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

Lightkeepers to the Rescue – AGAIN!

 

This is a past and very notable lifesaving rescue by two BC lightkeepers, Lynn Hauer and assistant lightkeeper Wolfgang Luebke who were at Chatham Point lighthouse at the time.

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Chatham point lighthouse - photo from Margaret Lutz

We sleep with the radios always on, and ‘with one ear open’.

At 3 AM on April 30, 2012 I was awakened by the unmistakeable sound of a Mayday distress signal. Being able to copy both sides of the communication, I knew it was within our response area. I sprang out of bed. Comox Coast Guard Radio was responding to the call from a very concerned woman, “We don’t have a lifeboat; we are putting our life jackets on now. We are bailing but it isn’t helping!!”

I knew we could be there in 10 to 20 minutes; we were tasked by Rescue Coordination Center. Assistant lightkeeper Wolfgang Luebke and I responded in our 18 foot aluminum station boat. It was pitch black out, and raining. We made our way by compass bearing, across Johnstone Strait into Burgess Passage.

Arriving on scene, we found a man and woman frantically bailing water with ice cream pails! Their bilge pump was inoperative. Their efforts were futile. Their ‘kicker’ motor was under water, and the large outboard was next. Water was pouring in around the re-boarding gate and inches from flooding completely over the transom, which would have seen them go down in minutes. We began pumping the water out of their vessel, with the Honda pump that is always stored under the seat of our station boat. We were all very relieved to see the flood water level slowly subsiding.

Cape Palmerston

The Cape Palmerston (CG SAR vessel) arrived on scene approximately 40 minutes after us. We saved an $80K boat from going to the bottom, and we surely saved a man and his wife from drowning; they would have been in that frigid water with only PFDs, for more than a half hour, had two keepers from Chatham Point Light not been there…we wouldn’t have been there if not for your SEEING THE LIGHT!

Lynn Hauer

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This letter was from from Lynn Hauer, a lightkeeper at Chatham Point and it was addressed to Canadian senator Nancy Greene, hence the reference to Seeing the Light. Senator Greene and her friends were very important in fighting to keep BC lighthouses manned. If unmanned, these people would probably have died. Many instances happen daily where a BC lightkeeper helps a mariner. Many of them you will never read about as they go into station reports and are lost in the central Coast Guard office paperwork – well, not actually lost, just suppressed.

The only way for the lightkeepers to get attention is to report their rescues to the Press (forbidden) or have it written up by myself, or other people outside the arm of Coast Guard censorship.

As Lynn said in a preface to the email she passed around to the lighthouse keepers:

It is important to keep the Senators up to speed of things that are going on. They support lightkeepers (LKs), we should keep them in the loop. They and the public recognize and care about what LKs do.

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The following emails show how the email  was received by Senator Greene.

Dear Lynn,

First, thank you for your quick action!  You are so right.
Thanks also for passing this on to me. I will circulate it as best I can.
All the best!
Nancy
 

Thank you so much Nancy.
Your recognition means very much to Wolfgang and I. The thank you that we received from the couple that night, we extend to you.

Lynn, Ann, and Thyr

 

Reprint – DFO Shutting Down Coast Guard Radio Stations, but Prince Rupert’s Will Be Expanded

 

I wrote an article on January 04, 2012 entitled MCTS To Lose Staff To Save Money. After that date, the department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO or F&O) have changed their plans. They are now closing whole stations instead of a removing a few men! The news article below is well written and explains what is planned for the BC coast. If all goes through we will have only two (2) MCTS stations on the whole BC coast, relying on mountaintop repeaters to reply to ships at sea.

I can also see soon that their plans will include again trying to de-staff the lighthouses. Pretty soon the whole BC coast will be bare of any support for boaters!

