North Star of Herschel Island

Exciting news from the Vancouver Maritime Museum, which is raising money to acquire the North Star of Herschel Island for the museum’s collection, ensuring and enhancing her presence in our harbour!


Thank you to those of you who have donated to our Arctic campaign. Your support is deeply appreciated and directly funds the museum’s efforts to refresh our Arctic galleries.
We are writing to you again because of an exciting development regarding the North Star of Herschel Island; we have received a significant pledge of $100,000 from a local resident towards the acquisition of this vessel!
Built in 1935, the North Star worked the Arctic simultaneously with the St. Roch, so much so that they have been called “sisters of the ice”. Currently moored at Heritage Harbour, this ship carries the story of her Inuit owners and their contribution to the community they made as operators in the Arctic. The North Star is the last sailing representative of the Western Canadian Arctic fur trade and serves as a reminder of the success that Inuvialuit trappers had in that era.
As part of our Arctic Exhibition Revitalization plan, our goal is to create a one-of-a-kind floating exhibit that speaks directly to the Inuit experience. But we still need your help to make this historic project happen. We are a small charitable organization, so being able to respond to significant opportunities like this requires the support of the community. Not unlike the acquisition of the St. Roch, this is a pivotal moment for our institution. The unique and exciting opportunity to obtain the iconic vessel, the North Star of Herschel Island is a time sensitive and once in a lifetime event.
By donating before the November 30 deadline, you’ll be a vital part of ensuring the legacy of this vessel carries on for generations. Help us keep this historic ship in Vancouver so we may immerse students, kids and adults with Indigenous maritime heritage. 
This ship is a testament to Inuit ingenuity and survival and its stories deserve to be told alongside the St. Roch. Donate today and help acquire the North Star of Herschel Island!
Thank you for being an important part of the VMM community.  
Donate today!
P.S. We are excited to now offer special benefits to our donors. Use the button below to learn what your gift could mean for you!
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“We anchored near Tuktoyaktuk when we hit shallow water. A boat came out to welcome us and I saw that there were many white people in the boat and I thought there was only one Inuk with them but when they came up to our boat, it was the other way around. These people were all Inuit and there was only one white man with them.That was the first time I had ever heard Inuit talk English. The white man in the boat was the Hudson’s Bay Company manager” – From the Reminiscences of Joe Panipakuttuk, Inuit hunter and guide 

Friendships and Wooden Boats

During the summertime cruising season, a few of our members got together and wrote a very catchy theme song for the club – it really captures a lot of the best parts of our great little slice of paradise!!

Georgina and Tom composed the music and recorded the song, and then a couple of weeks ago, Duane stepped in and shot the video while a bunch of our club members did our best lip-syncing and/or singing along. It turned out FABULOUSLY!!! Warning – you will be singing or humming this tune for the next couple of weeks!

We’ve got a good start on the molds for the Gannett build – we’ve got 3 of 8 done (or nearly so), with 5 to go. We’re also looking through our wood supplies for the material for the centerline – stem, keel, and transom.

We’ve got a few good slabs of Black Locust that should be good for the stem, thanks to Arnt and his urban logging. We’re looking through our stock which is stored at some of our members’ places for Fir for the keel and transom, but we may end up with Yellow Cedar for the keel if we can’t find suitable Fir.

Now that winter is setting in, the storms have started – Duane posted this video from last week, showing the rough conditions at the harbour. Thank goodness for the refreshed decking and structure in the dock – the Museum and Eric have been working hard to get that work done, with the last bit of it happening today – don’t bother going down there today (November 11) unless you plan to help lift the ramp! (I think they’ve got it figured out though)

And, if you’re looking to stay out of the weather, head over to the Britannia Art Gallery for a couple of our members’ show – Valerie and Arnt do some pretty cool things with old musical instrument parts!

Hope to see you at the shop as we get up to speed on the new boat build!

End of summer report (or IS it the end?!)

Summer doesn’t seem to want to let go quite yet! It’s (been) a good one! The Heritage Harbour Classic was a wild one this year – pretty high wind, and lots of wave action made for a challenging sail. Of the club boats, Ragna (with Walter and Vojtech) made a great showing, rounding the first mark in the lead – I’m not sure how long she held that lead, but finished well. Button Swan (Nick and Daniel) got into… a spot of bother with a rough gybe, and needed a tow back to the dock.

