Photographs from the 2015 Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival at Granville Island
In 2013, after an extensive renovation at Tom Mac Shipyard, the 60-ft, 16' beam, 8' draft 75 ton MERRY CHASE joined the charter fleet of Westwind Tugboat Adventures. The converted seine boat serves as the summer home for Bob and Kathy Jordan.
A Japanese boat builder, Yasujiro Nakade of Nakade Boat
Works in Steveston BC, crafted the table seiner in 1929.
Merry Chase and the SS Master:
Water side view of "Merry Chase":
View from the SS Master:
Looking towards Merry Chase's stern during the Saturday windstorm:
From the August 2014 Western Mariner Article:
AUGUST 2014, MERRY CHASE Historic Seiner Joins Westwind Charter Fleet.
BY VICKIE JENSEN
In 2013, after an extensive renovation at Tom Mac Shipyard, the 58-ft MERRY CHASE joined the charter fleet of Westwind Tugboat Adventures. The converted seine boat serves as the summer home for Bob and Kathy Jordan, as well as shadowing and carrying supplies for crew and 12 guests aboard the company’s other wooden heritage vessel, the 85-ft PARRY.
Vintage boats, like veteran mariners, have stories to tell. Those that have survived harsh coastal weather, emergencies and disasters, changing regulations, assorted work and political variations are indeed survivors. The 58-foot wooden seine boat MERRY CHASE is one of those. A Japanese boat builder, Yasujiro Nakade of Nakade Boat Works in Steveston BC, crafted the table seiner in 1929. From 1929-1935 she was owned by Ryotara Kita of Vancouver, then passed to Nanaimo Shipyard Ltd. (Nanaimo BC) from 1936-1941. At the outbreak of World War II many Japanese-owned seiners of that era were seized by the Canadian government and sold to major fishing companies for use by their non- Japanese fishermen. Appraised at $11,250 the MERRY CHASE was one of 20 seiners added to BC’s Fishermen’s Reserve Service, perhaps better known as the ‘Gumboot Navy’, where she served as a Canadian Navy patrol and calibration vessel. In 1943 she was tender to the Navy ships HMCS Chatham and a year later to HMCS GIVENCHY.
The MERRY CHASE as she was originally built as a table seiner by the Nakade boatyard in Steveston BC with the foredeck wheelhouse and roof-top dodger with a second steering station. The yard began production in Steveston in about 1918, according to Alan Haig-Brown’s Fishing for a Living. During the Roaring ‘Twenties, a time of big money from profitable fishing ventures as well as the rumrunning trade, the yard built seiners such as the PORLIER PASS and MERRY CHASE, among others.
After the war the MERRY CHASE went back to the business of
fishing, this time for the Canadian Fishing Company, and a
series of owners, many of whom were of Croatian origin:
• 1947-1965 Antony Kirincich of Vancouver
• 1967 William Lasko of Steveston
• 1968-76 Roy A. Clarke of Ladner
• 1977 Tony Boroevich of Surrey
• 1978-80 Ivan ‘John’ Uljevic of Richmond
• 1982-2004 Uljevic’s company Adrian Trading Co. Ltd.
Over the years the MERRY CHASE was converted to a drum seiner, was twice re-engined, had her wheelhouse configuration changed and the hold fibreglassed for packing fish in chilled sea-water. But fishing is only part of her historic past. Early last year, as the completely refurbished MERRY CHASE left the Tom- Mac Shipyard docks, she also made history for her newest owners, Bob and Kathy Jordan, who were celebrating 40 years of chartering on BC coast waters. As a young man Bob spent years on seine boats, then in 1974, he and Kathy began Westwind Charter Ltd., running 60 day-trips that season in Vancouver Harbour with the POINT HOPE. “I didn’t like that at all,” Bob recalls. “My background up the coast was of no use.” The following year they happily switched to larger, longer contracts primarily with the Department of Fisheries. But that work was abruptly cut short when an engine room fire destroyed the POINT HOPE in March 1979. Forced to chart a new course, they decided to go into fishing charters so they formed Westwind Tugboat adventures and purchased and refurbished the tug UNION JACK (which had operated as the BURNABY STRAITS with Straits Towing). In 1987, they expanded the business with the 85-ft PARRY ex TALAPUS, a former Canadian Navy
tender turned tugboat, still with her original Vivian engine.
