Wooden, steam-powered tugboat being restored for 100th birthday

The SS Master is being restored at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards to restore it to its original condition in time to celebrate the century that has passed since it first started towing barges.

“She looks pretty good for a 100-year-old boat,” says Robert Allan, a naval architect who is a member of the SS Master Society.

“But she needs some care and attention, for sure.”

Seaspan agreed to have 10 of its workers restore the 85-foot long tug that weighs 225 tons for no charge. The project will take two weeks and will complete about 20 per cent of the work that is needed, says Seaspan vice-president Paul Hebson.

“Historically, tug boats have been so important to the development of British Columbia as a province,” he says. “Why wouldn’t we support something that’s 100 years old?”

The ultimate goal is to restore the tug and use it for educational and cultural purposes. It’s still operational, but hasn’t worked as a tug since the 1950s.

According to the Vancouver Sun the SS Master was built by Arthur Moscrop, British Columbia’s most notable tugboat builder, in 1922 at the Beach Avenue Shipyard in False Creek.

She was the last tug launched with a ‘triple expansion steam engine’, which was a Word War One surplus engine built in 1916. It still powers her today.

The Master was first used in the logging industry and in 1940 was bought by the Marpole Towing Co. and painted with the company’s colours, black diamonds on a white band on an orange stack.

The black diamonds represented the towing of coal barges from Vancouver Island to Marpole’s plant in Coal Harbour.

Ownership changed hands a few more times and by 1959, the Master was put up for sale or scrap in 1962.

The World Ship Society of Western Canada bought her for $500, with the idea of restoration. It is fundraising $2.5m to complete the project.

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