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Broken bridge benefits boat buffs

David Cobb, the skipper of the old Chief Skugaid, takes a break as he awaits an opportunity to take his historic boat in for service at Fraser Shipyards in Queensborough. He
David Cobb, the skipper of the old Chief Skugaid, takes a break as he awaits an opportunity to take his historic boat in for service at Fraser Shipyards in Queensborough. He's had to tie his boat up at the Fraser River Discovery Centre because of the damage to the railway swing bridge just downriver.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

With the old railway swing bridge taken out of commission by a gravel barge last week, Quayside residents say they're sleeping better now that trains can't shuttle back and forth between Lulu Island and the switching yard. Historians and boat buffs are also getting an unexpected benefit.

The Chief Skugaid, one of the oldest working fishing vessels in British Columbia, has tied up at the pier in front of the Fraser River Discovery Centre as it awaits a chance to access the Fraser Shipyard, just downriver from the broken bridge, for annual service work.

The Chief Skugaid was built originally as a tug boat in 1913 at the Vancouver Shipyards. It was converted to a fish packer with a capacity of 60 tons for halibut and it's still active out of Prince Rupert. Along the way, it's had a colourful history, including a 10-year stint as a rum runner during Prohibition in the United States. On Dec. 20, 1935, it was involved in a collision with a ferry at Evans Coleman Wharf in Vancouver.

The vessel's current skipper, David Cobb, said he has no idea how long he'll be tied up at the Quay.

"The weather is nice and there's plenty of good grub at the market."

In the meantime, he's only too happy to interrupt his tinkering to tell stories and answer questions about the boat.

As a bonus, the Capital C, an old US Army tug that was one of the first boats on the scene at the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1988, was also tied up alongside the Quay on Wednesday, as it awaited a rendezvous with a barge. 

 

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