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Vessels of the Oak Bay Marine Group in the Queen Charlotte Islands
by Captain Alec Provan 2017
The fleet and assets of the Oak Bay Marine Group in winter lay–up at April Point BC. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Marabell, Charlotte Princess and Salmon Seeker: all motherships of fleets of sport fishing outboard powerboats which can be stowed on board or berthed next to the ships. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
After I retired from the Canadian Coast Guard I worked with the Oak Bay Marine Group. After my time running one of the large whale watching vessels I became Relief Master for the floating resort vessels. Each of these motherships operated as floating fishing resorts and as ships they required a Master Mariner to be in command and also to act as Manager. I would sail up and back as Mate but stand in as required for Relief duties, which I did for three seasons – mostly in the Charlotte Princess.
Oak Bay Marine Group founder Bob Wright (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
Bob Wright, who died in Victoria BC in 2013 built up the Oak Bay Marine Group, which had 300 year–round employees and 900 during peak season in resorts, marinas and attractions in British Columbia, Oregon and even one in the Bahamas. He really enjoyed the Queen Charlotte Islands operations but after his death the three vessels were put up for sale.
Aerial view of the resort at Langara QCI. You can see both land–based lodges and a barge lodge in the same location. There was lots of competition for guests. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Oak Bay Marine Group was one of the pioneers in the floating sport fish resort industry in British Columbia, a business model that has set a trend in BC outdoor tourism. The company has consolidated its holdings and refocused their energies in new directions.
One of the Oak Bay Group’s resorts was at April Point located on the west side of Quadra Island. The motherships were stored there in the winter season when conditions in the Queen Charlotte Islands were adverse. At the strat of the season the vessels are recommissioned, provisioned and sent north. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
When we travelled up north we carried our sport fishing boats on the upper deck. Before guests could arrive we had to install access floats and launch the boats. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The floats could be very busy at times. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The sport boat floats also served as an airport for the float planes transporting guests to and from the lodge and DHC6 Twin Otter float planes of Kenn Boreck Air service the resort. Guests flew by helicopter to the Salmon Seeker which was located in Kano Inlet on the west side of the Queen Charlotte Islands. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Marabell (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Marabell was one of the first sport fishing motherships in the Oak Bay Marina fleet. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
In 1978 the Marabell welcomed its first fishing guests to Hakai Pass. The classic minesweeper did wartime duty and is rumoured to have sunk a Japanese submarine. Today she spends her time anchored at Langara Island in Haida Gwaii.
The Marabell was built in 1943 at as Newport Beach CA USA by South Coast Construction as the U.S.S. Y.M.S. 91; then Marabell. In 1943 she was owned by the United States Navy. In 1949 she was owned by Dr. William Ballard (Dr. Ballard’s Animal Foods), Vancouver BC. In 1953–1971 she was owned by The Ministry of Mines & Technical Surveys, Ottawa ON. In 1972–1978 she was owned by Lacerte Holdings Ltd., Victoria BC. In 1979–1980 she was owned by Marabell Charters Ltd., Victoria BC. In 1982–2001 she was owned by Sealand of the Pacific Ltd., Victoria BC. In 2003–2016 she was owned by Oak Bay Marina Ltd., Victoria BC. In 2016 she was owned by Dane Developments Ltd., Courtenay BC.
The bridge in the Marabell was fairly spartan, but well maintained. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Marabell is a converted hydrographic survey vessel of wood construction. The boat deck consists of an extensive foredeck leading to a raised wheelhouse followed by accommodations and lounges. The after portion of the boat deck consists of a small exterior area surrounded by stanchions and handrails. The weather deck consists of accommodation spaces, an after saloon, a galley, and a stowage area.
The Marabell with her boats in the water. This smaller vessel access to the sport fishing boats was more limited than the other two. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Marabell (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
In the early morning there is frequently mist on the water in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). Calm days were a joy but often weather moved in and made the sea a bit rough. Each day the Fishing Master would scout the area at 0400 am to determine whether fishing on the west side of Langara Island was feasible. If not it was placed out of bounds and guests were required to fish on the east side. Fishing tended to be good on both sides.
The Charlotte Princess (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Charlotte Princess, a self–guided fishing resort anchored at Langara Island at the north end of Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands), on the north coast of British Columbia. Fuel was delivered by the North Arm Prospector and also we were serviced by a garbage scow the North Arm Lubricator which took away solid waste.