[See also Vickie Jensen’s story MV UNION JACK: (A New Career for an Old Tug in the March 1988 premier issue of The Westcoast Mariner magazine. Ed.)
For decades, the Jordans lived and worked on their converted tugboats
running fishing charters all summer long out of northern Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and Bella Bella. Eventually they moved ashore but, after living on boats for
25 years, Bob missed being on the water. “I need that saltwater in my veins,” he laughs. So, as he and Kathy nibbled at the idea of retirement, Bob began looking at ads and walking docks. “I wanted a pleasure boat this time, not a workboat, one
for just the two of us. The problem was that a lot of ex fish boats already had the equipment taken off and a big cabin put on the back deck … and their owners wanted a fortune! I wanted to do the work myself, to keep it a fish boat on the outside and make it a yacht inside.”
Bob Jordan spotted the MERRY CHASE for sale at a dock in Steveston where it had been sitting for five years. He called the number on the boat and owner Ivan ‘John’ Uljevich gave him a tour. Bob recalls, “The boat was painted all white and was looking tired and rather forlorn but I also saw a good foundation, a nice hull with a raised wheelhouse – and the price was reasonable.” Bob wasn’t put off by the total refit he envisioned. “It was 2007 and I had time and some money from a couple of good charter seasons, so I was rarin’ to go with a new project!” A week later he arranged to see the boat out of the water. He liked what he saw and bought it then and there. Bob also liked the continuity. “My parents were Croatian and everyone in my family fished so I grew up on boats like the MERRY CHASE. My grandfather ended his career on a Japanese fish boat just like this. One of my uncles, Peter Veljacic, had his own boat that we’d all go out on for family picnics, and our
cousins are still fishing. So coming to a boat that a lot of Croatians had owned felt like coming home. It reminds me of my youth.” That said, the next five to six years were still a period of intense work. “There was so much junk in the engine room you couldn’t walk through it at first,” Bob chuckles; “You could only see the yellow Cat D-334 engine.” So first up was hauling stuff out, getting rid of the seine gear and then removing all the fibreglass on the wheelhouse and in the fish-hold. Cutting a doorway between the hold and the engine room created what would eventually become a generous storage area.
In 1942 fishing ended for the MERRY CHASE. The Canadian federal government seized the property of Japanese Canadians, including 1337 fishing boats —141 cod boats, 148 packers, 860 gillnetters, 120 trollers and 68 seiners. Twenty of the seiners were added to the ‘Gumboot Navy’ fleet, including the MERRY CHASE. After the war the seiner went back to fishing, this time for the Canadian Fish Company. John Uljevich, the last owner to fish the MERRY CHASE, recalls a lifetime of fishing Juan de Fuca, Georgia Strait, Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and the west coast of Vancouver Island. “I fished herring and salmon with an ‘A’ licence and reconfigured for dragging with a ‘T’ licence. I always had four or five men working with me; all of us were able to make a living. I didn’t get rich but my four girls all got an education and I sure enjoyed fishing.” This photo shows MERRY CHASE after Uljevich had the new raised wheelhouse installed.
Six very short, cramped bunks in the forecastle were ripped out and replaced by four larger berths and a head. Bob added doors to the wheelhouse and big new windows, then reconfigured the mast and boom. On the main deck, the cabin between the wheelhouse and the aft galley became the owner’s suite with a double berth. “Refurbishing our other boats only took one year each; this one took five!” Bob describes. At the end of every Westwind charter season deckhands, keen for extra work, stayed on and helped out. Bob handled all the wiring, electricity, plumbing, pipe-fitting and exterior finishing. He also designed the interior and then hired Tony Jarvis, who specializes in fine yacht carpentry, to do the finishing work. “He’s one very skilled craftsman, just exceptional!” says Bob. When the recession hit in 2008 the Jordans used funds from the sale of the UNION JACK in 2009 to finish refurbishing the MERRY CHASE.
