Thomas Crosby V – One of the “Bookboats”

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

A Brief History of the Thomas Crosby Mission Boats on the Northwest Coast of BC.

The TCV with a "bone in her teeth".

Mission Boats are ships that exist all over the world, with the main purpose of spreading the word of God to various isolated communities. Mission Boats travel to all sorts of locations, with various goals in mind. Mission Boats have quite a history along the Northwest coast of BC, with the Thomas Crosby being the main one. The Thomas Crosby is a traditional ministry that began with a canoe in 1874 when Rev. Thomas Crosby, a Methodist missionary, worked out of Port Simpson, to as far south as Victoria.

There were 5 Thomas Crosby’s built, with the first one being built in 1912, the second in 1920, the third in 1923, the fourth in 1938, and the fifth in 1967 in New Westminster. 

TCV at dock 1993; photo - Prince Rupert Library

The Thomas Crosby V was a 80 foot vessel, had a 21 foot beam, and a 10 foot draught. The crew was made up of seven, and the ship was licensed to carry 40 passengers and sleep 25. The Thomas Crosby V was capable of year round sailing and was fully equipped with radar, depth sounder, Citizen Band (CB) radio, chart room, intercom throughout, complete alarm system, radio, waterlight compartments, two inflatable rafts, one diesel inboard and one Canova inflatable boat powered by an outboard engine.

The first steel vessel used for mission work, the Thomas Crosby V was built for the church at Star Ship Yards in 1967 after designs by G. Talbot. It was put into service in 1967 out of Prince Rupert, BC. From 1977 it was under the command of missionary/skipper Oliver R. Howard* and operated out of Prince Rupert.

In 1990 The United Church decided that due to changing times, and better faster ways of serving isolated people it would be sold. The Thomas Crosby V was then sold to a Cayman Island based company, Kennford Limited. They stated that the ship was going to be used to uphold the principles of living and acting for the good of others.  – author unknown. For more information on the whereabouts of the TCV see my article here.

* Oliver Howard is author of the book “Godships – Little ships carry the gospel up the B.C. Coast


More photos and history of the BC coast mission boats can be found on the British Columbia United Church webpage. 

Click to view the Youtube video of a trip on the Thomas Crosby V. Be warned, it is 50 minutes long, but it is very interesting and worth your time.

This film was made by Tony Wade in 1985. His comments on the film and its making are on his website here.

More photos of the Thomas Crosby V (below). If you wish to add some more, please send them along and I will post them with full credit to the sender. Thanks.

An incomplete list of ministers, captains, mates, nurses, crew, etc can be found here. Please help me add to the names.

Just as an aside, here is a recipe for Thomas Crosby Muffins from the website Food, Football and a Baby. These muffins were created by the cook on the Thomas Crosby V according to the story on the website. 2011-10-19 I just tried the muffins and they are easy to make, and taste great!

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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