The bridge in the Charlotte Princess contain modern instrumentation expected in a large passenger vessel. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
In 1988 the Charlotte Princess went into service at Langara Island. She began life as the C.G.S. Sambro Light Ship (Light Ship No. 1, and though her later life served as a yacht and was later converted into a floating fishing resort ship.
As a smaller vessel the Marabell lacked the facilities of the Charlotte Princess which had a more sophisticated berthing system for the sport fishing boats. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
The Charlotte Princess was built in 1956 at Lauzon QC by Geo. T. Davie & Sons Ltd. In 1956–1971 she was owned by The Minister of Transport, Ottawa ON. In 1972 she was owned by Richard Blufarb, North Sydney BC. In 1988–1993 she was owned by Sealand of the Pacific Ltd., Victoria BC. In 1994–2017 she was owned by Oak Bay Marina Ltd., Victoria BC.
The Salmon Seeker (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
In 1993 the Salmon Seeker welcomed its first guest in Kano Inlet on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. The former ice breaker, trading vessel and survey ship has some of the best salmon and halibut fishing in the world.
The Salmon Seeker was built in 1953 at Zaltbommel Netherlands by N.V. Sheepswerf "De Waal" as the Auriga; then the Banksland; then as Banksland Surveyor; then as Salmon Seeker. In 1956–1958 she was owned by the Hudson–s Bay Co., London UK. In 1961–1964 she was owned by the Rupert’s Land Trading Co., Winnipeg MB. In 1965–1980 she was owned by Northern Transportation Co. Ltd., Edmonton AB. In 1985 she was owned by Nortran Offshore Ltd., Edmonton AB. In 1990–1991 she was owned by Banksland Marine Group Inc., Vancouver BC. In 1994–2011 she was owned by Oak Bay Marina Ltd., Victoria BC. In 2013–2014 she was owned by K. & D. Contracting Ltd., Campbell River BC.
The Hudson’s Bay Company had sold out the assets of it’s Mackenzie River transportation services to several companies and concentrated on it’s many other commercial interests. They then sold out their Arctic Ocean transportation services to Northern Transportation Co. Ltd. including the Banksland. A pilot house aft she was configured as a little steel–hulled freighter. She picked up her cargoes from the barges landing at Tuktoyaktuk which had come up the Mackenzie River. She was laid up for a considerable period at anchor in Tuktoyaktuk. Now operating in British Columbia waters as a floating salmon sport fishing camp and winters at Ogden Point in Victoria. When she was rebuilt as the Banksland Surveyor the superstructure she has now was fabricated which made her a little top heavy and as a result she requires a lot of ballast to operate. When she was used as a cargo ship she lacked the large superstructure as well as carrying heavy loads, and was almost always safe. An open deck and a small pilot house aft was all she had originally.
When the Salmon Seeker was still the Banksland she was a common sight on the Victoria waterfront. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )
Engineer Don Ireland and Relief Master Alec Provan (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
Outboard motor maintenance and fueling was a major part of the operation. The huge outboard engines were lifted from the deck to the boats with a crane. One of the operational issues was outboard motor maintenance. Don Ireland was the Engineer in the Charlotte Princess and while we were operating as a fishing resort he kept the huge inventory of motors operating smoothly.
The author with a nice 39 pound salmon. (Photo from the Captain Alec Provan collection. )
Editor’s Note: Captain Alec Provan is a retired Master Mariner. His early career was with Shell Tankers. He was later qualified as an Extra Master and served in the Newfoundland College of Fisheries, managing the Pre–Sea Course. He spent two drilling seasons working with Canmar Petroleum as a Mate in Arctic drill ships in the Beaufort Sea. He served as Mate and Relief Master in the CCGS George Darby and then as Master in the R–class rescue vessels. His last appointment in the Canadian Coast Guard was as District Manager in Victoria BC. After his retirement from the Coast Guard, in 1997, he went back to sea as the Master of a whale watching vessel based out of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. He skippered the Wildcat, a large whale watching vessel capable of speeds up to 40 knots. He worked for Bob Wright for three seasons as the Relief Master of the Charlotte Princess, the Marabell, and the Salmon Seeker floating luxury fishing resort based at Langara Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands. He is a prolific writer on and photographer of British Columbia’s nautical heritage.
To quote from this article please cite:
Provan, Captain Alec (2017) Vessels of the Oak Bay Marine Group in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Nauticapedia.ca 2017. http://nauticapedia.ca/Gallery/Oak_Bay_Marine_Group.php
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