“We put in so much work. Now it’s time to enjoy the rewards!” Bob grins. “It feels
good and it turned out exactly the way I wanted, with a big aft deck and a large storage area. It’s such an easy design to love; that layout was there from the beginning.” The MERRY CHASE has had three engines. The first was a three-cylinder 90-hp Washington Estep (later just called a Washington), a very
popular engine in 1929, Jordan notes. Then in 1952 owner Antony Kirincich put in a 120-hp Cat D-337. Finally in 1971 Roy Clarke installed the current Cat D-334
which John Uljevich rebuilt when he fished the boat. Initially, Bob was skeptical of the 334’s 240 horsepower, having fished for so many years with more powerful
In the six years spent renovating the MERRY CHASE Bob Jordan says the biggest job was removing the fibreglass from the fish-hold and the seine-drum gear. Tom-Mac Shipyard handled the major structural changes, replacing and sistering frames, planking and bulwark sections. A large portion of the main deck needed to be replaced because of the urea formaldehyde foam used to insulate the fish-hold when it was fibreglassed. To cut costs on such an extensive project Bob had the shipyard haul the boat out during non-peak times. He handled all the mechanical and systems work himself plus painting, installing cedar tongue-and-groove on the deckhouse and rigging the mast. Bob also designed the interior, adding modifications to make the boat more comfortable for living aboard.
But he notes, “It doesn’t leak and doesn’t burn oil. In fact, it’s pretty darn nice.”
In her latest reincarnation the MERRY CHASE serves as a shadow- ship to the PARRY which accommodates 12 passengers and five crew during the Westwind charter seasons. For the first time Bob and Kathy have their own live-aboard space
and the converted hold carries extra supplies for chartering and replacement gear. “Before Bob had to fly up from Vancouver if there was a problem,” Kathy explains. “Now he can serve as on-site mechanic and train new crew. We move daily, so it’s a big job.”
Bob Jordan logged long hours removing old insulation and rotten wood from the wheelhouse structure. He uncovered the old windows and door frame, as well as leak damage dating back to when John Uljevich bought the MERRY CHASE in 1977. Back then, there was a lower wheelhouse and a helm station up above with a dodger and John hired a Greek shipwright from Ladner to fix the leak and reconfigure the wheelhouse with one raised helm station. He recalls that the job cost about $18,000. Bob Jordan explains, “The MERRY CHASE was one of a whole series of seiners that had a step up, both inside and outside, which went from the main deck to the foredeck. The wheelhouse was on the foredeck with a second steering station on the roof-top dodger. There was a Croation guy, Mario Ursich, who was doing wooden boat work in the Vancouver area, and he became known for converting seiners with those separate stations into one enclosed wheelhouse with a higher viewpoint and forward-slanting windows. The superior visibility of this configuration became the model for new fish boat design and even for tugs. Those slanted windows were quite a modern concept at the time and they also made the wheelhouse feel so much bigger. I like tradition but I also like innovation. Her wheelhouse helped sell me on MERRY CHASE, even though it needed a lot of work. It’s so damn comfortable.”
The Jordan’s team approach has been extremely effective for their charter operation. Bob readily admits to being the type who needs a project so, if he’s not needed helping out with the PARRY, he’s often working in the engine room of the MERRY CHASE while at anchor. Whether ashore or aboard Kathy runs the office and deals with rebellious computers. Last year, as they headed north for the season’s first charter, she also skippered the MERRY CHASE on her own while Bob broke in a new skipper on the PARRY. “I was a bit nervous running into higher than expected seas before we got to Bella Bella,” Kathy reported, “but the MERRY CHASE took it like a dream!”
The beautifully refurbished seiner is yet another reason to celebrate the Jordan’s successful chartering career. “We’ve always liked living the gypsy life,” Bob states.” Now we’re back on the water and it feels like we’ve come full circle.” The same could be said for the historic MERRY CHASE as the heritage wooden vessel heads into a new life on the BC coast.
When originally built as a table seiner the MERRY CHASE had eight bunks which were subsequently reduced to the six required as a drum seiner. The Jordans traded the six cramped bunks in the forecastle for four larger ones and a head. On the main deck there’s now a good-sized owner’s cabin on the port side of the passageway from the aft galley to the wheelhouse with a head/shower on the starboard side, immediately forward of the engine room access.
Vickie Jensen is the Vancouver-based author of Saltwater Women: Working These Waters, Underwater Robots and Ships of Steel: A British Columbia Shipbuilder’s Story (co-authored with T. Arthur McLaren). She was editor of The Westcoast
Mariner magazine from 1988 to 1991.
Special thanks to Western Mariner for the use of this article.