The small boats had a bit of a head start, but the big boats thrived in the windy conditions, and took the lead in the second lap. Winsome II came in first, with Querencia taking second. It was certainly an exciting day, not the usual light-wind crawl that it’s been for the last few years! Congratulations Stephen!

The rowing race was a well-fought battle between Tom and Arnt, with Tom coming in first. For more photos of the day, check out the album here.

The weekend before that, a bunch of our members enjoyed a wonderful time at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival – back in the shop, we were regaled with all the stories of the workshops, talks, and the many, many gorgeous boats – but perhaps most important was the new people met, and connections made! Since then, one of the Wooden Boat Magazine writers has been up to Vancouver to write a feature about Anja! That’s something to look forward to in the next year – he loved the harbour and our workshop as well. Take a look at some photos from the festival here.

The weekend after the Heritage Harbour Classic, Dale and Daniel got Button Swan out of the water on Dale’s trailer, and took her to New Westminster to the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society’s Small Boat Rendezvous – it was a great chance to show her to a lot of people, and to see the awesome shop they’ve got there! See more photos here.

We’ve been busy the last couple of weeks with preparations for our next build – the Gannet designed by Ian Oughtred. To make room for the longer boat in the shop, we’ve moved one of the benches, and in the process, cleaned out a lot of stuff that had found a home in the shop, and wasn’t needed.

For our boat users, we’ve also consolidated all the gear in one place, including oars, rudders, life-jackets, keys, log book – that should make it a little easier to keep track of! We do need to mount the key box somewhere that’s not as obvious to see from the window, but it’ll be in that corner somewhere.

The new bench currently holds our new set of plans – and we’ve got a start on building the strongback! Wood from the dock refurbishment was reused as the framework – there’s a bit of cleanup to do to get a flat foundation, but it feels good to make use of that!

Meanwhile in our tent, Enke is getting her garboard seam re-sealed – we reefed out the old caulking, and chose to use Sikaflex to fill that seam. That should keep her water-tight.

If you’ve been waiting to get involved in the club, now is the time, and be there from the start of the new build! Hope to see you at the dock!

Upcoming Heritage Harbour Classic

Next Sunday September 18 is the 6th annual Heritage Harbour Classic race, open to all the sailboats in the harbour, and accompanied by the spectator fleet of some of the power boats – come join in the fun! The race will be starting at 2pm, ending around 4pm, followed by a rowing/paddling race and a heaving line challenge, and wrapping up with a bbq and awards ceremony. Come early if you want to get on a boat, and please let us know in the comments if you’re planning on coming – we’ll need to make sure we’ve got enough food and space for everyone!

Enke is getting a minor refresh, hopefully completed before the race – but she’ll be getting out there, regardless. We’re putting in a new mast step to replace the too-small one that was in there, which was starting to wiggle a bit when tacking – NOT a good thing for it and the keel.

Dylan has mostly finished the second window frame, and it’s looking really good!

Duane is supplying this chisel sharpening station, which should be a HUGE benefit to our tool collection! It is mounted on a turntable, with a fine grinding stone on one side and a buffing wheel on the other, easily turned around so that the tool is presented to the wheel from the right direction and angle. He’s doing some minor adjustments, and needs to dress the grinding wheel to flatten it. I’m looking forward to trying it out!

If you’ve been down to the dock this week, you will have noticed a couple of empty spots – Ern, Anja, and Luna are currently down in Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival! Valerie sent this photo of Ern and Anja nested in amongst the fleet. We’re looking forward to hearing all about their adventure next weekend after they return!

Hope to see you a the Heritage Harbour Classic on Sunday!

The Next Boat

After much discussion and evaluation of the club’s needs and desires, we have chosen the next boat to build! We were looking for a build that would challenge and interest our members, and would provide a stable but exciting boat that was able to carry 3 or 4 sailors comfortably.

