The Bill Garden–designed Motor Sailor Seascape

by Barry Rolston 2018


The Seascape (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

On a warm July afternoon in 1956, the Seascape slid down the ways at W.R. Menchion’s Shipyard in Coal Harbour, Vancouver BC. She was one of the last ships built in this shipyard which was established in 1912 yard. My two year old sister had just cracked a bottle of champagne over her stem. The vessel was ordered by my father, Robert (Bob) Rolston, a well–known marine underwriter who worked for Dale & Co. in Vancouver. The one hundred or so guests spent the rest of the afternoon celebrating the launch and admiring the vessel while enjoying refreshments including buckets of cherries picked in the Rolston–s back yard.


Bill Garden’s design for the Seascape (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

The Seascape was designed by Bill Garden (then practicing in Seattle), and measured 42’ x 12’ x 6’. She was based on a design for a customer in Bermuda. The hull and cabin were raised slightly from the Bermuda concept to allow room for the Gardner engine. She was heavily constructed of yellow cedar on 2 inch oak frames with 8 inch spacing and sizable scantlings. When the boat was launched, there was little finishing inside, just basic floors and bulkheads and a head. Dad spent the next six years or so finishing the interior while using the boat to explore portions of the coast. As kids, we were always invited to use some sandpaper.


Painting of the Seascape in 1958 (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

After my Dad died in 1978, the boat was purchased by Fred Homer of Anderson Cove in Sooke B.C. Fred was an accomplished retired commercial fisher. Fred Homer modified her original design and colours. The varnished teak cabin, teak decks, varnished oak toe rail, gumwood fender guard, and light Bermuda Green hull morphed into a white house and hull and grey decks – with red trim. He also removed the motor sail sloop rig and added a flopper/stopper rig as stabilizers and a large commercial anchor winch and enclosed he the wheel house. When Bill Garden saw the changes he just shook his head and said "the boat needs to return to it’s original lines." Fred and his wife went up and down the whole British Columbia coast many times cruising and fishing.


Profile of Seascape in Anderson Cove, early 1978, just after Fred Homer purchased her (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

When Fred Homer took ill, he sold the Seascape to Sunny Mathieson and Simon Foster of Victoria who now live in East Sooke. They are the current owners of the vessel and coincidentally, now moor her at the same dock that Fred Homer did many years before. Simon and Sunny have explored the BC and Alaska coast extensively, and several years ago, they took her down on her own hull as far as Costa Rica and Panama. After a couple of years she was taken back to Nanaimo on a heavy lift ship, with Simon and Sunny living on her during the transit. A few years later they repeated the same venture, but this time they continued their travels from El Salvador through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean and eventually brought her home to BC on her own bottom. As with any offshore cruising, they have their tales of adventure, including one time when an intermittent radar blip off the coast of Mexico turned into a very large steel fishing trawler that was bearing down on them, travelling at speed at 0300 showing no lights!


The Seascape (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection. )

Over the years, Seascape has benefited from the diligent maintenance to the hull and engine by the Mathieson/Foster owners who have looked after her well. Later using local builders in El Salvador Simon had the boat hauled up on to a beach at the edge of the jungle and the complete hull, above and below the waterline, stripped down to bare wood. They removed all the paint that had built up over the years and applied fresh new coats.

The Rolstons put approximately 4000 hrs. on the engine, Fred Homer did at least 10,000 and Simon and Sunny added about 9800 hrs. The 6LW Gardner is still running well and is approaching 24,000 hours – nearly half way towards an engine rebuild! Seascape’s GPS has tracked 48,000 miles on Simon and Sunny’s watch, so extrapolation would suggest nearly 125,000 nautical miles on her keel, equal to three circumnavigations – a fine testament to the Gardner craftsmen in Manchester.


Profile of starboard side about 1957. (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

Time and technology have also been helpful: improvements include radar, two GPSs, a new stove, new diesel generator, new wiring and panel, solar panels, EPIRB, installation of a holding tank, AIS transmitter, ham radio, diesel furnace, water maker and more. The owner notes that the modern refrigerator that he installed reduced current flow from 16 amps to 1.5 and the 32v LED lights do not actually move the meter. Bob Rolston would have been delighted as the original refrigerator gobbled up a lot of electricity.


Profile of port side about 1958. (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

The Rolston family had many enjoyable years on Seascape, travelling on weekends and holidays to Howe Sound, the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and down to Seattle and as far north as Rivers Inlets on longer cruises. She is a very comfortable vessel, especially with the oil stove providing heat on damp days. The Foster/Mathiesons also noted that she was a very good sea vessel and never took on water: a dry ship. She was a ‘roller’, hence the sail and later the stabilizers were of value. Originally, she burned about 2.5 gal of oil / hour at 9 knots but the owners noted that she has a sweet spot (prismatic coefficient) at 6.8 knots, slipping effortlessly through the water at 1.1 gal/ hr.

A few weeks ago, Seascape arrived back at Anderson Cove bringing Sunny and Simon home from their 2018 cruising. They returned from 80 days at sea, covering 2,307 miles on their summer trip up north, sixty–two years after that July 25 summer day when she slid down the ways. She has lots of life left in her yet – a tribute to the shipwrights at Menchions.


The Seascape (Photo from the Barry Rolston collection.)

Seascape ON 188589 She was built in 1956 by Robert C. Rolston at Vancouver BC. She is 12.07m x 3.72m x 1.95m (39.6’ x 12.2’ x 6.4’) Wood hull 21.49gt 14.61rt. A 6LW Gardner diesel engine powers a single screw. In 1956–1977 she was owned by Robert C. Rolston (MO), West Vancouver BC. In 1978–1991 she was owned by Frederick P. Homer, Sooke BC. In 1992–2012 she was owned by Sunny D. Mathieson, Victoria BC. In 2012 she was purchased by Sunny D. Mathieson & Simon Foster, Victoria BC.

The Author – Raised on Vancouver’s north shore, Barry Rolston was fortunate to have a father and a grandfather who: "liked messing around in boats". One of Simon Fraser University’s charter students, he worked in Victoria as a teacher, retiring from Victoria High School as a Vice Principal. He and his wife Dale enjoyed boating for many years on their CS–33 sloop. Barry is a former Board Chair of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.

To quote from this article please cite:

Rolston, Barry (2018) The Bill Garden–designed Motor Sailor. 2018.

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