Boats of the Bay – Lasqueti Fisher

February 10th, 2013
Lasqueti Fisher

Lasqueti Fisher

Name: Lasqueti Fisher

Type: West Coast Drum Seiner

Length: 44 feet (13.41 m)

Weight: 29 tons (58,000 lbs)

Hull: Carvel Fir Wood Planking

Built: 1958 by Tom Milichap and Peter Forbes at Lasqueti Island

Owners: Alma and Tony Owen

Alma and Tony Owen

Alma and Tony Owen

The first time I met Tony Owen, I was passing by the Lasqueti Fisher in a 12 foot row-boat, urged through the water by a sputtering 3 horse Seagull outboard motor. Tony, who appeared to have been disturbed while reading a book aboard, opened his cabin window to give me a huge smile and a thumbs up. “We should form a Seagull Club!”; he shouted. “We should indeed!”; I shouted back. Seagulls make you shout no matter how close you are to the person you are communicating with. “Nice Boat”; I shouted, referring to the Lasqueti Fisher. Tony’s words were lost in the smallish cloud of outboard motor smoke as I puttered out of earshot, but his smile told me enough.

Built on the beach in 1958 on Lasqueti Island, launched into Scottie Bay, the Lasqueti Fisher is a 44 foot long, 29ton Drum Seiner of the sort once found up and down this coast by the hundred. There was a downturn in the Forest Industry in the middle to late 50s. Tom Milichap and Peter Forbes were loggers with a bunch of Fir logs for which they couldn’t get a decent price. The salmon fishing industry was doing a good business, so the partners bought a set of plans and the keel timber in Vancouver for $350, thereby deciding to give up logging and become first boat builders and then salmon fishermen.

Dickinson Oil Stove for Cooking and Heat

Dickinson Oil Stove for Cooking and Heat

The design is a West Coast Canadian Classic. In fact, they don’t come any more “West Coast than this. Penned by Vancouver architect Robert Allan in 1951 the lines have been reflected many times and by many different vessels. BCP-45 the “$5 boat”, so-called because it graced the back of the Canadian five dollar bill for many years,is another example of the basic layout.

The vessel is made entirely of Douglas Fir. The planking, decking, ribs even the keel are all made of this type of wood. It’s a bit unusual, for while fir was often favored for decking and in the marine plywood used in vessel construction, it was generally Oak that was used for ribs, due to its strength and Western Red Cedar that was used for the hull planking due to its excellent rot resistance. However, the partners had fir logs available and so this is what the Lasqueti Fisher is built of.

Bright, Airy Lounge

Bright, Airy Lounge

For power, the partners chose the reliable 6-71 Detroit Diesel. Used to power everything from army tanks to logging equipment to city buses on land, it was one of the most common engines found in vessels of this type. It’s 200+ hp offering plenty of power not only to drive the boat but also to run the hydraulic system associated with the drum seining process. The Lasqueti Fisher has had no less than four of these power plants in her lifetime, an indication of how hard this boat was used over the years in pursuit of the ever more elusive salmon. The current engine, rebuilt only 480 operating hours ago, burns about 9.45 liters (2.5 gallons) of fuel an hour while driving the vessel at about 7 knots (8.05 m p/h). With a total fuel capacity of some 800 gallons, there are very few places on the coast this vessel cannot visit.

Tony and Alma found the Lasqueti Fisher about four years ago, for sale at French Creek harbour on Vancouver Island. The vessel had fished commercially until about 1989 when it could no longer compete economically with the larger more powerful and faster aluminum and steel hulled vessels which had begun to dominate the industry. The straw that broke the camel’s back financially for the Lasqueti Fisher was the then newly mandated requirement that the stern roller be equipped with a hinge so as to prevent the killing of by-catch in the net. The costs for the retrofit were deemed too much, and the vessel was retired.

Aft Sleeping Quarters for Two

Aft Sleeping Quarters for Two

Conversion from working boat to personal yacht had begun shortly after this retirement, and was more or less complete when Tony and Alma bought the vessel. It had received major work in 1999, with several hull planks being replaced and a more or less complete refastening being done. Tony added final carpentry touches, rebuilding the aft companionway to better suit living aboard, the ease of access now much improved. He also built the book storage area which lines one wall of the salon.

The interior is of plywood veneer lightly oiled with tung oil. The original Fir deck planking is found throughout, lightly polished in the salon, and protected by anchored throw rugs. The hold where the fish once lay packed in ice, is now part storage area and a double sleeping berth. The vessel retains all her original electronics, galley stove and forward accommodation, although Tony confesses much of the forward compartment is taken up by what he laughingly calls his “Man Cave”. It’s the place for hobbies, guitar practice and so forth.

Today the Lasqueti Fisher is home to Alma and Tony Owen. Finding her a warm and comfortable vessel, they have enjoyed living aboard her for about 4 years now, cruised a little and have enjoyed the water-borne way of living an awful lot. Alma is a newly elected board member of the Cowichan Bay Maritime Society, while Tony has become virtually indispensable as the Center’s resident vintage outboard motor repair man.

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