The Tug Boat Wabash

by John MacFarlane 2017


The Wabash on the beach at Mill Bay BC. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )


The Wabash (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )

The Wabash was built in 1909 in Victoria BC. 40.3’ x 10.2’ x 5’ wooden hull 14gt 8rt. She was powered with a 4nhp engine. In 1913 she was re–engined with 2.4 nhp engine. She was repowered with a 5nhp engine.


The Wabash (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )

In 1909–1921 she was owned by Frederick R. MacFarlane and Francis A. MacFarlane, Cobble Hill BC. In 1921 she was owned by James McDonald et al., Victoria BC. In 1922–1930 she was owned by Captain Francis J. Beale, Ocean Falls BC. In 1926–1931 she was owned by Beale Quarries Ltd., Vancouver BC.

Tugboat Wabash and HMCS Naden

Tugboat Wabash & HMCS Naden (Photo from MacFarlane collection)

In 1910 the two brothers purchased the tug Wabash (ON 126247 40 feet 4nhp steam engine) that had been built in Victoria BC in 1909. This vessel was better suited to the towing jobs that they were getting and kept them employed for several years. In 1913 she was re–engined and her horse-power was reduced to 2.4nhp. In 1914 at the onset of the First World War Arthur (who had Militia service with the 5th Canadian Garrison Artillery at Fort Rodd Hill) joined the Canadian Army for overseas service with the Royal Canadian Artillery. Major MacFarlane arranged for his son Fred to join the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR) (then recruiting in Victoria) and after officer-candidate training in the UK he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).


The Wabash (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )

While they were away serving in the War they left the Wabash at anchor in Wheelbarrow Cove (near Mill Bay) laid up in the care of their teen–aged sister Eva as the ship’s husband. (Captain L.R.W. Beavis moored HMCS Naden there as well, just to the stern of the Wabash). Eva would walk down from the family home each day to pump out the tug and to ensure that she was not in imminent danger of sinking (all old wooden tugs leaked). She was secured to the shore and would ground out at low tide on the mud flats. One morning when Eva visited the Wabash she found one of her neighbours removing the propeller. Challenging him she did not believe his story that he was removing it for safe keeping. She took the propeller home and hid it under her bed where it stayed until the end of the War.

When Arthur and Fred were demobilized they sold the Wabash which was, not surprisingly, in very poor condition after four years of neglect. In 1931 she foundered sank in Burke Channel BC.


The Wabash was often used to tow their American–built barge Wabash No. 1.ex–Stella. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )


The Wabash at the wharf at Mill Bay BC. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection. )

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Tug Boat Wabash 2017.

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