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By Alan S. Hale – The Northern View
Published: May 18, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 4:59 PM

The Coast Guard communication monitoring station in Prince Rupert will be even more important to ensuring the safety of seafarers. The Prince Rupert station will be one of only two “modernized” coast guard stations in the entire province – the other one being in Sydney. Continue reading

Minnie Patterson and the “Coloma” off Cape Beale 1906

– Reprinted  courtesy of The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cape Beale - photo Justine Etzkorn

Cape Beale, . . . a lighthouse which later came to notice in a gallant and romantic rescue resulting from the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Paterson who kept the light from 1895 to 1908.

In December 1906, the United States barque Coloma left the Puget Sound with a cargo of lumber for Australia. There was a gale from the southeast and, cracking on to take advantage of this fair wind to clear the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the old wooden vessel sprang a leak when she encountered a heavy sea off Cape Flattery. With her decks awash, and the gear aloft carrying away as she pitched in an enormous swell, the Coloma was soon unmanageable and hoisted her ensign upside down in token of distress as she drifted down to leeward and the outlying reefs of Cape Beale.

In this position, and doubtless having let go her anchors to the bitter end, the barque was sighted from the lighthouse. The only chance of help lay in alerting the Quadra, then under the command of Captain Charles Hackett, which Paterson knew was lying at anchor in Bamfield Inlet, six miles away. The lifeboat, it will be recalled, was not on station at Bamfield until the following year. Telephone lines were down and the light keeper was unable to leave his foghorn which required constant attention. Although the trail was blocked by fallen trees and lay for much of the distance along a rocky shore. Mrs. Paterson at once insisted on making the journey herself. It was then night, and in darkness and dreadful weather she set off with a lantern and her dog, hoping against hope to be in time.

The plan was to get the news to James Mackay at Bamfield who would row off to the Quadra and raise the alarm. Arriving at the house physically exhausted, drenched to the skin and with her shoes and clothing ripped to pieces, it was found that Mackay was away from home repairing the telephone wires. Nothing daunted, Minnie Paterson and Mrs. Mackay themselves launched the boat and came alongside the Quadra as daylight came. Captain Hackett weighed anchor at once and the Quadra punched her way out of the Inlet against a heavy swell rolling in from the Pacific. Off Cape Beale the wreck was sighted, a boat was lowered under the command of the second officer Mr. James E. McDonald, and the distressed crew were recovered. No sooner had the boat returned to the Quadra than the derelict parted her cables and drove ashore to destruction. Mr. McDonald was promoted to chief officer shortly afterwards.

Immediately after her courageous action, and before the return of the Quadra with the shipwrecked men, Mrs. Paterson walked all the way back to the lighthouse. She had five children to look after and her husband was constantly at work in a period of rain and bad visibility. It was another week before communications were restored, and only then did the Paterson’s learn of the triumphal rescue which had resulted. Unfortunately, the results of Mrs. Paterson’s tremendous exertion soon made themselves apparent and she never entirely recovered, dying five years later.

More information and photos here on the Tofino History website.

Lighthouse Keepers at Chrome Key in Two Rescues – special reprint

The following article appeared in 2010 and I received permission to publish it here to show the work that lighthouse keepers do, but is not part of their job description.

This is why we need lighthouse keepers! Keep the lights manned!

Another Chrome Island rescue appeared here on my website.

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Chrome Island - photo Leslie Williamson

Lighthouse keepers key in two rescues – with permission from Oceanside Star

Nelson Eddy, Special to the Star  – Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit 59 in Deep Bay has rescued two mariners in the last two weeks. Both times the lighthouse keepers on Chrome Island were instrumental in expediting the rescue.

The first incident occurred Saturday, Nov. 20 between 12:10 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. Continue reading

Saving Lives Part of the Job on Chrome Island – special reprint

The following article appeared in 2010 and I received permission to publish it here to show the work that lighthouse keepers do, but is not part of their job description.

This is why we need lighthouse keepers! Keep the lights manned!

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Saving lives part of the job on Chrome Island – with permission from Oceanside Star Pamela Suzanne, Smyth Special to the Star – Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you ever hear your spouse say, “Oh look dear, there’s a couch in the sky,” think twice before calling mental health because every few years this happens, especially over Chrome Island.

