant supplies, visitors, and mail would be at this location at that time.
....Kelly called her the “Good Ship” and the words became synonymous with this deep voiced man. People who did not live on the coast, but heard his broadcast were always interested to know the whereabouts of the “Good Ship Maquinna.”
....In the ‘30s, as I remember, she loaded freight at Vancouver every 10 days. For some internal reason of the C.P.R. the ship did not carry passengers to Victoria, her next stop.
THE PRINCESS MAQUINNA – for many years a familiar and welcomed part of the west coast scene.

There she would pick up her first passengers and steam up the lower west coast of Vancouver Island to Bamfield, and then up the Alberni Canal to Port Alberni.
....It was generally at Port Alberni that most passengers boarded, including the loggers destined for the remote logging camps to the north. People from Vancouver could save a day’s journey by short cutting by ferry to Nanaimo and bussing to Alberni.
....Because the “good Ship” made so many stops, the journey from Port Alberni took three days to its northern destination of Port Alice on Quatsino Sound. There at the pulp mill town of Port Alice the ship would take on a return cargo of pulp bales for Van-couver. Four days from the docks of Vancouver and four days back! What did she do? Well, she was busy opening up an untamed coastline of Canada that held riches in timber, fish and minerals.
....I can remember the Maquinna stopping in mid-stream on a lonely inlet while some logger in a row boat rowed out to her to pick up supplies and to
get his mail. She would often pull into a small float camp or a booming ground and unload the loggers’ cargo out the side hatches. With all our modern styles of shipping, I don’t think the coast has ever seen the style of service given by the Maquinna in those days.

....Indian dugout canoes, small gas boats, log rafts, floating board walks were the general means of taking sup-plies and people from the ship. She had two large iron doors on her sides down near the water’s edge, and when these were opened, freight could be passed out to waiting hands. It may be the middle of the night or it may be in a strong tidal inlet. No matter, the captain of the Maquinna would hold her in position while the logger or fisherman took his freight off.

....It was a wild and woolly area the “good Ship” served. Roads were scarce, aircraft were not in use ‘til the 1940s and ships and small boats were indeed the lifeline of the people on that 300 mile stretch up the west coast of Vancouver Island.

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British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1977

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....For the old timers of the coast, one name will always be synonymous with the Maquinna. Captain Edward Gillam helped design and took over com-mand of her from 1914 to the late ‘20s. It was he who recommended a double bottom for her as he well knew the rocky coast she would travel.
....Captain Gillam was a popular man on the coast. My friend, Frank Hole, remembers his school days in the Quatsino school when, once a year, the captain would send word up to the teacher that he was ready to take the school children on board for a day’s cruise of Quatsino Sound. Of course the great C.P.R. service was theirs – from ice cream to white linen tablecloths and lovely silverware. Frank says it was the big day of the year.
....The fishing and cannery industry was going great guns in the 1920s and a great deal of the work was done by native Indians. Early each summer on her way north, the ship would pick up a few hundred native Indians at various stops along the way and deliver them to the canneries at River’s Inlet on the northern mainland of B.C.’s coast.
....Another old friend, Max Botel, tells of these people being herded together on deck and down below, sleeping where they could, and getting their own meals. When the ship was at a dock, they would catch some fish and use their big iron pot to cook the fish – on the beach. The trip took several days to River’s Inlet and one can only sympathize with the plight of those people.

....In the late ‘30s it was always the dark of night when the Maquinna entered our inlet to bring our small float camp its 10 days’ supplies. With no dock there, she did as she often did in other places – dropped the anchor. I would then tow a small log raft out to the ship by means of a small gas boat. In the dark and often stormy or tidal waters, I would have to place the log raft immediately beneath the big iron doors on the ship’s side. Once secured, we would then take on the freight by hand, passing it down.

....It seemed no matter what time of night it was, there would always be one or two “travelers” down at the hatch doors. These gentlemen traveled the coast representing various whole-sale businesses in Vancouver or Victoria. Meat packing houses, dry goods, fishing and logging supplies were their lines – and like the salesman in the musical “Music Man” – they “had to know the territory.” They would be there at hatch side to tell you

of their new products and to take orders for goods. If your throat was a bit parched from loading the freight, they always had a shot of grog or a beer to help you through your chores. Nice men, those travelers.

....I’m fond of the early steamers on our B.C. coast, for they meant so much to us in the opening up of the vast timberlands in the many, many inlets. The loggers who worked in those inlets had only one lifeline to the outside world – and that was our coastal steamers, like the Maquinna. Today when I hear loggers – or others – complain of a big jet being an hour late at one of our fine coastal airports, I think of what it was like for one crew I remember so well. You might enjoy the story:

....It was in the very early ‘40s and our small float camp had been closed down for three weeks over Christmas. Our boom man, his wife and myself had stayed in camp over the holidays with instructions from my father to “meet the Maquinna” on a certain early January trip as the 25 man crew and supplies would be aboard.
....By then our inlet had a small floating dock with a galvanized tin shed on it to store supplies out of the weather. There was no walkway to shore, so our dock sat out in sort of mid-channel, anchored to the bottom.
....The “Good Ship” was due in at 4 a.m. (yes, it was snowing) and it was my job to meet her and take the crew and supplies farther up the inlet to the float camp. Fred, the boom man, was to have the bunkhouse wood fires going and to have lit the cookhouse wood range.
....“Kelly” told me the night before when the ship would be in, so I slept aboard our gas boat ready to go out to the dock when she arrived. However, being young and heavy of sleep, I did not awaken as I should have and it was long after the “Good Ship” had departed that I was yelled at by a passing fisherman and told – “Ya got a whole passel of cranky loggers out there on the dock, kid.”
....I started up the engine and with a small searchlight on proceeded to the dock in the heavy snow. I shall never forget the sight of those 25 snow covered loggers - standing like penguins on the dock as my searchlight shone on them. Angry? No, they were way beyond that! The tin freight shed was full so there was no place to take cover. I had towed a large red cannery skiff behind my boat to load freight into. Twenty five cold loggers jumped at the freight to load it in the scow and about seven a.m. we headed up for the


camp. To make the morning near perfect, Fred, the boom man had overslept and forgotten to light the fires. A couple of the loggers who would speak to me told me that their three day journey from Port Alberni had been one of the roughest on record for the “good Ship” – Oh boy!
....Not such an untypical story of what loggers had to put up with in those days. It was part of the code, “you hired out to be tough” and “you’ve got to be tough in the north.”
....Anybody for a jet - that’s an hour late?
....The “Good Ship” is long gone, as are Mr. Kelly and Captain Gillam and manbby others who plied the rough waters of Vancouver Island’s west coast. That coast now has aircraft of all styles, roads, freight trucks, busses and barges. But it was the life-links like the Maquinna that opened a part of this forest around us –
....Good night – “Good Ship” – wherever you are –

.........................Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1977  
page 49