Steaming Master

The SS Master Society is an all-volunteer non-profit group of dedicated individual that today is navigating in troubled waters. Unless new revenue streams are identified and maintained, the SS Master just may find herself without the funds to continue on steaming.

For years the society has always been able to rely on a small gaming grant from the BC Lottery Foundation which has now been cut off. The grant was used to shore up the Society’s own souvenir-based fund raising in the various coastal communities that the SS Master visits annually. This grant helped keep Canada’s heritage treasure, the sole surviving wooden-hulled steam-powered tug boat (the last one left in a fleet that once numbered over 200 tugs, all constructed on the’West Coast) afloat and able to visit areas of the coast that she once served so well in her working days.

Over the last five years the society has had to expend $110,000 on replanking of the port and starboard sides and $80,000 on replacement of the wasted top of the original steel-riveted fuel tank. While the expenses are so large, the Society is deeply appreciative of the BC marine companies that donate materials such as paint, lube oil, fuel and the shipyard services which are so critical for SS Master to raise steam in her amazing triple expansion steam engine that continually brings wonder to the eyes of youngsters and lumps to the throats of old-time mariners.

The society is made up of a small group of volunteers. Chief Engineer Doug Shaw, Society president Chris Croner and Capt Russ Copeland are examples of volunteers who have found the time to put in several decades between them of dedicated help toward SS Master’s preservation. There are only about 40 members in the SS Master Society. This is something that truly needs to change if BC wishes to hang onto this precious maritime artifact, a unique museum of steam-on-water. The society members cannot sell enough t-shirts and hats to keep the SS Master financially afloat. Only new revenue sources will keep the gem of the BC coastal tugboat fleet steaming.

The Society now looks to the BC industries – the mining, forestry, petrochemical-based industries and the many marine businesses to support SS Master. She and other steam tugboats like her performed yeoman service in past years, helping to build up many of these companies to the successful status they enjoy today.

One avenue for fund-raising that is being considered is to seek Industry Supporting Memberships at a bronze, silver, gold and platinum level that would be gratefully acknowledged with a write-up on our website, a link to the sponsoring company website, as well as a prominently displayed sponsor’s plaque on board the SS Master for all the visiting public to see. The SS Master Society is actively seeking advice and guidance from people with good business ideas that will help market and advertise the big steam tug’ keeping her in the public eye and conveying her maritime heritage significance to the various levels of government when seeking funding.

It is somewhat ironic that if the SS Master was hauled out of the water and set up as a permanent exhibit on land (similar to the BCP 45 in Campbell River’s Maritime Heritage Centre) the Society would have an easier time securing government funding for her upkeep.

Let’s work together to keep the cheeky whistles of the SS Master reverberating across BC coastal waters for many generations to enioy. The tug’s 1916 Royal Navy triple-expansion double-acting; steam engine is an engineering marvel. It will be a sad dayif SS Master’s captain ever has to order ‘finished with engines’ for the last time on the ship’s telegraph.

Please contact Chris Croner, President, SS Master Society, if you can offer any assistance, suggestions or are interested in becoming a society member (604) 726-2583

About the Steam Ship Master…

Built in 1922, in False Creek, Vancouver, by Arthur Moscrop, the MASTER is the last remaining example of a once formidable fleet of wooden hulled, steam powered towboats on the West Coast.

The MASTER displaces about 200 tons, is 85 feet long, 19.5 foot beam and draws12 feet of water. Her triple expansion steam engine was built for the Royal Navy in 1916. Turning an 8 foot diameter propeller at 100 r.p.m., she cruises at over 8 knots.

From 1922 to 1959, the Master towed logs and barges in Georgia Strait and beyond, steaming over a million miles. She has seen many ports on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to San Francisco. Laid up in 1959, she was bought in 1962 for $500, to be restored as a memorial to the men of the BC towing industry. In 1971, the Society for the Preservation of the steam towboat MASTER was formed to continue the struggle. In 1980, the society decided that only a near total re-building could save her. In May, 1986, she once again raised steam and proudly took her place as the Flagship of Expo 86.

This was only made possible by the efforts of a small, dedicated group of volunteers, assisted by generous corporate and individual donors, and with the aid of all levels of government. Sponsorship must continue, if the vessel is to be retained.

Today the MASTER steams around her home waters, unquestionably the Dowager Queen of the Vancouver waterfront, bringing wonder to the eyes of the young, and lumps to the throats of the old timers.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. If she is hauled out for display, it will be the death of her.
    That was done on the East Coast in Saint John NB and the large wooden tug immediately began to deteriate. It would be a shame to lose this vessel.
    I am sure the volunteers are all aging, scotch marine boilers and steam recip is definitely a dying art.

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