Formerly the Scotian Official Number: 175498 Built: Pictou Foundry and Machine Company, Ltd. Pictou, NS 1946 Retired: 1966
Length: 165 Beam: 52' Draft: 12'5" Gross Tons: 814 Net Tons: 481 Propulsion: Steam. 1 3-cylinder Unaflow. Horsepower: 550 Speed: 10 knots
Passenger Capacity: 473 Auto Capacity: 35
Above, the Smokwa steams into Horseshoe Bay in August of 1956. Author's collection.
| The Smokwa never actually sailed on Puget Sound, nor was she a steamer that had been converted into a ferry, but as part of the fleet that Captain Peabody ran in Canada, she deserves to be covered here along with the rest of her runningmates.
Built in 1946 in Pictou, Nova Scotia as the Scotian she was used to ferry cars across Halifax Harbor. Like so many other ferries in the past, a bridge put her out of work and up for sale. Black Ball ferries purchased the ferry and towed her west. After spending some time refurbishing the ferry, she emerged in the now trademark portholes on the cardeck and in Black Ball colors.
The addition of the double-ended steamer allowed the Bainbridge and Quillayute to undergo needed maintenance without a distruption to service. On 2 May, 1956, the Smokwa went into service on the Horseshoe Bay-Gibsons run.
The ferry was sold to B.C. Ferries along with the other vessels in 1961. It soon became apparent that age was taking its toll on her steam engines. In 1962 she blew a piston, knocking her out of service. With the Quillayute already out, the car space could not be lost, so the ferry was brought to and from the dock by tug. It was one event in many that led to B.C. ferries selling the ferry for $26,290.00 in 1966.
The ferry had been sold for use as a fish camp, but by 1975 she was being used as a crab cannery in Port Lions, Alaska. The Smokwa was moved from Port Lions to the City of Kodiak in the early 1980's. The vessel was moored in Kodiak just outside the small boat harbor at a dock now occupied by Island Seafoods.
Still at work as a cannery, the Smokwa processes fish/ crab in Kodiak for a few years before closing down. WIth the death of her owner, the fromer ferry became a derelict. Eventrually the Smokwa was towed back to Port Lions in the late 1980's or early 90's. For several years the ferry was moored on the inboard side of the Port Lions ferry dock. One morning about two years after arriving back at Port Lions, it was discovered the Smokwa had sunk at her mooring.
A year later , Fred Devine Salvage of Astoria, Oregon was hired to refloat the vessel and dispose of it. After refloating the Smokwa, the vessel Salvage Chief towed her to deep water to scuttle her. The Smokwa, it seems, had other plans. She rapidly took on water and started sinking on her own. It seemed that the Salvage Chief was about to be taken down with her when the tow line was mercifully servered, thus averting catastrophe.
The last steam-powered ferry to sail B.C. waters is now largely forgotten by all but a few ferry enthusiasts, who remember the quirkly little vessel that caused B.C. Ferries such headaches.
(Special thanks to Lon A. White, Duputy Harbormaster of the City of Kodiak for filing in the last piece of the Smokwa puzzle!!)
|At left, the Scotian as built. She was kind of a clunky looking vessel. At right, a postcard image of the Smokwa. Black Ball refined some of the lines, and the portholes certainly improved her looks, but she was still a rather awkward looking vessel. Both from the author's collection.|
|At left, the Smokwa at Horseshoe Bay in a postcard view from the late 1950's. At right, she looked good in B.C. Ferries livery, but apparently spent much of her time tied up at the Deas Shipyard, where she is seen here. (For the record, I cannot remember who sent me that photo on the right. If it is yours, please email me so I can add the credit.)|
|To the MALAHAT