Blaine’s historic “Tulip” boat has new lease on life

Published on Thu, Jun 5, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Blaine’s historic “Tulip” boat has new lease on life

By Jack Kintner

A 1920s 64-foot wooden hulled fishing boat that’s been in almost constant use by Blaine’s Waters family as a bottom dragger has found new life as a pleasure boat in the Queen Charlotte Islands after an extensive bottom re-fit by Blaine’s Westman Marine.

“She’ll be a pleasure boat,” said new owner Don McNeice, a third generation Coquitlam, B.C., native who said he swam before he could walk.

“We were always on the water,” said McNeice, 49, who owns and operates marinas in Delta and Prince Rupert, B.C., as well as at Sandspit, where he makes his home.
The Tulip was once the mail boat that ran between Blaine and Point Roberts. Built of old-growth fir on white oak frames, the hull drew McNeice’s attention because it was designed for rough water, “and we have plenty of that,” he said.

Shipwright Norm Walsh, who said he learned most of his craft from his father Ron, at one time a shipwright for the old Alaska Packers Association where Semiahmoo Resort now stands, caulked about a third of the hull with the traditional wooden boat method of cotton and oakum. He also replaced a number of planks.

“It’s nice to see people take an interest in these old hulls. We’re down to the last of them,” he said, “but they can be brought back as long as there’s a few of us who know how to do that around.” Walsh, 49, has been working at the Westman yard for 31 years.

After service as a mail boat, the “house,” or superstructure, was moved forward and Bill Waters then used it as a bottom dragger for many years. His nephew Shawn sold it to McNeice.

Though old, the hull never had a steam engine, but Walsh said he thinks it once had an old-fashioned direct reversing atlas engine. “To go in reverse you’d fire it up in reverse. There was no transmission,” he said.

McNeice said that even though the hull has some working life left, “this is not going to be a work boat any longer. It’s my own personal pleasure boat,” he chuckled, saying that he had a family that was looking forward to some lazy days in the Queen Charlottes on the Tulip’s ample stern deck.

“All the fishing gear will come out, but the house will remain the same,” McNeice said, adding that it was the lines of the boat that first drew his eye.

He plans to be down in Blaine this month or next, once he gets a break in his work servicing the boats used by fishing lodges and will take the Tulip north for the first time in its long and storied history.