A vision for Britannia Beach 

Proposed maritime museum would depict a working history of vessels on the B.C. coast

The idea for a working maritime museum at Britannia Beach came to Paul Thomas almost by chance on a return trip from Whistler in 1999.

"I had dozed off and happened to wake up just as we were coming down the hill into Britannia Beach," he recounts. "I looked and said this is a great spot. This is where we should be."

Two years later a black and white trimmed tug boat and small fishing vessel are tied up at one wharf in Britannia Beach. Two munitions vessels, the robin’s egg blue Tyee Princess and the Yf875 yard freighter are berthed at another wharf.

Across Highway 99, inside the office of the Maritime Heritage Society of Vancouver in a building on the Britannia beach townsite, Marguerite Moroz shows me photographs of some of the vessels planned for the museum. On one side of the office green and white gingham curtains have been pulled from a window that looks towards the waterfront, where plans for the site include an area for the public with boardwalks.

"We’d like to have five or six ships here," says Moroz, who is vice president of the society.

The munitions ships and the fishing vessel, both built in1927 in Ladner, B.C., have been berthed in Britannia for about eight months. The Chinook was brought up from New Westminster under its own power, and has been in the town for just under a year.

Fifteen minutes later, I sit down at a large table in the ward room of the wooden hulled 48 metre Seaspan Chinook, where the officers had their meals. A photograph of the Chinook hangs on a bulkhead over an oak sideboard.

"She was built as part of a fleet of 80 rescue tugs by the U.S. navy that served as a convoy escorting vessels," says Thomas, president of the society.

A three-inch gun mounted forward and two anti-aircraft guns on either side of her funnel provided security during World War II, when she was commissioned as the USS ATR-64 and worked in the Philippines.

When the war was over the ATR-64 was purchased by a shipping subsidiary of H.R. MacMillan Export Company, renamed the Logmac, and put to work towing logs and barges. Shortly after being purchased by Seaspan International in 1970, the ship was relieved from active service and fitted out to serve as floating accommodation for sports fishermen.

The Tyee Princess and the Yf875 dominate another part of the Britannia Beach waterfront. Built in 1944 and used for munitions transport in San Diego Harbour, both vessels have an interesting history.

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