............THE FOREST






“The Gasboat Days”

T he word is nearly forgotten today,
it is so little used. ‘Gasboat’ – a means of water travel in every logging camp on our coast at one time. Now, the familiar words for a like creature are ‘dozer-boat,’ or ‘side-winder,’ or ‘boom boat,’ or ‘tug.’
....Whatever became of gasboats? I thought you’d never ask.
....They were all shapes and sizes, up to the biggies of 38 feet in length. They towed log booms and floating camps, transported loggers to work on A-frame shows, and did the waterway chores in hundreds of inlets and along shorelines.
....I suppose they were called gasboats because they were powered by gas engines. The small diesel engine had not yet come into being in the twenties and thirties, but the Easthopes, Vivians and Palmers were the popular small gas engines of those times, and on into the forties.
....People hadn’t put too much thought into the design of camp gasboats in those days, so something built as a small passenger boat or fishing boat often wound up ion some logging camp as its gasboat.
....One of my earliest memories of our gasboats was the ‘Gorge.” A beauty she was not, but a bit of history she had. She (gasboats, like Queen Marys, were always called ‘Shes') was 28 feet long – a wooden plank hull with a low profile in the water, and with cabin from near bow to stern.
....The Gorge was all dark grey in color, and inside the cabin wooden benches ran along the sides. She had a ten horse-power Palmer engine that when open full, could race at six knots.


....We used her to pack frightening loads of cookhouse freight and logging rigging through the Quatsino Narrows, and the Narrows ebbed and flowed just as fast as the Gorge. As a result, if bucking the tide with an overload of freight, my father would hug the rocky shoreline, dodging in and out of the back eddies. It was a risky business but it merely went with the day’s work.
....To show how time has flown by from era to era, the Gorge I knew as a boy was the same little boat that was in use as a passenger boat between Victoria and the Gulf Islands at the turn of the century. At that time. She had a small coal-burning steam engine that romper her along at a speedy four knots.
....The Gorge ended her gasboat days – worn out, leaking and dry-rotted –


on a beach by Quatsino Sound. She had survived the steam era, and given way before the diesel era.
....The Glosjar was a bit bigger, about 35 feet in length, and again nearly all cabin from bow to stern. She should have been a pleasure boat, but we used her for everything in the early forties. She had a 14-16 horsepower Vivian gas engine in her and a speed of about eight knots. Red-cedar hulled, she slept five people in small narrow bunks.
....Like many other camp gasboats, the Glosjar was not built for the job. But, she came cheap in the hungry thirties.
....As a tow boat for booms of logs, she was a disaster, but we nevertheless towed a good many millions of feet of logs with her.

IN THE old days of inlet logging along the shoreline, the gasboats were
the crummies. Above is the Glosjar.
46  ·  British Columbia Lumberman  · January 1981

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....The towbit on a boat should be two-thirds the length of the boat – to the stern. This way, you have control of the turning of the boat in various directions. The dear old Glosjar had a towbit right near the stern, because of too much cabin. The result was, too often, that one would find oneself with the boom of logs in front of the boat.
....In those days of inlet logging along the shorelines, with no roads, the gasboats acted as crew busses or crum-mies. The crew would pile on the boat after breakfast – too often over-loaded – and we would head out for various parts of the inlet where the loggers were dropped off at their work places.
....If it was a new area where falling was starting near the beach, the gasboat would slowly work its way close to a felled tree lying in the water, and the falling crew would jump off onto the tree and walk to shore and on to work.
....Icy inlets were always a problem in the winter, as the gas boats were wooden hulled. Some were protected with Aust-ralian gumwood, a hard thin planking nailed over the hull at the waterline. Many a morning we would have to turn back if the ice was too thick for the boats, and in those days there was no call time for the crews.
....Around the camps, the little old Easthope engine was generally to be found in small work boats. Its ‘ka-put-ka-put’ was a dependable sound that belonged to a fine little engine. With the little Easthopes, you weren’t going anywhere fast, but by gosh, you would get there.
....With a gas engine such as the Glosjar had – a 14-16 heavy duty – the starting procedure was a little different from the silver-and-pearl buttons of today’s gaudy run-abouts. Then, to start the engine, one needed the assistance of the famed ‘Johnson Bar.’ This was a seven-eighths inch round piece of steel, about 18 inches long, that was placed in a hole in the exposed surface of the flywheel, and pulled over to start the machine. In this case, it was necessary to release some of the cylinder head compression in order to hand-turn the flywheel.
....Now if, by chance, the young logger starting this engine forgot to release the compression, the Johnson Bar would whip out of his hand like lightning and leave the chap with a very sore wrist. There was a reinforced patch on the side of the engine room against which that bar used to whirl every so often. Ah, youth! A sure way to alertness – the Johnson Bar.

....A fond memory of the gasboat days was the Saturday night dance in the community hall at the village of Quatsino. Here, as in so many other isolated communities up and down our coast, was the gathering place for local fishermen and loggers – via their gas-boats – for a two-step and a shot of Lemon Hart.
....At Quatsino, Mrs. Warren, a dear old lady of good proportions, com-manded the piano, and generally there would be a fiddler or a saxophonist – on big nights, all three.
....Down at the floating docks, a few hundred feet from the hall, half the evening’s fun would be taking place, for the Easthopes and all their strange brothers would tie up by the side and hoots and hollers and tall tales would emanate from the little gasboats, on into

the dawn. Music from the hall drifted down to the boats, and took the edge off some of the loggerese coming from the cabins.
....The gasboats bring back a memory of still another part of the forest around us on this B.C. coast. They shared, and did their part in developing our forest industry.
....So press your fancy buttons on those fancy dashboards, and hang on to that pearl-handled steering wheel, and go roaring out there on the salt water ways at 40 knots. I’ll take the old gasboats. I won’t make any waves, but I’ll get there!

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

Bill Moore
British Columbia Lumberman  · January 1981  · 47