The boat we ended up choosing is the Ian Oughtred Gannet, a 14′-5″ planing dinghy, which we plan to build in carvel planking. The club has built a carvel hull before, the Fancy Pram, but that was quite a while ago, before most of our current members became part of the club. We hope our members will enjoy the challenge of a new-to-us construction method. [edit: we changed our minds, and will be using lapstrake instead, in yellow cedar planking on steamed oak frames]

We are in the process now of getting the plans, and choosing the materials from a supply of wood that we have stored in various members’ shops. Then we need to plan the schedule, and get the strongback and moulds built. We hope to start work on the hull in September. Until then, we have some renovations we want to do in the shop, making more room for the bigger boat.

Our lovely Button Swan was relaunched a few weeks ago, looking amazing in her new finishes! She’s been out a number of times since then, drawing compliments and admiration from many. Ragna and Vogler have been busy as well, with members enjoying the beautiful summer winds.

A project that has been on our wish list for many year is refurbishment of the doors to the shed. A few weeks ago, Dylan took on the task, and after examining the door, we decided that replacing the window framing would be enough. Dylan had a supply of gorgeous cedar left over from one of his projects, and created this work of art. Great job – thanks Dylan!

Another long-awaited job that has been started is the replacement of all the dock planking. Eric has taken on that job, and certainly has his hands full, finding and repairing all sorts of problems that were hidden. It will certainly help make the dock safer and more durable!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer, and that we see you at the shop!

Button Swan refresh

Button Swan is sporting a fresh new creamy finish on her interior, and looking fantastic! We ran out of paint when we were nearly finished, and we were unable to find another can at the nearest marine paint supplier, but big thanks to our neighbour on the dock Eric for supplying a new can from his stash! That let us finish that part of the job, and get on to the varnishing. We’ve built up several coats of varnish, and then turned to painting the deck.

This coming Saturday (July 9) we’ll reassemble her interior, turn her over for a coat of bottom paint, and then GET HER BACK IN THE WATER!!!! It’s been much too long!

We had a rude surprise when we noticed that Vogler was sprouting some growth – when we pulled her out of the water for a cleaning, we found a couple of inches of unwelcome wildlife!! Not sure how the bottom paint failed so badly, but the boat has clearly not been taken out for a row nearly enough!! She should be a lot slipperier through the water now.

A recent story in the news was about a home-built boat that was stolen just before the family launched her – but thanks to some observant citizens (and stupid theives), the boat was spotted being rowed in False Creek! https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/stolen-homemade-boat-mcdonald-family-recovered-1.6493923

Summer sailing season is here for some of our members, with Anja and Ern and and crew heading up to the Broughtons for a while. We’ll look forward to their stories when they get back!

Bruce had the pleasant surprise of being sent photos and story from Steve Tomlinson in Kitimat who had built a scale model of North Star of Herschel Island! He did an amazing job on it, going from drawings and photos in two of Bruce’s books, North Star of Hershel Island and Sisters of the Ice. I hope Mr. Tomlinson doesn’t mind me sharing the story of how he built the model from scratch. It’s a beautiful recreation of the vessel as she appeared originally when in service in the Arctic, complete with fox furs hanging from the rigging!

Bruce’s latest book launch

Our wharfinger, guardian, and resident author Bruce has a new book out – “Never Say P*g: The Book of Sailors’ Superstitions”. Hmm, I wonder if this should be instituted as required reading before you take OLAS boats out on the bay… The official book launch is this coming Thursday, May 26th, in person at the Vancouver Maritime Museum at 6:30pm, and also online starting at 7:00 (though you’ll be responsible for your own drinks). Registration is free, but pre-registration is required – let’s fill that room to the point where the fire department has to send in someone to have a stern talking to us! The book is available in the Museum giftshop as well, if you can’t make it that night, and I’m sure Bruce would still sign the book for you if you ask nicely enough or bring a dog treat for Luna.

Since our last talk, there’s been a whole bunch of painting and varnishing done. Ragna and Button Swan’s spars got several coats of new varnish – HUGE thanks to all who took part in building up the coats last week! Ragna’s fresh paint looks amazing, and after putting her in the water a week ago she got reunited with her spars this past Saturday, and promptly taken out for a shakedown. We have a few bits of fine-tuning to improve her sail shape, but she is in service, in her summer sailing form – no need to struggle with the full cover, just the sail cover. Makes it quick and easy to get her out for a sail!

