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A vision for Britannia Beach



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After the war, the ships were laid up on the Sacramento River for 25 years. By appearance, the Yf875 looks rusted out, as if it spent most of that time at the bottom of the river. In fact, the vessel was never painted.

"We had an insurance surveyor on board, and he was blown away by what good condition the vessel was in," says Thomas.

Inside, the vessel is bone dry, and was one of the toughest vessels the surveyor had ever seen.

In 1972 or ’73, the history of these two ships took another strange twist when a cousin of the Shah of Iran expressed interest in buying them. He was going to operate a coastal freight service in the Persian Gulf, possibly serving Iran and Iraq, but changed his mind, perhaps owing to the fact that the Shah of Iran was deposed.

In the mid-70s, Coast Towing bought the two vessels for scheduled freight service to the canneries up and down the coast of British Columbia. The Tyee Princess served until 1995.

The Maritime Heritage Society was formed in May 1999, to show retired merchant vessels to the public.

"We want to try and preserve some of the really good examples of small merchant vessels that developed commerce on the coast," Thomas explains.

The proposed maritime heritage park would incorporate slips extending out into Howe Sound from the wharf to berth ships. It would also use some existing buildings. Plans hinge on getting a licence and the use of facilities like and old wooden building on site.

"Part of our thinking is that this is likely a contaminated site," Thomas continues. "In order to prevent problems in the future our intention is that we’ll use the site the way it is. We don’t intend to disturb the soils in any way."

The park would include refurbishing the docks, the passenger terminal near the Customs House, and pilings on the south side of the wharves that were part of the original gravel loading dock. The Chinook would eventually be opened to the public.

Thomas would like to display a collection of vessels that might include smaller sidewinders used in the forest industry for sorting logs and launches used as crew boats or water taxis. The idea is to present a working harbour that is constantly changing. Older vessels might include the Coast Guard cutter Ready and the Albert J.Savoie, a small B.C. Ferries car ferry.

The community of Britannia Beach already has a sense of maritime heritage. The Prince George was tied up here for years before being destroyed by a catastrophic fire. Authorities were concerned there were PCBs on board, but the owner of the vessel was never found to take responsibility. Mystery has always surrounded the ship’s history.