Church Mission Boats on the British Columbia Coast

I have mentioned a few of these boats before on this site – the Thomas Crosby V (here and here), the Columbia III, and the William H. Pierce. This article should finish the series once and for all. I never knew there were so many church mission boats on the British Columbia (BC) coast.

In the early 1900s lighthouses were very isolated. Maybe a Coast Guard ship about every six (6) months, but to the keepers, and many other isolated residents of the BC coast the mission boats were their only contact with civilization. Here is a list of others I have found, which also includes a short mention of the ones mentioned above (listed in alphabetical order).

John Antle (Columbia Coast Mission) (1904)

The pioneer mission hospital of St. Mary’s, Pender Harbour, where Anglican ships had brought their patients, still standing but reincarnated these days as the Sundowner Inn, was 75 in 2004. It was built by the Columbia Coast Mission, which started life 100 years ago when Rev. John Antle and his nine-year-old son, Victor, left Vancouver in their open, five-metre boat on an 800-kilometre journey to Alert Bay and back. Continue reading

The Lighthouse and Religion

For years the lighthouse has been a religious symbol, a beacon, guiding ships and/or people in the right direction. I accidently came across this song on Youtube called The Lighthouse sung by another group called The Happy Goodmans, but I liked the Elvis Presley version better. It is definitely not Rock and Roll but along the lines of his famous rendition of In the Ghetto, which is one of my favourites.

[spoiler title=”Lyrics” open=”0″ style=”1″]


There’s a Lighthouse on the hillside
That over looks life’s sea
When I’m tossed it sends out a light
That I might see
And the light that shines in darkness now
Will safely lead us o’er
If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse
My ship would be no more

And I thank God for the Lighthouse
I owe my life to Him
For Jesus is the Lighthouse
And from the rocks of sin
He has shown a light around me
That I could clearly see
If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse (tell me)
Where would this ship be?

Everybody that lives about us
Says tear that Lighthouse down
The big ships don’t sail this way anymore
There’s no use of it standing round
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night
When just in time I saw the light
Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse
That stands up there on the hill

Repeat Chorus (x2)

If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse (tell me)
Where would this ship be? [/spoiler]

I am posting this now because I again accidently stumbled upon this page: God’s lighthouse will help navigate our lives. Now, I am not very religiously inclined, but this text explains the song and the reason for the song better than I could:

God has a lighthouse that overlooks life’s sea. Some these days are lobbying to tear it down, especially the so-called politically correct.

They argue that the big ships of life’s important issues don’t sail that way anymore, and so it only serves to cause an offence and its position could be better occupied with other more important, useful and popular services.

Then my mind goes back to a stormy night, when just in time I observed its beams piercing through the darkness and I ask myself the question: If it hadn’t been for that lighthouse where would my ship be today?

I speak for many when I say, as the songwriter puts it: “I thank God for the lighthouse,” and “that we owe our life to Him, because you see Jesus is God’s lighthouse and He is still saving lives from the rocks of sin”.

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world.”

Unlike certain previous generations, we often obscure God’s lighthouse from our children’s view and wonder why they are breaking up on the rocks of crime and vice at an ever-alarming rate.

This lighthouse was not erected by the hands of men but by Almighty God Himself 2,000 years ago, not to be hid, but to serve as a guiding light enabling us to navigate through life’s journey.

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus who, on our behalf, took the punishment for our sin on the cross at Calvary preventing us from perishing in order that we may also receive everlasting life. So many around the world today can truly say that if it hadn’t been for that old lighthouse their ship would no longer be sailing life’s ocean today.

Thank God for the lighthouse shining as bright as ever. – this is Cornwall 

From the theme of the text, it seems that some people are trying to tear down a lot of lighthouses, be they be spiritual or material. I for one am against tearing down both. They both are guiding lights for some people. Mind you, not all people believe in God or sail the seas, but for those that do, a lighthouse is a comfort.

The calm behind the lighthouse - photo G. Borgens

I know a lot of people thought the lighthouse that I tended at McInnes Island was a godsend when they had battled the stormy Northwest seas, and I mean this realistically, because when they came behind the lighthouse at McInnes Island they were in calm waters and felt safe.

So, enjoy the song, and if you wish to listen to different versions, then please check out the singers below – all available from Youtube.

Another version by Elvis

 The Hinsons

J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet

The Goodmans

The Happy Goodmans

Any others?


Thomas Crosby V – One of the “Bookboats”

TCV underway

One of the most frequent visitors to the lighthouses, beside the Coast Guard (CG) ships and helicopters, was the United Church medical mission boat, nicknamed a God-Boat or Godship, the Thomas Crosby V (TCV).

The following article used to be on the Prince Rupert Library (PRL) website. The article was borrowed with their permission before it was removed from their website.

In this story the boats were nicknamed the “Bookboats” because they brought with them a library of books, both fiction and non-fiction for all ages, plus an assortment of magazines. After the Prince Rupert Library ceased sending boxes of books to the lighthouses, the TCV was one of our only sources of reading material.

TCV at Boat Bluff - photo Ed Whitebone

Not only books, they also brought friendship, and on many trips, a nurse. The nurses were most welcome to families with young children, advising on baby problems and administering inoculations when required. The minister on board came as a friend and was welcomed as one. They performed baptisms and weddings, and provided counselling when required. Just like the lightkeepers, the ministers on the Thomas Crosby V were jack-of-all-trades. – JAC Continue reading