Button Swan got a couple of coats of bottom paint and a coat of turquoise (or as Interlux calls it – Sea Foam). She’s now been turned right-side-up and is being prepped for interior and deck paint, and varnish on her sheer strake and transom. All of her seats have been given the Arnt treatment of sanding and spray-on furniture-grade finish – they look amazing, and I can’t wait to see them back in the boat!

On Ragna’s shakedown sail on Saturday she was accompanied by Bruce and a few other OLAS members on Bruce’s recent acquisition Nansen – it was fun to see that bunch out there! The previous Saturday, Arnt rigged their tender Feather with a windsurfer sail and Anja’s topsail spar as a mast, and had a great sail along with Enke, and Dale’s SCAMP Luna. Good times!!

Heritage Harbour Revitalization Fundraiser

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has produced a great video of interviews and information about Heritage Harbour, with the goal of raising funds to renew the harbour, starting with replacing the decking and pilings. Please watch the video, and consider donating to this important cause.

If you want some fireworks with your fundraiser, get tickets to the Museum Gala in July – take a look at their upcoming Events page. You’ll also find the book launch event for our wharfinger Bruce’s new book – you can attend in person or virtually.

Our boats Ragna and Button Swan are looking good with fresh paint! Ragna’s interior is finished, and her exterior hull is getting a nice bright blue. We just might be getting her in the water this weekend, though there is still varnish work to be done on spars and oars before she’s ready to set sail.

Button Swan has a coat of primer on her (slightly deeper) topsides, ready for re-coating with fresh turquoise paint. Then once Ragna’s work is completed, Button Swan will move into the shop for the rest of the varnish and interior paint.

The planes that some of our members were working on have turned out great! We are planning on doing a plane-making workshop sometime – if you’re interested in this very satisfying and surprisingly approachable process, keep an eye on this space or your email.

At our AGM on Tuesday, the reality of the painful increase in our insurance premiums resulted in an increase in our membership fees. Our new price for OLAS membership is $75, and if you want to use the boats as part of OSBUG, it’s an additional $75. If you’re on the automatic renewal plan, please be sure to login to that and update the fees (and include the $5 admin fee). We hope we can still make you feel that this wonderful club is worth the price!

Renewal

We’ve been busy getting our fleet refreshed – our rowboat Vogler is back in the water, and thanks to Rob persevering through our insurance renewal troubles, Vogler is ready for our OSBUG members to enjoy! By the looks of our calendar, she’s already been out on the water a bunch of times this week.

Leapfrogging over the Button Swan, Ragna is now in the shop getting a new paint job. Because of the rather beat-up varnish, and since this is the most-used boat in the fleet, we decided to paint the entire interior of the boat. Here she’s got a coat of primer, but we’re planning on a nice off-white for all the parts that used to be varnish – should go nicely with the white hull interior, and will be much more durable.

Extracting Ragna’s mast was quite a struggle!! When we built a new mast a few years ago, we didn’t leave quite enough expansion room, and now it was very tight in its sleeve. After a few attempts with ropes and levers, Arnt stepped in and fabricated a clamp and base, and used a couple of hydraulic jacks to pull it out. Still wasn’t exactly easy, but it did the job! We’ve sanded it down a little, and we’ll add a bit of a collar at the top of the sleeve to prevent water getting in again. The mast, spars, oars and rudder will remain varnished.

Last Saturday Bruce gave an intro to celestial navigation, using a sextant. That’s a skill that comes up regularly in conversation at the shop, so it was great to get a taste of it, for those who took part.

If those new-found skills are not enough to keep you safe, Bruce has a new book out – pick up a copy, and learn how to avoid bad luck on the water! It’s available in the Vancouver Maritime Museum shop, and other book stores.

Planning ahead for our next new build, we tried out the process of making a plane, with an eye toward making a backing out plane. That will be needed if we decide to build the carvel planked handliner we’ve been thinking about. A backing out plane will help us shape the curved inner face of the planks.

On the topic of Renewal, we’ve got a few board members moving along to other things, so if you want to get involved, let us know – our AGM is coming up soon, where we’ll hold our elections.

There’s always something interesting going on at the dock! Come on down for a look, or to take part!