The picturesque Chrome Island light station, off Deep Bay and Denman Island in Baynes Sound, has helped many a mariner over its rocks to warmth and safety - Photo by Pamela Suzanne Smyth

 

Since 1981, some 48 lighthouse keepers have been moved on and off the ‘yellow rock’ situated near the southern tip of Denman Island in Baynes Sound.

Recently, Adam Pardiac, 9, and sister Sarah, 13, were thrilled when their uncle Gary and granddad Cliff took them there this summer. Greeted by India, the beacon’s watchdog, and lighthouse keeper Roger Williamson, the children were shown the gardens, environmental devices and petroglyphs. Continue reading

Search and Rescue (SAR), Canada

Canadian SAR Regions

One of the responsibilities of Canadian lighthouse keepers is to assist and help in Search and Rescue (SAR). They are part of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and can be called upon to assist in a search at any time, be it for missing people in boats, aircraft, or other forms of transportation.

In fact lighthouse keepers, because of their location, are ideally situated to assist in SAR activities. It is too bad that the CCG does not promote this side of lighthouse activities, and provide better training and equipment. Most of the SAR activities done by lightkeepers are done with their own equipment – be it boats, radios, scanners, survival suits, etc. More on this in another post.

SAR is a large community in Canada, but a branch of SAR that is not too well known by the public, except for those involved, is CASARA (Civil Air Search and Rescue Association).1  Continue reading

Minnie Patterson – Canadian Heroine Remembered Again

You all know who Minnie Patterson was, don’t you? You don’t? Well, she was a real live Canadian lighthouse heroine who lived and worked with her husband on Cape Beale lighthouse. In 1906 she helped in the rescue of the people on board the barkentine Caloma. Read her story in Wikipedia here. More events on her life below.

Paterson’s story coming to Alberni

Minniesstory-Aug19-2086.jpg 

An engraved silver tray awarded by the Government of Canada and a tea set awarded by the crew of the SS Queen City are on display at the lighthouse on the waterfront. The items were awarded to Minnie Paterson, who in 1906 helped avert a maritime disaster on the West Coast. The story about Minnie is being told at the lighthouse on Sunday, Aug. 21. Start time is 2 p.m.


Published: August 18, 2011 4:00 PM 
Updated: August 18, 2011 4:32 PM

On Dec. 6, 1906, the barkentine Coloma was embattered by a southeast gale off the West Coast shore, her sails tattered in the unforgiving winds.

She drifted within sight of the Cape Beale lighthouse, where Thomas Paterson was manning the foghorn and the light.

The telegraph cable connecting the lighthouse to Bamfield was broken, so his wife, Minnie Paterson, eight months pregnant, walked for miles through the bush and pounding rain to alert the telegraph line-keeper of the impending maritime disaster.

She and the line-keeper’s wife rowed out to the government steamer Quadra, which then reached the Coloma just in time to save its crew.

Paterson’s is a fascinating story that is indicative of the rough life mariners lived on the West Coast.

But to hear the tale truly come alive, join storyteller Jennifer Ferris this Sunday, Aug. 21 at the lighthouse on the waterfront.

Ferris, based in Victoria, has told stories for 15 years.

Her interest and connection to the history of Vancouver Island has provided her with many storytelling opportunities, and she is excited to share this local tale.

The maritime centre has a permanent exhibit on Minnie Paterson and her heroic exploits. Included this year are two special items that Paterson received as rewards.

An engraved silver tray was awarded to her by the Government of Canada, while the officers and crew of the coastal steamer SS Queen City sent her a tea set—a teapot, creamer, sugar and tea waste bowl—in appreciation.

The items were donated to the Alberni Valley Museum last year, and curator Kirsten Smith said they were kept mainly as a souvenir, so they are in excellent condition.

The storytelling event begins at 2 p.m. at the lighthouse. Admission is by donation and refreshments will be provided.

For more information, please call 250-723-6161.

Or visit the website at www.alberniheritage.com and follow the links for the maritime centre.

 editor@albernivalleynews.com