Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Who knew when we watched the SWAN being pulled out of Sproat Lake in November of 2015 that it would be the beginning of another adventure for the SWAN under the wing of the Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society which has as their mission to Present, Preserve and Promote maritime history and heritage of Port Alberni, the Alberni Inlet, Barkley Sound and the West Coast.
We knew from the very get-go that the Maritime Heritage Society had the energy to take on this project but we needed to go out to our partners in the hopes of finding funding and in-kind sponsorships. In the beginning the SWAN was wrapped in a white tarpaulin to protect in from the elements. Believe me when I say the wind, rain, snow and heat coming off the asphalt down at Lighthouse Pier can be brutal at the best of times.
From November of 2015 into March of 2016 we were fortunate to receive some funding from the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District which allowed us to purchase a variety a yellow cedar timber from the McLean Mill National Historic site and thanks to Mill Manager, Neil Malbon at the time he cut PAMHS a fair deal which helped us get started in building a shelter over the SWAN. We were also able to acquire the carpentry skills of Sandy Fitzpatrick who agreed to take on the overall construction with help from a variety of volunteers.
In the beginning, we had four goals in mind when it came to the SWAN. The first was to procure the SWAN through the generosity of its owner Art Skipsey. The second was to get a shelter built over the SWAN before the weather turned bad and not later than October 30/2016. Just as the roofers were completing the metal roof on Oct. 30/16 it began raining and if my memory is correct it didn't stop until the end of April 2017. A plan for the construction had been submitted to the City of Port Alberni building inspector previous to the build and to complete that plan we needed to add hurricane clips to all the rafters as well as support plates between the 10 posts and the roof. From May to the end of August the weather became extremely hot and with a lot of volunteer personal obligations an unconscious decision was made to hold off until the weather became cooler which it did in late August. The plates and clips were added and the inspection was given the go ahead. In the meantime, in-between time we could obtain a number of boom sticks from the Port Alberni Port Authority thanks to Mike Carter and they were placed in an old light standard beside the SWAN. The dolphin as it is called gives the property a bit more of a nautical look.
Our third goal which is presently being addressed is to build a crib for the SWAN as well as a viewing platform on the south side of the vessel so that residents in the Alberni Valley and tourist alike can get a better glimpse inside the SWAN and to view the steam engine that powered this boat for a number of years on Sproat Lake. Thanks goes out once again to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District for some additional funding to cover the costs of the lumber, paint to refresh the SWAN and a variety of other supplies to restore this vessel as a piece of our history for the past 127 years.
Our fourth and perhaps final goal for this project is to add a plaque to commemorate not only the SWAN and its final resting place but all those volunteers, funders and businesses in Port Alberni who contributed to this project and believed in saving this unique vessel which plied the waters of the Alberni Inlet and Sproat Lake for many years before it was sunk in Sproat Lake for 48 years and then raised again on Labour Day 2004. For further information on the SWAN and other maritime heritage information Google: Port Alberni Maritime Discovery Centre.
Written by Kenn Whiteman, President
Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society