The Sparrow has launched!

A couple of weeks ago, we finished up (or mostly finished) the Ian Oughtred Acorn that we’ve been working on. She turned out beautifully, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Brent has shared the story of how the boat came to be, from a log on the beach to this gorgeous vessel.

SPARROW

From a log to a dinghy.

The rowing dinghy, Sparrow, started life as a 10 ft long hollow log of Yellow Cedar.  My dog, Boone, found the log on a rocky beach, back in 2014.  Boone knew that this was an above average piece of driftwood, and should be saved for a higher purpose.  At about 2-1/2 ft in diameter, the log was quite heavy – about 500 lbs soaking wet.  So simply getting this prize off the beach was an interesting problem.  We decided to split the log along its length into several manageable chunks, using a maul and wedges.  Then, with the help of a few strong friends, the resulting cants were hauled to a small local mill, where the Sawyer band-sawed them into thin planks.  These were carefully stacked to air-dry in an unheated shed.

Fast forward about five years and the Yellow Cedar planks were now dried to about 15-20% moisture content (still retaining enough moisture for steaming and safely bending to shape).  In 2019 the Oarlock and Sail wooden boat club, OLAS, was looking for a new project, so I ordered a set of plans for an Ian Oughtred-designed Acorn dinghy.  Oughtred’s plans describe a frameless plywood lapstrake affair, held together with epoxy and mass hypnosis.  Given that I had a nice pile of outstanding air-dried Cedar, and our interest in traditional boatbuilding, we decided to build our little Acorn/Sparrow from solid Yellow Cedar, rather than plywood.  The plans arrived and we got to work cutting out patterns and setting them on a strongback.

Things were going along quite well until a pandemic of covid arrived in early 2020.  Nonetheless a few hardy souls were able, between lockdowns, to slowly continue, overthinking every detail, carefully spiling and shaping yellow cedar planks, and riveting them into a boat-like shape.  It turned out that switching from plywood and epoxy to solid cedar and copper rivets was somewhat more complicated than we had anticipated.

Still, we persevered.

Along with the wonderful Yellow Cedar beach-salvaged wood we’ve also managed to make good use a variety of scrounged, leftover and otherwise hoarded scraps of wood.  The sapele transom and stem and most of the white oak frames were leftovers from a larger boat restoration that’s ongoing in my shop.  The Douglas Fir keel and hog were also shop-found scraps and offcuts from other projects.

We are using traditional copper and bronze fasteners throughout, and the spiling, riveting and steam bending of planks and frames are as close to traditional wooden boatbuilding techniques as we can manage.  Sparrow will be finished with a bright oil-rubbed and varnished interior, transom and sheer strakes, and a creamy white painted bottom.

When complete Sparrow hopes to be carried on deck as the tender for the somewhat larger wooden sloop Ricochet, a Kettenburg PCC built in San Diego in 1956.

Sparrow – This small bird usually symbolizes joy, protection and simplicity.  Appropriately, it can also be a symbol of community and teamwork.

Brent Ash, October 2021

Since that was written, the finishing touches have been added, a celebretory drink has been enjoyed, and the boat has been put in the water and taken for a row – she rows like a dream!

After the joy of finishing off that beauty and seeing her off to her new home, we’ve moved on to refinishing our fleet of small boats. The Vogler is nearly done with new varnish and paint, and we’ve almost got Button Swan ready for new finishes.

We’ve decided to adjust Button Swan’s waterline – when we built her, we adjusted the waterline location a bit, as we were building her a bit lighter than original without the live well, but she still sat pretty high in the water. So, based on the discolouration of weathering, we’ve lowered the waterline, and we’ll see more of the turquoise topside paint. (we’re also hoping to do something about those awful rusty STEEL fasteners that snuck in at the stem!!) The tent frame worked out really well, to run a stringline around the boat to mark the waterline!

One last thing before wrapping this up – the Vancouver Maritime Museum is working hard to get some improvments done in the harbour. You can read a bit about it, and what the harbour means to the museum in the Future of Heritage Harbour. Be sure to sign up for the upcoming Town Hall discussion (date to come). Oh, and while you’re on the VMM site, check out their upcoming events, including an online presentation about the SS Master, coming up March 16.