Many guests are touched by the history of the Columbia III and some are
moved to action. One of our favourite returning guests has personally created
and performed this tribute to the role the Columbia III has played on the her
home waters of the British Columbia coast.
These ships, seventeen in all, (including a "Columbia I" built in 1905 and a "Columbia II" built in 1910) plied the hundreds of miles of rugged Canada coastline year-round, bringing much needed medical and social care to the isolated outposts. Often braving severe weather and unpredictable seas, the ships pushed through to provide their important services.
"… On her final run to Vancouver, the Columbia III started off from Hardy
Bay on December 2, into very rough seas. She battled wild seas all the way but
she kept on going, though bigger vessels were running for shelter. She stopped
at Half Moon Bay overnight so Alan Greene could see her one last time. Around
five a.m. the waves were banging the ship so hard against the wharf that the
crew had to let her go and steam around in the bay until seven a.m., when they
continued on to Vancouver.
Reverend Ivan Futter said of the trip, "The seas were just fantastic and no
matter which way you turned they seemed to come from every direction at once.
But the Columbia III rode each one proudly and bravely and never once shipped
green water over her bow! She rolled, she pitched, she tossed, everything that
could move on board, moved! But still she came up for more!
"When we say the Columbia is coming, she comes!" said Futter. It was the ship's
unofficial motto …"
from "THE COLUMBIA IS COMING!" By Doris Anderson
"Year in and year out …the mission boat has patrolled a route of over
10,000 miles, now proceeding in the face of tempestuous seas, now in sunshine
and under kindlier skies, now antlike in the shadow of massive impending
mountains, and often through waves that set the decks awash- but always
forward with her message of comfort and relief. Vigilant, her wireless
catches a cry of distress and, her bow pointed in a new direction and under
full speed, the Columbia rushes to the scene of some fresh mountain, forest
or marine mishap. …She becomes the hospital ship, serving all equally,
irrespective of creed or nationality."
(by Ben Drew from "The Log", the bulletin of the Columbia Coast Mission)
For further reading, see "The Columbia is Coming" by Doris Anderson, "I Heard The Owl Call My Name" by Margaret Craven, and "God's Little Ships" by Michael Hadley.
"… Generations of settlers in all walks of life up and down the British
Columbia coast will remember the stanch little ships that fought their way
through dense fog, wild rapids and stormy seas. The ships came to small rock
bound islands and traveled up the long, beautiful inlets, bringing laughter and
companionship, consolation and spiritual inspiration to the camps and
settlements, and to the men and women struggling against privation and
loneliness in log cabins hidden in the forest wilderness…"
from "THE COLUMBIA IS COMING!" By Doris Anderson
When our family purchased the Columbia III in 2005 we had no idea how much good- will the boat and the Columbia Coast Mission still carried on this coast. The very first time we fueled up, the dock attendant cried out even before we were tied up, "My parents were married on that boat!", and the stories seem to never end. The list has become too long to itemize but we bump into personal tales of wonderful memories relating to the CCM fleet of vessels wherever we go. And because of this it wasn't long before we realized that we don't really "own" the Columbia III, but rather, we are her current caretakers. I like to say "we are the custodians of a piece of B.C.'s maritime history".
This summer, as usual, we had numerous people walk down the dock to see the boat, to tell their personal stories, and to marvel at the beautiful condition of the Columbia III. And as usual, we invited many casual passersby's in for a quick tour, after all, this isn't "our" boat but B.C.'s! But four particular stories deserved special mention and that is the reason for this unique addition to our history web page.
1. We were very lucky to have the grandson of Robert Allan join us this summer with his wife. The Allan family is very well known in B.C. for their Naval Architecture company that has spanned three generations here designing many of B.C.'s most prominent boats. Robert Allan III is still President of their company and he was thrilled to travel on a vessel designed by his grand-dad. As a thank-you, he later sent us a complete set of the original blueprints nicely bound for easy viewing on the boat. I have added these to this history page for reference purposes.
2. We were touring in the Great Bear rainforest with a group of 10 guests, several of whom had joined us in 2006, when one couple asked the crew to gather in the salon. All the other guests gathered with cameras at the ready. I really didn't know what to expect! But out from a day pack was pulled the most BEAUTIFUL brass bell, hand-made by our guest, and engraved with a picture of the Columbia III and the words, "Columbia III Celebrating 50 years".
I mounted the new bell on the front of the wheel house the next day as the guests were off paddling. When I asked our guest why he made the bell he said he simply wanted to participate in the living history of this vessel and the B.C. coast. Now I ask you, as the host of such a generous guest, how could I respond? With a very heartfelt, "Thank-you!"
3. Our season was nearly over for 2007 and we were headed south with a group on our Settler's History tour. I usually give a short talk one evening on the history of the boat and I try to convey to our guests (that can come from so far away) the sense of good-will and acceptance the boat enjoys on this coast. As an example I referred to the new bell mounted on the wheelhouse! But to my surprise, one of our guests interrupted my talk, and presented me with an original oil painting. The couple once owned the publishing company that printed the much loved book, "The Columbia is Coming!" (we have three copies on board) and they still had the original painting that was used for the cover of the book. Not surprisingly (once we get use to all this) they had brought the painting with them to donate it to the Columbia III!.
4. So... maybe you are getting a sense of the trend here. On our final engagement of the year in mid December, we hosted a "Christmas Tea and Cruise" (by donation) for anyone interested in the Columbia III. Of course, the turn out was good and many guests had personal experiences with the Columbia Coast Mission. During my brief talk on the history of the boat I mentioned the new bell and pointed out the new painting on the wall.
And you guessed it... I was interrupted again by a guest wanting to donate something to the boat! This time I was nearly brought to tears, Marjorie Greene, daughter of Rev. Alan Greene, who had worked with the Columbia Coast Mission for most of his life, presented me with a gleaming silver platter.
It was the custom in 1956 for the shipyard to present the wife of the owner of a new vessel with a gift. Although the Columbia III wasn't "owned" by Rev. Alan Greene, his wife, ( Marjorie's mother) was presented with a commemorative platter engraved with theses words,
STAR SHIPYARD (MERCER) Ltd
MRS. ALAN GREENE
on the occasion of the
LAUNCHING OF THE COLUMBIA
Oct. 13 - 1956
It is hard to capture the engraving with the camera.
Marjorie had come to the "Christmas Tea and Cruise" thinking to display her family heirloom, but upon hearing my stories of the other gifts to the Columbia III she spontaneously decided to present me with the platter!
So, that's the story. Each of these special gifts to the Columbia III were very generous and I wanted to formally acknowledge them here. I really get the sense that the gifts are not being made to our family but to the boat and the larger community of the BC coast. The Columbia III strikes a special chord in many people on this coast. Thank-you.