“The Teak Lady”
Previously known as the TRITON
Notes provided by Bob Cole of Port Alberni.
The Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society's involvement with a boat called the TRITON and affectionately known as the “Teak Lady “, on Sproat Lake actually began on November 21, 2019 at a Maritime Heritage “Old Salts Night” sponsored by PAMHS. It was at that time that Mr. Bob Cole presented the TRITON/ “Teak Lady” as being made of all teak, high speed, stepped hull with a false deck and cockpit designed to resemble a Chinese fishing boat capable of hiding British assault troops for the Shanghai War effort between the Chinese and the Japanese.
The boat was built in Hong Kong in 1924 at the A King Shipyard as the first of 30 commissioned by King George V. They had only built six by the time the China issue ended to the British and the rest were never built. Two of the six were sold and shipped to North America. One was sold to someone in Los Angeles and the other to the McAlpine family in Vancouver.
Al Manning, the owner of Sproat Lake Sawmills bought the TRITON from the McAlpines and brought it to Sproat Lake in the late 1940's to be used on the lake to push or pull logs as a boom boat and to move crews around the lake. The boat had an inboard motor, prop shaft style, with high speed but didn't do the job they thought it would so he had it hauled out and put in his big shop on Salal Rd. Sproat Lake to have the inboard removed, the transom cut down and prepped to have one of those new “outboard” motors installed. Bruce Lord and Dave Blelloch, his wood working foreman, started the project and removed the running gear and cut down the transom adding an outboard from John Sangster and Sons in Vancouver. The early outboards, however, were not very reliable and the engine was soon returned. George Dingsdale of Port Alberni modified the boat to accommodate a four cylinder Buchanan inboard and the boat was used on Sproat Lake for ten years.
Sproat Lake Sawmills and their timber rights were sold to Bloedel, Stewart and Welsh and the Manning properties including Fossli Park, the Bomber Base and the Lakeshore property where the TRITON was still stored were sold to private interests including his sister, Helen Ford, his manager, Dave Belloch, and others. In the early “50”s” the boat was stored in the building behind Dave Blelloch's house near an old mill site (presently the flying tanker base). The inboard was removed and the boat was revamped once again to outboard. The TRITON never saw water again and remained stored for almost thirty years.
Bob Cole indicates in his notes that when he and Eric Sorenson were kids they used to sneak into the old shop and play sea captain on the TRITON. Flash forward 30 years to 1985 when a local scout leader named Don Cooper walked into the Port Boat House shop owned by Bob Cole on 3rd Ave at the time and asked Bob if he knew of anyone looking to buy a wooden cabin cruiser for $500.00. Don indicated that the funds would go to the Boy Scouts. Don and Bob went out past Beaver Creek school to a field and there, underneath a maple tree, covered and full of leaves going back five to ten years lay the TRITON. Bob's first reaction to a wooden boat laying on the dirt for that many years wouldn't be worth even a match. On closer inspection, however, he found it to be sound, probably due to the quality of teak used to build it. It became readily apparent that the Boy Scouts had disassembled all the hardware and stripped it down to refinish it but that was a few years earlier and some of the custom bronze hardware had been lost.
In 1987, while visiting Hong Kong, Bob showed the builders plate to a taxi driver who then took him to the old causeway slipway where he met a 97 year old Chinese gentleman named Leung Kwai Wing who lived above the old closed stores warehouse and office. Mr. Wing indicated he was the original builder but with the closing of the boatyard his sons got into high speed charter boats called King 7, King 10 etc. At the time, Lueing Wing thought Lycoming was the original power for the boat. Mr. Wing explained that the reason the boat had not rotted was due to the fact that in the 1920's and 30's the teak they used was tight grain and hand selected from original old growth teak from mainland China; not the newer Baltic Fir and rapid growth teak that was used in later years by all boat builders. This unique, all teak, board and batten construction is still sound 90 years later and relatively water tight for the most part The teak boards from which many of the one piece stem to stern planks were cut, originated from 14 inch wide, 20 foot long pieces of clear teak.
As of February 2020 the boat has all but two piece's of teak running stem to stern with clear teak planks done in a board and internal batten planking with copper rivet nails and screws. After all these years there are some areas which need repair but they are doable and hopefully PAMHS can accomplish this now that the Board has agreed to accept it. This approval came out of a visit with Bob Cole on January 24/2020 and on February 10/2020 Don Kimura, Marine Surveyor provided us with a recommendation so the PAMHS could issue a charitable tax receipt to Bob for his donation of the Teak Lady to PAMHS.
Thank you to Bob for his donation of the “Teak Lady” originally known as the TRITON and for the notes and pictures he provided so PAMHS could note its history.
Kenn Whiteman for PAMHS